Tag Archives: applicant

USCIS Implements Customer Identity Verification at its Field Offices

Beginning September 9, 2013, USCIS began employing a new verification tool called Customer Identity Verification (CIV) in its field offices. Customers will now submit biometric data, specifically fingerprints and photographs, when appearing at USCIS offices for interviews or to receive evidence of an immigration benefit.

CIV will enhance the integrity of the immigration system and combat identity fraud by allowing USCIS to biometrically verify a customer’s identity. Having resolved a technical issue that delayed the original launch, the tool will now be phased in between September 9 and October 21, 2013 to customers attending an interview or being issued evidence of an immigration benefit.

How It Works:

After a customer arrives at a field office, clears security, and is called to the counter, two fingerprints will electronically be scanned and a picture taken to verify their identity. The process takes just a few minutes and applies only to customers who have an interview or receive evidence of an immigration benefit. People who come to the USCIS office for InfoPass appointments, or to accompany a customer, will not undergo this process.

Currently, USCIS requires applicants and petitioners requesting immigration or naturalization benefits to visit the nearest Application Support Center (ASC) to provide biometric data. USCIS uses this data to help determine eligibility for requested benefits. This requirement, along with providing a government-issued document for examination, will not change.

How It Helps:

CIV connects instantly to the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology’s (US-VISIT’s) Secondary Inspections Tool (SIT). SIT is a Web-based application that processes, displays and retrieves biometric and biographic data. US-VISIT also links databases associated with border inspections and security.

U.S. Dept. of State to Change Visa Fees

The U.S. Department of State is changing is current visa fee structure as of April 13, 2012. Currently, for Non-Immigrant Visas, the fees are as follows:

  • MRV Fee – $140:00;
  • Petition Based Applicants (H, L, O, P, Q, R) – $150:00;
  • E-1, E-2 & E-3 visa applicants – $390.00.

Although most categories of nonimmigrant visa processing fees will increase, the fee for E-1, E-2 & E-3 visas, K visas (for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens) and all immigrant visas will actually decrease.

From April 13, 2012, most nonimmigrant visa applicants will pay an MRV application fee of $160.00 to apply for a visa; petition based applicants $190.00.00 and E-1, E-2 & E-3 visa applicants $270.00.

Nonimmigrant visa applicants who pay the MRV fee before April 13, may use the MRV fee receipt to apply for a visa up to and including July 12, 2012.  Applicants who apply on or after July 13, 2012 will be required to pay a supplemental fee in order for their application to be processed.  Please note that were there is a decress in fees, there will be no refund, regardless of when the application is received.

The increase in nonimmigrant visa fess is attributed to fact that the Department of State  is required to recover, as far as possible, the cost of processing visas through the collection of application fees.  For a number of reasons, the current fees no longer cover the actual cost of processing nonimmigrant visas.  The nonimmigrant visa fee increase will support the addition and expansion of overseas facilities, as well as additional staffing required to meet increased visa demand.

Because of a reallocation of costs associated with immigrant visas, however, all categories of immigrant visa processing fees will decrease from April 13, 2012.

The fees for Immediate Relative and Family Preference applicants will be $230.00; Employment based applicants $405.00; Diversity Visa applicants $330.00, Returning Resident status $275 and for all other immigrant visa applicants, the fee will be $220.00.  Please note that these fee are in addition to the fees charged to file an immigrant visa petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

I-9′s now being requested during Adjustment Interviews? Really?

Some USCIS adjudication officers at local District Offices are apparently beginning to request copies of Forms I-9 from applicants who are applying for their Green Cards, via the process known as “adjustment of status” (from non-immigrant to permanent resident).

The instruction letters sent out by the USCIS (to the clients whose interview appointments at the local offices are being scheduled), are still silent on this new request.

Be prepared and provide copies of any previous (at least the most recent) I-9 forms to confirm that no prior claim of U.S. citizenship or of LPR status has previously been made. Discuss this with your lawyer, well in advance of the actual interview, preferrably early on in the process.

If a social security number was used and disclosed on the I-9, you should expect questions as to the origin and legitimacy of the number.

What happens when a foreign traveler applies for a nonimmigrant visa (NIV)?

While the process of applying for a U.S. visa at a consulate or embassy is not a secret, most people are not familiar with it, unless they have personally been through the process or maybe heard about someone’s experience with the process.

With some exceptions, U.S. law requires every applicant to make a personal appearance for an interview with a Consular Officer. If there are no national security concerns, Consular Officers may waive the personal appearance requirement for limited categories of applicants, including children less than 14 years of age; persons over 79 years of age; officials of foreign governments and international organizations; and, under certain circumstances, travelers renewing recently expired visas. It’s best to review one’s current situation and the current processing guidelines of the nearest consular post.

While oftentimes, a visit to the Consulate or Embassy can take hours, largely due to waiting times and security checks upon entrry, a typical visa interview lasts just a few minutes and often involves applicants trying to persuade the consular officer that they have firm plans to return to their home country after a visit to the United States, that they do not intend to cause harm to the U.S. or its interests, and that they are otherwise qualified for a visa. The interview is face-to-face although the consular officer is behind a blast resistant window.

Before the interview:

While the exact procedures can vary from Consular Post to Consular Post around the world, essentially all of the following points must be completed (maybe in a different order or sequence) by foreigners wishing to visit the United States:

1) submit a passport and a passport-sized photo;

2) pay the nonrefundable application fee (MRV) and obtain a receipt;

3) obtain an appointment date and time;

4) gather any required and supporting documents; and

5) fill out the visa application form and other required forms.

Getting to the interview window:

After the visa applicant arrives at the embassy or consulate on the appointed day, local consular staffers check the application, passport, photograph and any other documents submitted by the alien. In addition, consular staffers also check that all required data has been correctly entered into the computer system, and initiate a computerized check against a database of foreign nationals who have been denied or are ineligible to receive visas, or for whom other derogatory information is known. Consular employees collect digital fingerprints that are also checked against databases for derogatory information. The passport information is also checked against databases to determine if the passport has been reported lost or stolen.

By the time the visa applicant appears in front of the consular officer for his visa interview, the consular officer will have the applicant’s name check results and other data on a nearby computer screen. Consular officers, also called consuls and vice-consuls, conduct the interview, usually in the language of the foreign country.

Visa denials and ineligibilities:

The most common reason for a consular officer to refuse a visa to a non-immigrant visa applicant is Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This section of the law requires applicants to convince the consular officer that the purpose of their trip is permissible under U.S. visa regulations and that they are true non-immigrants with the intention to return home after a temporary visit to the United States.

Other reasons for denying a visa application include staying longer than permitted during a previous visit to the United States, providing false information to visa or immigration officers, assisting other persons to violate U.S. immigration laws, convictions for certain criminal offenses, or having a communicable disease of public health significance. Except in very rare circumstances defined in regulations, consular officers always provide verbal and written notice and explanation identifying the section of U.S. law under which their application was refused.

Getting the visa to the applicant:

Depending on the procedures in effect at the embassy or consulate, Applicants who succeed in qualifying for a visa may be asked to return in order to pick up their passport with the U.S. visa attached inside, or they may pay a courier company, contracted by the embassy, for home or office delivery of the passport.