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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It’s a brand-new week and we are excited to share with you a recent update that will benefit F-1 students applying for employment authorization under the Optional Practical Training program (OPT).

Today, April 12, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students requesting OPT may now file their Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, online by creating an online account at myaccount.uscis.gov, instead of having to submit a paper application by mail to USCIS, if they fall under one of the following categories:

  • (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
  • (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
  • (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?


Optional Practical Training (OPT) refers to a temporary period of employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.

Eligible F-1 students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).

Eligible F-1 students who receive STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT.


How Can You Qualify for OPT?


All OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. If you are an F-1 student, you may be eligible to participate in OPT in two different ways:

  • Pre-completion OPT:  You may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after you have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll F-1 students. You do not need to have had F-1 status for the one full academic year; you can satisfy the “one full academic year” requirement even if you had another nonimmigrant status during that time.

If you are authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT, you may work part time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session. You may work full time when school is not in session.

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We are excited to report some happy news for immigrant visa applicants and fiancé(e)’s of U.S. Citizens, who were previously subject to the COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations, known as Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041.

Together, these Proclamations restricted and suspended the entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The COVID-19 Regional Proclamations were issued by the Trump administration beginning in January of 2020 to combat the rise of Coronavirus cases throughout the world.

Today, April 8, 2021, the Department of State published an announcement informing the public that the Secretary of State has now determined that travel to the United States, on an immigrant visa or fiancé(e) visa, is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations known as P.P. 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041.

Pursuant to this new announcement, immigrant visa processing posts may now grant immigrant visas and fiancé(e) visas to applicants otherwise eligible, notwithstanding these proclamations. This means that the travel restrictions previously in force under Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041, will no longer apply to immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants physically residing in the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran. As a result, such immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain their visas without the added hurdle of overcoming the COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are excited to bring you a newly released update from the Department of State regarding the operational status of visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world forcing the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates to scale down operations due to reduced staff, limited resources, and constraints having to do with local conditions and restrictions, including local and national lockdowns, travel restrictions, and other measures that have been taken by U.S. Embassies and Consulates to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Due to these restrictions, the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have dramatically reduced their appointment capacity. This has in turn created substantial backlogs of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications awaiting a visa interview. Many have already been documentarily qualified by the NVC and have not been able to proceed with visa processing due to the Embassy’s inability to open new appointments for applicants.

As a result, Consular posts and Embassies have been following a “phased resumption” of visa services framework, meaning that each post will carefully assess its country conditions and its resources, to gradually determine when it can resume visa service operations to normal levels. However, this process will take time and will depend on each Embassy’s ability to open more appointments for visa applicants.

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We are extremely excited to report that USCIS has received enough electronic registrations during the H-1B initial registration period to reach the mandated numerical cap for fiscal year 2022, including for the advanced degree exemption (also known as the master’s cap), and has now selected all registrations eligible to participate in the H-1B visa program.

The H-1B initial electronic registration period came to an end on March 25, 2021, at which time USCIS began the process of randomly selecting from eligible registrations to fill the H-1B cap, including for the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS has now selected those registrations that will move forward and file a paper application with USCIS.

All those who were selected have received a notification of their selection in their myUSCIS online account. Selections in the myUSCIS portal will indicate that the petitioner is eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary that was named in the applicable selected registration.

On behalf of our law office, we extend our congratulations to all those who were selected to move forward with the filing of their petitions.


What happens next?


Now that you have overcome this obstacle, you may be asking yourself, what’s next? Sadly, getting selected in the H-1B visa lottery is just the first step in obtaining an H-1B visa. The second step requires the petitioner to demonstrate the beneficiary’s eligibility for the H-1B visa by filing Form I-129 with USCIS and obtaining approval.

USCIS has announced that all petitioners who have been properly selected in the visa lottery for fiscal year 2022, may file an H-1B cap-subject petition with USCIS, including petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, starting today April 1, 2021. Only filings that are based on a valid, selected registration will be accepted by USCIS for FY 2022, and only for beneficiaries named in the selected registration notice.

Those who were not selected must wait to apply again next year.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand-new week and we are excited to bring you more updates in the world of immigration.

We are happy to report that the Department of State has released important information for nonimmigrant visa applicants who may qualify for an interview waiver. That’s right. Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain a renewal of their visas without being required to attend a Consulate interview.

Who may take advantage of Non-Immigrant Visa Interview Waivers?

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, and temporarily expanded the ability of Consular officials to waive the in-person interview requirement, which is normally required of all individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas in the same visa classification – in other words renewal applicants.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, interview waivers were only available to those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa was set to expire within 24 months.

The Secretary has now temporarily extended the Interview Waiver eligibility to those whose visas are set to expire within 48 months. This new policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.

According to the Department of State, “This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications, while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.”

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Happy Friday! In this blog post, we bring you the latest immigration updates including exciting information about the H-1B cap season for FY 2022 now in full swing, USCIS Flexibility to RFEs/NOIDs and other agency requests, and the Department of State’s update regarding the 2018 Public Charge rule.


H-1B Cap FY 2022 News


The H-1B cap season is now upon us. On March 9, 2021, USCIS opened the mandatory H-1B electronic registration system, in preparation for selection of visas under the H-1B cap for fiscal year 2022. Last year, USCIS introduced a brand-new electronic registration process for the H-1B cap, including the advanced degree exemption. The electronic registration system has been implemented to streamline the application process. Gone are the days when all petitioners were required to submit a paper application by mail for a chance of being selected.

Now the electronic registration process requires prospective H-1B petitioners, seeking authorization to employ H-1B workers subject to the cap, to complete an electronic registration on the USCIS website that asks for basic information about the prospective petitioner and each requested worker.

Only those who submit an electronic registration have a chance of being selected to participate in the H-1B visa lottery. Additionally, only those with a selected registration are invited to submit a paper application by mail to establish eligibility for an H-1B visa.

Yesterday, March 25, 2021, the electronic registration period officially closed. USCIS will now go through the process of randomly selecting from eligible registrations to fill the H-1B cap.

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The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for April 2021 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts April 2021

USCIS has not yet advised the appropriate cut off date chart for acceptance of adjustment of status applications filed with USCIS in the month of April. Please keep checking back to the USCIS website for more information, since we do not yet know if adjustment applications will be based on the Final Action dates chart, or on the Dates for Filing Chart.  

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The news we have all been waiting for is finally here. The Democratic controlled House of Representatives has taken a colossal step toward making comprehensive immigration reform a reality. On Thursday evening, members of the House voted along party lines to approve two legislative proposals that would create a pathway to citizenship for an estimated eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including Dreamers and farmworkers. These proposals are known as (1) the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 and (2) the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021.


What is the American Dream and Promise Act – H.R. 6?


The American Dream and Promise Act, also known as H.R. 6, creates an earned path to citizenship for more than two million Dreamers who were brought to the United States as children, as well as beneficiaries of certain temporary humanitarian programs including recipients of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This proposal consists of


Title I: Dream Act of 2021


Title I of the Act would allow certain long-term residents who entered the United States as children to apply for conditional permanent resident status. Those who would obtain conditional permanent resident status would be considered lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the law.

Requirements

The American Dream and Promise Act would grant Dreamers conditional permanent resident status for 10 years, and cancel removal proceedings if they:

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The Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick is proud to honor our managing attorney Marie Puertollano’s most recent accomplishment in the field of immigration law, becoming a board-certified immigration specialist with the State Bar of California.

Originally from France, Marie Puertollano joined our law office in 2012 and quickly became a rising star handling complex immigration matters in our private practice. Throughout the years, Attorney Marie Puertollano has been at the forefront of many of our firm’s successes touching on all areas of immigration law, including family immigration, employment immigration, investment visas, nonimmigrant visas, and representing clients before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She provides direction for all divisions within our practice and is the go-to attorney of our firm.

With this new honor, Marie becomes one of a very limited number of attorneys in the state of California who have been designated as Certified Specialists in the field of immigration law by the State Bar of California. Marie is now one of only 24 immigration attorneys in San Diego to accomplish this feat and joins a small circle of 233 attorneys who have received this honor in the entire state.

Marie’s accomplishment comes as a product of her hard work and dedication. After taking an extensive written examination offered only once every two years, she was able to successfully pass and meet other stringent criteria to gain this honor. Specifically, Marie had to prove her substantial involvement in the area of immigration and nationality law having participated as a principal attorney in 150 cases involving immigrant and nonimmigrant cases, and hearings before immigration judges. Marie was also required to demonstrate participation as a principal attorney in six broad immigration categories including court and bond hearings, appeals, immigrant visas, nonimmigrant visas, consular cases, and PERM petitions.

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Welcome back to Visalawerblog! We hope you are having a wonderful start to your week.

In this blog post, we discuss a new update for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for the country of Venezuela.

As luck would have it, on March 8, 2021, the newly sworn Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced the designation of Venezuela, as a foreign country qualifying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the safe return of Venezuelan nationals to their country of origin.

The designation will allow Venezuelan nationals (and those without nationality who last resided in Venezuela) to file initial applications for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), provided they meet the eligibility requirements.


What is TPS?


Temporary Protected Status is a temporary immigration status given to certain foreign nationals from certain countries that are experiencing ongoing armed conflict, environment disaster, humanitarian crisis, and other such conditions. TPS allows qualifying applicants to remain in the United States on a temporary lawful basis without fear of deportation, and also allows applicants to apply for a temporary work permit. Only nationals from countries who have been designated as eligible for Temporary Protected Status by the Secretary of Homeland Security are eligible to participate. Countries with such designation include El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.


What are the eligibility requirements?


  • To be eligible, applicants must be a national of Venezuela, or be a person without nationality who last habitually resided in Venezuela.
  • Venezuelan nationals must file for TPS during the open initial registration or re-registration period, which falls on March 9, 2021 to September 5, 2021. That means all initial applications must be received within this time frame.
  • Venezuelan nationals must prove they have been continuously physically present in the United States since March 9, 2021, the effective date of Venezuela’s designation date; and
  • Venezuelan nationals must prove that they have been continuously residing in the United States since March 8, 2021.
  • Those who meet the requirements outlined above may obtain TPS benefits for a period of 18 months lasting until September 9, 2022.

How to file


All applicants must submit the necessary forms, supporting documentation, and filing fees with USCIS by filing Form I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status, as well as Form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization. For information about the forms and supporting documentation required click here.

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