Hiring season is fraught with questions and uncertainties; preparing employment applications; interviewing, drafting offer letters….. What questions can be asked? What questions should be asked? These concerns are even more pronounced when it comes to immigration status, and immigration sponsorship. Those tasked with the hiring process often ask, whether it is legal to ask applicants about their immigration status, how to ask that question, and even more important, “Do we have to sponsor for immigration status if the applicant needs it?”
As many of you know, the most common H-1B professional worker visa category is subject to an annual quota/ cap per fiscal year (with some exceptions) and historically, the demand for initial H-1B numbers significantly exceeds the numbers available. So last year, employers and foreign nationals welcomed a new H-1B registration rule, whereby employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions had to first register electronically with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) during a designated registration period. And at the end of the initial registration period, USCIS received more registrations than needed to reach the H-1B cap, so it randomly selected, through a computer generated lottery a sufficient number of registrations who were then notified to submit their H-1B cap petition filings to USCIS. Continue reading “Planning to register for the H-1B cap season this spring but will you have a chance of being selected based on this new DHS Rule?”
On September 25, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS agency with jurisdiction over F-1 foreign student visa holders, published new proposed regulations that would end the long time U.S. practice of issuing “Duration of Status” to F-1 students. Instead, F-1 visa holders would be limited to 2 or 4 year visa terms depending upon their country of origin, and be required to reapply for F-1 Status through USCIS to obtain extensions, or to leave the United States and apply for an extension . The proposed regulations were immediately criticized by the higher education community. The rules were called ill-conceived, misguided, unnecessary, and a burden to an industry that has already seen a steady decline in international student admissions. Read the full blog post here.
U.S. Consulates around the world are gradually resuming routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa services, after their suspension in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of State has confirmed that each Consulate will begin visa services on its own timeline, in light of the particular conditions of that country. Applicants should check the specific U.S. consulate website for most up-to-date information, available through the following website http://usembassy.gov. This means that applicants may soon be able to schedule or reschedule their visa appointments. It is also possible that the Consulate may automatically reschedule the applicant’s prior appointment. Importantly, Consulates continue to accept requests for emergency visa appointments through their scheduling service at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/. If you have specific questions, talk to your immigration lawyer, as the situation is fluid and subject to change.
The White House has issued a new travel ban blocking Chinese nationals associated with entities that are part of China’s “military-civil fusion” strategy from obtaining graduate level Student (F) or Exchange Visitor (J) visas. The ban went into effect on June 1 and has no end date. The ban specifically references those visa applicants who are currently outside the United States, but does not exclude the possibility that the estimated 3000 Chinese nationals, already studying in the U.S. who meet the criteria of the executive order, could have their existing visas revoked. Read Valentine’s full post on the Duane Morris Education Law Blog, UpdateED.
U.S. Consulates around the world are beginning to reopen and start scheduling visa appointments and it is critical for applicants to be well prepared for their interviews. Recently, the Department of State revised its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), to include a new, heightened adjudication standard for blanket L-1 applications. As detailed in our prior blog, the revised provision directs the Consular Officer to deny the L-1 visa if he/she “has any doubt” whether an applicant has established their L visa eligibility and if the “questions or issues cannot be resolved during the interview.” So the visa applicants should be prepared to confidently, concisely and directly provide the relevant information in responding at the interview. We recommend that employees, who would be applying for blanket L visas at U.S. Consulates abroad, work closely with their immigration counsel and prepare for their visa interviews. Oftentimes, Consular Officers have only a few minutes to review the documents and question the applicant. Therefore, the applicant’s preparation for the interview is critical for a successful visa adjudication.
Here are some tips for applicants preparing for their L-1 visa interview:
- Make sure to read carefully and thoroughly the L visa application package, especially the company support letter explaining the relationship between the companies, the job offered, and how the applicant qualifies based on her/his specialized knowledge or managerial/ executive experience.
- Applicants should be familiar with the content of the application packet but should not try to memorize it or use fancy complex legal verbiage.
- Applicants should be prepared to explain, in their own words, what makes their transfer to the US business critical.
- Applicants should be able to highlight their accomplishments as they relate to their specific employment within the company.
Applicants should be able to give direct, on point and truthful answers to the following common L visa interview questions:
- Why was he/she selected for this job?
- Isn’t there a US worker with the U.S. employer who can do the job?
- What is his/her specialty?
- What managerial decisions does he/ she make?
- Who will the applicant be working for?
- Who does the applicant report to? Who will the applicant report to in the U.S.?
- Will anyone report to the applicant in the U.S.? Be prepared to state names and titles of direct reports.
- If the applicant is coming to the U.S. as a specialized knowledge employee and will be working at a third party site, who at the U.S. company will control his/her work? It is important to know the name and title of his/her manager in the U.S.
- What company specific experience or knowledge does she/he have?
- How long does it take to acquire this special knowledge?
- How long will the applicant remain in the US? This is especially important if he/she would be coming to the U.S. on an intermittent basis, over a period of time.
- What are his/her plans after the US assignment ends?
This list is not exhaustive and the Consular Officer’s questions will be more case specific at the interview and applicants should be well prepared to respond, with the assistance of their counsel. The attorney can explain the legal framework and requirements for the highly scrutinized L intra-company transfer non-immigrant visa, which will help him/her in responding to the questions at the visa interview to ensure the successful case outcome and the visa issuance.
Following the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration that classified the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as a pandemic on March 11, a number of governments have instituted or announced measures limiting international travel. In the most notable of the new restrictions, the United States has announced that it is suspending all travel from Europe’s Schengen Area for 30 days beginning at midnight on Friday, March 13. This measure would expand existing travel restrictions in place for arrivals from mainland China and Iran.
The restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents or their immediate families as well as holders of some categories of U.S. visas (such as A-1, A-2, C-1, D or C-1/D, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 and NATO visas). The Schengen Area is a 26-country group that has officially abolished border control among themselves.
Globally, it is unknown if other governments will follow suit after the announcement from the White House. However, some of the recent and notable measures that have been implemented or announced this week by other countries are as follows:
On June 12, 2015 the U.S. State Department announced that a computer glitch has hit the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) affecting the printing of U.S. visas at all consulates and U.S. embassies worldwide.
On June, 15, 2015 the State Department published the following State Department Update, indicating that there is no resolution to the problem and none in sight as of this writing. Continue reading “State Department Computer Problem Causes Worldwide Delays in Visa Issuance at U.S. Consulates”