Categories Department of State News & Updates

Details for the Domestic Visa Issuance Pilot Program

The Department of State is scheduled to publish tomorrow the regulation authorizing a pilot program that will allow for nonimmigrant visa issuance domestically, potentially facilitating travel for thousands of nonimmigrant workers.

As framed, the program will accept applications from January 29th to April 1, 2024 and will be available for the following eligible applicants:

  • Seeking to renew an H-1B visa (no other classifications are being authorized in the pilot program, including H-4 dependents);
  • Have a prior H-1B visa that was issued either:
    1. By a US Consulate/Embassy in Canada with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023;
    2. By a US Consulate/Embassy in India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021;
  • Are not subject to a reciprocity fee (Indian citizens applying for an H-1B are not subject to this fee);
  • Do not have a prior visa with a “clearance received” annotation;
  • Have an approved and valid H-1B petition, were most recently admitted to the United States in H-1B status and continue to maintain valid H-1B status;
  • Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;
  • Have submitted ten fingerprints in connection with a previous visa application;
  • Intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad. (we do not know at this time whether evidence of the international travel will be required).

Those eligible and interested in applying should do so by visiting  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/employment/domesticrenewal.html. The Department of State will release slots for applicants on specific dates (January 29th, February 5th, February 12th, February 19th and February 26th) and once the slots have been taken, the online portal will be locked until the next release date.

The application process will require, similar to an application submitted a US Consular post abroad, the submission of a DS-160 form and payment of the Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fee, and applicants must not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance.

The Department of State is estimating that processing time for visa applications submitted in connection with this program to take 6-8 weeks and will not entertain requests for expedited processing.

Please reach out to your Graham Adair attorney with any questions, or contact us at info@grahamadair.com or 408-715-7067.

Categories Department of State News & Updates

New Domestic Visa Issuance Pilot Program

The Department of State (DOS) previously announced an intent to issue visas within the US, which is now taking shape as the agency moves ahead with the implementation of a pilot program to allow nonimmigrant visa issuance domestically, potentially facilitating travel for thousands of workers in a work status such as H-1B and L-1.

In a recent interview, a DOS official has further clarified that the program is expected to start small, with only 20,000 visas to be issued in December, January and February, and will be available only to H and L visa holders initially (though other sources believe it will be limited only to principal H-1B beneficiaries).

Additionally, the pilot program is expected to initially benefit only those foreign nationals who would otherwise be eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement and not subject to a reciprocity fee in the issuance of their visas.

We expect to know further details once the proposed rule, currently under review by the administration, is published in the federal register.

Please reach out to your Graham Adair attorney with any questions or contact us at info@grahamadair.com or 408-715-7067.

Categories Department of Labor Department of State Immigration and Customs Enforcement News & Updates USCIS

How Would A Government Shutdown Impact Employment-based Immigration?

As of today, September 25, 2023, Congress has not agreed to the temporary spending measures needed to fund the U.S. government after the current fiscal year ends on September 30, 2023. If no agreement is reached by Saturday, key government agencies will be forced to shut down. Below is a list of the U.S. government agencies linked to business immigration and the impact a potential government shutdown will have on these agencies:

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS is a fee-based agency, so its operations will mostly proceed as usual. E-Verify will be unavailable during the shutdown and employers may use the new remote Form I-9 document verification as an alternative.

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification will disable the FLAG system and not process PERM labor certification applications, prevailing wage determination requests, and labor condition applications (LCAs) during the government shutdown. If you anticipate the need to any H-1B, E-3, or H-1B1 nonimmigrant petition filings soon, you may want to speak with your immigration counsel to see if you can submit LCAs for those cases this week. It will also be prudent to file any PERMs or prevailing wage determination requests that can be prepped this week as well.

Department of State

The Department of State is partially fee-funded, and passport issuance and visa processing should continue at the start of the shutdown. However, a prolonged shutdown could limit consular activities to emergency services at certain posts due to insufficient funding. If you have upcoming travel plans to the U.S. that require a visa, please speak with your immigration counsel on how those plans might be impacted by a potential government shutdown.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

CBP will remain open because its employees are essential personnel. However, travelers may experience application processing delays at the border. If you have upcoming travel plans to the U.S. that require applying at the border, please speak with your immigration counsel on how those plans might be impacted by a potential government shutdown.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

The SSA has stated that it will continue to issue new social security cards and numbers in the event of a government shutdown. But thousands of SSA employees will be furloughed during the shutdown, and that can potentially cause significant delays with card and number issuance.

Please contact us with any questions at info@grahamadair.com.

Categories Department of State News & Updates

Expansion of Visa Appointments in India and a Plan to Reduce Visa Wait Times

The U.S. Mission to India has announced 250,000 additional B1/B2 visa appointments. This move is possible due to the creation of special Saturday interviews, which is part of a larger effort to reduce wait times for first-time visa applicants. The hope is that this effort will eventually open up to interviews for other types of U.S. visas.

Embassies and Consulates in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad all opened consular operations on Saturday, and there are plans to continue to open additional slots for appointments on select Saturdays. The plan also includes several additional prongs, including:

  • Expansion of interview waiver cases for applicants with previous U.S. visas.
  • Transfer of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies to India to increase processing capacity.
  • Increased hiring of consular officers permanently assigned to the Embassy and Consulates in India.
  • Consulate in Mumbai has extended its weekday operating hours to make space for additional appointments.

The goal is to have the U.S. Mission to India operating at this fully expanded capacity by this summer.

B1/B2 visas are granted to individuals who wish to travel to the United States for business or tourism purposes. The additional visas will provide more opportunities for Indian citizens to visit the United States for business meetings, conferences, and other professional engagements, as well as for tourism and leisure.

The U.S. Mission to India has stated that the additional appointments will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis, and that the process for applying for a B1/B2 visa will remain the same for now.

The move to issue additional B1/B2 visas is a positive step in strengthening the economic ties between India and the United States. It will provide more opportunities for Indian businesses and professionals to engage with their counterparts in the United States and vice versa. Additionally, it will also promote tourism, which is a significant contributor to the economies of both countries.

The relationship between India and the United States has been growing stronger in recent years, and this move to issue additional B1/B2 visas is a reflection of that. It is expected to further boost economic relations between the two countries and provide more opportunities for people-to-people interactions.

Please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any questions, or contacts us at info@grahamadair.com, or 408 715 7067.

covid immigration law
Categories Department of State News & Updates USCIS

Is Your Company Revamping Immigration?

The State Department previously announced that the pandemic-induced lull in legal immigration to the U.S. is over. During the 12 months that ended on September 30, some 493,000 visas were issued to foreign nationals looking to work and live in this country permanently.

Where does your company stand in all of this? With heavy-handed COVID restrictions mostly removed, which weighs against a flat economy, is your company now revamping its business immigration policies? If so, it is going to be a complicated space for the foreseeable future. For these reasons, it would be wise to work with an experienced business immigration attorney or law firm that can help keep things moving along.

Consulates Are Open, People Are Traveling

Fiscal year 2019 saw an impressive number of visas issued by the State Department. Then COVID hit and the world shut down. Consulates were closed up and travel restrictions put in place. That put a huge damper on legal immigration. But now that consulates are open and people are traveling again, the numbers are back up.

The previously mentioned 493,000 visas represent a 73% increase from 2021 and 7% over 2020. Either way you look at it, legal immigration is working to get back on track. This is good in the sense that companies once again have access to foreign nationals looking to the United States for work. Companies can access that foreign talent pool much easier now that travel restrictions have eased.

The one thing that does not change is how visas are actually processed. There is still paperwork to complete; there are still deadlines to pay attention to; there are still T’s to be crossed and I’s to be dotted.

Many Ways to Get Workers Here

There are quite a number of different ways to get workers to the U.S. We deal a lot with the H-1B visa here at Graham Adair. These are mainly visas for temporary employment. But there are other options, including business visas, work visas, training visas, and exchange visitor visas.

Working with an experienced immigration attorney offers the advantage of being able to select the most appropriate visa program without having to possess the knowledge yourself. Tell us what your company’s needs are, and we can advise you as to the most appropriate way to sponsor people with the right skills and experience. Then we can work with you to facilitate the process from start to finish.

Transitioning from Temporary Visa to Green Card

We can also assist foreign national workers with the transition from a temporary visa status to green card, or permanent residency. A green card gives a foreign national permanent residency status. After a certain amount of time, a person with a valid green card can apply for U.S. citizenship. Once again, we can help.

At every step of the way, the paperwork needs to be completed the right way. Making mistakes delays the process and can even result in denials or other impacts to an individual’s immigration status. And given how strict the State Department is with some types of visas, delays can easily disrupt a company’s need to onboard a foreign national employee. It can even jeopardize a worker’s chances of being approved.

Graham Adair immigration attorneys are paperwork experts. Our attorneys know how to complete government forms in such a way as to give the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services exactly what it’s looking for. We make sure all required information is submitted so that processing is swift. We also ensure that our clients fully understand compliance and enforcement issues.

It is encouraging to know that immigration has opened back up now that the largest impacts of COVID have been pulled back. However, considering the struggling economy, many companies are taking a step back to re-evaluate their immigration policies. We can help by way of expert legal advice and assistance for you and your foreign workers.