Top 15 Trends and Observations in 212(a)(6)(C)(i) Visa Decisions – Part II

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Last week we began the list of the top 15 trends and observations relating to the consular imposition of permanent bars under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) for willful, material misrepresentations. Hopefully, this will inform and educate as you plan for future visa applications.  Here, we continue that list: 6. OPT Fraud.  Much ink and many tears have been shed over the OPT scandal, with the full impact only now being felt.  Starting in 2020, thousands of individuals have been permanently barred from the US for their association with scam OPT companies, such as Findream, AZTech, Integra, Wireclass, and Global IT Experts.  More can be read about this scandal on our blogs, but suffice to say that the consequences will be felt for the rest of the lives of not only these individuals, but close family members and American employers as well.  Instead of being able to live the American dream, these talented…

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Top 15 Trends and Observations in 212(a)(6)(C)(i) Visa Decisions

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Unlawful presence (212(a)(9)(B)), misrepresentations (212(a)(6)(C)(i)), and alien smuggling (212(a)(6)(E)) continue to be the most frequently invoked inadmissibility bars to entry to the United States by consular officers.  And while unlawful presence based on overstays in the United States is a relatively straightforward legal decision, determinations of willful, material misrepresentations and alien smuggling are not.   How does one define “materiality”? Was the misrepresentation actually “willful”? What does it mean to “aid and abet the illegal entry” to the United States? This 3-part blog will focus on the latest trends in consular misrepresentation (“6Ci”) decisions; later, we will address recent trends in smuggling (“6E”) adjudications. Notwithstanding the pandemic and the limited operations of consular posts, the rendering of 6Ci determinations continues unabated.  In the pandemic years of FY2020 and FY2021, consuls entered more than 17,000 misrepresentation findings. During this time, we have observed the following: Politics is Overestimated. Many thought that with…

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Fires and Visas: More in Common than You Think (Or the Importance of the DS-160 Visa Application)

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It is fire season here in California, and inevitably talk turns to what could have been done to prevent the latest big fire, that the fire could have been prevented if only…. The lessons learned are so applicable to visas that I even have a painting of firemen and a firetruck in my office.  Clients come to me with a “five-alarm fire,” and often my first thought is what could have been done to prevent the fire.  Sometimes, the problem is as simple as correctly and properly filling in the DS-160 visa application form or even having a copy of the visa application form. In many of these consultations, inevitably the topic turns to what was indicated in the visa application form.  I ask for a copy of the DS-160 visa application form and the client does not have one. The client attempts to reconstruct the application or tries to…

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How WhatsApp Messages Can Lead to Cancelled Visas, Expedited Removal, and Permanent Bans

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Just because you have arrived at an airport in the United States does not mean that you are protected by the US Constitution and the right to be free from unreasonable searches. This is the unfortunate lesson learned by hundreds of travelers each day to the US.  Worse, the messages on one’s own phone can lead to a cancelled visa, a return trip home, and a permanent ban on entry. As international travel has reemerged after the pandemic, so have the problems experienced by international visitors to the US. Just over the past few months we have conducted numerous consultations with individuals subject to intrusive CBP searches at the airports, including luggage checks and the contents of telephones.  These searches have led to accusations of unlawful employment (most common), prostitution, drug use, intent to remain in the US beyond the length of permitted stay, intent to marry, and intent to…

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I-601 Waivers and Challenges to 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) Decisions

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Heartbreaking are the immigrant visa cases when, because of a youthful indiscretion or transgression, the applicant is denied the visa to join a spouse or parent or child in the United States under Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  This section of the law renders a person permanently inadmissible because of a conviction or admitting to committing a crime of moral turpitude. Thankfully, there are solutions. One solution is to challenge the decision.  In a case we recently handled, the applicant had been denied an immigrant visa as the husband of a Lottery winner on these grounds, and then 10 years later, denied again as the parent of a US citizen on these same grounds.  But the criminal case which was the basis for this visa refusal decision had been terminated before a final decision was made by the judge because of an amnesty. We challenged the 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)…

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5 Years? 10? 20? How Far Back Will a Consular Officer Look for a Misrepresentation or Alien Smuggling?

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People thought that with the passing of the Trump Administration, Department of State visa policies would become more tempered and that enforcement would moderate from the Trump-era extremes.  People, unfortunately, could not have been more wrong. Statutes of limitations exist for good reason: due process, basic fairness, evidence that becomes stale over the years, the disappearance or death of witnesses, fading memories, and to prevent inconsistent decisions.  But as discussed in a previous blog, there is no statute of limitations in visa law. And so consular officers are free to go back and review previous visa applications and time spent in the United States to determine whether a misrepresentation (Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i))  had been made at the time of the visa application or at the time of entry to the United States, or whether the individual had engaged in alien smuggling (Section 212(a)(6)(E)).  Critically, this holds true whether a consular officer…

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AZTech, Integra Technologies, AndWill, and Wireclass Update VI: Operation Bad Apple.

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We have been able to review some of the government documents relating to the DHS investigation of these companies. Needless to say, the documents are eye-opening.  The government investigation into the OPT scandal is entitled Operation Bad Apple. But unfortunately, DHS considers not only the people behind AZTech, Integra, Wireclass and AndWill as the “bad apples,” but the F-1 students who were associated with them as well. Lest there be any doubt, the DHS documentation makes clear: these OPT sponsors were “shell companies”. These companies produced “fraudulent employment letters for F-1 students on OPT, STEM OPT, and CPT.” They used “virtual offices” and are not “legitimately operating businesses.”  In retrospect, we all know that. But the broad brush which DHS paints the students – as knowing participants in fraud – is alarming. There does not appear to be any gray area. Per DHS, the students did not work for these…

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AZTech, Integra Technologies, Andwill, and Wireclass Update V: Disconcerting Dysfunction – 4 Government Agencies Each Going Own Way Provide Lack of Closure to Victims

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After the ICE press conference in October, it appeared that the US Government was winding down its investigation of AZTech, Integra, Andwill and Wireclass.  It appeared that those associated with The Four companies would be getting resolution one way or another. That conclusion, it turns out, was premature. As you know, there are four US government agencies primarily involved in the administration and enforcement of US immigration laws. They are Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the Department of State through its local embassies and consulates.  ICE are the immigration police; it also is responsible for the administration of the SEVIS and OPT programs.  CBP includes the airport and port-of-entry inspectors who verify the admissibility of individuals to the United States. USCIS adjudicates immigration benefits, including H-1B petitions, I-765 employment authorization applications, changes/extensions of status, and green card applications….

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AZTech, Integra Technologies, Andwill, and Wireclass Update IV – Clarity on the Way?

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Yesterday, ICE announced the arrests of 15 OPT students for claiming “to be employed by companies that don’t exist.”  At its press conference, ICE announced that as a part of its Operation OPTical Illusion, it identified up to 3,300 individuals of interest, and of those individuals, it will seek to deport 1,100.  Of the 1,100, USCIS is in the process of revoking the employment authorizations of 700, with the remainder expected to have the validity periods lapse in the next couple of months.  These employment authorizations were characterized as being “fraudulently” obtained and seem to have been connected with one company. Obviously, this is not good news for the 1,100.  While it is still too early to draw conclusions, it is possible that ICE not only intends to remove these individuals from the United States, but permanently bar them from the United States for engaging in “fraudulent” activity. Apparently, ICE considers…

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The Role of Culture in Visa Denials.

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I recently wrote a blog regarding the OPT scandal advising the victims that “surrender is not an option”, that they needed to be proactive in seeking to resolve the potential drastic consequences.  That thought came to mind again when a gentleman contacted me a few weeks ago about his wife’s visa problem.  She had been denied an immigrant visa and permanently barred from the United States under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The stakes for him could not be much higher: his wife may never be able to join him in the US unless an immigrant waiver would be approved.  Yet in talking to him and reviewing the case documents, it was not clear why she had been accused of making a willful, material misrepresentation.    I told him that the consular officer should be contacted and asked to provide a clarification about why this draconian decision had…

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AZTech, Integra Technologies, Andwill, and Wireclass Update III

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We continue to receive a surge of questions from those who have been adversely impacted by the situation surrounding AZTech, Integra, Andwill, Wireclass, and other questionable OPT-related companies. Interestingly, we have also been contacted by those who have not felt any adverse consequences yet nor are aware of any impact, but potentially may have some exposure because of their OPT past.  What should they do?  Reaching out to a lawyer is a good start. Without stating the obvious, these individuals may already have been impacted; they just don’t know it yet.  In the eyes of the government, their mere association with a suspect OPT organization opens the door for adverse action: visa revocation; denial of a future USCIS H-1B or green card petition; refusal of an employment authorization or change of status or adjustment of status application; the opening of removal proceedings in the US; expedited removal and/or the imposition…

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Green Card Holder Stranded Outside the US Due to COVID-19

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As more and more individuals have found themselves stranded outside the US due to COVID-19, the question for permanent residents is more than mere inconvenience.  A US legal permanent resident is bound by fixed time frames. Specifically, an absence from the US of more than six months consecutively may lead to a presumption of an abandonment of US residence. An absence from the US of more than 1 year may impact the validity of the I-551 green card. In the latter situation, US law provides for a special visa: SB-1 Returning Resident Visa.  The SB-1 process actually involves two steps: at the nearest US consulate, the permanent resident submits 1) a DS-117 application to determine whether he or she meets the SB-1 criteria, and if approved 2) an immigrant visa application to determine whether the individual is admissible to the United States.  For the SB-1 part of the process, the…

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The Fat Lady, Stowaways, and Alien Smugglers

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“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings…”  The opera expression widely used in sports has taken on a whole new relevance in the immigration world.  No longer are government agencies approving applications and deferring to previously-approved applications or adjudications. Rather, they are reopening past applications – from 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago – searching for misrepresentations, inconsistencies, and loose ends to thwart applications for visas, changes to status, and adjustment of status. You are so close to getting that long-desired visa or green card, but the “fat lady” – in these cases, USCIS and the State Department consular posts – doesn’t want the “opera” to end. The boundaries are unlimited. Even relatively obscure provisions of immigration law, such as the “stowaway” provision, are being invoked more and more.  A stowaway is someone who obtains transportation without consent and through concealment.  Anyone who enters the US by a…

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Surrender is Not an Option. AZTech, Integra Technologies, Andwill, and Wireclass Update II

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Thank you for all of your questions related to AZTech, Integra, Andwill, and Wireclass. The dramatic upsurge in questions corresponds to the mass issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID) by USCIS to I-765 STEM extension applicants and H-1B petitioners. The texts of the NOIDs and RFEs are relatively standard. For example, one of the RFEs states: Provide your complete employment history (including start and end dates) and proof of employment for your initial grant of Optional Practical Training (OPT). Evidence of employment may include but is not limited to: Letters for employer(s) establishing jot title(s), duties, location, pay rate, and number of hours worked per week. Copies of your earning statements/pay stubs. Copies of your W-2s. If you worked for an employment agency or consultancy, you must provide      evidence of the jobs you worked on and dates worked. Additionally, if you…

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