MLH Consular Consulting

U.S. Immigration Law & Visa Services
Immigration and Consular Processing News

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January 2016

MLH Consular Consulting featured in a U.S. News & World Report article about career opportunities in immigration law.  Read more here:

Changes to the Visa Waiver Program Now in Effect

The United States has now begun implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at U.S. embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis, according to the Department of State.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Department of State (DOS) may designate additional countries as "areas of concern" or state sponsors of terrorism in the future, and if they do, similar restrictions will apply to individuals from those countries as well. 

Accordingly, beginning January 21, 2016, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated on their ESTA applications that they hold dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above will have their current ESTAs revoked.

The Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis.  As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and
  • Individuals who have traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.
Again, whether ESTA applicants will receive a waiver will be determined on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the terms of the law. In addition, DHS and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will continue to explore whether and how the waivers can be used for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan.

Any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States.

The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States. Furthermore, it should be noted that Canadian citizens are visa exempt and are not participants in the Visa Waiver Program; thus the new restrictions do not apply to Canadian citizens who have dual nationality in one of the prohibited countries.

An updated ESTA application with additional questions is scheduled to be released in late February 2016 to address exceptions for diplomatic- and military-related travel provided for in the Act.

Please note, the Act also implemented the following change:
Beginning on April 1st, 2016, the Act requires that all passports must be electronic and fraud resistant, and must contain relevant biographic and biometric information. Governments of participating VWP countries must certify that they meet these requirements by April 1, 2016, and must also certify by October 1st, 2016 that they require these passports for entry into their countries. 

Information on visa applications can be found at

Current ESTA holders are encouraged to check their ESTA status prior to travel on CBP's website at

It remains to be seen how many travelers will actually be affected by these changes and if the U.S. Consulates and Embassies will be able to meet the potential increased volume in visa applications or be able to timely issue visas for those who have urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel. Therefore, it is important to assess travel plans as far in advance as possible.

Please contact us with any questions or if you believe you may be affected by these provisions.

November 2015

Ms. Henke recently moderated a panel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association RDC-EMEA Chapter Fall Conference in London, UK entitled: "Surprising Claims to and Losses of Non-U.S. Citizenship" with distinguished immigration law panelists from Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the U.K.

MLH Consular Consulting recently received recognition for "Excellence in U.S. Immigration Law" from the Corporate Live Wire's 2015 Legal Awards.

November 2014

Ms. Henke and her firm were again selected, for the 3rd year in a row, to Who's Who Legal: The International Who's Who of Corporate Immigration Lawyers. 

Ms. Henke is actively involved in the American Immigration Lawyers' Association Military Assistance Program (AILA MAP), providing pro bono assistance to U.S. military servicepersons and their families in Germany with regard to often complex U.S. immigration law issues.

November 2013

Ms. Henke will be on a panel of speakers, including a former consular officer, at the American Immigration Lawyers Association Rome District Chapter (AILA RDC) Fall Conference in London on November 20 discussing "Getting to Yes: Managing Productive Relationships with Consular Posts".

September 2010

Ms. Henke has been selected for inclusion in the 2011 edition of Hubner's Who is Who in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland See Biography on-line.

Ms. Henke's pro bono efforts on behalf of a U.S. military member and his German spouse was recently highlighted in the latest AILA magazine, VOICE.  Read more on pp. 22-23.

March 2010

Ms. Henke was a contributing author to the AILA 2010-2011 Visa Processing Guide with an article regarding consular processing procedures at the U.S. Consulate in Munich, Germany.

January 2010

Ms. Henke successfully obtained an immigrant visa for a foreign spouse who had initially been denied the visa six years before, to re-join her U.S. military husband who had been re-assigned to a post in the U.S. from Germany.  The Immigration Service initially wanted an extreme hardship waiver to be submitted and proven so that the family could be re-united; however, Ms. Henke successfully argued that a waiver was not necessary and that the initial denial should be reconsidered due to certain new facts.

November 2009

Ms. Henke will be speaking on the topic "Consular Processing for Beginners - Applications for Non-Immigrant Visas" for the telephone seminar taking place on November 5 and on the topic "Consular Processing for Experts - Hot Topics" on November 24.

March 2009

Ms. Henke and MLH Consular Consulting were featured in premiere business magazine, Orhideal-IMAGE®, which features top-level small to mid-sized businesses and entrepreneurs from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Download March issue here or under and select "Archiv 2009". 

November 2008

Ms. Henke was invited to join a panel of speakers to participate at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Rome Chapter Spring Meeting in Tel Aviv on April 23, 2009 on the topic of "The Immigrant Visa Application Process - A view from Within."

June 2007

Ms. Henke spoke on the topic of the state of U.S. immigration law to students taking a U.S. immigration history class at the Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich, Germany.


Adjudication of Same-Sex Spouse Applications

Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved I-130 or I-140  petition from USCIS

2015 Diversity Lottery Registration ends November 1, 2013

The on-line registration period for the DV-2015 began at noon (U.S. Eastern Daylight time) Tuesday October 1, 2013 and concluded at noon (U.S. Eastern Standard time) Saturday November 2, 2013.  No entries will be accepted after this date and time.  Applicants, who must first meet an education or work experience requirement to be eligible, apply through the Department of State website,   

55,000 Diversity Visas are made available each fiscal year to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  Accordingly, citizens of the following countries are not eligible to apply because these countries sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S.:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories and Vietnam.  Individuals born in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are eligible.

Diversity Visa applicants may include same-sex spouses in their initial entries or add spouses acquired after their initial registration. Spouses of DV 2014 applicants, even those not included in the initial entry, must apply before September 30, 2014.

Beware of Diversity Visa Scammers!
The Department of State Office of Visa Services has advised the public of an increase in fraudulent emails and letters sent to Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program applicants. The scammers behind these fraudulent emails and letters pose as the U.S. government, and attempt to extract payment or favor from DV applicants.  Be sure to review the procedures for the DV program so that you know what to expect, when to expect it, and from whom.  The Department of State website is the only government source of official information about the DV progr

Form I-94W Paper Arrival/Departure Form Eliminated

On May 20, 2010 Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the elimination of the paper arrival/departure Form I-94W for authorized travelers from nations participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).  This will streamline secure travel for visitors to the United States by consolidating the collection of traveler information prior to departure.

The use of paper I-94W forms will be eliminated at all airports in the United States by the end of the summer for VWP travelers arriving in the U.S. with an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Customs and Border Protection will activate automated processing for U.S. airports on a rolling basis over the next several months.

New Re-designed Green Card Implemented

On May 11, 2010, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced the re-design of the Permanent Resident Card (green card).  Effective immediately, the card will incorporate new security features and state-of-the-art technology to prevent counterfeiting, obstruct tampering, and facilitate quick and accurate authentication.

The new security features include: secure optical media to store biometrics for rapid and reliable identification of the card holder; holographic images, laser engraved fingerprints, and high resolution micro-images to make the card nearly impossible to reproduce; tighter integration of the card design with personalized elements to make it difficult to alter the card if stolen. In addition, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) capability will allow Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry to read the card from a distance and compare it immediately to file data. The card will also include a preprinted return address to enable the easy return of a lost card to USCIS.
The Permanent Resident Card, which had been a pink color, will now be colored green for easy
recognition. USCIS will replace green cards already in circulation as individuals apply for renewal or

For more information and a look at the new cards, see the USCIS press release.

Global Travel Alliance between U.S. and Germany

The United States and Germany have launched a partnership to link their trusted traveler programs.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the German Interior Ministry signed a joint statement in April expressing this intent, and will develop processes for qualified citizens of either country to apply for both the United States' Global Entry program, run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Germany's "Automatisierte und Biometriegestützte Grenzkontrolle" (Automated and Biometrics-Supported Border Controls - ABG) program.  Each uses biometrics to identify trusted travelers, and joining the two programs should make travel faster.

For more information and an application to enroll in the Global Entry program, you can visit the CBP website.  For more information on the German ABG program, you can visit the German Federal Police site.  Or feel free to contact us with any questions.













Filing U.S. Tax Returns when Living Abroad

With a new year comes the same ritual of preparing U.S. tax returns for filing on April 15.  If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, your worldwide income will be subject to U.S. income, gift or estate tax, regardless of whether or not you are living in the U.S.  Accordingly, you may be required to file a U.S. tax return. 

However, if you are currently residing overseas, you are allowed an automatic 2-month extension to file your return until June 15.  Nevertheless, any tax due must be paid by April 15 to avoid interest charges.  If you are not able to file by June 15, you can request an additional extension to October 15 by filing Form 4868 "Application for Automatic Extension to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return" before June 15.  However, any payments made after June 15 would be subject to both interest charges and penalties for failure to pay.

The IRS Office in Philadelphia provides international tax assistance to individuals who may have questions regarding filing obligations while residing overseas.  The Office is available Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (EST) and can be contacted by phone at: +1 (215) 516-2000 (not toll-free) or by fax at: +1 (215) 516-2555.  Assistance is also available at the following embassies and consulates abroad:

Frankfurt - Tel: +49-69-7535-3834, Fax: +49-69-7535-3803, Email:;
London - Tel: +44-207-894-0476, Fax: +44-207-495-4224, Email:
Paris - Tel: +33-1-4312-2555, Fax: +33-1-4312-2303, Email:; and
Beijing (by appointment only) - Email for appointment:
More information can be found in IRS Publication 519 and at

IRS Internal Revenue Code Section 877A- Expatriation Rule

The U.S. imposes a worldwide income tax, gift tax and estate tax on its U.S. citizens and green card holders, regardless of where they are residing.  Because of this never ending U.S. taxing system, many individuals consider relinquishing their U.S. citizenship or their green card in order to escape the long taxing arm of the U.S.  Those who consider such a relinquishment need to be aware of Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 877A as added by Section 301 of the Heroes Earning Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act.  This went into effect for those who expatriated (relinquished their U.S. citizenship or U.S. green card) after June 17, 2008.
U.S. citizens or long-term residents who expatriate after June 17, 2008 may be subject to the new expatriation law (a mark-to-market regime of section 877A).  These expatriates will be treated as having sold all of their property for fair market value on the day before they expatriate and will be subject to tax on the unrealized gain above $600.000. The $600,000 exclusion amount will be annually adjusted for cost of living.  In addition,  a person who has been a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) in at least 8 of the previous 15 taxable years before surrendering the green card must complete and file Form 8854 "Expatriation Information Statement" before departing the U.S.  He or she must also notify the Department of Homeland Security of the termination of residency.
Certain expatriates that renounced their U.S. citizenship or terminated their long-term resident status before June 17, 2008, might be subject to an alternative tax regime under section 877 for 10 years after expatriation, if certain statutory requirements are met.
The new mark-to-market regime will only apply if an individual is a "covered expatriate." A covered expatriate is an expatriate that:
(1) has an average annual net income tax liability for the five preceding years before loss of U.S. citizenship or permanent residence status that exceeds $145,000 (as adjusted for inflation in 2009);
(2) has a net worth of $2 million or more on such date; or
(3) fails, on Form 8854, to certify under penalties of perjury that he or she has complied with all U.S. Federal tax obligations for the preceding five tax years.
The regulations are quite complicated and so it is critical to engage tax counsel along with immigration counsel when considering acquiring U.S. permanent residence or citizenship, and especially in the event one decides to relinquish such status and depart the U.S.     
Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)

Though tax return filing is a date that people always keep in mind, there is another critical filing obligation that should not be overlooked by individuals who live abroad or have international interests.  U.S. citizens, permanent residents and tax residents are required to complete the FBAR if they own or assert any control over a foreign financial account, including a bank account, brokerage account, mutual fund or other type of financial account.   These individuals must file Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the IRS Department of Treasury, if
        -    The person has a financial interest in, or signature authority (or other authority that is
             comparable to signature authority) over one or more accounts in a foreign country, and
        -    The aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the
             calendar year.
Failure to properly file the FBAR may subject individuals to civil and criminal penalties,  including large fines in some cases.

The FBAR Form must be received by the IRS on or before June 30. However, unlike tax returns, the FBAR is considered filed on the day it is received, not on the date it is postmarked

Furthermore, the form is not filed together with your tax return but must be filed with the Department of Treasury at P.O. Box 32621, Detroit, MI 48232-0621.


Individuals subject to FBAR filing should take this obligation very seriously.  Since 2009, the U.S. government has been tightening its focus on tax compliance issues and off-shore accounts.  Therefore, it behooves individuals and companies to make sure that they are indeed compliant with tax regulations or to seek out tax advice expediently.

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