News Update: Validity of Non-immigrant Visas

Validity of Non-immigrant Visas

Recently, the U.S. State Department has changed the period of validity for various nonimmigrant visas when the alien is the citizen of a country that reciprocates and grants extended stays to U.S. citizens. However, it is imperative that the alien and their employer understand that the visa is actually only valid through the validity period granted by the USCIS in the processing of the L or H petition. Most L and H petitions are approved by the USCIS for a period of three years. We have observed that the State Department has been issuing visas for a period of up to five years with a caveat that the Approval Notice Form I-797 must be presented at the point of entry.

Accordingly, it is imperative that you remind your employees that when they go to the U.S. consulate and they receive a visa for five years with such an annotation THEY MUST REQUEST THE RETURN OF THE ORIGINAL NOTICE OF ACTION (FORM I-797) ISSUED BY THE USCIS AND THEY MUST PRESENT IT UPON ENTRY. They will be granted an authorized stay consistent with the validity period in the Approval Notice issued by the USCIS; not the expiration date of the visa.

We believe the State Department has begun this policy to avoid the necessity of the alien having to process another visa application when they seek an extension of their nonimmigrant assignment. However, we are concerned that some government officials at the airport may be erroneously granting periods of time in excess of the approved petition and your employee would be adversely affected. Thus it is imperative that you have your employees forward copies of the Departure Records (I-94) issued to them upon their arrival into the country so that we can ensure that the worker has received the correct authorized period of stay and employment.

As if this cannot be made more complicated, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has announced that they will stop issuing Departure Records to the aliens upon their arrival into the country (see our previous eBlast). We assume that they will still be stamping the passport, so if in the future your employee does not receive a Departure Record, they should provide us with a copy of the stamp placed into their passport upon their arrival into the country. These matters will be discussed more comprehensively at our immigration seminar scheduled for March 5, 2013. Please mark your calendar and I hope to see you then.

On another note, we would like to congratulate Sandy Cole, our longtime receptionist, on her impending retirement after 22 years with Harry Gee & Associates. She has been a valuable asset to both myself and the company and I know you have likely had some interaction with her as well. Her last day will be Friday, January 25th. We will move forward, but she will be missed.