Immigration Outlook for 2021

Happy New Year from the entire team at Davies & Associates. With a global vaccination program underway, 2021 looks set to bring a welcome return to something closer to normality.

Despite the difficult circumstances, we were delighted to move so many families and businesses around the world in 2020, and we look forward to serving many more in the coming year.

Best wishes,
Mark I. Davies Esq.
Global Chairman, Davies & Associates



United States Immigration

Much of how immigration policy plays out during Biden’s first two years in office will depend on which party ends up in control of the Senate after a run-off election in Georgia today, January 5. Then tomorrow, January 6, Congress is required to sign off on the election results in what will be President Trump’s last opportunity to contest them ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. The political theater may calm down in late January, but questions will remain about how Biden will approach immigration policy as he attempts to repair the nation’s finances after Covid-19.

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program in 2021

The EB-5 Investor Visa brings investment and jobs to the United States. It offers Green Cards for a qualifying family group in exchange for a minimum $900,000 investment that creates ten jobs. It is for this reason that the EB-5 Program was deliberately not suspended by President Trump in 2020. The program has enjoyed the support of politicians from both main political parties and showcases how the immigration system can be a net benefit to the economy and employment.

The EB-5 program will find itself on the agenda of Congress this year as it faces reauthorization in June and as a bipartisan reform bill gains ground. While this could have a positive impact, some investors may wish to act in the first half of the year to lock in their investments with the surety of the current regulations. 

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E-2 Treaty Investor Visa in 2021

The E-2 Treaty Investor is governed by treaties with sovereign countries, meaning it is more insulated from political changes than other types of visa. In fact, the oldest treaty (with the United Kingdom) was signed more than 200 years ago. The E-2 visa allows a person to move with their families for the purpose of investing in and running a business in the United States. It brings investment to the U.S. and creates jobs for U.S. workers. It was not covered by the Presidential Proclamation which banned the issuance of certain visas last year. 

Read Why You Should Apply for an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa in 2021 in Silicon India magazine, by Verdie Atienza, the Senior Immigration Attorney in charge of our E-2 and L-1 Visa Practice.

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L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa in 2021

The issuance of L-1 Visas was suspended by President Trump last year. The President just extended the ban on L-1 (as well as H-1B visas) through to March 31, 2021. This means Joe Biden will need take the decision on whether to immediately roll back on President Trump’s policy on the L-1 category or let it lapse in three months time. Increasingly our firm is helping business owners make use of the L-1 visa to be allowed to move to America to set up a new office and oversee the expansion of their businesses. Despite the ban, our clients have been using the time to prepare an application for when the ban is lifted. 

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National Interest Exception

The U.S. border has been closed to the citizens of select countries with high rates of Covid-19. However, it is possible for L-1 and E-2 visa holders to apply for special permission to travel to the United States if they can make the case that this is in the national interest. Our firm obtained multiple National Interest Exceptions to allow our L-1 and E-2 clients to travel to the U.S. in 2020. Please contact us if this affects you. 

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Italian Immigration

Our Italian business grew rapidly in 2020, in spite of challenging circumstances. This year is set to be even stronger as the Italian government looks to the immigration system to help rebuild the economy. To that end, it cut the cost of the Italian residency-by-investment visa in half for certain types of investment. It has also fully reopened the Elective Residency Visa after some consulates stopped accepting applications because of Covid. Elective Residency, which is our most popular Italian visa, allows a person to obtain Italian residency if they can prove a regular income of at least €32,000 / year among other conditions. 

Our firm also helps clients with all matters relating to Italian tax, citizenship and property. At the end of 2020 we hosted a webinar on the famous One-Euro Homes project featuring an expert panel covering all aspects of the program – including someone who has been through the process.

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Click Here to Watch our One Euro Homes Webinar from December 2020

United Kingdom Immigration

The United Kingdom officially left the European Union at the end of 2020 and is gearing up its new points-based immigration system. It also recently launched a Global Talent Visa to attract future leaders in digital technology, academia, and the arts. The U.K. investor visa, skilled-worker visa, and start-up visa are all still available. Some of the details of the new system are yet to be determined, so we advise you to set up a consultation with our UK team.

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Grenada Citizenship by Investment

Demand for the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Programme grew during 2020 as more people sought dual citizenship amid the uncertainty of Covid-19. Grenada offers citizenship within a matter of months in exchange for an investment in Real Estate starting from $220,000 or a donation starting from $150,000. Grenada is an E-2 Treaty Country, which means people from a non E-2 Treaty Country (e.g. India, South Africa, Vietnam, Russia & China) can become eligible for the U.S. E-2 Treaty Investor Visa after obtaining citizenship of Grenada.

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Start a Business Anywhere in the World in 2021

Davies & Associates has helped hundreds of clients move their existing businesses overseas or start new ones around the world. The tasks of setting up an overseas office and of applying for the necessary visas are intricately linked. Our teams of corporate lawyers and immigration lawyers work closely together to ensure the business is set-up in a way that complies with all local immigration regulations. We then remain by our clients side, providing all the necessary ongoing corporate and immigration support as they grow and thrive in their new home.

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Merit-Based Visa Categories: A Strong Constant in Uncertain Times

By David Cantor

Throughout the span of four-years, the United States immigration framework has faced unprecedented times. The main governing entities – the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Department of State (DoS) – have made distinctive regulatory changes in order to carry out various, larger policy-oriented goals, namely rooted in national security and economic concerns.

Overall, it has been challenging times for many US visa holders and prospective applicants across visa categories to plan, as well as determine the path of least resistance based on your priorities and goals.

Despite the seemingly endless challenges and uncertainties we have faced, there seems to be one US immigration pathway that has proven both reliable and promising for qualified applicants – merit-based visa categories.

In essence, applicants that qualify will be receiving a US visa based on their own qualifications and achievements. While it helps, you do not need to have won the Nobel Peace prize – rather, you should consider this if you have specific professional experiences that seem novel and unique.

There is also no limit on the “type of profession” – and at Davies & Associates we have represented a diverse range of clients, including but not limited to: Foreign Medical Professionals (i.e. doctors, nurses, researchers), Academics and Professors, Business Executives and Entrepreneurs, Artists, Engineers, and much more.

Generally, you should be considering a merit-based visa category if you are able to provide some of the following:

  • Publications & citations of your work;
  • Proof that you have been recognized for your work (i.e. awards);
  • Evidence that you have achieved a higher-level degree and that you are established in your respective profession;
  • Notable letters of recommendation from others in your industry attesting for your qualifications;
  • Membership of relevant associations, boards and professional organizations related to your work;
  • And other core documentary proof demonstrating that you’ve risen to a certain level of expertise in your field.

Now, these are really general terms for what you should be considering for merit-based visa categories, and obviously there is a lot more due-diligence and work that goes into a prospective application. If you believe you may qualify, we would be glad to provide a more detailed consultation, and request that you complete one of our merit-based questionnaires.

For those that do qualify – merit-based visa categories present numerous advantages. To begin with, you are essentially being granted a visa based on your own achievements and expertise.

Some visa categories do not even require you to have a job-offer or an employer sponsor in the United States, so you are actually petitioning yourself (read more about the National Interest Waiver program). Moreover, with a sound immigration strategy many of merit-based visa categories will lead to permanent residence and a Green Card.

How do I know if I qualify for a Merit-Based Visa?

At Davies & Associates our expert team of legal specialists will provide a thorough review to determine your initial eligibility. We would first review your professional portfolio (i.e. CV/resume) and request that you complete our detailed merit-based questionnaire (please send an email to meritbased@usimmigrationadvisor.com)

What are the Merit-Based Visa Categories?

Merit-based visas can be broken down into two main categories: non-immigrant and immigrant. Generally speaking, Non-Immigrant visas are temporary and permit a candidate to live and work in the United States, while Immigrant-based visas lead to permanent residency (Green Card). Oftentimes, depending on the objectives and specific criteria of our clients we will combine visas and present an overall immigration strategy. Some of the most common visa categories include and is not limited to: L-1 / P-1 / O-1 / J-1 / H-1B / EB-1 / EB-2 / NIW.

How long does it take to get a Green Card?

The processing times for building a merit-based visa application will depend on several factors: visa category, specifics of the client’s case, current processing times, and more. Generally speaking, the merit-based visa categories have received favorable and current processing times when compared to other visa categories as a result of the current administration policies. While processing times are subject to change, many of our clients were able to obtain their visas within 9-12 months from respective US consulates.

What type of professionals will qualify for merit-based visas?

As mentioned above, there is no limitation to the “type of professional” that may qualify. You can be a successful businessman, inventor, entrepreneur, medical professional, actuary, physical therapist, TV or Social Media personality, acclaimed artist, software or aeronautical engineer.


The important question is whether you have the credentials to qualify, regardless of the type of professional you are. In general, the more you can demonstrate that you are established and recognized in your respective career the stronger viability you may have for filing. The criteria for qualifying is very specific – so our team of experts will evaluate specific requirements (i.e. # of publications/citations, awards, membership on professional organizations and boards, etc.).

What is the visa process for merit-based visa applications?

Please read our previous article about this HERE.

I believe I qualify for a Merit-Based Visa – what are the next steps?

Contact us today and we will be glad to provide a tailored-consultation: meritbased@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. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


Traveling to the US During COVID-19: Consular Applications & Interview Update

By David Cantor Global Director of Client Relations

It is notably a difficult time for anyone needing to travel to the United States. Whether it is for purposes of business, family or leisure – travel restrictions are still in effect for the United States through December 31, 2020 as a result of the Presidential Proclamation.

In recent months, various US Embassies and Consulates have issued formal reports on the commencement of adjudicating select visa-applications, conducting interviews and granted travel permission to those who fall within the National Interest Exemption.

The National Interest Exemption (NIE), effectively permits individuals from the UK and Schengen Region to travel to the United States – the most common applicants being Students (F1 and M1 visa holders), Researchers (J1 Visa), Investors (E2) and those who need to attend to urgent, temporary, business matters (B1 or ESTA).

In order to determine whether you qualify for the National Interest Exemption it is necessary to submit a request to the respective US Consulate.

Navigating these requirements can prove challenging, since there is no uniform policy for the re-opening of US Consulates. For instance, the US Consulate in Rome is now welcoming E-2 Treaty Investor Visa applications, while the US Embassy in London does not expressly mention this on the State Department website.

The same goes for other US Consulates throughout the Schengen Region, and we suggest you further consult an attorney to determine visa-processing viability and NIE procedures through the respective Consulate.

What remains clear, is that waiting periods and additional processing delays are likely accumulating. For example, the United States Embassy in London was previously adjudicating E-2 Investor Visas within a 30-45 day window – while, cases filed in March and April remain pending and the earliest interviews that are being granted is August 2021.

That said, for qualified applicants you are generally able to make expedited requests and obtain Consular appointments in a much shorter period of time. However, you still need to fully-understand the processing requirements for the National Interest Exemption, as it varies from Consulate to Consulate. 

The global response to Covid-19 is unprecedented. The United States has imposed restrictions on visits from a swathe of countries and regions in an attempt to limit the outbreak. Nevertheless, if you are considering a US visa application, we recommend starting the process. It takes time to prepare and L-1 and and E-2 visa application, so this uncertain time can still be used effectively.

The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa allows a person to move to the United States with their family for the purpose of own and operating a business. Spouses are eligible to apply for work authorization outside the E-2 business. Applicants must be a citizen of an E-2 Treaty Country. Click here to find out if your country is on the list.

If your country is not on the list, it is necessary to first become a citizen of an E-2 Treaty Country. Davies & Associates is able to package together citizenship by investment (CBI) of Grenada or Turkey with an E-2 visa application. Find out more about the process here.

The L-1 Visa allows for the transfer of a manager or executive from the overseas branch to the US branch of the same company. This visa can also be used as part of setting up a new US presence. Davies & Associates can help you set up the US office before transferring an employee there to manage that business.

The Schengen area refers to 26 European countries that have abolished their internal borders. This includes much of the European Union excluding the United Kingdom, Ireland, and recent joiners. It also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway.

Contact Us to discuss your case.

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. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


EB-5 Investor Visa Processing Times Fall to Four Year Low

United States Announces Plans to Expand Collection of Biometric Data from Visa Applicants

By Maxine Philavong

On Sept. 1, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans to significantly expand its collection of personal information from immigrants seeking a U.S. visa by requesting more biometric data and DNA to verify family relationships during the immigration process.

The proposal, which has not officially been released by the DHS, allows for authoritative changes to the department’s biometric data and DNA collection.

USCIS currently requires biometrics from anyone over the age of 14 who applies for certain immigration benefits, mostly for those with applications involving a background check. These biometrics are in the form of photographs, fingerprints and signatures.

What May Change?

Although biometric data and DNA collection is not new for the immigration process in the U.S., DHS stated that it would release a proposal detailing their new biometric data use protocols and expansion to department authorities. Expansions include technologies ranging from voiceprints or iris scans, in addition to technologies the department is still developing.

According to DHS, the proposal will standardize the definition of biometrics for the department’s components, “eliminating any ambiguity surrounding the department’s use of biometrics.” By establishing a standardization, the department will set “clear standards for how and why they collect and use this information.”

Who May Be Affected?

The proposed policy would authorize the collection of biometrics for anyone who is seeking a visa or citizenship as well as their spouses. It would also eliminate the existing age limit on biometrics and start requiring children under the age of 14 to provide biometric information. Further, the policy would authorize the collection of DNA to verify certain family relationships. The department claimed the results of collected biometrics will be stored in immigrations’ official records, but that raw DNA will not be kept.

In some cases, USCIS will request biometric information from immigrants with work permits or green card at any point until they become a U.S. citizen. In some cases, the department would have authority to collect U.S. citizens’ DNA.

Why the Change?

According to DHS, the move protects against those who may misrepresent themselves as a biological family unit. “By using DNA or DNA tests to establish bona fide genetic relationship between adults and minors in DHS custody,” the department said in its announcement, “DHS can better protect the well-being of children.”

Ken Cuccinelli, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security, said using technology to verify the identity of an individual is “responsibly governing.”

“Leveraging readily available technology to verify the identity of an individual we are screening is responsible governing,” Cuccinelli said in the statement. “The collection of biometric information also guards against identity theft and thwarts fraudsters who are not who they claim to be.”

Contact Us to discuss your case.

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. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


US Immigration Visa Approval

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.