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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

The ABCs of Immigration - Consular Processing for Nonimmigrant Visas
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

This week we discuss nonimmigrant visa processing US consulates. In light of the recent State Department announcement that it was halting third country national processing at consulates in Canada and Mexico, this is a timely issue.

Nearly every person who wants to come to the US temporarily will require a visa. Citizens of the 29 countries in the Visa Waiver Program can enter for up to 90 days for business or pleasure without a visa. Mexicans can enter for limited time and distance with a border crossing card, and Canadians rarely require a visa. Otherwise, the vast majority of the millions of people who enter the US each year require a visa.

The process for obtaining a visa can vary from consulate to consulate, but there are some basic common elements to the process. The essential element in obtaining any nonimmigrant visa (except for H-1s and Ls) is that the applicant must prove their nonimmigrant intent. This means that they must satisfy the consular officer that they will leave the US after their authorized period of admission is over. This involves showing ties to one’s home, such as family, employment, etc.

The visa application is most often made at the consulate in the applicant’s home country, but there is no rule against applying at any consulate. However, it can be more difficult for third country nationals to obtain a visa, and almost no consulates will issue treaty trader or treaty investor visas for third country nationals. Also, if the applicant has overstayed a previously issued visa, they are required to return to the consulate in their home country to obtain a new visa.

The application is made on Form DS-156, and must include photographs of the applicant. The consulate may also have special forms. Other documents required depend on the type of visa sought. For visas in which INS approval is required, evidence of the approval is required. For student visas, an I-20 or IAP-66 issued by the school is required. Also, the applicant must have a valid, unexpired passport.

If the visa application is denied, there is no possibility to review that decision. If it is granted, a machine readable visa is placed in the applicant’s passport. The visa will state what class of visa it is, for how long it is valid, and how many entries for which it is valid.


About The Author

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defender’s office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com


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