US Visa and Immigration News - IN 2024


Table of Contents

12 July 2024

Decline in EB-5 Visas Issued to Indian Citizens

Despite the increase noted for the US EB-5 visa program in the last 8 months, visa issuance rates for Indians through consular processing have declined by 22 percent. During the period from October 1, 2023, to May 31, 2023, a total of 7,173 EB-5 visas were issued through consular processing, accounting for an increase of 42 per cent year-over-year increase compared to the statistics from the same period in FY2023. However, during the same period, or in the first eight months of FY 2024, the number of issued EB-5 visas to Indian applicants was 512, accounting for a decline of 22 per cent year over year. Consequently, the monthly visa issuance to the Indians at the US Consulate in Mumbai, India, revealed that a decline was registered in productivity with just 50-60 visas processed per month, and only 4 EB-5 visas issued in May. However, the statistics from the US Department of State also reveal that May 2024 was recorded the second-highest monthly visa issuance rate so far for a period from October 1, 2023, until May 31, 2024, after that month alone, 1,222 EB-5 visas were issued. Of the total 7,173 EB-5 visas issued in the first eight months of FY2024, over 1,990 belong to the adjustment of status side, all as part of the Unreserved category.

17 May 2024

Congress Introduces Bill to Add Ireland to E3 Visa

This week, the US House of Representatives has introduced two bills seeking to add Ireland to the E3 nonimmigrant visa program. The first bill is sponsored by Representative Richard Neal (D-MA) and cosponsored by Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA). The two, who are co-chairs of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus, formerly introduced similar legislation in 2022. The second bill is sponsored by Representative Mike Lawler (D-NY) and is cosponsored by Representative Kevin Mullin (D-CA). Both bills have been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Attempts to include Ireland in the E3 Visa program have been running for years. Legislation nearly passed in 2018 but was narrowly defeated. In May 2019, Neal re-introduced legislation to grant Irish access to the E3 visa, and it unanimously passed the House in March 2020, but was never voted upon in the US Senate. In 2022, Neal and Kelly again reintroduced legislation, however, it lapsed when Congress concluded. The E-3 Visa Program was introduced in 2005 as part of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), and makes 10,500 visas available to skilled Australian nationals annually.

22 April 2024

USCIS Instituted a 250% Visa Fee Increase for Global Musicians

On April 1, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services instituted a 250% visa fee increase for global musicians hoping to tour in the U.S. Artists, advocacy groups and immigration lawyers are concerned it could have devastating effects on emerging talent worldwide and local music economies in the United States. If you’re a musician from outside of the United States hoping to perform stateside and you filed visa paperwork before April 1, the cost per application was $460. After that date? $1,615 to $1,655. Bands and ensemble groups pay per performer. A standard rock band of four members went from paying $1,840 to around $6,460. And if you can’t wait a few months for approval, add $2,805 per application for expedited processing. If the application is declined, that money is not refunded — on top of losses from a canceled tour and missing out on “significant, potentially career-changing opportunities,” says Jen Jacobsen, executive director at The Artist Rights Alliance. If a musician has support staff, a backing band or other employees to bring on the tour, these individuals need visas, too. “Even if you’re Capitol Records and you have all the money in the world to throw at it, you still can’t get rid of U.S. bureaucracy,” says immigration attorney Gabriel Castro. All international musicians require work visas to perform in the U.S. There are a few exemptions: Those are reserved for “showcases” through the Visa Waiver Program — like what is often used at South by Southwest, where international artists perform exclusively at official showcases, without pay and for exposure. Currently, there are few obstacles for U.S. musicians looking to enter other countries for the specific purpose of earning money through live performances. According to Castro, American performers are able to enter most countries without a visa and under an exception to tourism rules.

26 March 2024

Immigration is Powering US Growth

In February, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) calculated that immigration will generate a $7 trillion boost to gross domestic product over the next decade. The agency came to that conclusion after incorporating the recent surge in immigration. The CBO release spurred a flurry of fresh number-crunching among investment bank economists, to account for the boost those immigrants are giving to the labor force and consumer spending. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. revised up its near-term economic growth forecasts Sunday. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BNP Paribas SA were among banks that acknowledged the economic impact from surging immigration in recent weeks. “Immigration is not just a highly charged social and political issue, it is also a big macroeconomic one,” Janet Henry, global chief economist at HSBC Holdings Plc, wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. No advanced economy is benefiting from immigration quite like the US, and “the impact of migration has been an important part of the US growth story over the past two years.” Morgan Stanley economists Sam Coffin and Ellen Zentner noted that in February, that faster population growth fueled by immigration lends itself to stronger employment and population estimates than initially thought — though added that the full effect might not be captured by official statistics.

12 March 2024

US Consulate in Mumbai Screens 1,500 Applicants

The US Consulate in Mumbai arranged a special 'Super Saturday' drive on March 9, screening 1,500 visa applicants to help overcome the visa backlog. The diverse group of applicants included elderly parents visiting their children, students pursuing education abroad, temporary workers, tourists, and businessmen, many of whom were first-time visitors. 'Super Saturday' drives, initiated sporadically since 2022, are set to become a quarterly feature. The surge in demand had previously led to a waiting period of up to 1,000 days. However, concerted efforts to increase manpower and resources have significantly reduced the backlog, according to visa chief Katherine Estes. The US Consulate's spokesperson, Greg Pardo, highlighted that applicants traveled from various parts of the country, not limited to Maharashtra and western India. Furthermore, he emphasized that visa openings are regularly updated on the website, allowing applicants to apply visas from any embassy or consulate based on their preferences and the waiting period in different locations.

08 February 2024

US Declares Visa Ban on those who Misuse Commercial Spyware

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, announced the new policy, and he said the ban was in the best interests of US national security. "The State Department is implementing a new policy today that will allow the imposition of visa restrictions on individuals involved in the misuse of commercial spyware," said Blinken in a press statement. "The United States remains concerned with the growing misuse of commercial spyware around the world to facilitate repression, restrict the free flow of information, and enable human rights abuses. The misuse of commercial spyware threatens privacy and freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. "Such targeting has been linked to arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings in the most egregious of cases. Additionally, the misuse of these tools presents a security and counterintelligence threat to US personnel." The new visa restriction follows an executive order issued by the Biden administration, a year ago, that outlaws the use of commercial spyware by the government if it threatens foreign policy or national security interests.

02 January 2024

New Immigration Rules Increase Visa Approvals for STEM workers!

In January 2022, USCIS amended its guidance criteria relating to two visa categories available to STEM workers. Firstly, the O-1A, a temporary visa for “aliens of extraordinary ability” that often paves the way to a green card. Secondly, a subset of an EB-2 (employment-based) visa. which provides a green card on those with advanced STEM degrees. Consequently, the USCIS data demonstrates that the number of O-1A visas awarded in the first year of the revised guidance jumped by almost 30%, to 4570, and held steady in fiscal year 2023, which ended on 30 September 2023. Similarly, the number of STEM EB-2 visas approved in 2022 after a “national interest” waiver shot up by 55% over 2021, to 70,240, and stayed at that level, in 2023. Although the O-1A visas have no caps on the number awarded, foreign-born scientists have largely ignored this option because it was not clear what metrics USCIS would use to assess their application. The 2022 guidance on O-1A's removed that uncertainty by listing eight criteria—including: awards, peer-reviewed publications, and reviewing the work of other scientists—and prescribing that applicants need to satisfy at least three of these criteria.

04 December 2023

Paperless US Visas Planned - No Visa Stamps!

The US Government plans to gradually implement a digital visa system, signifying a large shift in visa processing. Recently, the Biden administration concluded a successful pilot project for "paperless visas" at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Dublin, where there is already an Airport facility with US Officials, who can check the Visa status before boarding a plane. Julie Stufft, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services, said, "We did our first small scope pilot of a paperless visa, which means that the visa process is the same but there's no physical visa in someone's passport. It will take us probably 18 months to have widespread use of this or longer." Therefore, the plan is that Visitors to the US will show evidence of their visa status, on an App.

26 October 2023

US Visa Backlog Clears for Indian Applicants

Recently, Visa Waiting periods have been reduced significantly for Indian applicants, and there has been a reduction in Visa rejections, with now 95% of visa applications getting cleared. In addition, Applicants have options available to re-schedule Appointments. Applications for Student visas are considered high priority and are most rapidly cleared. In addition, with the visa backlog now cleared, many Indian citizens are applying for US Visitor visas, and receiving 10 year Visitor visas, stamped on their passports. The Indian travel industry are very pleased with the backlog clearance, and consequently many opportunities will arise for Indian travelers to visit the US during the vacation season.

20 September 2023

EB-5 Visa - Migration Agents must Register with USCIS

USCIS now requires that all Migration Agents or EB-5 Promoter Consultants advising and assisting clients with an EB-5 Investor Visa Project must register their information, and complete a Form I-956K -'Registration for Direct and Third Party Promoters'. In addition, the Promoter Agent must specify the full details of the EB-5 Project, which they are promoting, and include a signed printed copy of their Finders Agreement with the Regional Center. Also, the Promoter Agent must include copies of their Identification, such as certified Passport biodata page and certified Drivers License. There is no Filing fee and the I-956K application must be sent by Courier to the USCIS office, in Lewisville, Texas, US.

19 September 2023

Revived Semiconductor Manufacturing in the US

The United States Government has implemented a law in 2022 to revive the Semiconductor manufacturing industry in the US. The new 2022 Law is The Creating Helpful Incentives to produce Semiconductors (CHIPS), which channels billions of USD into bringing back the manufacturing of semicnductors to the US, which has been outsourced overseas over the past three decades. To enable this manufacturing endeavour, the United States would need a massive skilled talent pool of Engineers and Techincians, at all levels. Unfortunately, now there is a dearth of sufficient skilled talent in the US. This is eveidenced by the fact that the United States currently manufactures only 12% of the world's chips, which is a decline from 37% in 1990.

13 September 2023

Indians are Fourth biggest Source market for Overseas Visitor to the US

Indians were the 4th largest source of foreign inbound Visitors to the US, after Canada, Mexico and the UK, during the June peak summer travel month, despite high airfares and visa backlogs. Anil Kalsi, VP of Travel Agents’ Federation of India, said: "The demand for travel to the US is tremendous because of a number of factors like visiting friends and relatives (VFR), students, parents going to visit children and business". After making a payment for a Visitor visa, Applicants have 365 days from the date of payment to schedule an appointment before the payment expires.

28 August 2023

EB-1 Indian Visa Applicants Now Face 10 Year Processing Time

The EB-1 'Einstein' Visa is for Applicants with Exceptional Talent or Academic Achievments for a US Green card (Permanent residence). However, according to the Department of State's latest Bulletin, in August 2023, there is now a 10 Year Retrogression for Indian EB-1 Applicants, which moves the final action date back to 1 January 2012 from 1 February 2022. Possible reasons for Retrogression in the EB-1 Visa category include huge demand, which cause a shortage in available visas for the current fiscal year. Nevertheless, the good news is that the Department of State foresees that Indian EB-1 cut-off dates may revert back to August 2023 levels in October 2023.

9 August 2023

Decrease in Student Numbers due to Visa Refusals

There has been a 15% decrease in numbers of International students attending US Universities recently, due to Visa refusals and uncompetitive immigration policies, in a comparison between the 2016/17 and the 2020/21 academic years. However, during the same period, there has been a corresponding rise in enrolments in Canadian Colleges and Universities, with an increase of 46% of International students. It appears that Indian students have been a major reason for the increase in International students in Canada, with an increase of 324% or 135,294 between 2016/17 and 2020/21 academic years. Indian students prefer the more liberalized immigration policies in Canada than in the US, and easier transition from University to temporary work status and then permanent residence, whereas in the US, most H-1B Visas are refused due to low annual limits.

3 August 2023

Proposed Changes to the E-3 Visa for Australians

The E-3 Visa is exclusively for Australians, with a total of 10,500 reserved for Australians each year, but the quota never gets completely filled. By comparison, the H-1B Work Visa is dramtically oversubscribed, with a total of 65,000 issued each year worldwide. However, there is no mutually equivalent E-3 type Work visa for Americans who wish to work in Australia, apart from the Work and Holiday visa for 18 to 30 year olds. In 2020, there are nearly 30,000 Australians living and working in New York and 25,000 Australians in California. Even if the E-3 Visa is granted, it does not mean that the Australian applicant will get a Job Offer in the US. In addition, there is a proposal to open up the E-3 Visa to Irish citizens.