Since our firm’s offices are in China, we are often asked by lawyers in the U.S. to work as local counsel for U.S. visa applications at the U.S. Consulates in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Shenyang. We make it our business to know each consulate’s policies, practices, and procedures. Here are the basic tips we give most frequently to stateside lawyers:
- CGI Group Inc. contracts with the State Department to provide global support services for U.S. consular posts in China. Instructions on paying visa application fees, scheduling interviews, expedite requests, passport return, etc., can be found at http://ustraveldocs.com/cn/index.html.
- Consular posts in China do not permit attorneys to accompany applicants at visa interviews. That makes the attorney’s job even harder. Not only does the attorney need to prepare the client to answer questions in a way that is honest and persuasive. Also the attorney needs to prepare the client to deal with legal issues that may arise during the interview.
- Immigration consultants do a thriving business in China, sometimes founded on claiming a special relationship with a post, preparing fraudulent documents, and/or coaching applicants to lie. Applicants frequently harm their chances of receiving a visa by making false statements about their income, employment, or family status, even if a truthful answer would not harm their case. Review previously submitted visa application forms for misrepresentations that must now be disclosed in the DS-160 or DS-260.
- Chinese citizens will have a hukou, which is a record in the system of household registration required by law. As part of your due diligence, check what it says about education, employment, marital status, date and place of birth, military service, previously used names, etc. Posts are aware that information in the hukou is frequently out of date and will not refuse a visa solely on that basis.
Nonimmigrant Visas (NIVs)
- CGI’s website includes information about NIV interview waivers based on age (under 14 or above 80) or for renewing a prior NIV that expired fewer than 48 months ago. Such applications are normally dropped off at select CITIC Bank locations.
- In November 2014, the U.S. and China agreed to issue B1/B2 visas valid for 10 years and Fs, Ms, and Js valid for up to 5 years, depending on the length of the U.S. program. CBP has announced that effective November 2016 Chinese nationals holding 10-year B1/B2 visas will be required to enroll online in an Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) in order to enter the United States. There will be a nominal fee. Enrollment will generally remain valid for 2 years or when the visa or passport expires, whichever comes first.
- The American Chambers of Commerce in China in conjunction with local posts operate business visa programs that facilitate applications for employees of member companies and in some circumstances family members and customers of member companies applying for NIVs.
- Visas Mantis security advisory opinions are often required for NIV applicants with degrees in science or engineering, so they should be prepared to submit resumes, detailed itineraries, and information about their U.S. contact persons.
- Many B1/B2 visa applicants asked about the purpose of their U.S. visit give an unhelpful, one-word answer, such as “travel” or “business.” Prepare your client to be more specific.
- Consular officials are on the lookout for abuses related to so-called birth tourism. In particular, parents who failed to disclose the true purpose of their trip during a consular interview or who subsequently received a discounted rate for birth-related medical services because they were uninsured may be unable to establish nonimmigrant intent subsequently. Parents may be rendered inadmissible based on misrepresentations to the post or CBP about the prior purpose of travel.
- A parent applying for a B1/B2 visa to visit a child in the U.S. should be prepared to submit evidence of the child’s U.S. immigration status, the last time they met in person, and the parent’s U.S. immigration history.
- F-1 visas for junior high and high school will be closely scrutinized because an individual who does not graduate from a Chinese high school or who does not spend countless class hours preparing for the college entrance exam usually cannot be admitted to a Chinese university.
- L-1 visa applications for new and small U.S. offices may be subject to investigation, by phone calls or visits to the applicant’s prior China employer. Fabricated evidence of the 1 year of China work experience is not uncommon, so attorneys should pay special attention in gathering such evidence.
Immigrant Visas (IVs)
- All Ks and IVs are handled by the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou.
- Effective April 2016, the State Department has updated documentary requirements for Chinese birth certificates. Previously, notarial birth certificates (chusheng gongzhengshu or chusheng zhengmingshu) were required of all IV applicants. Now, original medical certificates of birth (chusheng yixue zhengming) should instead be submitted for persons born starting 1996.
- INA § 212(a)(3)(D) makes inadmissible persons who are or have been “a member of or affiliated with” the Communist Party or “affiliated” organizations. The Chinese Communist Party has some 80 million members. Examples of “affiliated” organizations include China’s minor political parties and mass organizations (e.g., Communist Youth League, All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, All-China Federation of Trade Unions, All-China Women’s Federation, etc.). Exceptions to inadmissibility are described in the FAM for persons whose membership terminated at least 5 years before the date of application, was involuntary, or was “not meaningful.”
- For family-sponsored IVs, the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou is on the lookout for marriage fraud and for instances of applicants paying immigration brokers to arrange for invalid I-864s that fail to disclose previously filed I-864s or are based on false tax returns.
- For EB-5 and L-1 cases, immigration attorneys should be aware that Chinese currency laws restrict the exchange of renminbi for U.S. dollars. Avoid counseling clients to take measures that violate Chinese law.
If you’re an attorney with a basic question I’ve overlooked, you can ask it in the below comments section.