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In this post, we bring you great news regarding COVID-19-related flexibilities for responses to Requests for Evidence, NOIDs, and such related notices issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


What do I need to know about this new update?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS announced that it will continue its flexibility policy giving applicants and petitioners more time to respond to Requests for Evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On January 24, 2023, USCIS made the announcement that it will grant one FINAL extension to applicants who have received a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or such a related document, an additional 60 calendar days after the response deadline indicated on the notice or request, to submit a response to a request or notice, provided the request or notice was issued by USCIS between March 1, 2020, through March 23, 2023. This is great news because it will allow applicants and petitioners more time to gather documents that are hard to obtain during the COVID-10 pandemic.


What documents qualify for this flexibility in responding?


Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and March 23, 2023 can take advantage of the additional 60 days to respond to the request or notice:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind;
  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
  • Notices of Intent to Withdraw Temporary Protected Status; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

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girls-gd854827cc_1280Welcome back to the start of a brand-new week! In this blog post we share with you an exciting new update from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Today, January 23, 2023, USCIS announced that it is extending the green card validity period of conditional permanent residents who have a pending Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status for EB-5 immigrant investors, as well as those filing new petitions.


What is this all about?


USCIS is extending validity of Permanent Resident Cards (also known as Green Cards) for a period of 48 months (4 years) beyond the green card’s expiration date for petitioners who properly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, or Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.

USCIS began to implement this extension on January 11, 2023, for Form I-829 petitioners and has announced that it will start to implement the extension starting on January 25, 2023, for Form I-751 petitioners.

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We are happy to report that the Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Somalia nationals currently receiving protections under the program from March 18, 2023 through September 17, 2024.

In addition, the re-designation means that certain eligible Somali nationals residing in the United States as of January 11, 2023, will be able to apply for TPS protections for the first time.

The main benefit of applying for this program is that those who are approved for Temporary Protected Status can remain in the country on a lawful basis, will receive protection against deportation (deferred status), and are eligible to apply for employment authorization and travel permission by filing, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


How did this all happen?


Extension of Designation of Somalia for TPS


On January 12, 2023, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced an 18-month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country of Somalia. This extension and re-designation will be in effect from March 18, 2023, through September 17, 2024 (an 18-month period).

Secretary Mayorkas made this decision after consulting with government officials and taking into consideration the ongoing armed conflict in Somalia, along with natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and worsening humanitarian crisis. Somalia continues to be impacted by terrorism, violent crime, civil unrest, and fighting amongst clan militias making it necessary to extend the designation of Somalia for TPS.

Mayorkas found that these circumstances ultimately prevented Somali nationals from safely returning to their home country stating, “Through the extension and redesignation of Somalia for Temporary Protected Status, the United States will be able to offer safety and protection to Somalis who may not be able to return to their country, due to ongoing conflict and the continuing humanitarian crisis… We will continue to offer our support to Somali nationals through this temporary form of humanitarian relief.”

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Today, January 12, 2023, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is implementing the final phase of its expansion of premium processing for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, under the EB-1 and EB-2 immigrant classifications.


Who does this phase apply to?


This phase applies to new (initial) petitions, and all previously filed Form I-140 petitions under an E13 multinational executive and manager (EB-1C) classification or E21 classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver (NIW) (EB-2).


When does premium processing open for new and pending EB-1C and EB-2 petitions?


Under the final phase of premium processing, effective January 30, 2023, USCIS will begin accepting premium processing upgrades for:

  • All pending E13 multinational executive and manager petitions (EB-1C) and E21 NIW petitions (EB-2), and
  • All initial E13 multinational executive and manager petitions (EB-1C) and E21 NIW petitions (EB-2)
  • Petitioners who wish to request a premium processing upgrade must file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

The expansion of premium processing was first known to the public with the release of the final rule entitled, “Implementation of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act,” published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2022. As part of this final rule, USCIS announced the gradual expansion of premium processing to certain additional form types over a three-year period.


Background of the Planned Expansion of Premium Processing


The first phase of the planned expansion of premium processing was announced during May of 2022 and applied to certain pending EB-1 Multinational Executive and Manager and EB-2 NIW petitions.

Later, in July the agency announced a second phase of premium processing expanding premium processing of these categories to EB-1C petitions received by USCIS on or before July 1, 2021, and EB-2 petitions received by USCIS on or before August 1, 2021.

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With the new year comes exciting new changes in immigration. We are happy to report that the government has just announced a brand-new parole process for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans modeled after the Uniting for Ukraine program and parole program for Venezuelans (introduced in October of 2022), granting eligible individuals two-year parole, including the ability to apply for employment authorization and remain lawfully present in the United States.

Separately, the government has released the CBP One mobile app, a new mechanism for noncitizens (land travelers only) to schedule appointments to present themselves at ports of entry, encouraging safe and orderly arrivals. Once Title 42 is no longer in place, this will be the scheduling mechanism for noncitizens to schedule a time to present themselves at a U.S. port of entry for inspection and processing, rather than arriving unannounced or attempting to cross in-between ports of entry. This includes those who seek to make asylum claims. Those who use the CBP One process will be eligible for employment authorization during their period of authorized stay.

Individuals who use the CBP One app will be able to schedule an appointment to present themselves at the following ports of entry:

  • Arizona: Nogales;
  • Texas: Brownsville, Hidalgo, Laredo, Eagle Pass, and El Paso (Paso Del Norte); and
  • California: Calexico and San Ysidro (Pedestrian West – El Chaparral).

During their inspection process, noncitizens must verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status and provide, upon request, proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in accordance with Title 19 vaccination requirements.

Individuals will be able to schedule appointments in CBP One in the coming days. The CBP One application is free to download and available in the Apple and Google App Stores.


Parole Program for Nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela


The United States government has implemented a new parole program for nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to prevent those eligible from making a dangerous trek to the United States.

*Please note Venezuela’s parole program has been in effect since October 18, 2022. 

The parole program will allow up to 30,000 qualifying nationals per month from all four of these countries to reside legally in the United States.

Eligible individuals will be able to seek advance authorization to travel to the United States and be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for a temporary grant of parole for up to two years, including employment authorization.

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In this blog post, we share with you an important announcement from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On December 30, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) benefits for Yemeni nationals for an 18-month period beginning from March 4, 2023, through September 3, 2024.

The Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Yemeni nationals due to ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent Yemeni nationals from safely returning to their home country.

This means that Yemeni nationals (and individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Yemen) who are residing in the United States as of December 29, 2022, are eligible for Temporary Protected Status under Yemen’s designation.

Existing beneficiaries of TPS may re-register for benefits during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from January 3, 2023, through March 4, 2023.

Those who do not currently have TPS but who qualify for TPS benefits can register from January 3, 2023 through September 3, 2024.

It is important for re-registrants to timely re-register during the registration period and not wait until their Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) expire, as delaying reregistration could result in gaps in their employment authorization documentation.

The main benefit of applying for TPS is that those who are approved can remain in the country on a lawful basis, will receive protection against deportation (deferred status), and are eligible to apply for employment authorization and travel permission by filing, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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Welcpuzzle-g75f3e575f_1920ome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful holiday break and wish you a prosperous new year ahead.

We kick off the new year with some important updates in the world of immigration.

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will be posted in the Federal Register tomorrow Wednesday, January 4, 2023 that will increase filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits. An unpublished version is already available in the Federal Register.

A 60-day public comment period will follow the publication of the NPRM on January 4, 2023 and will close on March 5, 2023.

Fees will not change until the final rule goes into effect, and only after the public has had the opportunity to comment and USCIS finalizes the fee schedule in response to such public comments. USCIS will host a public engagement session on the proposed fee rule on January 11, 2023.

According to USCIS, the proposed fee increases are necessary to ensure that the agency will have enough resources to provide adequate services to applicants and petitioners moving forward. The agency has said that after having conducted a review of current fees, it has determined that it cannot cover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services without a fee increase.

The agency cited the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the factors leading the agency to increase its fees. As you may recall, the pandemic caused a dramatic reduction in the filing of new applications, leaving USCIS with a substantial decrease in revenues of 40 percent. This unfortunate drop in applications led USCIS to reduce its workforce accordingly.

With current resources, the agency has said it is incapable of adjudicating applications in a timely manner, when considering that agency caseloads are now returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Among the new proposals included in the NPRM are measures that:

  • Incorporate biometrics costs into the main benefit fee and remove the separate biometric services fee
  • Require separate filing fees for Form I-485 and associated Form I-131 and Form I-765 filings
  • Establish separate fees for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, by nonimmigrant classification.
  • Revise the premium processing timeframe interpretation from 15 calendar days to 15 business days
  • Create lower fees for certain immigration forms filed online.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas break with your families.

In this blog post, we share a new update from the State Department regarding the continuation of its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa types.

In a new announcement, the Secretary of State has revealed that it is extending its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa types until December 31, 2023, allowing Consular officers to continue to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain classes of immigrants.


What is the extension all about?


As you might recall back in December of last year, the State Department first announced its interview waiver policy for temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas in their country of nationality or residence, following USCIS approval of their petitions.

The State Department has now confirmed it will continue its interview waiver policy until at least the end of 2023.


Who qualifies?


Interview Waiver Policy for H, L, O, P, Q visas


Pursuant to the interview waiver policy, Consular officers have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided that they have no ineligibility issues and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

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Happy Holidays from the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick!

In this blog post, we share with you the release of the January Visa Bulletin for the year 2023, what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories, including visa availability, movement, and projections for each category in the months ahead.


What is the Visa Bulletin?


The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month in the employment and family preference categories. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.

To be eligible to file an employment-based adjustment application in January, foreign nationals must have a priority date that is earlier than the date listed below for their preference category and country.

Those currently residing in the United States, may file for adjustment of status once their priority dates become current, following the adjustment of status filing chart guidance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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If you are considering applying for U.S. Citizenship in the new year, you may be interested to learn that yesterday December 15, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to conduct trial testing of a newly redesigned naturalization examination for N-400 naturalization applicants in the year 2023.

The main purpose of the trial is to test an updated format of the civics component that evaluates an applicant’s knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history, as well as introduce a brand-new English-speaking component that may become the new standard of the N-400 examination.


Why the change?


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented this change in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, which includes a directive to review the naturalization process. To align with the goals of this Executive Order, USCIS has called for a review of the naturalization examination and recommended redesigning the speaking and civics test to improve testing standards.


How will the trial testing occur?


USCIS has said that the trial will be rolled out with the assistance of nationwide volunteer community-based organizations known as CBOs working with immigrant English language learners and lawful permanent residents preparing for naturalization. USCIS will seek approximately 1,500 individuals enrolled in adult education classes to take the trial test. The agency may use the results of the trial to support its proposed changes to the naturalization test.

The trial will test both the standardized English-speaking test as part of the requirement to demonstrate an understanding of the English language, and the civics examination with updated content and format. The trial testing will not include the reading or writing portions of the naturalization examination.

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