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Category Archives: Immigration

December 1, 2021

It’s normal to be excited and nervous about your US visa application.

Today is the day you have been waiting for!

You just received the email notification of your appointment date and time for a US Embassy interview.

Now you are really nervous!

Whether you are planning to come to the US for school, or to get married, or to work, or any other reasons – none of this will happen without a successful US Embassy interview.

This may be one of the most important interviews you ever have.

While you can expect to be at the Embassy or Consulate for approximately two to three hours, the interview with the consulate officer is over in minutes.

The best thing you can do is be prepared. Know what they will ask and why.

Below are tips and information on how to have a successful US Embassy interview.

Be On Time

In some countries, it is customary to arrive a few minutes or even a half-hour late. This is not the culture at US embassies. 

 

You won’t be allowed in more than 30 minutes before your appointment. But if you are late, you risk the embassy canceling your appointment. Make sure you leave time for traffic and parking. Be on time.

Be Organized

You are bringing lots of documents. Have them neatly organized and be ready to show them to the staff quickly. Fumbling around and searching for documents makes you look more nervous than expected. Prepare ahead and make this simple.

Be Confident and Know the Process

Know the visa interview process is in two steps so you can be prepared.

 

Step One: The interview staff collects your documents and puts the information into their system. They will also take your fingerprint with an electronic scan. Note, the embassy will not process your application if you have a cut on your fingers or thumbs, and they will ask you to reschedule.

 

Step Two: A consular officer will interview you under oath. You have spent months getting ready, but this interview will last only a few minutes.

 

Out of hundreds of questions they might ask you, typically, they ask only about seven to ten questions. (See below on how to be ready for these questions)

Bring Proof of Completed Medical Exam

Before your interview, you must have a medical exam with an authorized physician in the country where you will be interviewed. The embassy must approve your doctor, or your exam will not be accepted.

 

And you must complete your medical exam and the required vaccinations before the interview. 

 

After your exam, your doctor will either send the results straight to the embassy or give them to you in a sealed envelope. Do not open the envelopeBring the sealed envelope and hand it to the consular officer.

Bring ALL Required Documents

Make sure to bring ALL required documents, in original or certified copy form, or your application might be delayed.

 

Every applicant is unique, and your required documents vary depending on your situation. 

 

But here are some documents you must bring:

 

Appointment Letter: This is the letter sent to you with the time and date of your interview appointment.

 

Passport: You and each visa applicant must bring an unexpired passport. It must be valid for six months beyond your intended date of entry into the US.

 

Photos: Each applicant must bring two identical color photos. You can see the requirement here,  Photograph Requirements.

 

DS-260 Confirmation:  You should have already filled out Form DS-260 online. The form is sent to you by the National Visa Center (NVC) before your appointment is scheduled. Bring the confirmation page to the interview. 

 

Supporting Documents: You must bring original or certified copies of all civil documents you uploaded into the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).

The embassy staff will return any originals to you but might keep the copies you gave them.

 

English Translations: Some documents might have required an English translation. If you did not send the translated documents to NVC, you must bring them to the interview. 

 

Visa Fees: If you haven’t already paid all your fees to the NVC, you must bring the necessary fees to the US Embassy or Consulate at the time of the interview

 

The Interview with the Consular Office – What Should You Do?

Typically, the entire interview will be over in less than five minutes. The consular officer is there to help you, but they are extremely busy and have a backlog of applicants to interview. Here are the tips to help them as they are trying to help you.

 

At the beginning of the interview, the consular officer will tell you that they base your interview on answers on your form  DS-260. They will inform you that you must take an oath and swear the information is true. And they will explain the penalty for providing false information or false documents to the US Government.

 

This usually makes everyone nervous, but just realize the consular officer tells this to every applicant, and it is just part of the interview. Don’t be anxious about it.

 

Consular officers are trained to “make every effort to conduct visa interviews fairly and professionally.”

 

Here’s what to do:

 

Be Concise: Answer all the questions honestly, openly, and briefly. If they want more information, they will ask for it.

 

Be Confident and Relaxed: You can be confident because you are organized and prepared. When you are relaxed and open, you are perceived as being more honest.

 

Speak for Yourself:  For example, if you are a student, do not bring your parents. If you are getting a fiancé visa, you typically don’t bring your intended spouse. 

 

Either way, the consular officer wants to interview you, not your family or others.

 

You will create a negative impression if you let other people speak for you. 

 

Speaking English: Expect the interview to be in English and not in your native language. The more comfortable you are in  English, the less stressful this will be for you. Practicing your English with a native English speaker is always helpful. If you are coming to study English as a second language, your interview will probably be in your native language. Other than that, practice your English before the interview.

 

Be Truthful – Always: If the consular officer asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, just tell them you don’t know. That is the correct answer. Do not make up an answer, do not lie, and do not exaggerate.

 

Know The Answers: If you think about the type of visa you are applying for, you can pretty much guess the questions they will ask you. (If you need help, contact our office on how to prepare for the questions)

 

For example, if you are applying for a student visa, they might ask the following:

 

Do you plan to return to your home country after completing your studies? They are trying to make sure you understand the terms of the visa and are not planning on overstaying after graduation. Your answer should include the strong reasons you want to go back after your studies, like family, a partner, or a business. Explain what you plan to do when you return home after graduation. 

 

Do you plan on working while in school? The terms of an F1 visa allow you to work up to 20 hours per week while in school (and full time on campus during holidays and vacations if you are registering for the next semester). You might say to plan to focus on your studies but might work some on campus if possible.

 

Or as another example, for a financée visa, they want to make sure it is a legitimate relationship and might ask obvious relationship questions like: 

  • What are your fiancé’s hobbies & interests?
  • What make/model/color is your fiancé’s car?
  • What are your fiancé’s parents’ names?
  • Will there be a problem with the children from his other relationship?
  • Where do you plan to live in the United States?
  • When and how did you meet your fiancé’?
  • How long have you been corresponding with your fiancé’?
  • What is your fiancé’s religious background?

If You Need to Reschedule

If for any reason you cannot make the interview or need to reschedule be sure to contact the embassy and reschedule with them. Here is the list of US Embassies and Consulates where you can find specific instructions.

 

ImmiVisa and the US Embassy Interview Preparation

 

Having a successful US Embassy interview begins with doing all the paperwork, documentation, and submissions correctly.

 

And then, when you get your appointment date and time, preparing is easy.

 

At ImmiVisa taking care of US visa applications and immigration issues is what we do.

 

It is ALL we do.

 

Our specialized team of immigration lawyers can help you find the easiest, least stressful, and least expensive best steps for a successful visa application and interview.

 

We keep up to date with all aspects of visa law and procedures, including US Embassy visa interviews.

 

Whether you just want the most current visa interview information or have any questions about getting a US visa – call us and let us help you with your next best steps.

November 11, 2021

For the past 18 months, travel to the US has been difficult for many and impossible for others.

If you tried to plan a trip, applied for a visa, or wanted to travel to the US during that period, you know the frustration and uncertainty that COVID-19 caused in the US and worldwide.

Harsh US travel restrictions banned travelers to the US from 33 countries, namely 26 European nations (known as the Schengen countries) and the UK, Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, and South Africa. Another 150 countries were not placed under the travel ban.

 

Even with a valid visa, if you were from one of the banned countries, you could not visit friends or family in the US unless you were included in the exemption categories of the ban:

  • US citizens
  • lawful permanent residents;
  • spouses and minor children of US citizens or lawful permanent residents;
  • parents or legal guardians of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident unmarried minor child;
  • siblings of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident child, provided both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Diplomats;
  • Fiancé(e)s of US citizens and their dependents (K visas);
  • Certain Students (F and M visas);
  • Essential visitors, and other categories

As a citizen of a banned country, traveling to the US for the past 18 months was all but impossible.

 

Travel Ban Lifted  – November 8, 2021

But, on November 8, 2021, the US lifted restrictions on international travelers coming to the US from the banned 33 countries.

But if you are a non-US citizen traveling to the US, you must be fully vaccinated – and prove it.

And if you are traveling by air, you must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, along with proof of your vaccination.

If you are traveling by land from Canada or Mexico, you still need to be fully vaccinated but do not need to produce a  negative COVID-19  test.

 

CDC Says Fully Vaccinated with an Accepted Vaccine

As of November 8, 2021, if you are traveling to the US, here are the COVID-19 requirements you must follow according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Before boarding a flight to the US from a foreign country, all passengers two years of age and over must

  • Have proof of being fully vaccinated from an approved vaccine, and
  • Have proof of a negative COVID-19 test done within 72 hours before departure

Fully Vaccinated

You can find the requirements for fully vaccinated here, but generally, you are considered fully vaccinated

  • 2 weeks after your dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine, or
  • 2 weeks after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose vaccine,
  • 2 weeks after your second dose of a 2-dose mix and match combination of accepted vaccines.

Acceptable Vaccines

The single-dose J&J (Janssen) vaccine and the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines are acceptable vaccines to the CDC. Also accepted are some vaccines listed under the World Health Organization Emergency Use protocol, including:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • BIBP/Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

Notably missing is Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine (WHO authorization is still pending), limiting the entry of many travelers from Russia and those from Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East who used this vaccine.

Exceptions

Some groups are exempted from the new vaccine requirements, including

  • Minors under 18 years of age
  • Documented medical conditions with vaccine contra-indication
  • Diplomats, and
  • Other categories

American Embassies Visa Processing Not Back to Normal

Even though the travel ban has been lifted as of November 8, thousands of European non-immigrant visa holders are stuck in a visa processing slow down.

In the first six months of President Biden’s administration (2020), the number of visas issued to French and German citizens was half the amount issued the year earlier.

Issuance to Italian citizens was down about 60% for the same period.

For all of Europe, the number of non-immigrant US visas issued in 2020 was one-half of the amount issued in 2019. Some of the declines may be a drop in visa applications. But, likely, many of the applications are simply stuck in processing limbo.

Over the past year, American embassies in Europe simply canceled or postponed visa appointments. There were long delays in getting a new visa or even just renewing a visa.

And while the embassy processing is getting better, it is not back to normal at all.

 

How  Long Does it Take to Get an Embassy Appointment

 

If you want to view the current Visa Appointment Wait Times from the US Department of State, just click here.

Some appointments can be made in a few days or weeks. But for many European countries, some appointments are either weeks or months. And some are being offered on an emergency-only basis.

You will be able to spot an “emergency only “appointment when your State Department website search returns the answer of “999 days.”

 

What Should I Do About Getting a Visa Now

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, things are getting better.

But because of COVID-19, traveling to the US or getting a US visa is a bit more complicated than before.

And it is hard for you to keep up with the changing COVID-19 requirements, accepted vaccines, US Embassy appointment wait times, and more.

Let us make this easy for you.

At ImmiVisa taking care of US visa applications and immigration issues is what we do.

It is ALL we do.

Our specialized team of immigration lawyers can help you find the easiest, least stressful, and least expensive best steps.

We keep up to date with anything that affects immigration or visas,  including COVID-19 issues and requirements.

Whether you just want the most current information or have a question about getting a US visa – call us and let us help you with your next best steps.

July 2, 2021

I often field the question “how can I get work authorization in the United States without a job offer?” For many, the solution is to apply for a family-based immigrant visa through a spouse, parent, or child who is a resident or citizen. But for those who do not fall in this category (or are unwilling to sign up for the latest dating app to change that), there are a few options available for self-petitioning independent of any employer or relative.

Here is a list of the three most common visas available for aspiring applicants to apply standalone, without any family member or employer as a petition.

EB-1A Extraordinary Ability Green Card
The EB-1A is a self-petitioned immigrant visa for individuals with “extraordinary ability” in science, business, athletics, arts, and education who can show that they are at the “very top of their field of endeavor”. For additional information regarding the qualifications required for the EB-1A visa, please visit the USCIS Webpage for “Employment-Based Immigration: First Preference EB-1” or contact our office for a consultation.

While it is difficult to quantify what a person of “extraordinary ability” looks like, we have had success with a vast array of applicants from a variety of backgrounds and industries, including the following:

A musician who wrote music for popular YouTube artists
A mixed-martial artist trainer who trained several prominent UFC and Bellator Fighters
An aerospace engineer who worked for major aerospace companies, possessed proprietary patents in the industry, and had published books related to aerospace
A model who had won a major international modeling competition and had worked as a brand ambassador for various corporations
A corporate attorney who worked for some of Europe’s largest law firms and was renowned as a world subject-matter expert

One of the benefits of the EB-1A is the availability of premium processing, where an applicant can pay an additional fee of $2,500 and USCIS will adjudicate the application (e.g., either approval or issuance of a request for evidence) within 15 days. For these reasons, I generally recommend anyone who is eligible for EB-1A to pursue this option over other employment-based visas.

EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW)
The EB-2 NIW is a self-petitioned immigrant visa for foreign nationals who either (1) are professionals holding an advanced degree or its equivalent, or (2) have exceptional ability in the fields of sciences, arts, or business. Similar to the EB-1A, the EB-2 NIW provides a much faster process for applying for a green card without a petitioning employer. The EB-2 NIW excuses a foreign national from having to obtain a labor certification (e.g., generally a prerequisite process for filing an employment-based immigrant petition for a green card that is lengthy and expensive) filed by a petitioning employer.

If you have an advanced degree (i.e., baccalaureate or foreign evaluation plus five years of post-baccalaureate, progressive work experience, master’s degree, doctoral degree, etc.), or have sufficient evidence that you possess “exceptional” ability in science, art, or business (evidenced by providing certain evidence listed at the USCIS Website for Employed-Based Immigration: Second Preference EB-2) you should consider applying for a national interest waiver.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this application is in determining whether an applicant’s “proposed endeavor”, the foreign national’s plan to continue work in the United States, possesses substantial merit and national importance to the United States. While it is difficult to say for certain what a qualifying endeavor looks like, we have had success with a vast array of applicants from a variety of backgrounds and industries, including the following:

A pharmacist who wanted to work with the United States Military
A physician whose endeavor was focused on conducting vaccination research for diseases afflicting livestock
An electric engineer whose endeavor was dedicated to improving transportation safety of railroads
A petrol-chemical engineer who wanted to conduct proprietary research related to environmentally friendly oil extraction methods.

Again, as long as you can demonstrate that you are qualified and that your endeavor is in the national interest of the United States, it is worth determining if an EB-2 NIW is right for you. Please contact our office should for questions regarding your eligibility for a national interest waiver.

E-2 Treaty Investor
The third most common “standalone” visa that our office works with is the E-2 visa. E-2 classification allows foreign nationals from certain treaty countries (qualifying countries are listed at the U.S. Department of State Website) to come to the United States for the purposes of investing and directing a bona fide business in the United States.

To qualify, an applicant must demonstrate that they have invested a “substantial amount” of capital in a U.S. business and demonstrate that they own at least 50-percent ownership in the investment enterprise.

The question I often encounter is, what exactly counts as a “substantial amount of capital”? The law does provide some additional guidance to help answer this question. USCIS policy guidance states that substantial capital may be found where the amount of capital invested is enough to ensure that the investor can successfully operate the enterprise. Generally, the lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher, proportionally, the investment must be to be considered substantial.

As a benchmark for the inquisitive, we have experience with numerous E-2 visas through a number of various businesses, including in the following industries:

Real Estate “Fix and Flips”
Hospitality Management
Retail Stores
Telecommunication Operations
Brick-and-Mortar Restaurants
Food Trucks

What Should YOU do?

I list only three of the most common visa types I encounter for applicants who are still looking to immigrate to the United States or otherwise gain work authorization without a sponsoring employer, job offer, or relative. There are other visas, including the E-1 Treaty Trader nonimmigrant visa and the EB-5 Immigrant Investor immigration visa, that I did not discuss in this article that are also available as visa applications independent of a petitioning employer. For more information regarding what visa or application is best for you, please reach out to our office today.