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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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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AZTech, Integra Technologies, Wireclass and Andwill Update

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Thank you for your phone calls. After speaking with so many of you, it has become obvious that those who were associated with AZTech, Integra Technologies, Wireclass and Andwill did so with legitimate intentions and the goal of full compliance with the OPT requirements.  While the common thread binding most of you is a visa revocation, there are several categories of individuals who have been impacted, including: 1)      those in the US who are beneficiaries of a pending H-1B petition and USCIS has issued a Request for Evidence (“RFE”) or Notice of Intent to Deny (“NOID”) related to their prior OPT experience and/or visa revocation; 2)      those in the US who are applying for STEM OPT extensions and USCIS has issued a RFE or NOID related to their prior OPT experience and/or visa revocation; 3)      those who attempted to enter the US with a visa and Customs and Border Protection…

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A Visa Applicant’s Bill of Rights – What the Department of State and Your Local US Embassy/Consulate Often Do Not Want You to Know

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For visa applicants, the cards seem to be stacked against you.  Among the hurdles a visa applicant must face: The law places the burden on the visa applicant to prove eligibility for the visa and that he or she is not inadmissible to the United States. There are inadequate consular resources; at busy posts, consular officers can only allot a few minutes to a visa adjudication. There is no formal administrative appeals process of a visa denial (no Administrative Appeals Office, Board of Immigration Appeals, Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals). With limited exception, there is no judicial review of visa decisions because of the  doctrine of consular reviewability. There is limited public accountability: no Department of State (DOS) Visa Ombudsman, no formal Complaint Procedure, and no formal recusal process. Section 428 of the Homeland Security Act grants the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a vital role in the visa…

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Visa Myth #975 – “But They Gave Me 6 Months to Stay in the US!”

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At least a couple of times a month I get a similar, frantic phone call. “I just applied for a new visa, but it was denied. The consul didn’t like the fact that I spent 5 months in the US on my last trip.  I told him that the airport inspector allowed me to stay for 6 months. I didn’t do anything wrong!”  Or “My visa has been revoked. But I didn’t do anything wrong.  When I arrived in the US, they gave me 6 months to stay, so I did. I didn’t violate any laws, so why are they revoking my visa?!?” The revocation is done by either the consul or the airport inspector the next time the visa holder arrives in the US. There are many “red flags” here considered by the consul or airport inspector: The visa holder must remember that when he applies for a visa…

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FAQ on New Public Charge Rules – Part 2: Trouble ahead for Older Immigrants, Diversity Lottery Winners, and Immigrants without Job Offers, English Skills, or University Education

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On February 22, we published Part 1 of this FAQ. Since then, the Department of State, including all embassies and consular posts outside the United States, implemented the new rules. What practical changes have gone into effect? It is still too early to know exactly what each embassy and consulate will require from immigrant visa applicants.  However, in the few weeks since the rules went into effect, it appears that embassies and consulates processing immigrant visas are requiring 1) the completion and submission of the Form DS-5540 and 2) asset and income documents confirming the information in the Form.   The new Form DS-5540 asks about the immigrant visa applicant’s 1) age: 2) health; 3) household size; 4) assets; 5) current and future income; 6) liabilities; 7) past usage of public benefits in the US, if any; 8) education; and 9) trade/vocational skills. Documents confirming assets, such as real estate appraisals…

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Diversity Lottery Refusals

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We have just posted an in-depth article on this site about the various types of Diversity Lottery refusals – and how to prevent or challenge them.  At least 30,000 individuals go through Diversity Visa interviews every year – and don’t receive the visas.  Putting aside the approximately $10,000,000 in processing fees pocketed by the Department of State from unsuccessful applicants every year and millions more spent by these applicants in medical exams, travel, etc…, the article spotlights the veritable minefield of potential reasons for refusal.  One would think that the Lottery aspect of the Diversity Visa Program only applies to the selection – competing to be one of the less than 1% selected. But what many winners find is that even after selection the “Lottery” elements of luck and chance continue right up until September 30: until the visa is issued or denied or the application is not acted upon…

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Department of State Announcement on the Suspension of Routine Visa Services

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Suspension of Routine Visa Services Last Updated: March 20, 2020   In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time. Services to U.S. citizens continue to be available. More information is available on each Embassy’s website. This does not affect the Visa Waiver Program. See https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/faq?focusedTopic=Schengen%20Travel%20Proclamation for more information. Although all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments are cancelled, the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee is valid and may be used for a visa appointment in the country…

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E-2 Visa Denials

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One usually does not associate the US Government Accountability Office with “interesting” reports, but last year’s report on E-2 visas was eye-opening.  Of particular note are the reasons why E-2 applicants are denied.  While the report is limited to examining certain countries, it provides critical insight into the thinking of consular officers and obstacles to obtaining E-2 visas. As a reminder E-2 visas are limited to nationals of countries with whom the United States has commerce and navigation treaties. The full list of countries can be found on the Department of State’s website, with 80% of all E-2 applicants originating from 9 countries: Japan, Germany, UK, France, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Italy, and Spain. The majority of E-2 visa applicants are related to large investments (>$10 million) – think of managers and essential employees going from Japan to work in a large car plant in the United States.  However, the…

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No Statute of Limitations in Visa Law – A Distressing New Phenomenon with Tragic Consequences

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Statutes of limitation apply in criminal law. They were put into place to prevent the prosecution of an alleged wrongdoing after a certain number of years has gone by (usually 5-7 years). There are many reasons for this: evidence goes stale; witnesses are unavailable; memories fade; to allow for certainty and repose of the parties; and to prevent inconsistent decisions.  But there is no statute of limitations in visa/immigration law. With some exceptions, until recently, this has not been a significant problem.  But along with the anti-immigrant politics of the Trump Administration has come a new visa phenomenon: consular officers are now using the lack of a statute of limitations to “exhume” perceived past visa transgressions.  They are re-opening and reconsidering suspected visa violations – with no limitation of time or past consular “exoneration”.  Consular officers are now revisiting such transgressions from 5, 10, or even 15 years ago –…

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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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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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