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Biden Reverses Trump-era Policy on Visa Rejection Procedure

Immigration officers can no longer reject visa applications without first issuing a Notice of Intent to Deny

By Tishita Agarwal

In 2018, the Trump administration set a policy that would allow immigration officers to reject visa applications for visas such as the H1-B Visas, L-1 Visas, H-2B, J-1, J-2, I, F and O-1 visas, without issuing a Notice of Intent to Deny. This Trump-era policy invalidated the principle of a June 2013 USCIS memo that required immigration officers to issue a Request For Evidence or a Notice Of Intent to Deny when the case suggests that additional or supplementary evidence could potentially establish eligibility for an immigration benefit. 

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a statement that it was returning to the principles of the June 2013 memo. This means the officers will be allowed to request potential missing documents that could qualify a case. Furthermore, this move will not only help requesters get an “opportunity to correct innocent mistakes and unintentional omissions”, but also increase access to the US legal immigration system in general. 

This is not the first time that Biden has overturned immigration policies set by the Trump administration. In fact, right on the first day of his term, President Biden had announced several executive policy changes to the US immigration system, including suspending the construction of the wall at the Mexican border and reaffirming protections for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

Along with changing their guidance towards notice of intent to deny and requests for evidence, the USCIS issued a statement that they are also increasing the validity period for certain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) from one year to two years. Increasing the validity for these documents will allow the USCIS to shift their limited resources to priority areas, as it is projected to reduce the number of employment authorisation requests they receive. 

These recent decisions are all steps in the direction the Biden-Harris administration promised at the start of their term in an effort to make immigration to the US easier and fairer and eliminate unnecessary barriers on all levels; as put by the Secretary of Homeland security Alejandro N. Mayorkas: “We are taking action to eliminate policies that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system and will continue to make improvements that help individuals navigate the path to citizenship, and that modernise our immigration system”. 

In furtherance to the same, Acting USCIS Director also said “These policy measures are consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities to eliminate unnecessary barriers to our nation’s legal immigration system and reduce burdens on non-citizens who may be eligible for immigration benefits”.

While this action is in the right direction, the Biden-Harris administration has far to go before the US legal immigration system is not as congested and inefficient as it is currently. 

What is the L-1 Visa?

* The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, which can be used by active US employers or those who wish to establish in the US to send experienced and skilled employees from overseas to the US to grow or expand the business. There are two types of this temporary work visa – the L-1A is for executives and managers, and the L-1B visa is suited for high-level employees with specialised knowledge. 

What is the O-1 Visa?

The O-1 visa on the other hand, requires the applicant to show remarkable skill or high levels of achievement in their field to be able to qualify. This is also a nonimmigrant visa, and is suitable for candidates that possess and demonstrate an extraordinary ability in science, the arts, education, business, athletics, or film & television and a variety of other professions. This means that a candidate must have sustained national or international acclaim in their field, or a distinction or record of extraordinary achievement in film and television. An O-1 beneficiary must possess either a major, internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize; or at least 3 of the alternative criteria.


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.


Switching from an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa to an O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa: Client Case Study

By Verdie Atienza, Senior Immigration Attorney, Head of L-1 & E-2 Visa Practice

In 2015, D&A assisted a Romanian national to apply for E-2 Treaty Investor visa by investing $100,000 in a start-up company. The company specializes in intellectual property assets technical and financial consulting with a focus in global brokerage and facilitation of Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) addresses and AS Numbers.

Despite having grown into a multi-million-dollar private company, the company has not been able to meet its employment targets within 5 years because it made better business sense to employ independent contractors. The E-2 Visa requires a business plan as part of the application, which helps the authorities with the subsequent evaluation at the time of renewal.

As the E-2 visa was about to expire, we advised the client that renewing the visa prove to be very challenging due to the employment situation. D&A discussed all other options for the client and it was determined that the client may have a good chance of qualifying for the O-1A category based on his credentials and qualifications.

O-1A is for people with extraordinary ability in education, business, science or the arts.

Since the client has established networks in the US through his E-2 company, it was easy for him to find a petitioning US employer. Since the US employer has been a client of the E-2 company and since they saw how valuable the client us based on his expertise and experience, they did not hesitate in filing a petition for our client.

D&A filed the petition for our client as a person of extraordinary ability to occupy the position of  Global Internet Resources Manager and Facilitator.  In the petition, we carefully outlined as to how the client meets the requirements for an individual to be classified as someone with extraordinary ability in his field.

With a tailor-fit solution, the client no longer has to leave the US despite the inability to renew the E-2 visa. With a change of status application approved, he and his family maintain their lawful nonimmigrant status for an additional period of three years on O-1A status. Should they need to depart the US prior to the expiration of the three-year period, they can apply for the O-1 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate by submitting an application and presenting the O-1A approval notice.

The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa allows a beneficiary to move to the United States to run a business. It is a non-immigrant visa in that it does not offer a Green Card, but our attorneys are able to advise on options for transitioning to a Green Card at a later stage. The visa is also renewable indefinitely provided the underlying business is still operating and meeting its targets.

There are not annual quotas or caps for the E-2 visa based upon country of origin. However, eligibility is determined by the applicant’s country of citizenship. You must hold citizenship of a country with an E-2 Treaty with the United States. If you do not, please contact our attorneys. We have helped people from non-E2-treaty countries like India and Vietnam become citizens of E-2 Treaty countries like Turkey and Grenada.

The O-1 Visa is available to people with extraordinary ability. It is also a non-immigrant visa, which means it does not offer a Green Card. However, it is possible to subsequently switch to a Green Card through the EB-1A Visa. Applicants for EB-1A visa from India and China are subject to a short wait because the category is capped annually by country and both countries are slightly oversubscribed. Please see our most recent blog post on the Visa Bulletin to understand this in greater detail.


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.


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.


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.