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In today’s blog post, we share some interesting Question and Answer responses recently provided by the Department of State’s Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs (L/CA), in a meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The responses below provide some important insight into current immigration policies and procedures taking place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we summarize the most interesting questions covered during the January 20 meeting:


Department of State/AILA Liaison Committee Meeting


January 20, 2022 Q & A Highlights


Q: What role do Consular sections assume when determining whether an individual is exempt from the CDC COVID-19 vaccine requirement to gain entry to the U.S.?

A: Consular sections’ role in the process is to ensure that an individual’s request for a [vaccine] exception is filled out in full, and to transmit those requests to the CDC.


Q: If consular posts are involved in transmitting information in support of a humanitarian exception to CDC, what is the process, if any, for making such a request of a consular post outside the context of a visa interview?

A: Travelers should contact the consular section of the nearest embassy or consulate using the information provided on that embassies or consulate’s website


Q: What is the Department of State doing to alleviate the substantial backlogs created by the slowdown of operations at Consular posts and Embassies worldwide?

A: The Department is planning to hire foreign service officers above attrition in FY 2022. The majority will be assigned to a consular position after initial training. Additionally, the Department continues to recruit Limited Non-career Appointment (LNA) Consular Professionals. With very limited LNA hiring in FY 2020 and a pause on LNA hiring in FY 2021 due to CA’s budgetary constraints, Consular Affairs plans to hire more than 60 LNAs in FY 2022

Consular Affairs is working with State’s office of Global Talent Management to ramp up hiring in FY 2022, but many posts will not see these new officers until the second half of FY 2022 or FY 2023, particularly for officers assigned to positions requiring language training. Increased hiring will not have an immediate effect on reducing current visa wait times. Because local pandemic restrictions continue to impact a significant number of our overseas posts, extra staff alone is not sufficient to combat wait times for interviews.


Q: Can Consular Affairs please advise regarding efforts to resume routine consular services?

A: Consular sections abroad must exercise prudence given COVID’s continuing unpredictability. The emergence of the Omicron variant has prompted countries to reevaluate plans to relax travel bans, thereby leading consular sections abroad to recalibrate plans to resume services. Some posts have already fully resumed routine services. Others, in an abundance of caution and out of concern for the health of both consular staff and clientele, are slowly reintroducing some routine services.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the December Visa Bulletin 2021 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of December 2021.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart December 2021


Please note that USCIS has not yet released information on its webpage regarding the appropriate filing chart to be used for family-sponsored adjustment of status filings and employment-based adjustment of status preference filings for December 2021. We recommend that applicants monitor the USCIS webpage below on a regular basis for those updates.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s November 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, also known as “Chats with Charlie,” broadcasted every month on the State Department’s YouTube channel.

This new series features a monthly Question-and-Answer session with Mr. Charles Oppenheim and a Consular officer, where they answer many of the public’s frequently asked questions and provide a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin. This discussion will provide details regarding what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of both family and employment-based preference categories on each month’s Visa Bulletin. It is with sad news that we announce that Mr. Charlie Oppenheim will soon be retiring from his position after 43 years as Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control division at the State Department. You will be greatly missed Charlie!

Be sure to subscribe to the State Department’s YouTube Channel and turn on your notifications so you do not miss any of these important updates.

Below are the highlights of the visa projections for November 2021.


DOS Q&A Session with Charlie Oppenheim: November 2021 Visa Bulletin Projections & Beyond



The Top 4 Advance Questions Sent in By Listeners


Q: Last month you said there was a 7% per country limit and seemed to defend the policy which I believe is a discriminatory rule. Why?

A: It’s a good question. I mentioned the 7% per country limit because we have been receiving numerous questions asking specifically why the India employment third preference category was not receiving more numbers, and because I felt that many listeners are not familiar with the intricacies of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The decisions which I’ve always made in the determination of the dates are based on the legally mandated guidelines in the INA, and they’re not arbitrary decisions on my part. Although Congress allows me to make discretionary decisions based on reasonable estimates which I’ve always done and typically in the applicants favor. I cannot legally make a decision once it is no longer reasonable to make estimates indicating for example that India would be entitled to using more numbers. For example, early last year I made the determination that the worldwide employment third preference number use would be insufficient to use all the numbers under the annual limit. At that point, I began advancing the India employment third preference and the China employment third preference dates at a very rapid pace. Although the employment third preference limit for fiscal 2021 was approximately 5200 numbers, the actions I took in advancing the India date allowed over 15,000 Indian employment third preference applicants to receive visas during fiscal year 2021.

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We start the week with the highly anticipated White House release of “Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which rescinds the various COVID-19 related geographic travel bans previously in place for travelers from certain geographic regions with high rates of COVID-19, for those who have been fully vaccinated for Coronavirus at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 8, 2021. The Proclamation also carves out numerous exceptions for those found “exempt” from the vaccination requirement.


Highlights of the New Proclamation


President Biden has released this new proclamation and moved away from the country-by-country restrictions that previously applied during the pandemic in favor of an air travel policy that relies on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States.


Who does this new Proclamation apply to?


The new proclamation applies to the entry into the United States of all noncitizen nonimmigrants (noncitizens who are visiting the United States or otherwise being admitted temporarily) traveling to the United States by air.

The proclamation suspends the entry of unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants, except in limited circumstances, –the exemptions to the vaccine requirement– and it ensures that the entry of unvaccinated noncitizen nonimmigrants is consistent with applicable health and safety determinations made by the Director of the CDC, including a requirement that, where appropriate, such individuals agree and arrange to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 upon their arrival.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We have very exciting news regarding the Biden administration’s plans to rescind the Covid-19 related travel bans that have suspended and restricted entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, India, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran since 2020.

On October 15, 2021, the White House announced that the United States will allow international travelers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the United States by land or air starting November 8, 2021.

This decision will lift the ban for vaccinated visitors from the affected regions.

On Friday October 15, 2021, a White House Official stated that the “CDC has already informed airlines that all FDA approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted for air travel. We anticipate the same will be true at the land border. These travelers are required to be prepared to attest to vaccination status and to present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request. By January, foreign nationals traveling across the land border for both essential and non-essential reasons will be required to be fully vaccinated.”

While the White House is still ironing out the complete details of the new policy including what exemptions the Biden administrations will grant to the vaccine requirements, we know that only generally applicants who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to enter.

The CDC considers an individual to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, while COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use by the World Health Organization include AstraZeneca/Oxford, Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

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We have very interesting and exciting news to report to our readers. We are happy to report that on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, a federal judge from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, declared that the State Department cannot use the various geographic COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamations to cease the processing of visas at Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As our readers will know, beginning in January of 2020, to protect against the rise of COVID-19 infections in the United States, the President issued a series of Presidential Proclamations that suspended and restricted entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

These Presidential Proclamations did not have a termination date and have continued to be in force to the present day. The most widely discussed ban (the Schengen visa ban “Proclamation 9993,”) applied to immigrants and nonimmigrants from 26 European countries including: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. However separate visa bans have also impacted the entry of Brazilian nationals, Chinese nationals, Iranian nationals, and Indian nationals (see the list of COVID-19 travel bans listed below.)

Since the issuance of these travel bans, U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide have refused to issue any visas to those who do not otherwise qualify for an exemption and have been physically present in any of the affected regions during the 14-day period preceding their entry into the United States. The only way applicants have succeeded in pushing their cases forward has been by requesting a National Interest Exception from their respective Embassy.


The COVID-19 related travel bans are as follows:

  • China Visa Ban – Proclamation 9984 issued January 21, 2020 – No termination date
  • Iran Visa Ban –Proclamation 9992 issued February 29, 2020 –No termination date
  • European Schengen Area Visa Ban—Proclamation 9993 issued March 11, 2020—No termination date
  • Ireland and UK Visa Ban –Proclamation 9996 issued March 14, 2020 –No termination date
  • India Visa Ban –Proclamation 10199 issued April 30, 2021—No termination date
  • Brazil Visa Ban—Proclamation 10041 issued May 25, 2020 –No termination date

For a complete list of COVID-19 country-specific proclamations click here.


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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important information for immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants residing in regions currently affected by the four geographic Presidential Proclamations still in place, for non-citizens in the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and India.

The Presidential Proclamations, collectively known as the COVID-19 Geographic Proclamations are as follows:

  • Presidential Proclamation 10143 (Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and South Africa)
  • Presidential Proclamation 9984 (China)
  • Presidential Proclamation 9992 (Iran)
  • Presidential Proclamation 10199 (India)

*The Schengen countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The COVID-19 Proclamations were issued early on during the pandemic to help contain the rapid spread of the Coronavirus in the United States, by limiting the entry to the United States, of non-citizen travelers who were physically present in any of the impacted regions during the 14-day period, prior to their planned entry or attempted entry to the United States.

To comply with these Proclamations, U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide have been unable to issue nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to those who have been physically present in any of the above mentioned 33 covered countries. But all of that has recently changed thanks to new National Interest Exception designations made by the Secretary of State for certain types of travelers.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! Happy end of the week to all of our readers.

In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the upcoming month of May 2021 and beyond.

The Department of State’s Consular Affairs Unit has launched an exciting new monthly series on its YouTube channel, discussing current visa trends and future projections for immigrant visa preference categories with Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State.

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In this blog post we share with our readers several new developments in immigration relating to COVID-19.

At a Glance: What’s in This Blog?

  • DOS Announces One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations
  • Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services
  • DOS Releases SEVP Online Course Guidance for F and M Students for Fall 2020
  • When will the Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry for the Schengen Countries be Lifted?
  • Are there any National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland?
  • Are there any National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market?

DOS Announces One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations


We are pleased to report that on July 24, 2020, the Department of State issued an important announcement confirming that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved a one-month extension for medical examinations conducted between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020. As many of you know, medical examinations for immigrant visa applicants are valid for a maximum of six months.

The Department of State has advised applicants (1) who were unable to travel on an issued visa, or (2) who obtained a medical examination but did not receive a visa, to contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that issued or is adjudicating your visa application to determine whether you may be issued or reissued a visa for one additional month. Applicants who are unable to travel within one additional month, should consider waiting until they are able to travel to obtain a new, full validity medical examination and visa.


Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services

In March 2020 the Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. On July 14, 2020 the Department of State released information on its webpage notifying the public that resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by post basis, in coordination with the Department’s Diplomacy Strong framework to safely return personnel to Department facilities. With that being said, the Department of State cannot provide a specific date for when each Consular post will return to processing at pre-Covid workload levels. Applicants are advised to monitor each individual U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status, and updates on which services they are currently offering.

As always, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will continue to provide emergency and critical visa services.

The DOS has also stated that MRV fees are valid and may be used to schedule a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.

  • For more information about this announcement and FAQs please click here.
  • For a list of Embassies and Consular webpages click here.

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The Trump administration is setting their sights on a new enemy: students and researchers of the People’s Republic of China. A new presidential proclamation, “Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China,” issued on May 29, 2020, will temporarily suspend the entry into the United States of Chinese nationals seeking to enter the United States on an F or J visa to study or conduct research in the United States, except for student seeking to pursue an undergraduate course of study. The proclamation goes into effect at 12:00 pm (ET) today June 1, 2020 and will remain in effect until terminated by the President.  

Specifically, the proclamation limits the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) ability to misuse nonimmigrant F student and J researcher visa programs.


Who will be suspended?


F or J Chinese nationals entering to study or conduct research in the United States and who either

  • Currently “receive funding from or who currently is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at or on behalf of… an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy’,” or
  • In the past “has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of… an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy'”

The proclamation defines “military-civil fusion strategy” as “actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities.”

Section 1 exempts F and J undergraduate students from the proclamation. In addition, graduate students and researchers are also exempt from the proclamation if they do not have any of the specific current or past funding, employment, study, or research nexuses with “an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy’.”


Why the Proclamation?


The proclamation was issued to protect the country’s national and economic security from attempts by the People’s Republic of China “to illicitly acquire American technology and intellectual property from our academic institution and research facilities for Chinese military ends.”

According to the Department of State, “[the country’s] concern is with the malign actions of the Chinese Communist Party and specific individuals, not with the Chinese people.” These actions were made as “a direct consequence of PRC government strategies and policies that exploit the access of some of China’s brightest graduate students and researchers, in targeted fields, to divert and steal sensitive technologies and intellectual property from U.S. institutions, taking undue advantage of our [country’s] open and collaborative academic and research environment.”

The U.S. government is particularly concerned that U.S. graduate students and researches will be targeted, co-opted, and exploited by the government of the People’s Republic of China for military gain.

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