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Bitcoin entrepreneur Roger Ver gave up U.S. Citizenship and left but denied U.S. entry for a short visit under INA 214(b), a regulation aimed at preventing the entry of individuals who would Overstay their Visa

Coindesk.com notes that Bitcoin entrepreneur Roger Ver was denied a non-immigrant visa for the third time this week.  He was planning to speak at the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami later this month.

Interestingly, Mr. Ver was denied under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which states, “Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…” In short, this section of the INA presumes every applicant for a visa to America intends to eventually reside in America. It is the burden of each applicant to demonstrate that this is not the case – that the applicant only intends to visit America for a short duration and maintains ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay.  Consular officers have a substantial say in adjudicating each applicant to determine whether that applicant has overcome the requirements of this section.

It is strange then, to say the least, that Mr. Ver was denied by the U.S. Consular General, Barbados, under a regulation that requires he prove his intent to depart the U.S. when he appears to have already done so.  While the Coindesk article does note that Mr. Ver’s “parents, siblings and extended family all live in the US“, his decision last year to legally relinquish his U.S. Citizenship (at an apparent cost of $350,000, which he paid into the U.S. treasury) his decision to take up citizenship of a different country, his having resided mainly abroad for the past 9 years – these facts objectively constitute clear, material and probative evidence establishing an intent to depart the U.S. after a short visit.

While Mr. Ver can attempt to enter the US in the future (a denial under section 214(b) is not permanent) chances for subsequent approval diminish with each denial.  Meaning: the fourth time is probably not going to be the charm.

While it’s a good time for us to revisit INA 214(b) – an overbroad, overused “hatchet” which has kept many a qualified individual out of the U.S, it appears possible that Mr. Ver’s visa denial is actually predicated upon other (read: political) grounds.

USCIS will remain operational during the Federal Government Shutdown thanks to the healthy funding it derives from USCIS filing fees

English: replaces :Image:H1b demographics indi...

H1B demographics india.jpg Category:Immigration to the United States charts and graphs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Good news: USCIS’ operations though the Federal Government Shutdown are expected to continue because it is funded by sources other than appropriated funds (read: H-1B and other USCIS filing fees). In fact, this funding is so substantial that USCIS expects to send home only 353 of 12,558 employees during the temporary shutdown.
  • Consulates remain operational at this point.
  • Unfortunately, the DOL ETA will not process any employment based labor certifications during the shut down. The PERM PLC website is also down, as is iCert.

Can I re-enter the U.S. with a valid I-94 and expired visa? – Automatic revalidation for certain temporary visitors

Canadian visa for single entry

Canadian visa for single entry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

VIA CBP.GOV

Under the automatic revalidation provision of immigration law, certain temporary visitors holding expired nonimmigrant visas who seek to return to the U.S. may be admitted at a U.S. port of entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), if they meet certain requirements, including, but not limited to the following:

A nonimmigrant who departed the U.S. for brief travel to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent islands (for F and J nonimmigrant) for thirty days or less;

Nonimmigrant who have changed their nonimmigrant status (for F and J nonimmigrant) to another nonimmigrant status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and has a valid (unexpired) Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, endorsed by DHS can travel to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island for thirty days or less.
Nonimmigrant who is eligible to re-enter the U.S. pursuant to the authority of automatic revalidation is not able to benefit from the automatic revalidation process if the passport of the nonimmigrant reflects evidence that while in a contiguous territory or on an adjacent island the nonimmigrant applied for a new visa and is pending a decision or has been denied a new visa application.

For more information about automatic revalidation provisions and reentry to the U.S. visit the Automatic Revalidation Fact Sheet on page 18 of the Carrier Information Guide on CBP.gov. Note: Carrier Information Guide is currently being updated to accurately reflect the countries listed below.

Nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are not eligible for automatic revalidation of an expired visa.

U.S. Mission in India Expands Interview Waiver Program

USA B1/B2 Visa

USA B1/B2 Visa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Delhi | November 19, 2012

In March of 2012, the United States Mission to India unveiled the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) which allows qualified individuals to apply for additional classes of visas without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer.  Following the success of the IWP, as part of continuing efforts to streamline the visa process, and to meet increased visa demand in India,  the U.S. Mission is pleased to announce an expansion of the IWP.  We expect this expansion to benefit thousands of visa applicants in India.

Read More…

New Visa Processing System at Mission India

There is a new Visa Processing System at Mission India which can be accessed at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/

U.S. Consulate in Chennai suspends visa operations September 17-21, 2012

Visa operations at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai have been suspended this week, September 17-21, 2012.  Updates on status will be available at the Consulate’s website.  Anyone with a legitimate travel emergency is asked to contact the Consulate at chennaiexp@state.gov .

The U.S. Embassy in India Announces a New Visa Processing System

VIA U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, 09/05/2012

The United States Embassy in India today announced it is implementing a new visa processing system throughout India that will further standardize procedures and will simplify fee payment and appointment scheduling through a new website at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in.  Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Julia Stanley, announced at a press conference here today that beginning September 26, 2012 U.S. visa applicants will be able to pay application fees via Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) or with their mobile phones.  They can also pay in cash at more than 1,800 Axis bank branches.

For the first time, applicants will be able to schedule their appointments online or by phone.  The new system will also allow companies and travel agents to purchase multiple fee receipts for group travel, and it accommodates the scheduling of group and emergency appointments.

Read More…

VISA INTERVIEW WAIVER PROGRAM AT US CONSULAR GENERAL, HYDERABAD

Passport
INTERVIEW WAIVER PROGRAM
  • This pilot program permits consular officers to waive interviews for qualified nonimmigrant applicants worldwide who are renewing their visa within 48 months of the expiration of their previously held visa, and within the same classification as the previous visa.
  • Embassies and consulates have been instructed to begin implementing this pilot program immediately.
  • This pilot does not entitle any applicant to a waiver of personal appearance.  Consular officers will retain the authority to interview any applicant who they determine requires a personal appearance.

In order to qualify, All of the following must be true:

Read More…

Information on Consulates’ use of 221(g) refusals

Section 221(g) of the INA allows consular officers to issue a temporary refusal of a visa petition in cases where an otherwise eligible visa applicant is missing a specific document, or in case where a consular officer concludes that additional security clearance measures are warranted. Consular officers utilize 221(g) to allow applicants the opportunity to supplement their applications to overcome a visa denial.  Once the deficiency is satisfied, or the concern resolved, 221(g) refusal is “overcome” and the visa may be issued.  
In practice, the following are some situations that often give rise to a 221(g) refusal: 
1. Additional support documents are required, such as proof of local employment; 
2. An applicant is employed in a field listed on the Technology Alert List and the consular officer requests a Visas Mantis Security Advisory 
Opinion (“SAO”). (Common in India, China and elsewhere where applicants are advised that their applications require “administrative processing.”) 
3. The consular officer requests an Advisory Opinion from the Visa Office on the applicability of one of the statutory grounds of inadmissibility. 
4. There are no empty visa pages in the applicant’s passport, or the applicant’s photograph is of bad quality.
5. Applicant’s PIMS profile has not been updated.
A consular officer, upon refusing an application under 221(g), will commonly provide the applicant with a refusal letter.  However, it is possible that an applicant may be temporarily refused under 221(g) and not know it.  
The use of 221(g) is growing extremely common; the US Department of State has suggested that such refusals are overused by consular officers.  According to the Report of the Visa Office, in FY 2008 a staggering 589,000 221(g) refusals were issued against nonimmigrant visa applications.  About 87% of these were eventually overcome and visas were issued.
221(g) impacts subsequent visa applications because a client must indicate yes to the DS form question, “Have you ever been refused a US Visa?”.  Even a 221(g) that was caused by something as insignificant as a PIMS database issue is still considered, technically, a refusal.

A National Foundation for American Policy report finds Indian applicants for L-1 and H-1Bs are most likely to be denied or issued an RFE query; L-1 cases for Indian Professionals have been denied up to five times as often as someone from a different count

First page of the US Chinese Exclusion Act

First page of the US Chinese Exclusion Act (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A National Foundation for American Policy report which analyzed official data from USCIS revealed evidence that Adjudicating Officers have dramatically increased the issuance of denials and requests for evidence in L-1 (intra-company transferees) and H-1B cases over the last four years, in spite of the fact that there were no changes in law or regulations during the same period. USCIS Officers have, over the last four years, arbitrarily & en masse, increased the difficulty of obtaining H-1B or L-1 status, most particularly for Indian applicants.

Again, this is so despite no new laws or regulations authorizing a change in adjudication protocols. It may be therefore objectively stated that this data is prima facia evidence that Indian IT professionals and their employers have been, over a sustained period, selected for profiling and targeting profiled and targeted as the primary victims of this and other related USCIS “policy changes” since 2008, along with a widely noted increase in visa denials/221(g) queries for H-1 & L-1 non-immigrants at U.S. Consulates [on a related note; see the new “H-1B Beneficiary attestation” evidently now in use at the U.S. Consulate, Hyderabad, ostensibly to be used in justifying mass visa denials for H-1B IT Consultants with end-client job sites].

By way of background, the primary basis for U.S. Immigration law today is the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (“INA”). The INA is tremendously significant because it reversed America’s then (longstanding) racist Immigration policies, including the Page Act of 1875, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the “National Origins Formula” which had effectively limited immigration from Mediterranean Europe, Latin America and Asia to token levels so as not to change America’s “national character”. It is then truly ironic that adjudicators at the USCIS and U.S. Consulates appear to have been granted unchecked autonomy in systematically countermanding both the INA and its underlying legislative intent by effectively re-proportioning visas or “spots” to countries other than India.

Indians utilize a large number of available H-1B and L-1 numbers, however, they cannot be legally denied on that basis. On October 3, 1965, on the occasion of the signing of the INA, at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared that it was a “cruel and enduring wrong” that “…Men of needed skill and talent were denied entrance because they came from southern or eastern Europe or from one of the developing continents. [The old quota based Immigration] system violated the basic principle of American democracy–the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man…”

Contrast these words with the following excerpts from the NFAP report:

“Companies believe that denials either at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or at consulates, particularly involving Indian nationals, share the common attribute of new (unwritten) arbitrary standards that go beyond the statute and regulations. 

 Country specific data on new (initial) L-1B petitions indicate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is more likely to deny a petition from an Indian-born  professional than nationals of other countries. The denial rate for Indian-born applicants for new L-1B petitions rose from 2.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2008 to 22.5 percent in FY 2009, a substantial increase that resulted in many employers being unable to transfer their employees into the United States to work on research projects or serve customers. In comparison, the denial rate for new L-1B petitions for Canadians rose from 2.0 percent in FY 2008 to only 2.9 percent in FY 2009. Illustrating the abrupt change, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied more L-1B petitions for new petitions for Indians in FY 2009 (1,640) than in the previous 9 fiscal years combined (1,341 denials between FY 2000 and FY 2008).

Concern that L-1B petitions for Indians have been singled out might be alleviated if the data showed other countries have experienced similar increases in the rates of denial for L-1B petitions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, the data show that while other foreign nationals experienced an increase in denial rates for new L-1B petitions starting in FY 2009, those denial rate increases were far lower than for Indian nationals. L-1 visa issuance declined at U.S posts in Indian in FY 2011 but rose overall for the rest of the world.” 

Read the NFAP findings (.pdf)

 

A new H-1B Beneficiary attestation in use by the U.S. Consulate, Hyderabad. H-1B workers attest the document only if they are to be engaged by a Consulting Firm.

The below wording was found in a new H-1B Beneficiary attestation in use by the U.S. Consulate, Hyderabad.  H-1B workers attest the following only if they are to be engaged by a (presumably IT) consulting firm.  
—————
US CONSULATE GENERAL, HYDERABAD, INDIA
DATE
I, _____________ born on _____________ in _____________ state that:
  1. I have read and understand the Wilberforce pamphlet.
  2. The petitioner is _____________
  3. The petitioner supervisor is _____________ with a principle location of _____________
  4. The number of petitioner employees at the work site is_____________
  5. My primary work location is _____________
  6. The end-client for my work is _____________
  7. The end-client supervisor is _____________
  8. The _____________ supervisor is located ‘offsite’ and is not regularly employed for the predominant part of the workday/work week/work month at the site where I work.
  9. Contact with the _____________ supervisor is limited to weekly visits to the _____________ office and occasional Petitioner supervisor visits to end-client work sites.
  10. The principle day-to-day management is conducted by the client, _____________
  11. The client, _____________, provides the tools and equipment (including any software and operating environment) needed for the job.
  12. The petitioner, _____________, makes primary hiring firing and promotional decisions.
  13. Petitioner supervisor sits down at end-client location and reviews code, does not rely on on-site Petitioner supervisor for evaluation purposes.
  14. The petitioner, _____________ claims Beneficiary for tax purposes
  15. The petitioner, _____________ provides primary benefits, such as life/medial insurance etc.
  16. The petitioner _____________ does not provide any primary/key proprietary tools or applications for the work.
  17. I produce a product related to Petitioner’s line of business.
  18. The client, _____________ makes the main development and product decisions for the end product I produce.
I understand that any false, knowingly incorrect, or misleading statements made to a consular or immigration official may result in a permanent ineligibility for a visa to the United States of America.
_____________  Subscribed/sworn before/by me this day _____________
_____________ _____________
Deponent Vice Consul/Consul/Investigator

IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY APPLAUDS NEWLY ANNOUNCED DHS REFORMS IN FURTHERANCE OF ATTRACTING AND RETAINING HIGHLY SKILLED IMMIGRANTS/INVESTORS AND CALLS FOR PARALLEL CHANGES IN THE U.S. CONSULAR PROCESSING SYSTEM

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced substantial changes to our immigration system by way of a two prong strategy aimed at retaining highly skilled immigrants and increasing investment in the U.S. by foreign investors, reports U.S. Immigration lawyer Ashwin Sharma. The DHS announced this week that it would add to or modify established immigration processes so as to further President Obama’s commitments to:

1.  The Creation of a “Startup Visa,”

2. Strengthening the H-1B nonimmigrant professional program,

and

3. “Stapling” green cards to the diplomas of certain foreign-born graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and make improvements to existing programs.

The DHS hopes that these and other proposed changes will attract and retain highly-skilled immigrants.

Ashwin Sharma, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, applauds the DHS’s actions and calls for parallel changes within the U.S. Department of State’s Consular Posts. “We urgently require these changes and more, particularly with regard to professionals and investors.  It has never been more difficult for tourists, professionals or investors to legally enter this country and contribute to the American economy.  Our various immigration departments and agencies are interpreting the same laws differently.  The U.S. Consulates, for example, appear to be ignoring specific Congressional mandates.  Furthermore, there appears to be little communication between DHS and the Consulates which results in the inexplicable penalization of valuable immigrants.”

Mr. Sharma continued, “For example, to fill a specialty occupation with an H-1B professional worker, a U.S. employer may pay up to $5,500 just in government filing fees, provide hundreds or thousands of pages to DHS in support, make applicable attestations, answer up to one or two DHS queries and remain ready for a random on-site inspection.  However, even after obtaining an approval subsequent to this rigorous and expensive adjudication process, which will have to be repeated each time an employer files a case, an employer may learn that their H-1B employee(s) are barred from reentering the U.S. after a short visit abroad.  These employee(s) may be held abroad for months or years, away from their family, home and of course, job.  U.S. employers of those encountering such a situation often lose contracts, profits and incur harm to their corporate reputation.”

A U.S. Consular officer may deny entry to the U.S. to anyone, even someone with a DHS approved H-1B.  Such a denial follows, generally, a two to five minute interview in which a Consular officer quickly flips through the same documentation previously scrutinized by the DHS.  Presently, the main reason for such denials for H-1B IT workers appears predicated on Consular Officers’ outdated interpretation of what constitutes an “employee-employer” relationship within the H-1B context.  This definition however, has been substantially modified by DHS and DHS Chief Napolitano since the original, restrictive definition was announced in January of 2010.  Unfortunately, no one seems to have issued the revisions to the Consulates.  Further, it appears that a substantial percentage of such H-1B visa denials may be improper.  This is because the Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) guidelines for Consulates state that a U.S. Consular Officer may only deny a case on very specific grounds, that is, the discovery of new negative facts not previously known to DHS in the course of DHS’ adjudication.  For example, 9 FAM 41.53(d) states that,”

“…The consular officer must suspend action on this alien’s application and submit a report to the approving DHS office if the consular officer knows or has reason to believe that an alien applying for a visa under INA 101(a)(15)(H) is not entitled to the classification as approved.”

Mr. Sharma highlighted a selection in the FAM which indicates a Consular officer,

 “…must have specific evidence of a requirement for automatic revocation, misrepresentation in the petition  process, lack of qualification on the part of the beneficiary, or of other previously unknown facts, which might alter USCIS’s finding before requesting review of an approved Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.”

Mr. Sharma noted that, “The FAM repeatedly emphasizes that DHS, the original adjudicator of the petition, should be given greater deference than Consulates in reviewing the qualifications of a particular alien for “H” status, and that Consulates should rely on DHS expertise, and not their own.  This is not only so because Congress explicitly and implicitly assigned “responsibility” and “authority” of making such a decision to DHS but also because of the complexity of H petitions in general.”

“By mandating a preliminary petition process, Congress placed responsibility and authority with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine whether the alien meets the required qualifications for “H” status.  Because DHS regulations governing adjudication of H petitions are complex, you should rely on the expertise of DHS in this area.” 9 FAM 41.53 N2.1 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Responsible for Adjudicating H Petitions”

Mr. Sharma stated, “Another unambiguous demand for Consulates’ deference to DHS is contained in 9 FAM 41.53 N2.2, under the heading entitled, “Approved Petition Is Prima Facie Evidence of Entitlement to H Classification”.  Subsection (a) of this section makes it abundantly clear that the Consulate or Consular officer should not make any adverse decision on an H-1B petition approved by DHS, unless the Consulate discovers (presumably material) information during the visa interview that was not available to DHS,”

“You do not have the authority to question the approval of H petitions without specific evidence, unavailable to DHS at the time of petition approval, that the beneficiary may not be entitled to status.  The large majority of approved H petitions are valid, and involve bona fide establishments, relationships, and individual qualifications that conform to the DHS regulations in effect at the time the H petition was filed.”

Mr. Sharma emphasized that it is “only if the Consulate discovers material not known to the DHS is it advised to issue a request for evidence in the following note (b),”

“If information develops during the visa interview (e.g., evidence which was not available to DHS) that gives you reason to believe that the beneficiary may not be entitled to status, you may request any additional evidence which bears a reasonable relationship to this issue. “  

Mr. Sharma provided another example in 9 FAM 41.53 N2.3, “Referring Approved H Petition to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for Reconsideration” which he stated “…reemphasizes an often ignored directive: that Consular officers,”

“… should consider all approved H petitions in light of these Notes, process those applications that appear to be legitimate, identify those applications which require local investigation, and identify those petitions that require referral to the approving U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office for reconsideration.  Refer petitions to USCIS for reconsideration sparingly, to avoid inconveniencing bona fide petitioners and beneficiaries and causing duplication of effort by USCIS.  You must have specific evidence of a requirement for automatic revocation, misrepresentation in the petition process, lack of qualification on the part of the beneficiary, or of other previously unknown facts, which might alter USCIS’s finding before requesting review of an approved Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.”

Mr. Sharma concluded, “It is highly improbable that freshly discovered documentary evidence, both material in nature and unavailable to DHS at the time of original adjudication, could be discovered during the course of a typically rapid Consulate interview for the majority of H-1B petitions that have been denied recently.  Visa applicants and their employers obey the law, ‘wait their turn’ and pay the requisite fees but are often those most ill treated by our system.  These individuals are suffering harm because of the carelessness, ignorance and a lack of communication within and among our Immigration agencies, particularly at the Consular level.  This may be one of the major reasons why our economy suffers; tourists, students, investors and professionals are increasingly selecting emigration to Australia and Canada over the U.S. and its unpredictable, almost schizophrenic immigration system.  I welcome the DHS’ proposed changes but they will have little impact if the U.S. Department of State’s Consulates continue to ignore them.”