12 Ways To Immigrate To Florida

Jan 5, 2022,07:08am EST|878 views

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Florida has breathtakingly beautiful beaches GETTY

There are plenty of reasons why people from all over the world are moving to Florida. It has a great climate, it has breathtakingly beautiful beaches, it has a booming economy, real estate is affordable, there is no state individual income tax, and it has unbelievable amusement parks like Walt Disney World. Florida is accessible in terms of transportation worldwide, it is a Mecca for retiring seniors, it has first-rate colleges, the seafood and restaurants are amazing, it has beautiful golf courses, it hosts many pro sports teams, it offers world-class fishing, it has iconic ice cream parlors, it offers varying landscapes and it is a multicultural state.

It’s no wonder then why Florida is the Number 1 state in the nation for attracting immigrants. Those who want to immigrate there need to explore what are the best options for them. While immigration in the United States is under federal law, many of the alternatives listed below involve sponsorships, particularly in the employment area, that may be specific to Florida in that the sponsors would be located in that state.

Basically, the immigration alternatives involve three categories: those sponsored by employment, those sponsored by family, and those who are self-sponsored. Let’s run down each category to consider what is best for you.

Immigration Options Based On Employment.

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Getting a work visa is part of the employment puzzle GETTY

1. TN visas

If you are a professional and your occupation is on the list of the USMCA/NAFTA free trade agreement, you can immigrate to Florida based on a job offer. You can get your work visa quickly, in the case of Canadians even right at the border while entering, and your work visa can be for up to three years and renewed in such increments indefinitely. However, this alternative is only open to Canadians and Mexicans.

2. L-1 (Intracompany) Work Visas

If you are a manager, executive or person with specialized knowledge and are working for at least one year abroad for a company with a subsidiary in Florida, you can get a work visa to move to Florida. Think Toyota transfers a manager from Tokyo to Miami to run the office there – that would be a classic L-1 work visa. Usually, the visa is granted for three years and can be renewed for up to seven years. It can lead to a green card as well.

3. Specialty Workers

If you are a college graduate or have the equivalent in work experience, and you work in a specialty area such as for example, IT or management, (as opposed to say just having a B.A. degree) you can apply for an H1-B work visa. Similarly, if you have the same credentials and are from Australia, you can apply for an E-3 visa. If you are a seasonal agricultural worker, for example picking oranges in season, you can apply for an H1-A work visa. If you are a seasonal nonagricultural worker, for example, a hotel worker during peak seasons, you can apply for an H2-B work visa.

4. Other Employment-Based Visas

If you have an extraordinary ability, such as a celebrity like Andrea Bocelli the opera tenor, you can get an O work visa to sing in the USA. If you are in a professional athletic league, such as Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers NHL hockey team, you can get a P visa to play in the United States. Finally, if you are a pastor or priest, you can get an R visa to work as a religious worker.

In all of the above cases, spouses and children of the applicants can also accompany them to the United States. In all cases, children can go to schools and sometimes to college at discounted rates. In some cases, notably the L visa cases, spouses can even obtain employment authorizations, although that is not possible in many of the other cases.

Immigration Options Based on Family Ties

5. Close Family Sponsorships

If you are married and your spouse is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, your spouse can sponsor you and your children to immigrate and get permanent resident status. U.S citizens can sponsor their parents as well as their children from abroad. Adopted children can also be included.

6. Other Family Members

If you have siblings who are U.S. citizens, they can sponsor you from abroad. However, the waiting times are very lengthy, over a decade.

7. Derivative Citizenship

In order for an adult applicant to claim U.S. citizenship, the applicant must fulfill all of the following three requirements:

1)  Transmission – The U.S. citizen parent(s) must have been a U.S. citizen at the time of the applicant’s birth and have sufficient physical presence in the U.S. to transmit citizenship. The transmission requirements depend on the date of birth of the applicant and the legal relationship between the parents at the time of the birth of the applicant. See the Transmission Requirements for Citizenship.

2)  Legitimation – A child born to a female U.S. citizen (and a non-U.S. citizen father) is automatically legitimated. Proof of legitimation is, however, required for a child born to a male U.S. citizen. Persons born to an in-wedlock U.S. citizen father and non-U.S. citizen mother are legitimated by virtue of the marriage. Persons born to an out-of-wedlock U.S. citizen father and non-U.S. citizen mother, and not legitimated by the natural parents’ subsequent marriage can be legitimated by following certain procedures.

3)  Filiation – The applicant must establish a biological and legal relationship with the claimed U.S. citizen parent.

Immigration Options Based on Self-Sponsorship

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There are self sponsoring immigration options that can get you to the top GETTY

8. E Treaty Visas

If you are an E-1 Trader (export/import) with a lot of business crossing the U.S. border each year you can get an E-1 work visa for five years renewable. If you are an E-2 investor, you can get a work visa to manage your business in the U.S. For example, purchasing a hotel or gas station. Again the visa is for five years renewable.

9. EB-1 Green Cards

Foreign nationals who either have “extraordinary abilities” such as Andrea Bocelli or are “outstanding professors or researchers” such as Elon Musk, can apply directly to get green cards.

10. EB-5 Green Cards

Foreign investors who invest $ 500,000 U.S. into a U.S. EB-5 direct investment project in which at least 10 jobs are created by the investment can apply for a green card.

11. Jay Treaty

First Nations/Native Americans can get green cards when entering the USA by virtue of their ancestral rights.

12. Other Noteworthy Visa Options

Victims of crime can get U and T visas, while battered spouses can apply for VAWA protection to remain in the USA. Students can get F and M visas to study in the USA.

That summarizes this round-up of immigration options for those looking to immigrate to Florida, or indeed, elsewhere in the United States. In most instances, immigrants should engage an immigration attorney to help them get these benefits. See here for a webinar on this topic.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

5 Crystal Ball Predictions For U.S. Immigration In 2022

Dec 30, 2021,11:19am EST|10,574 views

Businessman holding a crystal ball
Looking into my crystal ball, I have a few predictions for U.S. immigration in 2022. GETTY

Here are my top five U.S. immigration predictions for 2022:

1. Changes to H1-B Work Visas

The Biden administration’s latest regulatory plans reveal that it will continue to reform the H-1B visa program for professional workers, including raising the wages of those workers. According to projections of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), other upcoming changes to the H1B visa program will:

  • Redefine the H-1B employer-employee relationship.
  • Establish new guidelines for employer site visits.
  • Clarify rules for F-1 students awaiting a change of status to H-1B.
  • Clarify the requirement that an amended or new H-1B visa petition be filed if there are material changes to employment, including a new worksite location.

We will also see changes to the prevailing wage rules for H1-B visas and allocations of H1-B visas according to salary requirements, a promise Biden made during the presidential campaign.

But this tinkering with the H1-B visa program will not be enough.

The U.S. population growth hit a record low in 2021, hardly moving at all in the 12 months ending July 1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The country added less than 400,000 people on net, and thus for the first time since 1937, grew by less than 1 million people. The reasons for this decline are 1) a declining birth rate as parents delay or put off having babies 2) lower immigration levels to the U.S. and 3) higher mortality rates due to an aging population. The Covid pandemic only amplified these three causes this last year.

The problem with the declining U.S. population growth rate is that there are fewer Americans to fill jobs and to pay the taxes that keep programs like Social Security financially healthy. This trend should force America to increase immigration levels. But will it?

Consider that countries like Canada, Japan and Germany have already addressed their problems in this area. For example, Canada has significantly boosted its immigration population year-by-year, from about the 250,000 level a few years ago, through to about 300,000 last year and 411,000 projected immigrants in 2022. The U.S. will need to seriously crank up its immigration population as well, particularly in regard to foreign skilled workers, to keep America competitive. Just relying on a modified H1-B program won’t cut mustard any more. Look for Congress to tackle this issue in 2022.

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The cost of filing immigration applications will be increasing in 2022. GETTY

2.  Increases in Premium Processing

The premium processing service provided by the USCIS guarantees expedited visa processing for certain employment-based visa petitions. The USCIS guarantees that the petition will be processed within 15 days or will return the petitioner’s filing fee. This service is expected to be expanded in 2022. The specific contents of a new final rule – including the case types eligible for premium processing, processing timelines, and corresponding fees and implementation dates – are not yet known. There is speculation, however, that the expanded service will be available for applications involving Employment Authorization Documents, I-539 applications to extend or change status, and EB1, EB2, and EB3 green card applications.

3.  Increases in Filing Fees for Visas

A previous attempt to increase USCIS fees for various immigration applications was struck down by a federal court in September 2020. However, there is evidence that the USCIS is not working on a sound financial footing and needs more funds to process backlogged applications. For these reasons, in January 2022, the Department of State is expected to raise visa application filing fees at consulates. On the other hand, in March the USCIS plans to increase its petition and application filing fees.

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Speeding up processing for the USCIS sometimes appears to be a challenge akin to the I Love Lucy … [+] GETTY

4.  Speeding up Processing of Visas

As the pandemic lifts Consulates will reopen and need to double down on visa processing, implementing initiatives to catch up on backlogs. Emphasis will be in increasing efficiency in processing, including more online video interviews. Increases in government fees should result in more workers coming on stream to deal with the heavy demand for quicker processing of applications.

5.  Relief for Regional Center EB-5 Investor Immigrants

Passage of a bill like the Foreign Investor Fairness Protection Act to provide relief for foreign investors who invested in the regional center EB-5 program will take place in 2022. The bill will be passed to grandfather these investors in to allow them to get green cards.

Nobody can predict the future. But the foregoing predictions have a strong chance of making it. We will see how well I do next New Year. See more on my webinar here.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

Will The EB-5 Regional Center Program Ever Be Renewed?

Dec 22, 2021,01:04pm EST|6,002 views

That Sinking Feeling
Foreign investors who invested in a EB-5 regional center project may have that sinking feeling … [+] GETTY

Let’s face it, things are not looking good for the re-authorization of the regional center EB-5 program any time soon. By way of background, the Immigrant Investor Regional Center Pilot Program program was created by Congress in 1993. The pilot program established EB-5 regional centers designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to increase foreign investment and job creation. The major advantage of the regional center designation was that it could take advantage of indirect job creation (such as counting offsite jobs linked to construction) and thereby lessen the burden of job creation requirements under the EB-5 program rules.

100,000 Foreign Investors In Limbo

At this moment it appears that the program, which lapsed on June 30th, 2021 and left almost 100,000 investor immigrants in limbo, will remain closed, likely at least until February 18th, 2022 at the earliest. On that date, Congress will face another financial deadline requiring the passage of a new Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government operating. The best supporters of the EB-5 regional center investor immigration program can hope for is to persuade Congress to reinsert the program, with or without minor variation, into the Congressional automatic budget renewal process – not an easy task. Alternatives like a stand-alone EB-5 bill, or some breakthrough involving EB-5 measures being incorporated into the Build Back Better, have all but evaporated as Democrats in the Senate have encountered setbacks and the Congressional schedule is increasingly jammed with other legislative priorities.

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A change in strategy is needed. GETTY

Time To Reconsider Strategy

It is time to reconsider strategy on the regional center EB-5 program. The priority now needs to be a rescue plan for those foreign investors whose petitions are stalled because of the sidelining of the program. As soon as possible, a bill like the Foreign Investor Fairness Protection Act should be passed by Congress to use grandfathering, a long established legal procedure that will likely meet with bipartisan support to set things right. Such a step would help all the foreign investors who acted in good faith under then existing law when they invested into a regional center project under the EB-5 program before the program sunset. There is no reason why such foreign investors should continue to be held hostage by Congressional delays in addressing the issue of what is to be done with the EB-5 program. Failing to act soon will only increase frustration, make enemies out of foreign investors caught up in the frey, probably spark a rash of law suits, and leave America’s image overseas tarnished by its incompetence at sorting out the problem.

The newest approach to foreign investor immigration is resorting to the EB-5 direct investment … [+] GETTY

Which Way Forward?

As for the way forward, it looks like the new standard bearer of U.S. foreign investor immigration is going to be the EB-5 direct investor program. That program seems increasingly more desirable in the eyes of both foreign investors and U.S. developers. There are several reasons why it is winning the favor of investors and developers alike. For one thing, the size of projects is smaller and the number of investors in each proposed project is reduced considerably so the projects seem more manageable. Furthermore, the arithmetic of job creation counts only direct employees and not with indirect jobs. That makes the projects under consideration seem better thought out and more conservative in terms of risk. Also, the most recent State Department Bulletin shows priority dates are current for investors worldwide. Finally, a key factor turbo-charging the success of the direct investor EB-5 program at the moment is that the required investment amount is only $ 500,000. It remains to be seen what will happen if that requirement is changed.

What Happened To Regional Centers?

Many of us were surprised when in June 2021, suddenly the regional center program was sidelined. It seemed almost impossible for the U.S. not to reauthorize the program in some way given the tremendous investments the program was bringing in every year, regardless of reservations people had. Covid-19 seemed to make processing grind almost to a halt adding a lot more stress for investors who were confused by what was happening. When the program lapsed the biggest questions centered on whether investors would still be able to get their green cards and what would happen to their investments given the new circumstances. Passing a grandfathering provision along the lines suggested above would at least deal with these concerns.

Gazing Into The Crystal Ball

Looking into a crystal ball, one can estimate that the chances of a re-authorization of the EB-5 regional center program declining with the passage of every day. However, one should never discount America. You just never know.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

Strike 3 For Democrats In The Senate Hopes Dim For Immigration Reform

Dec 17, 2021,12:47pm EST|2,605 views

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Reforms to U.S. Immigration law were stalled in the Senate recently GETTY

Despite their control of the Presidency, the House and the Senate, Democrats have struck out in the Senate on their efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system as part of a legislative package under consideration in the chamber. Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that Democratic immigration proposals, including a remedial measure for undocumented immigrants, did not conform with Senate rules. Her ruling brought to an end a third Democratic attempt to fix what many Americans regard as a broken immigration system. The Senate was considering immigration provisions in a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on November 19th, 2021, that could have freed up hundreds of thousands of green cards that past administrations failed to use, making them available for immigrants currently caught up in visa backlogs. President Biden vowed to continue the fight, as did Illinois Democratic Senator Richard J. Durbin, a pro-immigration leader.

Few Political Leaders Are Happy

Few political leaders are happy with the way immigration reform is going. For many Republicans, immigration reform leads to more immigration troubles at the southern border and removing restrictions on those who are in the country is a nonstarter. For Democrats, the Biden administration’s failure to address the problem of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, the DACA issue, the bid to reinstate the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy and the administration’s strident opposition to Diversity Visa immigrant applicants who have won federal court cases requiring the government to grant them immigrant visas, are just a few recent examples of a system headed in the wrong direction.

Rethinking The System

Many immigration advocates believe there is a growing need to rethink the best way to push pro-immigrant policies, particularly in anticipation of the Republicans taking back the House next year. They are now increasingly emphasizing state and local policies, particularly in places like Texas, Ohio and Colorado with new immigrant communities. The Senate failure will only speed up this approach.

A key concern for all camps, and therefore an area where progress could be made, is the problem of processing legal immigrant applications.

Computer Folder with Check Mark - 3D Rendering symbolizing immigration processing
Approval of cases in process is one of the key things that could help the U.S. immigration system GETTY

Processing Cases

According to Immigrants List, a U.S. nonprofit pro-immigrant advocacy group, “There are currently some 9 million immigrants waiting for their green cards, and facing agency delays, low green card caps, and a green card system that has not been updated for over three decades.” What is more, many children of these immigrants, who immigrated to the U.S. legally, risk facing deportation when they turn 21. This is known as “aging out” where the children of the adult visa holders will no longer be considered dependants and will therefore be forced to find their own way to stay in the country legally, or otherwise face deportation. Many such young adults are living in limbo, very often dreading their 21st birthday, and scrambling to find a way to stay in a country they call home.  Many blame their uncertain future on the unprecedented backlog of pending petitions. 

A similar problem is faced by young people whose parents are awaiting their U.S. citizenship application approvals. Again according to Immigrants List, the estimated waiting time to get their citizenship could be as long as 50 years. The young people are eligible for citizenship under their parental petition only if they are dependants but once these young adults reach 21 years of age, they are no longer eligible for citizenship under the application of their parents so they are forced to go back to the end of the line and start a new application in their own names.

Something needs to be done to move these line ups along.

Time For Something New
Changes are being made despite the setbacks in immigration reform GETTY

Some Recent Changes

To be fair, according to a recent communique from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the agency has made significant strides in addressing processing delays in the following ways: reusing biometrics for 2.5 million applicants since March 2020; reducing the number of pending biometrics appointments from 1.4 million in January 2021 to 155,000 as of the end of September; and fully eliminating the “front-log” of cases awaiting intake processing (which was more than 1 million in January 2021 and was eliminated in July) by expanding staffing and overtime at Lockbox facilities. 

A good example of such reform-oriented alternative initiatives undertaken by the Department of State was a recent announcement that the U.S. government has now authorized Consulates to waive visa interview requirements for some 50,000 immigrant applicants. This was welcome news for such immigrants who have been frustrated by Covid-19 and Consular closings over the last year or more.

While these reforming initiatives are very much welcome, they will never be enough to “fix” the U.S. immigration system. More is needed.

American Immigration Council Consolidation

A welcome development in regard to moving forward was the recent announcement of the New American Economy and the American Immigration Council—two of America’s strongest pro-immigration NGOs, to merge under the name the American Immigration Council. Their merger will serve to “better expand and protect the rights of immigrants, more fully ensure immigrants’ ability to succeed economically, and help make the communities they settle in more welcoming,” according to a news release they published. The kind of help and advocacy such groups provide is much needed by immigrants in America.

Congress Must Act

In the end, however, only Congress can repair the immigration system and now that the latest Senate effort has failed, it appears Congressional immigration reform will once again have to await a brighter day. While there is some discussion about overruling MacDonough’s decision, at this stage, that appears to be little more than a forlorn hope.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

New Banking Service Offered To Immigrants Without Access To Credit

Dec 13, 2021,06:59am EST|1,285 views

Smiling afro woman holding card looking at camera
A new mobile banking service offers a debit card to migrants in the USA. GETTY

One of the greatest obstacles to a new life as an immigrant in the United States is getting credit. This hardship can be encountered in a variety of settings such as opening a bank account, buying a house, getting a car, applying for a credit card, buying major appliances, securing insurance, making international telephone calls, and even travelling on vacations. It is an unseen burden afflicting many immigrants but not really touching many other Americans. It is especially a burden for undocumented immigrants, some 11 million, who do not have a social security number, a key requirement to access credit. Fortunately, however, that burden is being lifted off the shoulders of at least some immigrants by a new service being offered by MAJORITY, a leader in mobile banking for migrants.

No Social Security Number – No Problem

While many banks in the U.S. do not require a social security number to register or open a bank account, in the absence of a social security number they require an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (something hard to get), a green card, a visa, a passport or other type of U.S. government-issued ID as well as an in-person appointment. MAJORITY can offer members without a social security number the ability to register and start a membership completely virtually, requiring only an international government-issued ID from any country along with proof of a U.S. address (e.g. a utility bill), which creates the possibility for millions of migrants in America to access critical and often life-changing financial services.

Banking For Five Dollars A Month

Founded in 2019, MAJORITY is the first mobile banking service dedicated to serving migrants. According to the company, for $5 a month, MAJORITY members in the U.S. receive an FDIC insured account, Visa® debit card with cashback and community discounts, use of more than 55,000 ATMs across North America, no-fee remittances and at-cost international calling, in-person native language advisors, access to their network of community meet-up spaces, local discounts and events, and the ability to send mobile credits to loved ones back home. MAJORITY indicates it does not charge overdraft fees or have minimum balance requirements.

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A banking service needs to recognize the diversity of the migrant population in America GETTY

Diversity The Key

Recognizing that a one-size-fits all approach cannot be applied to the diverse and unique migrant communities, MAJORITY says it has tailored its offering to each specific community and that it has hired local advisors to onboard and support each community in its native language. In addition, the company indicates members can access additional high-touch assistance and foster their sense of belonging through the company’s local meet-up spaces, events, and library of community-driven informational resources.

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MAJORITY is helping migrants in America save money. GETTY

Millions Without Access To Credit

“Traditional financial institutions continue to make it difficult or impossible for the nearly 50 million immigrants in the U.S. and 300+ million globally to have access to critical services for basic living,” says Addie Lerner, Founder and Managing Partner at Avid Ventures. “MAJORITY continues to pioneer new and improve ways to meet the needs of this community while creating pivotal change in the banking industry.” 

New Helpful Migrant Handbook

In a further effort to help migrants in America MAJORITY announced it will release an updated version of its popular Migrant Handbook, a complete index of tips and information for migrants trying to navigate U.S. society. The latest Handbook includes everything from getting a visa and a social security number to writing a cover letter, renting an apartment and enrolling kids in school. According to the compny, the updated version will be available for members later this month via MAJORITY’s website and app with downloadable PDF versions.

While MAJORITY is not the complete answer to credit problems for migrants in the U.S., its mobile service will help many immigrants. Other answers include using blockchain to establish ID and credit, American Express as a way to get a credit card, and applying for secured credit cards. These alternatives can also help, but MAJORITY is one of the better ones.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

Complicated U.S. Covid-19 Rules Confuse Travellers

Dec 11, 2021,12:14pm EST|5,065 views

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Changing travel rules have caused travellers many headaches trying to sort out what they are … [+] GETTY

If you are confused about the ever changing rules for travelling to the USA, you are not alone. There have been a lot of changes recently to the rules for entering the United States, specifically when it comes to Covid-19 and testing. The most significant ones recently implemented are:

  • As of November 8, 2021, in order to board a flight bound for the United States, all air travellers that are two years of age or older must take a Covid-19 test and present a negative result to airline staff at the airport.
  • The test must have been taken within one day prior to arrival.
  • The previous time limit was 72 hours prior to arrival

There is something interesting about the “one day” vs. “24 hours” aspect. Officials are trying to make the “one day” rule easier on travellers. So for example, you don’t have to worry about exact timing. Getting a test done on Monday morning, but using it on Tuesday afternoon, is allowed.

The following are the kinds of tests the U.S. is accepting:

  • The test can be either an antigen (lateral flow) test or nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT).
  • The test must be authorized in your country of departure. A PCR test meets this requirement because it is an NAAT test.
  • Home tests are actually admissible, provided a Telehealth service can watch you take the test, verify your identity and meet other federal requirements. This is not something to be very confident about. Make sure you check the CDC website to learn more about it.
Exemptions to the travel rules
There are a few exemptions to the vaccination rules. GETTY

Are There Exemptions To Vaccination Requirements?

Foreign nationals not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will NOT be allowed to board a flight to the U.S., unless they meet one of the exemption criteria below:

  • persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel
  • children under 18 years of age
  • persons with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine
  • participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials
  • persons issued a humanitarian or emergency exception
  • persons with valid visas excluding B-1 (business) or B-2 (tourism) visas who are citizens of a foreign country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability
  • members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age)
  • sea crew members travelling with a C-1 or D nonimmigrant visa
  • persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, or Secretary of Homeland Security (or their designates)

Having an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen or Landed Permanent Resident does not exempt a foreign national from the vaccination requirement.

As for vaccine passports:

  • Nothing much has changed there. You must be fully vaccinated to enter the U.S., with the last dose being at least 14 days before your arrival. There are some allowances for people who have not been vaccinated, but have recovered from COVID. Check the government website for more information on that and read it carefully.

An individual is considered fully vaccinated if there has been at least 2 weeks (14 days) since any one of the following:

  • receiving a dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine
  • receiving the second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
  • receiving the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial
  • receiving the full series of a Novavax (or Covovax NVAX -3.2%) COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a phase 3 clinical trial
  • receiving 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart
Travel Ban Word and Airplane Icon on Close-up Computer Keyboard Key
There is a U.S. travel ban for some countries in Southern Africa due to the spread of the Omicron … [+] GETTY

Travel Bans

However, all this may be irrelevant for travellers from some countries since there are travel bans in effect.

  • Eight countries in Africa are currently banned – also touching on specifically, people who have even travelled through those countries in the past 14 days. The countries include South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and others. There is no deadline for the travel ban. It is possible to get a National Interest Waiver from this travel ban through a U.S. Consulate, but that would not automatically also waive the vaccination requirement. These waivers will be rare.

What About Travel To Canada?

The rules for Canada are fairly similar.

  • To travel to Canada you must be fully vaccinated and have a negative Covid-19 test, so that’s the same. However, Canadians and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated and have only been out of the country for less than 72 hours do not need a negative test. However, Canadians who have been out of the country for more than 72 hours will need the test. The travel ban is also wider in Canada and includes Egypt and Nigeria.

ArriveCAN App Issues

Speaking of Canada, the ArriveCAN app has been causing heartburn for some travellers. Everyone is supposed to fill this app out online before coming to Canada, including Canadians. However, there has been some confusing messaging from the government and the press in the last couple of days.

Apparently a lot of people were having a problem getting the app to work. It was crashing, or they otherwise couldn’t use it. When they showed up at the border, officials were placing them in quarantine and even fining them for not completing the app. The government has now said that some leniency will be shown to people at the border, giving travellers a chance to fill it out then and there. Unfortunately, this was initially interpreted and reported by the press that the ArriveCAN app was no longer required. But the ArriveCAN app is still very much required at the border. Fill it out before getting to the border and save yourself a lot of grief.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

How Do Celebrity Artists Get Visas To Work In The United States?

Nov 30, 2021,07:48am EST|772 views

2019 Billboard Music Awards - Press Room
Drake is the kind of celebrity who would qualify for an O-1 visa to work in the United States. … [+] GETTY IMAGES FOR DCP

The O-1 visa is for persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Of particular interest for our purposes here, are the immigration requirements for celebrities who want to work in the U.S. as artists. Here is a brief tutorial of what is required by U.S. immigration law.

What is the best U.S. work visa for celebrities working in the arts?

In the case of groups, the P visa category is used. Rock bands like the Rolling Stones for example, might apply under the P-1 category, while individual musicians going on a tour might resort to the P-2 visa. However, the O-1 B work visa is the best visa for celebrities who want to live and work in the arts in the United States.

What are the requirements to get an O-1 B work visa?

The applicant must demonstrate he or she has enjoyed sustained national or international acclaim, or show a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

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To obtain an O-1 work visa an application is filed with the USCIS. GETTY

Who can petition for an O-1 work visa?

O-1 work visa applicants cannot petition for themselves as self-employed applicants. Only U.S.-based employers, agents, managers, sponsors, presenters, and organizers may file O-1 visa petitions. The principal obligation that these individuals or entities assume in so doing is representing to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), under oath, that the contents of the petition are true to the best of their knowledge.

What exactly must you submit to prove eligibility for an O-1 work visa?

To qualify for this work visa, the applicant working in the arts must show distinction, that is to say, a high level of achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered. Put another way, the applicant should be renowned, leading or well known in his or her field. This could involve being nominated for, or receiving a significant international or national award or prize, such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy or Director’s Guild Award. Alternatively, the applicant can try to document at least three of the following: 1. Being a lead in a production having a a distinguished reputation; 2. Getting critical reviews in major newspapers or trade journals; 3. Leading an organization that has a distinguished reputation; 4. Having a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes; 5. Showing significant recognition from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field, or 6. Commanding a high salary. Comparable evidence can also be employed to prove qualification under this category, except for applicants in motion pictures or television.

What about people working in motion pictures or television?

Applicants in the field of motion pictures and television must show a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered. The applicant must be recognized as outstanding, notable or leading. In this case, apart from winning national or international awards or prizes such as those listed for the arts above, one can prove extraordinary achievement in motion pictures or television by showing three of the following: 1. Performing as a lead or in a starring role in productions or events of a distinguished nature as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements; 2. Have a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, or 3. Receiving significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field.

How do you submit the evidence required for an O-1 work visa?

Normally the evidence required in O-1 work visa cases is submitted by way of affidavits by employers and experts, contracts, and copies of articles or publicity, or pictures of awards or prizes. The application should also provide details about the nature, time frame and itinerary of proposed events to take place in the U.S. The application is made by filing an I-129 petition with an O supplement with the USCIS. Once it is approved, the applicant must then apply at a U.S. Consulate for the visa. Canadian celebrities can skip the consular application and apply to enter the U.S. with just the approved O-1 petition.

Are O-1 work visas hard to get?

Applying for an O-1 visa is not any easy process. If you have obtained a special achievement such as a Nobel prize or an Academy Award, then you should have less of a problem applying for an O-1 visa. However, applicants who rely on the other criteria to qualify have a harder time demonstrating their extraordinary ability. Extensive documentation is needed to show the achievements have been recognized.

How long does it take to get O-1 work visa?

In normal times it takes about two to three months for the USCIS to process an O-1 visa application. Due to covid, it is taking longer.

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It is possible to expedite the processing of an O-1 visa petition by paying a premium processing … [+] GETTY

Is there a way to expedite approvals for O-1 work visas?

Premium Processing Service is a service provided by the USCIS that guarantees expedited visa processing for such employment-based visa petitions. The USCIS guarantees that the petition will be processed within 15 calendar days or will return the petitioner’s filing fee. The current fee is $ 2500.

Can O-1 spouses work?

Unfortunately, O-1 spouses are not permitted to work in the United States. If they want to work, they need to change their status to a work visa category, such as an H-1B or possibly TN work visa.

Does the O-1 work visa lead to a green card?

The O-1 visa can provide celebrities a path to live and work in the United States for extended periods of time. However, the O-1 visa is a non-immigrant work visa so it is temporary. To get a green card the celebrity must apply under the EB-1 category.

Does the O-1 work visa have dual intent?

Yes. The O-1 visa can involve the dual intent of working temporarily in the U.S. for the period of authorized stay, but at the same time applying for permanent residence under the EB-1 immigrant visa category for example.

What is the difference between the O-1 work visa and the EB-1 immigrant visa?

The O-1 work visa only allows temporary residency, while the EB-1 immigrant visa provides permanent residency. Although the eligibility for O-1 work visa and EB-1 immigrant visa is similar, they are not interchangeable. The EB-1 immigrant visa application is harder to get approved because the submission involves greater scrutiny by the USCIS given the permanent nature of the application.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Immigration Policy Likely To Be Reinstated By Biden

Nov 29, 2021,06:55am EST|4,603 views

Joe Biden Accepts Party's Nomination For President In Delaware During Virtual DNC
President Biden is expected to implement the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy to deal with refugees at the … [+] GETTY IMAGES

President Biden is set to reinstate the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” immigration program as soon as this week after multiple attempts to end the policy, according to reports. In a refinement from the previous Trump policy, however, migrant adults enrolled in the program will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine, although they cannot be forced to take it. Implementation of the policy was ordered in August, by Texas District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk who ruled the administration must take good faith steps to reinstate the policy. The policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, forced thousands of migrants and refugees to wait in Mexican border regions as their claims to asylum were being adjudicated in U.S. courts hastily set up in tents near the border. The long wait led to thousands of vulnerable migrants suffering sexual and other violent assault, kidnapping, and in some cases death, according to Immigration Hub a national organization advocating for fair immigration policies.

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The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy requires the support of Mexico and discussions are underway to resolve … [+] GETTY

Mexican Agreement Needed

So far the implementation of the policy has been delayed due to Mexican government concerns. Among the conditions Mexico is imposing are that these U.S. immigration cases must be wrapped up within six months, to ensure timely and accurate access to case information and allow for easier access to legal counsel for migrants seeking asylum. Mexico is also asking the U.S. to accelerate development programs for southern Mexico and Central America in order to address the root causes of migration. In addition Mexico requested that Washington offer migrants medical attention; respect designated return points; provide “additional resources” for shelters and non-governmental organizations to improve the conditions for migrants waiting in Mexico; and provide legal advice for the migrants so that their processes can “be carried out as expeditiously as possible.”

It appears these terms have now been settled by agreement.

Canada Heads In The Opposite Direction

Meanwhile, unlike the United States, Canada has decided to go in the opposite direction and recently lifted its March 2020 ban on making refugee claims at the Canada-U.S. border. Among the reasons why this decision was welcomed by Canadian refugee attorneys were: that it is more difficult to establish an asylum claim in the U.S., a lot of people want to make their claims in Canada where they have family, and they believe there are thousands of people who have been stuck in the U.S., most of them living there illegally, waiting since March 2020 for this ban to be lifted. They expect a likely boost in people seeking different immigration options from within Canada, since many people who come in initially as refugee claimants then pursue different ways to stay in Canada such as through sponsorship, work experience, or other options.

TOPSHOT – A group of people who claimed to be from Haiti walk down Roxham road in Champlain, New … [+] AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Roxham Road Flash Point

However, a key flash point in the past has been the entry of U.S. based asylum claimants through Roxham road on the Quebec border with the U.S., a place easily accessible to claimants who would walk across the border and make their claims on arrival on Canadian soil. Concerns about the their irregular entry in this manner were centered on their evasion of the Safe Third Country Agreement under which Canada would refuse entry to refugee claimants at land border crossings on the basis that they were required to file their claims in the country of their first arrival, that is to say in this case, the United States. Added to the concern were Trump era policies clamping down on undocumented immigrants who were choosing to evade what they perceived as his implementation of draconian measures to deport them. In many cases, such immigrants to Canada had been undocumented and living in the U.S. for many years, often over a decade.

Broader Policy Needed

The problem with these initiatives is that they are trying to use limited refugee policy options to deal with increasingly broader social upheavals. The result is that the core problem is not being addressed. What is needed is for us to find a better way to deal with hardship immigrants, not just because they fit into the narrow definition of refugees, but because they are worthy of support based on their humanity and the misfortunes they have encountered in their lives. They are the victims of wars, of volcanic eruptions, of climate change, of criminal violence, of human trafficking and many other forms of depravity. Their stories of misfortune stir us to help them because we are human and know very well that but for the grace of God we could be them. A broader policy dealing with such uprooted persons, such as the one implemented to deal with displaced persons in post World War II Europe, is needed. Until such a broader policy is implemented, no acceptable solution to the plight of such individuals will be found.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

Could U.S. Immigration Help Solve Need To Recruit 1 Million New Truck Drivers Over Next Decade?

Nov 16, 2021,04:16am EST|6,058 views

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Aerial view of semi trucks with containers in yard awaiting loading in Los Angeles, California, USA GETTY

It is no secret that there is a supply chain problem that is delaying the delivery of goods to customers all over the country, particularly for the upcoming Christmas season. While things have been improving in recent days, more has to be done to resolve this long term problem and one area that should be addressed is truck driver shortages.

According to the American Trucking Association, “To keep up with demand over the next decade, trucking will need to recruit nearly one million new drivers to close the gap caused by demand for freight, projected retirements and other issues.” Bob Costello, the Association’s chief economist recently said, “Increased demand for freight, pandemic-related challenges from early retirements, closed driving schools and DMVs, and other pressures are really pushing up demand for drivers and subsequently the shortage.”

While much of the need over the next decade will be made up by recruiting new drivers in the country, clearly America will not be able to provide all the truckers that will be needed over the next decade. Indeed, Costello projects the current shortfall of 80,000 drivers will grow to 160,000 truckers by 2030. “The industry is raising pay at five times the historic average, but this isn’t just a pay issue. We have an aging workforce, a workforce that is overwhelmingly male and finding ways to address those issues is key to narrowing the shortage,” says Costello. He adds that this is one of the few careers in America with a path to a middle class lifestyle that doesn’t require a college degree, yet it faces the shortfalls identified.

In a recent article published on this subject, typical of the ongoing discussion on the issue, the question of how to best address the shortfall identified did not consider what could be done from an immigration point of view. Yet immigration could very well be part of the solution.

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One piece of the trucker shortage puzzle could be using trucker immigrants to help fill the void. GETTY

The H-2B Option

U.S. trucking companies can use the H-2B visa to hire foreign commercial truck drivers. This visa program is designed to help U.S. employers overcome shortages of U.S. workers who are not willing and able to perform nonagricultural labor. Employers can hire truckers from abroad on a temporary basis for up to 12 months and can apply to extend the H2B work visa if the need persists for up to 3 years. The employer has to first obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor. That involves getting a prevailing wage determination to determine the minimum the trucker should be paid and advertising the H-2B position under Labor Department guidance before it can be opened to foreign truckers. The H2B visa can only fill a temporary need such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peak load need or intermittent need. After getting the labor certification approval, the U.S. employer has to submit a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On approval of the petition the seleted truckers have to go their nearest U.S. consulate to get a visa in their passport before they can come and start working in the U.S. However, in the case of Canadian truckers, they can skip that step and go straight to the border to enter.

EB-3 Employment-Based Permanent Resident Option

The EB-3 immigrant visa category enables U.S. employers to hire unskilled foreign truckers in a permanent capacity. Similar to the H-2B, the EB-3 also requires a labor certification from the Department of Labor with both prevailing wage and position advertising requirements. The severe shortage of commercial truck drivers in the U.S. is well established so proving that there are no qualified U.S. truckers to fill the position should be relatively easy. Once the labor certification is approved by the Labor Department, the employer can subsequently file a Permanent Resident petition with the USCIS. If the petition is approved the trucker has to either go to the nearest U.S. consulate to obtain the immigrant visa or if in the U.S., apply for adjustment of status. The EB-3 is a more lengthy and costly process than the H2-B, but has the advantage of solving the driver shortage on a more permanent basis. At the moment, internal U.S. processing is preferred due to consular backlogs related to Covid-19.

The U.S. government recognizes foreign commercial driving licenses issued by the federal government of Mexico and the provinces and territories in Canada. So in theory, such truckers can go to work immediately. Otherwise, the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s license is likely to take a few weeks in most U.S. states.

Owner/Operator E-2 Visas

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Owner-Operator Semi Truck Drivers could be part of the solution of the American trucker shortage GETTY

Owner Operators may also be able to get E-2 work visas. Such visas can be obtained if the trucker can show that he is starting up a business in the United States and that over time it is likely to grow to employ a few workers apart from the Owner/Operator. The foundation for such a work visa would be an investment treaty signed between the U.S. and the trucker’s home country, such as Mexico or Canada. The E-2 visa is granted if the trucker has made a substantial investment in the trucker’s rig and transferred the ownership of the rig to the trucker’s U.S. company created for that purpose. Success will depend on a solid business plan establishing the rationale for the U.S. trucking business including the engagement of U.S. workers in future years and projecting the likely profits to be made from it. The main challenge of these visas, usually granted for five years and renewable so long as the business continues to prosper, is that the visas are approved only at a U.S. consulate and not at the border. There is currently a very substantial backlog of applicants for such visas so an application may take a year or longer to be approved.

These are the main immigration considerations that should be taken into account in dealing with the trucking industry in the United States. None of these visas should be undertaken without the assistance of a qualified U.S. immigration attorney as they are all relatively difficult to obtain and involve considerable paperwork. However, the visas discussed could certainly help the trucking industry to overcome its shortages over the next decade.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.

Which Way Forward On EB-5 Investor Immigration Program?

Nov 8, 2021,10:40am EST|6,456 views

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When the U.S. EB-5 Regional Center investor immigration sunset on June 30th, 2021 some investors … [+] GETTY

Thousands of foreign investor immigrants are stranded at the moment after the U.S. Regional Center EB-5 program that led to permanent residence sunset on June 30th, 2021. The program has not been reauthorized since then and the I-526 petitions that were filed by foreign investors under the program are in limbo until the program is reinstated. What is more, in some cases, foreign investors who invested in one of the Regional Center projects have also discovered to their dismay that the funds they invested have been lost as the projects involved ran into financial trouble, in part from the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on business. It seems to them like a perfect storm has derailed their hopes of a better life in America. Bewildered, they await further word on the future of EB-5 investor immigration in the United States.

U.S. Senate Continues Debate On Infrastructure Bill
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was one of the key Senators in a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill being … [+] GETTY IMAGES

Infrastructure Legislation

Meanwhile, the U.S House of Representatives has finally passed one of the two infrastructure bills it had under consideration. The bill called the American Jobs Plan, called for massive investments to improve the country’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and internet connections and involved $1.2 trillion in spending. It was adopted on the basis that the Build Back Better Act, a companion human infrastructure bill, would be passed by the House during the week of November 15. Negotiations in Congress dealing with infrastructure spending stretched out for weeks essentially blocking any movement on other measures that might have included fixing EB-5 program matters.

Traffic Jam In Congress

The upshot of the most recent development, while it was welcome in terms of legislative movement, still left the fate of the Regional Center EB-5 program uncertain. The way forward for the EB-5 program remains re-authorization of the Regional Center program. Failing re-authorization of the program, members of the U.S. investor immigrant community at the very least want to ensure that the foreign investors currently left in limbo be grandfathered in on the basis of compliance with the rules that were in place as of the date of their investment, albeit that the program itself folded thereafter.

Possible Re-authorization Of The Regional Center EB-5 Program?

As for re-authorization, that could take the form of either Congressional adoption of an omnibus appropriations bill that includes an EB-5 component, or attachment of a renewal of the Regional Center program to a Continuing Resolution adopted by Congress by December 3rd, 2021 to keep the federal government open until some time in the new year. The problem of a renewal of the program as part of a Continuing Resolution is that the Regional Center program was decoupled from this way of renewal in June when the program sunset so reversing that decision would be difficult. Discussions in the EB-5 community have indicated that the likelihood of gaining approval of an appropriations bill given the delays caused by the protracted discussions related to infrastructure legislation is not good. According to the prevailing wisdom, a simple Continuing Resolution will be passed without any reference to the EB-5 program, thereby delaying any consideration of the program until the new year.

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The EB-5 investor immigration program could be put on pause until the new year. GETTY

Pause For The Time Being

That would mean that the Regional Center program will remain on hiatus until the new year and only then will there be any chance of renewal. There is some speculation that the delay in addressing the Regional Center EB-5 program is reducing the likelihood it will be resurrected at all and that what remains open beyond the Regional Center aspect is not enough to assure the long term viability of the EB-5 direct investment program that is still active.

What If There Is No Renewal?

To guard against a total collapse of the EB-5 program and the likely impact that would have on future foreign investment in the United States, the American Immigrant Investor Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit has proposed the adoption of a Foreign Investor Fairness Protection Act (FIFPA). The act would grandfather foreign investors from loss of their funds by virtue of retroactive effect of EB-5 developments and create a safety net to protect them. Ishaan Khanna, who heads the organization, argues that no matter what else Congress may be asked to do, it should pass a stand alone bill or otherwise enable investors to qualify for their green cards. Passage of such a bill would at least resolve one of the two major issues facing Regional Center EB-5 investors. Then the only problem left to be resolved would be the recovery of funds invested, a matter that would have to be left to the investors and their legal advisors to address in each case, since part of the requirement of the EB-5 program was that the investment had to be put “at risk” to qualify the investor to get permanent residence. In addressing this aspect foreign investors can consider litigation, negotiation or possibly turning to the Securities Commission to review projects regarding any fraud or misrepresentations that was involved.

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This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.