Articles Posted in Nonimmigrant Visas

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.

28754197084_0ca901c9cb_z

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.

Continue reading

26088808064_4c922a41e9_z

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.

Continue reading

On Monday morning, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments for and against the President’s controversial executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” otherwise known as the “travel ban,”when it reconvenes in October of this year. The President’s executive order seeks to block the admission of foreign nationals from 6 predominantly Muslim countries (Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Libya, and Yemen) for a period of 90 days, and suspend the admission of refugees for a period of 120 days.

This announcement sets in motion the end of a long legal battle challenging the scope of the President’s executive power on immigration. This Fall, the Court will be tasked with determining whether the ban violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as key provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, signed into law by Congress.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court has announced, in their per curiam opinion, that a limited version of the President’s executive order will remain in effect, until the Court makes its final ruling. In their opinion, the Court ruled that foreigners who have no ties or relationships in the United States may be prohibited from entering the country. This would include individuals applying for visas who have never been to the United States, or have no family, business, or other ties.

Continue reading

5031913197_ff4a7915ba_z

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.

Continue reading

30089618676_3593f9c552_z

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.

Continue reading

8085501220_45c1780ed5_z

New developments have recently unfolded since the passage of Texas’ controversial SB4 law—a law that bans sanctuary cities in the state of Texas, and requires local jurisdictions and law enforcements officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities to apprehend undocumented immigrants in the state of Texas.

The controversial bill has suffered its first blowback. The border town of El Cenizo has sued the state arguing that the ban is unconstitutional. The Mayor of El Cenizo, Raul Reyes, told reporters that the bill “hinders the relationship between police departments and the community,” and “decreases criminal activity reports which opens up the door to more domestic violence and more sexual assaults against immigrants.” The city of El Cenizo has been joined in their lawsuit against the state by Maverick county, El Paso county, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The small town of El Cenizo, Texas first came to national attention when the Spanish language was declared the city’s official language.

The Texas Attorney General envisioned a pushback from “sanctuary cities.” At about the same time that the governor of Texas signed SB4 into law, the attorney general sought to protect the state against future challenges to the law, by filing a lawsuit against known “sanctuary cities” in the state of Texas that have limited the federal government’s power to detain undocumented immigrants by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The lawsuit was filed on May 7, 2017 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. The state of Texas filed the lawsuit so that they could have a single court ruling upholding the constitutionality of SB4 that would invalidate any lawsuits filed against the state.

Among the cities which have been identified as “sanctuary cities” that have been noncompliant with the federal government’s demands are: Travis County, the city of Austin, and other local officials including Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has limited cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

Continue reading

32559700202_bb44564ca3_z

Today, March 30, 2017, a federal judge from the state of Hawaii extended a court order blocking the President’s new travel ban from being enforced. In a 24-page decision, Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii issued a preliminary injunction bringing the President’s executive order to a screeching halt indefinitely. Judge Watson first gained national attention two weeks ago, following his issuance of a temporary restraining order or TRO, which prevented the federal government from enforcing all provisions of the travel ban for a 14-day period. Watson’s TRO was meant to provide temporary relief pending further litigation. The state of Hawaii asked the judge to convert the TRO into a longer-lasting form of relief known as a preliminary injunction, at least until a higher court could issue a permanent ruling. The President’s embattled executive order sought to prevent the admission of foreign nationals from 6 Muslim majority countries including Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Libya and Yemen, for a 90-day period as well as the admission of Syrian refugees for a 120-day period.

In his decision Judge Watson wrote that he based his grant of the preliminary injunction on the strong likelihood that the state of Hawaii would succeed in proving that the travel ban violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution which protects freedom of religion. In addition, the state of Hawaii successfully argued that absent the provisional relief, citizens of the state would be irreparably harmed. Attorneys for the state added that the state’s national economy would suffer in the absence of relief, and that its state universities would also be harmed by the President’s executive order in both the state’s ability to retain and recruit foreign born students and faculty.

Continue reading

32750698354_9d40b1e039_z

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.

Continue reading

6312921667_8338e27578_z

On Monday, March 6, 2017 President Donald Trump rolled out a newly revised version of the executive order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refusal to reinstate the controversial order that was originally released on January 27, 2017.  The January 27th order had called for a blank travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, temporarily barring them from gaining admission into the United States for a period of 90 days, irrespective of their legal status in the United States. These seven Muslim majority countries were deemed “countries of particular concern” by the Trump administration based upon the Department of State’s reports designating these countries as countries presenting heightened security risks to the United States. In addition, in the original order, Donald Trump had called for a temporary 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee program preventing refugees from entering the United States, and finally the order suspended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. These controversial measures threw the country into chaos as thousands of demonstrators flooded airports across the country to show their solidarity for the citizens of the seven Muslim majority countries affected by the order. The order was especially controversial because it affected all non-immigrants including immigrants with valid United States visas, as well as permanent residents. Although these measures were overruled by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February, the Trump administration has shown that it will not be discouraged by their actions.

In his new executive order, Donald Trump has scaled back the language used in the first executive order removing provisions that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from seeking admission to the United States, and language which prioritized the admission of religious minorities persecuted in the Middle East. US officials will no longer prioritize religious minorities when considering applications for refugee admission. The new order calls for a travel ban blocking citizens from six Muslim majority countries including Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from applying for and obtaining visas for a period of 90 days. The order leaves in place a temporary travel ban blocking the admission of refugees into the United States for a period of 120 days to allow more stringent vetting procedures to be put in place. The executive order removes Iraq from the list of Muslim majority countries, whose citizens will no longer be prevented from seeking admission to the United States.

Continue reading

8720728323_1bf3dec7d1_z

Following a dramatic turn of events, on Friday, February 3, 2017, a federal judge from the Western District of Washington, issued a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) halting enforcement of the President’s Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” nationwide. The temporary restraining order was issued in response to an emergency motion filed by the state of Washington and Minnesota. The states collectively filed the motion seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the controversial executive order which bans the entry of immigrant and non-immigrant foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) for a 90-day period, suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for a 120-day period, and terminates the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.

In his ruling, Judge Robart stated that after hearing arguments, the States adequately demonstrated that they have suffered immediate and irreparable harm because of the signing and implementation of the order, and that granting a TRO would be in the public interest. In addition he stated “the Executive Order adversely affects the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel. These harms extend to the States. . . are significant and ongoing.” A three-judge panel from the Ninth Court Court of Appeals is expected to issue a final ruling on the Executive Order tomorrow.

Continue reading