Articles Posted in Consulates

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USCIS will be publishing a final rule on August 14, 2019, in the Federal Register, that expands the list of public benefits that make a foreign national ineligible to obtain permanent residence and/or an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act makes inadmissible and therefore (1) ineligible for a visa, (2) ineligible for admission and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status, any alien who, in the opinion of the DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge.

The process of determining whether an alien is likely to become a public charge is called a “public charge determination.”

Receipt of certain public benefits leads to a “public charge determination” meaning that the applicant is ineligible to receive the benefit they are requesting (such as permanent residence) based on the fact that they are likely to become a public charge to the United States government.

What is a public charge?

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.

The final rule expands the scope of this definition by making a public charge any alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Under the final rule announced today, immigration will now be taking into consideration the following benefits to determine whether an individual is or is likely to become a public charge to the U.S. government:

Reliance on or receipt of non-cash benefits such as:

  • Cash benefits for income maintenance
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and
  • certain other forms of subsidized housing.

In addition, the government will continue to take into consideration the following types of benefits:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid

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USCIS has announced that it will be closing all of its International Immigration Offices by March 10, 2020.

As of June 30, 2019, USCIS has already permanently closed its field office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and on July 5th, the office in Manila, Philippines permanently closed.

By the end of January 2020, the majority of international USCIS field offices are expected to be closed, including offices in Mexico City, London, Athens, and Guatemala City.

The first offices to close will be those in Monterrey, Mexico, Seoul, South Korea, and Manila, Philippines, with a projected closing date of September 2019.

The following is a complete list of USCIS International Immigration Offices expected to close:

Latin America, Canada and the Caribbean (LACC) District

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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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Photo credit: Scott Kirkwood/NPCA

Today marks the fifth day of a partial government shutdown that began on Saturday. The government was forced into a shutdown after Democrats refused to concede $5 billion dollars to fund the President’s wall along the southwest border.

Since then, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have not opened negotiations to appease the President. If a resolution is not reached before the end of December, it is highly unlikely that the President will receive the money demanded to fund the border wall. When the new House of Representatives convenes after the holidays, the Democrats will command a majority in the House of Representatives, making it more difficult for the President to obtain the necessary funding.

The government shutdown will affect various government entities including the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor.

Here’s how it will affect immigration:

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program:

Without congressional authorization to continue the EB-5 Regional Center Program beyond December 21, 2018, USCIS will not accept new Forms I-924, Application for Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program. Any Form I-924 applications that are pending as of December 21, 2018, will be placed on hold until further notice.

Per the USCIS Website:

“We will continue to receive regional center-affiliated Forms I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, and Forms I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, after the close of business on Dec. 22, 2018. As of Dec. 22, 2018, we will put unadjudicated regional center-affiliated Forms I-526 and I-485 (whether filed before or after the expiration date) on hold for an undetermined length of time.

All Forms I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, filed before or after the expiration date, will not be affected by the expiration of the program.”

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The E-2 treaty investor visa allows foreign nationals to make an investment in an existing or new business venture in the United States.

Advantages

There are no numerical limitations on the number of E-2 visas that can be issued, and there is no set minimum level of investment required, however the level of investment that should be made in the business venture should be sufficient to justify the presence of the foreign national in the United States. Although the E-2 visa is granted for an initial two-year period, the investor may qualify to extend their stay in two-year increments, with no outer limit on the total period of the foreign national’s stay.

Disadvantages

Not all foreign nationals are eligible to apply for the E-2 treaty investor visa. To qualify, you must be a foreign national from a treaty country that participates in a treaty of friendship, commerce, navigation or similar agreement with the United States. See below for qualifying countries:

Albania Czech Republic Kosovo Romania
Argentina Denmark Kyrgyzstan Serbia
Armenia Ecuador Latvia Senegal
Australia Egypt Liberia Singapore
Austria Estonia Lithuania Slovak Republic
Azerbaijan Ethiopia Luxembourg Slovenia
Bahrain Finland Macedonia Spain
Bangladesh France Mexico Sri Lanka
Belgium Georgia Moldova Suriname
Bolivia Germany Mongolia Sweden
Bosnia and Herzegovina Grenada Montenegro Switzerland
Bulgaria Honduras Morocco Thailand
Cameroon Iran The Netherlands Togo
Canada Ireland Norway Trinidad and Tobago
Chile Italy Oman Tunisia
China (Taiwan) Jamaica Pakistan Turkey
Colombia Japan Panama Ukraine
Congo (Brazzaville and Kinshasa) Jordan Paraguay United Kingdom
Costa Rica Kazakhstan Philippines Yugoslavia
Croatia South Korea Poland

Another disadvantage is that the E-2 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa type. This means that the E-2 visa does not create a pathway to permanent residency. In addition, making an investment in a small business venture is risky. Most small businesses fail. Investors seeking to establish a new business in the United States must be prepared to face challenges, obstacles, and potential losses. If the investment will be made by a company, at least 50% of owners in the qualifying country must maintain the nationality of a treaty trader country if they are not lawful permanent residents.

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After President Trump threatened to cut American funding to the country of Honduras, if the government did not stop an immigrant caravan from making its way to the United States, both the Honduran and Mexican governments acted immediately in a concerted effort to stop the caravan from reaching the southwest border.

The message was sent to the Honduran government via the President’s favor mode of communication; Twitter, “If the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!” tweeted the President.

Every fiscal year, the United States government sends millions in aid to the Honduran government. In fiscal year 2019, the United States plans to send Honduras $66 million in aid.

Following the president’s tweet, Guatemalan officials swiftly arrested the leader of the caravan and began the process of returning him to Honduras.

Mexican police have been deployed to the southern border ahead of the caravan’s arrival. It is estimated that approximately 1,500 Hondurans, including parents and toddlers, form part of the caravan.  Honduran officials have so far been unable to stop the caravan from crossing the border into Guatemala, where they will continue their long and perilous journey through Mexico and finally to the United States.

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On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new proposed rule that may prevent non-citizens reliant, or likely to become reliant on public benefits, from gaining admission to the United States.  The new proposal entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” has been signed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the proposed rule is expected to be published in the federal register in the coming weeks, according to a DHS press release.

APA Procedure

Once the proposed rule has been published in the federal register, the government must allow the public to comment on the proposed rule for a 60-day period. Once that period is over, the government will have the opportunity to review comments and make changes if necessary to the proposed rule. Thereafter, the government will publish a final rule which will become law 60 days after the date of publication.

Who is a Public Charge?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a public charge is defined as an “alien who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” Such aliens are not admissible to the United States on public charge grounds.

Applicants seeking admission to the United States should be aware that, “an alien who is incapable of earning a livelihood, who does not have sufficient funds in the United States for support, and who has no person in the United States willing and able to assure the alien will not need public support, generally is inadmissible as likely to become a public charge.”

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If you are a citizen of Canada or Mexico and you are interested in working in the United States temporarily, the TN visa may be right for you.

Under 8 CFR 214.16, Citizens of Canada or Mexico may seek temporary entry under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to engage in business activities at a professional level.

This section of the law defines business activities at a professional level as “undertakings which require….at least a baccalaureate degree or appropriate credentials demonstrating status as a professional in a profession set forth in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA.”

What are business activities at a professional level?

A citizen of Canada or Mexico may perform prearranged business activities for a United States entity, meaning that the Canadian or Mexican citizen must have a pre-arranged employment agreement to perform professional services in the United States. TN applicants may not enter with the intent to establish permanent residence in the United States. TN visa applicants may only remain in the United States to fulfill their pre-arranged employment agreement and depart after that period has ended. The TN visa is issued for an initial period of 3 years, with one-year extensions granted thereafter if necessary.

The following table outlines professions authorized for TN Visa purposes:

Appendix 1603.D.1 (Annotated)

– Accountant – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A., or C.M.A.

– Architect – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license. 2

2 The terms “state/provincial license” and “state/provincial/federal license” mean any document issued by a state, provincial, or federal government, as the case may be, or under its authority, but not by a local government, that permits a person to engage in a regulated activity or profession.

– Computer Systems Analyst – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma 3 or Post Secondary Certificate 4 and three years’ experience.

3 “Post Secondary Diploma” means a credential issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education, by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the United States.

4 “Post Secondary Certificate” means a certificate issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education at an academic institution, by the federal government of Mexico or a state government in Mexico, an academic institution recognized by the federal government or a state government, or an academic institution created by federal or state law.

– Disaster relief insurance claims adjuster (claims adjuster employed by an insurance company located in the territory of a Party, or an independent claims adjuster) – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims; or three years experience in claims adjustment and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims.

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On Friday, March 30, 2018, the Department of State published a 60 day notice in the Federal Register entitled “Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration,” proposing to require immigrant visa applicants to submit five years of social media history as part of the information requested on the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application used by applicants to schedule Immigrant Visa interviews at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. The DS-260 is an Electronic Form that is completed by immigrant visa applicants and used by consular officials to determine whether the applicant is eligible for an immigrant visa.

Specifically, the Department wishes to, “add several additional questions for immigrant visa applicants. One question lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifies used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of the application.”

Information provided by immigrant visa applications relating to their social media will be used to enhance “vetting” of applicants to verify their identity, ensure that they meet all visa eligibility requirements, and to prevent individuals from entering the country who pose a threat to the county’s national security, or have been associated with a terrorist organization.

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As previously reported, on October 8, 2017, the United States announced the suspension of all non-immigrant visa services across U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Turkey “until further notice,” following news that a U.S. embassy official was placed under arrest without explanation and without access to counsel. This included the suspension of the issuance of: B-2 visas for temporary tourism or medical reasons, B-1 visas for temporary business visitors, F-1 student visas, E-1 treaty trader visas, E-2 treaty trader visas, and other non-immigrant visa types.

Since October 8, 2017 until just recently, no new non-immigrant visa applications were being processed in Turkey until the U.S. government could receive assurances form the Turkish government that embassy staff officials would not be detained or placed under arrest without cause, or access to counsel.

On November 6, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, announced that the United States has received sufficient assurances from the Government of Turkey that employees under the diplomatic mission are not under investigation, that local staff of U.S. embassies and consulates will not be detained or arrested in connection with their official duties, and finally that the U.S. government will be notified in advance if the Turkish government plans to arrest or detain any local staff at U.S. embassies in Turkey. The announcement however provides that the United States “continues to have serious concerns about the existing cases against arrested local employees” of the Mission in Turkey and of “. . . the cases against U.S. citizens who have been arrested under [a] state of emergency.”

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