It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to our esteemed Paralegal and Case Manager Katie Foley who has worked at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick since 2010. Ms. Foley, originally from Santa Cruz, California holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies from Cal State East Bay and her paralegal certificate from San Diego Miramar College. Throughout her career, Katie Foley has assisted our attorneys with various different types of immigration petitions including family-based petitions, employment based petitions (H-1B, E-2 etc.), deferred action, marriage visas, I-751 petitions, fiancé visas, consular processing, naturalization, temporary visas (B-2, B-2, J-1, F-1 etc), deportation and removal cases.  She has successfully processed hundreds of applications and in the process has formed long standing relationships with our clients. In her role as case manager, she assists our legal assistants with their case loads and provides direction as needed. Ms. Foley is an outstanding member of our firm for her impressive attention to detail, her understanding of the law, and the extensive guidance she provides our clients to ensure every case has a successful outcome. She provides all of our client’s strong personal support and comprehensive step-by-step instructions for each immigration process. If you are an international or out of state client, not to worry, Ms. Foley has perfected an easy online case processing system to assist clients with their immigration concerns no matter where they reside. In her free time, she enjoys lap swimming, barbecues, and gardening. To read more about Ms. Foley please click here.

For immigration questions please call our office. Your Immigration is our Passion.


Last week, in a 289-137 vote the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill that would require a comprehensive background check to be conducted for every Syrian and Iraqi seeking refugee admission to the United States. Among its provisions, the bill, better known as the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015 (American SAFE Act of 2015) will require supplemental certifications and background investigations to be conducted before a Syrian or Iraqi refugee can be admitted to the United States. These additional security protocols will require multiple federal government agencies to work together in order to determine whether 1) such an alien poses a threat to the national security of the United States and 2) whether it is in the public interest of the United States to admit the alien based on the findings of the security checks conducted. The bill received overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans alike amid the recent terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS leaving 129 dead and 353 wounded in the city of Paris. Though the bill will need to pass through the Senate before it can become law, the House’s overwhelming support for the bill has blocked the President from using his veto power.

Specifically, the bill will apply only to Syrian and Iraqi nationals referred to in the bill as ‘covered aliens.’ A covered alien means any alien applying for admission to the United States who is either a) a national or resident of Iraq or Syria b) has no nationality but whose country of last habitual residence is Iraq or Syria c) has been present in Iraq or Syria at anytime on or after March 1, 2011.

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9319698471_083278482d_zThis week USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the addition of sixteen new countries that will be eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs next year. Nationals from the following countries: Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, and Timor-Leste will join sixty-eight other countries already participating in the H-2A and H-2B programs. Foreign nationals from these countries can apply for the H-2A and H-2B programs beginning January 18, 2016. If a country fails to meet the requirements for continued designation of these benefits, DHS reserves the right to remove any country from the list of eligibility, as it did recently with the country of Moldova and the H-2B program. Moldova may still continue to participate in the H-2A program since it has proven compliant with the necessary standards regulating the H-2A program. USCIS may consider other foreign nationals for the H-2A and H-2B programs even if their countries do not participate in these programs on a case by case basis.

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By Yingfei Zhou, Esq. 

Last week, attorneys Yingfei Zhou, Esq. and Marie Puertollano, Esq. from our office attended the 28th AILA California Chapter Conference on Immigration Law held in San Diego, California. Together, they brought our audiences the latest updates on various issues discussed at the government open forums.

  1. USCIS I-797C Receipt Notices or I-797B Approval Notices without I-94 attached are not accepted by DMV as Proof of Legal Residence

To apply for or renew driver’s license in California, applicants needs to bring their original I-797A Approval Notices with I-94 attached as proof of legal residence. I-797C Receipt Notices or I-797B Approval Notices without I-94 attached are not accepted by DMV as valid proof of legal residence.

  1. DHS has published a proposed new rule on STEP OPT Extension

Department of Homeland Security has published a proposed new rule on STEM OPT for public comments on October 19, 2015, with the following major changes:

  • Extend the current STEM OPT from 17 months to 24 months. This means that, under the proposal, F-1 STEM students who have finished 12 months OPT in the United States will be able eligible to extend the OPT period by 24 months.
  • Expand the program to permit students to use a previously obtained and directly related STEM degree from an accredited school to apply for a STEM OPT extension. For example, if you are currently studying for MBA (a non-STEM degree) but previously obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Electronic Engineering, you may still be able to apply for the proposed 24-month STEM OPT extension, by using your previous BS Electronic Engineering degree.
  • School accreditations will be required.
  • Give STEM OPT students better protection by requiring formal mentoring and training by employers and adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students.
  • Authorize STEM OPT extensions only to students employed by employers who are enrolled in the E-Verify program.

This proposed new rule is open for public comments for a period of 60 days. After 60 days, a final publication and effective date will be announced. DHS is hoping to finish the public comment procedure before February 16, 2015, when the old rule is supposed to be abolished after a court decision on August 12, finding that DHS made procedural errors in establishing the current STEM OPT rule in 2008.

  1. EB-5 Regional Center, Conrad 30 Waiver, and Nonminister Religious Worker Green Card programs are temporarily extended till December 11, 2015

President Obama signed a Continuing Resolution to temporarily extend the EB-5 Regional Center, Conrad 30 Waiver, Nonminister Religious Worker program till December 11, 2015. The biggest change is the proposed increase of EB-5 investment amount in ETAs from $500,000 to $800,000 and from 1 million to 1.2 million in non-TEAs. However, there are some positive changes in the proposed bill, including renew the EB-5 program for another 5 years, shorter processing time for I-526 and I-829 petitions, TEA application will be for two years, rather than one year, etc.

The Conrad 30 program allows physicians to waive the 2-year home residency requirement for international medical graduates on J-1 status by working full time in medically underserved areas for a period of three or five years. We hope the Congress will extend of the program considering it has been providing medically underserved areas with highly trained physicians.

The religious worker program allows certain religious workers who have been working for a religious organization for at least two years to obtain green card. This program will also sunset if Congress does not pass the bill to extend the program after December 11, 2015.

  1. New H-1B Visa Reform Bill

On Tuesday, November 10, a new H-1B visa reform bill was introduced to put more limitations on the current H-1B program. The major proposed changes in the bill include increasing the H-1B minimum wage by requiring at least level II wage, not allowing companies with more than 50 employees to hire H-1B visa holders if more than half of their employees already hold skilled-worker permits, not allowing applicants to substitute bachelor’s degree with work experience, imposing restrictions on off-site employments, etc. The new bill, if passed, will make it much more difficult for IT outsourcers to employ low-paid foreign workers in the U.S.

  1. U Visa

Governor Jerry Brown has signed a state bill that requires law enforcement agencies to provide U visa certifications to immigrant crime victims who have been helpful, or are likely to be helpful in detection, investigation, investigation, or prosecution of certain crimes. The bill also establishes a rebuttable presumption that victims who have “not refused or failed to provide information and assistance reasonably requested by law enforcement” have met the requisite level of helpfulness for certification. Finally, the bill sets the certification requests processing time within 90 days and 14 days where removal proceedings have begun.

  1. Others
  • The San Diego Downtown Immigration Field Office and Chula Vista Field Office will be consolidated into one Field Office in January 2016. The new office will be relocating to 1325 Front Street, San Diego, CA 92101.
  • USCIS officer suggests applicants to schedule infopass appointments at least 2 weeks ahead of time and urges people to cancel their appointments if their matters get resolved before the appointment date so other people can book the appointment. USCIS is monitoring the type of matters inquired during the appointments and is trying to serve as many people as possible.
  • For 1st time visa applicants, proof of residence is required to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in Mexico. For those whose visa expires in 24 months and is asking for extensions is not required for interview.
  • Starting January 2016, E-2 applicants in Canada will be required to go to U.S. consulate in Toronto. Vancouver U.S. consulate will no longer be accepting E-2 applications after January 2016.
  • L-1 Request for Evidence rate has grown from 2% in 2011 to 45% in 2014. L-1 denial rate for 1st time applications in 2014 is 32% and 42% for extensions.
  • Having been using or have used false documents to apply for AB60 driver’s license can lead to fraud investigation and possible criminal fraud charges.


The December visa bulletin was recently released by the DOS on November 9, 2015. For the month of December CIS has announced that family based applicants must use the ‘date of filing’ chart to determine when their adjustment of status applications may be filed. This means that for family based preference categories, there are presently immigrant visas available and demand has not yet been met for the fiscal year. Employment based applicants must refer to the ‘final action date’ chart as a basis for applying for adjustment of status. This means that presently there is more demand than immigrant visas available for employment based categories. For the month of December, filing dates have remained unchanged. The impact of the dual chart system will not be felt until CIS requests visa numbers from the DOS in April 2016 for adjustment of status filings based on the October Visa Bulletin. In this post we will discuss new announcements that have appeared on the December visa bulletin and projections for EB-2 India, EB-2 and EB-3 China, F-2A, and F-2B. These projections are based on guidance provided by the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, Charles Oppenheim. While they do not guarantee actual immigrant visa availability, these projections are helpful reference points.

Replacement of Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and New Visa Waiting List

The December visa bulletin has announced that the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) used internally by the Department of States will be replaced with 9 FAM-e beginning November 18, 2015. Public release of the new FAM has not yet been announced.

Additionally, a ‘Visa Waiting List’ will be released beginning with the January Visa Bulletin which will provide applicants information on the National Visa Center waiting list starting November 1, 2015.

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Yesterday night, in a 2-1 vote the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold the lower court’s decision in Texas v. United States blocking President Obama’s extended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs from going into effect.

The expanded DACA and new DAPA provisions were announced November of last year as part of Obama’s executive actions on immigration giving eligible undocumented individuals a legal status in the United States. The expanded DACA program would have made millions of law abiding undocumented aliens (with no criminal history) eligible for employment authorization and social security benefits. To qualify, expanded DACA applicants would need to provide documented evidence proving their continuous physical presence in the United States from January 1, 2010 onward. In exchange, the United States government would recognize these individuals as law abiding residents and safeguard them against deportation. The move was significant since it would mean that undocumented individuals would no longer need to live on the fringes of society. By granting these individuals an immigration classification, insurance companies would become accessible to them for the first time ever.

Similarly, Obama’s DAPA program would have extended eligibility of deferred action to parents of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents born or or before November 20, 2014 the date of the DAPA program’s announcement. As part of the application process, DAPA applicants would be required to undergo extensive background checks and prove continuous residence since January 1, 2010 among other provisions. Click here for more information on DAPA.

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In this blog we are answering 5 of your most frequently asked questions received on our social media platforms and our website. Please remember that every case is different and every immigration journey is unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. If you have any further questions, please call our office for a free legal consultation. We serve international clients and domestic clients in all 50 states. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office.

Qualifying for 245i and Adjustment of Status

Q: My ex-husband filed an adjustment of status application on my behalf based on 245i. We separated before we received our initial interview appointment and later divorced. I have since remarried. Can my husband apply for my permanent residence now that we are married?

A: Thank you for your question. Certain individuals who have a qualifying relative willing to file an immigrant visa petition on their behalf, are eligible to adjust their status under 245i Immigration and Nationality Act if they entered the country without inspection (unlawfully) and were the beneficiary of a visa petition or application for labor certification filed on specific dates outline below. Before proceeding with a new green card application, you should make sure you qualify for 245i and have all of the necessary documents to prove your eligibility. 245i applicants must provide documented evidence of their physical presence in the United States and evidence that the visa petition or application for labor certification was filed on their behalf by providing the receipt notice of the petition also known as the I-797 Notice of Action.

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Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson

On October 28, 2015 sixteen Democrats from the House of Representatives including —Zoe Lofgren, Michael M. Honda, Judy Chu, Katherine M. Clark, Elijah E. Cummings, Anna G. Eshoo, Tulsi Gabbard, Luis V. Gutierrez, James A. Himes, Ruben Hinojosa, Eddie B. Johnson, James P. McGovern, Frank Pallone Jr., Jared Polis, David E. Price, and Alma S. Adams — issued a letter addressed to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson concerning drastic revisions made to the Visa Bulletin on September 25, 2015.

In the letter, House Democrats argue that the revisions to the Visa Bulletin have compromised the integrity of the immigrant visa process, and resulted in a lose of faith in our immigration system. More over they argue that these revisions have adversely impacted the lives of thousands of immigrants, the American businesses who employ highly skilled workers, and our economy which benefits from retaining highly skilled workers.

As previously reported, the Department of State had published a dual chart system on September 9, 2015 with the addition of a new ‘date of filing chart’ which first appeared on the October Visa Bulletin. This new ‘date of filing’ chart was implemented in an effort to modernize and streamline the immigration process, as part of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform.

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It is our pleasure to introduce our incredibly skilled operations manager and immigration consultant, Lupe Lopez. If you have called or stopped by our San Diego office for a free consultation, chances are you have already met with her to discuss your needs. Throughout her immigration career, Ms. Lopez has assisted thousands of clients with their immigration concerns. There is no situation or immigration story she hasn’t heard and no shortage of extraordinarily challenging cases she has assisted with. Her compassion and empathy working with clients who have faced family separation and other adversities is unmatched.

Ms. Lopez holds over 12 years of experience in the field of immigration legal services. Her expertise includes filing waivers of inadmissibility, I-360 VAWA petitions, removal proceedings, nonimmigrant waivers, business, investment, and family immigration petitions. Ms. Lopez possesses a B.S. in Human Resource Management and a Certificate in Labor Relations. She is currently in the process of becoming Dale Carnegie certified. Aside from serving as an immigration consultant, Ms. Lopez is also our Operations Manager, ensuring that we deliver the highest level of customer service with proven results. She helps train, organize, and improve our operations systems which allow us to gain the customer trust, loyalty, and satisfaction. In her capacity as operations manager, she addresses both internal concerns and client concerns keeping our standards for excellence above our competitors.

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It is our pleasure to bring you the latest in immigration news including recent USCIS announcements, workload updates, tips, and important reminders to avoid delays in application processing or rejections. For more information please contact our office.

Comment Period for Proposed USCIS Form Revisions:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have proposed changes to the following USCIS forms. DHS and USCIS invite the general public, organizations, and federal agencies to submit comments on the proposed revisions by the deadlines outlined below:

  • Form I-131A Application for Travel Document (carrier documentation)

Deadline: December 1, 2015

  • Form N-400 Application for Naturalization

Deadline: November 12, 2015

  • Form I-130 and Form I-130A Petition for Alien Relative

Deadline: December 14, 2015

  • Form I-694 Notice of Appeal of Decision under Section 210 or 245A

Deadline: November 19, 2015

In the month of September, DHS and USCIS also published proposed revisions for Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé (e) and FOIA regulations however the comment period has now ended for these revisions.

New Direct Filing Address Applies to Form I-140 petitions filed along with Form I-907 for Worksites in MD, NJ, NY, and PA

Beginning October 19, 2015 the direct filing address for Form I-140 petitions submitted along with Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, has changed for the following worksite locations:

  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania

These forms must now be filed with the Nebraska Service Center at the following address:

USPS Service:

Premium Processing

USCIS Nebraska Service Center

P.O. Box 87103

Lincoln, NE 68501-7103

Courier Service:

Premium Processing

USCIS Nebraska Service Center

850 S. Street

Lincoln, NE 68508

Important Note: If you wish to upgrade your I-140 petition to premium processing, you must file Form I-907 with the service center where the I-140 is currently pending.

Workload Transfers for select I-140 and Employment Based I-485 Petitions

USCIS recently announced that it has re-balanced the workload for select I-140 and employment based I-485 petitions. These petitions will be processed at either the Texas Service Center or Nebraska Service Center to improve efficiency. If you are filing an I-140 petition along with an I-907 request for premium processing and the worksite location is not in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, or Pennsylvania you will continue to follow the direct filing address instructions on the CIS website for Forms I-140 and I-485.

Rejection Alert: Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination revision date 3/30/2015

Immigrants obtaining Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination from an authorized civil surgeon as part of their application for permanent residence, must be sure the civil surgeon is using the correct version of the form with revision date 3/30/2015. USCIS has circulated an email as a reminder that as of July 27, 2015 any other versions of Form I-693 will be rejected and must be re-submitted with the correct version. The civil surgeon should check that they are completing the current form by visiting the CIS website.

I-600 Petitions Filed on Behalf of Children from the Republic of Korea to be adjudicated at USCIS Seoul Field Office

USCIS has announced that beginning October 1, 2015 the National Benefits Center (NBC) will cease to adjudicate I-600 petitions filed on behalf of children from the Republic of Korea. The NBC will be transferring approvable petitions to the USCIS Seoul Field Office. Direct filing address for I-600 petitions will remain unchanged. According to CIS, once an I-600 petition is received by the NBC, the NBC will conduct pre-processing of an I-600 petition to ensure the completion of the application with all necessary supporting documentation. The NBC may issue the petitioner a Request for Evidence (RFE), Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), and issue a denial notice if the petitioner fails to establish that the child qualifies for the orphan classification. After favorable review and pre-processing of an I-600 petition, the NBC will issue a Notice of Transfer indicating the transfer of the case to the USCIS field office in Seoul. For more information on these changes please click here.

Secure Laminates for Travel Documents

As a fraud and counterfeiting prevention mechanism USCIS announced that beginning October 5, 2015 secure laminates will be applied to Form I-797F Transportation Letter and Form I-512L Parole Authorization Letters. This will preserve the integrity of travel documents and protect recipient identity.

USCIS Request to File Form I-90 Applications Online:

USCIS has requested that I-90 applicants file their applications through the USCIS Ellis electronic system in order to streamline the processing of these petitions. According to USCIS, 47% of I-90 applications received are filed electronically. While paper I-90 applications continue to be accepted by CIS, there is a slight delay once CIS receives the application since the application is then transferred to an electronic record.

USCIS Field Office in Vienna, Austria to Close Permanently on December 31, 2015

On October 22, 2015 USCIS announced that the USCIS field office in Vienna, Austria will be permanently closing at the end of the year. The Vienna office will cease to accept applications and be open to the public on November 30, 2015. The Vienna office presently serves the following jurisdictions: Austria, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. USCIS field offices in Frankfurt, Rome, and Athens will distribute the workload for these jurisdictions beginning January 1, 2016 as follows:

The USCIS field office in Frankfurt, Germany will take over the jurisdictions of Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

The USCIS field office in Rome will take over the jurisdictions of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

The USCIS field office in Athens, Greece will take over the jurisdictions of Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania.

Applicants living in these jurisdictions must note any changes in USCIS filing instructions beginning December 1, 2015. For more information please click here.

Reminder: N-400 Filing Fee Payable by Credit Card

You may pay for your N-400 Application for Naturalization filing fee by credit card by filing G-1450 Authorization for Credit Card Transaction along with your N-400 petition. Acceptable credit cards include Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover as well as gift cards with those logos. The entire fee must be paid using a single card. For more information please click here.