FAQ on New Birth Tourism Rules

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The Trump Administration announced new rules regarding birth tourism, which took effect on January 24, 2020.  Already, misinformation has cropped up. So to provide some clarity, the below FAQ is provided: Whom do the new rules affect? They only affect applicants for B visitor visas; they do not impact current holders of visas nor citizens of  Visa Waiver Program countries who can enter the US without a visa. May current holders of visas and those who hold passports from Visa Waiver Program countries enter the United States to give birth? The Department of Homeland Security, which include Customs and Border Protection inspectors at ports-of-entry, has not announced any new policies or reinterpretations of allowing entry for those who enter to give birth.  In the past inspectors permitted women to enter the US to give birth as long as they could show the ability to cover the cost of birth.  However,…

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A Green Card Holder and Absent from the US for more than 180 days? Beware.

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One of the biggest misconceptions about immigration law is that a green card is the same as citizenship  –only without a passport or the ability to vote. But what many permanent residents do not realize is that they can be deported.  The reasons are many: not only for a conviction of a serious or drug-related crime, but also for abandoning their residency in the United States or becoming a “public charge”.  The question of deportability can come up when applying for naturalization, or after an absence of more than 180 days from the United States. Imagine a situation where a green card holder who uses public benefits in the US  leaves to visit his home country.  During his visit, his father gets sick and he needs to stay to help take care of his father.   After a 7 month absence from the US, he returns.  Upon his arrival at the…

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Department of State Releases 2019 Visa Refusal Statistics – and They Ain’t Pretty

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Visa refusals continue to skyrocket under the Trump Administration – and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the applicants are from countries considered “friends” or “foes” of the United States.  While the refusal rates for some countries, such as Vietnam, Philippines and Pakistan, have remained relatively stable, other countries have seen a significant jump.  Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and China have each seen increases of more than 25% over the past two years, with India and Mexico not far behind.  Below are the visa refusal statistics for B visas for fiscal years 2017-2019. Country % of B Visa Applicants Refused in FY-2017 % of B Visa Applicants Refused in FY-2018 % of B Visa Applicants Refused in FY-2019 % Increase from FY-2017 to FY-2019 Brazil 12.34 12.73 18.48 49.75 China 14.57 17 18.22 25.05 India 23.29 26.07 27.75 19.14 Mexico 22.5 24.93 26.66 18.48 Nigeria 44.95 57.47 67.20 49.49…

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Innocent Visa Applicants Applying for Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Waivers

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With the dramatic upsurge in consular decisions to permanently bar visa applicants from the United States, the question of applying for an immigrant or nonimmigrant waiver has become more and more acute.  Many immigration lawyers will advise to just accept the decision, admit that you were wrong, say you are sorry, and apply for the waiver. They say that your chances of receiving the waiver will be increased if you admit your guilt and express remorse, even if you did not do anything wrong. But what if you are not “guilty”?  What if you did not commit a material misrepresentation (Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i))? Or engage in alien smuggling (Section 212(a)(6)(E))? Or commit a crime of moral turpitude (Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I))?  Should you admit you were wrong? Of course not. There are legal mechanisms to challenge such lifechanging decisions, such as a Request for Reconsideration.  Sometimes, the supervisor of the consular officer or…

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221(g), a Consular Wall, and Unavailable Documents

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You have been denied under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and despaired because the consular officer demanded a document that is unavailable or unobtainable. Although rare, this does happen – perhaps a birth certificate was lost and the archives in a city burned down in a fire, or the birth certificate lists the wrong information.  This is what happened to a recent client – whose son was stranded outside the United States for more than two years while he attempted to resolve consular demands to have a  local court amend the birth certificate of his son to reflect him as the father. There is hope in such situations.  US immigration law anticipates such problems. If a visa applicant can show that there is “actual hardship” in trying to procure the document, not just “normal delay and inconvenience”, then the consular officer is empowered to waive the document…

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Challenging Visa Denials and Revocations after an Interpol Red Notice or a Kangaroo Court Conviction

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Interpol conjures up images of a worldwide police tracking down “bad guys” on the run from home country authorities.  But Interpol is not a law enforcement agency: it does not issue warrants and does not have the authority to make arrests.  While the overwhelming majority of Interpol’s information-sharing capacity is dedicated to tracking down true “bad guys”, many home country governments abuse it. They manipulate Interpol into doing their dirty work, making bogus allegations to locate dissidents, political activists, and whistleblowers. As a result, Interpol issues Red Notices based on bare allegations made by a government – for example, fraud – not evidence, with a view to extraditing that person back to that country. Yet consular, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials erroneously use the Red Notice as shorthand to deny visas, detain individuals at the border, and arrest them inside the United States. It is…

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The Value of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

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One critical tool in challenging errant visa decisions of consular officers is through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  While the FOIA process with the Department of State is extremely limited in visa cases, sometimes consular officers rely on inaccurate information contained in US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) files or improperly make visa decisions based on materials contained in those files. In such cases, FOIA requests can be extremely helpful. Lawyers can assist in three aspects of Freedom of Information Act requests: 1) properly formulating and lodging requests; 2) filing lawsuits when FOIA processing is delayed; and 3) assisting in appeals of government responses to FOIA requests.  The proper formulation of a request can mean the difference between a process that can take 3 months or 12 or more…

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Visa Myth #981 – “If I get a 2nd Passport, My US Visa Problems will be Solved.”

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This myth has been going around for years – no doubt perpetuated by representatives of 2nd passport programs.  A national of Country X has US visa problems – because of a criminal incident 20 years ago making him inadmissible to the US.  He decides to obtain a passport from a European Union country by making a very substantial investment.  Because he has been told that nationals of his new country are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) – a program that allows for travel as a tourist or business visitor to the US for up to 90 days without a visa, with no visa interview required – he is under the impression that he should qualify too.  Until he reads the fine print – or consults with a US immigration lawyer. Before boarding a flight to the US without a visa, citizens of VWP countries pre-register with the US…

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Just Because They Say So, Doesn’t Make It True

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 I received a frantic call from a client recently at her naturalization interview.  She was being advised by the interviewing officer that her application was going to be denied because she did not meet the residency requirements.  In the run-up to the interview, the client and I had reviewed all of the relevant legal issues, including the physical presence and continuous residence requirements, and I assured her that she met the requirements for naturalization.  The officer was kind enough to speak with me over the phone, but remained unpersuaded from her position that the residency requirements were not met. The client left the USCIS office and went home extremely upset, notwithstanding my attempts to calm her down and assurances that we were in the right and would be able to challenge any adverse decision. And then, two hours after the interview, something strange happened: I received an e-mail notification from…

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Zombies and Petition Revocations

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What do zombies and petition revocations have in common?  Just when you thought they have died a permanent death – never to be seen again or heard from again – they come back to life, sometimes with devastating consequences. This came to mind when a former client, Alex, contacted me about his Diversity Visa case.  He won the Green Card Lottery, but when he went to the Embassy for his interview, he was told that his application would be put on hold until questions about his 1998 L-1 petition were resolved.  I  had represented him back in 1998, after the Embassy sent his L-1 petition back to INS because of a “fraudulent office address” and his inability to describe his subordinates at his L-1 visa interview.  We were able to resolve the fraudulent office address accusation at that time – the Embassy’s investigator had gone to the wrong (!) address…

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The Culture of No and 214(b) Student Visa Denials

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The Department of State does not publish separate statistics for student visa denials, but judging by the number of phone calls we have been recently receiving from rejected students on Section 214(b) grounds, it appears that the Culture of No has adversely impacted potential students as well.  In particular, consular attention – and denials – has been riveted to certain categories of students, including:  1) those older than the age of 25; 2) those planning to attend community college in the US; 3) those from economically distressed or provincial areas of the home country; 4) “eternal” students; 5) those with planned majors at the US university deemed to be of less practical value; 6)  those with significant gaps in their work history; 7) those who previously dropped out of school; and 8) financial sponsors who are not immediate relatives. Consuls have very little time to conduct a student visa interview,…

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Stunning Newly-Released Department of State Statistics Show Increases in Public Charge, Misrepresentation, Alien Smuggling, 214(b) Denials

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The statistics stun – even the most callous observer.  In just two years, the number of individuals denied immigrant visas under the public charge section of the law (Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) has increased more than 12 times!  Alien smuggling (Section 212(a)(6)(E)) findings doubled for immigrant visa applicants over the past year.  Misrepresentation (Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)) decisions for these applicants increased by more than 25%.  214(b) denials for those applying for nonimmigrant visas – more than 2.7 million – also edged upwards. The Department of State’s statistics table lists more than 50 visa ineligibility grounds. But one is hard pressed to remember such a radical increase in denials for a single ineligibility as with the public charge provision over the past two years. Incredibly, this massive increase is not a result of any changes in or amendments to the law itself. This would take congressional action. Rather,…

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Cheap is Expensive. How Paying for a Visa Consultation Can Save You from a Visa Denial.

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Every day, we receive e-mails such as these: “Hello, I was denied a Returning Resident Visa. Can you help?” “Good day. I have traveled to the US 10 times over the past 5 years and never had a problem. When I tried to board the plane to the US last week, I was told that my visa was revoked. Can you assist?” “Last summer I was barred from entering the US for five years. What are my options?” Not to be macabre, but imagine that you were diagnosed with cancer, and on the Internet, you look up the names of some cancer doctors, and you sent them e-mails, asking whether they can help you? What would the doctor respond? Similarly, when it comes to US visas, the only way to truly assess a case is by having a detailed discussion – about your personal circumstances, about what was indicated in…

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In the Dark as to Why the Consular Officer Permanently Barred You from the United States for a Material Misrepresentation, Alien Smuggling or a Crime of Moral Turpitude? There is Hope.

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Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense. When a potential client contacts us regarding a decision by a consular officer, we try to understand, first of all, why was the decision made?  What caused the consular officer to make the decision he or she did?  Often, we can understand the position of the consular officer; while we may not always agree with that position and in fact challenge the position, we at least can identify the problem. But sometimes, we are confounded.  Take for example the situation of J. J contacted us after he had been turned around at the border by Customs and Border Protection. The CBP protocol memorializing J’s request to enter the US was clear: it said that J needed a different type of visa. He had previously been a student in the US, and he needed to obtain a visitor visa in order to return to the US…

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