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U.S. Ambassador to India Announces more Lenient U.S. Visa Application Policy

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In an effort to make the visa application process more convenient for all Indians, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates General in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad now accept visa applications from across India at all visa facilities, regardless of the applicant’s home address or city of residence. This is part of Mission India’s ongoing effort to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States.

Following the opening of Consulate General Hyderabad in 2008, the U.S. Mission has looked for ways to best capture the dynamism of India’s growth across the nation.  Consular districts are reorganized as follows: Embassy Delhi: Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bhutan;Consulate Mumbai: Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Diu and Daman, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli; Consulate Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh, Orissa;Consulate Chennai: Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands;Consulate Kolkata: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland,Sikkim, Tripura, West Bengal.

U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer said, “With these changes, we believe our Consulates General and ourEmbassy in New Delhi will be even better positioned to support and serve Indian visa applicants, as well asAmerican citizens and businesses throughout India.”

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Written by MithrasLaw

November 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants Required to Complete new DS-160 Form

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Non-Immigrant visa applicants (such as H-1B, L-1, B-1, etc) will be required to complete the online Form DS-160 prior to appearing at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy for a visa application by April 30, 2010.
Form DS 160, which is a Non-immigrant Visa Electronic Application, can only be used by visa applicants applying at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate which has converted to the new electronic fully online form and process. You can access the DS-160 from the Consular Electronic Application website or from the  link to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply located on the DS-160 informational page to check for current procedures.
While many consular posts have already been requiring DS-160 completion for some time, increasingly more and more consulates are making the DS-160 mandatory as the April 30 deadline approaches.
It should be noted that when completing the online DS-160, the form times out approximately 20 minutes after the application has been idle so it is best to save the application at regular intervals so that the information entered is not lost. Also, it is advisable to save the application on your computer hard drive or CD before submission of the your application for two reasons. First, if rejected by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for being incomplete, you will be able access your saved application data, correct the non-responsive or incomplete answers and submit the corrected application without having to complete an entirely new application. Second, if you are a frequent visa applicant, you can update your saved application the next time you wish to apply for a visa and submit the updated application, in order to save you time.
Also know that when applying for a nonimmigrant visa using the online DS-160, additional forms are not required, with two exceptions. When applying at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is using the new DS-160, Online Non-immigrant Visa Application, you will use only one form. For Embassies and Consulates that have converted to this new process, the DS-160 has replaced all of the following forms: DS-156, DS-157, DS-158, and DS-3032, which are no longer necessary.
The two exceptions are:  (1) Fiancée Visas (K-1/2) which still require use of the forms DS-156 and DS-156K, and (2) the Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor visa application. If you are a Treaty Trader (E-1) or an Executive/Manager/Essential Employee you will need to complete the DS-160 and you or your employer will need to complete the paper DS-156E. (Sometime next year a new form, the DS-161, E Visa Business Information form, will be released. This form will allow you or your employer to complete an online form and submit the form electronically to the State Department but until then the paper Form DS 156E is required.)
In addition, it is important to know that embassies, in particular the U.S. Embassy in London, is turning away applicants if the wong visa category is selected on the DS-160. An applicant who is turned away because of an incorrect form could be formally refused a visa, which in turn can affect an applicant’s eligibility to utilize the Visa Waiver program in the future. So, it is important to complete the form accurately and pick the correct visa categories.
For instance on the DS-160, in the “Travel Information Section,” you are asked “Are you the principal applicant?” On answering that question, a drop down list will appear under “Purpose of Travel to U.S.” It is important that you review the information carefully. If your purpose of travel is not covered in the list, click on “Other.” This will offer you a further drop down list of choices. In addition, If you are planning on working in the United States and you are being sponsored for a visa by a U.S. company or if your employer is transferring you to a subsidiary or parent company in the U.S., you should select the appropriate visa category, which is either “Temporary Employee (H1,H2),” “Trainee (H3),” or “Intra-company Transfer (L).” If you select Business/conference visitor (B1) or Business/Personal Travel (B1, B2) this is incorrect as it does not cover your purpose of travel and you will be turned away and required to complete a new DS-160.

What do the Heightened Air Security Measures Mean for You?

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In light of the December 25th incident, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which governs security on airports and on airplanes in the United States, issued a directive and has implemented new security measures, effective January 2010.
This new directive requires passengers flying into the United States from anywhere in the world who hold passports issued by or traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest be required to go through enhanced security screening which includes a full pat-down and extra scrutiny on carry-on baggage. The new security directives also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandate threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights.
The four countries that have been classified as state sponsor of terrorism are Cuba, Sudan, Syria and Iran. The other 10 countries of interest are Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.  Passengers from other countries not listed as state sponsors or countries of interest could also face enhanced or random screening.
If you have flown in the last couple of months, you have certainly seen or experienced heightened security at airports and on airplanes.  Not only have most airlines have limited carry-on baggage to one bag and one personal item such as a backpack, purse, or laptop but many airlines are now requiring passengers to remain seated in the last hour of flying time and mandating that passengers cannot access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or other items on their laps. This means that if your flight is 90 minutes or less you may not be able to leave your seat at all or for that matter access your personal belongings!
Also, the new security measures require airlines for all flights departing from any foreign location and traveling to the United States to have passengers go through secured areas for additional security before boarding, in addition to the normal screening.
The security measures and guidelines that were in place before January 2010 , such as the Liquid 3-1-1 rules, and standardization of acceptable identity documents continue to exist, and will be enforced.  All this heightened security has taken the joy out of air travel and made it more cumbersome, unpredictable, and stressful. What can you do as a passenger to get through the security line faster?

Tips:

1. Arrive on Time;

2. Avoid wearing loose or bulky clothing;

3. Avoid covering your head and face (unless for religious reasons) — avoid wearing a hat or sunglasses;

4. Avoid wearing too much jewelry that might set the alarm off on the metal detector;

5. Pack an organized carry-on-bag and layer clothes and electronic items;

6. Do not wrap gifts;

7. Follow the liquid rules: 3-1-1 for carry-on;

8. Pack coats and jackets in your checked baggage;

9. Do not pack oversized electronics (laptops, full-size video game consoles, DVD players and video cameras that use cassettes) in your checked baggage when possible;

10 Look at the prohibited item list on your air carrier’s website and make sure not to carry them;

11. Wear slip on shoes to make it easy to remove and put through the X-ray machine;

12 Avoid belligerent behavior, inappropriate jokes, and arguments.

Written by MithrasLaw

April 5, 2010 at 11:53 am

Posted in Immigration

Tagged with , ,

US Immigration Requires all International Visitors from the Visa Waiver Program Countries to Pre-register Online at Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) from January 12th 2009

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Begining tomorrow, January 12th, 2009, all nationals and citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who plan to travel to the U.S. for temporary business or pleasure for 90 days or less under the VWP will be required by law to obtain an online travel authorization prior to initiating travel to the United States under the VWP.  For a list of the over 30 VWP countries see our earlier post.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an online system used to determine eligibility for visitors intending to travel to the United States under the VWP. It requires the same information as the I-94W form that VWP visitors fill out en route to the US.  Typically, the traveler must provide biographical data including name, birth date, and passport information, as well as answers to questions regarding eligibility to travel under the VWP.

The authorization is to be obtained online through the ESTA, which is a free Internet application available in 16 languages and administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The automated system is now accessibile online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.

The electronic travel authorization is being implemented to enhance the security of the VWP and to assess whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.

Airlines and border control officials are concerned that many passengers are not aware of the new United States immigration requirements for VWP countries and this could lead to chaos at the airports.  US Customs and Border Protection also confirmed that while there are more than four million visits to the United States each year, just over 240,000 have filled out the online Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) which replaces United States’ green visa waiver entry form. 

Kelly Klundt of the US Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Public Affairs has said that The Department of Homeland Security will take a reasonable approach to those travelers not in compliance with the travel authorisation requirement, but, travelers who do not obtain an ESTA should be aware that they may be refused boarding, or experience delayed processing, or be denied admission upon arrival in the United States.

Written by MithrasLaw

January 12, 2009 at 1:28 am

GOING TO INDIA FOR A VISIT OR ON BUSINESS?

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If you are a U.S. citizen you require a valid passport and valid Indian visa to enter and exit India for any purpose.  Visitors, including those on official U.S. Government business, must obtain visas at an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to entering the country, as there are no provisions for visas upon arrival.Note that the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India are unable to assist when U.S. citizens arrive without proper documentation and those that arrive without valid passport documentation are subject to immediate deportation.

It is recommended that when travelling to India you should carry photocopies of the bio-data page of the traveler’s U.S. passport and the page containing the Indian visa in order to facilitate obtaining an exit visa from the Indian government in the event of theft or loss of the passport.  Replacing a lost visa in order to exit the country can take upto three business days.

Americans wishing to visit India are responsible for requesting the correct type of visa from the Indian Embassy or Consulate, as there generally are no provisions for changing one’s immigration category (e.g., from tourist to work visa) once admitted.  As of October 1, 2007, the Indian Embassy and Consulates in the U.S. outsourced the visa application process to Travisa Visa

Outsourcing: http://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com.  Diplomatic and Official visa applications, however, are still accepted directly at the Indian Embassy and Consulates.  Foreign citizens whose primary purpose of travel is to participate in religious activities should obtain a missionary visa rather than a tourist visa.  Indian immigration authorities have deported American citizens who entered India with a tourist visa and conducted religious activities.

American travelers to India who work in “designated institutes and technology areas” will be subject to a two week waiting period in the visa application process and will be required to submit supplemental information with their visa application.  Scholars planning to conduct research in India often need research clearances in addition to their visas.

Foreign citizens who visit India to study, do research, work or act as missionaries, as well as all travelers planning to stay more than 180 days are required to register, generally within 14 days of arrival, with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) closest to where they will be staying.  The FRRO maintains offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai (known as the “Chennai Immigration Office”), Kolkata and Amritsar.  In smaller cities and towns, the local police headquarters will normally perform this function.  General information regarding Indian visa and immigration rules, including the addresses and telephone numbers for the FRRO offices, can be found at the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs web site for its Bureau of Immigration at http://www.immigrationindia.nic.in.

If a visitor overstays his or her Indian visa, or otherwise violates Indian visa regulations, the visitor can be required a clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to leave the country and/or may be fined or jailed until their deportation can be arranged

Written by MithrasLaw

September 28, 2008 at 7:37 pm

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