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EIG Week in Review (Oct 24, 2014)

October 24, 2014

Highlights

  • UPDATE: Philippines Alien Registration Project Mandatory for Certain Exiting Foreign Nationals
  • Ebola-Related Protective Measures Could Disrupt International Travel
  • D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Brings Hope for Future L-1B “Specialized Knowledge” Visa Applicants
  • U.S. Consular Services in Calgary Limited in November 2014

UPDATE:  Philippines Alien Registration Project Mandatory for Certain Exiting Foreign Nationals

As an update to our article from last week, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration (BI) is now requiring all foreign nationals exiting the Philippines and applying for an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) to first register with the Alien Registration Project (Project).  Foreign nationals who plan to stay in the Philippines for a total of 6 months or longer must secure an ECC in order to depart from the country.

The Project is a national effort to register foreign nationals, record their biometrics, and issue each foreign national a security registration number. The expansion of the Project to require mandatory registration mirrors the Philippines’ trending attempts to account for all foreign nationals within its borders.  Although the Project was initially a voluntary program, all foreign nationals holding the following visas are now required to register before obtaining an ECC:

  • Tourist visas, valid for at least 6 months
  • Expired or downgraded immigrant or non-immigrant visas
  • Philippine-born foreign nationals departing the country for the first time
  • Tourist visas with orders to leave
  • Seafarers in the Philippines for 30 days or more who have approved discharges from the BI

EIG is monitoring the above changes and will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Ebola-Related Protective Measures Could Disrupt International Travel

Ebola-related travel bans are anticipated to cause delays and disruptions to international travel through certain airports.  Health screenings have already been implemented at ports of entry in many African countries as well as the Caribbean, Europe, and North America.  Moreover, a number of international air carriers, including Air France and British Airways, have suspended certain flights to West African countries.

In the U.S., travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone must now enter the country through one of five approved International Airports: John F. Kennedy (New York), Dulles (Washington, D.C. metro area), Hartsfield-Jackson (Atlanta), Newark Liberty (New Jersey), and O’Hare (Chicago).  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also instituted enhanced screenings of passengers across several additional airports in the U.S.

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will begin monitoring all incoming travelers from Ebola-stricken nations for a 21-day period after entering the U.S.  Travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone should prepare to report their contact information and provide daily reports of their temperatures and possible signs of Ebola symptoms to CDC authorities.

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Brings Hope for Future L-1B “Specialized Knowledge” Visa Applicants

A recent decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’s (USCIS) 2010 denial of an L-1B visa for a Brazilian chef, sponsored by the Dallas-based Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chao.  The L-1B nonimmigrant visa is available to intra-company transferees who have worked for the sponsoring employer abroad for at least one year out of the preceding three years and who possess specialized knowledge of the petitioning organization, its products, or its processes.

In Fogo de Chao (Holdings) Inc. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS denied the chef’s L-1B visa petition on the basis that he possessed only general cultural knowledge of Brazilian cuisine, not rising to the level of specialized knowledge required to qualify for the L-1B visa.  In contrast to USCIS’s initial determination, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that USCIS (and later, the Administrative Appeals Office within the Department of Homeland Security), failed to provide adequate reasoning for their categorical ban on specialized knowledge evidenced through culturally acquired skills.  The majority of federal judges on the D.C. Circuit Court criticized USCIS’s narrow interpretation of specialized knowledge, a hopeful indication that the recent trend of rising L-1B visa denials will begin to dissipate.

In particular, the court noted that “knowledge acquired over time through cultural exposure combined with first-hand experience may distinguish an applicant from other employees who cannot learn without extensive training the skills, practices, instincts, and contextual judgments” possessed by the applicant.  The D.C. Circuit Court also suggested that USCIS visa adjudicators may take into consideration the financial hardship on U.S. sponsoring employers if they are unable to hire the L-1B visa candidate but remanded this issue to the agency for further consideration.

U.S. Consular Services in Calgary Limited in November 2014

Throughout the month of November 2014, the U.S. Consulate in Calgary, Canada will undergo building renovations. Consequently, the Consulate will not offer nonimmigrant visa services during the month of November, but it will offer additional visa appointment slots through October 28, 2014.  In light of the limited appointment availability, visa applicants requiring Consular services in the Calgary jurisdiction should schedule visa interview appointments as soon as possible to avoid delays.