State Department Requiring Social Media Information from All Visa Applicants

By Peek & Toland on August 1, 2019

Under a new State Department policy, visa applicants now must submit information about any social media accounts that they have used during the past five years, including their social media handles or user names, emails accounts, and telephone numbers. Submitting this information about allow authorities to access any photos, milestones, demographic data, and comments posted on these sites by applicants.

While the State Department had requested that visa applicants voluntarily submit this information beginning during the Obama Administration, it now is a requirement. Furthermore, the State Department previously was collecting social media information only from those visa applicants whom they had identified for additional scrutiny, such as those who had traveled to countries known to be controlled by terrorist groups. This group amounted to about 65,000. Now, except for a few applicants for official and diplomatic visas, everyone must submit the information. The policy change is expected to impact more than 15 million people.

State Department Requiring Social Media Information from All Applicants

Opponents of the policy have objected to it as overly broad and an intrusive breach of privacy for visa applicants. They also criticize the federal government for not stating how they would use the information gleaned from social media, or how that information about be a reliable sign that a person posed a security threat if allowed into the country.

The newly required social media information for visa applicants is part of the Trump Administration’s 2017 memorandum in which it announced that they would subject individuals coming to the U.S. to extreme “vetting” to minimize any security risks from entering the country. The federal government has categorized this information as part of the other demographic information that they require visa applicants to provide to confirm their identities. The State Department claims that the information will assist it in screening out terrorists and people who are safety threats. The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

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Can I Change a Tourist Visa to a Student Visa?

By Peek & Toland on July 25, 2019

If you are in the U.S. on a specific nonimmigrant visa and wish to change your status to another nonimmigrant category, you must file the appropriate request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Therefore, if you entered the U.S. on a tourist visa, but now want to attend school in the U.S., you would have to apply for a student visa.

As soon as you determine that you want to change your status, you should take the steps necessary to submit your request, since processing times can be lengthy. You must change your status before your current status expires. You also should not modify your activities, such as by enrolling in school, until your new status has been approved. Otherwise, you could end up present in the U.S. without a legal immigration status. This could lead to you being deported or barred from returning to the U.S.

Can I Change a Tourist Visa to a Student Visa?

Generally, you can change your nonimmigrant status if you meet the following conditions:

  • You were lawfully admitted to the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa.
  • Your nonimmigrant status is still valid.
  • You have not violated any of the conditions of your immigration status.
  • You have not committed any crimes that would you ineligible.

However, you do not need to change your nonimmigrant status to attend school in the U.S. if you are the spouse or child of individuals who were lawfully admitted to the U.S. in specific nonimmigrant visa categories. These categories include temporary workers on H visas, international trade and investors on E visas, or representatives of foreign media on I visas, among others.

There also are some nonimmigrant statuses that do not permit you to apply for a student visa or other nonimmigrant status. These individuals include those who are in the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program, informants on terrorism or organized crime, or fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens or dependents of fiancé(e)s. The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration issue.

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What Should I Do if My Visa is Denied?

By Peek & Toland on March 28, 2019

With increasing security measures and other policy changes put into place by the Trump administration, individuals seeking all types of visas are seeing more and more denials of their applications. For example, when applications were deficient or missing information in the past, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) simply sent applicants a notice of the deficiency and gave them an opportunity to remedy it. Now, a Trump administration-era policy change permits USCIS officers to simply deny these applications with no prior notice. For these individuals who receive visa denials, their only recourse may be to start over and reapply. This obviously can add months or years to the application process, as well as thousands of dollars in additional fees.

Although reapplication may be the only way to seek a visa, repeatedly reapplying for a six-month visitors’ visa may be a bad idea. Rather, taking time between applications to figure out what caused the denial in the first place may be more productive then simply reapplying immediately using the same information that already has resulted in a denial. For example, if you received a denial because you had insufficient proof of your ties to your current country of residence, then you should take the time to develop this evidence prior to reapplying for a visa.


What Should I Do if My Visa is Denied?

Similarly, if you are denied a student visa by the consulate, you should ask specifically what resulted in the denial of your visa application. If you can correct the problem, then you can reapply for a student visa, perhaps successfully.

In the case of a denial to change your status from one visa to another, you must act quickly by consulting a lawyer and applying for reconsideration. If you fail to do so, you risk being placed in deportation proceedings if your original visa has run out. Unless you have some other legitimate basis for being in the U.S., you will be asked to voluntarily depart by a certain date or face deportation.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys today.

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Can I Get a Visa to Come to the U.S. if I Am Self-Employed?

By Peek & Toland on March 23, 2019

The H-1B visa is for foreign nationals with bachelor’s degrees, or the foreign equivalent, to come to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation. Normally, a U.S. company must sponsor the foreign national through the H-1B visa program. Now, however, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts H-1B visa petitions filed by U.S. companies that the prospective visa beneficiary owns. This is widely referred to as the H-1B visa for entrepreneurs.

Can I Get a Visa to Come to the U.S. if I Am Self-Employed?

This visa allows skilled professionals with the necessary academic qualifications to come to the U.S. to set up their own businesses. In order to qualify as a specialty occupation, the employment must be one of the following:

·         The work is so complex or unique that only an individual who holds a bachelor’s degree or higher can complete it,

·         The minimum requirement for the job is a degree or its equivalent, or

·         The work is specific that the knowledge required to perform it is that usually associated with those who hold bachelor’s degrees.

Since the company must have the ability to pay the visa holder’s salary, investments of less than $150,000 rarely qualify for this type of visa. Additionally, the individual must be able to establish an employer-employee relationship. For a company that you own, you cannot be self-employed in the traditional sense and obtain an H-1B visa. Rather, there must be someone other than yourself who exercises control over your work, such as investors, a board of directors, or shareholders. The required level of control must include the right to hire, fire, and review the employee’s work. This is the only situation in which a self-employed individual can obtain an H-1B entrepreneur visa.

Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration law matter. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of immigration forms, regulations, and policies, and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today and secure the future of your family in the U.S. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

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Your Options If Your L-1 or H1B Visa is Denied

By Peek & Toland on May 18, 2016

Many U.S. companies require a sizeable and regular supply of highly skilled, temporary workers from overseas to ensure they remain competitive. L-1 or H1B visas are required to bring these specialist workers to the United States.

Although these visas allow companies to employ people who may have skills sets they can’t obtain in the local area, there’s no guarantee the visas will be granted.

Your options when an L-1 visa is denied

Congress created the L-1 classification in 1970 to allow companies that have operations in a number of countries to move personnel to the United States. These are temporary visas, even if the job that is being filled is not temporary in nature. Executives and managers fall under the L1A classification.

Four criteria are set out by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for the visas. If you are considering applying for an L-1 visa, you should make sure you answer these four questions affirmatively to find out if the worker you have in mind will qualify.

To successfully apply for an L-1 visa, the employee in question must be an intra-company transferee, and must have worked with your company abroad for one continuous year out of the last three.

If the employee does not work for your company, you can apply for an H1B visa. However, the recipient must work in a specialty occupation and hold a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in a specialized field of knowledge. Unlike the L-1 visa, there is an annual cap on the number of H1B visas that are issued. See our website for more details on the cap.

What To Do If a Temporary Work Visa is Denied

Usually, if your work has been denied, we have 30 days to either:

1 Appeal the decision;

2 File a motion to re-open.

Initially, we will look carefully at your case. You may have failed to meet one of the basic criteria. For example, you may have applied for an L-1 Visa for someone who is not employed at your company or be seeking an H1B visa for an applicant who lacks the necessary educational qualifications. One of the most common grounds for the denial of L-1A petitions is when an employee is judged not to be acting in a managerial capacity. This can be open to interpretation.

However, immigration officials can and do make mistakes. We have often successfully re-opened cases by bringing in new evidence or highlighting how evidence was misrepresented.

In such cases, motions to reopen can be very effective. Immigration officials are often overworked and can fail to pick up on evidence that’s relevant to an application.

Appeals are filed with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). In most cases appeals take six months to be decided, which can be problematic for the company that applied for the visa. However, in some cases, an appeal can be lodged in a U.S. District Court, where the process is usually faster.

If you are considering applying for an L-1 or H1B visa or your application has been denied, our Texas immigration attorneys may be able to help you. We have offices in Austin and Houston. Call our experienced immigration team at (512) 474-4445.

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