National Interest Exception: Traveling to the United States during Covid19

By David Cantor, Global Director of Client Relations, Davies & Associates

Recent months have proven to complicate matters for those seeking to travel to the United States. This is especially concerning for those that have serious matters to attend to within the United States – whether it be issues related directly business, academics or family.  

On July 20th, 2020, the US Embassy and Consulates General in Italy resumed certain immigrant and non-immigrant visa processing services – including appointments for treaty-investors, exchange visitors and students, as well as athletes and entertainers. This is also true for the US Embassies Consulates in other European locations, with certain exceptions – such as Paris, London and Belfast.

While there is still much uncertainty surrounding the existing travel bans as it applies to foreign nationals and specifically those in the Schengen region – it seems that some US Embassies and Consulates, as well as US Customs and Border Control authorities are beginning to provide practical guidance and potential pathways that permit temporary travel into the United States.

On July 15th, 2020 certain travelers from Schengen countries, including Italy, were permitted to resume travel into the United States through the National Interest Exemption. In order to be granted permission to travel from the Schengen region, an applicant must submit a National Interest Exemption request directly to the respective Consulate.

The National Interest Exemption (“NIE”) is best applied to those that are seeking to travel to the United States as Students (F1 and M1 visas), Researchers (J1 visa), Investors (E2), or for temporary business matters (B1 or ESTA).

To be considered for the NIE it is necessary that you qualify for one of the exemptions listed in the Presidential Proclamation, summarized below:

ECONOMIC BENEFIT EXCEPTION. An applicant must prove that the temporary travel to the United States will provide substantial economic benefit to the US economy. Qualified applicants through the national interest exception may include:

  • Technical experts and specialists
  •  Senior-Level managers and executives
  • Professional athletes, dependents and essential staff
  • Treaty-investors and traders

ACADEMICS & STUDENTS. An applicant should be participating in a bona-fide exchange program or full-time course of study. Qualified applicants through the national interest exception may include:

  • Full-time students
  • Professors
  • Research Scholars
  • Short-term Scholars
  • Other specialists 

I have a valid ESTA, can I travel to the United States?

If you have a valid ESTA and are coming from the Schengen region you still need to apply for the National Interest Exception (NIE) in order to be granted permission to travel.

I have a valid B1, E2, J1, O1, or F1 visa – can I travel to the United States?

If you hold a B1, E2, J1, O1, M1 or F1 visa, you still need to apply for the NIE in order to be granted permission to travel to the United States.

How do I apply for the NIE?

Supporting documentation must be sent directly to the Embassy or Consulate of your region of residence.  Contact us today to learn more.

Italian nationals can submit supporting documentation directly to the respective Consulate – please contact our Italy Practice Team today.

What documents do I need to apply?

This will depend on your local Consulate, however, basic documentation is required (i.e. biographic page of passport, proof of valid US visa or ESTA) as well as supporting documentation in English demonstrating your qualifications for the NIE as well as purpose for travel.

How long does it take to apply for the NIE?

Generally, 30-business days, however, this depends on your local Consulate. As discussed above, as of July 20th, the US Embassy and Consulates General in Italy resumed certain immigrant and non-immigrant visa services. It is very likely that there will be increased wait-times and substantial processing backlogs, so if you believe you qualify, it is encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Can I include my dependents on the NIE application?

Investors, students and other academics can also include dependents in the NIE request.

I am in the United States, can I apply for the NIE?

No – the consular sections cannot accept NIE requests for those that are physically present in the United States.

How long is the NIE valid for?

Travelers permitted to enter the United States through the national interest exception must do so within-30 days of the approval. This is valid only for a single-entry into the United States.

The total permitted stay will depend on the permitted duration of stay granted  by the US Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry.

Is the NIE process complicated?

Since US consulates and embassies are just starting to re-open for routine processing of US visas, the NIE requests are fairly new and untested. We highly encourage you speaking with a qualified US immigration attorney to obtain a free consultation for this matter.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients.


Grenada CBI: Beware Buyback or Rebate Scam

By Sukanya Raman, Associate, D&A India

Under the Grenadian Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program if an applicant chooses to invest in a Government-approved the project, then the minimum investment in the share of the approved project is US $220,000  & it should be held for a minimum period of 5 years which is the statutory holding period.

Grenada CBI Committee has observed that some Marketing Agents and Local Agents are buying back the shares from the applicants soon after they obtain their citizenship of Grenada.

Marketing Agents and Local Agents are entering into a buyback agreement with the applicants and upon receiving citizenship the applicants are substantially repaid. This ultimately leads to investing below the qualified minimum investment amount required for the National Transformation Fund (NTF) and violates the law governing Grenada CBI Act and Regulations.

The investment amount under NTF is US $150,000.00 and the objective of NTF is to transform the Grenadian economy and to develop the industries, tourism, agriculture, and alternative energy sectors.

Grenada Citizenship by Investment unit issued a circular dated 22nd June 2020. It states as Marketing Agents & Local Agents should not give any discount, buyback or rebate to the applicants below the minimum investment amount prescribed by the Laws of Grenada i.e., US $220,000.00 and the applicant must hold the shares for the statutory period of 5 years. It is illegal to offer any buyback or rebate before the expiry of the statutory period of 5 years.

If the unit or committee finds out that any applicant/s has breached the Grenada CBI Act and Regulation their approved citizenship shall be revoked under section 11 of the Act. 


Positano Italy

Podcast: Chasing the Italian Dream: Residency & Citizenship Options

Matteo Tisato, Senior Immigration Analyst at Davies & Associates takes you through various options for moving to Italy, including:

The Italian Investor Visa.

Matteo discusses recent changes to the Investor Visa. The Italian Investor visa has long been considered uncompetitive on price in relation to other, similar European programs. To attract more high-net-worth individuals as a result of Covid. The government has halved the minimum investment requirement of certain investor visa criteria. The pathway to citizenship is also discussed.

The Elective Residency Visa

Matteo discusses the benefits of one of the most popular visas for people looking to work or retire in Italy. The core requirement of the Elective Residency visa is to rent or lease a house and have an income of 32,000 Euros or more.

Italian Citizenship Through Ancestry

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Italy experienced mass migration on a vast scale. Many people around the world, especially in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina, can claim Italian citizenship through an ancestor. Matteo talks us through the main requirements, including the need to provide documentation to support the claim.

EU Blue Card

The European Union offers a “blue card” program to attract highly skilled workers from around the world. So-named to infer a link to the US Green Card. As you will hear, it is actually more similar to the H-1B visa.

Italian Tax

The Italian tax system can be daunting even to the initiated. Many of our clients want to know the best way to structure their taxes when moving to Italy from abroad. Italy has recently made it more attractive for workers, retirees and high net worth individual to become tax resident.

Hosted by Duncan Hill. Neither Duncan nor Matteo are licensed lawyers in the US or Italy and nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice. Contact Davies & Associates to discuss your circumstances with an attorney.


Davies & Associates Sees First US E2 Visa Approval as US Embassies Reopen

US consular services are finally starting to get back to work after a Covid-enforced hiatus. Davies & Associates yesterday received its first approval since the pandemic caused a shut-down of all but essential operations at US embassies in March. But with US airspace still closed to travellers from many countries, a National Interest Exception is required for foreign nationals wishing to travel from a restricted country.

The successful, Switzerland-based client has established a pharmaceutical consultancy in New Jersey under the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa category. The E-2 Visa is one of few visa categories not suspended as part of President Trump’s so-called “immigration ban” to protect US workers from the effects of the pandemic.

While the Proclamation prohibiting entry of foreign nationals coming from the European Schengen area is still in effect, the Embassy has granted a National Interest Exception to allow the client to enter to the United States based on their strong E-2 application.

A National Interest Waiver will most likely be required for any new E-2 visa holder to be able to enter the US. That is if they come from a county that is on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention blacklist. This also applies to anyone holding an existing E-2 visa, but currently located outside of the United States and seeking to return. It is advisable for people in this position to contact their immigration attorney to discuss their specific circumstances.

The E-2 Visa allows a person to move to the United States for the purposes of starting or acquiring a business. The applicant must be investing enough money to support the demands of the business, and they are able to bring their family with them to America. Spouses are able to apply for work authorization outside of the E-2 business.

Only select countries are eligible for the E-2 visa. For those clients from ineligible countries, Davies & Associates offers a simple package of obtaining citizenship of an E-2 Treaty Country. The quickest and most cost-effective of these packages is via Grenada in the West Indies or Turkey.

In other recent developments, the US authorities have removed the requirement for E-2 visa applicants to have a physical office space in the United States. Until now, E-2 businesses were required to prove this as part of their application. All other requirements remain, including the need for the applicant to own at least 50% of the business and that they “develop and direct” it themselves.

Despite the Covid-19 crisis, Davies & Associates has seen an increase in E-2 visa applications. Lockdown may have prompted people to review their options and provided more time to prepare the necessary application. An E-2 application requires a strong and credible business case, which can take time to prepare.

Verdie Atienza, Head of E-2 Visa Practice at Davies and Associates said, “Preparing a strong E-2 application requires time and careful planning. To be able to position your company for the expected economic recovery due to the pandemic, prospective E-2 applicants should take advantage of the current travel restrictions to prepare a strong E-2 application. Having an E-2 application in queue will get you in the best position to come to the US to develop and direct your company at the soonest possible time.”

Davies & Associates is a US-based immigration focused law firm with corporate capabilities. The firm specializes in helping its clients set up new businesses around the world and then procuring the necessary visas to move with their family to run those businesses.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients.


E2 Mythbusters: Investment Amounts

Mark Davies, Global Chairman, Davies & Associates

MYTH: “An E2 visa requires a minimum investment of USD 200,000, USD 300,000 or more to be safe”

This is a common “myth” in E2

Our firm files hundreds of E2 Visa cases with an investment of about USD 100,000 and to date we have never had an E2 visa refusal problem. While not necessarily recommended, we have had a case approved for an investment of USD 60,000.

For a successful E2 Treaty Investor Visa application there is no minimum investment but the investment must be “substantial” in relation to the business endeavor in question. What is a reasonable and “substantial” investment for one business might not be for another.

If you already have business in the United States then no further investment may be required in order for you to obtain an E2 visa.

Applicants from India, Vietnam, South Africa, or other non-E2 treaty countries who have obtained a Grenada, Turkey, Montenegro, or other third country nationality may need to restructure existing investments in the US so they are useable for E2 purposes.


E2 Visa: You Now No Longer Need a Physical Office Space

By Sukanya Raman, Associate, D&A Mumbai Office

On July 17th 2020, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) was updated by the United States Department of State (DOS). The updates state that an applicant need not have a physical office space to qualify for E Visa.

E-1  Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor visa applicants shall benefit the most. E-1 and E-2 visas are non-immigrant visas. Under an E-1 visa, applicants of the treaty country are permitted to enter the U.S. wholly to engage in international trade. Under the E-2 visa, applicants of the treaty country are permitted to enter the U.S. by investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business.

The E visa the classification has a lengthy list of requirements, a few of the  general ones are as follows:

Treaty Agreement

Nationality of E visa qualifying country

50% ownership and/or control & possession

Trade is predominantly between the United States and the treaty country

Enterprise must be real and operating a commercial enterprise

Substantial capital investment

Must be in the position to “develop and direct” the enterprise

Physical office space (no longer mandatory)

Above mentioned are a few mandatory requirements for the E visa application. However, having a physical office space is now optional to qualify for an E visa application.

E visa can now be available for businesses with virtual offices in the U.S. This gives the flexibility to  the applicants to save a huge amount of money from the substantial capital investment in leasing office space and other associated costs to it. We see a lot of clients substantial capital investment amount was invested in leasing the office premises, which they can now utilize in the business for explanation or for development, provided the other requirement of the E visas are met.

The new FAM  reads as “An applicant does not necessarily need a physical office space to qualify for an E visa.  Although having physical office space may be relevant in determining whether the requirements for an E visa have been met, it is not a requirement to qualify for the visa.”

The E-2 Visa is available to citizens of Treaty Countries. Click here to see if your country is on the list. If your country is not on the list, it is possible to become eligible by first obtaining citizenship of an E-2 Treaty country. Click here to learn more about this process.

sraman@usimmigrationadvisor.com

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients.


The Italian Dream is now Half Price

The Italian government is reducing key investment requirements for its Investor Visa by 50%.

By Matteo Tisato, Senior Immigration Analyst, D&A Italy

Just yesterday, the Italian Parliament passed into law a governmental Decree with a number of measures aimed at relaunching the Italian economy as a response to the dramatic impact that the Covid-19 health emergency had on the Italian and global economy.

In particular, the Italian government has taken actions in order to attract and encourage foreign capitals and investments from abroad, by reducing by 50% some of the minimum thresholds of the “Investor Visa for Italy”. 

In light of the above said, citizens from all around the world are now entitled to apply for and obtain this visa and its related Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit of Stay) by performing one of the following investments in the country:

• at least 250.000 Euros (previously was 500.000 Euros) in an innovative start-up company incorporated in Italy; 

• at least 500.000 Euros (previously was 1 Million Euros) in equity instruments of companies incorporated and operating in Italy; 

• at least 2 million Euros in Government Bonds issued by the Italian Republic (no changes in the new law)

• philanthropic donations of at least 1 million Euros, in the field of culture, education, immigration, scientific research, recovery of cultural assets and landscapes. (no changes)

The above change in the law does not affect the practical aspects of the procedure. Once the Investor Visa has been issued, the investor (and their family) is entitled to enter Italy and to apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno (permit of stay), which will be issued on the sole condition that the applicant performs one of the above-listed investments within 3 months after the date of first entry in the country. 

The Permesso is issued for an initial period of 2 years and can be renewed for further periods of 3 years, provided that the investment has been fully executed according to the Italian Immigration Law

The steps for obtaining the citizenship of Italy, which is the 3rd largest economy in the European Union, and the 8th largest by nominal GDP in the world, can be quite extended unless all the documents are prepared in accordance with the requirements imposed by the Italian authorities. 

If you think of applying for the Investor Visa for Italy, contact our offices in Florence or Miami, and our attorneys will assist you step by step with this process.

mtisato@usimmigrationadvisor.com

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients.


Relaxation on H1-B and L-1 Visa

Podcast: Comparing E2 & L1 Visas in Light of the “Immigration Ban”

The L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa was temporarily suspended last month as part of President Trump’s ongoing so-called “immigration ban”. The list of visa categories suspended through to the end of the year is now quite lengthy.

However, there are notable exemptions: The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa and the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa are not included.

In this podcast we speak to Verdie Atienza, a senior immigration attorney at Davies & Associates, to examine whether the E-2 visa may prove a possible alternative to the L-1 visa in certain cases.

Verdie heads up our L-1 and E-2 practice team and so he is well placed to compare and contrast these two visa categories. Listen in as he provides a forensic comparative analysis of both.

L-1 Visas are used to move to management-level staff from an overseas branch to the US branch of the same company. At D&A we specialize in “new-office” L-1s which is where an individual can set up a US branch of their overseas company and then move to the United States to manage that new office.

The E-2 Treaty Investor visa allows a person to bring their family to the United States for the purposes of running a particular business. It is necessary that your country of citizenship has a relevant treaty with the US to qualify. For those that do not initially qualify, D&A offers a two-step process whereby you first obtain citizenship of a country that does qualify, like Grenada or Turkey.

Topics covered in the podcast include:

  1. The impact of the immigration suspension
  2. Investment requirements
  3. Premises requirements in the United States
  4. Spousal Rights
  5. Children’s rights and ageing out?
  6. Visa duration
  7. Renewal process and limits
  8. Business plan requirements
  9. Nationality requirements and quotas
  10. Becoming eligible for an E-2 visa through Citizenship by Investment
  11. Transitioning to a Green Card?

This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact us to speak to an attorney.


President Trump Reverses Ban on Foreign Students Taking Online Courses

President Trump has been forced to make a U-Turn on his attempts to revoke the immigration status of international students taking online courses in the fall. Most university courses across the United States have gone online in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and many are expected to stay that way for the fall semester.

Students and their parents from around the world had been left to reconsider their education plans as a result of the president’s initial announcement.

However, a federal legal challenge by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) caused the Trump administration to rescind the policy.

Almost 400,000 F-1 student visas were issued last year. International students bring billions of dollars to the US economy in tuition fees and spending.

Many of our clients use the F-1 visa to send their children to school in the United States before transitioning to other visa categories after graduation. Some of those visas, particularly the H-1B, is currently under suspension because of President Trump’s executive order of June 2020.

However, other visa categories are not suspended. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is a relatively fast route to a US Green Card requiring a $900,000 investment. The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa requires a plan to invest in and run a US-based business. As we mentioned in a previous blog posts, it is possible for parents and children to co-own the company to prevent the child from ageing out. Citizens of certain countries have to first obtain additional citizenship, often of Grenada or Turkey. This is usually a relatively straightforward process, contact us to discuss.

Both the E-2 Visa and the EB-5 Visa are exempt from the so-called “immigration ban”. A high proportion of our EB-5 clients are motivated to apply because of their children’s studies and work prospects after graduation.

Written by Duncan Hill. This blog is for informational purposes only, nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances.


E2 Visa Myth Busting: Do I have to stay in Grenada?

By Mark Davies, Global Chairman, Davies & Associates

“I have to stay in Grenada for six months to get my E2 Visa” if I use the donation route for my Grenada CBI case.

One of our clients e-mailed me this morning having been given this completely false statement, probably by a salesman selling another country’s program.

For a E2 visa the only country that has a residency requirement is the United Kingdom (which is the oldest E2 treaty). We do recommend creating connections with Grenada which is a wonderful country to visit but residency there is not required.

You can obtain an E2 visa regardless of the manner you used to obtain your Grenada passport. We have clients living in the US on an E2 investment visa to prove it.

Our Indian, Vietnamese, South African and Bangladeshi* clients have been opening business in the USA for a decade. Since about 2014 Grenada citizenship-by-investment has been a top consideration.

Prior to the new USD 220,000 share ownership program most of our clients were exclusively interested in the CBI USD 150,000 donation option.

Click here to see if your country has an E2 Treaty with the United States.

Click here to learn more about the E2 visa coupled with Citizenship by Investment.

*Although Bangladesh is an E2 country there are reasons why clients sometimes still use the Grenada route.