In a letter dated February 23, 2018, the US Embassy in Paris notified “Golden Arrow” participants that the program to expedite E-2 visa issuance for critical employees of large French corporations is coming to an end. The Golden Arrow program allows employees of select pre-approved French companies to quickly schedule and obtain E-2 visas for employment in the United States in executive, managerial and essential skills positions. Golden Arrow employers are large, established French-owned companies with significant operations in the United States and France. Golden Arrow enables participants’ employees to skip the Embassy’s normal lengthy review process to determine if the company qualifies as an E-2 treaty investor. This allows the US Embassy in Paris to focus on the individual applicant’s qualifications and background, rather than the company’s.

Effective March 12, 2018, all E-2 visa applicants in Paris will follow the same application procedures. According to the Embassy’s letter, Golden Arrow “did not significantly decrease processing times for applicants.” Since processing times for participants were generally less than 3 business days, it is unclear how the Embassy expects processing times to speed up once the program is eliminated. Starting on March 12th,  all applicants, including employees of current Golden Arrow companies, will need to submit (and US Embassy officials will need to review) extensive documentation regarding the ownership, income and overall operations of companies that clearly qualify as E-2 Treaty Investors. As of this writing, the Embassy’s website has not yet been updated to reflect the new application process. However, it is difficult to see how this change will not result in visa issuance delays for critical employees of large, established French corporations.

The letter issued by the Embassy in Paris hints at a wider policy change within the US Department of State. Many consular posts around the world allow large, established companies to pre-register in order to avoid duplicate efforts with each E-2 visa application. These programs are critical for large corporations that rely on the ability to quickly move critical employees to the United States for temporary assignments. E-2 visas are based on long-standing treaties between the United States and dozens of countries, most of which are close allies and trading partners. Because these same treaties are relied upon by US companies to transfer US citizens to foreign assignments, further restrictions on E-2 visas will almost certainly lead to reciprocal curtailing of visa availability for US companies and their US citizen employees. It remains to be seen whether other US embassies around the world will follow suit and end similar E-2 registration programs. We will post further updates when they become available.

As negotiations in Congress continue towards resolving the shutdown of the federal government, individuals and companies that interact with the various federal agencies that administer immigration programs are naturally wondering how they might be affected. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) typically provides clear information about the impact of a government shutdown on its operations. For other agencies, we can only look to prior shutdowns in 2011 and 2013 to understand what to expect.

As a general matter, only “essential” employees will continue to work until funding is restored. The following is what we anticipate with respect to the various agencies Hunton & Williams deals with on behalf of our clients:

Continue Reading How Will the Government Shutdown Impact Immigration? It Depends on the Federal Agency and Program Involved

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a significant expansion of in-person interviews for individuals applying for permanent residence based on an offer of employment. The policy also applies to a much smaller population of beneficiaries of I-730 Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions who are inside the United States. The new policy will begin on October 1, 2017, and is expected to result in more than 130,000 additional interviews conducted each year at USCIS District Offices throughout the country. Affected applicants should expect significant processing delays, as these interviews will be conducted by an agency that is already struggling to keep up with current processing demands. These interviews will be conducted at the final stage of the permanent residency application process, called adjustment of status.
Continue Reading USCIS to Expand In–Person Interviews for Employment Based Permanent Resident Applicants

The U.S. Department of State has announced that, effective August 23, 2017, U.S. consular operations in Russia – Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok – will suspend processing of all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) applications. This action is being taken due to recent personnel reductions the Russian government has mandated for the U.S. Mission in Russia. Immigrant Visas related to permanent residence may also be impacted.
Continue Reading U.S. Consular Posts in Russia Suspend Nonimmigrant Visa Processing

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti through January 22, 2018 – a much shorter period than the normal 18-month extension. This announcement allows qualifying individuals to reapply for TPS and work authorization during a 60-day period starting May 24, 2017. If TPS designation for Haiti is allowed to expire in January 2018, as DHS warns may happen, the nearly 60,000 persons enrolled in the program will be forced to return to Haiti, change to another status if eligible, or remain in the United States unlawfully.

TPS allows qualifying persons inside the United States to remain temporarily until conditions in their home countries improve following civil war, natural disaster or similar extraordinary situations. Haiti’s initial TPS designation was granted within days of the devastating earthquake the country experienced in January 2010. [1] It was unclear whether the latest extension would happen at all, despite pleas by Haitian government officials, bipartisan members of Congress and others that an 18-month extension was the minimum time needed to plan for the safe and orderly return of citizens to Haiti. Advocates for a longer extension argued that Haiti continues to struggle to rebuild its infrastructure and economy after the 2010 earthquake and subsequent natural disasters, and that the relocation of such a large number of individuals will further erode economic and living conditions in Haiti.

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Individuals in TPS are only allowed to remain in the United States until DHS decides the temporary designation is no longer warranted. However, persons in TPS are permitted to change to another temporary status or seek permanent residence if they meet the relevant eligibility requirements. Citizens of Haiti who are in TPS should begin to plan for a return to Haiti in the event their TPS ends in 2018, or speak with an immigration attorney to determine if they qualify for a change to nonimmigrant status or obtain permanent residence.

Haitian TPS employment authorization documents that expire on July 22, 2017 are automatically extended through January 22, 2018, but only if applicants have timely filed to extend their TPS and employment authorization during the 60 day re-registration period. As explained in the Federal Register, employers are required to inspect several documents in order to complete or update their Form I-9 based on the automatic extension.

It is anticipated that DHS Secretary John F. Kelly will decide in late 2017 whether further extensions of TPS for Haiti are warranted. Hunton & Williams attorneys will continue to share information about this issue, in addition to monitoring the TPS for the nine other designated countries, many of which are up for review in late 2017 and early 2018.


Footnote:
[1] A team of Hunton & Williams lawyers, including Suzan Kern, were instrumental in obtaining TPS benefits for Haitian citizens in the United States immediately following the 2010 earthquake.

On Friday, March 3, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that premium processing service will be suspended for all H-1B petitions received on or after April 3, 2017. This suspension may remain in place for up to 6 months.
Continue Reading USCIS To Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions

The fast pace of immigration developments under the new Trump administration continues. The following are some of the issues that are most important to individuals and businesses in the United States: Continue Reading DHS Clarifies Policies Affecting Travelers and Applicants, As Details of Possible New Executive Orders Emerge

As we reported last Friday, President Trump has signed an Executive Order to temporarily restrict the admission of all refugees and persons from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  The administration’s failure to provide clear guidance to its own agencies on how to implement the order is resulting in inconsistent applications, which are unacceptable to the hundreds of thousands of individuals and U.S. businesses potentially affected by this travel ban.

Continue Reading Uncertainty Continues Over Who is Affected by the Travel Ban

The Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers rule was published in the Federal Register today. This significant rule codifies long-standing but unofficial agency practices under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (“AC21”) and establishes a variety of new provisions to further streamline business immigration processes, including the following:

Continue Reading Long-Awaited Employment-Based Immigration Rule Published by USCIS