|Updated: September 23, 2014
September 23, 2014: Green card lottery application dates announced
The State Department has announced that the DV-2016 ‘green card lottery’ will be open for applications from October 1 to November 3, 2014. Applicants should read the instructions provided and heed the Fraud Warnings on the DOS website, ensuring to check their application’s status online through the DV Entrant Status Check. For some additional information about the DV lottery, you may wish to look at our article Do You Feel Lucky? US Government Now Accepting Applications for the Green Card Lottery.
September 16, 2014: New customs form
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued a new customs declaration form which travellers will be required to present to CBP when they arrive in the US from abroad. While completing the hard-copy form on the airplane or upon arrival is still an option, travellers may now choose to complete the form online before they travel and then present the printed version to CBP when entering the US. The CBP has also expanded the definition of family members, as shown on the form, and clarified the definition of domestic relationships to ensure people travelling together know whether they should file a joint customs declaration for items acquired abroad.
September 9, 2014: Visa options for fiancé(e)s and spouses of US citizens
The Embassy’s Visa Services blog has posted a story about an engaged couple, one a UK citizen and one a US citizen, going through the process of deciding where to get married and which visa to seek. In this context, you may wish to take a look at our website articles for more information: Before You Say ‘I Do’: Options for British-American Couples, I Married an Alien, Get Us Out of Here: Immigrant Visas for Spouses of US Citizens Living in the United Kingdom, Unknown Unknowns: ‘Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Get My Spouse a Green Card?’ and Same-Sex Marriage and Spousal Visas as well as the newest addition, The K-3 Visa: Not Really an Option.
September 2, 2014: New consular fees
As published in the Federal Register, the Department of State has set new consular fees that will come into effect on September 12, 2014 (see DOS press release regarding effective date). While some fees will be reduced, such as the E-2 visa application fee and employment-based immigrant visa fee, others will substantially increase, notably the 422% rise in the renunciation fee from $450 to $2,350. The Embassy’s visa blog offers more information about determining whether you will need to pay the fee increase based on when you pay the application fee and when you go to the appointment.
August 26, 2014: Statistics on nonimmigrant admissions; give CBP feedback on ESTA
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics has released its Annual Flow Report regarding nonimmigrant admissions to the United States in Fiscal Year 2013. The report estimates that there were 173 million nonimmigrant admissions in FY2013. The largest category of admission was temporary visitors for pleasure, including travellers entering on B-2 visas and the Visa Waiver Program, which represented 79% of I-94 admissions. Mexican citizens made up 29.5% of I-94 nonimmigrant admissions, the most of any other country of citizenship, while travellers from the United Kingdom made up the second largest portion at 7.5%.
Representatives from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be in London on Friday, August 29, 2014 and Monday, September 1, 2014. They will host focus groups to collect feedback from UK residents regarding the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website. If you would like to participate, you can find more information on the US Embassy, London’s webpage or CBP’s website.
August 19, 2014: Visa issuance backlog
The US Embassy, London has announced that they are continuing to clear the backlog of visas waiting for issuance caused by the Department of State’s database’s technical difficulties. Our experience with the Embassy confirms the return to normal processing times.
August 12, 2014: Quarterly report of renunciations; visa reissuance program returns
The Internal Revenue Service has published in the Federal Register the names of those persons who renounced either their US citizenship or their long-term lawful permanent resident status during the second quarter of 2014. The list runs to 576; last quarter it was 1001.
Certain holders of J, O and P visas are now eligible for reissuance of their visas without the need for another Embassy interview. For a link to the Embassy’s ‘Visa Reissuance Wizard,’ click here.
August 5, 2014: Visa issuance difficulties subside; new information for people of extraordinary ability
The Department of State is making headway in its attempts to clear the backlog of visa applications that arose due to an IT difficulty. The London Embassy has announced that normal processing has been resumed in most of its cases.
Today we have updated our article How to Prove You’re an Alien of Extraordinary Ability with summaries of the most recent available Administrative Appeals Office decisions, up through June 2014. We invite you to review them for the light they may shed on evolving standards in this area.
July 29, 2014: Visa issuance delays; Embassy webchat
On July 23, The Washington Post reported that problems with the Department of State’s database used to approve, record and print visas are causing major delays and backlogs in consular posts. The US Embassy in London acknowledges the technical problems, announcing that the visa status check online will not be updated until the issues have been resolved. The Department of State assures the public they are working to resolve the issues as soon as possible.
The Embassy will hold another webchat tomorrow, Wednesday, July 30, on the subject of nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.
July 22, 2014: Nothing to report
Last week was an unusual quiet period in the turbulent field of US immigration law, with no developments of general application. Please check back with us next week, when history suggests that there will once again be news to report.
July 15, 2014: US visa validity
The Foreign Affairs Manual was amended on July 9 to show that the validity of visas should be limited to the validity of the applicant’s medical examination reports. This is consistent with the immigrant visa issuance policies that have been in place at the US Embassy in London for the past year. More information about the medical procedure for immigrant visa applications in London can be found in the Embassy’s instructional leaflet.
July 8, 2014: H-1B visa applications; enhanced security for flights to US
Beneficiaries of approved H-1B petitions with an October 1, 2014 start-date may now begin filing their visa applications at US consular posts. However, successful applicants should remember that they cannot use the visa to enter the United States until ten days prior to the beginning of the approved status period, as per the visa’s annotation.
The Transportation Security Administration announced on July 6 that certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States will be required to implement enhanced security measures. Officers may now ask travelers to power up their electronic devices for inspection, and powerless devices will not be permitted onboard. Remember to pack your chargers!
July 1, 2014: Visa issuance policy; cautions update
The Congressional Research Service has produced a new paper on US visa issuance policy. The 22-page report discusses not only the process of pre-issuance security checks and the bases for visa denial, but also the respective roles of the Departments of State and of Homeland Security. It is well worth a read.
Further to our previous Weekly Update postings regarding the London Embassy’s treatment of police cautions: Although the Embassy has not released any statement as to the new policy it has been developing over the past year, some contours of that policy are slowly becoming clearer. It now appears that the more recent the caution, the more likely it is to be treated as an admission of the underlying offense—and an admission has the same effect for US visa purposes as a conviction. However, older cautions, from 2007 and before, may in the context of a visa application still benefit from the more lenient treatment as the equivalent of an arrest.
June 24, 2014: LPR statistics for FY2013; Embassy webchat; possible reasons for expatriations
The Department of Homeland Security has published a statistical overview of the 990,553 people who became US Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) in fiscal year 2013. Sixty-six percent of the new LPRs were sponsored by family members; typically, 40% of new LPRs are immediate relatives of US citizens. In FY2013 there were 12,984 new UK-born LPRs, 1.3% of the total.
The US Embassy in London will host a webchat tomorrow, June 25, from midday to 1:00pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.
An article in the Wall Street Journal of June 16, 2014 highlights the growing number of people who give up their US citizenship or lawful permanent residence. It suggests that their decision to expatriate is often due to the increasingly rigorous reporting requirements (of both income and savings) imposed on US citizens and LPRs who live abroad.
June 17, 2014: Tips for new immigrants
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a help sheet for new immigrants as to how to find their A number and DOS case number (‘LND number’ if processing took place in London). These tips are particularly useful when paying the $165 immigrant visa fee online with the USCIS’ Electronic Immigration System (ELIS).
June 10, 2014: Naturalisation statistics for 2013; US immigrant visa processing; Automated Passport Control
The Department of Homeland Security has published a statistical summary regarding the people who naturalised to become US citizens in 2013. Mexico was the leading country of birth of persons naturalising in 2013 (13%), followed by India (6.4%), the Philippines (5.6%), the Dominican Republic (5.1%) and the People’s Republic of China (4.5%), while the United Kingdom did not appear on the list of the top 20.
A helpful diagram has been prepared by the Department of State to help people understand the general steps of the immigrant visa process, whether the immigrant visa petition is based on US employment or a US citizen relative. However, immigrant visa petitions being filed with the USCIS at the Embassy in London should continue to follow the separate instructions provided on the Embassy’s website.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun to allow US citizens, lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens and eligible Visa Waiver Program travellers to enter the US through an automated process at some airports. Automated Passport Control (APC) will expedite the entry process by allowing travellers to use self-service kiosks to submit their customs declaration form and biographic information. CBP’s website contains further information about APC, including a list of participating ports of entry.
June 3, 2014: Nothing to report
As we have no news from the US immigration world to report, ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on June 10. Please check back with us then.
May 27, 2014: Embassy webchat
The US Embassy in London will host a webchat tomorrow, May 28, from midday to 1:00pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.
May 20, 2014: J-1 visa information
The Embassy has released a video for people thinking of applying for a J-1 visa to take part in one of the many Exchange Visitor Programs in the US. It gives helpful information about the J-1 visa procedure specifically, but also shows what it is like inside the Embassy for all nonimmigrant visa applicants.
May 13, 2014: Work for some H-4 spouses; new form for Diversity Visa applicants
The Department of Homeland Security has published a proposed rule to allow some H-4 spouses to obtain employment authorization (‘work permits’) in the United States. The scope is quite limited as the rule would apply only to spouses of H-1B holders who are in the end stages of becoming lawful permanent residents. The change has been proposed with the stated hope that it ‘would lessen any potential economic burden to the H-1B principal and H-4 dependent spouse during the transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status, furthering the goals of attracting and retaining high-skilled foreign workers.’
Applicants who have been selected in the FY2015 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ will be required to complete and submit online Form DS-260. This will replace the requirement of filing hard-copy Forms DS-230 and DSP-122 with the Kentucky Consular Center as all the information from those forms has been integrated into the new version of the DS-260, available for access from May 19, 2014. Please see the Department of State’s instructions on the immigrant visa application process.
May 6, 2014: 2014’s first quarter expatriates; I-94 arrival/departure history; new website article
The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status. Those individuals numbered 1,001 for the quarter ended March 31, 2014: the second highest number of expatriates per quarter since 2007, behind only 2013’s second quarter which had a total of 1,130.
On May 1, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) updated its webpage for retrieving I-94 arrival/departure records. Now visitors to the US can access a history of their arrival/departure dates and points of entry/exit (if known) going back five years from the request date. As well as being a helpful resource to visa applicants completing the details of their five most recent US trips on their DS-160 visa application forms, travellers may no longer need to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to receive their arrival/departure history.
April 29, 2014: Statistical view of US immigration
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics has released its 2012 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. The 124-page Yearbook provides a wealth of data on foreign nationals who during the US Government’s Fiscal Year 2012 were granted lawful permanent residence, were admitted into the United States on a temporary basis, applied for asylum or refugee status, or were naturalized. Among the interesting facts: During FY2012 (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) a total of 12,014 persons born in the UK became lawful permanent residents, representing just 1.2% of the worldwide total of 1,031,631. Of the 12,014 British-born new lawful permanent residents 6,148 were the immediate relatives (spouse, parents or minor children) of US citizens, while employment-based petitions accounted for another 5,175 new British-born permanent residents. The top five countries of birth for permanent residents in FY2012 were Mexico (146,406); China (81,784); India (66,434); Philippines (57,327); and the Dominican Republic (41,566).
April 22, 2014: Pause in the service
Your correspondent is travelling. Please check back on Tuesday, April 29, for the next Weekly Update.
April 15, 2014: FY2015 H-1B cap filled and lottery performed
On April 7, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that since filing began on April 1 it had received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2015. In fact, USCIS received about 172,500 H-1B petitions, including those filed for the advanced degree exemption. As a result, the Service performed a lottery on April 10, 2014 to randomly select petitions for adjudication. It will no longer accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY2015 cap or those filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption, but it will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. The cap-subject petitions that were not randomly selected will be rejected and returned to the petitioner.
In commemoration of today’s US tax return filing deadline we offer a YouTube clip of the 1942 song ‘”I Paid My Income Tax Today.” Written by Irving Berlin (who donated the copyright to the US Department of Treasury) and sung by cowboy singer Gene Autry, it celebrates a citizen’s delight in helping to fund his government.
April 8, 2014: New website article; USCIS e-requests; press coverage on US immigration problems
We have added a new article, Four Basic Facts About US Visas, to our website. It deals with some general issues about US visas, such as where you can apply for a visa, how many times you can travel to the US on a visa, and the meaning of visa expiry dates. We invite you to revisit our Articles page shortly for the second instalment in this two-part series designed to explain some practical fundamentals of this surprisingly complex area of the law.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has expanded its e-request system to accept queries about USCIS-issued cards, documents or notices you believe to have gone missing in the post. Please check the e-request website for more information on what queries may now be submitted to the USCIS online.
Last week, our attorney Susan McFadden was quoted by The Times, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and other UK media outlets regarding Nigella Lawson’s apparent US immigration difficulties.
April 1, 2014: H-1B filing season; Chile joins VWP; Embassy’s advice on requiring a visa to travel
From today through April 7, the USCIS will be accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2015 cap. If, as expected, more petitions are filed during the first week than can be accommodated under the annual quota of approximately 65,000, a lottery will be conducted among the petitions received to determine which petitions will be adjudicated. (The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.) Last year, the USCIS received approximately 124,000 cap-subject petitions during the first week of filing.
Chile officially became a member of the Visa Waiver Program yesterday, March 31, 2014, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement published in the Federal Register. Holders of Chilean passports and an ESTA authorization can now travel to the US for business and pleasure purposes without a visa. This announcement supersedes the DHS’s February statement that Chile would join the VWP in May.
The Embassy has posted via Twitter a new infographic to assist people in determining whether they need a visa to travel to the United States. According to the chart, an arrest, caution or conviction for any offense renders a person ineligible for travel on the Visa Waiver Program. Our website article Travelling to the US Without a Visa briefly discusses this debatable point.
March 25, 2014: J-1 visa problems; Embassy webchat
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights organization, has published a report about the exploitation of J-1 visa holders and the need to reform the cultural exchange program. It discusses shortfalls of the J-1 program, including the lack of enforceable regulations for participants’ pay or working hours, employers’ use of the program as a source of cheap labor, and even vulnerabilities potentially facilitating human trafficking. J-1 visa holders should review the pamphlet prepared by the US Department of State governing the rights and protections of workers in the US. The pamphlet also includes details of organizations which can be contacted in cases of exploitation.
The US Embassy in London is hosting a webchat tomorrow, March 26, from midday to 1:00pm on the subject of non-immigrant visas. It appears that questions about immigrant visas will also be welcome.
March 18, 2014: Online FOIA request
The Department of Homeland Security has released a new online form for submission of requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or Privacy Act. The new system will provide requesters with an estimated date of completion of the DHS response. For additional information regarding records available under FOIA, see the DHS web pages on that topic.
March 11, 2014: Report on nonimmigrant overstays; firm news
The Congressional Research Service has published a report about people who enter the United States on nonimmigrant visas and overstay their authorized period of admission. While the report estimates that each year hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals overstay their nonimmigrant visas or enter the country illegally (with fraudulent documents or bypassing immigration inspections), it also points out that accurate statistics are unavailable due to lack of effective or consistent record keeping.
We are happy to announce that the experienced US immigration lawyer Katherine Chow has joined Gudeon & McFadden after years of practice in New York City. Kathleen Kavanagh remains with the firm in an advisory ‘Of Counsel’ capacity.
March 4, 2014: Chile to join Visa Waiver Program; updated poverty guidelines; Edward Gudeon Memorial RDC Service Award
On May 1, 2014 Chile will become the 38th member of the Visa Waiver Program. As of that date eligible holders of Chilean passports and an ESTA authorization will be able to travel to the US without a visa. To read the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement, click here.
The Department of State has updated the Foreign Affairs Manual to show the new poverty guidelines applicable to all I-864 Affidavits of Support filed on or after March 1, 2014. For additional information about the affidavit of support process please see our website articles A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support and I-864 Affidavits of Support: The Problem of ‘Domicile’.
The Rome District Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association has just named its annual service award in memory of our late co-founder, Edward Gudeon. The Chapter states that this is “in recognition of the late Edward Gudeon’s many years of AILA membership and immigration practice in London, his commitment to the development and sharing of consular processing expertise and his tireless efforts over his many decades in practice to improve working relationships between attorneys and consular officers.” It is a fitting tribute to an excellent lawyer and human being.
February 25, 2014: New policy on cautions
Although a formal statement has yet to be released, it appears that the US government has completed reviewing its policy on UK cautions and has decided that cautions received for crimes involving moral turpitude or drugs-related offences will be treated as convictions for US immigration purposes. If this decision is finalised, visa applicants with such cautions would require a waiver of ineligibility, even if previous visa applications had been approved without a waiver. Waivers of ineligibility are currently taking 18 to 20 weeks from the day of visa application and consular officer’s recommendation. Please see our articles A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude! What in the World is That? and Washington, We Have a Problem! Ineligibilities and Waivers for additional information. We will report further updates on this matter when available.
February 18, 2014: US citizenship policies regarding ART
The Department of State has released a new informational sheet about children born abroad to US citizens using donor eggs, donor sperm or a surrogate mother. This includes one major change from previous policy: if a US-citizen mother gives birth to a child and is the legal mother in the country where the birth took place, her US citizenship will be transmitted to the child, even if Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) was involved.
February 11, 2014: Mobile phones allowed in Embassy; possible reason for I-130 delays; 2013’s fourth quarter expatriates
Yesterday, the US Embassy, London confirmed via twitter that mobile phones are now allowed in the consular section. However, large electronics such as laptops continue to be prohibited. An updated list of prohibited items can be found here on the Embassy’s website.
The New York Times published an article on February 8, 2014 regarding the slowdown of the USCIS’s processing of I-130 petitions for alien relatives. The article suggests that resources once put into the adjudication of I-130s are now going to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (‘DACA’), President Obama’s program to give deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants. Our recent experience with filing I-130s with the USCIS in the United States (rather than the USCIS field office at the US Embassy in London) shows wait times of almost 10 months, so regardless of the reason for these long delays, US citizens petitioning for their non-US citizen family members should plan accordingly.
The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status. Those individuals numbered 631 for the quarter ended December 31, 2013.
February 4, 2014: USCIS policy manual update; transcript of Embassy webchat
The USCIS has updated its policy manual to include a new section about US citizenship and naturalization.
The US Embassy, London has released a transcript of the webchat it hosted last week on the subject of immigrant and non-immigrant visas. The consular officers indicated that the US government is still in the process of appraising its policy regarding UK cautions. Applicants with cautions should continue to expect delays in visa processing, regardless of the type of visa or whether the applicant has previously been approved for a visa.
January 28, 2014: Immigrant visa statistics; Embassy webchat
The Annual Report from the Visa Office of the US Department of State makes for interesting reading. For example, during FY2013 the Embassy in London issued a total of 4,172 immigrant visas, less than 0.9% of the worldwide total. Of the worldwide total of persons who became lawful permanent residents in FY2013 through either adjustment of status or entry on an immigrant visa (but not including spouses, minor children, or parents of US citizens) persons chargeable to the UK numbered 6,513—just 1.7%.
The US Embassy in London is hosting a webchat tomorrow, January 29, from midday to 1:00pm on the subject of visas—immigrant and non-immigrant.
January 21, 2014: Nothing to report
As we have no news from the US immigration world to report, ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on January 28. Please check back with us then.
January 14, 2014: Same-sex marriages in Utah recognized by federal government
On January 10, 2014, the US Department of Justice announced that those same-sex couples who married during the brief period in Utah when such marriages were allowed are considered validly married under federal law and therefore eligible for all relevant federal benefits (such as immigration).
January 7, 2014: EB-5 green card programme threatened; US Senator to renounce Canadian citizenship
A memorandum from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an investigative arm of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, outlines concerns that the EB-5 regional center programme may have been used by Iranian would-be terrorists to infiltrate the United States. HSI recommends that the regional center programme be eliminated as ‘there are no safeguards that can be put in place that will ensure the integrity’ of that programme.
US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has stated that he will be renouncing his Canadian citizenship. Although he was born in Canada he claims never to have realised that he might be a citizen of that country.
December 17, 2013: Festive season Update
Your correspondent is celebrating the festive season. “Weekly Update” will resume on the first Tuesday in January. Please check back with us then.
December 10, 2013: Festive season hours
Our office will be closed from December 25 through January 1, inclusive. Whilst the office is closed we will continue to answer urgent client e-mails, and other requests will be dealt with as soon as reasonably possible. We wish our readers a happy and healthy festive season.
December 3, 2013: Transcript from Embassy webchat
The US Embassy, London has released a transcript of its latest webchat which took place on November 26, 2013. Some points will be contentious, such as the statement that “[a]ny individual convicted of an alcohol or drug related driving offense is not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) - they must apply for the appropriate visa to enter the United States. Failing to do so could result in denial of entry at the border and a permanent ineligibility for misrepresentation.” For further information about these situations, please see our articles Washington, We Have a Problem! Ineligibilities and Waivers, A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude! What in the World is That? and Drink Driving and the US Embassy, London.
The consular officers also indicated that the US government is appraising its policy regarding UK cautions, so applicants with cautions should expect delays in visa processing: “Currently U.S. Government policy is under review regarding criminal cautions in the United Kingdom. Applicants having a caution may experience lengthy delays during the application process. Apply as soon as possible and don't make final travel plans unless you have received a visa. These delays will affect applicants who may have already received a visa in the past after disclosing the caution.”
November 26, 2013: Embassy webchat; I-130 processing times
The US Embassy in London is hosting a webchat today from midday to 1:00pm about nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.
On November 20, 2013, the USCIS updated the processing times on its website. There has been a tremendous slow-down in the processing of I-130 immigrant petitions for US citizens’ foreign relatives, and the processing time for spousal petitions is in excess of six months. In contrast, some US citizens eligible to file their I-130’s with a USCIS field office abroad, such as the office at the US Embassy in London, are enjoying processing times of under one month. For further information on filing in London specifically, please see our article I Married an Alien, Get Us Out of Here: Immigrant Visas for Spouses of US Citizens Living in the United Kingdom.
November 20, 2013: Third quarter expatriates
The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status. Those individuals numbered 560 for the quarter ended September 30, 2013, less than half the number who expatriated during the previous quarter.
November 12, 2013: Honoring US veterans
The US Embassy, London joined President Obama in remembering and paying tribute to America’s servicemen and -women on Veterans Day. According to the Census Bureau, there are 23.2 million veterans in the United States today.
November 5, 2013: DV-2015 now closed; updated article
The application period for the FY2015 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ is now closed. From May 1, 2014, applicants will be able to check the status of their entries by returning to www.dvlottery.state.gov.
We have revised our article Unknown Unknowns: ‘Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Get My Spouse a Green Card?’ We hope that you will find it helpful.
October 29, 2013: Online form replaces DS-2001 for immigrant visa applicants
The Immigrant Visa Unit has updated their online instructions for applying for an immigrant visa at the US Embassy in London. Formerly, applicants were required to file the paper Form DS-2001 to notify the Unit that they had collected all the necessary documents and were ready for their appointments to be scheduled. Now, in order for the Immigrant Visa Unit to schedule an appointment, applicants must complete the online Notification of Applicant Readiness Form to show that they have submitted the immigrant visa application Form DS-260, scheduled the medical examination and are in possession of all the documents required on the day of the interview.
October 22, 2013: Federal government back in business; Embassy webchat scheduled
After agreement was reached on a continuing budget resolution to fund the US Government until January 15, 2014 all federal offices are now back to normal functioning. The USCIS has announced that the Government shutdown will be treated as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ for purposes of forgiving untimely filing of H-1B, H-2A and H-2B petitions.
The Embassy will be holding another webchat this Thursday, October 24 from noon to 1pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.
October 15, 2013: No news during US government shutdown
As the US government shutdown continues, the US Embassy in London continues to conduct scheduled interviews and issue visas.
October 8, 2013: Embassy services during US government shutdown; updated courier information
Although the US government shutdown continues, services and operations at the US Embassy in London are still running as usual. The Embassy has issued a statement on the effects of the shutdown.
The visa appointment scheduling website has updated their list of courier ‘hubs’ located throughout the UK which are used for sending documents to and collecting documents from the Embassy in London and the Consulate General in Belfast. Helpfully, telephone numbers and opening hours are now indicated for each hub.
October 1, 2013: Embassy open during US government shutdown; new articles
The US government has shut down today as it was unable to finalize the budget, but the US Embassy in London has announced that any government shutdown will not affect Embassy operations or services.
We have added new articles: Same-Sex Marriage and Spousal Visas and our recurring article about the Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery,’ Do You Feel Lucky? US Government Now Accepting Applications for the Green Card Lottery. We hope that you will find them helpful.
September 24, 2013: Green card lottery application dates announced; Embassy webchat
The State Department has announced that the DV-2015 ‘green card lottery’ will be open for applications from October 1 to November 4, 2013. The web page bears an announcement that same-sex couples and their children are now eligible to take part. Click here to go to the Department of State’s Diversity Visa Program Instructions page for further information and application instructions. Applicants should heed the Fraud Warnings on the DOS website and be aware that the DOS no longer contacts ‘selectees’ by post (and has never used email for these purposes).
This Thursday, September 26, the Embassy will host another webchat regarding immigrant and non-immigrant visas. It is scheduled to take place from noon to 1:00pm.
September 17, 2013: A pause in the service
Your correspondent is travelling. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on September 24th; please check back with us then.
September 10, 2013: Spread of the DS-260
From September 1, 2013, immigrant visa applicants filing with the US Embassy, London (and other posts around the world) must complete the new online DS-260 application form, replacing the paper forms DS-230 Parts 1 and 2.
September 3, 2013: New electronic forms for immigrant visa processing
Beginning today, the Department of State is transitioning to an online immigrant visa application. Immigrant visa applicants who are applying through the National Visa Center in the US will now need to apply online at ceac.state.gov using Form DS-260 (Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration) and Form DS-261 (Choice of Address and Agent). These forms replace the paper Forms DS-230 and DS-3032. Additional information about use of the Form DS-260 can be found on the Department of State’s website.
August 27, 2013: Nothing to report
As we have no news from the US immigration world to report, ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on September 3. Please check back with us then.
August 20, 2013: Opening times for Embassy’s courier hubs; visa reissuance program suspended
Under the Embassy’s new appointment scheduling and courier system, introduced July 26, 2013, visa applicants may send documents to and collect them from the consular section via 27 hubs around the UK. We have been informed by DX Secure that these hubs are open Monday through Friday, 8am to 6pm, with the exception of the Belfast hub which is additionally open on Saturdays.
The visa reissuance program, which allowed some visa applicants to obtain new visas without an Embassy interview, has been suspended. All applicants must now schedule an appointment and attend a consular interview in person. There has been no indication when the visa reissuance program will resume.
August 13, 2013: Global Entry into the US expanded to Brits; both sides of the US citizenship coin
The US Customs and Border Protection reports that its Global Entry programme, an automated entry system which allows travellers to skip immigration queues at designated ports of entry in the US and check themselves in at a kiosk, is being expanded to include additional nationalities—including UK citizens. CBP began accepting these applications on August 9, 2013. It is currently limited to certain high-frequency travellers, but CBP says that ‘in the near future’ it intends to make it available to all Brits meeting Global Entry requirements.
The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status. Those individuals numbered 1,130 for the quarter ended June 30, 2013. According to a recent article in the Financial Times those US citizens living in the UK who have not renounced their citizenship are being served by a rapidly-multiplying number of wealth managers specialising in expatriate US citizens in the post-FATCA world.
August 6, 2013: More guidance about visa issuance to same-sex partners
On August 2 Secretary of State John Kerry announced, to a gathering at the US Embassy in London, that when same-sex spouses apply for visas, the Department of State will consider those applications in the same manner that it will consider the applications of opposite-sex spouses. He also made it clear that UK civil unions do not constitute ‘marriage’ for US visa and immigration purposes.
The Department has released to the public a cable sent to all US visa-issuing posts, giving additional guidance on the subject.
July 30, 2013: New visa appointment booking system for London; guidance from the USCIS re same sex marriages
The new procedure for booking appointments at the US Embassy, London went live on Friday, July 26. To book appointments and pay application fees applicants may either call the Embassy’s Call Center or use the Embassy’s new online service at http://usvisa-info.com. Additional information is available in the Embassy’s Visa Services blog. Please note one error: The blog states that the fee for delivery of a passport to a particular address (rather than to one of the courier’s 31 UK ‘hubs’) is £30. The fee is actually US$30.
A new FAQ from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services on the subject of same-sex marriages makes it clear that they will be recognized as marriages for a full panoply of immigration benefits, including K-1 fiancé(e) petitions and waivers of inadmissibility. Same-sex spouses need not wait for new USCIS regulations before applying for these benefits.
July 23, 2013: Welcome to the Prince of Cambridge
We join the President and Mrs. Obama and the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim from the US Embassy London in celebrating the birth of the newest addition to the Royal Family.
July 16, 2013: New online appointment-scheduling system at the US Embassy, London
As of July 26, 2013, in order to schedule nonimmigrant visa appointments and pay MRV application fees, applicants may either call the Embassy’s Call Center or use the Embassy’s new online service at http://usvisa-info.com. Applicants requiring appointments for August and beyond must wait until the new appointment-booking service goes live on July 26. Additional information is available from the Embassy’s Information Service web page.
July 9, 2013: Visa appointments at the US Embassy, London; webchat
The US Embassy in London is currently scheduling visa appointments through July 26 only. There is no indication when later appointments will be released.
The Embassy will host another webchat to discuss nonimmigrant and immigrant visas on Thursday, July 11 from 12 noon to 1pm.
July 3, 2013: Same-sex spouses as immigrant visa sponsors
Yesterday, the Secretary of Homeland Security released a statement in response to the Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision invalidating part of the Defense of Marriage Act. She said, “[E]ffective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.” The statement also mentioned that as a general rule USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage was performed when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes.
June 25, 2013: The passing of Edward Gudeon
We sadly announce the unexpected and sudden death on 23 June of our friend and former partner, Edward Gudeon. He was 73.
A graduate of Bucknell University and Fordham Law School, Edward practiced as a criminal defense attorney in New York for over a decade before moving to London. In 1978 he set up London’s first law firm concentrating solely on US immigration and nationality law. He was actively engaged in that practice until his retirement in 2009, and enjoyed the highest level of esteem and respect from all who dealt with him. He took a great deal of pleasure in his too-brief retirement which afforded him the opportunity to spend more time with his family in both the US and UK and to continue his life-long hobby of photography.
Edward is survived by his wife Geri, two daughters, two stepchildren, five grandchildren and one step-grandchild.
June 18, 2013: Tips for filing an E-1/E-2 registration; passport control mistake
The E Visa Team at the US Embassy, London has identified five major avoidable mistakes and unhelpful practices which cause delays to their review of your company’s E-1/E-2 registration.
Most countries have quite stringent security and passport checks at airports these days, but sometimes things don’t go exactly to plan. This article shows how a nine-year-old schoolgirl was allowed to enter Turkey using a passport that identified her as a pink unicorn.
June 11, 2013: New use for USCIS online system; will foreigners no longer be ‘aliens’?
The USCIS has announced that immigrant visa holders must now use its ‘Electronic Immigration System’ (ELIS) portal to pay the mandatory $165 fee for issuance of their green cards. The system is also used by some nonimmigrant visa holders to e-file applications to extend or change their status.
Many of our clients find it amusing that the US Government refers to them as ‘aliens.’ However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals—the appellate court with jurisdiction over federal trial courts in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee—has opined that the term is ‘offensive and demeaning.’ It urges Congress to eliminate it from the statute books. Flores v USCIS, (6th Cir. June 4, 2013).
June 4, 2013: Preparing for summer travel to the US
The Transportation Security Administration, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has produced a Summer Travel Checklist of advice for travellers during the summer holidays. Travellers from the UK may wish to also consult a recent article in the Independent newspaper: ‘Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever.’
May 28, 2013: A pause in the service
Your correspondent is travelling. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on June 3rd; please check back with us then.
May 21, 2013: Wait times for Embassy appointments; USCIS Field Office information
If you need a visa to travel to the US, keep in mind the wait for a visa appointment before you book your summer holiday! Yesterday the US Embassy, London tweeted that it has a 24-day wait for B-1/B-2 visitor visa appointments and an 18-day wait for F or J visa appointments.
USCIS Field Offices have new web pages which include helpful information such as how to schedule appointments and how often they hold naturalisation ceremonies.
May 14, 2013: List of renunciants published; immigration statistics
On May 8, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service published its latest quarterly list of people who have recently given up their US citizenship or long-term permanent residence.
The Congressional Budget Office has released statistics and graphs on immigration-related topics, analysing trends in immigration and policy proposals.
May 7, 2013: Facebook chats with a Visa Officer; more visa statistics; immigration issues for same-sex spouses of US citizens
The Department of State’s Visa Office has announced that it will host a live Facebook chat on a hot topic on the first Friday of every month. Questions of a general nature, not pertaining to an individual case, may be submitted in advance.
The Visa Office has also released its 2012 Report, which includes many statistics on the nonimmigrant and immigrant visas issued by the Department during Fiscal Year 2012.
A recent Financial Times article addresses the continuing visa plight of same-sex spouses of US citizens, including the implications for big business. One senator is proposing an amendment to the pending immigration bill to provide visas for Americans’ foreign same-sex spouses.
April 30, 2013: Instructions for retrieving automated I-94 details; new procedures for applying for a Social Security card
US Customs and Border Protection has released a video to show travellers to the US how to retrieve their I-94 details online. The automation of the form will begin at select ports of entry today.
The computerization of Form I-94 is also stimulating an update to the Social Security Administration procedures manual. Eligible entrants to the US will be able to apply immediately for a Social Security card, rather than having to wait 10 days after entry, as has previously been the case.
April 23, 2013: Phasing out the I-94; Embassy webchat
The Customs and Border Protection has released more information about the automation of the I-94 Arrival/Departure cards, including a schedule of when the paper form will be phased out at different ports of entry, beginning April 30. Under the new process for entry, the CBP officer will stamp the travel document with an admission stamp showing the date of admission, class of admission, and the date until which the traveller is admitted. Travellers will also receive on arrival a flier alerting them that they can find their admission record information at www.CBP.gov/I94. That website will not go live until the end of April.
The US Embassy, London will host another webchat to discuss nonimmigrant and immigrant visas on Thursday, April 25 from 12pm to 1pm.
April 16, 2013: H-1B petitions; statistics on new US citizens and lawful permanent residents
The USCIS has not yet announced which H-1B petitions, out of the approximately 124,000 received between April 1 and 5, have ‘won the lottery’ and will be adjudicated.
The Department of Homeland Security has released new statistical reports regarding the people who became US citizens and lawful permanent residents during fiscal year 2012.
April 9, 2013: H-1B cap already reached for FY2014
On April 5, 2013, the USCIS announced that they had received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2014, only four days after the beginning of the filing period. Because the USCIS received between April 1 and April 5 what they believe to be enough petitions to fill both the regular and US advanced degree quotas, the Service performed a lottery on April 7, 2013 to randomly select petitions for adjudication. They will no longer accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY2014 cap or those filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption, but they will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. This is the first year since FY2009 that the cap has been reached in the first week of filing.
April 2, 2013: I-94 automated from April 26; immigration policy trends reported
Further to last week’s update, the CBP has published their interim final rule on transitioning the I-94 from paper to electronic format, effective April 26.
The Congressional Research Service has released a lengthy report, called a “chart book,” about current trends in US immigration policy, including increased border security and immigration enforcement, improved employment eligibility verification, revision of legal immigration and options to address the millions of unauthorized aliens residing in the country.
March 26, 2013: CBP to discontinue the I-94; Embassy webchat scheduled
On March 21, US Customs and Border Protection announced that it has submitted to the Federal Register a rule that will automate Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Currently, international visitors entering the US on a nonimmigrant visa must complete an I-94 and retain it in their passport as evidence of their lawful admittance to the US. The new rule will automate the I-94 information so that visitors will no longer need to complete and keep track of the hard-copy form. The CBP expects this to streamline procedures and reduce costs by up to $15.5 million per year.
The US Embassy, London will hold another webchat on the topic of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas this Thursday, March 28, between noon and 1 pm.
March 19, 2013: H-1B lottery likely
The USCIS has announced that it believes it will receive during the first week of filing (April 1 to 5) more than enough H-1B petitions to satisfy the entire FY2014 quota. If this is in fact the case, the agency will conduct a lottery among those petitions received during that week, to determine which petitions will be adjudicated. This lottery procedure was last used in April 2008. In order to deal with the avalanche of expected filings, those petitions that are accepted for adjudication and which request Premium Processing Service will for purposes of the 15-day guarantee be deemed to have been filed on April 15.
March 12, 2013: Embassy Twitter chat scheduled; Telegraph article about renouncing US citizenship
The Embassy will be hosting a Twitter chat about visas this Wednesday, March 14, from noon to 1pm. Tweet your question, using the hashtag #USVisas, and get an answer from a consular officer.
Our attorney Susan McFadden was quoted in a Daily Telegraph article discussing the increase in the number of Americans renouncing their US citizenship and the reasons for that increase.
March 5, 2013: Research on US citizens living abroad; no green cards for same-sex partners
A bill was introduced on February 8, 2013 in the US Congress that would require the establishment of a ‘Commission on Americans Living Abroad,’ to study how federal laws affect US citizens living outside the US. Among the topics that would be studied would be the impact of ‘FATCA’ (the ‘Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act’) on the ability of US citizens to get bank accounts abroad.
And on the subject of US citizens living abroad: A recent article in the New York Times featured a gay American who was forced to move to London in order to be with his British same-sex partner. US immigration treatment of same-sex partners was contrasted unfavourably with the straightforward approach under British law.
February 26, 2013: List of renunciants published; Embassy webchat scheduled
On February 14, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service published its latest quarterly list of people who have recently renounced US citizenship.
The US Embassy, London will hold a webchat on the topic of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas this Thursday, February 28, between noon and 1 pm.
February 19, 2013: Affidavits of support; a delay is a ‘denial’
The Department of State has updated the Foreign Affairs Manual to show the new poverty guidelines applicable to all I-864 Affidavits of Support filed on or after March 1, 2013. For additional information about the affidavit of support process please see our website articles A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support and I-864 Affidavits of Support: The Problem of ‘Domicile’ .
Further new guidance from the Department makes it clear, once again, that when a consular officer asks an applicant for additional information under Immigration and Nationality Act section 221(g) before adjudicating the visa application, the applicant must report this as a visa denial for ESTA purposes.
February 12, 2013: US Embassy to hold ‘Twitter chat’ regarding visas
The US Embassy in London will be holding a Twitter chat tomorrow, February 13, between noon and 1 pm. The consular officer will take questions on the subject of visas; the hash tag is #USVisas.
February 5, 2013: New poverty guidelines for I-864; DOS advises on waits for visa interviews and processing
The Department of Health and Human Services has issued its new poverty guidelines. These will become effective for I-864 ‘Affidavit of Support’ purposes on March 1.
The Department of State has created a new web page for persons applying for non-immigrant (temporary) visas. It allows the applicant to compare the waiting times for visa interviews and for the post-interview return of the passport experienced by applicants at all US visa-issuing posts.
January 29, 2013: US immigration law reform? I-130 processing speeds up; Tina Turner to expatriate
A bipartisan group of eight US Senators has announced a legislative proposal to reform the immigration system. It would provide a route to legal status for millions of undocumented foreigners currently in the US, increase the number of H-1B visas available each year, and grant permanent residence automatically to persons who earn advanced degrees at US universities in science, maths or technology.
Processing times for I-130 immigrant petitions filed with the USCIS in London continue to fall. As of January 24 the USCIS Field Office in London was processing I-130s filed on January 10.
Tina Turner has become the latest high-profile American to plan the relinquishment of her US citizenship. According to an article in a Swiss German-language newspaper she has been accepted by the local council and now awaits only formal approval from the canton and federal governments.
January 22, 2013: Inaugural address raises hopes for immigration reform
In his second inaugural address, given yesterday, President Obama raised hopes that immigration reform may be part of the legislative agenda for the coming two-year Congressional term. ‘Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.’ For the annotated text and a video of the address, plus analysis by the reporters of the New York Times, click here.
January 15, 2013: Visa application status checks; Homeland Security and Twitter
The Department of State now offers a website where applicants can check on the status of pending visa applications, whether immigrant or non-immigrant.
Susan McFadden was interviewed on a Channel 4 documentary broadcast on January 8; ‘Don’t Blame Facebook’ dealt with the dangers of careless postings in cyberspace. Susan spoke about the case of two young Britons refused entry to the US in 2012 because one had Tweeted that he was going to ‘destroy America.’
January 8, 2013: New fee for immigrant visa holders; provisional waivers for some IV applicants with ‘unlawful presence’ bars
Beginning on February 1 the Department of Homeland Security will begin charging immigrant visa holders a processing fee of US$165 for issuing them the Form I-551 ‘green card.’ The fee will be payable online after the applicants receive their immigrant visas but before they use them to enter the United States. DHS will not issue the green cards until the fees are paid.
The DHS will be putting into effect on March 4 a new procedure that will allow some family-based immigrant visa applicants to apply from within the United States for a provisional waiver of the 3- or 10-year bar due to unlawful presence. The new final rule was published in the Federal Register on January 3. Under current practice applicants cannot apply for a waiver of the bar until they have departed the US and had their immigrant visa interview in the foreign country. This often has the result, admits the DHS in its executive summary of the new rule, that applicants are separated from their US-resident families for over a year whilst awaiting a decision on the waiver application.