NEWS

DOS Issues Guidance to Simplify Nonimmigrant Visa Process for U.S. College Graduates

DOS Issues Guidance to Simplify Nonimmigrant Visa Process for U.S. College Graduates

On June 18, 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration unveiled a series of measures aimed at streamlining the process for employment-based nonimmigrant visas for individuals who have graduated from U.S. colleges and universities and have secured a job offer. This initiative seeks to expedite the issuance of nonimmigrant work visas for eligible candidates.  Such visas include H-1B, L-1, E-2 and O-1 visas.

Clarification of Guidance for Consular Officers

As part of this initiative, the Department of State (DOS) will provide clearer guidance to consular officers on when to recommend that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant a waiver of ineligibility for visa applicants. These clarifications are intended to streamline the process without altering the existing steps involved in obtaining a visa.

The updated guidance for consular officers will be issued within the next 30 days.

Q: What will these process clarifications mean for current NIV ineligibility waiver processing steps?

The clarifications will specify when consular officers should consider recommending an expedited waiver of ineligibility to DHS in conjunction with visa applications submitted overseas. The actual processing steps will remain unchanged. Waiver requests will continue to be adjudicated by the DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Admissibility Review Office.

For more details on visa ineligibility waivers, please visit our website: Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws (state.gov).

Application Process for Petition-Based Nonimmigrant Work Visas

Q: How can an individual apply for a petition-based nonimmigrant work visa?

Applicants must first have their Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Detailed information on the petition process can be found on the USCIS website. Once approved, USCIS will send a Notice of Action, Form I-797, to the prospective employer.

Following the petition approval, individuals can apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, following specific instructions available on their respective websites. Applicants must complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, and schedule an interview appointment.

It should be noted that nonimmigrant working visas include H-1B specialty occupation visas, L-1A and L-1B intracompany transferee visas, E-2 treaty investor visas and O-1 extraordinary ability visas.  Please contact Attorney Monique Kornfeld for more information about eligibility for these nonimmigrant working visas.

Visa Ineligibility Waivers

Q: If an applicant needs a visa ineligibility waiver, how can they request one as part of a standard interview?

Applicants denied a visa will be informed by the consular officer about the basis of their ineligibility and their eligibility for a waiver. If ineligible based on specific grounds under Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, they may request a waiver. These requests are adjudicated by DHS’s Admissibility Review Office, based on recommendations from the DOS.

Interview Appointment Wait Times

Q: How long are current interview appointment wait times for employment-based nonimmigrant visas at overseas posts?

Currently, wait times for H-1B visa interviews are minimal at most overseas posts.

Updates to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM)

Q: How will forthcoming edits to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) clarify existing guidance to consular officers?

The FAM updates will outline the circumstances under which consular officers should recommend a waiver of ineligibility to DHS, aligning with existing laws and regulations. This clarification does not confer new benefits but aims to expedite the review process for eligible individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas. This is not limited to DACA recipients but is applicable to all eligible applicants.

These updates will encourage expedited review of waiver requests in conjunction with nonimmigrant visa applications, potentially allowing quicker issuance of work visas if DHS approves the waiver. This policy aims to help individuals and employers make informed decisions, reducing the risks associated with leaving the U.S. to apply for a visa.