As peak holiday travel season approaches, Foster LLP would like to remind clients that they should review their travel documents and take steps in advance of international travel to avoid or minimize disruptions in their travel schedule, or delays in their ability to reenter the United States in the appropriate classification.
Additionally, many temporary workers and students in the United States will travel internationally during the holiday season and many will need to apply for new visas before returning to work or school in January. This annual rush of holiday 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 holiday season. In addition to the U.S. federal holidays observed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and consular posts abroad, U.S. consulates often observe the local holidays in the countries where they are located. In regions such as the Middle East or Asia, where government holiday schedules may not closely match the United States, this may increase substantially the number of days in which a U.S. consulate is closed during the holiday season. All of these factors combine to make holiday travel and visa application a challenge.
Tips for All Travelers
Travelers should first make sure they have a valid passport that will be valid for use on both their departure and return dates. Generally, travelers should renew their passports at the earliest possible time to avoid interference with international travel plans. Upon return to the United States, nonimmigrant visa holders can expect to be admitted only for the duration of their valid passport, or their visa petition, whichever is shorter. Other countries may require that a passport be valid for at least six 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.
International travelers should also make and retain copies of their passports and other travel documents and keep them separate from the originals. In the event that a passport or other travel document is lost or stolen, the photocopies will be useful in reporting the loss to the authorities and obtaining replacement documents.
Finally, all travelers, both international and domestic, should be prepared for additional delays at airports due to a higher volume of international travel as well as tightened security measures. Tighter security around the holidays is normal, but this year travelers can expect that security levels will be particularly heightened. In some instances travelers may be subject to an additional, secondary level of inspection, with accompanying delays, should U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) opt to further verify the validity of documents, status or other background information before admission.
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). Travelers will need to submit new ESTA applications if previous authorization has expired or if certain key information has changed since their last approval.
Reminder for Chinese Visitors Holding B-1/B-2 to Enroll in EVUS Prior to Travel
Visitors from China who hold ten-year B-1/B-2 visas are now required to pay an enrollment fee and complete an online enrollment process with the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) before they travel to the United States. This requirement applies even if the ten-year visa was issued prior to the November 2016 effective date of the new EVUS registration requirement. In addition to the initial registration, the EVUS system will also require periodic online updates, usually every two years, or when the traveler’s passport or visa will expire, whichever comes first. While EVUS registrations and updates should not take long, registrants should complete registrations as soon as they make their travel plans, and before any final tickets are purchased, in order to avoid a delay in travel or costly rescheduling of flights.
Visa Revocation for DUI/DWI Arrest
The DOS has increased 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 and the foreign national may not always be aware or notified of the visa revocation. This means that while the foreign national may remain in the U.S. under their current nonimmigrant status, any travel outside of the U.S. will 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 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 (eg. H-1B, L-1, O-1) 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, as US Consular visa appointment slots fill up quickly in December and January. Visa issuance after an appointment may also be delayed during the holiday 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.
Generally, a petition-based work visa application will require at a minimum the following documentation:
- Valid passport.
- Completion of online DS-160, one each per applicant, along with digital photo.
- Visa application fees and reciprocity fees applicable to country of citizenship.
- Original CIS Approval Notice.
- Proof of current or intended employment with sponsoring employer (e.g., recent employment verification letter and earnings statement).
- Marriage/birth certificate for dependent family member applications.
The above-referenced list is comprised of the minimum documents generally required by all U.S. consular posts for petition-based work visa applications. Applicants under the Blanket L visa program should contact their Foster attorneys for further information. Additionally, because individual posts may require other documents at the time of the visa interview, which can include an updated resume, a copy of the petition filing, or other evidence related to the individual’s qualifications or proposed position in the United States, applicants should always check the website of the specific consular post for the most up-to-date requirements for scheduling and attending visa interviews.
Canadian citizens do not require a visa to enter the U.S.; however, Canadians should travel with their original Form I-797 Approval Notice, or with appropriate application packages for new TN or L-1 applications that do not require pre-approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).
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.
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.