A temporary policy on employment authorization extensions is set to end. Student visa issuance is on the rise. And a look at the impact of USCIS processing delays.

Get this news and more in the new episode of BAL’s podcast, the BAL Immigration Report, available on AppleSpotify and Google Podcasts or on the BAL news site.

‌This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group.

Copyright ©2023 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries, please contact copyright@bal.com.

An important I-9 deadline will arrive next week. The Biden administration extends Temporary Protected Status for Sudan and Ukraine. And European countries move to establish a new travel authorization system. Get the news and more on this episode of the BAL Immigration.

Get this news and more in the new episode of BAL’s podcast, the BAL Immigration Report, available on AppleSpotify and Google Podcasts or on the BAL news site.

‌This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group.

Copyright ©2023 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries, please contact copyright@bal.com.

You may have seen the news recently.

“U.S. Passport Holders Will Need a Visa to Travel to Europe in 2024.”

“European Union to require U.S. travelers with passports to fill out visa application.”

“Europe Will Roll Out an Entry Fee and Visa Requirement Next Year.”

These headlines are not technically correct. The European Union is not imposing a visa requirement on Americans; however, the EU is moving to launch a new electronic travel authorization program that will make business travel and tourism slightly more complicated for nationals of 60 visa-exempt countries, including the United States.

The European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS, is expected to take effect sometime in 2024 (no exact date has been provided). It will operate similarly to Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which the United States implemented for visa-waived travelers in 2007 as part of a group of post-9/11 reforms. ETIAS is designed to work as a “digital watchdog” for Europe and will be required for 30 EU/Schengen Area countries.

The good news is the process for obtaining travel authorization will be fairly simple. Applicants will log on to the ETIAS website or app; provide personal and travel information, including passport details; and pay a €7 fee (for travelers between 18 and 70; others can apply for free). In most cases, applicants will often receive travel authorization within minutes — though it could take longer, as discussed below. Travel authorization will remain valid for three years, or until an individual’s passport expires, whichever comes first.

Assuming the system works as intended, travelers will likely only face headaches if they forget to apply for ETIAS — or wait until the last minute.

Our advice? Start planning now.

ETIAS will take effect for 60 visa-waived countries, representing 1.4 billion people on six continents, all at once. Travelers should expect delays, and even a possible system crash.

On the business front, we predict that companies’ policies will vary. Some companies may apply for ETIAS on behalf of business travelers (ETIAS does allow third-party applications with a bit of additional legwork); others may have employees apply on their own, similar to how the U.S. ESTA program is handled.

What’s important is that employers communicate with employees about the upcoming requirement, update internal resources, speak with travel desk and/or business travel vendors, and ensure their employees apply well ahead of time. While most applications will be resolved in minutes, some could take up to 14 days if flagged for additional information — or up to 30 days if flagged for an interview.

ETIAS also does not do away with other travel and immigration rules. It only permits for stays of up to 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, and allows for the same activities as visitors are used to — business activities and tourism — but not work. Individuals traveling with an ETIAS must ensure the passport details on their ETIAS match their actual passport. Discrepancies may lead to boarding refusals or complications at the border. Non-exempt nationals must still apply for a visa.

Those visiting Ireland or the United Kingdom will not apply for travel authorization through ETIAS, though the U.K. is phasing in an Electronic Travel Authorization program of its own.

New travel requirements often catch people off guard. The end of free movement between the EU and U.K. took some by surprise even after Brexit had been in the news for years. With ETIAS, neither travelers nor companies should be intimidated. When it comes to business travel, however, the sooner companies can develop plans and identify who will own the ETIAS process, the better they, and their workforce, will be prepared for the upcoming change

The State Department publishes a proposal on allowing third parties at interviews for U.S. citizen services. Foreign musicians and artists express concern about proposed filing fee increases. And a look at how passport applications have swamped the State Department — and what that means for business.

Get this news and more in the new episode of BAL’s podcast, the BAL Immigration Report, available on AppleSpotify and Google Podcasts or on the BAL news site.

‌This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group.

Copyright ©2023 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries, please contact copyright@bal.com.

DALLAS (Aug. 17, 2023) — Nearly four dozen BAL attorneys have been recognized by Best Lawyers®, shattering the firm’s previous record. A notable 20 attorneys were named “The Best Lawyers in America” for immigration and 27 were named “Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch.”

“To be featured in this prestigious publication means our attorneys’ expertise in service to clients stands out among their peers in their own practice area and geographic location,” said Managing Partner Frieda Garcia. “Recognition of so many of our attorneys as ‘Ones to Watch’ speaks to the success of our commitment to recruit and nurture the best and brightest of rising legal talent.”

The attorneys will be featured in the 2024 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®, the only purely peer-review guide to the legal profession.

“This honor reflects not only our attorneys’ individual excellence but also BAL’s firmwide commitment to pursue the exceptional,” said CEO Jeremy Fudge.

The following BAL attorneys were recognized as “Best Lawyers”:

These up-and-coming senior associates were recognized as “Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch” in immigration law for 2024:

 

About BAL 
Established in 1980, Berry Appleman & Leiden (BAL) powers human achievement through immigration expertise, people-centered client services, and innovative technology. BAL, with 12 offices across the United States and global coverage in more than 185 countries around the world, operates as a single entity through its oneBAL culture — a uniquely holistic approach, intentionally structured as one team, one brand, one P&L, one standard of excellence, and one unifying technology. This united approach enables the firm to deliver the highest level of knowledge, insights, and resources from across the entire organization. At BAL, we pursue the exceptional. To learn more, visit bal.com.

Media Contact:
Emily Albrecht
Senior Director — Marketing & Communications
ealbrecht@bal.com
469-559-0174

Lawmakers introduce a Name, Image and Likeness bill with new provisions for F-1 student athletes. The U.S. curtails consular services in Niger. And a closer look at USCIS’ second H-1B lottery.

Get this news and more in the new episode of BAL’s podcast, the BAL Immigration Report, available on AppleSpotify and Google Podcasts or on the BAL news site.

‌This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group.

Copyright ©2023 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries, please contact copyright@bal.com.

Beyond ruining tourists’ travel plans, U.S. passport delays are snarling companies’ ability to conduct their affairs abroad, and the disruptions to operations are impacting everyone from C-suite executives to field technicians who are required to travel.

Getting a passport or renewing one used to be a reliable, straightforward process taking about two to four weeks. COVID changed that. Even in this post-pandemic world, travelers now may face months of delays, spoiling vacation and business plans abroad, due to backlogs and understaffing at the U.S. State Department.

We sat down with BAL Senior Counsel Tiffany Derentz and Immigration Manager Paulina Morelos to learn what is causing the delays, how companies are being impacted and what they can do.

Q: Tiffany, you’re a member of BAL’s Government Strategies team and a former State Department official. What is the State Department saying about the unprecedented passport delays?

Derentz: There are a few factors impacting passport processing: First, there was a surge back in 2017, following record passport issuance in 2007, and increased demand nearly every year since then. Second, the department never fully recovered from the backlogs created between 2017 and 2019. And third, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted consular services.

A record 22 million U.S. passports were issued in fiscal year 2022, and the State Department expects 2023 numbers will exceed that. With COVID restrictions finally easing, weekly passport applications were up as much as 40% above 2022 numbers in the first quarter this year, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a recent press report. The State Department was receiving 500,000 applications per week through May this year, and around 400,000 per week during peak summer travel months. In a recent social media post, the department said it has authorized up to 40,000 overtime hours per month to try to keep up with demand. More Americans have U.S. passports today than at any time in our history.

Q: Can’t someone just go to a State Department Passport Agency in the nearest metro area to file a passport application directly, and wouldn’t that help to shorten processing times?

Derentz: Previously, yes, a U.S. citizen could make an appointment to visit a nearby Passport Agency and apply in person. However, demand is so high, in-person appointments are simply not available right now.

Q: Is it true other requirements have also been added to the expedited service process?

Derentz: The State Department breaks services down into four categories: (1) routine, (2) expedited, (3) urgent travel and (4) emergency. The latter three categories require that the international travel be within a certain time frame, and some applicants have been asked to provide proof of a travel itinerary. Many individuals are finding themselves in quite a stressful situation — they need their passport within a number of days but have no certainty whatsoever that they will have it back in time for their travel.

Q: Paulina, what kinds of disruptions are businesses experiencing due to their employees’ passport delays?

Morelos: Passport delays can lead do any number of disruptions to business travel, including missing important meetings. Companies can also face staffing gaps if workers’ passports expire and they are unable to travel. Sometimes it is workers’ children’s passports that cause delays. Newborns need passports, and children’s passports are good for only five years.

Second passports are often needed for frequent travelers because, when they need to apply for visas for certain places, their primary passport stays with the consulate office in the U.S. while the visa is processed. Travelers need to submit a letter from their employers justifying the business need they have for the individual to hold more than one passport.

Q: What does it take to get an emergency passport?

Morelos: To qualify for one, a person must prove a medical, family or business emergency and provide specific documents. Although it is easier to get an emergency passport at a U.S. consulate abroad, getting an appointment for one is difficult because appointments are limited.

Q: What other ramifications should people be aware of?

Morelos: Another consideration is, because the need is so great, we are seeing more scams. There are many online companies promising expedited passport services, but buyer beware! People are paying these companies high fees only to discover they are then stuck waiting the same processing time for the government to process their applications.

Q: What can companies do to help their employees and avoid the business disruptions we’ve discussed?

Morelos: Companies can inform their employees about the reality of today’s lengthy passport processing delays to help them plan accordingly. Also, BAL offers reliable expedited passport processing services. The caveat is that people must reach out to the firm before they apply for the passports themselves. Once the application process has started, we cannot assist. They would need to either wait until the passport is issued or withdraw their application.

In most cases, if corporate clients are proactive and can notify BAL of an employee’s need to travel on a specific date or within a certain time frame, the firm can obtain passports in as little as five to 10 business days after applying for them. Current wait times otherwise can stretch up to 15 weeks.

Q: How can people reach you for more information on BAL’s expedited passport processing service?

Morelos: They are welcome to contact their BAL attorney or global_initiation@bal.com.

Tiffany Derentz leads BAL’s Washington, D.C. office. Tiffany joined BAL after nearly a decade with the U.S. State Department in the Bureau of Consular Affairs and as a senior adviser to the Chief Legal Adviser for immigration affairs. Tiffany served as a consular officer at multiple posts overseas and has experience adjudicating U.S. passport applications. She has direct in-person experience working with consular sections worldwide as well as the Passport Office.

DALLAS (Aug. 4, 2023) — Leading immigration firm BAL once again took the top spot in Law360’s latest Diversity Snapshot for its size category. The recognition marked the fourth consecutive year the firm scored #1 in overall diversity in the elite publication’s annual survey.

“Diversity is a foundational principle at BAL,” said Nicole Dawson, Chief People and Culture Officer. “Our top ranking demonstrates the success of our DE&I initiatives. The results speak for themselves, and we appreciate this national recognition of our efforts.”

Law360 called out BAL’s high scores as one of few diversity “success stories” discovered through its survey of 283 firms. BAL scored 24.7 points above the benchmark, the third highest score of all firms in all size categories.

BAL ranked the highest in diversity among equity partners, associates and other attorneys among firms of the same size. The majority of BAL’s associates, 55.1%, are attorneys of color. Attorneys of color also make up 24% of all partners, 50% of equity partners and 59.3% of all other BAL lawyers.

“As an immigration law firm, we recognize the strength people from varied backgrounds and experiences, from all around the world, provide,” said CEO Jeremy Fudge. “We deliberately seek and promote the best talent and give them equal opportunities to make a difference. This top ranking reflects our authentic culture of empowerment where every individual is valued and contributes in meaningful ways.”

BAL leads the legal industry in its commitment to diversity, achieving national recognition multiple years in a row. In 2023 alone, in addition to the Law360 report, the firm ranked #4 out of 226 firms in The American Lawyer’s 2023 Diversity Scorecard, #1 in the National Law Journal’s 2023 Women in Law Scorecard, and received the nonprofit Lawyers of Color Aspire Diversity Award.


About BAL 
Established in 1980, Berry Appleman & Leiden (BAL) powers human achievement through immigration expertise, people-centered client services and innovative technology. BAL, with 12 offices across the United States and global coverage in more than 185 countries around the world, operates as a single entity through its oneBAL culture — a uniquely holistic approach, intentionally structured as one team, one brand, one P&L, one standard of excellence and one unifying technology. This united approach enables the firm to deliver the highest level of knowledge, insights and resources from across the entire organization. At BAL, we pursue the exceptional.

Media Contact: 
Emily Albrecht
Senior Director — Marketing & Communications
ealbrecht@bal.com
469-559-0174

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services completes a second H-1B registration lottery. The U.S. limits Hungarian citizens’ access to the visa waiver program. And a look at J-1 visa opportunities for STEM researchers and specialists — and how they could help keep the U.S. competitive in the global economy.

Get this news and more in the new episode of BAL’s podcast, the BAL Immigration Report, available on AppleSpotify and Google Podcasts or on the BAL news site.

‌This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group.

Copyright ©2023 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries, please contact copyright@bal.com.