As peak summer travel season approaches, Foster LLP would like to remind clients that they should review their immigration documents and take steps in advance of international travel to minimize disruptions in their travel schedule or delays in their ability to reenter the United States in the appropriate classification.
Foster recently noted Increased Scrutiny and Possible Delays in Visa Issuance arising from the diplomatic cables sent by U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson on behalf the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to all consular posts abroad, which we anticipate will amplify the normal seasonal delays.
Temporary Workers and Students
Many temporary workers and students in the United States will travel internationally over the summer months and will need to apply for new visas before returning to work or school in August and September. This annual rush of summer travelers results in more visa applications at U.S. consular posts at precisely the time consular posts are operating with a reduced staff and shorter hours during the summer. Many children may be out of school during the summer, during which period consular staff and other visa applicants may take off work to travel internationally.
All of these factors combine to make summer travel and visa application a challenge. Employers should factor additional time for the visa application process.
Tips for All Travelers
Travelers should make sure they have a passport with sufficient validity to cover both their departure and return dates. Foster recommends travelers renew their passports at the earliest possible time to minimize the potential for interference with international travel plans. Upon return to the United States, nonimmigrant visa holders can expect to be admitted only for the remaining duration of their valid passport, or their visa, whichever is shorter. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provides further guidance online here for nonimmigrant visa holders traveling to the U.S., including the general rule that visitors hold passports valid for six (6) months beyond the period of U.S. travel.
Many countries require that a passport be valid for at least six (6) months beyond the intended stay in order to be admitted. Travelers should always double-check the rules regarding passport validity and other document requirements in the destination country well in advance of their departure. Contact your Foster attorney for more information about the entry requirements to other countries.
International travelers should also make and retain copies of their passports, visas, and other travel documents. Keep them separate from the originals. In the event that a passport or other travel document is misplaced or stolen, the photocopies will be useful in reporting the loss to the authorities and obtaining replacements.
All international and domestic travelers should be prepared for additional delays at airports due to a higher volume of international travel as well as tightened security measures. This year travelers can expect that security levels will be particularly heightened. Should CBP opt in their discretion to further verify the validity of documents, status or other background information, travelers may be subject to a secondary level of inspection with accompanying delays before admission.
Travelers are also reminded of the recent carry-on restrictions for certain international flights arriving into the U.S. and U.K.
Tips for Visa Waiver Travelers to the U.S. for Business or Leisure
Travelers to the U.S. for business or leisure who are eligible for visa-free travel under the Visa Waiver Program should remember that they must first register their travel and receive authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to seeking admission to the United States. A new ESTA application must be submitted if previous authorization has expired or if certain key information has changed since the last approval. Travelers on a private or chartered aircraft, not on a “common carrier,” cannot utilize ESTA and must obtain a visa in advance of travel.
We also want to remind clients of the continued increased scrutiny by the CBP for frequent ESTA business travelers. ESTA travelers should not assume that successful prior trips ensure the success of future admissions. Travelers should make sure each trip meets the requirements for business travel, and when in doubt, contact their Foster immigration attorney immediately.
Visa Revocation for DUI/DWI Arrest
The State Department has continued its recent practice of revoking the validity of nonimmigrant visas at the time a foreign national is arrested in the U.S. for DUI/DWI. A conviction is not required for the DOS to revoke the visa. The foreign national may not always be aware or notified of the visa revocation. While the foreign national may remain in the U.S. under their current nonimmigrant status, any travel outside of the U.S. would require a new visa appointment at a U.S. consulate abroad and medical screening by a panel physician. Foreign nationals who have been arrested for DUI/DWI should consult their Foster immigration attorney immediately.
Tips for Temporary Workers and Other Nonimmigrants in the United States
Temporary workers and other nonimmigrant visa holders in the United States (i.e. H-1B, L-1, etc.) should also confirm that they have a valid visa for return to the United States following international travel. If a new visa application will be required, applicants should schedule their visa appointments now. U.S. consular visa appointment slots fill up quickly between May and August. Visa issuance after an appointment may also be delayed during the summer season. Applicants are therefore advised to schedule their appointments for a day at the beginning of their trip in order to maximize the time in-country for return of the passport with the visa once the visa is issued.
Please note that heightened security concerns may also result in the delay of visa issuance based on additional security clearance checks being conducted by the U.S. Department of State.
Upon returning to the United States and before leaving the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspection station, travelers should review the admission stamp in their passports and confirm that they are being admitted in the appropriate status, and for the appropriate duration. Travelers who notice an error in their admission status or duration may wish to request to speak with a supervisor, who may then be able to correct any error before it is officially entered into the system. Upon readmission to the United States, nonimmigrants should always review and provide their Foster attorney with a copy of their new visas and their latest I-94 records, which govern the duration of authorized stay. To print the electronic I‐94 record, visit the CBP website at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
Keeping these tips in mind and planning ahead should decrease the likelihood of difficulty during the summer travel months. As always, Foster attorneys are available to answer specific travel-related questions and provide additional information regarding the requirements for international travel. Foster also provides periodic updates on the firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com.