AILA Urges State Department to Address E Visa Processing Delays07 Dec 2022
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of State (DOS), urging the DOS to address ongoing issues related to E-1 and E-2 visa applications. In the letter, AILA also includes various suggestions that could be implemented to alleviate the problems with E visa applications.
Background on E-1 and E-2 Visas
As the names imply, the treaty trader (E-1) and treaty investor (E-2) nonimmigrant visa categories are based on formal treaties the United States has entered into with dozens of countries across the globe. A citizen of a country that has a qualifying treaty may apply for an E-1 visa for purposes of engaging in substantial trade between the U.S. and the treaty country. Meanwhile, the E-2 visa can be used by a citizen of a treaty country to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the applicant has invested a substantial amount of capital. A citizen of a treaty country may qualify as the principal trader or investor or as an employee of a trader or investor company.
Unlike most work visa categories, which require the prospective employer in the U.S. to file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), most E-1 and E-2 applications are filed directly with the consulate. The application process can vary from one consulate to another, but typically involves submitting the application to the consulate and then waiting for the consulate to review the package before scheduling an in-person visa interview.
There is also an E-3 nonimmigrant visa category, which is based on a treaty between the U.S. and Australia, and is very similar to the H1B category. However, E-3 visa applicants have not generally faced the same challenges as those in the E-1 and E-2 categories.
Significant Processing Delays
As noted in the letter from AILA, there are significant processing delays for E visa applications at many U.S. consulates. For example, the average processing time of an E visa application submitted at the U.S. Embassy in Rome is more than one year. Worse still, numerous U.S. consulates, including those in Colombia, Chile, and Barbados, have suspended initial E-1 and E-2 visa processing altogether.
Given that the E-1 and E-2 visa categories are designed, in part, to help strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs in the United States, AILA argues that these cases should be prioritized. In the letter, AILA suggests that the DOS create a U.S.-based team who can review, and perhaps even adjudicate, E-1 and E-2 cases filed at U.S. consulates. AILA also urges the DOS to help prospective E visa applicants identify U.S. consulates that are available to process applications filed by third-country nationals within a reasonable timeframe.
AILA further notes that, although E visa applicants are not specifically excluded from interview waiver eligibility, in practice, consulates do not generally waive the interview requirement for these cases. AILA recommends that consulates begin waiving interviews, at least for renewal cases filed through well-established E-1 and E-2 entities.
Needless to say, E visa applicants are not the only people facing problems related to visa processing delays. We urge the DOS to work to quickly implement solutions to the ongoing visa appointment backlogs.
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