Articles Posted in O-1A

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Our readers will be happy to know that the Department of State has released a new update in the month of October on the status of worldwide consular visa operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a period of uncertainty and created tremendous backlogs at the Consular level. As most of you will remember, Consular missions around the world suspended routine visa services in March of 2020 to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. Later, the Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services, however some Consulates and Embassies resumed services faster than others. Since then, things have slowly but surely started to turn around.

To help improve visa processing, the State Department has said that worldwide visa operations are now recovering faster than expected. More U.S. foreign service personnel have been hired to reduce visa interview wait times at Consular posts worldwide. It is expected that this year, the Department of State will reach pre-pandemic processing levels. This is amazing news for immigrants that have been waiting for visa interview appointments for months, or even years.


How did COVID-19 impact Worldwide Visa Operations?


The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the agency’s ability to process visa applications in two major ways.

First, restrictions on travel to the United States, social distancing, and local quarantine restrictions made it difficult to accommodate large groups of people inside Consular facilities, such as waiting rooms. This of course reduced the number of people that could be scheduled for in-person visa appointments dramatically, causing a reduction in the number of visa applications that could be processed.

Secondly, due to the suspension of visa services worldwide, the State Department experienced a substantial decrease in funding which led to a declining workforce in 2020 and 2021. This dramatically impacted the number of applications that could be processed.

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Have you ever wondered: can I apply for a visa to the U.S., as a musician from a foreign country, a major social media influencer, or a serious business entrepreneur with recognition in the major media, with features in Vogue Magazine, YouTube, and Oprah Winfrey’s Supersoul Class?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to prove how these different types of extraordinary individuals qualified for the O1 Visa category, resulting in victories for these clients. We also describe how we were able to accomplish these objectives, by presenting an abundance of documentary evidence to help these individuals prove their extraordinary abilities in arts and business.


An Overview: What are the O1-A and O1B Visa Requirements?


Commonly referred to as the “artist” visa or “athlete” visa, we must first discuss the general requirements to qualify for the O1 visa.

An O1-A visa petition must demonstrate the applicant is an individual of extraordinary ability in the areas of business, science, education, and athletics, with supporting documentation showing receipt of a major internationally recognized award, like a Nobel Prize. However, if the applicant has not received such an award, the applicant must prove they meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field.
  • Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized experts in the field.
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about applicant’s work.
  • Evidence of participation on a panel, or individually, as the judge of the work of others in the field.
  • Evidence in the form of five or six letters and affidavits from prominent colleagues who can confirm applicant’s original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance to the field. Certain regulations require a “peer group” must attest to the applicant’s outstanding qualifications. We have found that this requirement may be fulfilled by letters of recommendation in which the referees outline their own standing in the field.
  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence of commanding a high salary or other compensation for services (this category does not usually apply to academic positions).

Similarly, an O1-B visa petition must demonstrate the applicant is an individual who can prove extraordinary achievement in the areas of art, television, and film. If the applicant has received an internationally recognized award like an Oscar or Grammy, then the applicant will qualify for the O1-B visa. However, if the applicant has not received such award, then the applicant must prove they have at least three of the following:

  • Evidence that the beneficiary has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation, as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements.
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has performed, and will perform, in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation, as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials;
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements; or
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence

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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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It’s the start of a brand-new year! On behalf of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we would like to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year. It has been a challenging time in the world of immigration law but we at the Law Office are proud to help you navigate the new normal.

In this blog post we share with you a new proposed rule that has been published in the Federal Register. The new rule seeks to raise certain nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, fees for the Border Crossing Card for Mexican Citizens age 15 and over, and fees to waive the two-year residency requirement (J waiver).


What is this all about?


On December 29, 2021, the Department of State released a new rule proposing the adjustment of various fees for Consular Services.


Non-Petition Based NIVs to Increase to $245 USD for B1/B2, F, M, J, C, D, I, and BCC applicants


Among the proposed fee changes is an increase of “non-petition” based NIV fees from $160 USD to $245 USD per application.

This change would impact a variety of nonimmigrant visas, such as:

  • those for business and tourist travel (B1/B2);
  • students and exchange visitors (F, M, and J);
  • crew and transit visas (C and D);
  • representatives of foreign media (I), and
  • other country-specific visa classes, as well as BCCs for applicants age 15 or older who are citizens of and resident in Mexico.

According to the Department of State, “non-petition” means visas that do not require separate requests known as “petitions” to be adjudicated prior to the visa application to establish that the individual meets certain qualifying criteria for the relevant status ( e.g. , that the beneficiary of the petition has the relevant familial relationship to the petitioner). Non-petition based NIVs make up nearly 90 percent of all NIV workload.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we share with you an exciting new update from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that will provide relief to those who have received a Request for Evidence, Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), or such similar request.


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS has announced that it will continue its flexibility policy giving applicants and petitioners more time to respond to Requests for Evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic and such related requests.

Today, Thursday December 30, 2021, USCIS made the announcement stating it will continue to give applicants who have received a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or such a related document, an additional 60 calendar days after the response deadline indicated on the notice or request, to submit a response to a request or notice, provided the request or notice was issued by USCIS between March 1, 2020 through March 26, 2022. 

This is great news because it will allow applicants and petitioners more time to gather documents that are hard to obtain during the COVID-10 pandemic.


What documents qualify for this flexibility in responding?


Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and March 26, 2022 can take advantage of the additional 60 calendar days to respond to the request or notice:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind;
  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

In addition, USCIS will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion or Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, if:

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We have very exciting news for nonimmigrant visa applicants. Today, December 23rd, the Department of State announced that the agency has granted Consular officers the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants, provided such applicants have a petition approved by USCIS.  This new discretionary power will apply to temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.


Interview Waiver Policy for Certain Nonimmigrant Workers


Pursuant to this new policy, Consular officers now have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided that they have no ineligibility issues and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

Interview Waiver Policy for Certain F, M, and academic J visa applicants


At the same time, the Secretary of State has extended a previously approved policy designed to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022.

To be eligible for the interview waiver as citizens or nationals of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, applicants must (1) have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via ESTA and (2) must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.

Additionally, just like the policy applied to certain non-immigrant workers, Consular officers will also have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants that are (1) citizens or nationals of a country that participates in VWP and (2) that have previously traveled to the United States via an ESTA authorization, and that have not had any visa ineligibility issues in the past

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand-new week and we are excited to bring you more updates in the world of immigration.

We are happy to report that the Department of State has released important information for nonimmigrant visa applicants who may qualify for an interview waiver. That’s right. Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain a renewal of their visas without being required to attend a Consulate interview.

Who may take advantage of Non-Immigrant Visa Interview Waivers?

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, and temporarily expanded the ability of Consular officials to waive the in-person interview requirement, which is normally required of all individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas in the same visa classification – in other words renewal applicants.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, interview waivers were only available to those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa was set to expire within 24 months.

The Secretary has now temporarily extended the Interview Waiver eligibility to those whose visas are set to expire within 48 months. This new policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.

According to the Department of State, “This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications, while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.”

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Can a social media influencer and OnlyFans model with a large online following qualify for the O-1B visa, as an individual of extraordinary ability in the arts or entertainment?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to do just that despite several challenges presented to us by USCIS, in which the adjudicating officer downplayed our client’s achievements, and unnecessarily applied a narrow interpretation of the standard “fashion model” to our client who did not fit the traditional mold of a “fashion model.”

Through a detailed presentation of additional evidence, we advocated for our client and explained that although our client did not neatly fit into the traditional category of “fashion model,” she did in fact satisfy at least three of the eight criteria for O-1B, based on her extraordinary achievement as a social media influencer and model, prominence, recognition, and her lead/critical role as founder of her own successful web platform.

Here, we will share with you how we were able to overcome such challenges and ultimately obtain an approval for our client.


The Rise of Social Media Influencers

Before the social media boom, fashion models were considered the primary vehicle by which companies promoted and advertised commercial products for global audiences. For those seeking success in today’s modeling landscape, social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, and Only Fans provided fertile ground for a new type of “model” to emerge – the social media influencer and “instafamous” model.

While such influencers do not fit the traditional “model” prototype, they have taken an unconventional approach to developing their social media presence, and leveraging their online presence in such a way that has enabled them to achieve and sustain an extraordinary level of achievement and recognition within their respective industries. Such influencers have been able to amass millions of followers and achieve an extraordinary level of achievement by inking lucrative brand deals, partnerships, and collaborations with some of the world’s largest companies.

There can be no doubt that the rise of the social media influencer marketing has revolutionized the way that companies do business. That is because the industry has recognized that influencers can engage and connect with their large audiences in a way that cannot be replicated through traditional media figures.

For instance, influencers build relationships with their audiences through sharing their opinions and personal stories, thereby establishing a sense of credibility and authenticity that differentiates them from most conventional models.

Those influencers that have achieved a high level of achievement in their field, by way of sustained national or international acclaim, and a degree of recognition that is substantially above that ordinarily encountered in the field, may qualify for the O-1B visa to live and work in the United States in the area of extraordinary ability.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we celebrate a client’s recent success story and share with you how our office was able to successfully obtain an O-1A visa approval for a jiu jitsu athlete of extraordinary ability.

First, let’s go over the O-1A visa process for individuals of extraordinary ability.

The O-1A is a perfect fit for those who can demonstrate a sustained level of national or international acclaim, as well as recognition for achievements received in their field of expertise. An O-1A applicant must demonstrate that he or she is one of a small percentage of individuals who has risen to the very top of his or her field, and that he or she will work in an area of extraordinary ability.

It is important to note that an O-1A applicant may not self-petition for their visa. A valid employer-employee relationship must exist, and the employer must petition for the applicant’s visa by filing Form I-129 with USCIS. Alternatively, a U.S. agent may file as a petitioner for an O-1 beneficiary if they are the actual employer of the beneficiary, the representative of both the employer or beneficiary, or authorized by the employer to act in place of the employer as its agent.

In general, three of eight criteria must be satisfied to successfully obtain an O-1A visa.

These criteria are as follows:

(1) Documentation of the alien’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor;

(2) Documentation of the alien’s membership in associations in the field for which classification is sought, which require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized national or international experts in their disciplines or fields;

(3) Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien, relating to the alien’s work in the field for which classification is sought, which shall include the title, date, and author of such published material, and any necessary translation;

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We begin the start of the new week with some disappointing news regarding premium processing fee increases effective today October 19, 2020.

On October 16, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) quietly announced a substantial increase in filing fees for premium processing requests filed on Form I-907 that became effective today October 19, 2020,  in compliance with H.R.8337 (Public Law No. 116-159) a continuing appropriations bill that became public law on October 1, 2020.

Pursuant to this new bill, starting today USCIS will increase the filing fee for Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing from $1,440 to $2,500, for all filings except those from petitioners filing Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant worker status.

The premium processing fee for petitioners filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant status is increasing from $1,440 to $1,500.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing provides expedited processing for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. USCIS guarantees processing within 15 calendar days to those who choose to use this service.

The 15 calendar day period begins when USCIS properly receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.

Once the I-907 is received, USCIS either issues an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence within the 15-calendar day period.

H.R. 8337 will soon expand premium processing service to applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status, applications for employment authorization, and other types of benefit requests.

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