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.”

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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.


E-2 Visa: Worried about your Children “Ageing Out”?

Are you worried about your children “ageing out” of a family E-2 visa? Are you worried about leaving behind extended family members? We can help you solve this issue with some careful planning.

By Verdie Atienza & Sukanya Raman

If you are planning to move to America but are concerned about your child age and your extended family members to be a part of your application, we have a solution for you.

We see that a lot of Indian nationals are enthusiastic to move to America for obvious reasons like business opportunities, better standards of living, healthcare, education, etc. Though, take a step back as in most visa categories are limited to spouse and children below the age of 21 including the E-2 Treaty Investor visa.

The spouse and children may apply for E-2 derivative visas. The spouse may apply for Employer Authorization Document (EAD) to work for any US employer and the children are permitted to study.  

There are ways to structure the E-2 enterprise to address the issues of ageing-out for children and qualifying other family members. As once the children turn 21 they will cease to qualify as dependents under the E-2 Visa.

We can structure the E-2 enterprise in such a fashion that it qualifies children over the age of 21, dependent parents, unmarried siblings.

To qualify for the E-2 Treaty Investor visa, the requirement is to own at least 50% of the E-2 company to show operational control. For this reason, the E-2 company may qualify two Treaty Investors having 50-50 ownership. The child who may age-out can make an investment to acquire at least 50% of the E-2 enterprise to qualify himself as a Treaty Investor.

If the goal is to bring members of the extended family like parents or siblings, they can be made 50% owners of the E-2 company, and they may also obtain derivative visas for their spouse and dependent children as well.

In cases where there are multiple family members, two or more E-2 enterprises can be set up. With relatively low investment requirements, it should not be too difficult for foreign entrepreneurs to raise capital.

Another advantage of the E-2 option is that the E-2 enterprise may file a petition for E-2 employees who must be the same nationality as the treaty investor. The prospective employees must either be engaged in duties of an executive or supervisory character or if employed in a lesser capacity, have special qualifications.

Children over 21, parents, siblings, and other extended family members may potentially qualify for E-2 Employee Visas provided they have the same nationality, and they meet the requirements for employees under the treaty.

India is not a Treaty country, but with attractive Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs offered by countries that have E-2 treaties with the US like Grenada, Turkey and Montenegro, the path to the E-2 visa are clear. Compared to the investment the amount for EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program and the wait time to get a green card is much longer than the E-2 Visa.

The processing time for E-2 visa is much quicker ranging from six to eight months from the date of application. Meaning, your children can start school in American from the next academic year onwards. E-2 visa is not like other non-immigrant visas. E-2 visa can be renewed indefinitely, which gives you stability and permanency. There are no country limit or quota limit under the E-2 Visa.

To conclude, below are the most well-known advantages of the E-2 visa:

1.           Quick Processing Times

2.           No Quota Limitations

3.           Relatively Less Capital Investment Needed

4.           Funds to be Invested may come from various sources

5.           Control of Investment Funds and the Treaty Enterprise

6.           You may opt for a franchise

7.           Dependents are entitled to E-2 derivative visas

8.           Flexibility with Travel

9.           Potential Tax Advantages

10.         Relatively Low Legal Costs     

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.