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Articles Posted in 2015

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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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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 this blog we are answering 5 of your frequently asked questions in detail. Please remember that every case and every story is different and 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. For any further questions call our office for a free legal consultation. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office.

Q: I would like to understand if my case has any possibility of success. I am a Mexican citizen, my mother is a US Citizen. Years back she began the immigration process for me, but lost a notification due to a change of address. The whole process stopped. We both talked and would like to reinstate the process, can you please assist?

A: Thank you for your question. Did you save a copy of the case file that was mailed to CIS? It is important for an attorney to first evaluate your application to make sure you sent all necessary documentation along with your application. You will also need to provide copies of your receipt notices with your corresponding receipt numbers. It may be that you may have received a request for additional evidence. If you failed to change your address with CIS or if you failed to respond to CIS within the required timeframe you will need to reinstate your application. Our office has experience reinstating applications with CIS however the process can be time consuming. In some cases it is better to re-file to save time. If you have criminal history, have been deported, or detained these factors will have a profound impact on the success of your application. To determine the best strategy for you please contact our office.

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National Visa Center Blunders

On July 30th the National Visa Center sent out a notification confirming reports that applicants had been receiving letters or emails from the NVC on July 29, 2015. These letters and/or emails stated that applications would be terminated or that their applications were in the process of being terminated under INA 203(g) for failure to contact the NVC within a year of receiving a notification of the availability of a visa, even if the individual or their legal representative had been in contact with the NVC during the one-year period.

The NVC is taking action to resolve these issued and will send all affected applications a follow up email confirming that their applications are still in process.

Upcoming Congressional Topics on Immigration

On August 4, 2015 the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will be discussing challenges facing the federal prison system

On August 6, 2015 the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold an Executive Business meeting on the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act and Transnational Drug Trafficking

DOL Power Outage

The Department of Labor Website will be experiencing a power outage from Friday 7/31/15 to Sunday 8/2/15 with service returning on 8/2/15.

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We would like to inform our readers that on July 21, 2015 the Department of Homeland Security issued a policy memorandum which provides guidance to employers and H-1B applicants regarding when to file an amended or new H-1B petition following the case law, Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC, 26 I&N Dec. 542 (AAO 2015).

The memorandum is important because it is used to guide all determinations made by USCIS employees including adjudication procedures effective immediately.

To read the complete memorandum please click here  USCIS Policy Memorandum

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Presently, attorneys Jacob Sapochnick, Esq., Ekaterina Powell, Esq., and Yingfei Zhou, Esq. from our office are in attendance at the 2015 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference on Immigration Law taking place in Washington, DC. Together, they have had the privilege of being present for an open forum where officials from the Department of State and the National Visa Center provided valuable information in regards to modernization of PERM, improvements in visa processing at the National Visa Center, technical issues experienced at U.S. Consulates abroad, H-1B fee announcements, and more!

Technical issues experienced at U.S. Consulates worldwide

1. In regards to technical issues causing delays in visa issuance at U.S. Consulates worldwide, visa issuance is currently frozen. No visas are currently being issued at any U.S. Consulates worldwide. U.S. Consulates are rescheduling appointments for visas that were affected by the technical issues. The DOS is working to repair the hardware, however it will not be until next week when all issues will be resolved. Due to this, there will be a backlog for visa issuance and it will take longer to schedule a consular appointment for a visa.

2. If a visa applicant was affected by the technical issues at a U.S. Consulate abroad and they need to retrieve their passport urgently, they will be able to retrieve their passport, however, in doing so, applicants will forfeit the visa fees they have paid, and will be issued a 221(g) visa denial letter. If applicants are still interested in receiving a visa, they must re-apply and re-pay any visa fees. Applicants who are re-applying must note on future applications that their visa was denied due to a technical glitch. Applicants from visa waiver countries who are concerned that the visa denial will automatically result in an ESTA denial can rest assured. ESTA submissions will not be denied based on the technical glitch. DOS has responded that the technical issues will not affect future visa applications. Continue reading

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If a petitioner filed an FY16 H-1B cap petition in a timely manner for the fiscal year 2016 and has received notification from the delivery service used suggesting that there may be a delay or damage to the package, the petitioner may file a second H-1B petition.

The second H-1B petition must contain the following: a new fee payment, an explanation as to why a second petition is being filed with supporting evidence (such as the notice from the delivery service), and a request to withdraw the first petition.

If a second petition is sent without these items, it will considered a duplicate filing. USCIS would like to remind employers that it will deny or revoke petitions that are filed in the multiple or duplicate by an employer in the same fiscal year for the same H-1B employee, and they will not refund the filing fees.

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On March 4, 2015, the federal district court in the Northern District of Florida ruled in Perez v. Perez that the Department of Labor (DOL) lacks authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to issue regulations in the H-2B program. This decision vacated and permanently enjoined DOL from enforcing the 2008 H-2B regulations. DOL was forced to immediately discontinue processing applications for temporary labor certification and can no longer accept or process requests for prevailing wage determinations or applications for labor certification.

On March 5, 2015, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is also temporarily suspending their adjudication of Form I-129 H-2B Petitions for Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers as these petitions require temporary labor certifications as issued by DOL. The government is considering the options to continue processing these petitions following the March 4 court decision. USCIS will continue to adjudicate H-2B petitions on Guam if those petitions are accompanied by temporary labor certifications issued by the Guam Department of Labor.

On March 6, 2015, USCIS suspended premium processing on all H-2B petitions until further notice. USCIS will issue a refund on all petitions filed using the premium processing service that were not acted upon by the agency within the 15 calendar day period.