Immigration News: Tourist Visa to Student Visa

By Peek & Toland on August 11, 2021

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a policy change that affects anyone visiting the United States who wishes to study in the United States under the F-1 student visa. It’s an exciting policy that will help international students stay in the United States with far less paperwork and hassle in their visa application process.

B-1/B-2 Status to F-1 Status

Many hopeful international students enter the United States as visitors from their home country under the B 1/B 2 visa category (tourist visas) with the plan to become a full-time student in an academic program at a university or other academic institution in the U.S., and this change to international student status just became a much easier process.

If you know anything about the process to change your visa status, you know it can be quite a tricky and cumbersome endeavor, one that often requires you to depart the United States to account for a gap in status or fie multiple extensions on your change of status (COS). Well, that’s no longer the case.

Applicants for Change of Status to F-1 Student No Longer Need to Submit Subsequent Applications for Gap Period

This announcement means you no longer have to file those additional extension applications if your current visa status’s expiration date occurs prior to your course of study as an international student in the U.S., so long as you file your application to change to F-1 visa status before your tourist or other visa status reaches its expiration date.

Incoming international students must remember that timelines when filing their application for a student visa is of the utmost importance, so they may be eligible to remain in the U.S. without having to depart the United States upon their previous visa’s expiration date to account for the gap period with time in another or their home country.

Important Information on F-1 Eligibility

This change in immigration filing and policy does not mean international students may be eligible to remain in the U.S. and attend their academic program if they fail to comply with the stipulations on the F-1 visa.

If United States Citizen and Immigration Services approves an application more than 30 days before the student’s academic program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time with violations such as engaging in employment, including on-campus employment, more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on their Form I-20.

If you have questions about your visa status or need help filing an application or form, so you may engage in an academic program in the U.S., or if you are in any kind of visa application process, we’d love to advise you on that. Also, if you have a pathway to residency or pathway to work visa, give us a call. We’d love to help you complete the process.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

Pathway to Permanent Residency through Investor Visas

By Peek & Toland on July 14, 2021

Can you buy your pathway to permanent residency or legal time in the United States? In a way, the answer is yes, and a few options that fit that mold are the EB-5 and E-2 visas, also known as investor visas.

You can probably guess that there are stipulations involved with obtaining and using these visas, and you can’t just haphazardly throw money at the U.S. government in order to live and work here. So, what are these two visas, what sets them apart, and how can you use them to create a pathway to permanent residency or business presence in the U.S.?

Let’s take a look at the EB-5 and E-2 visas to find out which option is best for you.

 EB-5 Visa

 The EB-5 visa, also known as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, is a 30+-year-old program created to entice foreign investors to invest in U.S. businesses that will generate at least 10 jobs in the U.S. In exchange for this type of investment into a business that proves successful in job creation, foreign nationals and their families are eligible to gain permanent residency in the U.S.

Yes, this is essentially a pay-to-play program, but it’s one that legitimizes immigrants’ intentions to live and work in the U.S. while being contributing members of society. As you can imagine, there is an entire industry in the U.S. devoted solely to securing foreign investments from eligible foreign nationals. Most of these investment firms work in conjunction with the real estate industry for capital investments in every kind of building structure you can imagine.

If real estate isn’t your passion and you have a desire to invest in or create U.S. businesses for a pathway to permanent residency, the EB-5 could be an incredible opportunity for you and your future.

There are investment minimums that apply for eligibility for this program, and the Trump administration attempted to raise those minimums. That increase was overruled, however, and you can learn more about those investment minimums here

But, what if you have no real interest in securing residency, but you’d like to invest in a U.S. business and be able to come and go as you please to check on your investments? There’s an option for that, and it comes in the form of E-2 visas.

E-2 Visa

The E-2 visa, also known as E-2 Treaty Investors, is a program similar to the E-5 visa in that it incentivizes foreign investment into U.S. business. The difference, though, is that this option does not provide a direct pathway to residency.

The E-2 visa is what we call a flexible option—it permits a national of a treaty country to come and go in the U.S. when investing a substantial amount of capital in a U.S. business. Additionally, certain employees of said national or of a qualifying organization may also have the same benefits.

What’s even better about the E-2 visa? There are no investment minimums like those of the EB-5 visa, making this option much more attainable for foreign nationals. The approval for investment and entry into the U.S. for said investment is based on your business plan or idea, but this process requires investment prior to the actual application. Some folks take issue with that, but one of our experienced immigration attorneys can talk you through that process and explain why that leap of faith is beneficial.

 This visa option has no limit on renewals, so you could perpetually renew your visa and maintain travel and working life between your country of origin and the U.S.

 If you have questions about the EB-5 visa, the E-2 visa, or any other means to be in the U.S. lawfully, please reach out to us today. These are very complicated and complex options, and we’d be more than happy to explore all these avenues with you to find the best choice for you and your investment goals.

 Continue to follow us on social media and check back in on the blog as we continue to break down the immigration and criminal defense issues that affect you.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

Eligibility for U Visa, T Visa, and VAWA

By Peek & Toland on September 9, 2020

U Visa 

U visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who have been victims of violent crimes who are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in prosecuting criminal activity. 

Serious crimes include aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, domestic violence.

T Visa 

It’s a very uncommon used visa by most immigrants. This type of visa allows certain human trafficking victims and immediate family members to remain and work temporarily in the United States. Typically if they report the crime to law enforcement and agree to help them in the investigation or prosecution of the crime committed against them.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 

VAWA provides protections for immigrants of violent domestic crime. To qualify for VAWA, a victim must prove that they have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by a U.S-citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent.

We’ve had clients come in for a consult who were completely misguided by unethical attorneys. Hence, it’s essential to be highly informed of the requirements and eligibility before you spend thousands of dollars and have more than one opinion from experienced attorneys. 

To learn more about how our firm can help you through any immigration process, contact us at 512-474-4445 or visit our website www.peekandtoland.com.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

Options You Have If Your Visa Expires During COVID-19

By Peek & Toland on July 22, 2020

Many flights are getting canceled, and different countries are closing their borders due to COVID-19. A question our firm has heard frequently as of late is, what do I do if my visa is about to expire and I can’t go back to my home country because of COVID-19? 

Immigration Attorney Jeff Peek discusses three options that could apply to your case and help you avoid illegal presence in the United States.

1. Extension of Status 

Assuming your permit has not expired, you can file through USCIS and ask for more time. You will need to explain why it is that you’re asking for an extension. You’re going to need to show proof of your intent to return, a return ticket already purchased, your plans, where you’re going to be living, and what you will be doing. It might help if you have a sponsor who is a citizen or a resident to sign a letter.

From experience in the past years, this will typically give you about 5-6 months while they process your application and decide. Therefore, this allows you to be in the U.S. without an accumulation of unlawful presence. 

2. Change of Status 

Change of status is when you change to a different type of visa. This can be a little tricky because the visa you want to switch to has to be immediately available. For instance, if you change from a B1/B2 tourist visa to an F-1 student visa, you have to ask yourself, are you going to be able to enroll in the school immediately? Is the school willing to issue an I-20 to you even though you’re technically on a B1/B2 visa? Can you do that before your temporary visitor visa expires and before the school year starts? Maybe there are other visas like an investor visa or work visas that you could apply. Still, you have to keep in mind that it has to be immediately available. 

3. Adjustment of Status 

Adjustment of status is where you change from any non-immigrant visa to the intent to reside in the U.S. permanently, so you would apply for residency. There are lucky few who are eligible for adjustment of status. Those Individuals are spouses of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens, or minor children of U.S. citizen parents.

We recommend talking to one of our attorneys to see which option is the right fit. We’ve helped many families and individuals further their stay here in the United States legally, especially in the midst of this global pandemic. 

We hope this information has been helpful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. 

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Posted in Immigration, Visas

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Student Visas F-1/M-1 and DACA Immigration News Update

By Peek & Toland on July 16, 2020

Attorney Jeff Peek shares the latest news concerning immigration law that may affect you or someone you know. 

F-1/M-1 Student Visa Update 

Last week, the Trump Administration announced some changes to the F-1/M-1 student visas. The announcement indicated that if there was a full-time online program, you would be out of status as an F-1/M-1 visa holder and would have to leave the country immediately.

The great news is that the Trump Administration just announced that they’re going to rescind the previously issued order and that they will not implement that rule. Therefore, you can take a deep breath if you’re an F-1 or M-1 student visa holder. You will still maintain good status with your F-1/M-1 visa even if all classes are online. 

DACA Update 

The second piece of information is pretty interesting and exciting. In a recent speech, President Trump announced that he wants to extend the DACA program and provide a pathway to citizenship. Now it remains to be seen if he has the authority to do so. Trump hasn’t made it completely clear yet what it’s going to be, but he said that soon he would make a big announcement. 

Until then, we would advise anybody who is either renewing DACA or is eligible for DACA to continue to renew your DACA. If you are eligible, but never filed, definitely get your application ready to go and get ready to file. If you’re somebody who may have had a criminal record in the past but got the case dismissed, now it might be a great time to apply. If you live in Texas, you can get criminal cases expunged, so that it will not appear on your record. We certainly can help you with any of those questions. Watch our latest immigration videos for more information about expunctions: 

Stay tuned as we will keep you informed on any immigration law updates. In a matter of time, we will hear new news from president Trump. 

We are here to help you in any way that you can, so if you have any questions, please call us at 512-474-4445 or you can find more information on our website at www.peekandtoland.com.

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Posted in Immigration, Latest News, Visas

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TN Visas Under the USMCA

By Peek & Toland on July 7, 2020

TN Visas Under the USMCA

Last Wednesday, July 1, 2020, came and went without much fanfare. Still, it was the first day of the implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which, in essence, is a new and revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

The new trade agreement for North America took effect July 1, ushering in tougher labor, content, and wage requirements. The agreement includes an annex to address labor conditions and oppressed wages in Mexico. Specifically, the USMCA calls for collective bargaining and secret votes for unions to dilute the influence of business owners in Mexico and allows U.S. labor inspectors to visit facilities in Mexico. The original NAFTA text on work visas has been preserved in Chapter 16 of the USMCA.

The average Texan/American may not think that USMCA affects them. However, the trade agreement is estimated to support nearly 12 million American jobs (700,000 Texas jobs) due to the trade with Mexico and Canada. A result of $173 BILLION worth of goods between Texas and Mexico every year.  

Employers in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada will be excited to know that the TN visa was not altered under the new USMCA agreement.  The list of professions eligible for a TN visa has not changed. No occupations were added or eliminated.

If your business is interested in hiring talented employees from Mexico or Canada, please reach out to Peek & Toland. We have almost 20 years of helping immigrants and American companies work together to keep the economy moving forward. Contact our office at 512-474-4445 to set up an appointment today.

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U.S. Companies that Most Frequently Utilize the H-1B Visa Program

By Peek & Toland on June 14, 2020

According to a recent article published by reporters at Bloomberg Law, Deloitte LLP, a global accounting and consulting firm, uses skilled foreign workers through the H-1B visa program more than any other U.S. company. Although H-1B visas are often primarily associated with information technology (IT) companies, figures from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that during the fiscal year 2019, over 57,000 workers were approved to work at Deloitte by using the H-1B visa program. This high number of skilled foreign workers is far greater than the number of these workers employed by Qualcomm, Inc., which was associated with just under 30,000 H-1B visas in 2019.

The number of H-1B visas that Deloitte procured in 2019 is only a fraction of the total number of visa applications that they submitted. The number of requests for H-1B visas by the firm has increased in large part due to the push by Deloitte to offer more technological services, such as cybersecurity, blockchain, and machine learning.

U.S. Companies that Most Frequently Utilize the H-1B Visa Program

Additionally, Deloitte also contracts H-1B visa workers out to other firms, much like IT-staffing firms do. Only two IT staffing service firms, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and Infosys Ltd., placed more H-1B visa workers into contracts with other businesses than Deloitte. As a result of these contracts, H-1B visa workers are increasingly working for companies whose names are not usually synonymous with the H-1B visa program, such as Wells Fargo, Verizon, and American Express, among others.  

Proponents of the H-1B visa program say that it fills the needs of businesses to fill gaps in their workforce with talented workers from abroad. Critics of the program, however, claim that it allows companies to bypass qualified American workers to pay foreign workers cheaper wages. Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration 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 and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

Posted in Visas

What is Automatic Visa Revalidation?

By Peek & Toland on May 12, 2020

The automatic visa revalidation process allows some temporary visitors who have expired nonimmigrant visas to reenter the U.S. at a port-of-entry if they meet specific requirements. These individuals include the following:

  • Nonimmigrants who were briefly traveling to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island for 30 days or less (F and J nonimmigrants)
  • Nonimmigrants with a valid admission stamp or Form I-94 – Arrival/Departure Record, endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The “adjacent islands” refer to nearby islands often visited for tourism or vacation purposes, such as The Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, you must have a valid visa to return from Cuba, and you may need a visa to enter Cuba. However, you do not need a valid visa to visit and return from Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Northern Mariana Islands, which are U.S. territories, unless you plan to visit any other country while en route to one of these territories.

What is Automatic Visa Revalidation?

It is often nonimmigrant students who take advantage of the automatic revalidation process. In addition to a valid Form I-94, students also must have a valid Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Form I-20 confirms that an individual is legally enrolled in a course of study in the U.S.

In other situations, nonimmigrants with expired visas typically would have to reapply and obtain a reissued visa to be eligible to reenter the U.S. These nonimmigrants would need to reapply for a visa even if they had valid admission stamps or DHS-endorsed Forms I-94.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any relief or benefit under federal immigration laws. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your situation. We intend to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas immigration attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you through this complicated situation.

Posted in Visas

USCIS Proposed Changes to Premium Processing Program Likely to Cause Delays

By Peek & Toland on April 13, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated changes to its premium processing program by publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register in December 2019. The proposed rule, if enacted, is likely to cause significant delays in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) premium processing of some employer-based immigrant and non-immigrant petitions. Premium processing allows employers to pay an additional fee to obtain a response to their petitions within 15 days. Due to the increasing backlog of immigration applications and petitions generally, however, USCIS has suspended premium processing for specific categories of visas at times as they are unable to meet the 15-day required response time.

First, DHS has proposed changing the definition of “day” for premium processing from “calendar day” to “business day.” Practically speaking, this definition change would exclude weekends, federal holidays, and days on which the federal government is closed due to unanticipated circumstances, such as weather. As a result, the premium processing period necessarily would take longer than it does now.

USCIS Proposed Changes to Premium Processing Program Likely to Cause Delays

An additional portion of the rule would relate to the termination and restating of the 15-day premium processing timeframe. Currently, if USCIS cannot make a final decision for an application or petition submitted via premium processing, USCIS will return the premium processing fee and continue to process the case. The revised rule would require a refund of the premium processing fees only if USCIS did not take specifically adjudicative action on an application or petition requested via premium processing within the 15-day timeframe. Furthermore, if USCIS takes some forms of adjudicative action, such as issuing a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID), the 15-day clock will stop running. The issuance of either an RFE or a NOID instead will trigger a new 15-day period in which USCIS must adjudicate the application or petition.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Visas

What Are J Visas?

By Peek & Toland on March 11, 2020

J visas are the category of visas that citizens of foreign countries can use to become exchange visitors or participating members in work and study-based exchange programs in the U.S. These individuals can obtain J-1 visas to participate in one of several visitor exchange program categories. These categories include:

  • Professors, research scholars, and teachers
  • Trainees and interns
  • College, university, and secondary school students
  • Specialists in specific fields
  • Camp counselors and au pairs
  • Physicians
  • Summer work travelers

J-1 visas also may be available for individuals who want to enter the U.S. as government or international visitors. Most of these programs operate under privately funded programs that work under the direction of the Office of Private Sector Exchange in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Currently, more than 1,500 for-profit, non-profit, or government entities conduct these private sector programs. More than 300,000 people from almost all countries in the world come to the U.S. on J-1 visas each year.

What Are J Visas?

Another type of J visa is the J-2 visa, which allows spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of J-1 exchange visitors to accompany or later join them in the U.S. However, some J visa categories do not permit spouses or children to accompany the recipients. These categories include au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student, and summer work traveler. In situations in which spouses and children can obtain J-2 visas, they typically can work in the U.S. after they get an Employment Authorization Document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Generally, they also may study or attend school while in the U.S. Individuals on J-2 visas only can remain in the U.S. as long as the J-1 visa holders stay in the U.S.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Visas

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