Articles Posted in B2 Visitor Visas

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In this blog post, we share with you some exciting new updates in immigration for Croatia and Syria.

We are very happy to announce that Croatia has now joined the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program allows foreign nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for purposes of tourism or business without having to obtain a U.S. visa. Such stays are limited to 90 days or less, and all travelers must have a valid and approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States.

Visa Waiver participants are not eligible to change or extend their status within the United States during those 90 days. Only applicants who enter on a U.S. visa may apply for a change or extension of status with USCIS. It is also important to note, that applicants who have been denied a U.S. visa in the past are ineligible for ESTA.


When can Croatian nationals travel under the Visa Waiver Program?


The Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken designated Croatia as a new participant in the program, that is set to start no later than December 1, 2021. The agencies announced that the ESTA interface will soon be updated to allow Croatian nationals to apply for ESTA prior to travel to the United States. Applicants should note that ESTA authorizations are generally valid for two years.  Those with valid B1/B2 visas are recommended to continue to use their visas for travel to the United States.

Following the announcement, Secretary Mayorkas said that the designation of Croatia as a new participant in the Visa Waiver Program is an important recognition of U.S./Croatian shared economic and security interests.

With this new announcement, Croatia becomes the 40th member of the Visa Waiver Program found eligible to participate after having met strict requirements.


Who else is eligible to travel using the Visa Waiver Program?


For a complete list of countries currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program please click here.


TPS for Syria EADs Automatically Extended through March 28, 2022


We would also like to announce some important information for Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries from Syria. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has automatically extended the validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for beneficiaries with a Category Code of A12 or C19 issued under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria through March 28, 2022.

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Happy Monday! It is another exciting week filled with new immigration updates unfolding in our ever-changing immigration landscape. Our office is committed to bringing you the latest immigration news, and keeping you informed on the evolving status of immigration during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

As the rates of COVID-19 have continued to erupt in certain regions of the world, applicants residing overseas have been forced to adapt to their “new normal.”

At the height of the pandemic, Consular posts worldwide found themselves forced to limit operations due to safety concerns, lack of resources, country conditions, and mandatory quarantines.

Complicating matters further, the Trump administration began issuing regional travel bans suspending and restricting the entry into the United States, of immigrant and nonimmigrant travelers, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Those who have been physically residing within these regions have been unable to enter the United States.

When President Biden assumed the Presidency, his administration continued to enforce these regional travel bans and began “rolling out” new regional travel bans suspending the entry of travelers from other regions with high rates of COVID-19.


India Joins Countries Now Subject to Regional Travel Ban 


India is now the latest country to be added to a growing list of countries subject to a Regional travel ban. On April 30, 2021, President Biden issued a new Presidential Proclamation temporarily restricting and suspending the entry of nonimmigrants from the Republic of India into the United States. Just as the previous proclamations, the India travel ban will impact any nonimmigrant who has been physically present within the Republic of India during the 14-day period preceding his or her entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Certain exemptions have been made for green card holders, spouses of U.S. Citizens or green card holders, parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders, and others.

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President Biden has been hard at work during his first days in office, releasing a flurry of Proclamations and Executive Actions on immigration, that reverse many of the controversial policies passed by former President Donald Trump.

Due to the volume of Proclamations being signed, our office will break down each of these actions on immigration during the next few weeks, and provide you with detailed information on what each Proclamation means and how you may benefit.

We encourage our readers to bookmark this page and follow our social media platforms as the Biden administration gears up to release even more executive actions on immigration in the coming days.


What is the Biden Proclamation all about?


On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed a number of orders including, “Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States.” This Proclamation immediately revokes the four presidential actions taken by the previous administration, which banned individuals from predominantly Muslim and African countries from entering the United States.

The presidential actions being revoked are as follows:

*A brief overview of each action is discussed further below

(1) Executive Order 13780 “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” 

(2) Proclamations 9645 “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats”

(3) Proclamation 9723 Maintaining Enhanced Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats” and

(4) Proclamation 9983 “Improving Enhanced Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats”


What do you need to know about Biden’s Proclamation?


Biden’s decision to revoke these actions by his predecessor means that all Embassies and Consulates must immediately resume visa processing for nationals affected including Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, Chad, Venezuela, North Korea, Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania.

Of course Embassies and Consulates are still conducting a phased reopening of routine visa services and are operating on a limited post by post basis. However, this is a step in the right direction because it means that Embassies and Consulates can no longer refuse to issue visas because these Proclamations are no longer in force.

Most importantly, President Biden has directed the Department of State to develop a system by which previous applicants who were being considered for a waiver of the restrictions can expedite their pending visa applications.

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In the few months remaining in the Trump presidency, the Trump administration continues to pass laws and regulations that make it more difficult for immigrants and nonimmigrants to enter the United States.

Most recently, the administration has targeted the B-1/B-2 temporary business visitor/tourist visa program.

On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of State published a temporary final rule in the Federal Register entitled, “Visas: Visa Bond Pilot Program.”


What is this rule about?

The final rule calls for the creation of a temporary 6-month visa bond pilot program that authorizes Consular officials at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide to mandate a bond of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 for certain B-1/B-2 visa applicants in order for them to receive visas and travel to the United States.

If a consular official finds that a bond is appropriate, the amount of the bond will be determined by him or her based on the circumstances of the visa applicant.

According to the rule, “the Pilot Program is designed to apply to nationals of specified countries with high overstay rates to serve as a diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to take all appropriate actions to ensure their nationals timely depart the United States after making temporary visits.”


When does the final rule go into effect?

The final rule becomes effective December 24, 2020 for a period of 6 months (through June 24, 2021).


Who will be impacted?

According to the final rule, visa applicants potentially subject to the Pilot Program include aliens who are applying for visas as temporary visitors for business or pleasure (B-1/B-2); are from countries with high visa overstay rates; and are already approved by DHS for an inadmissibility waiver.

Aliens traveling under the Visa Waiver Program fall outside the scope of the Pilot Program, since a visa application is not required for their entry to the United States.

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In response to the growing rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Brazil, on May 24, 2020, the President signed the “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Novel Coronavirus.” This marks the fifth presidential proclamation to limit the entry of foreign nationals to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the United States. The previous proclamations were as follows:


Overview


The May 24th proclamation suspends the entry of immigrants or nonimmigrants to the United States who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.


Who is Exempted?


The proclamation specifically exempts:

  • Lawful permanent residents of the United States
  • Any alien who is the spouse of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Any alien who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any alien who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any alien who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Any alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • Any alien traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any alien otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;
  • Any alien: seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following visas: A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories); or

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The Trump administration is ready to announce new restrictions that will make it more difficult for foreign nationals to give birth in the United States, striking a blow to the “birth tourism” industry.

In a 2015 speech in Orlando, Florida the President told supporters, “the birthright citizenship, the anchor baby …it’s over, not going to happen.” Tomorrow, the President will make good on his promise.

On January 24, 2020, the government will publish a final rule in the Federal Register that will be effective as of that date, amending current B visa regulations to establish a rebuttable presumption that a B nonimmigrant visa applicant, who a consular official has reason to believe will give birth during her stay in the United States, is traveling for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. Citizenship for the child.

Accordingly, an applicant who fails to overcome the presumption will be denied a B nonimmigrant visa application.

This change in regulation will apply specifically to the B nonimmigrant visa classification for temporary visitors for pleasure.

An advance copy of the government’s final rule has been released which establishes that “travel to the United States with the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States is an impermissible basis for the issuance of a B nonimmigrant visa.”

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As we approach the end of the year, in this blog post, we look back at the major policy changes implemented by the Trump administration in the year 2019 that have had a profound impact on the way our immigration system functions today.

JANUARY 

Government Shutdown Woes

The start of 2019 began on a very somber note. From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 Americans experienced the longest government shutdown in American history (lasting a period fo 35 days) largely due to political differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of government funding to build a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

The government shutdown created a massive backlog for non-detained persons expecting to attend hearings in immigration court. Because of limited availability of federal workers, non-detained persons experienced postponements and were required to wait an indeterminate amount of time for those hearings to be re-scheduled.

To sway public opinion, 17 days into the government shutdown, the President delivered his first primetime address from the Oval office where he called on Democrats to pass a spending bill that would provide $5.7 billion in funding for border security, including the President’s border wall.

With no agreement in sight, on January 19, 2019, the President sought to appease Democrats by offering them a compromise solution. In exchange for funding his border wall and border security, the President announced a plan that would extend temporary protected status of TPS recipients for a three-year period and provide legislative relief to DACA recipients for a three-year period. The President’s proposal however did not provide a pathway to residency for Dreamers, and was quickly rejected by Democrats.

On January 25, 2019, with still no solution and pressure mounting, the President relented and passed a temporary bill reopening the government until February 15, 2019.

Meanwhile, immigration courts across the country were forced to postpone hundreds of immigration hearings, with Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky being the most deeply affected by the shutdown.

Changes to the H1B Visa Program

On January 30, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed changes to the H-1B visa program including a mandatory electronic registration requirement for H1B petitioners filing cap-subject petitions beginning fiscal year 2020, and a reversal in the selection process for cap-subject petitions. The government outlined that it would first select H-1B registrations submitted on behalf of all H-1B beneficiaries (including regular cap and advanced degree exemption) and then if necessary select the remaining number of petitions from registrations filed for the advanced degree exemption. Moreover, only those registrations selected during fiscal year 2020 and on, would be eligible to file a paper H1B cap petition.

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In its latest act of defiance against the judicial branch, the Trump administration has published an Interim Final Rule entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” designed to give Consular officers wider discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to applicants on public charge grounds based on a variety of factors that could weigh positively or negatively on an applicant.

According to the rule, consular officials will now be able to weigh a variety of factors to determine whether a visa applicant is likely to become a public charge. These factors include the applicant’s age, health, educational background, and financial status. In addition, consular officers will have increased discretion to scrutinize certain applications more closely than others based on the type of visa classification sought by the applicant, as well as the duration of stay.

Applicants who are seeking a long-term visa, for example may be scrutinized more heavily than applicant’s seeking a short-term visa (such as a tourist visa).

How will these factors be weighed by Consular officials?

Age: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s age makes the alien more likely than not to become a public charge in the totality of the circumstances, such as by impacting the alien’s ability to work. Consular officers will consider an alien’s age between 18 and 62 as a positive factor.

Health: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s health serves as a positive or negative factor in the totality of the circumstances, including whether the alien has been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with the alien’s ability to provide and care for himself or herself, to attend school, or to work (if authorized).

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The Trump administration’s controversial rule making certain foreign nationals inadmissible to receive permanent residence on public charge grounds, will become effective beginning October 15, 2019.

First, and foremost let’s recap what this rule is about and who it will apply to:

Under immigration law, an individual who, in the opinion of DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge is (1) ineligible for a visa (2) ineligible for admission to the United States and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status (permanent residence).

This means that the rule applies to foreign nationals applying for a U.S. visa, foreign nationals seeking admission through a port of entry, and individuals applying for adjustment of status.

When an individual applies for any immigration benefit with the government, (whether a U.S. visa or green card application), the official adjudicating the petition must determine whether that individual is or will likely become a public charge. This determination is referred to as a “public charge determination.”

What makes someone a public charge in the eyes of immigration?

A person is a “public charge” if they are primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense.

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Foreign nationals applying for a non-immigrant or immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad are now required to disclose information relating to their social media presence on their online nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applications known as the DS-160 and DS-260 respectively.

These changes were introduced early last week by the Department of State. Applicants must now provide information about each social media platform they have used within the last five years, including the name of the platform, and the username or handle used on that platform.

Applicants must also provide their current email and phone number, as well as email addresses and phone numbers they have had during the last five years.

Consular officials can use information found on social media during the visa adjudication process to determine whether the individual is eligible for the visa they are requesting. If officials find any information on social media that would lead them to believe the applicant is misrepresenting their true intentions or attempting to gain entry through means of fraud or deceit, the applicant’s visa application may be denied.

In the past, the Department of State only required social media information of individuals that were flagged for further inspection and individuals posing security risks to the United States. This information was provided in a supplemental questionnaire known as the DS-5535. Now, these questions are asked directly on the DS-160/DS-260 applications.

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