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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We kick off the start of a brand-new week with unfortunate news for asylum-based applicants for I-765 employment authorization.

New data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates that the agency has been woefully inadequate at processing work permits, failing to meet the 30-day required processing time for employment authorization cards, also known as EADs, filed by asylum seekers.

By law, USCIS must process work permits (EADs) within 30 days of receipt of an asylum seekers I-765 application for employment authorization. However new data shows that USCIS has not been meeting this required timeline throughout 2022, and processing has been declining to a record low.

Data released by USCIS, as part of ongoing litigation, shows that during the last three weeks of February 2022, 93 percent of I-765 applications had been pending for at least 30 days. In March 2022, this figure plummeted to just 68 percent of I-765’s being processed within the 30 days.  Sadly, in recent months, the data shows that processing of EADs has been getting worse and worse on a monthly basis. For instance, in April of this year, this figure dropped to 41 percent of I-765 applications being processed within 30 days. In May the drop continued to just 21 percent, and in June to just 6 percent. Finally, this past month of July, the agency processed less than 5 percent of EAD applications within the required 30-day window. This trend puts on full display the asylum visa processing crisis with no end in sight.

The drop in EAD processing coincides directly with a court ruling handed down in February. USCIS appears to be clearing out the backlog by first processing work permit applications pending the longest, creating substantial delays for more recent applications for employment authorization.

The data indicates that the vast majority of applications USCIS processed over the past three months had been pending for more than 120 days (nearly 4 months).

Due to the EAD processing crisis, USCIS now faces a backlog of more than 77,000 pending work permit requests received by the agency within the past three months alone.

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Are you a participant of the Uniting for Ukraine parole program? If so, then you may be interested in learning more about the new COVID-19 vaccination requirements recently implemented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The agency has announced that effective immediately, all beneficiaries aged 6 months and older must have an attestation submitted, verifying that they have received COVID-19 vaccinations both before traveling to the United States and after arrival in the United States, unless they are eligible for an exception. Previously, beneficiaries younger than 5 years old qualified for an exception to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement because the vaccine was not approved or licensed for use in that age group.

Before Traveling to the United States

To receive travel authorization under the Uniting for Ukraine program, all beneficiaries aged 6 months and older must have an attestation submitted verifying that they received at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or a COVID-19 vaccine listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, unless they are eligible for an exception.

After Arrival in the United States

After being paroled into the United States, all beneficiaries aged 6 months and older must have an attestation submitted attesting that they completed or will complete their COVID-19 vaccination series (in other words, they will be fully vaccinated) within 90 days of their arrival or within 90 days of reaching the eligible age for vaccination according to the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, unless they are eligible for an exception.

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In this blog post, we cover the release of the September Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the upcoming month of September.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. 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.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart September 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the  Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for September 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for September 2022.


September 2022 Visa Bulletin Final Action Cutoff Dates


Employment-Based Categories


FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES

According to the Department of State’s September 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following Final Action cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries, including India and China, will remain current.
  • EB-2: India remains unchanged at December 1, 2014, and China remains unchanged at April 1, 2019. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India and EB-3 China will remain unchanged from the previous month, at February 15, 2012 and April 22, 2018, respectively. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB3 Other Workers: For this category, the Department of State has established a worldwide cutoff date of May 8, 2019, to avoid exceeding the annual numerical limits. EB-3 India and China will remain unchanged at February 15, 2012 and June 1, 2012, respectively.
  • EB-5: The Department of State has taken corrective action by establishing a Final Action cutoff date which has advanced by one month to December 22, 2015, for the EB-5 China Unreserved Non-Regional Center (C5, T5, I5, and R5) categories. EB-5 Final Action dates will remain current for all countries and for all EB-5 “Set-Aside” categories (Rural, High Unemployment, and Infrastructure).

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It is not every day that one of our very own paralegals is honored for her work in immigration law, helping provide a voice to those who do not speak the English language. It is with great pride that we celebrate Kely Martell, for her recent feature in the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration (COI), profiling her work as an interpreter volunteer.

Ms. Kely Martell works as a case manager in the business department of our law office, but what you may not know is that for the past year and a half, she has also been dedicating her time as a volunteer Spanish language interpreter and translator for the Immigration Justice Project (IJP). There, she has been working closely with attorneys on pro bono defensive asylum cases, helping reduce barriers to justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.

Growing up in Lima, Peru, Kely immigrated to the United States at a young age with no knowledge of the English language. These struggles shaped her early interest in immigration law and her desire to make a difference in the lives of others. At the height of the asylum crisis when thousands of migrant caravans made their way to the United States, Kely was inspired to action and decided to volunteer as an interpreter for several immigration organizations. She immediately made a positive impression for going beyond what was expected of her, not only helping clients understand their legal rights, but also helping clients and their families navigate the complex intricacies of the immigrant detention system. She displayed an extraordinary commitment to handling these complexities with ease.

Kely first became involved with the ABA’s Immigration Justice Project after reaching out to Senior Staff Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator Ambreen Walji and the rest was history. She describes her experience working for the Immigration Justice Project as being truly rewarding because of the opportunity she has helping detained immigrants on a day-to-day basis, which are some of the most underserved individuals that are most in need of translator services. Continue reading

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In this blog post, we share with you the latest immigration updates from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


I-589 Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal Receipt Notice Delays


More blunders are being made at USCIS service centers. On July 28, USCIS announced delays in the issuance of receipt notices for Form I-589, Applications for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, stating that applicants may not receive their notices in a timely manner.

With respect to the 1-year filing deadline for asylum, the filing date will still be the date that USCIS received your properly filed Form I-589 (not the date it was processed).

Applications that were not properly filed will be rejected and deficiencies will be noted in the filing. USCIS reminds applicants that if they have not received their receipt notices in a timely manner, they should not submit multiple Forms I-589, as it will result in case delays.

USCIS has provided the following reminders to help applicants determine whether their form I-589 was properly filed to prevent further delays:

  • You must submit your application for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States (one-year filing deadline), unless you can establish that there are changed circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances directly related to your failure to file within one year.
  • You must type or print all of your answers in black ink.
  • You must provide the specific information requested about you and your family and answer all the questions on the form. If any question does not apply to you or you do not know the information requested, answer “none,” “not applicable,” or “unknown.”
  • If you file your application with missing information, we may return it to you as incomplete.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest 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 these new updates?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS has 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.

Today, Monday, July 25, 2022, USCIS made the announcement that it will continue to grant 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 October 23, 2022. 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 October 23, 2022 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.

In addition, USCIS will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion or Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, if:

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Former President Donald Trump’s legacy continues to leave a lasting mark on U.S. immigration policy. On July 21, 2022, the conservative leaning Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from implementing a new immigration policy that would prioritize deportation for those residing in the country illegally who pose the greatest public safety risk. At least for now that means the Biden administration’s measure will be halted.

The Supreme Court justices were almost nearly split in their decision. In a 5-4 vote, the decision stated that Justices Barrett, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson would have allowed the Biden administration to pursue the policy.

The decision sets the stage for arguments in the case United States, et al. v. Texas, et al. to begin in late November.


Why the decision?


The Supreme Court’s decision was made in response to the Biden administration’s emergency request for the court to settle once and for all the legality of enforcing the policy after conflicting decisions were made by federal appellate courts. In September of last year, the Biden administration had implemented a policy calling for a pause to deportation unless individuals had committed acts of terrorism, espionage, or were egregious threats to public safety.

This directive prompted a flurry of lawsuits by Arizona, Ohio, and Montana, and a separate lawsuit by the state of Texas and Louisiana.

Texas and Louisiana argued that the Biden administration had violated federal law by halting the detention of people in the U.S. illegally convicted of serious crimes. The states also argued that they would be burdened by the administration’s decision because they would need to set in to detain such individuals.

For more information about this decision please click here.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of the week with exciting news from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On July 15, 2022, USCIS announced the second phase of the expansion of premium processing service for petitioners who have a pending Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, under the EB-1 and EB-2 employment-based classifications.

As with the first phase of the premium processing expansion, the second phase of expansion only applies to certain previously filed Form I-140 petitions under the EB-1-3 multinational executive and manager classification, or EB-2 classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver (NIW) that were filed on certain dates. Only such petitions will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing using Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.


Who will benefit?


Beginning August 1, 2022, USCIS will accept Form I-907 Premium Processing requests for:

  • EB-1-3 multinational executive and manager petitions received on or before July 1, 2021; and
  • EB-2 NIW petitions for advanced degree or exceptional ability received on or before August 1, 2021.

USCIS has explicitly made clear that it will reject premium processing requests for these Form I-140 classifications if the receipt date is after the dates listed above. For cases eligible to upgrade to premium processing, USCIS will guarantee 45 calendar days to take adjudicative action for these requests for premium processing service. USCIS will not accept new (initial) Forms I-140 with a premium processing request at this time for petitions that do not explicitly fall under the above categories.

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In this blog post, we share with you new developments related to immigration law.


Uniting for Ukraine: USCIS Extends Completion of Medical Screening & Attestation Within 90 Days of Arrival to the United States 


Effective immediately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will extend the amount of time that beneficiaries paroled into the United States under the “Uniting for Ukraine” program must comply with the medical screening and attestation requirements for required vaccinations such as tuberculosis and COVID-19. Previously, parolees were required to complete the medical screening and attestation requirements within 14 days of their arrival to the United States.

Now, Uniting for Ukraine parolees will be given 90 days from the date of their arrival to the United States to fulfill the attestation requirement, which is one of the conditions of being granted parole. The attestation can be completed in the beneficiary’s USCIS online account. USCIS notes that beneficiaries are responsible for arranging to have their vaccinations and medical screening for tuberculosis, including an Interferon-Gamma Release Assay (IGRA) blood test.

Those who test positive for tuberculosis, may be subject to additional procedures such as undergoing additional screening (a chest radiograph, isolation, and treatment if applicable).

Beneficiaries will also be required to complete the tuberculosis screening attestation for their minor children within 90 days of arrival to the United States, even if the child is under the age of 2 years old and qualifies for an exception to the tuberculosis test screening.

For more information and resources, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Uniting for Ukraine: Information for TB Programs page.

For more information about the Uniting for Ukraine program please click here.

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Welcome back to a brand-new week of immigration news. In this blog post, we share some exciting news for nationals of Venezuela.

Today, Monday July 11, 2022, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced the extension of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Venezuela for a period of 18 months.

Mayorkas made clear that the circumstances which resulted in Venezuela being designated for Temporary Protected Status continue to exist, and therefore extension of the designation was warranted. It is also a move that has been made to continue to provide humanitarian relief to the people of Venezuela.

According to the announcement, the 18-month extension of TPS for Venezuela will be effective from September 10, 2022, through March 10, 2024.


Who can benefit from the extension?


Only beneficiaries under Venezuela’s existing designation, and who were already residing in the United States as of March 8, 2021, are eligible to re-register for Temporary Protected Status under Venezuela’s extension. Venezuelans who arrived in the United States after March 8, 2021, are not eligible for TPS. Approximately 343,000 individuals are estimated to be eligible for TPS under the existing designation of Venezuela.


Where can I find more information?


Soon, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will release a final rule in the Federal Register which will provide instructions for re-registering for Temporary Protected Status benefits and applying for the renewal of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Venezuelans who are currently eligible for TPS under the existing designation, but who may not have been able to apply for benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should file their applications prior to the September 9, 2022, application deadline.

This includes Venezuelans covered under the January 2021 grant of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) which is set to expire July 20, 2022.

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