June 16, 2014

Medical Exam Change for AOS Applications

On June 1, 2014, USCIS limited the validity period for all Forms I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, to one year from the date of submission to USCIS. Applicants must also submit Form I-693 to USCIS within one year of the immigration medical examination. USCIS also will provide additional ways to submit Form I-693. As outlined in policy alert PA-2014-005, this updated policy applies to any Form I-693 supporting a benefit application that USCIS adjudicates on or after June 1, 2014.

May 1, 2014

Visa Office Update on Priority Dates and Demand

On April 21, 2014, the Department of State’s Visa Office made statements regarding what might be expected in terms of upcoming Visa Bulletin movement. Its comments included following:

Employment-Based 5th Preference China (EB-5):
• China EB-5 could retrogress later this year, possibly in August or September.
• Retrogression for China EB-5 in FY 2015 appears to be inevitable because there are over 7,000 I-526 applications pending and 80% are from China.
• More information about China EB-5 retrogression will likely be released this month.

Employment-Based 1st Preference (EB-1):
• It is too early in the fiscal year to predict how many unused cases will drop into the EB-2 category, though EB-1 usage is heavier this year than last year.

Employment-Based 2nd Preference India (EB-2):
• It is possible that in August or September, India EB-2 will open at 1/1/2008 (or perhaps later in 2008) to utilize the rest of the EB-2 visa numbers that were unused by the WW categories.
• The numbers that will be utilized will depend on EB-1 and EB-2 usage in the WW categories for the rest of the fiscal year (it could be 5,000 or more). This would be less than what was available in FY 2013.

Employment-Based 3rd Preference Worldwide (EB-3):
• USCIS has encouraged the Department of State to “move the category forward” over the past 5 months, though the Visa Office has limited knowledge as to the number of eligible applicants. Demand appears to be increasing, so it is unlikely that the category will move forward anytime soon. In fact, if current demand continues, something may have to be done as early as this month to slow the demand in this category.
• Q4 for FY 2014 does not look good. No movement or retrogression is possible.

Employment-Based 3rd Preference China (EB-3):
• Many Chinese nationals who are waiting in the EB-2 category have been filing to downgrade to EB-3. The effect of these requests will be reflected in the coming months.
• High demand is expected to continue in this category and a correction may be reflected within the next few months.
• If China FB-2A retrogresses because of the WW FB-2A retrogression referenced above, the unused FB demand could be used by China EB-3.

February 3, 2014

GOP Drafts Immigration Reform Principles

House Republicans released a draft of principles on immigration reform as House GOP members gathered for their retreat to discuss their position on a range of issues.
Here is a synopsis of the draft on Immigration Reform:

Reforms to Employment-Based Immigration
The draft emphasizes the importance of employment-based immigration reform. Stating that each year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at U.S. colleges and universities, particularly in high-skilled fields, the draft states that because of current laws, their expertise doesn’t spur economic growth or create jobs for Americans. The GOP’s draft calls for Visa and Green Card allocations that reflect the needs of employers and the need for these individuals to help the U.S. economy.
The draft states that the goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen national security by creating realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry. It is imperative, the draft states, that these temporary workers are able to meet U.S. economic needs and do not displace or disadvantage U.S. workers.
Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement
Full implementation of a workable electronic employment verification system.
Border Security and Interior Enforcement
First on the GOP agenda is securing the U.S. borders. In addition, once immigration reform is enacted, the draft emphasizes zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their Visas in the future.
Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System
The Republicans want a fully functioning Entry-Exit system, which has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the past 17 years. At least three of these laws call for this system to be biometric, using technology to verify identity and prevent fraud. The Republicans want to implement this system to identify and track down visitors who abuse U.S. laws.
Youth
The draft outlines provisions for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to the United States as children once they meet certain eligibility standards, serve honorably in the U.S. military or attain a college degree.
Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law
The draft outlines a national and economic security policy that will require people living and working in the U.S. illegally to come forward – offering them the opportunity to live in the U.S. if they are willing “to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).” Criminal aliens, gang members, sex offenders, and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program.

November 26, 2013

Poll: Majority in U.S. Support Path to Citizenship

At a time when the prospects of the House taking up immigration reform legislation any time soon do not look promising, a new poll finds a solid majority of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“Today, 63% of Americans favor providing a way for immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 14% support allowing them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens,” states a new report from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. The report found the number of Americans supporting a pathway to citizenship is even higher when the question mentions certain requirements immigrants must meet in order to qualify.

The results show Americans have remained consistent on the issue for the past year; the institute found the same number (63 percent) in March and August.

These findings are consistent across regions of the country, as well as political parties and religions. Broken down, this includes 73 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Republicans, and 57 percent of Independents. Roughly six-in-10 residents of Arizona, Ohio, and Florida also agree, as well as white evangelicals (55 percent), minority Protestants (69 percent), white, mainstream Protestants (60 percent), Catholics (62 percent), and those with no religious affiliation (64 percent).

Fifty-five percent of Hispanics thought immigration should be a priority for the President and Congress, a significantly higher number than non-Latino whites (38 percent) and non-Latino blacks (39 percent). In total, about 4 in 10 say this should be a priority.

by Sandra Lilley/NBC Latino News

January 8, 2013

DHS Announces Final Rule to Support Family Unity During Waiver Process

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced the posting of a final rule in the Federal Register that reduces the time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives (spouse, children and parents), who are in the process of obtaining visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States under certain circumstances. The final rule establishes a process that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before they depart the United States to attend immigrant visa interviews in their countries of origin. The process will be effective on March 4, 2013 and more information about the filing process will be made available in the coming weeks at www.uscis.gov.

“The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to U.S. citizens, which is precisely what this rule achieves,” USCIS Director Mayorkas said. “The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon.”

Under current law, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States to become lawful permanent residents must leave the U.S. and obtain an immigrant visa abroad. Individuals who have accrued more than six months of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver to overcome the unlawful presence inadmissibility bar before they can return to the United States after departing to obtain an immigrant visa. Under the existing waiver process, which remains available to those who do not qualify for the new process, immediate relatives cannot file a waiver application until after they have appeared for an immigrant visa interview abroad and the Department of State has determined that they are inadmissible.

In order to obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver, the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent. USCIS will publish a new form, Form I-601A, Application for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, for individuals to use when applying for a provisional unlawful presence waiver under the new process.

Under the new provisional waiver process, immediate relatives must still depart the United States for the consular immigrant visa process; however, they can apply for a provisional waiver before they depart for their immigrant visa interview abroad. Individuals who file the Form I-601A must notify the Department of State’s National Visa Center that they are or will be seeking a provisional waiver from USCIS. The new process will reduce the amount of time U.S. citizen are separated from their qualifying immediate relatives.

October 6, 2011

November 2011 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5572.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (Nov. 1, 2007); EB-3 is at December 22, 2005 for all countries, except for India (July 22, 2002) and China (August 22, 2004); EB-3 other workers is at November 15, 2005 for all countries, except India (June 15, 2002), China (April 22, 2003); EB-4, religious workers, EB-5, and targeted employment areas and regional centers are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at February 15, 2009 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F4 Philippines(brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) of August 22, 1988.

September 12, 2011

October 2011 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5560.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (July 15, 2007); EB-3 is at December 8, 2005 for all countries, except for India (July 15, 2002) and China (August 8, 2004); EB-3 other workers is at September 15, 2005 for all countries, except India (June 8, 2002), China (April 22, 2003); EB-4, religious workers, EB-5, and targeted employment areas and regional centers are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at January 8, 2009 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F4 Philippines(brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) of August 1, 1988.

The DOS also estimated the priority date cut-offs for the next few months with movement from two weeks to one month in some categories. Please see the visa bulletin at section D for the estimated movement.

August 15, 2011

Changes in I-130 Processing For Petitioners Abroad

According to a recent New York Times article, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/13/us/13iht-immigration.html, the new approach of the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) towards I-130 processing that has taken effect today appears likely to substantially lengthen the amount of time that Americans living overseas must wait before bringing along their noncitizen spouses or children if they return to the United States.

The USCIS' new approach towards the processing of a visa document known as the I-130—which allows the entry of a citizen's alien relative—requires those abroad to now mail their petitions to a central office in Chicago. According to the USCIS, this system will be more "efficient and consistent and centralized," as Americans in the United States with foreign-national relatives are currently required to file their petitions in Chicago as well. Authorities predict a maximum processing time of about five months, after which applicants apply to the U.S. State Department for the actual visa. But the current system for those abroad relies on in-person visits to U.S. consular or immigration offices and generally takes just one to three months.

The USCIS has been seeking a more efficient method of processing I-130 petitions after the State Department billed the agency for its I-130 work last year for a total of $3 million. The USCIS has said that the change "will increase the efficiency of the relative petition filing process and give USCIS more flexibility in managing its workload."

While the change affects a relatively small number of people, expatriates say the procedures will impose serious burdens on U.S. companies doing business overseas and that consular officials, in face-to-face interviews, are better situated to catch fraud, to understand local documents and languages, and to quickly resolve potential problems.

Should you have any questions or concerns surrounding the new I-130 filing procedures for those abroad, please contact our office.

July 18, 2011

2012 Diversity Visa Entry Status

Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) lottery entrants may now check the status of their DV-2012 entry at the Department of State Electronic DV website through June 30, 2012.

Good luck!

February 10, 2011

Delayed Processing of Immediate Relative Petitions (Form I-130)

On February 7, 2011, USCIS implemented expedited adjudication of approximately 36,000 Immediate Relative Petitions (Form I-130) that had been transferred from the California Service Center to the Texas Service Center back in November 2010. USCIS had hoped the redistribution of cases would have resulted in faster processing times, but instead many of these cases remain unadjudicated and beyond processing times. As part of USCIS’ expedite efforts, many of these I-130 Immediate Relative Petitions have been transferred back to the California Service Center for immediate adjudication. USCIS anticipates decisions to be reached on these cases by the end of February. Meanwhile, USCIS recommends monitoring one’s case status on-line at www.uscis.gov and contacting them at I-130Inquiries.Tsc@dhs.gov if no action is taken on the case by March 1, 2011.

February 10, 2010

March 2010 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4659.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (China is 06/08/2005 and India is 02/01/2005); EB-3 is at 2001 or 2002 depending on the category; other workers are at 2001; EB-4, religious workers, EB-5, and targeted employment areas and regional centers are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at 2006.

January 12, 2010

February 2010 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link:http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4611.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (China is 05/22/2005 and India is 01/22/2005); EB-3 is at 2001 or 2002 depending on the category; other workers are at 2001; EB-4, religious workers, EB-5, and targeted employment areas and regional centers are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at 2006.

December 9, 2009

December 2009 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link:http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4587.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (China is 04/01/2005 and India is 01/22/2005); EB-3 is at 2001 or 2002 depending on the category; other workers are at 2001; EB-4, religious workers, EB-5, and targeted employment areas and regional centers are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at 2005.

November 5, 2009

Apply Early for Advance Parole and Refugee Travel Documents!

The USCIS has issued an update reminding applicants to apply early for advance parole and refugee travel documents to ensure adequate processing. Advance parole is required for travel for applicants who have been granted Temporary Protected Status, applicants who have pending applications for adjustment of status, applicants with pending applications for relief under NACARA 203, applicants with pending asylum applications, or applicants with pending applications for legalization.

July 20, 2009

Attention I-140 Immigration Petitioners and Beneficiaries: USCIS Change Allows Resumes Use Of Premium Processing Service

The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that starting June 29th, the agency will once again offer premium processing services for alien workers applying for immigration via form I-140. Pursuant to 8 CFR 103.2(f)2, this rule change aims to eliminate backlog for I-140 form processing and speed up adjudication over these petitions.

Who can use this premium processing service, and who cannot?

Many visa petitioners can take advantage of this service. Those who can include:

• EB-1 aliens with extraordinary ability
• EB-1 outstanding professors and researchers
• EB-2 members of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability (who are not concurrently applying for a national interest waiver)
• EB-3 professionals
• EB-3 skilled workers
• EB-3 workers other than skilled workers and professionals.

Immigrants who cannot use this premium processing service include:

• EB-1 multinational executives and managers
• EB-2 members of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability (who ARE applying for a national interest waiver)

New rules and standards for premium processing service

The program works as follows. Qualified petitioners will pay a $1000 processing fee to USCIS. The agency then has 15 calendar days to process the application. At the end of that time, USCIS must respond by doing one of the following:

• Submitting an approval notice
• Submitting an intend-to-deny notice
• Submitting a request for more evidence
• Opening an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation

If USCIS does not respond in any one of the above ways, the petitioner will get his or her $1,000 fee refunded, and the application will be processed as quickly as possible. There is a dedicated premium processing email and phone hotline.

June 30, 2009

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing For Alien Workers Petitioning Via

The USCIS has announced that, starting June 29nd, 2009, alien workers petitioning for immigration via Form I-140 will be allowed to resume using the so-called premium processing service. The USCIS had removed this service due to the influx of I-140 filings in 2007. However, because their backlogs have decreased, the USCIS is in a position to resume I-140 premium processing.

Who can use premium processing service?

Not all petitioners can enjoy this faster processing service. Those who can include:

• EB-1 aliens with extraordinary ability or outstanding professors and researchers
• EB-2 aliens with exceptional ability or members of professions with advanced degrees (who are NOT concurrently trying to apply under a national interest waiver).
• EB-3 professional, skilled, and other workers.

Petitioners who cannot use this service include:

• EB-1 multinational executives and managers
• EB-2 petitioners (discussed above) who are applying under the national interest waiver category

How does the premium processing service benefit petitioners?

By paying a $1,000 fee to USCIS, petitioners can get responses to their applications guaranteed within 15 days (“approval,” “denial,” or “request to collect evidence or investigate further”). Petitioners can also access information about their petition status via email and a special phone number.

The USCIS press release reaffirms that petitioners who have previously been designated as available for premium processing service will continue to have this option at their disposal. For instance, non-immigrant workers petitioning via Form I-129 can still use the premium processing service.

For more information on changes to I-140 processing, you can connect with USCIS via the official website, www.uscis.gov or via 1 (800) 375-5283.

June 30, 2009

Department of Homeland Security Eases Restrictions on Widows and Widowers of U.S. Citizens

A June 9, 2009 press release issued by the Department of Homeland Security reports that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has changed the rules by which widows and widowers of U.S. citizens may seek adjustment to their immigration status.

Secretary Napolitano’s rule changes will allow these individuals and their children (less than 18 years old) to take advantage of a policy known as “deferred action,” as long as said individuals have lived two years in the United States.

Per these new rules, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been ordered to stop adjusting applications and visa petitions in the cases of widows and widowers whose spouses died prior to their second wedding anniversary. Secretary Napolitano’s orders also change the directives of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE), which now must defer initiating, proceeding with attempts to remove, or finalizing the removal of said widows/widowers and their children from the country. Widows/widowers whose petitions have been revoked may be granted a second chance to have their cases heard. In addition, the USCIS must consider humanitarian reinstatement for said individuals. Furthermore, even if a widowed spouse had not previously petitioned for citizenship, he or she will still qualify for deferred action protection under this DHS directive.

Deferred action is not a permanent solution to immigration status. It is merely a mechanism by which individuals or groups can bide time to apply for work authorization in the U.S. The DHS directive does not grant alien spouses of deceased U.S. citizens permanent resident status. For a change like that to take effect, Congress would have to revise the wording of the Immigration Nationality Act to allow spouses and qualified immediate relatives to remain indefinitely in the country.