Routine Visa Services Suspended at All U.S. Embassies and Consulates

As of March 20, 2020, The Dept. of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  All visa appointments are cancelled as of this date.  Paid Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees will remain valid within one year of the date of payment, so those who have already paid MRV application fees will still be able to use them for a future appointment.

 

Embassies and consulates will provide urgent and emergency visa services, and services to U.S. citizens, as resources allow.  Emergency visa appointments can still be made. Each embassy has its own rules for requesting emergency visa appointments, so check the website for the embassy where you plan to apply. Requests based on business emergency generally need to be supported by a company letter attesting to the loss of a significant business opportunity.

 

The ESTA website (Visa Waiver Program) will remain active, but suspension of entry remains in place for travelers from countries listed in the Proclamation* as of March 16, 2020.

 

*Proclamation-Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus, as of March 16, 2020 covers the following countries: China, Iran, 26 countries in the Schengen Area, United Kingdom and Ireland.

 

If you have any questions, please contact your Graham Adair representative.

COVID 19 – Global Mobility Impacts and Updates

UPDATE

 

On February 28, 2020 Graham Adair published a Global Mobility per country advisory in light of the Novel Coronavirus. Since then, the virus has significantly spread into Europe and the United States triggering a few countries to significantly change their immigration policies to combat the spread of the virus.

 

UNITED STATES

 

On March 11, 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation suspending the entry of foreign nationals who have been in any European country/Schengen country during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. The proclamation does not apply to US nationals/US residents, immediate family members of US nationals, and other individuals identified in the proclamation.

 

It is expected that the Department of Homeland Security will implement a supplemental Notice of Arrivals Restriction procedures to conduct tests at airports for those traveling from the European countries identified in the proclamation. The supplemental measure will likely apply to all US nationals/residents/exempted individuals and will require them to travel through select airports where the United States Government will have screening procedures.

 

The countries identified in the proclamation include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland

 

ISRAEL

 

Currently, Israel has a ban-on-entry policy of non-Israeli nationals who have visited China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, and Austria.

 

On March 12, 2020, the Israeli government, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, will issued a total ban-upon-entry policy which will prevent all non-Israeli nationals from entering Israel unless they can prove, before entry with a consulate abroad, the location/residence where they will be quarantined. It was advised that “home isolation” cannot be replaced by a stay in a hotel room. If they cannot prove the location where they will be quarantined, they will be sent back – this determination will be at the sole discretion of consular officials.

 

SINGAPORE

 

On March 04, 2020, the Ministry of Manpower (hereinafter MoM) issued a directive requiring all passholders, and their respective dependents, entering Singapore exhibiting a fever, respiratory illnesses, or related symptoms to undergo a COVID-19 swab test at the port of entry regardless of the countries they have visited.

 

Once tested, the entrants may enter Singapore and will be contacted about their results after 3 – 6 hours. Those with positive results will be sent to the hospital.

 

Singapore currently maintains a pre-approval policy which requires pass holders who have traveled to China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, to secure MoM’s approval before entering Singapore. Pass holders with Hubei-issued passports or with recent travels to Hubei should defer their travels to Singapore.

 

If approved, the pass holders will be required to serve a 14-day mandatory home quarantine upon entry.

 

Pass holders who refuse testing and the quarantine policies set out by MoM, may be subject to significant penalties, including, but not limited to, having their work pass privileges revoked and/or face prosecution under the Infections Diseases Act

 

How to Prepare Your Business

 

Given the current trend from the United States, Israel and Singapore, it is highly likely that countries will follow in the same direction imposing either a pre-approval immigration policy, or a total-ban immigration policy, for non-residents. Businesses should be prepared for sudden changes in business and work travel for the time being. Graham Adair is dedicated to ensuring full employer compliance and providing the most up-to-date information on country responses to the Coronavirus. Graham Adair continues to closely monitor global trends and policies for several countries across the globe, since this situation is ongoing, please note that information may change. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any information or with any concerns

Coronavirus – Global Mobility Impacts and Updates

The novel “Coronavirus” has now spread to over 50 countries internationally and certain countries are taking immigration-related measures to attempt to control or slow the outbreak of the virus. The Coronavirus is affecting the ability for people to travel around the globe for business or work purposes, especially those requiring immigration permissions to enter their intended country of travel. This information is quickly changing as more countries start to develop their own in-country immigration policy restrictions and guidance.

UNITED STATES

The United States has issued a directive temporarily barring foreigners from entering the United States if they have been to China within the last 14 days. Exceptions have been made for immediate family members of US nationals and permanent residents. Hong Kong and Macau, however, are excluded from the travel ban. The US consulates in China are currently not processing any visa applications.

UNITED KINGDOM

The UK Government has imposed significant restrictions between the UK and China with many commercial flights to China being suspended. In response to the heightened security measures, employers should forbid work-related travel to China. Employers/sponsors are not required to report absences nor withdraw sponsorship for extended absences stemming from the Coronavirus as it is considered an exceptional circumstance.

In response to the virus outbreak, Visa Application Centers (VAC) operated in China, through VFS, are closed until further notice. Thus, foreigners seeking to enter the UK from China may find it impossible to attend interviews to apply for their visas.

It has been reported that the closed VAC’s hold several individuals’ passports despite their offices being closed. Individuals with passports currently being held at a VAC should contact the authorities, and or, their respective consular authorities to obtain an emergency travel document.

The Home Office issued guidance which indicates that Chinese nationals who are in the UK with upcoming visa expiration dates between now through March 30, 2020 will receive an automatic extension on their visas through March 31, 2020. Depending on the status of the Coronavirus, the extension policy may be revised.

The UK government has advised that foreigners who have returned from the Wuhan or Hubei provinces in China should self-quarantine for 14 days even if they do not show any symptoms of illness. Foreigners who have traveled from other Chinese provinces are advised to closely monitor their heath. Employers who have employees to whom the above directives apply should prevent them from going into work until after the 14 days, and, until after their symptoms subside.

SINGAPORE

The Singaporean Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued an advisory to abandon all travel plans to the Hubei province in China and also to only travel to Mainland China on very selected circumstances.

As of January 31, 2020, until further notice, MOM will reject all new Employment Pass applications (or any work permit applications) for applicants from China. Renewal applications, however, will remain unaffected.

As of February 18, 2020, foreign employees who have traveled to China within the last 14 days from their arrival to Singapore are required to obtain MOM’s pre-approval. Employers are required to submit the online form at least 3 days before the intended date of arrival. The foreign employee must have the approval letter at the time of entering Singapore.

Work Permit holders who successfully enter Singapore from China will be issued a 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN) where they must self-quarantine themselves at their place of residence. During this time, work permit eligible employees who have work permits approved, but must complete the immigration work permit pass process, may not proceed with finalizing their processes until after the 14-day period ends.

MOM will be enforcing strict penalties against employers who attempt to circumvent the above procedures.

INDIA

The Indian authorities issued a directive which restricts any Chinese nationals and foreigners traveling from China to enter India through March 2020. The restrictions apply at all ports of entry, including, air, land, seaport, and land borders with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

Effective immediately, the Indian government has suspended all existing issued visas issued to Chinese passport holders (both regular sticker visas, as well as e-visas), issued prior to February 05, 2020. Any hardship concerns should be brought up to the Indian embassy in Beijing, or consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou for a new visa. This specific policy does not apply to other foreign nationals entering India from China.

ISRAEL

The Israeli authorities have closed land crossings, seaports, and airports to arrivals from China, except to permanent residents and Israeli nationals, who must self-quarantine themselves for 14-days if arriving from China.

More recently, Israel has extended the ban to foreigners entering Israel from Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

VIETNAM

The Vietnamese Embassy in China has stopped issuing all types of visas (Tourist, business, and work) to Chinese nationals and to all other foreign nationals applying for visas in China. Foreign nationals applying for a visa-on-arrival, must have a pre-approval letter and establish they are not coming from China, Hong Kong, or Macau.

JAPAN

The Japanese government (GOJ) has issued a directive which has banned people who have been infected with the Coronavirus from entering the country. As of February 18, 2020, any foreigner who has traveled to China in the last 14 days from the date of entry into Japan, and foreigners who have a Chinese passport issued in the provinces of Hubei and Zhejiang, will not be allowed entry except in special circumstances.

AUSTRALIA

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), has issued a notice to not travel to China. They have issued a directive that Foreign Nationals who are in China will not be granted entry to Australia until 14 days after they have left China.

Australian permanent residents and citizens, as well as their immediate family, will still be allowed to enter China.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The Czech government has suspended flights to and from China and have halted the issuance of visa at Czech visa application centers. An exception to the widespread restrictions are for family members of Czech nationals who may apply for short-term Schengen visas at the consulate in Shanghai.

What Can You Do?

Graham Adair is dedicated to ensuring full employer compliance and providing the most up-to-date information on country response to the Coronavirus. Graham Adair continues to closely monitor global trends and policies for several countries across the globe, since this situation is ongoing, please note that information may change. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any information or with any concerns.

Temporary Suspension of Nonimmigrant Visa Operations in Russia

On August 21, 2017, the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Russia announced a temporary suspension of all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia beginning August 23, 2017. The halt is a result of the Russian government’s personnel cap imposed on the U.S. Mission to Russia. Beginning September 1, nonimmigrant visa interviews will only be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow; NIV interviews at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice.

Because of the cap on staff numbers, visa operations will resume on a greatly reduced scale. The staffing changes will also affect the scheduling of some immigrant visa applicants. Affected applicants will be contacted if there is a change as to the time and date of their interview.

A Restriction on Visitors from Six Predominantly Muslim Nations will be Enforced as the Supreme Court Prepares to Hear a Broader Challenge

On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court lifted part of the injunction that prevented implementation of President Trump’s Executive Order, Protecting the National from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. The Supreme Court also agreed to review legal arguments from the two federal court cases stemming from the Executive Order, which calls for a temporary suspension of entry of foreign nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries, this October.

The Supreme Court will allow the executive branch to implement the travel ban under strict limits, stating that the travel ban cannot be imposed on individuals who have “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” On June 28, 2017, the State Department issued a cable to U.S. consulates and embassies on how to apply the limited travel ban that will go into effect this evening. The cable defines individuals having a bona fide relationship with a person in the United States as “close family.” The cable’s definition of “close family” encompasses the following individuals:

  • Parent (including parent-in-law)
  • Spouse
  • Child
  • Adult son or daughter
  • Son-in-law
  • Daughter-in-law
  • Sibling, whether whole or half, including step relationships
  • Fiancée

The cable goes on to say that “close family” does not include the following:

  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Aunts
  • Uncles
  • Nieces
  • Nephews
  • Cousins
  • Brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-law
  • Fiancés
  • Any other ‘extended’ family members

The cable states that individuals claiming a bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity must have a formal, documented relationship with the U.S. entity, a relationship that was formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading the Executive Order. The cable provides examples of bona fide relationships with U.S. entities, including the following:

  • An eligible I visa applicant employed by foreign media that has a news office based in the U.S.
  • Students who have been admitted to U.S. educational institutions
  • A worker who accepted an offer of employment from a company in the U.S.
  • A lecturer invited to address an audience in the U.S.

Precisely how this cable’s framework will be implemented remains to be seen. We will provide updates on this breaking story as it develops.

Sam Adair Discusses Visa Vetting Questionnaire in Bloomberg BNA

Sam Adair was recently quoted in Laura Francis’s Bloomberg BNA article “‘Extreme Vetting’ Immigration Form Causes Delays, Confusion.” In the article, Sam discusses the State Department’s new visa vetting questionnaire and its potential impact on business immigration. 

Click here to read the full article.

Full article reproduced with permission from Daily Labor Report, 106 DLR A-7 (Jun. 5, 2017). Copyright 2017 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <http://www.bna.com>

Trump Immigration Order Significantly Impacts Travel and Visas

On Friday January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on immigration that will significantly impact some of our current and past clients. This executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” put a 120 day ban on refugee admissions from all countries. More significantly for our clients, this order also suspends the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the U.S. of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen for 90 days. Furthermore, the order calls for implementing uniform screening procedures, such as in-person interviews, for all visa applicants.

For the time being, this means that any person who is a citizen of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen should refrain from traveling outside of the U.S. There is an extreme likelihood that if you are from one of these countries, and even if you have a green card, valid visa, or advanced parole document, that you will be barred from re-entering the U.S. for 90 days.

This is an extremely disappointing move by the new administration given the many significant and positive contributions that so many of our clients, who will be impacted by this executive order, make to this country and our economy.

This is an extreme measure and the advice against traveling cannot be overstated. If you are currently outside of the U.S. you should contact the attorney overseeing your case or Sam Adair for advice on next steps. Graham Adair is closely monitoring any new developments and will release information as it becomes available. Please check back here for further updates and follow us on twitter @grahamadairlaw for real-time updates as they become available.

Canada Electronic Travel Authorization to be Strictly Enforced by September 29, 2016

In March 2016, the Government of Canada introduced an ETA requirement for U.S. green card holders, as well as nationalities that were formerly visa exempt. U.S. citizens still do not require an ETA to enter Canada.

The Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) Canada has stated that the “leniency period” in which travelers can board their flight without an ETA will end on November 9. However, various reliable sources confirm that the ETA requirement will be strictly enforced by September 29. Hence, we highly recommend that all travelers to Canada check whether they require an ETA or a visa before traveling.

To find whether or not you require an ETA, please go to: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas-all.asp.

Please contact your Graham Adair representative if you have any questions.

New 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Rule

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final rule regarding STEM optional practical training (OPT) extensions will take effect on May 10, 2016. Most notably, the new rule allows F-1 STEM students to extend the standard 12-month OPT period an additional 24 months, for a total of 3 years. It also allows F-1 STEM students who are currently on an approved 17-month extension to apply for an additional 7 months.

F-1 STEM OPT students who are currently on an approved 17-month extension may apply for an additional 7 months, provided they have at least 150 days remaining when the petition is filed with USCIS. Applications will be accepted from May 10 – August 8 only.

Individuals who receive the 24-month extension would have a total of three years of OPT status. In addition, individuals who earn a second STEM degree at a higher educational level are now eligible for an additional 12-month period of OPT plus another 24-month extension (for a total of 6 years of OPT status). F-1 students currently on a 12-month period of post-completion OPT based on a non-STEM degree are now eligible to use a prior STEM degree as the basis for a 24-month extension—as long as both degrees are from accredited institutions and the OPT employment is directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree.

The new regulations carry additional requirements for employers, who must provide compliant training plans and complete regular validation reports. There are also new obligations for OPT extension employees, who must submit annual self-evaluations.
Under the new rule, the DHS may conduct worksite visits. The DHS is required to provide 48 hours’ notice, unless the employer is non-compliant or if the visit is triggered by a complaint. As with the prior rule, employers must be enrolled in E-Verify and comply with reporting requirements.

Please contact us with any questions on how the new STEM OPT rule impacts you or your employees.

Big Changes in U.S. Immigration

Last night, President Obama announced some significant changes to U.S. immigration policy that will take effect in coming months. Some of the items announced, such as suspending deportation proceedings for certain groups of people, will go into effect immediately. Other aspects of the plan will require input from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among others, and will likely require changes to the current regulations.

Starting a new life in the United States of America is something that every immigrant dreams about getting to do one day. But before they can, they must go through the long process of applying for a green card so that they can be granted permanent legal status. It’s not just as easy as going through this process though as you must keep your documents in a safe place, as if you lose it, you will have to replace resident card so that you are able to remain in the country. Regulations like this and the new policies that President Obama is introducing must be adhered to so that immigrants have a chance at being able to start their new life.

The biggest takeaways, from a business immigration standpoint, from the President’s speech include:

1. ICE will work to “expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students.”

2. The USCIS will provide clearer guidance on adjustment of status (I-485) portability so that individuals with pending applications have greater career and job flexibility during the green card process.

3. The USCIS will look to provide EAD work cards and advance parole travel authorization to those who have approved I-140s with retrogressed priority dates.

4. The USCIS will allow H-4 spouses to seek Employment Authorization Documents if the H-1B holder is “on the path to lawful permanent resident status.”

5. The USCIS will issue more clear guidance with respect to what qualifies as “specialized knowledge” in the L-1B context in an effort to improve consistency and reinvigorate employers’ confidence in the visa status.

6. The USCIS and State Department are seeking a method and means to modernize the Visa Bulletin and allocation process to ensure that backlogs are reduced and the process is workable and usable for all intending permanent residents.

7. The USCIS will enhance the National Interest Waiver process to allow greater flexibility in adjudications and permit foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the U.S economy.

8. The USCIS will create a parole system for “eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who do not yet qualify for a National Interest Waiver, but who: (1) Have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing; or (2) Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.”

Graham Adair will monitor the development of these policies and changes in regulation as they work their way through the various government agencies.

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