-- September 2011 ~ Travel and Immigration 101

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thousands of Foreign Students Reported Over Visas

At least 27,121 migrants were reported to the UK Border Agency by universities and other foreign student sponsors between March 2009 and August 2010. The figures were released to the Manifesto Club campaign group under the Freedom of Information Act. Some 228,000 foreign students came to the UK to study last year. Three in four of these come from outside the EU.
In its Students Under Watch report, the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against regulation, said strict visa controls were forcing academics to spy on students, eroding academic autonomy and damaging relationships between students and staff.

Proportionate system
Josie Appleton, the group's director, said: "Academics are not border agents, and they should not be dragooned into spying on their students. "The UKBA now has rights of entry to any university campus, which is a major threat to academic autonomy. We call for a more proportionate system, which recognises the historic autonomy of the university." The University and College Union, which represents academics said the relationship between staff and students was incredibly important.

Its general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "It is built on trust and must not be jeopardised by fears that lecturers may be spying on students. "Successive governments have had plans to turn lecturers into spooks overwhelmingly rejected by the academic community." In July, MPs accused the government of rushing plans to curb student visas, saying they could harm the economy.

'Widespread abuse'
The Home Affairs Select Committee said that it was concerned that official figures indicated the restrictions could cost the economy £3.4bn. Officials estimate the measures will cut net migration by 230,000 by the end of the current parliament. But immigration minister Damian Green said the changes were introduced after full and extensive consultation. A UKBA spokesman said: "There has been widespread abuse of the visa system for too long and we have made radical changes in order to make the system more rigorous and accountable. "We expect education providers who are sponsoring foreign students to make the necessary checks."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

US Immigration Enforces New US Visa Rule

 The US immigration agency is enforcing a new set of rules that can make life harder for Americans and their non-citizen spouses living overseas. The new process of obtaining an immigrant visa increased from three months to a minimum of five. Sometimes it may take as long as three years, The New York Times reported on Aug. 14.    
Ukraine is no exception. Americans married to Ukrainians residing in their home country will have to go through a long and complicated visa process if they decide to leave. The US Embassy in Ukraine estimates that the rule will affect approximately 5,000 Americans internationally. In an effort to centralize the process, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security now requires applicants abroad to mail the visa document called I-130 to a central immigration office in Chicago, whereas before it was enough to contact a local consulate.

“This is making a simple process complex,” said Reno Domenico, head of the Ukrainian branch of Democrats Abroad. “The new process is very impersonal, even though they say it will be a simplified process. From our experience, we don’t believe that it will be the case.” Following the submission of I-130, the families will have to wait approximately five months for the processing results, which is nearly twice as long as it was before.

After I-130 is processed, the applicant will have to submit an application to the U.S. State Department for the actual US visa. So, the entire process of bringing the family to the U.S. might take from one to three years. The options for temporary visits to the U.S. by non-citizen spouses, while the application is pending, may be limited, said Dominico.

“We suspect there will be problems with getting visitor’s visas,” he said. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services, however, assure that new rules will improve the overall system. In the interview with The New York Times on Aug. 14, spokeswoman Edna Z. Ruano said that the mail-based approach would save many Americans trips to consulates or embassies abroad and will be a step towards full transition to the electronic process. The background to this rule, according to Ruano, is financial strain on the immigration services. Last year the State Department billed the agency $3 million for its I-130 work. As a result, the agency has decided that “it is more cost effective for U.S.C.I.S. to adjudicate all I-130s, with certain limited exceptions.”

But it is an unpopular decision. “From the administrative point of view, this decision might be reasonable. However, from a human standpoint it is a terrible idea. Even though Ukraine is our home now, the new rule is taking away the choice to return to the U.S. whenever we want,” commented Scott Lewis, executive vice president for Willard. In rare situations, such as medical emergencies, threats to personal safety or some adoptions, the State Department will process applications, speeding the process.

Daniel Cisek, deputy press attache of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, said that any exceptions will be approved by the local Citizenship and Immigration Services office, which for Ukraine is in Moscow. “We estimate this will affect less than 20 applicants per year in Ukraine,” Cisek said.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

How Hard to Get a US Visa?

Did you know that for every 10 tourist or business visa applications filed with the United States embassy in Manila, about seven get approved? “It’s a 70 percent approval rate, which is pretty good,” according to Consul General Michael R. Schimmel. He says “it’s a reasonable rate” though he would like it to go higher.
“We very much want to see Filipinos visit the US. It’s in everybody’s interest for Filipinos to travel to the US,” Schimmel, who assumed his post in October, tells the Inquirer. He says international travel is the best way to promote a solid bilateral relationship. He adds, “We want to promote American businesses. Travel is a huge American business. We want to see Philippine nationals come to the US for a wide range of reasons.”
Last year, the embassy received some 210,000 nonimmigrant visa applications, about 700-1,000 applications a day. Close to 30 percent were disapproved for various reasons.
Many applicants who get turned down complain that the disapproval is arbitrary. Retired Army Col. Justino A. Padiernos’ application was denied four successive times between 2008 and 2009. In April, the 77-year-old Padiernos of Gapan, Nueva Ecija filed a formal protest with the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of American Affairs (OAA). DFA Assistant Secretary Patricia Ann Paez referred the  protest to Schimmel.
Former Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Padiernos had criticized former Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo for not acting on his older brother’s request for assistance in securing a visa. The older Padiernos studied and worked in the US and was a  permanent resident (green card holder) in 1982-1992. He gave up his green card and returned home, becoming the  chair and chief executive officer of the cooperative Agricultural Productivity Development Corp.
He returned several times to the US as a tourist between 1993 and 2008. Padiernos, who said he wanted to go to the US again to visit his family and attend to a civil court case involving a family property, said the denial of his visa application was arbitrary. The US Embassy said applications were decided based on “individual merits,” consistent with immigration laws.
In a letter to Padiernos, embassy official Richard Swart explained that consular officers were trained   “to presume that visa applicants intend to immigrate unless they can demonstrate that their familial, social, professional, and economic ties to the Philippines are compelling enough for them to return after a temporary stay in the US.”
Swart said applicants should not only show a good and legitimate reason to go to the US, but an even better reason to return home. Padiernos’ wife and daughter live in the US but he cites “strong economic ties” in the Philippines as head of a coop, including a coop for Philippine Military Academy alumni.
Interview is crucial
Schimmel says “there’s nothing mysterious about obtaining a US visa.” But he says everything depends on the interview. He says somebody who is truthful and honest and needs a visa only for a visit will get it. He stresses, “Avoid fixers. There’s no need for an intermediary.”
Schimmel says the US embassy web site explains the procedure. He says because there are about 11 million undocumented foreign nationals in the US, many of them arriving legitimately with visas, they have to scrutinize carefully applications.
No visa waiver for PH
The Philippines is not among 36 countries covered by the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Nationals of countries covered by VWP can travel to the US for tourism or business purposes without a visa and stay for not more than  90 days. Only four Asian countries are in the VWP: Brunei Darussalam, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
To be admitted to the program, a country “must meet various security and other requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the US.” The US State Department says VWP members must also “maintain high counter-terrorism, border control and document security standards.” For a country to qualify, the rate of visa application refusal must be less than two percent. The Philippines’ is around 30 percent.
In the top three
As for immigrant visas, Schimmel says they get 50,000-70,000 applications each year. He says the number places the Philippines in the top three, with Mexico in the number one spot, followed by China.
Last year, the embassy got 52,000 applications. Schimmel says most immigrant visas get approved. Although some applications may get deferred for one reason or another,  “most people in the category eventually—if they’re transparent individuals—will be approved.”
For nonimmigrant visa applications, the fees are: $140 for visitor or business, $150 for temporary worker, $350 for fiance/fiancee, and $390 for investor or trader. For immigrant visas, immediate relative and family preference applicants are charged $330 each. Employment-based application fee is $720.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

US Startup Visa: Visa for Foreign Entrepreneurs

The dream of U.S. to become the world's best startup hub is currently a dream as their current immigration policies have prevented many foreign-born startup founders from remaining in the U.S. The policy is forcing foreign-born startup founders with venture capital and employees out of the country, effectively sending thousands of high paying knowledge jobs overseas for no reason. 
However, the U.S. government is trying new ways to attract these foreign-born startups. They have come up with a new "Startup Visa" - a process through which establishing businesses in the U.S. will become more easier for foreign entrepreneurs. The visa will allow the entrepreneurs to keep their companies and their jobs in the U.S.

The New US Visa will be provided under certain conditions:
  1. Entrepreneurs living outside the U.S. qualify for the visa if an American investor agrees to fund their entrepreneur ventures with a minimum investment of $100,000. Two years later, the startup must have created five new American jobs and either have raised more than $500,000 in financing or be generating more than $500,000 in yearly revenue.
  2. Workers on H- 1B visas or graduates from the U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics or computer science are eligible if they have an annual income of at least $30,000 or assets of at least $60,000 and have had an American investor commit investment of at least $20,000 in their ventures. After two years, the startup must have created three new American jobs and either have raised more than $100,000 in financing or be generating more than $100,000 in yearly revenue.
  3. Foreign entrepreneurs whose business has generated at least $100,000 in sales from the U.S. After two years, the startup must have created three new American Jobs and either have raised more than $100,000 in financing or be generating more than $100,000 in yearly revenue.
Every job being created by such startups will contribute towards fulfilling the global competition for talent and investment in the U.S. This visa act will enable the foreign students and workers who are already in the U.S. to qualify for a US visa with a reasonable requirement, where they should have the potential with enough savings so as not to burden the American taxpayers and get a qualified investor or a government entity.

Yet, there is a huge risk involved with this visa. If their entrepreneurial venture fails or does not take a fly, they must start again or leave the U.S. These factors do not suit entrepreneurship, as entrepreneurship means risk taker with no guarantee of success or failure. However, the fact remains that the skilled immigrants create jobs and they have to do so if they want to remain in the U.S. This is future, what about the present? Presently, these entrepreneurs have no other option than taking their ideas home and give a competition to the U.S.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Immigration Lawyer For Your Visa Needs

Contrary to what many people might think, an immigration lawyer is not just someone you call after you’ve gotten in trouble. He or she is also someone to help you avoid getting in trouble in the first place. Entering the United States is always highly restricted, but it is even more so for individuals hailing from a country that is not one of the 36 that participate in a visa waiver program that allows people to come and go without having to apply for visas. For these individuals, applying for the necessary paperwork to travel to the United States can be a daunting and difficult process.
An immigration lawyer will be the first to tell you that there are over 30 different types of U.S. visas, each for a variety of different reasons. By far the two most common are immigrant and non-immigrant visas, which allow entry into the U.S. for two vastly different but very common reasons. Non-immigrant visas allow a person to enter the U.S. for a temporary stay. This could mean simply for a vacation or a business trip or to attend college at an American school. It could also be to visit family or friends. This type generally includes a time limit in terms of how long a person can legally remain at their destination.

An immigrant visa is the most difficult and time-consuming to obtain because it allows for entry into the country for no set amount of time, possibly for the purpose of earning the right to work through a green card or eventually full citizenship status as well. The catch with these documents is that they do not authorize the actual stay in the U.S. itself, only the opportunity to cross the country’s borders and petition for the right to remain. This is where an immigration lawyer can be most necessary, as those who have had visas issued are allowed to reach a U.S. port of entry, where their case is considered by a domestic immigration official. At this point that official could authorize the alien to enter the country and honor the terms of the issued visa, or he or she may turn that person away and refuse entry.

An immigration lawyer knows the rights and privileges of foreign nationals trying to enter the United States as well as anyone. They are best equipped to file effective and successful paperwork to allow the process to proceed as seamlessly as possible. He or she is also able to pick up a case already in progress and can help produce needed results as quickly as possible so that a resolution and final determination is ultimately reached.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Upgraded Immigration Policy with Startup Visa Canada

On the heels of the Startup Visa Act awaiting presentation to Congress in the United States comes the launch of Startup Visa Canada, which aims to upgrade Canada Immigration program by making it easier for prospective entrepreneurs with Canadian investors to launch science and technology companies.
The movement has three principles behind it: Boris Wertz, an investor and co-founder of GrowLab; Danny Robinson, an entrepreneur, investor and member of the B.C. Innovation Council; and the Canadian Venture Capital Association (CVCA). "We are already falling behind countries like Chile, Singapore and Britain, who have already upgraded their programs," Mr. Wertz says, "but I believe we can learn from their programs and make ours better.”

NPR reported this week, in fact, that a Chilean government sponsored program called Start-up Chile is offering entrepreneurs from around the world $40,000 (U.S.) and a year-long residency visa to bring their business ideas to the country. And, the story points out, many American entrepreneurs are already taking Chile up on its offer. Owners don't have to know Spanish, since all commerce is conducted in English.

“Our belief is that we must promote a culture of entrepreneurship in order to successfully compete in the new global economy," says Chris Arsenault, director at CVCA. "Canada can become a beacon, attracting the best and the brightest from across the globe.”

It's hard to argue with a strategy designed to make it easier for entrepreneurs to launch new businesses in Canada and create more jobs in the process.

Growing now, but where are we headed?

"While financial markets have been wildly gyrating this year, small business confidence has been on a relatively even keel," Laura Jones wrote in The Province this week. The senior vice-president of research, economics and Western Canada for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says confidence levels have registered between 65 and 75 on her organization's monthly business barometer, levels that are consistent with a growing economy. "As a point of comparison," she added, "at the low point during the 2008 downturn, confidence was at 35 on the index." The outlook, of course, is cloudy, given the economic uncertainty hanging over our neighbours in the United States.

Worldwide study characterizes entrepreneurs

A new analysis released Friday by Ernst & Young, the 2011 High-impact Entrepreneurship Global Report, provides insight into the characteristics of high-growth small-business owners. More than 800,000 people were surveyed in 60 countries worldwide, and more than 70,000 of them were entrepreneurs. It found that high-impact entrepreneurs (which E&Y defined as having estimated annual growth above 20 per cent) usually start their companies between the ages of 26 and 45. "They are more likely than entrepreneurs from lower-growth companies and the general population to have college or graduate degrees," the company says in a press release, "and they are likely to work in partnerships. Also, high-impact entrepreneurs are most likely to conduct a significant portion of their business internationally."


Innovation in Canada and Brazil

The opening seminar with an Innovation and Technology theme by the Brazil Canada Chamber of Commerce will put the concept in a global perspective. What role does innovation play in creating leadership in industry – and in countries? The seminar will include representatives from government, innovative companies and industry in Canada and Brazil. The all-morning event takes place Sept. 14 in Toronto at the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre (250 Yonge Street, 35th floor). Cost is $40 for members, $60 for non-members.

The wattage meter rises

Dragon's Den panellist Kevin O'Leary and TV host and automotive industry expert John McElroy have been confirmed as speakers at the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show 2011, adding some star power to the proceedings. Mr. O’Leary will answer tough questions facing today’s manufacturers, including "how will the global recession affect your industry?" and "what can you do to protect your company and come out stronger?" Mr. McElroy is "expected to make auto makers sit up and take notice" as moderator of an automotive roundtable. The show takes place Oct. 17 to 20 at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto.


Forty is the new 20

Tired of headlines that read “Hottest Entrepreneurs Under 30,” or “Top 40 Under 40,” or “Top 20 Under 20?” Stories about technology entrepreneurs often ignore the grown-up crowd. But some of Canada’s hottest tech entrepreneurs launched their businesses after 40 – the arbitrary age that often acts as the upper limit of the “best of” lists. These six technology entrepreneurs share their stories, and prove that 40 is nowhere near “over the hill” for startup success. And check out the related photo gallery.


Connecting owners with immigrants

Many small business owners are in desperate need of skilled workers, but they are either unaware of or don’t consider the qualified pool of new immigrants that have already arrived in Canada, Maytree Foundation president Ratna Omidvar told reporter Carys Mills in July. Maytree is trying to come up with strategies to connect the two, contending it will bring benefits to both.

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