Articles Posted in Other visas

Both Los Angeles and Palm Springs are popular destinations for visitors from all over the world.  Some visitors, from certain trusted countries, are allowed to visit the USA without a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa.  At both our Pasadena and Palm Springs offices, we’ve gotten quite a few calls about a change that went into effect today.

Beginning 1 April 2016, citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries who wish to visit the USA without a visa must travel using an e-passport, a passport issued by the country of nationality that meets certain security standards.  An e-passport still looks like what you would expect a passport to be.  However, an e-passport is machine readable and has an RFID chip embedded into it, with digital information about the passport holder.  There are many fraud-resistent features built into these passports, such as images that change color and symbols that show up only under UV light.  To know if a passport is an e-passport, look on the front or back cover for the symbol shown on the graphic at the top of this little blog.

If you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver-eligible country, but you do not have an e-passport, you must contact the US Embassy in your country to obtain a B-1/B-2 visitor visa.  Border guards may deny you entry if you do not have the proper passport and could send you back on the next plane.  Alternatively, you should contact the passport authority in your country to obtain a new passport.


Fong & Aquino has many, many clients from the Philippines, both at the Los Angeles office and the Palm Springs office. Last week, the Philippine Islands suffered catastrophic damage from the winds and rain of Typhoon Haiyan. The nation is only now beginning to get assistance to its stricken citizens, and the world is responding as well.

While the Philippines struggle to cope with the after-effects of one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, the United States can help in many ways, in addition to the aid that is already underway. One way we can help is to limit the strain on Philippine resources by designating the Philippines for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under §244(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This would allow Filipinos currently on temporary stay in the USA to remain here until the situation in their home country stabilizes. Please write to your Representative and Senators, and urge them to designate TPS protection for the Philippines.

Remember: TPS has not yet been approved for the Philippines. There is no program or benefit to apply for at this time. Please do not call the immigration office to ask, because there is no TPS yet for Philippines.

Last summer, President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which would allow some young people who were brought to the United States at a very young age to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD – a work permit). With all the discussion of amnesty and Comprehensive Immigration Reform, I still get people asking me here at Fong & Aquino whether this DACA program still exists.

It does.

To qualify for the program, a successful applicant must show that s/he:

The Obama Administration today issued an Executive Order which would allow CERTAIN young undocumented young people to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Los Angeles / Palm Springs immigration attorneys Fong & Aquino have counseled thousands of immigrants, and we know that many undocumented youth are eligible for work permits under this newly-announced program.

The details are not yet available, but the White House has said that the qualifications are:

* Arrived in the USA before age 16;

Starting April 13, 2012, visa processing fees will increase. The fees for most nonimmigrant visa applications and Border Crossing Cards will increase but we will see a decrease in all immigrant visa processing fees.

  • Petition-based visas: H, L, O, P, Q, R will increase from $150 to $190
  • Visitor, student, exchange visitor and journalist visas: B, F-1, J-1, M-1, I visas will increase from $140 to $160

Opportunity in the sky.jpgFollowing this past year’s diversity lottery fiasco, the US Department of State has announced that it will begin accepting applications for DV 2013 at noon (EDT) on October 4, 2011. The application period will close on November 4, 2011 at noon (EDT).

It has only been a few months since Dept of State notified then revoked the winning results of 22,000 “winning” lottery applicants. In the incident, now commonly known as “22,000 tears,” the DOS reported that a computer glitch caused 90% of the DV2012 winners to be selected from applications made during the first 2 days of the 30-day application period, and that because of this, the results were not “randomized,” and hence, invalid. DOS states that it “mistakenly informed” these unfortunate 22,000 “winners,” some of whom had already started making plans and selling off assets to move to the US and begin their American Dream.

As we look ahead, some changes have been made to the countries whose nationals can now participate in the DV 2013 lottery. Nationals of South Sudan and Poland are now eligible to submit applications and although mainland Chinese born applicants cannot participate, Hong Kong SAR, Macau, and Taiwanese applicants may still apply. While the Los Angeles visa attorneys at Fong & Aquino, wish the best of luck to all DV 2013 applicants, we also remember and sympathize with the 22,000 individuals of DV 2012. –ecf

%22University%22 building.jpg
Last weekend, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the launch of a new USCIS website for students looking to study in the US. The website’s name? Yup, “Study in the States.” The new website which will be of use to F-1 and M-1 hopefuls, is aimed at disseminating information to foreign students, as well as serving as an interagency resource hub between DHS and it’s partner organizations. Information pertaining to J-1 exchange visitors and trainees is still relegated to the US Department of State.

Study in the States provides information on how prospective students should utilize the current version of SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System program. It also tells us what we can expect with the highly anticipated “paperless” SEVIS II, which may launch “in the near future.”

There’s also general information useful to new immigrants such as how to obtain a social security number, how to enroll your children in Kindergarten through 12th grade, and how to get a driver’s license. The attorneys at Fong & Aquino applaud the launch of this user-friendly website and what we hope is not only USCIS acknowledgment that foreign students coming to pursue degrees in the United States represent some of the best and the brightest talents in the world…but that these are the students who can and will someday continue to drive the innovation, entrepreneurship, and values known throughout generations as, the American Dream. –ecf

chocolate.jpgRecently, the news — local Pennsylvania news, the Associated Press, and even The New York Times — has been filled with a story about foreign students who came to the USA to participate in an “exchange program,” who ended up working under allegedly harsh conditions at the Hershey chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. Here at Fong & Aquino, we began to get calls from people around Los Angeles, as well as throughout the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs and Palm Desert), about these exchange visitor visas.

Essentially, the J visa program was created as a foreign-policy tool to encourage international understanding, to provide a way for foreigners to get to know American life and work. It also allows a freer exchange of information, permitting professors and researchers to continue their studies and presentations in the USA. The visa is for a:

* professor or research scholar,

Japan: an 8.9 earthquake has rocked Japan today, marking the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s recorded history. This quake is the fifth most powerful in the world since 1900, says the U.S. Geologic Survey. Tokyo reports massive aftershocks. Narita Airport, Sendai Airport remain closed, although Haneda Airport has reopened already. The immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino who practice in business immigration, family-based immigration, removal defense and appellate work extend sympathy and concern to all our Japanese clients and those with family and friends abroad who are affected by this devastating disaster.

Over the years, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have worked proudly in the Japanese immigrant community, having represented multinational executives and managers for some of Japan’s largest corporations, professors providing invaluable research and teaching in top U.S. universities, professional employees working in companies based in Little Tokyo and in Japanese American non-profit organizations, and of course, countless individuals and families of Japanese descent.

With early reports of the death toll, the true damage the earthquake has caused remains unknown at this moment. We do know that this earthquake may cause tsunamis powerful enough to engulf or wash over small islands in the Pacific causing more damage and posing continued danger to those in the Pacific. For clients wishing to return to Japan in the weeks to come, please call the attorneys at Fong & Aquino for guidance on how to check the US Department of State for travel warnings and other restrictions. —ecf

SmGreek Flag.jpegThe citizens of some countries are allowed to enter the USA as touristic or business visitors without first obtaining a B-1/B-2 visitor visa. As Los Angeles immigration lawyers, Fong & Aquino often receives questions about whether a particular country is eligible for this Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Today, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that citizens of Greece are now eligible to enter the USA as visitors, using the VWP. Eligibility for the VWP is based on a country’s compliance with security and data-sharing requirements–such as law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States; timely reporting of lost and stolen passports; and maintenance of strong law enforcement, counterterrorism, border, aviation, and document security protocols. In turn, citizens of Greece will be permitted to travel to the United States for up to 90 days as visitors without first obtaining a visa.

Any Greek citizen that wishes to enter the USA as a visitor using the VWP must first register him/her self under the US government’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This registration must take place prior to boarding any flight to the USA. Information about ESTA is available here. –jcf