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.


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.