Sheela Murthy Meets with Senior Officials at U.S. Consulate in Chennai22 Feb 2016
Murthy Law Firm founder and president, Sheela Murthy, was in India in January 2016. A meeting was scheduled for the 22nd. Accompanied by team members from the firm’s liaison office in Chennai, Murthy met with the Chief of the Nonimmigrant Visa Section, Lindsey L. Rothenberg, and Vice Consul, Brock D. Fox at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai, India. Murthy Law Firm attorneys periodically travel to meet with officials at various consular posts. Typically such meetings include discussions on behalf of specific clients who are facing difficulties, and more general topics applicable to many foreign nationals. During the January 22nd meeting, a number of key topics were covered, including issues related to L-1 petitions filed under a company’s blanket, concerns about administrative processing delays, and practical questions regarding visa appointment rescheduling.
L-1 Visas Based on Blanket Approval and Standard of Evidence
Most of the discussion at the consulate about L-1 blanket filings involved case-specific questions for some of the Murthy Law Firm’s existing clients. Without including specifics, MurthyDotCom readers can nonetheless be provided with a general understanding of the purpose of an L-1 blanket and some of the legal hurdles foreign nationals may face when applying under a blanket.
A multinational company, with a U.S. presence, that meets certain criteria may qualify for an L-1 blanket. Once the company receives a blanket approval, employees of the foreign company may apply for an L-1 visa at the consulate without having to first obtain an approved L-1 petition from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order for an L-1 petition filed under a blanket to be approved by the consulate, however, the case must be “clearly approvable.” This is a higher standard of evidence than the “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. more likely than not) standard applied to individual L-1 petition filed with the USCIS. Accordingly, L-1 blanket cases must be very well documented, and rejections of visa applications filed using an L-1 blanket are a common occurrence. Still, if a visa is denied under an L-1 blanket, the employer may then file an individual L-1 petition with the USCIS for the same individual.
Visa Processing Delays Caused by Administrative Processing and Security Checks
Murthy raised the issue of long processing times for visa applications sent for administrative processing. As of the date of the meeting, the stated processing time for H1B and L-1 visa applications subject to administrative processing was only a week from the date of submission of any requested documents. However, the consular officials acknowledged to Murthy and her colleagues that, in many cases, such delays can extend well beyond this one-week reported timeframe. In addition to general administrative processing, the officials explained, some cases are delayed for security reasons. The officials suggested that following up with the consulate was appropriate for administrative processing delays that lasted more than sixty days.
Emergency Processing with Drop Box Interview Waivers
Murthy inquired about the availability and procedures for requesting emergency processing when using the drop box interview waiver program. In genuine humanitarian and emergency situations, applicants can reach out to the consular information unit (CIU) (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance. At the discretion of the consulate, such cases can be processed within a few days, unless there are security or other delays related to verification.
Visa Appointment Cancellations and Reschedules
Murthy asked the consulate officials to provide more information regarding the process for rescheduling a nonimmigrant visa application appointment. The officials explained that an applicant may cancel an appointment and reschedule using the same fee receipt. At this time, in Chennai, it is possible to cancel and reschedule up to a maximum of four times without having to remit a new visa application fee.
B-1 for Domestic Attendants and B-1 in Lieu of H1B
Murthy also raised questions about two types of less-traditional B-1 visa applications: B-1 for domestic attendants (sometimes referred to as “domestic servants”) and B-1 in lieu of H1B. As discussed in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Nonimmigrants Hiring Foreign Domestic Attendants (09.Sep.2013), those in certain nonimmigrant classifications (e.g., H1B, L-1, F-1) may be eligible to sponsor a foreign national domestic worker, such as a live-in maid or nanny, if certain criteria are met. As for the B-1 in lieu of H1B visa classification, it is designed to allow a foreign company to send a worker to the U.S. to perform H1B-type duties for a short period of time (i.e., usually a maximum stay of under 6 months).
The officials confirmed that the U.S. Consulate in Chennai does processes applications for both B-1 domestic attendants and B-1 in lieu of H1B workers. However, the officials advised Murthy that such applicants typically must undergo extensive questioning from consular officers. Further, many of these applicants are initially issued 221(g) refusals while their respective cases are subjected to additional scrutiny by the consulate’s fraud prevention unit. Applications for the B-1 in lieu of H1B visa classifications tend to be reviewed especially carefully.
Boarding Foils for LPRs
If an lawful permanent residents (LPRs) has lost or misplaced the physical green card, a boarding foil (previously, a transportation letter) is required in order to be allowed to board a plane destined for the United States. The consular officials confirmed that the consulate in Chennai continues to process such applications.
Boarding Foils for Children of LPRs Born Abroad
The situation is different for the child of an LPR mother who is on a temporary trip outside the United States. By law, the child is not required to obtain a boarding foil in order to be admitted to the U.S. However, there have been reports of airline personnel incorrectly insisting that this is a requirement. To avoid a potential hassle at the airport, one may apply for a boarding foil for the infant or child, but not at the consulate in Chennai; only the U.S. Consulates in Mumbai and New Delhi offer this service in India.
Abandonment of Legal Permanent Residence Submission at Delhi
Murthy also discussed with the consular officials the issue of nonimmigrant visa (e.g., B-1/B-2 visitor visa) applications filed by foreign nationals who had previously abandoned their LPR status. As explained in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Extended Travel by a Permanent Resident (Part 1 of 2) (11.May.2012), a lawful permanent resident may be deemed to have abandoned the green card based on an extensive stay outside the United States. However, unless the individual submitted a formal record of abandonment of lawful permanent resident status (form I-407), the consulate’s official records generally would not indicate that the green card was no longer valid. In this situation, in order to be issued a nonimmigrant visa, the applicant typically would have to first attain a signed form I-407 to provide to the USCIS office in New Delhi.
Information obtained firsthand from consular officials can be extremely helpful, both for specific cases and for issues of more general concern. The Murthy Law Firm greatly appreciates the time taken by NIV Chief Rothenberg and Vice Consul Fox to shed light on the array of topics discussed.
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