By: Shabnam Lotfi - Published on June 12th, 2020
We have heard from community members that airlines have refused to allow immigrant visa holders to board flights to the United States, although the individual was exempt from the travel bans. This has been the case for many immigrant visa holders who are the spouses of green card holders. If this situation applies to you or a family member, you need to contact the embassy that issued the visa and request that they coordinate with CBP to allow you to travel. Below please find a sample email that you can use when emailing the embassy.
Subject of Email: Urgent Assistance Requested for Mr. Ali Alavi
Body of Email:
Dear Consular Officer,
I write to respectfully ask for your immediate assistance. Mr. Ali Alavi received an immigrant visa from your embassy (see attached). His visa is set to expire on June 16, 2020. Qatar Airlines has refused to allow him to board, although he is exempt from each of the proclamations that restricts travel to the U.S.
At issue are two presidential proclamations. Under Proclamation 9992 (dated February 29, 2020), the “entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.” Section 2 of the proclamation states that the limitations do not apply to (ii) any alien who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Mr. Alavi is the spouse of a U.S. lawful permanent resident (see copy of her green card and their marriage certificate attached), and therefore this proclamation does not apply to him.
Under Proclamation 10014 (dated April 23, 2020), the “entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.” Section 2 states that this proclamation shall only apply to those who “do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation…” Mr. Alavi was in possession of a valid immigrant visa on April 23, 2020. Thus, the proclamation does not apply to him.
I have attached a copy of his new travel itinerary. Please coordinate with CBP so that this information is accurately reflected in your systems and he can safely board his flight. He only has one chance left to board a flight before his visa expires.
Once the email is sent and the embassy agrees to assist you, then you need to prepare the passenger for his/her flight. When the passenger arrives at the airport, it is possible that the gate agent believes that the passenger is not allowed to board the flight. The passenger should respectfully request that the gate agent contact the Regional Carrier Liaison Group (RCLG). When the gate agent contacts RCLG, RCLG will contact CBP to confirm that the passenger can fly. The airline can then allow the passenger to board his/her flight.
RCLG is open 24 hours/day 7 days/week.
Also, do not bring any prohibited items to the airport. Do not bring banned food (i.e. zereshk) or excessive cash to the airport. Fly light and make the travel easy.
For Immediate Release, May 21, 2020
Contact: Jessica Slind, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael’s Frozen Custard Reopens Monroe Street Location
Owner’s Spouse Finally Obtains U.S. Visa and Reclaims General Manager Role
MADISON— The owner of Michael’s Frozen Custard, a beloved Madison, Wisconsin institution, reopened its Monroe Street location on May 7, 2020, after his spouse, the business’ general manager, was finally granted a U.S. visa after a long, painful wait outside the country.
The owner, Michael Dix, faced having to shutter Michael’s Frozen Custard entirely after his spouse, Sergio De La O Hernandez, was denied a U.S. visa. The Monroe Street location closed on September 9, 2019, as a result of the denial. Sergio had been kept out of the U.S. since August of 2018. The couple had hope that they would soon be reunited after Sergio won his appeal with the help and support of the Madison community.
With renewed hope that Sergio would finally be returning home, Michael began to prepare Michael’s Frozen Custard’s Monroe Street location to reopen. Sergio was granted his U.S. visa on May 7, 2020, and he finally re-entered the U.S. later that day. Sergio and Michael were reunited shortly thereafter. To celebrate, they re-opened the Monroe Street location that same day.
Michael and Sergio are now working hard to get their business up to full speed, to welcome customers back to their Monroe Street location, and to find a moment to catch their breaths after a very long and painful separation. The couple shared their thoughts on their experience:
We are so immensely grateful. We are grateful to finally be together again. We are grateful to every single person that wrote a letter or called their Senator and Representative. We are grateful for all the smiling faces and the kind words people have shared as they come back to Michael’s on Monroe Street. We want nothing more than to show our love and gratitude, and to bring joy to every neighbor, customer, and supporter.
Attorney Jessica Slind, an immigration attorney with Lotfi Legal LLC, a Madison-based immigration law firm, who handled Michael and Sergio’s case, shared her perspective:
Michael and Sergio’s story is a love story and a very American story. This is a couple who endured great obstacles and whose love weathered a storm and came through stronger. This is a community whose love and support for their neighbors and local custard shop helped save the business and reunite the owners. This is a happy ending to be celebrated by all.
But sadly, the hurdles that Michael and Sergio faced when up against the American immigration system are not unique. This complex and overly harsh system separates families every day. I hope Michael and Sergio’s story sheds light on how good people are suffering. May Michael and Sergio’s love and our community’s love for Michael’s Frozen Custard give us all hope for what we can accomplish when we come together.
For Immediate Release, April 28, 2020
Contact: Jessica Slind, email@example.com
Michael’s Frozen Custard Preparing to Reopen Monroe Street Location
Owner Hopeful That Spouse Will Be Issued a Visa to Re-enter U.S. and
Reclaim General Manager Role
MADISON— The owner of Michael’s Frozen Custard, a beloved Madison, Wisconsin institution, is preparing to reopen its Monroe Street location in May in hopes that his spouse, the business’ general manager, will be able to return to the U.S. The owner, Michael Dix, faced having to shutter the business entirely after his spouse, Sergio De La O Hernandez, was denied a U.S. visa. This location closed on September 9, 2019, as a result. Sergio has been kept out of the U.S. since August of 2018, but the couple now has hope that Sergio will receive a visa allowing him to return to his Wisconsin home after winning his appeal. Michael is working to prepare the Monroe Street location to reopen upon Sergio’s return.
Michael and Sergio have been so grateful for the outpouring of support they received from their community. They read each and every one of the 150 letters sent in support of Sergio’s immigration case. Michael shared:
One day we sat down and read every letter. We were completely overwhelmed by the support and generosity we were shown. I cried. Sergio cried. It meant so much that so many people took the time to write letters and mail them to us. Those kind words have helped carry us through this difficult time. We want to pay that kindness back. With the new hope that Sergio will finally be able to come home, we want to reopen and bring smiles to the faces of all the people who supported us. Now is a time when we desperately need hope, I am very hopeful about Sergio’s return and the reopening of our shop. We want to provide the simple joys and happiness that our little custard shop brings to Madison.
“Sergio’s immigration case is ongoing, but we are hopeful that it will be resolved in the coming month and that he will finally be returned to his family and community,” said Attorney Jessica Slind, an immigration attorney with Lotfi Legal LLC, a Madison-based immigration law firm, who is handling Michael and Sergio’s case. “We look forward to updating the community once Sergio’s case has been fully resolved.”
For Immediate Release, August 21, 2019
Contact: Jessica Slind, firstname.lastname@example.org
Owner May Be Forced to Move Abroad After His Spouse Was Denied U.S. Visa
MADISON— The owner of Michael’s Frozen Custard, a Madison, Wisconsin institution, is closing one location on September 9th and may have to shut down the business entirely after his spouse was denied a U.S. visa. Michael Dix opened the first Michael’s Frozen Custard location in Madison in 1986. More than three decades later, Michael’s Frozen Custard has expanded to two more locations; has been featured on the Food Network and written up in the New York Times and New York Post; and has earned a place in the hearts of Madisonians of all ages.
But the community is now in danger of losing this fan favorite: Michael Dix’s spouse, Sergio De La O Hernandez, an undocumented Madison resident, was denied a visa that would have allowed him to gain legal status in the United States and rejoin Michael in their Wisconsin home. The two are currently in Mexico, Sergio’s country of origin, evaluating their options.
Michael and Sergio were married on New Year’s Eve of 2015 in an intimate ceremony at their home just outside Madison. Sergio had previous experience working in the frozen custard business, so it was natural for him to assist his new spouse in running Michael’s Frozen Custard. Sergio quickly began directing daily operations, and under his management, their business saw a period of exceptional growth and expansion.
After their marriage, Michael sponsored Sergio for a U.S. visa so that Sergio could acquire legal status and come out of the shadows where so many undocumented people are forced to live their lives. But when Sergio traveled to Mexico to attend his visa interview in August of 2018, he was told that he would neither be given a visa, nor would he be able to rejoin his spouse in Wisconsin, the only home he has known for the last thirty years.
Due to Sergio’s absence, Michael’s Frozen Custard has suffered significant losses in revenue. Michael explains his decision to close one of the business’ locations: “It is with a heavy heart that I will be closing the Monroe Street location—the first Michael’s location—on September 9th to prevent additional losses to our business. My separation from Sergio has been extremely painful for both of us and has been disastrous for my business.”
“We are all extremely disappointed with the government’s decision to deny Mr. Hernandez’s visa,” said Attorney Jessica Slind, an immigration attorney with Lotfi Legal LLC, a Madison-based immigration law firm, who is handling Michael and Sergio’s case. “He has lived in the United States for over 30 years. He has spent that time working hard and contributing to this community, he has a spouse and a daughter here, and he has no criminal record; Mr. Hernandez’s case is more than deserving of an approval under our laws. The denial of his visa is causing this family an enormous amount of pain. And the effects will reverberate throughout the entire community. The closing of Michael’s directly translates into losses for the local economy and the people of Madison.”
Attorney Slind continued, “We are not done fighting for Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Dix. Mr. Hernandez should not be barred from the United States. This family needs to be together in Wisconsin. The cruel immigration policies and rhetoric of the Trump Administration are causing needless suffering to this family and to families around the country. These policies are bad for people, bad for families, and bad for business.”
For Immediate Release, March 13, 2018
Contact: Shabnam Lotfi, email@example.com
The Government’s Blanket Denial of Visas Violates the APA, the INA, and Fifth Amendment
SAN FRANCISCO— Attorneys Shabnam Lotfi and Veronica Sustic, of Lotfi Legal LLC, an immigration firm based in Madison, Wisconsin, filed a class action lawsuit in federal court today over the Trump Administration’s travel ban practices. The proposed class includes U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and citizens of the Muslim-majority countries who are subject to the travel ban and whose visa applications were denied; many are seeking to be reunited with family members, and many are educated and looking to continue their professional paths in the U.S. Defendants include President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Acting Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and the various agencies they head.
In 2017, President Donald J. Trump attempted to institute three travel bans via executive order and presidential proclamation. Each ban applied mostly to Muslim-majority countries. Federal courts have already found the first two executive orders unlawful. The constitutionality of the third travel ban is currently being litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court. But on December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court decided to allow the Administration to execute the third travel ban while the case was heard on its merits.
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants’ implementation of that interim-permitted travel ban has violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and the Plaintiffs’ right to due process under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Specifically, at issue in this suit is Section 3 of Trump’s third travel ban, which allows for case-by-case waivers under a non-exclusive list of circumstances for visa applicants from the banned countries. To qualify for a waiver, an applicant must prove that: (1) a denial of entry “would cause the foreign national undue hardship”; (2) his or her “entry would not pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States”; and (3) his or her “entry would be in the national interest.” Defendants have refused to consider such waivers and have instead issued blanket denials of visas, regardless of personal circumstances and without giving applicants the opportunity to argue their cases, thereby violating the APA, the INA, and Plaintiffs’ right to Fifth Amendment due process.
The State Department has revealed that, as of March 6, 2018, only about a hundred waivers had been granted out of thousands of visa applicants from the banned countries, with a rejection rate of more than 98%.
Attorney Sustic explained, “The government has insisted that the waiver process acts as a safety valve on the travel ban to make sure that deserving people can still get through. The Supreme Court stayed the lower courts’ decisions striking down the travel ban with the understanding that the government was looking at people’s individual circumstances on a case-by-case basis. The Court did not give the government a green light to reject nearly every applicant.”
In light of the government’s practices, Plaintiffs are asking the court to retract past and cease future visa denials pursuant to Trump’s Proclamation. They assert that such intervention is needed to prevent ongoing and future harm to affected applicants and to protect the integrity of the U.S. visa process. Plaintiffs have suffered significant and irreparable harm, including both opportunity and actual costs.
“The government’s conduct has been reckless. It has had an entire year to figure out how to implement the travel ban and come up with a waiver process, and it has utterly failed,” said Attorney Lotfi, lead Plaintiffs’ counsel in the case. “This case does not need convincing. The Trump Administration’s practices constitute an all-out travel ban.”
Lotfi continued, “We cannot afford to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the travel ban, because the harm is immediate. People are suffering every day. They need their voices heard now and we intend to make that happen.”
Lotfi Legal LLC is co-counseling with Luis Cortes Romero and Alma David of Immigrant Advocacy & Litigation Center, PLLC and Mark Rosenbaum and Judy London of Public Counsel.
برای دوستانی که فارسی ترجیح می دهند.
United States Embassy
RE: Application for Waiver from “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats”
Applicant’s First Name: Maryam
Applicant’s Last Name: Mohammadi
Applicant’s DOB: JAN 1, 19XX
Case number: ABC##########
Dear Consular Officer,
I submit this waiver application because I seek admission to the United States. As this letter explains, denial of the visa would cause me undue hardship. It is in the United States’ national interest to allow me to (Give your reason here: join my American citizen-family in the United States, accept the offer of employment from XYZ Company, etc.). My entrance would not pose a threat to national security or the public safety of the United States. I respectfully request that you grant my waiver application and grant me a visa.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
(You should go into some details about your case here: what your relationship is to the US, when you applied for a visa, when you received a receipt notice, when you had an interview, how long you have been waiting, etc.)
Sample: I have a son named Amir Mohammadi, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, who recently had a baby girl. As an American citizen, Amir applied for me to immigrate to the United States in July 2015. His petition on my behalf was accepted by USCIS and, on April 25, 2016, Amir received a letter from NVC, informing him that they had received his request from USCIS and would schedule a visa interview for me. I traveled to my interview at the American consulate in Yerevan, Armenia, on November 29, 2016. At the interview, the consular officer requested no additional information, and I was told that my visa would be issued in a few months. Although this process generally takes about 3 to 6 months, more than 12 months have now elapsed since my interview, and I still have not heard any news regarding the status of my visa.
On September 24, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued a “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats” (hereinafter “Proclamation”), and made it effective as of 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on October 18, 2017. Proclamation, Sec. 7(b). The Proclamation imposed a suspension or limitation on the entry of, or issuance of visas to, “nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen” beginning on the effective date, but made provision for “case-by-case waivers” for individuals from those seven countries. Sec. 1(h)(ii); Sec. 2.
Under Section 3(c), the Proclamation specifies the following examples of situations when granting a waiver, and issuing a visa, is appropriate:
(You should only include the bullet points that apply to your situation. For example, if you are not a Canadian permanent resident applying for a visa within Canada, you can delete that bullet.)
“[T]he foreign national has previously been admitted to the United States for a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity, is outside the United States on the applicable effective date . . . of this proclamation, seeks to reenter the United States to resume that activity, and the denial of reentry would impair that activity;”
“the foreign national has previously established significant contacts with the United States but is outside the United States on the applicable effective date … of this proclamation for work, study, or other lawful activity;”
“the foreign national seeks to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations and the denial of entry would impair those obligations;”
“the foreign national seeks to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member (e.g., a spouse, child, or parent) who is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and the denial of entry would cause the foreign national undue hardship …;”
“the foreign national is an infant, a young child or adoptee, an individual needing urgent medical care, or someone whose entry is otherwise justified by the special circumstances of the case;”
“the foreign national has been employed by, or on behalf of, the United States Government (or is an eligible dependent of such an employee), and the foreign national can document that he or she has provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government;”
“the foreign national is traveling for purposes related to an international organization designated under the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA), 22 U.S.C. 288 et seq., traveling for purposes of conducting meetings or business with the United States Government, or traveling to conduct business on behalf of an international organization not designated under the IOIA;”
“the foreign national is a Canadian permanent resident who applies for a visa at a location within Canada;”
“the foreign national is traveling as a United States Government-sponsored exchange visitor; or”
“the foreign national is traveling to the United States, at the request of a United States Government department or agency, for legitimate law enforcement, foreign policy, or national security purposes.”
A waiver may be granted under the Proclamation if, in the consulate’s discretion, a foreign national has demonstrated that (1) a denial of entry “would cause the foreign national undue hardship”; (2) his or her “entry would not pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States”; and (3) his or her “entry would be in the national interest.” Sec. 3(c)(i).
Because I meet the three requirements for a discretionary waiver under the Proclamation, the American Embassy in Armenia should exercise its discretion and grant me a waiver and, ultimately, a visa so that I may enter the United States and (rejoin my family, begin my employment with XYZ Company, etc.).
A denial of entry would cause undue hardship to me and to my American family.
(Explain here why a denial of your visa would cause you and your family or employer undue hardship.)
Sample: This situation has already caused me immense hardship. I have incurred substantial costs in traveling back and forth to Armenia. As a law-abiding person, I also went through the proper channels and paid all of the required fees to apply for my visa. These costs can be a significant burden, and because I am a retiree, they are costs that I can never recover. My 12 months in limbo has also taken a great emotional toll: I have been separated from my son and have not gotten to experience the joy of meeting my infant granddaughter. I want desperately to join my family and enjoy my retirement with my grandchild.
My son and his wife and daughter have also experienced significant hardship. Amir and his wife are both researchers; my infant granddaughter needs constant care and attention, which is very difficult to provide with their grueling schedules at the University of Wisconsin. All of their lives would improve immeasurably if their grandmother were there to provide love and support.
My son also suffers from asthma, which puts him in the emergency room every now and then. I have enclosed medical documents demonstrating the severity of his condition. It is an ongoing hardship for him to not have me by his side for support.
More examples of hardship that may apply to your situation:
Medical hardship: Health considerations, including inability of your home country to provide treatment, which can be argued on the basis of prohibitively high costs or inadequate/substandard treatment, hospital conditions, or availability of medicine
Education and professional development
Family and emotional support
Safety and future family
Best interests of children directly affected by decision
Family violence considerations
Factors in home country, including adverse country conditions, e.g., war; natural disasters; unfair treatment of minorities; political instability; lack of employment; widespread violence; discrimination based on race, political affiliation, or religion
Hardship for the employer: XYZ Company went through the process of obtaining a labor certification from the Department of Labor because it recognized that my skill in mechanical engineering is unique and is not found among American workers and that it would benefit the business to secure my expertise.
My entry would not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
(Explain why you are not a threat.)
Sample: I am a law-abiding person. I am older than 60, and have never had a single encounter with law enforcement. I have no criminal record and no ties to any terrorist organizations. I have made trips to the United States in the past—in 2002, 2005, and 2012—and I have always respected the laws of this country and left the United States as required. Further, I am a retired teacher who dedicated my life to nurturing young people. I in no way pose a threat to national security or public safety.
My entry would be in the national interest.
(Explain why your entry would be in the national interest.)
Sample: I seek to enter the United States to be reunited with my son and granddaughter and to provide the support that my American son and daughter-in-law need to continue contributing to the United States through their work as researchers and that my granddaughter needs to grow up happy and loved. It would be in the national interest to allow me to reunite with my family so that we may continue to contribute and find success in the United States.
My unique skill set will benefit XYZ Company and, in turn, the local economy. Because I already have a job lined up with XYZ Company, I will not require government money in the form of social services.
For all the reasons stated above, I am deserving of favorable discretion. I respectfully request that the consulate grant my waiver application and grant me a visa.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) allows the US government to issue up to 50,000 immigrant visas annually. In order to qualify, an applicant must be a national of a country that is not well represented in the US. Individuals apply in November of each year and are selected in May of the following year. Then, applicants are given less than 1 year to complete the DV program requirements. This includes submitting all required documents to the US Department of State and attending an interview at a US embassy abroad. The tiniest error in an application is grounds for denial. For example, if the applicant mistakenly uploads a photo of themselves that does not meet the legal requirements, they have just lost their opportunity.
Sometimes though, an applicant can meet all the legal requirements and submit a perfect application and still be denied. In this video, we discuss such a case.
This informational video was created to inform US green card holders about the risks associated with international travel, particularly for those who have criminal records. As always, we try to provide the most important pieces of information in the least amount of time. We recognize that our audience members live busy lives, and we respect their time. We also pride ourselves on providing top level information and cutting out unnecessary legal jargon. Our goal is to make the law easy for people to understand, not more complex.
Please also note that this video is for information purposes only. It does not create any attorney-client relationship.
A diversity lottery winner received this letter from the US Embassy in Yerevan today. He was told to either provide documentation regarding his “bona fide” relationship, or to come back in 90 days. He was given this letter.
There are a number of things wrong with this letter. First, it doesn’t address the fact that the person may have a bona fide relationship with the US in the form of employment, schooling, or investments. The letter only mentions family relations and neglects other ways of establishing a bona fide relationship.
Secondly, the letter doesn’t mention that the individual may also apply for a waiver. The second executive order allowed for applicants to apply for a waiver “if the foreign national has demonstrated to the officer’s satisfaction that denying entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship, and that his or her entry would not pose a threat to national security and would be in the national interest.”
We strongly recommend that applicants who believe that they have a “bona fide relationship” with the US – whether in terms of family, employment, or school – to provide the embassy with this documentation. Such documentation may include birth certificates, marriage certificates, job offers, photos, leases, business investments, bank accounts, property ownership, etc… If applicants do not meet this criteria, they should be prepared to ask the consular officer for a waiver.
Our office is always happy to assist you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.