November 11, 2014

U.S. and China Agree to Extend Visas for Business Travelers, Tourists, and Students

The U.S. Department of State announced that starting November 12, 2014, the U.S. will issue extended visas to Chinese business travelers, tourists, students, and exchange visitors in accordance with the new reciprocal agreement between the two countries.

According to the new agreement:

- B-1 and B-2 temporary visitor visas for business and tourism will increase in validity from one to ten years, for multiple entries; and
- F-1 student and F-2 dependent visas, M-1 vocational student and M-2 dependent visas, and J-1 exchange visitor and J-2 dependent visas will increase in validity from one to five years, or the length of the program, for multiple entries.

It is important to note that visa validity is not the same as the allowed duration of stay in the U.S. While a visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry, a Customs and Border Protection officer at a U.S. port of entry will grant admission to valid travelers and notify the traveler of the permitted length of stay. The new agreement does not change the permitted duration of stay in the U.S. for any visa class.

Additionally, the new agreement does not increase the validity of visas already issued. To obtain a visa with extended validity, holders of valid or recently-expired visas will need to apply again. There will be no change to visa eligibility criteria, and the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) will remain available to those who qualify. The visa application fee will remain at USD $160.

Please contact our office if you have questions about this information or visa application procedures, or if you require additional information on timing, strategies, or eligibility for these visas.

For more information, please visit http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/us-china-agree-to-extend-visas.html

February 10, 2014

What To Do If Your I-94 Reads "Not Found"

If you tried to retrieve your I-94 from the cbp.gov online system at:

https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html

and you receive a response that your I-94 is "Not Found," please review the following checklist to help you check for mistakes and try to enter the information again:

1. Did you enter your first and last name the same way it appears on your Passport? (Do not use dashes or titles.)
2. Did you enter the correct number as your Passport number? (The number is on the upper right hand side of your Passport.)
3. Did you enter your country of citizenship? (The country that issued the Passport, not where you currently live.)
4. Under Class of Admission, did you enter the Visa classification that appears on your U.S. Visa OR if you are traveling under the Visa Waiver program (VWP) enter WT/WB?
5. If you entered your first and middle name and it's not found, try one name or the other. Also try entering your first and middle name in the first name box.
6. Try entering either your most recent date of entry or your original date of entry into the United States.
If you still cannot find your I-94, please contact your nearest Customs and Border Protection Deferred Inspection Site – CBP.gov -- and a CBP Officer will assist you. When you open the link to the Deferred Inspection Site, you will find an alphabetical list of locations within the United States.

Please Note: Asylees and refugees should have received a handwritten or stamped I-94 upon entering the United States and will not be able to retrieve I-94 information online.

-- USCIS website

February 3, 2014

GOP Drafts Immigration Reform Principles

House Republicans released a draft of principles on immigration reform as House GOP members gathered for their retreat to discuss their position on a range of issues.
Here is a synopsis of the draft on Immigration Reform:

Reforms to Employment-Based Immigration
The draft emphasizes the importance of employment-based immigration reform. Stating that each year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at U.S. colleges and universities, particularly in high-skilled fields, the draft states that because of current laws, their expertise doesn’t spur economic growth or create jobs for Americans. The GOP’s draft calls for Visa and Green Card allocations that reflect the needs of employers and the need for these individuals to help the U.S. economy.
The draft states that the goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen national security by creating realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry. It is imperative, the draft states, that these temporary workers are able to meet U.S. economic needs and do not displace or disadvantage U.S. workers.
Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement
Full implementation of a workable electronic employment verification system.
Border Security and Interior Enforcement
First on the GOP agenda is securing the U.S. borders. In addition, once immigration reform is enacted, the draft emphasizes zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their Visas in the future.
Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System
The Republicans want a fully functioning Entry-Exit system, which has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the past 17 years. At least three of these laws call for this system to be biometric, using technology to verify identity and prevent fraud. The Republicans want to implement this system to identify and track down visitors who abuse U.S. laws.
Youth
The draft outlines provisions for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to the United States as children once they meet certain eligibility standards, serve honorably in the U.S. military or attain a college degree.
Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law
The draft outlines a national and economic security policy that will require people living and working in the U.S. illegally to come forward – offering them the opportunity to live in the U.S. if they are willing “to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).” Criminal aliens, gang members, sex offenders, and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program.

August 3, 2011

Nonimmigrant Visa Denials: Players Benched

The media has issued several recent articles documenting the United States' notable nonimmigrant visa denials of the Ugandan Little League Team and members of the Newcastle United Football Club.

The Rev. John Foundation Little League team from Kampala, Uganda was set to be the first African team to participate in the Little League Baseball World Series, held every summer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. However, problems surrounding the players' documentation plagued the 11- to 13-year-olds, mainly due to the fact that in Uganda, establishing age and identity is complicated because birth certificates are rare and parents or guardians are often illiterate.

In failing to meet the United States' requirements for travel visas, the team was denied visas at the American Embassy. Little League Baseball and Softball officials chose not to appeal to the State Department. Some urge that in the future, Little League should require teams attempting to qualify for the World Series to go through a preliminary visa approval process so that there are no last-minute disappointments.

Another team has suffered setbacks due to U.S. visa denials: the Newcastle United Football Club. Midfielders Joey Barton and Yohan Cabaye and Striker Nile Ranger were denied U.S. visas to participate in the Premier League club's pre-season tour of the United States. Barton and Ranger both failed to get visas due to previous criminal convictions and Cabaye's denial was based on minor technical problems.

In light of the United States' strict requirements surrounding nonimmigrant visas, particularly in an age of increased immigration enforcement, we urge all those seeking to obtain U.S. visas abroad to closely adhere to the requirements of the U.S. consulates and embassies.

Please visit http://www.usembassy.gov/ for more information regarding specific visa application requirements.

May 4, 2011

Export Control Podcast

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is offering a podcast on the subject of the new “Export Control” licensing determination required on H-1B, L-1, and O-1A petitions. An employer is now required to certify on Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, that it has reviewed the U.S. export control regulations, specifically the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and determined whether it will require a U.S. government export license to release controlled technology or technical data to the foreign worker. If the petitioner determines a license is required, the company must further certify that it will not release or allow access to the controlled technology or technical data until it has received the necessary license or authorization.

The podcast will feature AILA member Tien-Li Loke-Walsh and Abby Walsh, CEO of True Compliance Group, who will discuss the following main points: the company/organization classification and license determination, including best practices and procedures, timelines, common issues for immigration practitioners and key issues for hi-tech or software companies. The podcasts are short, informative audio files that are available exclusively to AILA members. For membership information, see www.aila.org.

August 27, 2010

Telephonic Interviews of Petitioners of Approved Nonimmigrant Petitions

Petitioners are advised that the Department of State Visa Office is conducting random telephonic interviews with petitioners of approved nonimmigrant visa petitions to verify factual information relating to the beneficiaries and the proposed employment. This verification process conducted through the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) may involve research on petitioners, including review of the company website, company contact information, and use of Google earth to confirm existence of a physical office. Telephonic interviews may include questions confirming submission of petition, date of incorporation, physical location of petitioner, number of employees, names of shareholders, location of attorney of record, and other general questions regarding petitioner’s business operations.

April 28, 2010

The Department of States Reduces Mexico's Visa Time

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has changed the policy on work visa issuance for Mexican citizens. Starting February 22, 2010, any Mexican citizen applying for H-1B, H-2B, E-1, E-2, TN or L-1 work visas will receive a one-year validity period only. The policy came about after Mexico decided to raise its visa fees for U.S. citizens coming into its country. In response, the DOS removed the multi-year visa approval options from Mexico. This change applies to Mexican citizens seeking to come to the U.S. and Mexicans already in the U.S. seeking work visa renewals after February 22, 2010.

February 25, 2010

BEWARE! Form DS-160 and Photos Must Be Completed Correctly!

It is critical to complete the Form DS-160 and accompanying photograph correctly. The U.S. Embassy in London has provided two examples where visa applicants were turned away due to insufficient completion of these items. This is important to note since an applicant who is turned away due to an incorrect form or photo could be formally refused a visa, which may affect eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program later on.

Example 1: Not selecting the correct visa category on the form

The Embassy has provided the following information for visa applicants with respect to the visa category:

It is important that you select the correct visa category in the "Travel Information Section." If you do not do so, the Embassy will not be able to process your application, and you will be required to complete a new DS-160, which will mean having to reschedule the visa interview. In the "Travel Information Section," you are asked "Are you the principal applicant?" On answering that question, a drop down list will appear under "Purpose of Travel to U.S." It is important that you review the information carefully. If your purpose of travel is not covered in the list, click on "Other." This will offer you a further drop down list of choices.

If you are planning on working in the United States and you are being sponsored for a visa by a U.S. company or if your employer is transferring you to a subsidiary or parent company in the U.S., you should select the appropriate category, which is either "Temporary Employee (H1,H2)," "Trainee (H3)," or "Intracompany Transfer (L)." Do NOT select Business/conference visitor (B1) or Business/Personal Travel (B1, B2) as this does not cover your purpose of travel.

Example 2: Photograph is not correct

The Embassy has provided the following information for visa applicants with respect to the photograph:

There are some important points to note before you attempt to upload the photograph:

1. The photos must be no older than 6 months

2. The photos must measure exactly 2 inches by 2 inches

3. The photo should show a clear, front view, full face of the applicant

4. Unless worn daily for religious reasons, all hats or headgear should be removed for the photo

5. Eyeglasses worn on a daily basis can be worn for the photo. However, there should be no reflections from the eyeglasses that obscure the eyes. Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons

6. Uniforms, clothing that looks like a uniform, and camouflage attire should not be worn in photographs except in the case of religious attire that is worn daily. Otherwise, normal street attire should be worn

7. A parent or guardian may not appear in the photo of a minor child; the child must be the only subject

8. Nothing used to support the minor child, whether by mechanical or human means, should be in the camera's frame

9. Only original photos are acceptable. Photos copied from recent driver licenses or other official documents that are copied or digitally scanned will not be accepted and the photos must not be retouched to alter the applicant's appearance in any way.

July 20, 2009

H-1B Count Updated By USCIS For Fiscal Year 2010

According to official channels, United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) has received 44,900 H-1B cap-subject petitions as of the 10th of July 2009. The agency plans to continue accepting petitions for both advanced degree and cap subject applications until statutory limits have been reached. It remains to be seen how fiscal year 2010’s numbers will compare to numbers from the last several years.