U.S. Consulates in Canada Temporarily Suspend Third-Country National Visa Processing

The seven U.S. consulates in Canada have announced that they will not accept any new third-country national (TCN) visa applications for the summer months of June, July, and August. Any currently existing application appointments will be honored, but going forward nationals of countries other than Canada will be required to obtain a visa appointment at U.S. consulates elsewhere in the world. The U.S. consulates in Canada will resume TCN visa application processing in September.

This primarily will impact individuals who are currently working in the U.S. who had intended to make plans to apply for a U.S. visa in Canada over the summer months. If a visa application is required during June – August 2014 that application will need to be made in another country, unless the client holds a valid Canadian passport.

Please contact an attorney at Graham Adair if you need guidance or advice on this topic.

New Visa Processing System in India Starts Today

Beginning today, the United States Embassy in India will begin using a new visa processing system throughout India that is intended to standardize procedures, as well as simplify fee payment and appointment scheduling through a new website: www.ustraveldocs.com/in.

 

Perhaps the most important change is that under the new processing system, applicants will be required to make two appointments. Before the visa interview, applicants will need to visit an Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) to submit photographs and biometrics. These OFCs are offsite, so applicants will need to plan accordingly. This is being done with the intention of reducing congestion at consular facilities and enhancing applicant processing timeframes.

 

 

The good news is that most applicants will only need to visit an OFC one time. Because of India’s Interview Waiver Program (IWP), which allows applicants who meet certain criteria to be considered for waivers of personal interviews, an increasing number of applicants will be able to complete all visa requirements without having to schedule an in-person interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

 

 

As part of this new visa processing system, U.S. visa applicants can now pay application fees and schedule appointments with mobile phones. The new system will also allow companies and travel agencies to purchase multiple fee receipts for group travel and emergency appointments.

 

If you have any questions about this new process or its impact, please feel free to contact us at: info@grahamadair.com.

July Visa Bulletin: EB-2 Will Retrogress

For the first time in years, all countries will be subject to retrogression under the employment-based second preference category (EB-2). The U.S. Department of State just released the July 2012 Visa Bulletin, which continues to show India and China as “unavailable” for EB-2.  All other countries are showing an effective date of January 1, 2009, meaning retrogression of roughly two and a half years.

 

Graham Adair will be working with clients who have priority dates retrogressing on July 1 to be sure I-485 applications are filed with USCIS by June 29th.

 

Aside from India and China, we expect priority dates in the EB-2 category to become current again when the new fiscal year starts in October.  Until then, it appears that the Department of State is slowing down the number of eligible cases in order to meet the annual limit of employment-based green card applications.

 

Similar to recent past months, the EB-3 category did not see much movement, only advancing a few weeks in most cases.  The Visa Bulletin for July 2012 can be viewed at: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5630.html

 

If you have any questions about this bulletin or its impact, please feel free to contact us at: info@grahamadair.com.

Projected EB-2 Retrogression

A recent announcement from the State Department makes it clear that EB-2 immigrant visa retrogression for nationals of India and mainland China is coming with the May visa bulletin.  Charlie Oppenheim, Chief, Immigrant Visa Control & Reporting in the State Department, provided further information on priority date movement in the EB-2 category for China-mainland born and India.  He has indicated that the May 2012 visa bulletin will contain a priority date of August 15, 2007 for China and India in the EB-2 category. With the April 2012 visa bulletin listing the priority dates for EB-2 India and China at May 1, 2010, this is a very significant slide backwards.

 

Graham Adair anticipates that the EB-2 priority dates will advance again fairly rapidly in October 2012 when the new fiscal year starts and the new immigrant visa numbers become available.  However, for the remainder of the fiscal year, we do not expect to see priority dates advance in any significant way for India and China.  Therefore, it will be important for applicants whose priority dates became current over the past few months to file their applications for adjustment of status before the end of April.

February 2012 Visa Bulletin: EB-2 Jumps a Full Year

This afternoon the U.S. Department of State published the February 2012 Visa Bulletin, showing significant movement in the EB-2 category for nationals of both India and China. The priority dates jumped forward a full year, from January 1, 2009 to January 1, 2010. This marks the second month in a row for significant movement in the EB-2 category.  Between the last two months, the EB-2 category has advanced nearly 2 years. This movement in priority dates will open the floodgates for many individuals to file for U.S. lawful permanent residence status starting on February 1.

 

Again, like last month, the EB-3 category did not see any significant movement in the new visa bulletin; there continues to be significant retrogression for all nationalities in the EB-3 category. The priority date for nationals of China in the EB-3 category moved forward from October 15, 2004 to December 1, 2004. For Indian nationals in the EB-3 category, the priority date moved forward a meager seven days to August 15, 2002. For all other nationalities in the EB-3 category, the priority date advanced 21 days to February 22, 2006.

 

Graham Adair will be working with clients who have priority dates that will become current on February 1, 2012 to ensure that their cases are ready to file and to keep their permanent residence process moving forward.  There is some concern that the recent monumental advancements could result in a visa bulletin surprise wherein
priority dates move back significantly.  Therefore, it is important to file as close to February 1 as possible.

 

If you have any questions about this bulletin or its impact, please feel free to contact us at: info@grahamadair.com.

 

The Visa Bulletin for February 2012 can be viewed at: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5630.html

January 2012 Visa Bulletin

In the recently published January 2012 Visa Bulletin there has been significant movement in the EB-2 category for nationals of both India and China. The priority dates jumped forward from March 15, 2008 to January 1, 2009. This is the most significant progress seen in recent months. This movement in the priority date will open the door for more individuals and allow them to finally obtain their goal of U.S. lawful permanent residence status.

 

Unfortunately, the EB-3 category did not see any significant movement in the new visa bulletin and there continues to be significant retrogression for all nationalities in
the EB-3 category. The priority date for nationals of China in the EB-3 category moved forward from September 8, 2004 to October 15, 2004. For Indian nationals in the EB-3 category the priority dated moved forward a meager seven days to August 8, 2002. For all other nationalities in the EB-3 category the priority date advanced 15 days to February 1, 2006.

 

Graham Adair will be working with our clients who have priority dates that will become current on January 1, 2012 to ensure that their cases are ready to file and to keep their permanent residence process moving forward. If you have any questions about this bulletin or its impact please feel free to contact us at:  info@grahamadair.com.

 

The Visa Bulletin for January 2012 can be viewed at: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5630.html

L-1 Blanket Visa Applications Consolidated to Chennai

The U.S. State Department has announced that effective 12/1/2011 the U.S. consulate in Chennai, India will become the only consulate in India authorized to process blanket L-1 visa applications. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and U.S. Consulates in Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad will no longer accept or process applications for this visa category. The blanket L category includes specialized knowledge professionals, executives and managers. The other consulates in India will continue to process L-2 applications and individual L-1A and L-1B petitions. Applicants who have applied for L-1 status through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and have an approval notice in their name will continue to be able to process their visa application at other consulates in India.

Companies should be aware of processing times in Chennai in determining anticipated start times for blanket L transfers.  Visa appointment wait times in Chennai are relatively short right now, around 3 days.  However, with this consolidation and during summer travel months and holidays, there is potential for a significant increase in wait times. If you have any questions please contact your attorney at Graham Adair for further information.

July 2011 Visa Bulletin: Significant Advancement for EB-2

The U.S. Department of State has issued the July 2011 Visa Bulletin.  There has been substantial forward movement in a number of categories, while other categories crept forward only slightly.  The good news is that most categories are currently moving in the direction of less retrogression.
 
The first preference category (EB-1) remains current for all countries.
 
The second preference category (EB-2) remains current for all countries, except for India and China.  EB-2 India and China moved from October 15, 2006 to March 8, 2007, a positive change of nearly five months.  Because these categories moved more than one month, it signifies a slight erosion of immigrant visa retrogression.
 
EB-3 did not experience the gains made by EB-2, with the exception being EB-3 Mexico, which actually moved a little more than 6 months, from December 22, 2004 to July 1, 2005.  EB-3 China moved 1.5 months from May 15, 2004 to July 1, 2004. The most lethargic category was EB-3 India, which moved 1 week from April 22, 2002 to May 1, 2002.  

In the June 2011 Visa Bulletin, the EB-3 category for the Philippines and “All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed” had an effective date of September 15, 2005.   These categories moved a disappointing three weeks to October 8, 2005.  Because it moved less than a month, it essentially means this category experienced more retrogression. 

The July 2011 Visa Bulletin can be viewed at:

http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5092.html.

U.S. Department of State Provides Guidance L-1B Specialized Knowledge

The Department of State (DOS) issued a memorandum to U.S. consular posts in an effort to define L-1B specialized knowledge. The memorandum lays out criteria that L-1B visa applicants can expect to encounter.  Of course, policy memoranda have a tendency to take some time for full implementation, but the guidance may permeate through U.S. consular posts fairly quickly.    

The memorandum essentially applies a stricter standard than what has been seen at U.S. consular posts in recent history.  While this higher threshold has been applied over the past few years at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), it will be new for U.S. consular posts.

It is noteworthy that the law being relied upon for the heightened specialized knowledge scrutiny dates back to before the enactment of the Immigration Act of 1990.  Indeed, it goes contrary to more recent policy memoranda issued by USCIS applying a more relaxed burden of proof on sponsoring employers.

Proprietary Knowledge

The DOS notes that knowledge of proprietary products, services, or processes is not required, but recommends that adjudicators take it into consideration when making a determination.  It seems, therefore, that employees with knowledge of proprietary company information stand a better chance of success. The DOS cites the former INS standard that if “it would be difficult to impart to another without significant economic inconvenience,” this may be dispositive to the outcome of determining specialized knowledge. 

Key Personnel

For larger companies with more than one employee holding a specified position, the issue of “key” versus “normal” personnel should be considered, according to the memorandum.  In other words, consideration should be given to whether this employee is more experienced or otherwise has a deeper level of knowledge of a specific company function. This is not to say that only one employee of a particular job family can qualify.  Instead, he or she should be distinguishable from other “ordinary” skilled workers within the company. 

More than Ordinary

The memorandum also instructs that the “more than ordinary” standard should also be applied.  The dichotomy here is that the DOS also explains that the employee need not be extraordinary.  In trying to explain where this factor comes down, the memorandum notes that the employee’s work should involve knowledge of special company projects or greater than normal experience or knowledge.  There appears to be some overlap between the “key personnel” and “more than ordinary” standards.

Employer-Employee Relationships

Similar to USCIS’s position on this issue, in instances where an employee will be placed at the worksite of an unaffiliated company, DOS requires proof that the employee will be controlled and supervised by the sponsoring employer.  While the unaffiliated company may have input into what the employee does on a day-to-day basis, the main issue is the ultimate right of control – this must reside in the sponsoring employer to maintain the requisite employer-employee relationship.

 

Graham Adair will work with clients to anticipate the application of this stricter standard by supplying additional information about the nature of the transferring employee’s skills and experience.  If a distinction about the employee’s specialized knowledge cannot be made, his or her visa application could be denied.

U.S. Ambassador to India Announces Simpler U.S. Visa Application Process

The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and the Consulates General in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad will now accept visa applications from individuals whose home residence is in any other Indian jurisdiction.  This is being done in an ongoing effort by Mission India to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States. 

After the Consulate General in Hyderabad opened in 2008, the U.S. Mission has looked for ways to best capture the unique nature of India’s growth across the country.  This resulted in a re-designation of consular districts.  Effective immediately, the consular districts in India will be organized as follows: 

U.S. Embassy in Delhi: Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bhutan; 

U.S. Consulate in Mumbai: Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Diu and Daman, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli; 

U.S. Consulate in Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh, Orissa; Consulate Chennai: Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands; 

U.S. Consulate in Kolkata: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, and West Bengal. 

These changes will create a much more convenient and supportive process for U.S. visa applicants in India.

1 2 3