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Category Archives: Visas

Update on Travel for Student Visa Holders

The once “standard” stamp that students entering the U.S. would receive from Customs and Border patrol (CBP) on their I-120 / DS-2019 is now being discontinued. As of on or about August 10, 2012, CBP will no longer stamp the I-20 / DS-2019 form for any students re-entering the U.S., upon completion of their foreign travel.

If some agencies still require a stamped I-20, a student can make an appointment with their local USCIS office via an info pass system to obtain a stamp. In addition, a student encountering problems because their I-120 is not stamped can either call 1-703-603-3400 or send an email to SEVP@dhs.gov.

The above contact information was provided by the CBP website and the information was released on or about September 5, 2012 to the general public.

News regarding U.S. Embassy in Chennai, India

Nationals of Brazil and China are recipients of a new policy enacted by the State Department that they are now welcome to visit the U.S. The State Department has enacted this new policy because it has realized that more visitors from China and Brazil mean more American jobs.

In Brazil, consular officers have issued 59 % more visitor visas this year than they did last year. This means that 555,000 visitor visas were issued during a period of time in the year of 2012, while only 350,000 visas were issued last year during the same period of time in Brazil. New Consulates were also opened in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre.

In China, the consular officers have issued 46 % more visitor visas than they did last year for the same amount of time. The State Department is now also considering adding Visa services in Wuhan, China.

In addition, the wait times for the application processed have also been drastically reduced. In Brazil, the wait times have been reduced to less than two weeks for their visa appointments. In China, the wait times have been reduced to five days (yes, 5 days) for an appointment at the U.S. Consulates in China.

The above is great news for Americans, since these tourists have money to spend at our local businesses, shops, restaurants, etc. We welcome this new policy.

State Department Drastically Increasing Number of Visitor Visas from Brazil and China

Nationals of Brazil and China are recipients of a new policy enacted by the State Department that they are now welcome to visit the U.S. The State Department has enacted this new policy because it has realized that more visitors from China and Brazil mean more American jobs.

In Brazil, consular officers have issued 59 % more visitor visas this year than they did last year. This means that 555,000 visitor visas were issued during a period of time in the year of 2012, while only 350,000 visas were issued last year during the same period of time in Brazil. New Consulates were also opened in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre.

In China, the consular officers have issued 46 % more visitor visas than they did last year for the same amount of time. The State Department is now also considering adding Visa services in Wuhan, China.

In addition, the wait times for the application processed have also been drastically reduced. In Brazil, the wait times have been reduced to less than two weeks for their visa appointments. In China, the wait times have been reduced to five days (yes, 5 days) for an appointment at the U.S. Consulates in China.

The above is great news for Americans, since these tourists have money to spend at our local businesses, shops, restaurants, etc. We welcome this new policy.

CBP has issued a Practice Pointer for TN Visas available to Canadians

CBP is short for Customs and Border Patrol. CBP has recently issued a practice pointer useful for Canadians wanting to enter the U.S. with a TN visa under NAFTA. NAFTA, which is the North American Free Trade Agreement, allows Canadians and Mexicans to be eligible for a TN nonimmigrant visa, if they have an employer willing to sponsor them for a professional position.

Citizens of Canada can make an application for a TN visa at a U.S. class port of entry, at a U.S. pre-clearance or pre-flight station, or a U.S. airport handling international traffic. Usually the applicant must submit the filing fee, copies of all relevant degrees showing he or she is eligible for the professional position, and an offer of employment letter from his or her sponsoring employer on original company letter. The Offer of employment letter must specify the offered job, rate of pay, and basic duties required under that offered job. The letter must also state the length of admission requested. Usually proof that the applicant will NOT immigrate to the U.S. permanently should be provided as well.

A TN visa can be issued for a maximum of three years. However, the length of the visa cannot exceed the applicant’s passport validity date. In other words, if the applicant wants a three year visa, then his or her passport must be valid for three years or more to qualify.

If the Canadian national is already in the U.S. and has not overstayed his or her visitor visa (up to 6 moths allowed), then he or she can file a change of status request with USCIS instead of traveling in order to obtain a TN visa.

Some positions that qualify for a TN visa include engineers, accountants, architects, economists, social worker, and many other professional level positions.

H-1B Count as of October 7, 2011

The most recent H-1B count shows that there are still large numbers of H-1B’s available to the general public. Of the 65,000 H-1B visas allowed, USCIS has now received 41,000 H-1B visas. Of the 20,000 advanced degree visas available per fiscal year, USCIS has received about 19,100 H-1B visas.

Current H-1B Visa Numbers Still Available

As most applicants for H-1B work visas probably know, they were able to file their H-1B petitions starting on April 1, 2011. As of May 13, 2011, USCIS has received on or about 11,200 regular cap H-1B cases and on or about 7,900 advanced cap (i.e. U.S. earned Master’s) H-1B cases. The USCIS allows 65,000 regular cap cases and 20,000 advanced cap cases for each year before they begin refusing to accept H-1B petitions.

As you can see, H-1B seekers that are still looking for sponsors have some time left for them to find a sponsor and submit the voluminous paperwork required to obtain an H-1B visa.

New Rules for Petitioners Residing Abroad Filing Relative Petitions

USCIS recently released a news alert that changes the filing procedures for U.S. petitioners residing abroad who wish to file for their immediate relatives. As of August 15, 2011, U.S. citizen petitioners who want to file a Petition for Alien Relative for their spouses or other family members MUST file their forms with the Chicago Lockbox Facility. In the past and until August 15, 2011, some petitioners residing abroad were able to file their immediate relative petitions directly with their U.S. Embassy via the Department of State at that U.S. Embassy. Filing directly with U.S. Embassies has generally been a faster way to approve visa petitions.

As of August 15, 2011, USCIS has centralized the filing location of the Immediate Relative Petitions to the Chicago Lockbox address, which can be found on the USCIS website.

There is an exception to this change, which is that if there is an international USCIS office having jurisdiction over the area where a petitioner lives, then those petitioners can continue to file their Immediate Relative Petitions with the international USCIS office.

Extensions for H-1B Visas Beyond the 6 years

As most applicants that have H-1B work visas know, there is a 6 year limit on getting extensions. There is an exception to the six years limit that applicants can use to get 7th year extensions and additional extensions in one year increments. Basically, the applicant must have an Application for Alien Labor Certification or the PERM application filed on his or her behalf at least one year in advance of the 6th year deadline.

What this means is that if the 6 year ends on March 31, 2011, then the PERM must have been filed with a priority date of March 30, 2010 or before. If this is the case and the PERM has been certified or is pending, then USCIS will extend in one year increments.
However, is there any way to get an extension for beyond the 6 years where the extension is for more than one year at a time? Yes, there is and our law firm recently received a THREE (3) year H-1B extension for a client that has been on an H-1B for 7 years.

Under AC 21 section 104 (c ), there is a provision that states that if the form I-140 is approved, then “per country” limitations USCIS can approve the H-1B visa extension for 3 years at a time. This is a great bonus, since most extensions for H-1B’s are for one year at a time, and given this environment of strict enforcement by USCIS, many clients feel uncertain if they must receive extensions for only 1 year at a time.

Recently, our office is happy to announce that while USCIS may consider the “per country” limitation to apply only to certain countries like India, Mexico and Philippines, our office was able to obtain a 3 year H-1B visa extension for a client that has had the H-1B for over 7 years already. This client is not from the list of countries of Mexico, India, China or Philippines. He now has received a 3 year extension under AC 21 Section 104 (c ).

This is important news, because even when I prepared the case before filing, I checked with several other experienced immigration attorneys, and there is no clear explanation by USCIS of whether the 3 year provision under AC 21 section 104 (c ) applies to only certain countries where the backlogs are greatest or all the countries that are affected by the backlogs in general. In the above case, our law firm was able to get the extension for a country that is not listed on the specific list.

H-1B Cap has been finally Reached

Finally USCIS has announced that the visas available for 2011 have all been used and applicants wanting to file H-1B’s must now wait until April 1st to file their H-1B visa. USCIS allows 65,000 H-1B visas per year and an additional 20,000 visas for applicants with an U.S. obtained Master’s degree. USCIS announced on January 26, 2011 that they have received a sufficient number of cases to reach the statutory cap for year 2011.

Although new applicants for H-1B visas can file the H-1B petition on April 1st, 2011, the actual H-1B validity period cannot and will not start until October 1, 2011. What this means is that an applicant in the U.S. applying for an H-1B visa for the first time must request a start date of October 1, 2011, and for immigration purposes this means he or she must have another visa valid until that day or else USCIS will not approve the change of status request. Applicants on a student Visa, however, are exempt from this requirement under certain circumstances as per the “cap-gap” regulations. You must consult an experienced immigration lawyer to make sure that not only is your H-1B visa properly filed, but also that the dates of validity are correct and per USCIS regulations.

US Visa Lottery Opens today

The US annual lottery is opening today and applicants have until noon time (Eastern daylight time) on November 3, 2010 to fill out and submit their application(s). There are 50,000 available, and if you think that your chances are slim, there is hope. I have met many people who now have green cards because they won the visa lottery – so take a chance.

A few notes of caution before you jump ahead. Be sure to fill out the form completely and leave no questions blank. If a question does not apply to you, mark not applicable or N/A in the space provided. Also, the Department of State has warned that there are many sites pretending to be the government site, but they are not associated with the US government.

There are no filing fees to file the US visa application. You can locate and read the form instructions at U.S. Department of State website OR direct filing at http://www.dvlottery.state.go