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National Visa Center Blunders

On July 30th the National Visa Center sent out a notification confirming reports that applicants had been receiving letters or emails from the NVC on July 29, 2015 stating that their applications would be terminated or that their applications were in the process of being terminated under INA 203(g) for failure to contact the NVC within a year of receiving a notification of the availability of a visa, even if the individual or their legal representative had been in contact with the NVC during the one-year period.

The NVC is taking action to resolve these issued and will send all affected applications a follow up email confirming that their applications are still in process.

Upcoming Congressional Topics on Immigration

On August 4, 2015 the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will be discussing challenges facing the federal prison system

On August 6, 2015 the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold an Executive Business meeting on the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act and Transnational Drug Trafficking

DOL Power Outage

The Department of Labor Website will be experiencing a power outage from Friday 7/31/15 to Sunday 8/2/15 with service returning on 8/2/15.

Amendments to Freedom of Information Act regulations

DHS announced new proposals which seek to amend FOIA regulations designed to update and streamline procedures already in place. Changes made by the OPEN Government Act of 2007 are expected to be incorporated. To read more about these amendments click here.

The current CBP Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processing time is ten months.

DHS Establishes ICE Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers and Invites the Public to Nominate Candidates

The DHS announced that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has established an Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (ACFRC). If you are interested in nominating individuals for one, two, and three year appointments. For more information please click here.

Question? Please call our office. We would be happy to work with you

By Yingfei Zhou, Esq.

On July 21, 2015, USCIS issued the final guidance on when an employer must file an amended or new petition when the H-1B employee has changed or is changing his or her job location.

Except the situations listed below, the general requirement is that an employer must file an amended or new H-1B petition if the H-1B employee has changed or is changing his or her place of employment to a geographical area requiring a corresponding LCA to be certified to USCIS, even if a new LCA is already certified by the U.S. Department of Labor and posted at the new work location. Once an employer properly files the amended or new H-1B petition, the H-1B employee can immediately begin working at the new place of employment. The employer does not have to wait for a final decision on the amended or new petition for the H-1B employee to start work at the new location.

Exceptions when an employer does NOT need to file an amended petition are as follows:

  1. A move within an “area of intended employment”: If an employer’s H-1B employee is simply moving to a new job location within the same metropolitan statistical area, a new LCA is not generally required, and without material changes in the terms and conditions of employment the employer does not need to file an amended or new H-1B petition. However, the employer must still post the previously obtained LCA in the new work location.
  1. Short-term placement: If an employer is placing an H-1B employee at a new worksite for less than 30 days, and in some cases 60 days (where the employee is still based at the “home” worksite), the employer does not need to obtain a new LCA or file an amended or new H-1B petition provided there are no material changes in the terms and conditions for the H-1B worker’s employment.
  1. Non-worksite locations: If H-1B employees are only going to a location to attend conferences, seminars, or spend little time at any one location, or if the travel is on a casual, short-term basis (i.e. not exceeding 5 consecutive workdays for any one visit by a peripatetic worker, or 10 consecutive workdays for any one visit by a worker who spends most work time at one location and travels occasionally to other locations).

If an employer’s H-1B employee moved to a new place of employment not covered by an existing, approved H-1B petition on or before April 9, 2015, the employer may choose to file an amended or new petition by January 15, 2016, but such filing is not required, and USCIS will generally not revoke or deny the petition solely based upon a failure to file an amended or new petition.

If an employer’s H-1B employee moved to a new place of employment not covered by an existing, approved H-1B petition after April 9, 2015 but before August 19, 2015, the employer MUST file an amended or new H-1B petition by January 15, 2016. If the employer does not file before January 15, 2016, the employer will be out of compliance with DHS regulations and the employer’s current H-1B petition approval will be subject to a notice of intent to revoke and the employee may be found to not be maintaining his or her H-1B status.

If an employer’s H-1B employee moved to a new place of employment not covered by an existing, approved H-1B petition on or after August 19, 2015, the employer MUST file an amended or new H-1B petition before an H-1B employee starts working at a new place of employment not covered by an existing, approved H-1B petition.

In cases where the amended or new H-1B petition is denied, but the original petition is still valid, the H-1B employee may return to the old place of employment covered by the original petition as long as the H-1B employee is able to maintain valid status at the original place of employment.

If you would like us to help determine whether an amended or new H-1B petition is required in your specific situation, please feel free to contact our office.

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We would like to inform our readers that on July 21, 2015 the Department of Homeland Security issued a policy memorandum which provides guidance to employers and H-1B applicants regarding when to file an amended or new H-1B petition following the case law, Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC, 26 I&N Dec. 542 (AAO 2015).

The memorandum is important because it is used to guide all determinations made by USCIS employees including adjudication procedures effective immediately.

To read the complete memorandum please click here  USCIS Policy Memorandum

For more information please contact our office directly.

Yingfei Photo

It is our please to introduce our readers to Associate Attorney Yingfei Zhou, Esq who joined our firm in 2012. Attorney Zhou is an active member of the California State Bar, the New York State Bar, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Ms. Zhou practices primarily on employment-based and investment-based immigration law. Ms. Zhou has experience in various aspects of business immigration, including employment-based permanent residence and nonimmigrant visas, as well as marriage-based immigration and citizenship matters. Specifically, she has provided counsel to clients in relation to employment in specialty occupation, nonimmigrant NAFTA professional visa, individuals with extraordinary ability and achievements, nonimmigrant trainee or special education exchange visitor visa, religious worker visa, E-2 treaty investor visa, waivers, applications for adjustment of status, employment certification (PERM) applications, motion to reopen/reconsider, re-entry permit, visa interviews, as well as extensive EB-5 investment immigration work.

Ms. Zhou received her Bachelor’s degree in Law (LL.B) from Zhejiang University, one of the top universities in China. She graduated with distinguished honor awarded by the Department of Education of Zhejiang Province and was editor-in-chief of law review of her law school in China. She subsequently attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA and obtained her Master’s degree in Law (LL.M.). Prior to joining the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, Ms. Zhou has practiced in China for two years.

Outside the office, Ms. Zhou enjoys traveling, cooking, and spending time with loved ones.

Want to schedule an appointment? Please contact our office by clicking here. 

DACA Update

On July 15, 2015 USCIS announced that it mistakenly issued approximately 2,100 employment authorization cards to DACA recipients that were printed with a three-year validity period instead of a two-year period, following a court injunction prohibiting USCIS from doing so.

To correct the error, USCIS sent these recipients a notice of intent to terminate deferred action and employment authorization. The letter describes that the three year employment authorization cards received after the injunction, are no longer valid and must be returned to USCIS by July 27, 2015 due to a federal court order Texas v. United States, which prohibits USCIS from issuing deferred action for a period exceeding 2 years.

USCIS also issued about 500 three year EAD cards to DACA applicants who were approved before the court order was enforced. These cards had been returned to USCIS as undeliverable by the United States Postal Service and were re-mailed to an updated address after the injunction went in effect on February 16, 2015. Due to this, these 3-year EAD cards are also deemed invalid.

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By now you may have heard that on the morning of June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a landmark 5-4 decision (Obergefell v Hodges) that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage, a right that cannot be denied by the laws of any state.

Prior to the ruling, same sex couples could only be married in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Marriage equality for same sex couples has been a controversial subject for decades, making the ruling all the more historic.

In 2013 the Supreme Court made a similar ruling which declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. DOMA was initially enacted by Congress in 1996, defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. DOMA essentially barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Despite the ruling, the rights of same sex couples continued to be abridged by individual state laws. Even after DOMA was declared unconstitutional, many conservative states continued to deny same sex couples the right to marry. Due to this, thousands of law suits flooded into the courts to settle the issue once and for all. One of these suits was brought to court by Jim Obergefell, a widower demanding that his legal marriage to his partner of 21 years, be recognized in his state of residency, the state of Ohio. The June 26th SCOTUS decision has now put the debate to rest, though a long journey still lies ahead.

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The Department of State has issued an alert announcing that as of June 26, 2015 all visa issuing US embassies and consulates are now able to continue visa processing. Staff at US consulates and embassies were able to work over the weekend and resolve backlogs which are expected to be eliminated this week.

As you may recall between the time period of June 9, 2015 to June 19, 2014, 335,000 visas were unable to be printed due to clearance and technological issues. Of those 335,000 visas, approximately 300,000 have now been printed.

Consulates and embassies worldwide are now scheduling visa interviews and issuing non-immigrant and immigrant visas.

All overseas posts have reopened appointment slots and have established additional capacity in order to accommodate appointments that were rescheduled.

Most applicants who were scheduled for an interview at consulates abroad between June 9 and June 19 had submitted their applications prior to June 9. These interviews have gone ahead as scheduled.

Further information:

  • Urgent applications have been expedited for emergency travel and will continue to be expedited on a case by case basis
  • H-2 applications will be prioritized and all pending H-2 visas are expected to be issued by the middle of the week
  • Consulates are still experiencing problems with online immigrant visa application forms however are making efforts to correct these issues
  • Domestic passport operations are functioning with some delays
  • Overseas passport applications are being processed with delays. Emergency passports may be issued in urgent cases

Questions? Please contact our office. 

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What are the most challenging questions for couples at a STOKES/Fraud Interview?

By Attorney Marie Puertollano, Esq.

What happens when a US Citizen Spouse and the intending immigrant spouse fail an interview pending an application for permanent residence?

Normally couples who have failed to provide sufficient documentation to an immigration officer, for the purpose of establishing their bona fide marriage—in other words that the marriage between both parties was entered in good faith and NOT to obtain an immigration benefit—may receive an appointment for a second interview also known as the STOKES or fraud interview. In some cases however a couple may be scheduled for a STOKES or fraud interview the very first time around. There are multiple reasons a couple may be scheduled for a STOKES/fraud interview. Couples should note that the burden of proof always rests on the couple. So what happens at this fraud interview? During the STOKES/fraud interview the couple is separated in different rooms and interrogated by an immigration officer. The officer will first interrogate one of the parties in a separate room. Then, the officer will question the other party asking the same exact questions.

Fraud interviews are lengthy and very complex. Officers ask very detailed questions that are challenging even for couples who have been together for many years. Our attorneys have successfully represented couples at hundreds of fraud interviews. Here are the most challenging questions that almost all couples are unprepared to answer despite having been together for many years. It is important that if a question is unclear or if the context of the question is unclear that the party ask the immigration officer for clarification.

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Presently, attorneys Jacob Sapochnick, Esq., Ekaterina Powell, Esq., and Yingfei Zhou, Esq. from our office are in attendance at the 2015 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference on Immigration Law taking place in Washington, DC. Together, they have had the privilege of being present for an open forum where officials from the Department of State and the National Visa Center provided valuable information in regards to modernization of PERM, improvements in visa processing at the National Visa Center, technical issues experienced at U.S. Consulates abroad, H-1B fee announcements, and more!

Technical issues experienced at U.S. Consulates worldwide

1. In regards to technical issues causing delays in visa issuance at U.S. Consulates worldwide, visa issuance is currently frozen. No visas are currently being issued at any U.S. Consulates worldwide. U.S. Consulates are rescheduling appointments for visas that were affected by the technical issues. The DOS is working to repair the hardware, however it will not be until next week when all issues will be resolved. Due to this, there will be a backlog for visa issuance and it will take longer to schedule a consular appointment for a visa.

2. If a visa applicant was affected by the technical issues at a U.S. Consulate abroad and they need to retrieve their passport urgently, they will be able to retrieve their passport, however, in doing so, applicants will forfeit the visa fees they have paid, and will be issued a 221(g) visa denial letter. If applicants are still interested in receiving a visa, they must re-apply and re-pay any visa fees. Applicants who are re-applying must note on future applications that their visa was denied due to a technical glitch. Applicants from visa waiver countries who are concerned that the visa denial will automatically result in an ESTA denial can rest assured. ESTA submissions will not be denied based on the technical glitch. DOS has responded that the technical issues will not affect future visa applications. Continue reading

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You have Questions, We have your Answers. Here are answers to 5 of your Frequently Asked Questions

In this blog we are answering 5 of your frequently asked questions in detail. Please remember that every case and every story is different and unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance on your immigration journey. For any further questions please visit our website or call our office for a free legal consultation. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office.

Q: I am visiting the United States as a tourist from a non-visa waiver country. My duration of stay will expire in approximately 1 month. Is it possible for me to extend my stay in the United States?

A: Yes, it is possible to extend your duration of stay if you plan to remain in the United States for purposes of tourism, leisure, or medical treatment. In order to extend your duration of stay you must file Form I-539. The process can be confusing for some, we recommend that all applicants seek counsel from an accredited legal representative or attorney to guarantee success.  In order to extend your duration of stay, you must be able to provide documentation proving that they have strong ties home including but not limited to: proof of employment, proof of academic enrollment, deed of property ownership, proof of financial obligations, etc. You must also be prepared to provide documented evidence supporting the fact that your stay will be for temporary purposes of tourism and/or leisure including a detailed personal statement establishing the fact that you will be in the United States for a temporary period of time, and will be returning back to your home country at the conclusion of your trip. Lastly, you must provide evidence that you have the sufficient finances to support yourself in the United States. The more evidence you can provide to support your claims, the better chances of your application being approved.

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