In line with the U.S. Department of State’s increased periodic review and update of visa “reciprocity” pursuant to a January 2017 Executive Order, Mexican nationals will now benefit from increased visa validity periods in the E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor categories. The current reciprocity schedule, found on the Department of State website, now reflects that E-1 and E-2 visas for Mexican nationals can be issued for up to 48 months, up from 12 months, upon payment of increased processing fees of $296, up from $46. The increase in E-1 and E-2 visa validity for Mexican nationals suggests improved cooperation in reciprocal Mexican investor visa policies towards Americans consistent with the national interests of U.S. travelers and businesses.

The increase in E-1 and E-2 visa validity carries substantial practical advantages for Mexican nationals. Most prominently, extended visa validity means that business owners and key employees will benefit from the certainty of being equipped with visas authorizing return to the United States for a prolonged uninterrupted period. In the present circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on international travel and the temporary closure of U.S. consular posts worldwide, being equipped with a visa for a prolonged period carries enhanced value. Mexican National E-1 and E-2 business owners and key employees may now confidently plan cross-border business trips over an extended period without possibly having to plan for visa renewal along with uncertainty over the impact of delays and obstacles in visa renewals. Moreover, Mexican National E-1 and E-2 business owners and key employees are afforded the opportunity to grow and develop a newer business venture in the United States over a period of at least 48 months, rather than at least 12 months prior to consular scrutiny. This may be a benefit to newer business operations that for one reason or another do not achieve their business targets in a given year, however, continue to develop and direct a business enterprise on track to reach and surpass its initial business objectives and financial forecast over its first five years of operation. This benefit is consistent with the visa validity of most E-1 and E-2 countries whose citizens are issued visas for up to 60 months, allowing newer businesses more time to achieve business targets prior to being subjected to scrutiny by consular officers, which may serve as a disincentive to U.S. investment. Importantly, the validity of visa stamps is not determinative of the admission period in the U.S., with E-1 and E-2 visa holders admitted for a period of two (2) years upon each entry within visa validity; and with H-1B and L-1 visa holders being admitted for the period of validity of their USCIS approval notice (or Form I-129S in the case of blanket L visa holders).

In addition to benefitting from increased visa validity periods in the E-1 Treaty Trader and E-2 Treaty Investor categories, Mexican nationals will also benefit from increased visa validity periods in the L-1 category for Intracompany Executives, Managers or Specialized Knowledge personnel and the H-1B category for Specialty Occupation Professionals, while the TN NAFTA Professional visa validity period remains the same at 12 months. The current reciprocity schedule now reflects that L-1 visas for Mexican nationals can be issued for up to 48 months, up from 12 months, upon payment of increased processing fees of $311, up from $57, and H-1B visas for Mexican nationals can be issued for up to 36 months, up from 12 months, upon payment of increased processing fees of $252, up from $57. Correspondingly, personnel in the L-1 and H-1B categories will also benefit from the certainty of being equipped with visas authorizing return to the United States for a prolonged uninterrupted period.

*Special thanks to Chris Costa for his valuable assistance in preparing this GT blog post.

The Department of State (DOS) has implemented revised visa stamp reciprocity for L-1, L-2 and E-1/ E-2 visa holders. Now, the maximum validity date of an L-1 or L-2 visa of a French national will be seventeen (17) months. The previous validity period was five (5) years. The new validity period for E-1 and  E-2 visa holders is twenty five (25) months. The previous validity period was five (5) years.

This change will impact the ability of French nationals to travel in and out of the United States during the duration of their L-1 and L-2 validity periods, which will generally still be issued for a maximum of three (3) years, assuming an individual’s passport does not expire within three (3) years of L-1 or L-2 approval. Note, this change does not require L-1 and L-2 visa holders to depart the United States within seventeen (17) months. If an L-1 or L-2 visa holder does not have any international travel plans after the expiration of the L-1 and L-2 visa stamps, that individual may continue to remain lawfully in the United States until their I-94 expiration date, which is generally the same day as the validity period of their approval notice from USCIS or the I-129S form annotated by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Travel after expiration of the relevant visa stamp will require a visit to a U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain a new visa stamp before returning to the United States.

For French nationals who are E-1 and E-2 visa holders, their period of authorized stay in the United States, as indicated on their I-94, is currently two (2) years after each entry, and this will continue even after the reciprocity change. They will be permitted to stay for two full years even if they enter the United States one day before their E-1 or E-2 visa expires. Once they leave the U.S. after expiration of their E-1 or E-2 visa, however, they will need to apply for a new visa.

U.S. immigration law requires DOS to set country-specific visa durations based on the principle of reciprocity, or, in other words, based on that country’s treatment of U.S. visa applicants in similar categories, among other considerations. While there have been press reports and announcements previously regarding the decreased validity periods for L-1, L-2 and E-1/E-2 visa holders, DOS has only recently updated its website to reflect these changes.

GT will continue to monitor possible changes to the reciprocity schedules of other nations as well.

For more on reciprocity, click here.

In June we wrote about the April 12, 2016, European Commission Communication to the EU Council and Parliament concerning visa-free travel reciprocity with the United States and Canada.  In its communication, the Commission requested a response and advice from the EU Parliament and Council by July 12 on how to move forward in light of outstanding visa reciprocity issues with the United States and Canada.  In our  previous post, we observed that near term action by the EU with respect to reciprocity and visa requirements was unlikely.

shutterstock_273008201According to a follow-up Communication dated July 13, 2016, and an accompanying press release issued from the European Commission, the EU Parliament and Council did not take a position as of July 12 concerning the imposition of visa requirements on the United States or Canada.  In the Commission’s release, the EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said that diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue have become more vigorous over the last three months with U.S. and Canadian officials.  The Communication states that “contacts with the United States have intensified both at [a] technical and political level.”

In its July 13 Communication, the Commission further acknowledges, however, that “since April, there has been no progress of relevance to EU citizens resulting from ongoing United States legislative initiatives, notably the ‘Jobs Originating through Launching Travel Act of 2015’ and the ‘Equal protection in Travel Act of 2016.”   The Communication continues: “[d]espite stepping up political and technical contacts, there have not been comparable indications of progress with the United States as those seen with Canada.”  Commissioner Avramopoulos advised that the Commission “will continue to work towards full visa reciprocity and we will coordinate our activities with the Member States concerned, the European Parliament and the Council to accelerate the delivery of results.”

In light of the current electoral climate in the United States, recent global events that continue to heighten security concerns among U.S. governmental leaders, and the communications between EU and U.S. officials reported in the Communication, it is unlikely that the U.S. will accede to the EU’s requests in the near term.  Conversely, despite the Communication’s direct language, the most recent Communication—which includes reference to the significant impact the imposition of visa requirements on U.S travelers would have on EU Member States—suggests that the EU will continue to pursue a diplomatic solution to the reciprocity issues it faces with the United States.

GT will continue to monitor developments on this issue.  To receive updates please subscribe to this blog.

The Department of State (DOS) announced changes to the Country Reciprocity Tables for immigrant visa cases. Specifically, the DOS update provided the following country-specific updates:

Date Country Change
11/3/14 Afghanistan Updated birth certificate information
10/23/14 Ukraine Updated police certificate information, regarding name of document.
10/23/14 Jordan Added information on obtaining a certificate of non-conviction.

Continue Reading Some Reciprocity Changes Announced by DOS

The Department of State (DOS) announced changes to the Country Reciprocity Tables.  The Country Reciprocity Tables list additional visa fees that must be paid by nationals of certain countries when applying for certain types nonimmigrant visa stamps at US Consulates abroad.  The Tables also list whether applicants of a certain country are subject to a limited number of admissions and/or the validity period of their visa has a limited length of time.  Visa applicants should review these tables closely prior to making a visa application at a Consulate abroad.  The Tables also list country-specific documents that applicants must obtain for immigrant visa cases.  In this regard, the most recent DOS update provides the following country-specific updates:

Area/Country of Change Change
Japan Updated police records information
Macau S.A.R. Updated the cost of obtaining a police certificate
Russia Updated internal residence documents section
Sweden Updated travel document section

On Aug. 23, 2019, our firm wrote about the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) announcement that the validity period of E-1 and E-2 visas for French Nationals would be reduced from 60 months to 15 months effective Aug 29, 2019. The effective date has now been postponed to Sept. 26, 2019.

The general rule is that different types of U.S. visas have different visa validity periods depending on the nationality of the visa applicant because the Immigration and Nationality Act requires the DOS to set country-specific visa policies on a reciprocal basis. The validity periods are based on each country’s treatment of similar classes of U.S. visitors to its territory. In other words, if a country imposes restrictive visa requirements on U.S. citizens, the U.S. reciprocates with more restrictive requirements on that country’s citizens. Continue Reading Update: U.S. to Reduce E-Visa Validity for French Nationals Effective Sept. 26, 2019

With only a 9-day notice, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced critical restrictions on French Nationals for E visas on August 20, 2019.   The general rule is that different types of U.S. visas have different visa validity periods depending on the nationality of the visa applicant because the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires the DOS to set country-specific visa policies on a reciprocal basis.   The validity periods are based on each country’s treatment of similar classes of U.S. visitors to its territory, as well as national security, immigration, and other considerations.   In other words, if a country imposes restrictive visa requirements on U.S. citizens, the U.S. reciprocates with more restrictive requirements on that country’s citizens. Continue Reading U.S. to Reduce E Visa Validity for French Nationals

The heavily anticipated new Executive Order (EO), “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” banning nationals from six countries from entering the United States, was signed by President Donald Trump on March 6, 2017 with an effective date 10 days following on March 16, 2017. This new EO revokes and replaces the previous EO 13769 signed on Jan. 27, 2017. The replacement EO provides additional clarification that stemmed from judicial review. For a summary of EO 13769, and a history of events that transpired, please visit.

Highlights of changes in the new EO include:

  • The six countries under the travel ban are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  Iraq has been lifted from the travel ban.
  • Clarification has been given that lawful permanent residents are not subject to the travel ban, and dual nationals may use another passport (that is not from one of the six countries) to enter the United States.
  • Waivers may be granted to individuals applying for a visa who are subject to the travel ban if: 1) denying entry during this period would cause undue hardship, 2) the entry would not pose a threat to national security, and 3) it would be in the national interest of the United States. Examples were provided of situations where a waiver would be appropriate.
  • Entry under the U.S. Refugee Admission Program will be halted for 120 days from March 16, 2017. Notably, the blanket halt on Syrian refugees has been removed.
  • The Visa Interview Waiver Program is suspended until further guidance from the Department of State.
  • Those who are in the United States will not have their visas revoked.

The new EO provides an explanation for some components of EO 13769 that are now rescinded, amended, or clarified in this Order. A section-by-section analysis is below:

Section 2:  Suspension of Visa Issuance- Iraq Removed

The text of this EO calls for the suspension of issuance of visas to nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen, except in case-by-case waivers, for 90 days from the effective date of the EO (March 16, 2017), while an ongoing assessment of the countries for terrorist threats is conducted. Notably, Iraq has been removed as one of the original countries subject to the travel ban. The reason cited is that the United States has been closely working with the Iraqi government and because of the military presence in Iraq, and Iraq’s commitment to fight ISIS, removing this country from the travel ban is justified.

In addition, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, will conduct a worldwide review to identify additional information, if necessary, from any country to ensure that the individual applying for a visa benefit is not a security threat. Within 20 days of March 16, 2017, a required report will be submitted to the President on the results of the worldwide review. Copies of this report will also be given to the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence.

Once the report has been submitted to all parties, the Secretary of State shall request the foreign governments to provide the information needed within 50 days of notification. After the 50 day period has expired, the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, will submit to the President a list of countries where certain categories of foreign nationals should be prohibited from visa issuance because they have not provided the information. Additional countries may also be submitted for consideration to be added to the list of countries where restrictions or limitations are deemed necessary to protect the United States. In the same way, countries may be recommended for removal from the list as well.

Four reports, each submitted within 30 days of the effective date of the Order (March 16, 2017) to President Trump, are required to document the progress. Continue Reading New Travel Ban Order to Temporarily Halt Entry for Those Seeking New Visas from 6 Muslim-Majority Countries

As we previously reported, President Donald Trump signed a third Executive Order (EO) related to immigration on Jan. 27, 2017.  The stated purpose of this EO is to protect the United States from terrorism stemming from foreign nationals of other countries by limiting entry and visas to certain individuals, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” In practice, it will block admission to the United States for at least 90 days for nationals of seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) who hold nonimmigrant visas, such as H-1Bs and L-1s, and green card holders.

Suspension of Visa Issuance

The text of this EO calls for the suspension of issuance of visas to nationals of certain countries where concerns of terrorism arise. The Secretary of Homeland Security, consulting with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, is tasked with the duty to submit a report to President Trump, in 30 days, regarding the review of information necessary for visa adjudications to verify individual identity and a list of countries that are of concern.

To alleviate the burden of investigation by the agencies, and to ensure that review is thoroughly completed with the resources needed, President Trump proclaims in the Executive Order that any immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States shall be suspended for 90 days by persons who are nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This 90 day entry ban excludes those traveling to the United States on diplomatic visas, NATO visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, and G-4 visas, but includes those entering the United States on L-1, H-1B, and most work visas.

The definition of “national” typically refers to a person born in that country, who may or may not be a citizen of the country. In some cases, it can also refer to the children of such individuals born in other countries to parents who in turn were born in one of the listed countries.  Because of the broad way in which the Order appears to reference “nationals,” in the process of enforcement of the Order, it has been interpreted to include all those fitting the definitions outlined above.

Once the report is received by the Secretary of State regarding the information needed to continue adjudication of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, information shall be requested of all foreign governments that have not supplied such information within 60 days of notification. After the 60 day period has ended, the Secretary of Homeland Security, consulting the Secretary of State, is required to submit to President Trump a list of countries recommended to be put on a list that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals from the countries that do not supply the required information. The list of countries would exclude its nationals who travel for the same categories as mentioned above. The Executive Order includes language that gives the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State the discretion to add additional countries to this list for President Trump’s review. In addition, visas may also be issued on a case-by-case basis to nationals even if their countries are on the list. Four reports, each submitted within 30 days of the Order to President Trump, are required to document the progress.

Implementing New Standards for Screening Those Seeking Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visas

The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the FBI are tasked with implanting a program that will develop and change the uniform screening standard and procedure at the U.S. consulate, including the following:

  • Establishing a database of identity documents to ensure they are not used by multiple applicants;
  • Application forms with amended questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent;
  • Questions to evaluate whether the applicant will be a positively contributing member of society;
  • Process to assess whether the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts in the United States.

Suspensions for the Fiscal Year 2017

President Trump, through this Executive Order, is temporarily suspending the following until further review and notice:

  • Suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admission Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During this period, a review will be conducted to determine and change the adjudications procedure. Refugee applicants already in the process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of the revised procedures. Refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution (if the religion is a minority religion in the country of nationality) will be made a priority once USRAP is continued;
  • Suspension of Syrian refugees until further determination;
  • Suspension of refugee entry until admissions are permissible, and at that time, such numbers shall not exceed 50,000 per fiscal year; and
  • Suspension of the visa interview waiver program for anyone seeking a nonimmigrant visa.

The Executive Order includes a provision that would allow the admission of refugees on a case-by-case basis, if it is in the national interest, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship. A report must be submitted by the Secretary of State on claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the Order, and a second report within 200 days of the Order. The Order also includes a provision to assist state and local jurisdictions with their involvement in the resettlement process.

Other Provisions

The Executive Order includes other provisions related to the entry of foreign nationals into the United States. These include the following:

  • Expedited completion of the biometric entry-exit tracking system. Three reports shall be submitted within the first year of the Order, and a report shall be submitted every 180 days until the system is completed and operational;
  • Review and Change of Visa Validity Reciprocity.  The Secretary of State is required to review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements, including all categories, duration of time, and fees. If the foreign country does not treat the U.S. national in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State will adjust the conditions to match;
  • Reports for Transparency. The Secretary of Homeland Security will publish a report for public viewing, every 180 days, a list of foreign nationals who have been charged, convicted, or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity; the number of foreign nationals radicalized after entry into the United States; information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women; and any other relevant information.

As this Order is expansive, Greenberg Traurig will continue to monitor the conditions and changes. In addition, we expect additional Executive Orders related to immigration in the coming days and weeks. To receive updates, please subscribe to our blog.

26918_NY_gtMKG_EU Shutterstock Image for Alert - brightened cropped and re sized 778x360Since the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which contained significant changes to the United States’ Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with the inclusion of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, there has been considerable concern—and uncertainty—about the impact the new law will have on individuals who have long-relied on visa-free travel between European Union countries and the United States.  The implications are of particular interest to international companies who have relied on the VWP to bring employees to the United States for short-term visits.  We have written previously about the new VWP laws and related considerations for employers.  In addition to concerns about the impact on VWP Member Country citizens, however, U.S citizens reliant on the visa free access to VWP countries must also consider, and monitor closely, the potential for the EU to impose commensurate visa requirements on the United States.  This post discusses recent developments within the European Union in regards to the VWP.

On April 12, 2016, the European Commission published a “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council.”  A FAQ document answering questions about the implications of the Commission’s communication can be found here.  The communication was transmitted pursuant to Council regulation No. 539/2001, which governs Member States’ participation in the visa-free travel regime, outlines obligations and responsibilities, as well as procedures for addressing reciprocity issues with third countries.

While instances of third country nonreciprocity with certain EU Member States (including the United States’ denial to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania of VWP reciprocity) are at the core of the Commission’s communication, the communication also addresses recent changes to the United States’ VWP laws in the context of restrictions upon visa-free travel among program countries.  In December 2015, the EU Ambassador to the United States, David O’Sullivan, along with the ambassadors of the 28 EU countries, wrote an open letter cautioning the United States against enacting VWP restrictions, and raising the possibility that the EU Member States may be compelled to enact “legally mandated reciprocal measures.”

In its April 12 communication, the European Commission states that “[v]isa waiver reciprocity is a principle of the EU’s common visa policy and an objective which the Union should pursue in a proactive manner in its relations with third countries, thus contributing to improving the credibility and consistency of the Union’s external relations.”  Pursuant to regulation 539/2001, the consequence for a third country that “applies a visa requirement” is for the Commission, after certain actions are taken by the affected Member State, to adopt a suspension of the third country’s visa exemption.

The first step in the process for an affected EU Member State is for the Member State to notify the commission and publish the notification in the Commission’s Official Journal. The Council regulation gives the Commission the authority to adopt an implementing act that suspends for six months the visa exemption for the third country, or, which is currently the case, publish a report assessing the situation and explaining the reasons for not suspending visa waiver reciprocity.  The regulations provide a framework for additional suspension periods, but in light of the fact that the Council or the European Parliament may object to the Commission’s proposed actions, authority ultimately rests with those bodies.  To date, the Commission has not taken action to suspend nonreciprocating third countries but is instead pursuing the alternative course of periodic reporting and consultation, as provided by the regulation.

The Commission also discusses the enactment of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.  The Commission makes clear that the new law has a “potential impact” on “all Member States,” but noted that none of the Member States officially notified the Commission in accordance with Article 1(4)(a) of the Council regulations, therefore did not trigger remedial measures under the regulations.  The Commission outlines the significant practical, economic, and diplomatic impacts that suspension of EU visa waiver reciprocity would have.  Ultimately, the Commission’s communication determines that continued engagement with the United States and other nonreciprocating third countries on issues of nonreciprocity and other visa requirements is the preferred course.

So what is the likelihood that the EU will act to suspend or otherwise restrict the visa exemption for the United States based upon new U.S. VWP laws?  The Commission states:

In parallel to discussing full visa reciprocity, the Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of the changes in the Visa Waiver Program which introduce additional travel restrictions for nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries and engage with the US to ensure that these changes are implemented in a manner which limits negative consequences for bona fide EU travelers. In this context, the Commission will invite the US to consider the legislative initiatives brought forward (e.g. the “Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016”) in order to mitigate restrictions imposed on dual nationals.

The Commission highlights the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016 (S.2449 and H.R.4380), introduced in the Senate and House respectively by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Representative Justin Amash (R-MI).  The Equal Protection in Travel Act would repeal the portion of the new VWP law that barred VWP participation based upon status as a “dual national” from the list of enumerated countries.  The citation and encouragement to Congress to consider pending legislation that would mitigate in part the restrictions enacted in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act suggest the Commission will continue to take a measured approach to working with the United States to achieve satisfactory refinements to the new U.S. VWP laws as well as full VWP reciprocity among EU Member States.  The Commission notes at the end of its report, however, that it “urges” the United States to “demonstrate [its] commitment by introducing tangible measures to achieve full visa reciprocity for all 28 Member States of the European Union.”  The Commission’s goal to bring about change in current U.S. VWP policy likely faces challenges in the short term.  Given current domestic and international events, continued attention in the U.S. Congress on security aspects of immigration policy, and national electoral politics, swift policy changes to the U.S. VWP may prove elusive.

With respect to next steps in view of the Council regulations, in its communication the Commission recommends the European Parliament and the Council to “urgently launch discussions and to take a position on the most appropriate way forward.”  The Commission has asked the European Parliament and the Council to advise the Commission by July 12, 2016 of its decisions on the issues raised in its communication.  With respect to the changes enacted in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, it appears unlikely the EU will take concrete actions to impose similar visa requirements on the United States.  But in light of the EU ambassadors’ letter of December 2015, continued attention to the new U.S. VWP laws, and pending action on July 12, 2016, from the Council and European Parliament, VWP-reliant companies and individuals must pay careful attention to developments within the EU’s governing bodies.

We will continue to monitor developments on this issue.  To receive updates please subscribe to this blog.