Last week, we reported to our readers that on September 25th the Department of State and USCIS re-issued the October Visa Bulletin and changed the date of filing chart drastically, rolling back the ‘Dates of Filing’ for heavily used visa categories, including employment based and family-sponsored petitions. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, along with policymakers, and immigration advocates, are urging Congress, the White House, USCIS, and Department of State to restore the initial dates of filing that were authorized and released on September 9th 2015 with the October Visa Bulletin.

If you would like to pressure the government to honor the initial dates of filing, released on September 9th, we invite you to sign the White House petition by clicking here. We must hold the government accountable for their actions by advocating for the restoration of the initial dates of filing. With the release of the October Visa Bulletin, the DOS introduced a dual chart system for the first time in history which included a new ‘date of filing’ chart. The new date of filing chart would have allowed thousands of foreign nationals to file their adjustment of status and employment authorization applications, before a visa became available to them. This action was made by the DOS in an effort to modernize and streamline our immigration system as part of President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration announced on November 20th of last year. Due to the recent drastic changes that have been made to the date of filing chart, we encourage you to become involved by signing the petition or writing to your local Congressman/Congresswoman. Thousands of foreign workers and family members of foreign nationals have been impacted by the recent changes, given that the majority of applicants who would have been eligible to file for their green card applications and employment authorization cards, will no longer be able to do so. They must continue to wait until their priority date becomes current on the date of filing chart.

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Great news for regional center investors, medical doctors applying for a J-1 visa waiver under the Conrad 30 Waiver Program, and religious workers; a federal government shutdown has been avoided—at least until December 11, 2015. As reported in our previous blog earlier this week, Congress was faced with the challenge of voting on a short-term spending bill, a continuing appropriations resolution, that would temporarily fund the government through December 11th of this year.  Yesterday, September 30th the House and Senate successfully passed the continuing appropriations resolution. President Obama signed it into law that same day.

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As some of you may have heard, on September 25th the US Department of State made some additional changes to the October 2015 Visa Bulletin. These changes include new and earlier date of filing cut-offs than those initially released on September 9th. The date of filing chart released on September 25th will replace the prior one released on September 9th. To view the complete changes please click here. These new changes have raised several concerns for our readers.

What caused the visa numbers to be re-issued after their release on September 9, 2015?

Though we cannot ascertain the exact reasons why these changes have come about, we can make the fair assumption that these changes were likely due to workload concerns and a lack of resources necessary to accommodate the large amount of adjustment of status applications expected to be filed beginning October 1st. The anticipated workload may have given the Department of State no choice but to retrogress the visa numbers in heavily used categories.

Is the Department of State reneging on their promise to modernize and streamline the immigration process as part of Obama’s executive actions on immigration?

While it is disappointing that the visa numbers on the ‘date of filing’ chart have retrogressed, a departure from the promised executive actions does not seem to be the case. The visa numbers have been adjusted in an effort to streamline the immigration process in a way that is viable, practical, and effective. Dates of filing have been adjusted for family-sponsored and employment-based preferences to create a practical timeline that provide CIS the sufficient time needed to process the large volume of anticipated adjustment of status applications.

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On Monday the Senate will be voting on a short-term spending bill introduced by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran. If passed, the bill will temporarily fund the government through December 11th of this year. If the bill is not passed, the country will face a government shutdown beginning on October 1, 2015. The temporary funding bill called a continuing appropriations resolution will be required to keep government agencies afloat for the remainder of the year. Congressional Republicans and Democrats have been at odds with one another since the Planned Parenthood scandal was brought to light. The non-profit organization’s involvement in the practice of procuring tissues from aborted fetuses for the purpose of medical research has been deeply contested by Republicans, who believe Planned Parenthood should no longer receive federal funding. Due to this impasse, no resolution bill has yet been agreed upon.

Repercussions on Immigration: LCA’s and PERM applications

A government shutdown would mean that various government agencies may not be operating at full capacity. Due to this we urge our clients to file urgent Labor Condition Applications or PERM applications prior to October 1, 2015. While the shutdown will have an effect on the economy, families, and business throughout the country, entities not affected by the government shutdown include USCIS, the military, airport security, FBI, Border Patrol, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, among others.

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It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to our senior case manager, Inese Grate, one of the original members of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick. Ms. Grate joined our firm when there were merely 2 employees working at the office. In addition to studying law in Latvia, Ms. Grate received her Master’s in Law in International Business Transactions from Temple University Beasley School of Law and attended the International Law Institute at Georgetown University School of Law.

Ms. Grate specializes in business and family immigration, corporate, international trade, and international transactions. Ms. Grate provides consultation on strategic investment in the United States for international clients and corporations to identify potential opportunities, create jobs, and develop successful businesses. Throughout her professional career, she has taken several international and U.S. startup companies from an ideation phase through to establishment and registration. Ms. Grate is unique in that she thinks outside of the box and is able to utilize her professional network of financial advisors, real estate brokers, investors and industry experts to assist our clients based on their unique needs. Throughout her career, Ms. Grate has helped numerous corporations and individuals in the United States as well as several European countries in various immigration/business related issues. Ms. Grate evaluates business plans and works on all related immigration issues including visas, licenses, and permits. She has helped in numerous cases in this area for the past few years.

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In a bulletin released on September 11th the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services explains conditions relating to prioritization of interview scheduling for affirmative asylum applications. According to CIS, affirmative asylum applications began to be prioritized as of December 26, 2014 which fall under the below mentioned categories.

The categories which qualify for prioritization of interview scheduling include:

  1. Applicants who were scheduled for an interview, however the interview was rescheduled at the request of the applicant or by CIS (applicants in this category are normally scheduled promptly)
  2. Applications that were filed by children (applicants in this category are normally scheduled promptly)
  3. Pending affirmative asylum applications will be prioritized in the order they were received by CIS (first come first serve basis)

Pending affirmative asylum applications:

The following table outlines processing times for  interview scheduling by field office. The table estimates interview scheduling for applicants in the third category.

*Approximations are based on interviews scheduled during the listed month. Future estimations are determined by asylum office caseload and resources available to each office.

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On September 9th the Department of State and USCIS jointly announced new procedures that will allow family-based and employment-based applicants stuck in immigrant visa backlogs to apply for an immigrant visa (adjustment of status) before their priority date becomes current and an immigrant visa becomes immediately available to them. These new procedures will be implemented beginning October 1, 2015 as part of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration with the purpose of modernizing and streamlining our legal immigration system for the 21st century. These new changes were introduced in the October Visa Bulletin. 

What is the Visa Bulletin?

The Department of State publishes a monthly report of visa availability known as the ‘Visa Bulletin.’ The Visa Bulletin is essentially a guide to be used by applicants and consular officials denoting visa availability for the issuance of visas at consulates and embassies worldwide. USCIS utilizes the Visa Bulletin to determine whether Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, can be accepted for filing and processing. In order to file Form I-485 a prospective immigrant must determine whether a visa is available to them at the time the Form I-485 is filed and at the time Form I-485 is approved. The Department of State and Department of Homeland Security work together to revise the Visa Bulletin on a monthly basis estimating immigrant visa availability for prospective adjustment of status applicants. The DOS allocates available visas by providing visa numbers according to the prospective immigrant’s preference category, country of birth and priority date. This allows distribution of visas for all preference categories. A prospective immigrant’s priority date can be found on Form I-797 Notice of Action or ‘Receipt Notice’ for the petition filed on the applicant’s behalf.

What is a Priority Date?

A priority date is generally defined as the “date when your relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on your behalf with USCIS.”  For employment-based petitions, “if a labor certification is required to be filed with your immigrant visa petition, the priority date is the date the labor certification application was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor.”

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In order to apply for permanent residence, a relative or American employer must file an immigrant petition on your behalf. Family-sponsored and employment-based petitions are subject to visa limitations unlike petitions filed by immediate relatives who are US citizens. Immediate relative petitions remain unlimited and are always available. This means that if your petitioner is your immediate relative and a US Citizen you can file your I-485 at the same time as your immigrant petition.

In order to understand whether a visa is available to you and whether you can proceed with filing your application for permanent residence, you will need to keep a close eye on the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin. 

Family Sponsored Preference Categories are as follows:


First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

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USCIS has published statistics concerning the volume of Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals applications received from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2015.

In fiscal year 2012 USCIS accepted 152,424 applications out of 157,819 applications received. That year, 5,395 applications were rejected during initial intake. 1,685 applications were approved during case review at the end of the fiscal year. Remaining applications either remained pending at the end of the fiscal year or were denied.

In fiscal year 2013 USCIS accepted 427,601 applications out of 443,953 applications received. That year, 16,352 applications were rejected during initial intake. 471,196 applications were approved during case review at the end of the fiscal year. Remaining applications either remained pending at the end of the fiscal year or were denied.

In fiscal year 2014 USCIS accepted 238,895 applications out of 263,784 applications received. That year, 24,889 applications were rejected during initial intake. 158,188 applications were approved during case review at the end of the fiscal year. Remaining applications either remained pending at the end of the fiscal year or were denied.

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association will be hosting a free workshop on September 19, 2015 at various sites around the country.  The workshop will be providing assistance to lawful permanent residents who are eligible for naturalization. Each year, at sites across the country, AILA attorneys and other stakeholders provide assistance to lawful permanent residents eligible for naturalization.  Last year, AILA and its partner “ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía!” held more than 50 naturalization clinics in 22 states and the District of Columbia serving thousands of immigrants who aspired to become citizens. We will provide more updates to our community as they become available. For more information about the event please contact AILA’s Pro Bono department probono@aila.org.

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