Articles Posted in Embassies

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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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Just one day before Presidential Proclamation No. 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” was set to go into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a ruling blocking portions of the Presidential Proclamation from being enforced on a majority, but not ALL, of the countries, listed in the Proclamation.

The Presidential Proclamation, commonly referred to in the media as ‘travel ban 3.0’ set out to suspend the entry of foreign nationals from eight “countries of identified concern,” and the admission of foreign nationals from those countries was to remain limited until further notice.

The countries to be affected by travel ban 3.0 included: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. A federal judge from the state of Hawaii by the name of Derrick Watson has granted a temporary restraining order preventing the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from the following countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, but DOES NOT prevent the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela, and from imposing stricter screening standards on Iraqi nationals. The restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq will continue to be enforced according to the Proclamation, beginning today, Thursday, October 19, 2017. Restrictions on North Koreans and Venezuelans will likely remain indefinitely, given that the U.S. government has no formal diplomatic avenues for communication with those countries.

Judge Derrick Watson wrote in his opinion that the latest revision of the ban, “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor,” and “lacks the sufficient finds that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from [the] specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,” and “plainly discriminates based on nationality.”

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Yesterday, October 8, 2017, the United States and Turkey announced the mutual suspension of all non-immigrant visa services, putting a damper on travel between the two nations, following the arrest of a Turkish citizen, employed at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, on suspicion of espionage.

A statement released by John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, explained the reasons for the United States government’s decision to suspend non-immigrant visa processing for Turkish citizens. According to the ambassador the suspension will allow the United States, “to minimize the number of visitors to our embassy and consulates while we assess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of our diplomatic facilities and personnel.” He continued, “last week, for the second time this year, a Turkish staff member of our diplomatic mission was arrested by Turkish authorities. Despite our best efforts to learn the reason for this arrest, we have been unable to determine why it occurred or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee. . . our colleague has not been allowed sufficient access to his attorney.”

The actions taken by the government are thus in response to Turkish hostility toward U.S. consular employees and an ongoing rift between the two countries regarding U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, accusations of U.S. involvement in a coup against President Erdogan, and the U.S. government’s refusal to extradite former Turkish minister Fethullah Gulen, accused of masterminding the Turkish coup.

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You have questions, we have your answers. Here are answers to 6 of your Frequently Asked Questions.

In this blog, we are answering 6 of your frequently asked questions in detail. Please remember that every case and every story is different and unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance on your immigration journey. For any further questions please visit our website or call our office for a free first time legal consultation. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office.

Q: Should I hire an attorney to file my green card application and go with me to the green card interview?

This will largely depend on the complexity of your individual case. For example, there are individuals that are eligible to adjust their status to permanent residence based on their marriage to a U.S. Citizen or based on a qualifying family relationship, but may be applying for permanent residence under special circumstances such as 245i or another special immigrant classification such as VAWA.

Still other individuals may be applying for their green card for a second time after being denied.

Individuals who are applying for their green card under one of these special immigrant classifications should absolutely seek the assistance of an immigration attorney to apply for permanent residence to avoid any mistakes in filing and to be well prepared for the green card interview. In these situations, any minor mistakes on the paperwork can result in major delays, or worse—require refiling the green card application altogether. In addition, for complex cases it is always important for an attorney to prepare the foreign national for the most vital part of the green card application which is the green card interview. An attorney’s presence at the green card interview is also important to ensure that the foreign national’s rights are not violated by the immigration officer.

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Last week, Thursday, July 13, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson handed down a ruling which exempts extended family members from President Trump’s travel ban including: “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.” These familial relationships are to be considered bona fide relationships that qualify such foreign nationals from gaining admission into the United States.  Thursday’s ruling also makes refugees with assurances from a resettlement agency, exempt from the President’s travel ban.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that they would hear arguments challenging the President’s travel ban when the Court reconvenes in October of next year. As part of their announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, in the interim, the President could enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, who lack a credible “bona fide” relationship to a person residing in the United States, or entity such as an employer, religious, or academic institution.

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In their ruling, the Supreme Court however provided little guidance on what types of familial relationships would qualify as a credible bona fide relationship. The Supreme Court vaguely stated that “close familial” relationships would qualify as a bona fide relationship, citing mother-in-law’s and spouses as an example of a qualifying familial relationship. However, the Court was silent regarding extended family members.

This prompted the State of Hawaii to seek clarification from federal judge Watson, regarding what types of familial relationships would be subject to the ban. The State of Hawaii argued that the Trump administration had wrongfully interpreted the Court’s ruling to exclude close family members such as grandparents, after the administration issued a diplomatic cable to U.S. consular posts and embassies abroad that defined a “close familial relationship” to include parents, children, and in-laws, but not grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

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In this post, we bring you the top three mistakes to avoid when applying for a B-1/B-2 non-immigrant visa at a United States consulate or embassy abroad. All too often clients contact our office feeling distraught after receiving a B-1/B-2 visa denial from a consular official. The good news is that a B visa denial can be easily avoided by understanding the common mistakes that people make when pursuing the B nonimmigrant visa.

First, it is important to understand who is eligible to apply for a B non-immigrant visa.

B-1 versus B-2

The B-1 temporary business visitor visa is reserved for individuals who seek to travel to the United States for a temporary period to participate in a business activity of a commercial or professional nature. Examples of individuals who qualify for this type of visa include: individuals consulting with business associates, individuals negotiating contracts, settling an estate, participating in short term training, entrepreneurs who wish to travel to the United States to research the market for a potential business venture, individuals traveling for a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention, or conference, etc.

Individuals who typically apply for this type of visa are entrepreneurs and investors who wish to apply for an E-2 visa in the future and who need to visit the United States to research the market or other business activities relating to researching the viability of the business venture.

B-1 temporary business visitors may be eligible to remain in the United States anywhere from 1-6 months—with 6 months being the maximum. Ultimately, it will be up to the consular/embassy official to determine the length of your period of stay. Typically, applicants are granted an initial period of stay of 6 months. B-1 visa holders may extend their stay for an additional 6 months if it is necessary for them to remain in the United States for an extended period to complete their temporary business activity.

Similarly, the B-2 temporary visitor visa is reserved for individuals who wish to enter the United States temporarily for tourism, pleasure, or visitation. Examples of individuals who qualify for this type of visa include tourists, individuals who wish to visit friends, or relatives, individuals seeking medical treatment, amateur artists, musicians, or athletes who wish to participate in events or contests that do not provide compensation, and individuals who wish to enroll in a short recreational course of study that does not count for credit toward a degree. The length of stay granted to a B-2 temporary visitor is the same as that of a B-1 temporary business visitor.

Who may not apply for a B visa?

Individuals who wish to immigrate to the United States and remain in the United States permanently, or individuals who wish to study, seek employment, etc. may not apply for a B non-immigrant visa.

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As previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that the court will be hearing arguments in defense of and in opposition to the President’s controversial executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” also known as the “travel ban” in October of this year.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court has allowed some parts of the President’s executive order to take effect until it makes a final ruling later this year. This means that certain foreign nationals will be prevented from gaining admission to the United States. Today, the Department of State announced that per the Supreme Court’s instructions, the President’s 90-day temporary suspension will be implemented worldwide at 8:00 PM (EST) beginning today, June 29, 2017.

Who will be affected?

Foreign nationals from the six countries of concern mentioned in the President’s executive order, including Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Libya, and Yemen, who do not have a bona fide relationship with a person, entity (such as a religious or academic institution), or employer in the United States, will not be granted admission to the United States for a period of 90 days, beginning, June 29, 2017 8:00 PM EST, unless the foreign national can demonstrate that they have a credible qualifying bona fide relationship with a person, employer, or entity in the United States. Such individuals may qualify for a case-by-case waiver.

In addition, refugees will not be admitted to the United States for a period of 90 days, beginning June 29, 2017 8:00 PM EST, unless they can demonstrate a legitimate claim of “concrete hardship,” to be weighed against the country’s concern for its national security.

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As previously reported, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015, was a bill that was signed into law at the end of 2015, which imposed new restrictions on the use of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for certain travelers. In this post, we update our readers regarding new information provided by CBP in their newly updated FAQ page.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of designated countries to apply for admission to the United States as visitors (traveling for holiday, business, or in transit) without having to obtain a non-immigrant B1/B2 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, using a system known as ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

To be eligible to travel to the United States under the visa waiver program, you must be a citizen of one of thirty-eight countries eligible to participate in the program, you must have a valid machine-readable passport issued by the participating country that is valid for at least 6 months before your planned departure, you must apply for and have an approved ESTA before your proposed travel, and you must intend to remain in the United States for 90 days or less.

You may not be eligible to travel under the VWP if you have been denied a U.S. visa in the past, or have an immigration violation. In this case, you must apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad, even if your country participates in the VWP.

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In response to a memorandum issued to United States consulates and embassies around the world by President Trump and his administration on March 6, consular officials at U.S. embassies around the world are now taking tougher measures to enhance security screening of U.S. visa applicants to prevent potential security threats from entering the United States. Enhancing vetting procedures are intended to target individuals from certain “countries of concern” including the six countries of concern listed in the President’s travel ban: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Iran, as well as others.

Applicants for U.S. visas from “countries of concern” can expect to undergo additional vetting procedures immediately. The U.S. Department of State has been using a supplemental questionnaire called the DS-5535 since May 25, 2017 which asks both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants a series of detailed questions to help consular officials determine whether a visa applicant must go through enhanced vetting to determine whether the individual poses a national security threat, or other potential threat to the United States. The questionnaire has been used as a temporary emergency measure in response to the President’s March memo, which called for enhanced screening of visa applicants, and what he has called “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals admitted to the United States.

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The newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is quickly mobilizing government resources to increase scrutiny and implement tougher screening procedures for applicants who are applying for a U.S. visa or other immigration benefit at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies abroad. Reuters has reported that Secretary Tillerson has sent a series of internal cables (four in total) to consulates and embassies abroad instructing them of new measures to increase vetting of visa applicants (both immigrant and non-immigrant). These cables are as follows: (1) Cable 23338 entitled “Guidance to Visa-Issuing Posts” issued on March 10, 2017; (2) Cable 24324 entitled “Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Visa Applications” issued March 15, 2017; (3) Cable 24800 entitled “Halt Implementation” of President Trump’s new travel ban due to a temporary restraining order by a federal court, issued on March 16, 2017; and finally (4) Cable 25814 entitled “Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Visa Applications” issued March 17, 2017.

In these cables, Tillerson has directed U.S. consulates and embassies to specifically identify population risks that warrant “increased scrutiny” and to implement tougher screening procedures for this particular group of people. Applicants who fall into one of the identifiable population groups will be subjected to a higher-level security screening. The cable does not identify whether embassies will be coordinating to provide a uniform standard for identifying populations who pose a security risk. This is a serious cause for concern, since U.S. embassies will likely vary in how they assess which groups pose a security risk. In addition, as part of these measures, the Secretary has ordered a mandatory social media check for all applicants who have ever visited or been present in any territory that is controlled by the Islamic State. Previously, social media screening was not a part of the regular screening process for U.S. visa applicants, however this screening process has always been a discretionary measure.

In addition, the cables provided instructions for the implementation of President Trump’s newly revised executive order on immigration which sought to temporarily bar the admission of foreign nationals from Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, and Yemen, as well as Syrian refugees, including mandatory enhanced visa screening procedures. Several of these cables were quickly retracted by the Secretary of State after a federal judge from the state of Hawaii issued a Temporary Restraining Order blocking Trump’s embattled executive order from proceeding as planned. The Trump administration had envisioned strict new guidelines for vetting U.S. visa applicants, and this vision was reflected in Tillerson’s cables.

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