Articles Posted in AILA

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In today’s blog post, we share some interesting Question and Answer responses recently provided by the Department of State’s Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs (L/CA), in a meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The responses below provide some important insight into current immigration policies and procedures taking place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we summarize the most interesting questions covered during the January 20 meeting:


Department of State/AILA Liaison Committee Meeting


January 20, 2022 Q & A Highlights


Q: What role do Consular sections assume when determining whether an individual is exempt from the CDC COVID-19 vaccine requirement to gain entry to the U.S.?

A: Consular sections’ role in the process is to ensure that an individual’s request for a [vaccine] exception is filled out in full, and to transmit those requests to the CDC.


Q: If consular posts are involved in transmitting information in support of a humanitarian exception to CDC, what is the process, if any, for making such a request of a consular post outside the context of a visa interview?

A: Travelers should contact the consular section of the nearest embassy or consulate using the information provided on that embassies or consulate’s website


Q: What is the Department of State doing to alleviate the substantial backlogs created by the slowdown of operations at Consular posts and Embassies worldwide?

A: The Department is planning to hire foreign service officers above attrition in FY 2022. The majority will be assigned to a consular position after initial training. Additionally, the Department continues to recruit Limited Non-career Appointment (LNA) Consular Professionals. With very limited LNA hiring in FY 2020 and a pause on LNA hiring in FY 2021 due to CA’s budgetary constraints, Consular Affairs plans to hire more than 60 LNAs in FY 2022

Consular Affairs is working with State’s office of Global Talent Management to ramp up hiring in FY 2022, but many posts will not see these new officers until the second half of FY 2022 or FY 2023, particularly for officers assigned to positions requiring language training. Increased hiring will not have an immediate effect on reducing current visa wait times. Because local pandemic restrictions continue to impact a significant number of our overseas posts, extra staff alone is not sufficient to combat wait times for interviews.


Q: Can Consular Affairs please advise regarding efforts to resume routine consular services?

A: Consular sections abroad must exercise prudence given COVID’s continuing unpredictability. The emergence of the Omicron variant has prompted countries to reevaluate plans to relax travel bans, thereby leading consular sections abroad to recalibrate plans to resume services. Some posts have already fully resumed routine services. Others, in an abundance of caution and out of concern for the health of both consular staff and clientele, are slowly reintroducing some routine services.

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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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Last week our very own managing attorney Jacob Sapochnick, Esq., and associate attorney Yingfei Zhou, Esq. had the pleasure of attending the 2016 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference on Immigration Law in Las Vegas, Nevada. Together, they bring you the most up to date information on the new N-400 online filing system and new N-400 form, the new customer service tool EMMA—a computer-generated virtual assistant, information regarding delays in adjudication of H-1B extension/transfer applications and Employment Authorization applications, filing tips for H-1B extensions, updates on EB-1C Multinational Executive/Manager green cards, Employment Authorization eligibility for spouses of E-2 and L-1 visa holders, and updates on Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) Decisions.

New Naturalization Form and N-400 Online Filing System

  1. USCIS recently published a new N-400 form on 04/13/2016. Applicants may use the previous 09/13/2013 version until 08/09/2016. Any naturalization applications received on or after 08/10/2016 containing the old form with revision date 09/13/2013 will be rejected and returned to the sender.
  1. USCIS is currently testing a new N-400 online filing system. This system will be available to applicants without legal representation and will eventually become available to applicants represented by an immigration attorney.

New Customer Service Tools EMMA

  1. USCIS is introducing a new customer service tool called EMMA – a computer-generated virtual assistant who can answer your questions and even take you to the right spot on the USCIS website. EMMA is USCIS’ version of ‘Siri’ and is designed to help you navigate the USCIS website. EMMA is available in the Spanish language. So far, EMMA has managed to answer 80% of questions asked.

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