How Sensitive Areas of Study Might Impact Your EB-5 Visa?

Foreign students entering the U.S. to study may face delays in obtaining their student visas based on several factors, including their country of origin and their academic major.  An open question remains whether foreign nationals who apply for an EB-5 visa after graduation can expect delays based on their areas of study.  Most of the information used by federal agencies to decide these matters is not released to the public but here are some helpful tips. 

Question: What is the “Technology Alert List” (TAL)?

The TAL is a U.S. State Department document that defines major fields of controlled goods and technologies of security concern, and a list of designated state sponsors of terrorism.  The list of technology concern, known as the “Critical Fields List,” applies to areas of study at universities.  This list is broad and includes most hard sciences such as nuclear technology, physics, engineering, chemistry, and aviation, and others like architecture and urban planning.  These categories contain items or methods that could have a dual-use purpose (civilian and military) and thus are protected to prevent the transfer of sensitive information in these fields through studies, research, employment, or business.

Does Studying Subject on the TAL Prevent Me From Qualifying for An EB-5 Visa?

The use of the TAL is intended for any visa application or petition. While it is possible that studying a subject in school that is listed on the TAL, there are many factors to consider.  If a consular post determines, after a review of many sources including the TAL, that your application requires a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO), your application will be sent to the State Department.  Several federal agencies will then review your application and make a recommendation for your visa approval.  This process could delay your application for an unknown amount of time.  Unfortunately, statistics on the wait times for security clearances are not available to the general public but reports of a range from two months to two years have been indicated by many foreign applicants who have endured a SAO.

What Is the Likelihood of Getting Flagged or Denied Based on My Area of Study?

The criteria used to determine how likely a foreign applicant will be denied or flagged based on his or her area of study is close guarded information.  The State Department has indicated, in the context of student visas, undergraduate majors are of less concern because that information is widely available and available to the public.  On the other hand, post-graduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral researchers are scrutinized more closely because that subject matter is much more specialized and advanced.  In the context of EB-5 visas, EB-5 business activities, a foreign investor’s nationality could be factors that might trigger additional security review.

A foreign investor’s area of study could affect his/her EB-5 petition, particularly if the graduate work or post-doctoral work was in a subject listed on the TAL.  The nature of the EB-5 business, and whether it falls under the TAL, will also likely increase or decrease the importance of your area of study.  Other factors may include who funded the education and how the foreign investor intended to use the goods or knowledge acquired.

Unfortunately, many foreign applicants who have experienced a security delay have come to prepare for such long delays.  Are you concerned about potential delays in your EB-5 visa process based on your area of study?

At Jatoi & de Kirby, APC, we know how important it is for you to get all the information necessary to qualify for an EB-5 visa.  Our San Francisco EB-5 immigration attorneys can advise your current status and qualifications, allowing you peace of mind.  Call us today at 415-221-2345 for more information.

Vaughan de Kirby
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