The Visa Bulletin for February 2021 will outline the new visa requirements for foreign students and employees of U.S. diplomatic posts in countries around the world. The United States Department of State has notified all diplomatic personnel that they will be implementing visa requirements beginning on February 20th, thereby revising their current visa applications. There are several specific changes that have been announced in the Visa Bulletin for the new calendar year. The visas will now be processed via the Federal Bureau of Immigration (BI) instead of the State Department. This is expected to increase the processing times for visa approvals.
The revised visa laws also include a significant increase in the number of annual security vetting measures that will be required of all foreign students and workers who intend to enter the United States. The security vetting requirements will apply to students who plan on entering the United States as nonimmigrant visa beneficiaries. The increased security vetting measures are focused on high risk countries with high levels of terrorism. In addition to this requirement, the United States will no longer be accepting visa applications from economic partners or individuals who have criminal convictions or who have falsified financial information. The Visa Bulletin states that current law does not allow the government to consider the country of origin or age when assessing a potential visa beneficiary's eligibility for a visa.
A number of new additions to the Visa Bulletin for February 2021 have been included in the recently enacted Universal Credentialing Data Improvement Act (UCDIA). For example, the UCDIA proposes that would-be employers should obtain certification that their proposed employees meet specified employment and income requirements before the visa process is considered. Also, if the proposed employee or a dependent parent has already applied for and received a visa, the proposed law would require the would-be employer to obtain certification from the immigration department or the State Department that the applicant attained the employment and income requirements needed to qualify for the visa.
According to the latest Visa Bulletin for February 2021, a proposed regulation would permit would-be employers to request an immigrant education certification that would-be spouses or eligible family members accompany the worker for a temporary period of up to six months. This certification could be provided by a school that the worker or family member is attending or by an agency approved by the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, if a U.S. worker's application for a visa to the United Kingdom is denied, the would-be employer may apply to the United Kingdom's immigration authorities to extend the period of stay, or to increase the time period allowed under the original application. If an immigrant does not meet the employment or income requirements for immigration to the United States or a U.S. dependent may not accompany the worker, the visa would be granted.
A related bill, currently in committee, would make it easier for would-be employers to comply with visa law. Currently, a visa applicant must generally demonstrate the ability to earn at least twenty thousand dollars a year and to plan to maintain that income for two years after the date of application. The proposed Act would require that this income threshold be adjusted each year to ensure that the average income of immigrating spouses and family members does not exceed the twenty thousand dollar minimum. Current law requires that foreign spouses and their dependent children have at least twenty thousand dollars of assets or estate before the spouse or child can apply for an immigrant visa.
An important issue on which stakeholders are urging the Congress to act is visa compliance by foreign professionals who plan to provide professional services to U.S. clients. As many foreign professionals understand, visa laws can be a complicated and intricate subject. In order for them to comply with the law, professionals must understand and be able to explain their relationship with the United States government and the standards that are associated with the service they plan to render. While many stakeholders would prefer to hire individuals who have been formally trained in the United States, some business owners and other stakeholders would also prefer to hire individuals with relevant experience from abroad. By ensuring that visa applicants have a comprehensive understanding of the legal requirements that they must meet if they wish to work in the United States, a strong visa system can be established.
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