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EIG Week in Review (March 14, 2014)

March 21, 2014

Highlights

  • USCIS L-1B Visa Approvals Declined in 2013
  • U.S. Court Drops Charges Against Indian Diplomat
  • New Immigration Benefits for Undocumented Dependents of U.S. Military Members
  • UAE Adds 13 Countries to Visa-on-Arrival List
  • UK Increases Number of Countries Requiring Tuberculosis Clearance 

USCIS L-1B Visa Approvals Declined in 2013

A recent National Foundation for American Policy report shows that the number of approved L-1B intra-company transfer petitions fell dramatically in 2013.  The L-1B visa is available to foreign nationals with “specialized knowledge” of the petitioning organization, its products, or its processes.  The employee must have been previously employed abroad by a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the petitioning organization for at least one continuous year within the past three years.

The regulations define “specialized knowledge” as:

  • “special” knowledge possessed by an individual of the petitioning organization’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets; or
  • an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures.

In 2012, the number of USCIS approved petitions was 14,180; whereas, the number approved in 2013 was 11,944.  Additionally, L-1B petitions by U.S.-based companies were denied at a rate of 34% in 2013 as compared to 7% in 2007.

The data also suggests that Indian nationals appear to face a higher burden in showing “specialized knowledge” than do applicants from other countries.  In addition, the number of USCIS generated Requests for Evidence (RFE) has also increased—a process that can delay petitions for months at a time.

In light of these statistics, employers who plan to file L-1B petitions should be prepared to clearly articulate and provide substantial evidence of transferees’ specialized knowledge of the company’s products and processes.


U.S. Court Drops Charges Against Indian Diplomat

On Wednesday, the United States District Court in New York dismissed charges of immigration violations against Devyani Khobragade, an Indian Diplomat, on the basis of diplomatic immunity.  The government had attempted to show that Ms. Khobragade had fraudulently obtained a work visa for her housekeeper and then lied about the amount of pay her housekeeper received.

The dismissal of the case came down to legal technicalities regarding Ms. Khobragade’s diplomatic status at the time of her arrest.  Despite the dismissal, U.S. prosecutors are exploring the possibility of bringing a new indictment against Ms. Khobragade.


New Immigration Benefits for Undocumented Dependents of U.S. Military Members

The Obama administration announced plans to extend legal immigration status as well as military benefits to undocumented spouses, parents, and children of U.S. military members.  The policy will allow dependents of active-duty military members, reservists, and veterans to gain legal immigration status in the U.S.

Critics of the announcement claim the Obama administration should have gone through Congress to extend these benefits, but the administration maintains that the new rules do not require congressional action as they are based on a new interpretation of already-existing statutes.


UAE Adds 13 Countries to Visa-on-Arrival List

The UAE’s government recently announced that 13 EU member states have been added to its Visa-on-Arrival list, bringing the total number of countries whose citizens are eligible for this special visa processing to 46.

The Visa-on-Arrival program exempts eligible individuals from consular processing and provides the recipient with a 30-day initial stay and one extension, with the option to extend from within the UAE.  Effective March 22, 2014, the most recent members of the Visa-on-Arrival program will include:

  • Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia

Despite this addition, short-term visitors are still prohibited from engaging in profit-generating or “hands on” work activities during their short-term stay in the UAE.


UK Increases Number of Countries Requiring Tuberculosis Clearance

The UK has announced the addition of 7 more countries  whose citizens require a tuberculosis (TB) clearance prior to obtaining a UK visa authorizing stays of 6 months or longer.  The list requiring this special clearance is now numbered at 50, with the newest additions including: Algeria, Belarus, Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine.