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B1/B2 visas (for business-‐related and tourist travel), although post does not have a ... How many days can a VWP traveller remain in the US, in aggregate in.
THE LAW OFFICES OF RICHARD S. GOLDSTEIN London Office: 28 Grosvenor Street London W1K 4QR Tel: 020 7399 2530 Fax: 020 7399 2531

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Plaza 57, 145 West 57th Street 8th Fl. New York NY 10019 Tel: 212 957 0500 Fax: 212 957 2020




MARK O’CONNOR – Chief of Visa Services, American Embassy, Paris ROBERT BRENNAN – Chief Non-Immigrant Visa Unit, American Embassy, Paris GARY SCHUMANN – Consular Officer, American Embassy, Paris

MODERATOR: RICHARD S. GOLDSTEIN, Senior Partner, Law Offices of Richard Goldstein (New York & London) & Vice-Chair of AmCham Legal Affairs Committee

(The contents of this report were prepared by Richard Goldstein. Both Consular managers who were present (Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Brennan) have reviewed the notes and made comments and suggestions that were subsequently incorporated, and both managers have indicated that the notes now appear to fairly and accurately reflect the presentation and main points of discussion).

U.S.  Business  Visa  Adjudications  for  the  French  Business   Community   Introduction:   No   visa   rules   relate   only   to   French   nationals.   Paris   follows   the   same   basic   policies   and   visa   adjudication  procedures  as  elsewhere.    The  rules  are  complex  and  procedures  occasionally  change.   Best  to  keep  updated  by  regular  reference  to  the  Embassy’s  website  (   Business  visas:   “Lots   of   letters”,   sometimes   described   as   an   “alphabet   soup”.   Paris   Embassy   adjudicates   approximately   67,000   non-­‐immigrant   visas   per   year.     Of   those,   approximately   a   third   are   petition-­‐ based   and   work-­‐related   visas   (including   investor   visas).     Roughly   another   third   are   dual-­‐purpose   B1/B2   visas   (for   business-­‐related   and   tourist   travel),   although   post   does   not   have   a   mechanism   to   distinguish   between   these   bundled   categories,   since   over   the   10-­‐year   validity   of   a   B1/B2   visa   the   purpose   of   travel     often   varies   between   the   two.     And   nearly   a   third   of   Paris   adjudications   deal   primarily  with  students  and  exchange  visitors.    This  is  just  an  approximate  breakdown  of  the  major   categories  handled  by  post,  which  actually  adjudicates  nearly  60  different  types  of  visa  each  year.                

2     Visa  Waiver  Program  (VWP):   Important  because  it  means  that  applicants  who  do  not  require  visas  to  work  in  the  US  but  wish  to   travel  there  on  holiday  or  business  trips  can  travel  on  the  VWP.    Approximately  1.3  million  French   nationals   entered   the   US   last   year   under   the   VWP,   or   about   95%   of   all   French   travellers.   The   law   governing  the  adjudication  of  visas  for  the  remaining  5%  was  established  by  the  US  Congress  in  the   Immigration   and   Nationality   Act   (INA).   The   Department   of   Homeland   Security   (DHS),     principally   USCIS   and   CBP   (including   its   Electronic   System   for   Travel   Authorization/ESTA   program,   which   is   required   for   VWP   travel)   regulates   immigration   and   VWP   travel,   while   the   Department   of   State   administers  the  US  visa  system.   VWP   is   an   authorisation   to   travel   for   either   non-­‐work   business   trips   or   tourism   for   up   to   90   days.     There   are   a   number   of   conditions   for   qualification,   reflecting   bilateral   reciprocity   and   other   requirements.   Currently   nationals   from   36   countries,   including   France,   are   able   to   use   the   VWP.     Applicant  passports  must  have  prescribed  security  features  (spelled  out  on  the  Embassy  and  other   USG   websites)   and   VWP   travellers   must   arrive   in   the   US   by   registered   public   carriers,   including   airlines   and   cruise   ships.     Very   small   percentage   of   VWP   nationals   DON’T   qualify   for   VWP   travel   (typically  those  without  passports  that  have  qualifying  security  features;  entering  by  yacht  or  private   plane;  or  answering  “yes”  to  any  ESTA  questions—which  are  the  same  questions  on  the  traditional  I-­‐ 94  customs/immigration  cards).   What  can  you  legally  do  in  the  US  when  you  enter  under  the  VWP?         You   can   conduct   business,   buy   and   sell   products,   negotiate   contracts,   have   business   meetings,   go   to   conferences/seminars,  conduct  independent  research,  including  market  research,  and  take  steps  to   invest   in   a   business.   However,   you   cannot   work   or   study   under   the   VWP.     People   can   run   into   trouble  if  they  work  or  study  after  entering  on  the  VWP,  and  this  will  often  lead  to  cancellation  of   the  privilege  of  using  the  VWP  in  the  future  –  and  may  create  credibility  issues  that  could  make  it   more  difficult  for  them  to  qualify  for  a  visa.       To  date  more  than  20  million  people  have  travelled  to  the  US  with  ESTA  approval.    ESTA  refusal  rates   are  under  1%.    To  enter  on  the  VWP,  nationals  of  eligible  countries  should  go  directly  to  the  website     (or  through  the  ESTA  link  in  the  CBP  website  or   the   State   Department's   website   and   enter   the   information   required   for   ESTA   preliminary   registration   and   approval.       US   embassies   in   VWP   countries   also   have   links   to   the   official  ESTA   program   on   their   home   page.     (Note   that   official   USG   web   addresses   always   end   in   ".gov";  to  avoid  extra  charges  and  scams,  beware  of  parasite  private  websites  ending  in  any  extender   other  than  ".gov".)   What  about  the  case  of  a  business  man  who  uses  VWP  to  fly  to  the  US  3-­‐4  times  every  month  all  year   long,   for   2-­‐3   days   each   time?     How   many   days   can   a   VWP   traveller   remain   in   the   US,   in   aggregate   in   a  year?    How  many  trips  can  a  traveller  make  under  the  VWP?       There  is  no  fixed  rule.    Decision  made  by  CBP  officials,  who  will  tend  to  look  at  the  context  of  the   travel  patterns  by  the  individual  and  any  factors  which  indicate  that  the  individual   might  be  abusing   the  VWP.    If  applicants  are  just  using  the  VWP  to  essentially  live  in  the  US  and  are  only  leaving  briefly   when   they   have   to   in   order   to   reset   the   three-­‐month   VWP   clock,   the   immigration   officer   will   look   at  

3     that  carefully  and  determine  whether  further  VWP  admission  is  appropriate.    Context  is  important   and   may   depend   on   the   guidance   issued   to   the   supervisors   at   Ports   of   Entry.   Common   sense   is   important.  The  usual  way  an  applicant  finds  out  that  they  are  spending  too  much  time  in  the  US  on   the   VWP   is   when   the   immigration   officer   warns   the   individual   on   entry.   When   in   doubt,   travellers   who  expect  to  spend  considerable  time  in  the  US  should  not  use  the  VWP  and  should  instead  apply   for  a  visa  before  they  encounter  difficulties  at  a  US  port  of  entry.   Secondary   inspection   is   used   to   determine   the   context   and   they   have   a   lot   of   information   in   the   system  and  can  check  bags,  etc.     Visas  –  B-­‐1,  H-­‐1,  L-­‐1,  E:   These  are  the  main  business  visas.  We  will  focus  on  these  along  with  some  other  specialist  visas.   The  B-­‐1  visa  gives  travellers  greater  flexibility  than  the  VWP.    For  example,  they  can  remain  in  the  US   up  to  six  months  (if  admitted  for  that  duration  on  entry)  and  can  request  an  additional  extension  of   stay   in   the   US   for   a   maximum   period   of   an   additional   six   months;   they   do   not   have   to   enter   on   a   public   carrier;   they   may   enter   on   older   valid   passports   with   fewer   security   features;   and   the   visa   process   will   generally   identify   and   clear   most   issues   that   would   have   led   to   a   denial   of   ESTA   approval.       H-­‐1  visa:   Is  a  temporary  work  visa  that  is  intended  to  allow  qualified  individuals  to  work  for  a  limited  time  in   the   US.     The   difference   between   this   and   the   B   is   that   the   H   is   petition   based   and   the   H   allows   activities   that   are   prohibited   under   the   B   visa.     This   means   that   the   company   hiring   the   worker   must   submit   an   application   to   USCIS   and   get   it   approved.     Approval   must   be   recorded   in   the   electronic   system  before  a  petition-­‐based  visa  can  be  issued.   Quota  of  65,000  H1  visas  per  year.    Often  the  quota  is  used  up  very  early  in  the  year  but  not  this  past   year   due   to   the   economy.   The   criteria   to   qualify   include   a   bachelor’s   degree   or   equivalent   experience.    Usually  valid  for  three  years  but  can  be  extended  for  a  maximum  of  a  total  of  six  years   in  this  status.   L-­‐1  visa:    Also  petition-­‐based.    This  category  is  for  intra-­‐company  transferees.    Person  must  have  at   least  one  year’s  experience  of  working  for  the  company  and  it  must  be  an  executive  or  managerial   role  or  one  that  requires  specialized  knowledge.  There  is  no  numerical  quota  for  this  category.     E  visas:      Two  kinds  –  E-­‐1  treaty  trader  and  E-­‐2  treaty  investor.    France  has  a  treaty  with  the  US  for   both   categories.     E-­‐1   is   for   substantial   trade   of   goods   or   services.     E-­‐2   investor   requires   a   substantial   investment   in   a   US   company   that   creates   employment.   Paris   is   currently   the   fifth   largest   E-­‐visa   issuing  post  in  the  world.   E-­‐1  visa  example:   French   company   producing   wine   and   sells   more   than   50%   of   its   stock   to   the   US   would   normally   qualify.     Must   do   more   than   50%   of   business   with   the   US   –   has   to   be   a   majority.     Trade   must   also   be   substantial  –  no  definition  but  must  convince  the  Consular  Officer  that  it  qualifies  as  “substantial”.  

4     E-­‐2  example:   French  national  investing  in  a  small  business  in  the  US  and  they  have  to  invest  a  substantial  amount   of   money.     Again,   “substantial”   not   defined   as   it   is   a   matter   of   judgement   and   discretion   based   usually  on  the  nature  of  the  business  itself.    Company  should  eventually  employ  people  other  than   just   the   applicant   and   the   business   must   be   profitable.     Revenues   cannot   be   marginal,   ie   merely   sufficient  to  support  the  applicant.   Any  reason  why  E-­‐1s  do  not  switch  to  E-­‐2?    What  are  the  numbers?   Paris   adjudicated   nearly   2000   E2   visas   and   150   E1   visas   in   the   last   12   months.     An   example   of   an   E-­‐1   is  a  horse  breeder  –  no  office  in  the  US  but  due  to  cost  of  horses  sold  to  US,  they  qualified  for  an  E-­‐1.   C-­‐1D  visa:   For   crew   workers   on   airlines   and   shipping   companies.   Lots   of   Air   France   applicants,   also   those   working  on  cruise  ships  and  merchant  ships  (e.g.,  tankers).   I  visas:   Just  for  journalists.    These  often  come  in  waves,  in  association  with  major  international  news  events,   e.g.,  9/11  ceremonial  events,  the  DSK  affair,  the  Olympics.   Os  and  Ps:   Interesting   categories   –   petition   based   for   exceptional   and/or   internationally   renowned   people,   athletes,  businessmen,  architects,  actors,  models,  etc.       Q  visas:   Disney’s   own   category!     Paris   Embassy   processes   a   lot   of   visas   for   those   workers   going   to   work   at   Disney  in  the  US.       R  visas:   For  religious  workers  going  to  the  US  to  work  in  a  religious  function.   How  do  I  apply  for  a  visa?   For  non-­‐petition  based  visas,  it  involves  completing  the  DS-­‐160  online  and  then  calling  the  Embassy’s   call   centre   or   going   online   to   make   an   appointment   to   come   in   and   have   an   interview.     The   wait     time   can   vary   substantially   according   to   season.     The   current   wait   time   –   we   are   now   in   our   peak   winter   holiday   season   –   is   approximately   21   days   for   B1/B2   applicants   and   four   days   for   petition-­‐ based   applicants   and   students/exchange   visitors.     Must   pay   the   visa   fee   and   bring   in   a   pre-­‐paid   domestic   Chronopost   envelope   from   the   post   office   and   then,   if   the   visa   is   approved,   it   is   usually   sent   out   the   next   day   and   arrives   within   a   couple   of   days.     However,   system   issues   not   controlled   by   post  can  sometimes  add  up  to  two  or  three  days  to  the  process  following  adjudication.   On  what  basis  do  we  approve  non-­‐immigrant  visas?  

5     Each   case   is   different.     However,   for   B1/B2   and   most   visas   that   are   not   based   on   USCIS-­‐approved   petitions   permitting   work   in   the   United   States,   there   are   essentially   four   points   that   the   Officers   keep  in  mind:     1. Is  the  person  qualified  for  the  type  of  visa  being  applied  for?       2. Is  the  person  really  going  to  leave  the  US  at  the  end  of  their  stay  there?       3. Does   the   person   have   strong   ties   (family,   children,   property,   etc)   to   the   country   they   are   applying  from?   4. Do  the  applicants  have  the  intention  of  abandoning  their  residence?   5. Does  the  person  appear  likely  to  misuse  the  visa,  i.e.  use  it  for  purposes  not  allowed  by  the   category   of   visa   applied   for?     For   example,   to   enter   on   a   tourist   visa   in   order   to   work   or   study  in  the  US.   Criteria   2,   3,   and   4   do   not   apply   to   most   petition-­‐based,   work-­‐related   visa   categories.       H   visa   adjudication   includes   consideration   of   whether   the   person   actually   has   the   work   experience   and   educational  qualifications  required.    This  also  applies  to  the  L  visa  category  –  does  the  person  have   the  appropriate  management/supervisory  experience,  do  they  have  the  necessary  experience  with   the  company?   For  E  visas,  the  Officers  look  carefully  at  what  is  stipulated  by  the  law.    For  E-­‐2s  they  look  at  whether   the   substantial   investment   exists   –   is   there   a   company   in   both   the   home   country   and   the   US?     Sometimes  the  answer  is  “no”.    Is  the  investment  considerable?    Is  it  marginal?    Are  they  going  to   create   jobs   or   is   it   just   to   provide   a   living   for   the   investors   themselves?     These   are   some   of   the   main   factors  involved.   Websites:   The   websites   for   the   Embassies,   the   DoS   website   and   others   also   contain   a   great   deal   of   useful   information  relating  to  visas.   At   some   Posts   it   appears   that   preliminary   investigation   is   done,   particularly   for   E-­‐2   applicants   (including  using  Google,  etc).    Is  this  something  that  is  done  routinely?   Post   performs   due   diligence   as   appropriate   and   uses   a   number   of   tools   to   evaluate   the   claims   of   applicants   and   companies.     Bona   fide   companies   should   have   no   problem   with   this;   it   is   only   potentially  fraudulent  companies  that  would  likely  have  a  problem  with  it.   Is   it   your   experience   that   most   visa   (Bs   and   petition   based   visas)   interviews   are   over   within   five   minutes?   Yes   that’s   typical,   but   the   Embassy   does   have   a   rule   “never   be   in   a   rush   to   issue   a   visa   if   you   are   not   comfortable”.    It  is  not  common,  but  an  adjudicating  officer  may  221g  a  case  and  do  further  research   and   ask   the   applicant   back   for   a   second   interview.     Officers   want   to   make   the   best   decision   possible   and  taking  extra  time  to  do  that  is  not  an  issue  for  the  Embassy.   What  happens  if  a  visa  is  refused?  

6     No  mandatory  wait  time  for  a  second  interview  following  a  refusal.    DoS  prefers  not  to  impose  time   limits  following  a  refusal.  There  is  no  appeal  process  as  such:  the  de  facto  appeal  mechanism  is  to   simply   apply   again,   and   a   different   consular   officer   will   adjudicate   the   subsequent   application.     However,  if  you  think  the  consular  adjudication  was  based  on  a  misinterpretation  of  applicable  law,     you  are  welcome  to  write  a  well-­‐reasoned  letter  and  email  the  Embassy.    The  Embassy  does  read  the   emails   that   come   in.   On   rare   occasions,   if   it   can   be   established   that   a   legal   error   was   made   in   an   adjudication,  a  consular  officer  may  re-­‐interview  the  applicant  and  re-­‐adjudicate  the  case.    However,   this  is  very  rare  and  the  standard  appeal  mechanism  is  to  reapply,  presenting  the  relevant  evidence   in  support  of  the  application.       Reapplication   is   also   generally   a   faster   way   to   present   one’s   case;   the   back-­‐and-­‐forth   correspondence  involved  in  requesting  re-­‐adjudication  of  a  case  almost  always  takes  more  time  at   this   post   than   simply   re-­‐applying.   Embassy   will   routinely   issue   visas   on   re-­‐applications   if   the   subsequent  application  is  persuasive.   The  consular  supervisors  at  the  Embassy  are  required  to  review  decisions  made  by  the  adjudicating   officers.    The  supervisors  review  the  justification  for  the  officers’  decisions  in  the  case  records.   Brief  explanation  of  administrative  processing:     Certain  applications  require  further  administrative  processing.    This  additional  processing  is  not  done   at  post.    It  can  be  based  on  a  number  of  factors  that  post  is  not  in  a  position  to  discuss.    Washington   knows  it  is  a  very  frustrating  process  and  they  try  to  make  it  as  quick  and  as  fair  as  possible  for  every   applicant.    It  has  been  known  for  cases  to  be  turned  around  in  less  than  48  hours,  though  the  time   involved   is   impossible   to   predict   for   any   particular   case.   The   evidence   is   clear   that   administrative   processing  times  overall  have  improved.    Embassy  does  not  take  admin  processing  lightly.    Officers   realise  it  is  frustrating  and  can  cause  serious  inconvenience  for  the  applicants.  They  take  the  decision   where   law   and   regulation   require   it.     Officers   will   frequently   consult   with   consular   supervisors   to   determine  whether  a  case  requires  it.       Recent  change  in  DoS  policy  regarding  annotation  of  B-­‐1  in  lieu  of  H-­‐1  visas?      Paris  Embassy’s  recent   communication   with   the   Consular   Bureau   indicates   that   there   has   been   no   change   in   Department   policy  with  regard  to  this  annotation.    A  decision  not  to  enter  this  annotation  appears  to  be  at  the   discretion   of   the   post   concerned.     DoS   indicated   to   Paris   that   the   annotation   was   primarily   an   aid   to   CBP  officials  at  ports  of  entry  and  that  post  could  choose  whether  to  enter  the  annotation.      Paris   sees   very   few   of   these   cases   and   there   are   no   significant   workload   issues   involved   in   entering   this   annotation.     There   continues   to   be   a   reasonable   justification   for   the   annotation,   and   believes   that   not  entering  the  annotation  might  cause  problems  for  the  bearer  on  entry,  since  if  a  CBP  Inspector  at   a   Port   of   Entry   has   any   doubts—for   example,   if   a   B1/B2   visa   holder   tells   the   inspector   he   is   entering   the  US  to  work,  the  traveler  might  be  sent  to  secondary  inspection.    Post  feels  the  annotation  tells   the   Inspector   immediately   what   he   needs   to   know   and   therefore   tends   to   facilitate   admission   at   primary  inspection.    Without  the  annotation,  post  believes  there  is  a  greater  chance  the  visa  holder   might   be   sent   to   secondary   inspection   since   inspectors   at   primary   inspection   may   not   feel   they   have   the   time   to   access   and   review   information   in   the   Consular   Consolidated   Database   (CCD)   to   determine  that  a  particular  B1/B2  traveler  is  in  fact  qualified  to  enter  as  a  B1  in  lieu  of  H1.   How  do  you  deal  with  ineligibilities?  

7     Applicants  must  put  any  conviction/arrest/other  ineligibility  on  the  DS-­‐160  otherwise  their  credibility   may   be   called   into   question.   Officers   will   know   if   the   applicant   has   been   arrested/convicted,   regardless  of  when  and  where  –  the  “system  is  pretty  robust”  and  more  keeps  getting  added.       Example   –   there   was   a   case   where   a   lady   had   been   arrested   in   the   US   but   didn’t   disclose   it,   it   showed   up   on   the   system,   the   woman   continued   to   deny   it,   her   clear   lack   of   credibility   was   a   significant  factor  in  the  decision  to  refuse  her  under  214b.   In  most  cases,  if  it  is  not  considered  a  felony  in  the  US,  it  is  not  a  visa  ineligibility.       “For   visa   purposes,   the   failure   to   disclose   can   sometimes   be   more   serious   than   the   offense   itself”   because  it  raises  serious  questions  regarding  the  applicant’s  credibility.   For  DUIs  –  if  there  has  been  one  arrest  in  the  last  five  years,  applicant  MUST  be  sent  to  the  panel   physician   for   assessment.   Two   or   more   arrests   in   the   last   ten   years,   MUST   be   sent   to   the   panel   physician.    Applicant  will  usually  get  the  visa  but  at  a  minimum  it  will  add  to  the  delay  and  cost  for   the  panel  physician.     Questions:   How  long  are  corporate  E-­‐2s  taking?   Embassy   essentially   triages   E   cases   and   therefore   some   take   more   time   and   some   take   less.     Between   6   –   12   weeks   is   a   reasonable   guideline   –   the   average   E   case   probably   takes   closer   to   12   weeks  to  process.  However,  the  Embassy  fast-­‐tracks  over  90  major  pre-­‐qualified  companies.    Once   the   submitted   application   is   complete,   it   is   usually   just   a   few   weeks.     It   depends   on   the   case   and   the   Embassy’s  workload.       Is  it  possible  to  pre-­‐adjudicate  B  visas?   No,  the  first  stage  is  the  submission  of  the  DS-­‐160  form.    Must  follow  the  standard  procedure,  it  is   not  possible  to  pre-­‐adjudicate.    The  procedure  allows  the  Embassy  to  have  full  information  on  the   applicant  and  therefore  adjudicate  the  application  properly.   How  much  is  the  fee  for  an  H  petition?   $325  filing  fees,  either  $1,500  or  $750  (depending  on  company  size)  plus  a  further  fee  of  $500.    Exact   figures   will   be   on   the   various   websites.     [Note:     These   figures   seem   accurate,   but   they   were   not   provided  by  the  Embassy  participants.]   Do  you  check  tax  records?   Yes,  in  IV  cases,  sometimes  in  NIV  cases.    There  was  a  recent  IV  case  where  the  wife  was  declaring   one  thing  to  one  agency  and  something  else  to  another  agency.       In  NIV  cases  this  kind  of  significant  discrepancy  may  lead  to  221(g)  and  then  delay  and  additional   costs.    Can  also  lead  to  denials  in  the  most  serious  cases.   Embassy  staff  question  

8     How  easy  is  it  to  fill  out  an  ESTA  form?   It  takes  only  a  few  minutes  to  fill  out  the  form,  and  the  response  is  very  rapid—typically  within  a  few   minutes.    There  are  many  fake  sites  out  there  which  can  cause  problems.    The  first  several  links  on   Google   are   not   the   official   ESTA   site.     The   listing   order   depends   on   the   number   of   users   using   the   sites.   This  is  a  problem  because  the  “parasite”  sites  typically  charge  significant  unnecessary  fees  for  filling   out  the  applicant’s  ESTA  form.    The  websites  of  the  Embassy,  the  Department  of  State,  and  CBP  as   well  as  the  Embassy’s  outreach  program  try  to  make  it  as  clear  as  possible  which  is  the  real  ESTA  site.     It   is   irritating   and   frustrating   but   there   does   not   appear   to   be   a  definitive   legal   solution   at   this   stage,   though   reportedly   action   has   been   taken   against   some   sites   for   egregious   misrepresentation   and   failing   to   provide   the   services   promised   –   i.e.,   where   they   did   not   even   fill   out   the   ESTA   form   for   their   clients   despite   being   paid   for   the   service,   or   where   there   was   evidence   that   the   site   had   colluded  in  selling  personal/financial  information  obtained  from  the  applicant.