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.


Relaxation on H1-B and L-1 Visa

“Immigration Ban” Relaxed for H-1B and L-1 Visa Holders Returning to Same Job

By Maxine Philavong

After several lawsuits that were backed by large U.S. companies, the Trump administration relaxed part of its so-called “immigration ban” on foreign nationals, permitting those on H-1B and L-1 visas to return to their previous held employment in the U.S..

In April, the administration barred all foreign nationals who did not previously hold a valid visa from working in the U.S. for 60 days due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In June, President Trump signed an executive order extending their ban of all workers with a H-1B and L-1 visa, until the end of the year.

This meant that if a person had been waiting for these visas to be issued, or if you already had either of these visas but were waiting for it to get stamped, said person would have now had to wait until at least the end of the year.

The ban put thousands of foreigners waiting for their visas outside of the U.S. in a tough spot. For new visa holders waiting in their home country and those with a visa who had traveled to their home countries for stamping now found themselves barred from returning to the U.S. until the end of the year. Many feared job loss if they were not permitted to return.

Moreover, dependents of the visa holders were impacted, too. If a spouse of the visa holder had traveled to their home country to get their visa stamped but could not secure an appointment before the ban, they may have found themselves stuck in their home country.

However, after pushback from lawsuits that were back by large companies like Apple and Microsoft, the Trump administration has relaxed part of the ban.

Who Qualifies for the H-1B and L-1 Visa Exception?

After relaxing the ban on H-1B and L-1 Visa applications, the Trump administration favors those who qualify for national interest exception. This applies for those who are aiding in the fight against Covid-19 or those whose positions aid in economic recovery in the U.S. Meaning, there special exception for H-1b applications who are “technical specialists, senior level managers, and other workers whose travel is necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the U.S.”

Additionally, for both visa categories, the administration grants exception to those “seeking to resume ongoing employment in the U.S., in the same position, with the same employer and with the same via classification.”

Those traveling under the H-1B and L-1 visa to the U.S. should be able to prove at least two of the five criteria: “Their employer has a continued need for their work even during the pandemic; they make a significant contribution to a critical infrastructure need; they are paid at least 15% more than the prevailing wage; they have an unusual expertise in the industry; or that their employer would suffer financial hardship if their via was denied.”

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.

Please Contact Us to discuss any of the content in this article.


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.


The President’s Immigration Ban: Update

President Trump has signed the Executive Order temporarily suspending some visa categories for an initial 60 days. This mostly applies to people outside the United States seeking permanent residency / Green Cards, excluding the EB-5 program.
The State Department has just issued a clarification stating that the Order is not retroactive and that “no valid visas will be revoked under this proclamation.”
There are a number of exclusions and exemptions. We recommend you contact us to discuss your specific circumstances.

What is NOT included in the ban:

What is also NOT included in the ban, but subject to a 30-day review:

E-3 Australian Professional Specialty Visa

EB-5 Visas Exemption
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa has been given a special exemption from the ban. EB-5 is a job-creating program. Each EB-5 investment is required to create ten American jobs. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a fast route to a Green Card for families or individuals able to invest $900,000.

Review of Non-Immigrant Visas
The Executive Order only covers immigrants outside the United States seeking permanent residency (Green Cards). Non-immigrant categories, such as the E-2 Visa, the L-1 Visa, and the H-1B Visa are not currently included in the ban.
However, the Executive Order does call for a review of non-immigrant programs within 30 days with a view to “other measures” affecting these categories. The Order instructs the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State to report recommendations to the President within 30 days regarding restrictions (if any) on non-immigrant visas.

Adjustment of Status
The order only applies to those seeking immigrant visas (i.e. those outside the US seeking to go through consular processing). It does not impact those inside the US already on a valid visa that are eligible to do Adjustment of Status (AOS). Clients should consult us before traveling outside of the United States if they have a pending AOS application or may be eligible to file one in the near future.

Our Advice
We recommend that anyone seeking a US visa proceed with their application. Much can change in the time it takes to prepare one.
With flights grounded and American embassies closed to consular appointments, the Executive Order makes limited material difference in the short term. There are likely to be a number of lawsuits challenging the ban. This is also an election year. A new administration could be expected to reverse this Order.
We will provide updates on the 30-day review of non-immigrant visas. Some non-immigrant categories, such as the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, bring investment to the United States and create jobs.

Each client’s circumstances are different. Please contact us to discuss how this may affect you.

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The President’s Immigration Ban: Why you Should Still Apply for a Visa

Cost of EB 5 Visa

Duncan Hill is marketing director at Davies & Associates LLC. Duncan is not a lawyer and nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice.

 

President Trump tweeted last night that he would sign an executive order banning immigration to the United States. While it is still unclear how this will play out, it is only likely to be a temporary setback. Anyone hoping to apply for a US visa should continue as normal if their circumstances permit.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy,” the president tweeted, “as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States.”

Beyond the tweet, there is very little detail on what would be covered in the executive order. Immigration is a broad concept in the United States, ranging from asylum and the rights of undocumented workers to green cards for investors under the EB-5 Visa program. Would, for example, spouses of Americans (K-1 visas) be included in a ban?

Despite the lack of detail, it might still be advisable for would-be immigrants to press on with their applications. For one thing, any ban would likely cause a build-up of demand. Therefore, progressing an application would help secure a good position in the line once a ban is lifted.

While it is difficult to predict when such a lifting would occur (especially as the ban has not yet been ordered), there are still clues. For starters, President Trump said in his tweet this would only be temporary. Moreover, there are also likely to be legal challenges as there were over Executive Order 13769, the so-called “Muslim Ban”. Additionally, this being an election year, a change of administration in January 2021 would likely result in a reversal.

The second, closely related reason to persevere with an application is that it takes time to prepare one. Davies & Associates specializes in EB-5 visas, E-2 visas, and L-1 visas, all of which require significant preparation. This work could still be conducted while a ban was in progress.

Under the EB-5 program an entire family can obtain Green Cards in exchange for a minimum $900,000 investment. The US authorities are meticulous that each dollar is properly accounted for, and this can take time to document.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which processes EB-5 applications, is still operating in spite of Coronavirus. While they are closed to public interactions, they continue to adjudicate cases. Processing times currently range from 30 to 50 months. Reform to the EB-5 adjudications process will probably reduce this, but it nevertheless points to a time frame much greater than a temporary immigration ban.

The E-2 visa allows a family to move to the United States for the purposes of owning and operating a business. The applicant must pitch a credible business case to the US authorities, which takes time to prepare.

E-2 applicants must come from an E-2 Treaty Country. If you are not from an E-2 Treaty country, it is possible to become eligible for an E-2 visa by first taking citizenship of a country that is eligible. The cheapest and most cost-effective of these is Grenada, Turkey and Montenegro.

Processing times for these citizenship-by-investment programs are quick. In Grenada, for example, citizenship can be obtained in less than three months. The Grenadian authorities are still processing applications, despite a strict lockdown. There is no requirement to visit the country so applications can be made remotely.

Davies & Associates has helped clients obtain the E-2 visa in this way. Countries non directly eligible for the E-2 visa include India, China, Russia, Vietnam, South Africa and Nigeria. Davies & Associates has helped people from non-Treaty countries become eligible for the E-2 visa.

The L-1A visa moves managers within the same company, from an overseas office to an American one. At D&A we specialize in so-called “new office” L1s. This is where we help clients set up a US branch of their existing business and then move themselves or a colleague there to manage the new office.

Inevitably it is necessary to set up the US office before applying for the visa. Again, this is work that could be done regardless of an immigration ban. Our corporate lawyers have helped hundreds of foreign businesses relocate and thrive in the United States.

So, given the time it takes to prepare a visa application and the uncertainty surrounding the ban, it is advisable to start applying regardless. The USCIS and American embassies would likely face a backlog once any ban is lifted. Secure yourself a good position in the queue by proceeding with your application.

 


6 Key Things To Know Before Applying for an L1 Visa

The L1 visa program is one of the most popular options for companies operating in the United States of America, to bring skilled workers at the executive or managerial levels, from overseas into the country. It is a non-immigrant visa, which means that it is granted to applicants who are not looking to permanently migrate to the country and hence is a short-term option. Every year there are millions of workers who apply for the L1 visa for USA from India, due to the vast presence of Indian companies in the country. The American L1 visa can range in duration from three months to 7 years, depending on the migrant’s country of origin. The L1 visa also allows for owners of small businesses to expand their business in the United States and transfer an executive member of staff to the United States to manage that business.

If you are looking for information about the L1 program read our guide that will tell you about 5 key things you should know before applying for one:

  1. Reciprocity schedule: The duration of validity of the L1 visa ranges from 3 months to 7 years. This is largely based on the relations of the country of origin of the worker, with the United States of America. For countries like India and Japan, the L1 visa is granted for 5 years, which can be extended for 2 years more. If you are applying for the L1 visa, please check the US government website to refer to the reciprocity schedule and check the status of your country. There are also certain exemptions granted to specific countries relating to documents and paperwork.
  2. Refusal rate: It’s also important to note that the L1 visa faces a high rate of rejection as compared to other programs. This is due to many factors which involve mistakes with paperwork, incomplete documents or exercise of discretion by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), which comes under the Department of Homeland Security. Recently, the refusal rate for the program was more than 18% so make sure you don’t go wrong with your application. Take professional help from legal firms based in the United States.
  3. Familial rights: The L1 visa is also much sought after due to its multiple familial benefits. As a spouse of an L1 visa holder you are automatically entitled to work in the United States and are granted an L-2 visa, once your employee authorization is cleared. The children of the L1 visa holder can also avail the L-2 visa (under the age of 21 years) and are eligible to apply for American schools and colleges.
  4. Permanent residency: The L-1 is also a legally compliant and valid route to permanent residency, in the form of Green card. This is due to the doctrine of dual intent, applied by US courts and immigration authorities.
  5. Application process: You can get an L-1 by directly applying to the USCIS by filling form I-129. Your company must qualify under the guidelines issued for your application to be considered valid. Again the process involves lot of intricate paperwork so it’s best to seek help. Note that ndian consultants and advisors are not licensed US Immigration lawyers and are not authorized by the US government to offer immigration advice. Be sure to get a legal advisor on your side.
  6. Business Plan: Unless you are a very established or multinational business that can produce US tax returns a properly prepared business plan is critical. At D&A, we believe that a successful business plan needs to be prepared as a collaborative effort between the client, an immigration lawyer and an immigration business plan analyst. Our specialist team that provides US business expansion services incorporates both business analysts and lawyers.

Davies & Associates has a long history of successfully helping people from all over the world get L1 and L2 visas to the United States. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any questions about this or any other visa.