In the wake of President Trump’s Immigration Executive Order, and the uncertainty surrounding what the future holds for business visas, we’re getting calls from many concerned clients and individuals. In this newsletter we address common questions and highlight important issues which people need to be aware of in the current environment. As always, it’s best to be informed and prepared.
At time of writing, a Federal Appeals Court has upheld an earlier court order halting the US Government’s Immigration Executive Order (EO), which banned nationals of seven countries from entering the US: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen. Temporarily therefore, citizens of these countries who hold valid visas and green cards may seek entry to the US in the usual way.
However any person who has (i) visited any of these countries cannot use visa waiver/ESTA to visit the US and will require a B visitor visa; also, (ii) a dual national of any of the seven countries will need a B visitor visa, even if the second country of nationality is a visa waiver country, like Ireland or the UK. In our experience, delays in visa issuance in these cases can be considerable due to additional security checks. There may also be delays getting through US Immigration. If you fall into one of these categories and you’re pre-clearing through Dublin or Shannon, arrive at least two hours earlier than you otherwise would. If you’re clearing immigration in the US and trying to make a connecting flight, make sure there’s a later one, or make contingency plans in the event of delay.
If you fall into categories (i) or (ii) above and you’re already in the US with a valid visa, it’s advisable not to leave the US for the moment, or to limit your international travel as much as possible. The same is true if traveling on Advance Parole; again, arrive early and have contingency plans for unexpected delays. Additionally, if traveling on Advance Parole, do not enter the US as a visitor, even if you have a current ESTA; if an immigration official advises you to do so, ask for a supervisor.
If traveling as a business visitor on visa waiver or B visa, expect tighter scrutiny by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. We’re receiving feedback that business visitors traveling on visa waiver/ESTA are being grilled about their purpose of travel and ties outside the US. CEO’s are now commonly asked if they intend to sign any binding documents while in the US, and why someone has not been hired to do whatever it is they’re planning to do on the trip. Note: it’s not permissible to actively engage in the management of a business in the US without a visa. Be prepared to be questioned and be clear in your answers. If you’re traveling for a board meeting, it’s not plausible to stay for an extended period. Most importantly, never lie to an immigration official, as this can result in a lifetime ban.
Remember, always ask for a supervisor if the officer you’re dealing with does not appear to be knowledgeable, or will not listen/does not understand when you try to explain your situation.
For those interested in applying for investor green card (EB-5), it’s better to do so without delay, as Congress is poised to raise the minimum investment from $1m to $1.8m.
For family-based petitions, a recent proposal to cut legal immigration in half and abolish petitions for parents by US citizen children is likely to result in a rush to file family petitions of all kinds. Those intending to file this type of petition may wish to get in line sooner rather than later.
With regard to H-1B professional visas, the Trump administration’s intention is to tighten the rules and to reduce the quota, although this must get through Congress and a strong technology lobby. This year’s quota (opening April 1, 2017) is unlikely to be un-affected; accordingly, despite the shortcomings of the H1B quota, 2017 may be the best year to apply for a H1B visa for some years to come. For up to date information, see our post on this blog page: http://obrienandassociates.com/2017/h-1b-visa-quota-2018-opens-april-1-2017/
Finally, a word about prior arrests, convictions and/or immigration violation/overstay: read the relevant ESTA questions carefully. If you’re uncertain about whether to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, seek qualified advice. It may be safest to apply for a B visa because negative history doesn’t just go away, even if a long time has elapsed since the incident in question.
DUI arrests and convictions deserve a special mention. Since March 2016, US embassies are directed to deny visa applications in certain DUI cases and, significantly, to revoke visas in DUI cases which come to their attention through sharing of police records, requiring the individual to leave the US and re-apply at an embassy abroad.
In such uncertain times for US immigration, it’s vital to understand how rules may apply to you, or affect your eligibility to enter the US, whether for business or pleasure. If necessary, seek proper advice. Knowledge is power and preparation is key.