Articles Posted in America

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we continue to share with our readers some important new updates regarding travel to the United States for Americans with expired passports currently overseas.

Our readers may remember in May of 2021, the State Department announced a policy that would enable stranded U.S. Citizens stuck overseas, to use their expired passports to make a direct return to the United States, provided their passports expired on or after January 1, 2020. The policy was to be in effect until December 31, 2021.

This temporary form of relief was granted in response to the extensive waiting period to renew a U.S. passport from outside the United States. Unlike Americans inside the United States, those abroad are required to apply for passport renewal in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Due to the limited operational capacity of U.S. Embassies and Consulates during the global pandemic, many Americans were finding themselves stranded abroad.

On December 21, 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Carrier Liaison Program issued a press release informing U.S. Citizens that the State Department is extending this policy through March 31, 2022.


What criteria do I need to meet to use my expired passport for direct travel to the United States from overseas?


If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may now use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until March 31, 2022.

You qualify for this exception if all the following are true:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
  • You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit (“connecting flights”) through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
  • Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
  • Your expired passport is undamaged.
  • Your expired passport is unaltered.
  • Your expired passport is in your possession.

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A new House reconciliation bill adds new language that could open a path to permanent residency for highly skilled immigrants without waiting for their priority date to become current.

The new bill, known as H.R. 5376 “the Build Back Better Act,” is the latest initiative backed by the Biden administration to strengthen the middle class and enhance economic ingenuity.  Interestingly, the bill provides a framework that would improve and reform our immigration system with particular benefits for highly skilled immigrants.

If passed section 60003 of the reconciliation bill would exempt an alien (and the spouse and children of such alien) from the numerical limitations described in the employment-based immigration section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and allow the alien and any follow-to-join dependents to adjust their status to permanent residence provided such alien submits or has submitted an application for adjustment of status and . . . is the beneficiary of an approved petition . . . that bears a priority date that is more than 2 years before the date the alien requests a waiver of the numerical limitations; and pays a supplemental fee of $5,000.” (Emphasis added.)

If passed these legislative measures would be extremely beneficial to highly skilled workers because it would allow employees in the visa backlogs to file for adjustment of status without waiting for a priority date to become available. Following this proposal, once a labor certification application would be approved by the Department of Labor, an employee could be eligible to file his or her I-485 adjustment of status application concurrently with his or her I-140 petition for alien worker and apply for temporary work authorization while the applications would remain pending with USCIS.

The House reconciliation bill would also allow family-based immigrants inside the United States to gain permanent residence outside the numerical limits if their priority date is “more than 2 years before” and the individual pays a $2,500 supplement fee. EB-5 category (immigrant investor) applicants would need to pony up a $50,000 supplement fee. The provisions to pay a supplemental fee to receive a green card outside the numerical limits would expire on September 30, 2031.

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You have all heard the news. A new House bill has been introduced that if passed would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States without legal status. But what exactly does the bill include? In this blog post we share with you the highlights of the America’s Children Act of 2021 also known as H.R. 4331.


Bill Highlights


Among the highlights of America’s Children Act of 2021 the bill:

  • Provides a pathway to permanent residency for individuals who were brought to the United States at a young age, TPS recipients, individuals under DED status, and essential workers, who have maintained continuous physical presence in the United States since their entry, and/or have graduated from an institution of higher education;
  • Establishes protections for Diversity Visa lottery winners who could not come to the United States from 2017 to present due to COVID-19 related delays;
  • Creates special provisions to recapture unused visas and provides a waiver of numerical limitations for beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions currently waiting for their priority dates to become current

Who would benefit?


The main section of the bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for people in DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status and also people who may not have qualified for DACA. Individuals in Temporary Protected Status and those who received Deferred Enforced Departure would also be eligible. Qualifications differ among these groups and many more changes are expected however the key provisions have been mentioned above. To obtain permanent residence, individuals cannot be disqualified based on grounds of ineligibility and must complete “security and law enforcement background checks” and a medical examination.


Pathway to Citizenship for Dreamers


Under the committee print released by the House Judiciary Committee, certain aliens would be eligible to adjust their status to permanent residence within the United States, by paying a supplemental fee of $1,500 and passing criminal checks. To be eligible, an alien would have to show that he or she:

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Welcome back to Visalawerblog! It is another exciting week in the world of immigration. In this blog post, we talk about a new Presidential Proclamation signed on May 14, 2021, by President Biden entitled, “A Proclamation on Revoking Proclamation 9945,” designed to revoke a previously issued Trump era proclamation.


Proclamation 9945


As our readers may recall, back on October 4, 2019, then President Donald Trump passed Proclamation 9945, with the goal of suspending the entry of immigrants found to be a financial burden on the United States health care system. Proclamation 9945 went into effect on November 3, 2019, and required immigrant visa applicants to show to the satisfaction of a Consular officer, that either:

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With the 2020 elections quickly approaching and much at stake in the world of immigration, we remind you of the upcoming events relating to the presidential election, where you can register to vote and secure a mail in ballot, and of who is eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

Who Can Vote in the U.S. Presidential Election?

You are eligible to vote in U.S. Federal Elections if you are a United States Citizen, regardless of the manner in which you obtained citizenship. U.S. Citizen’s must meet their state’s residency requirements, be 18 years of age on or before election day and register to vote by your state’s deadline. If you are not yet registered to vote, please do so as soon as possible. Voting is one of the most important ways that Americans can participate in our democracy and protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

As a reminder, lawful permanent residents cannot vote in federal elections. Only United States citizens may do so.

For information on your state’s registration requirements please click here.


Criminal Issues May Impact Your Right to Vote

In some states, you may not be able to vote if you have certain felony convictions. If you have questions about whether you may vote in your state, contact your state county election officials where you wish to register to vote.


How Can You Vote?

You may vote either (1) in person at your designated polling place on election day (2) you may vote early in person at your designated early polling place, or (3) you may request a mail-in/absentee ballot if available and vote by mail.

To find your polling place click here.

For information on how to request a mail-in absentee ballot click here.

For information on how to check your registration status click here.

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Today is a historic day for Dreamers from all walks of life. By a vote of 5-4, Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer rallied together in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, finding that the Trump administration’s 2017 efforts to dismantle the DACA program were improper. This means that the DACA program will remain in place at least for the foreseeable future. DACA was first created by executive order under former President Barack Obama eight years ago, in response to Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform shielding undocumented young adults from deportation.

The creation of the DACA program prompted fury from Republicans who felt former President Obama was side-stepping Congress to create laws of his own. Perhaps the most infuriated of these Republicans was then Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who promised voters he would dismantle the “illegal,” DACA program once and for all. While in office, President Trump nominated two conservative Justices to the Supreme Court to help him do just that, shifting the composition of the Supreme Court to a conservative one.

Today’s ruling is a stunning rebuke to the President’s agenda and hopes for re-election given that the dismantling of the DACA program has been a lynchpin of his campaign. Although the majority of conservatives on the Court favored dismantling the DACA program, Chief Justice Roberts put the debate to rest siding with the liberals on the court to leave the DACA program in place.

After the decision, President Trump immediately took to twitter condemning the ruling stating, “The recent Supreme Court decisions, not only on DACA, Sanctuary Cities, Censes, and others, tell you one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court…the DACA decision, while a highly political one, and seemingly not based on the law, gives the President of the United States far more power than ever anticipated…VOTE 2020!” What Trump failed to mention is that these rulings were handed down by a conservative court of his own making.

In their ruling, the five Justices stated that the Trump administration failed to provide an adequate reason to justify ending the DACA program. Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority stated, “we do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound polices. The wisdom of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” In addition, the five justices found that the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to adequately address important factors bearing on the administration’s decision to rescind the program.

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On September 28, 2016 the Obama Administration published the presidential determination for refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017. For the upcoming fiscal year, the Department of State will authorize admission of up to 110,000 refugees in accordance with section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act 8 U.S.C. 1157. The numbers of available refugee admissions will be allocated on a regional basis to the following countries: Africa, East Asia, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Near East, and South Asia. The president stated in his memorandum that the number of refugee admissions has increased from previous years, due to national interest concerns and the need of humanitarian relief in these regions. Numbers are specifically allocated to refugees of special humanitarian concern to the United States. Fourteen-thousand of the one-hundred ten thousand refugee admissions will go toward an ‘unallocated reserve’ authorizing Congress to distribute unallocated admission numbers to regions where the need is necessary based upon humanitarian concerns. Any unused refugee admission numbers may be transferred between regions, if there is increased need for admission in that region or region(s).

The numbers for refugee admission by region are as follows:

Africa ……………………………………………………. 35,000

East Asia…………………………………………………. 12,000

Europe and Central………………………………………. 4,000

Latin America and the Caribbean …………………………5,000

Near East and South Asia…………………………………40,000

Unallocated reserve………………………………………. 14,000

In accordance with 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42) Congress is authorized to grant refugee admissions to the following persons, based on their country of nationality or habitual residence. Such persons are not subject to a numerical limit in order to qualify for refugee admission to the United States: persons in Cuba, Eurasia, the Baltics, Iraq, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and persons identified by a United States Embassy in exceptional circumstances.

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This morning, President Obama announced his nominee to fill the vacant seat of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Contrary to what was believed, President Obama chose the most experienced and respected nominee among his top contenders, as opposed to the most progressive choice. The final decision came down to Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Merrick B. Garland. The President’s choice reflects political concerns to seat a Justice in time for oral arguments to begin in the case, United States v. Texas, a case that challenges the President’s modified Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. In the coming weeks, Judge Garland will need to face the Republicans in the Senate, who have vowed to block him from sitting on the Supreme Court. In order to be confirmed, he must receive votes from Republicans in the Senate.  It is expected that Republicans will vote in Garland’s favor since he is not inclined to take leading positions on ideological questions such as DACA/DAPA. If appointed, Garland is unlikely to take a progressive approach on the bench. Throughout his career, Garland has taken a centrist or neutral view of the law. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for United States v. Texas in April. For more on DACA/DAPA please click here.

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In this photo taken May 1, 2008, Judge Merrick B. Garland is seen at the federal courthouse in Washington, Thursday, May 1, 2008. Garland has been in this position before. The last time a seat opened up on the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2010, he was widely considered a top candidate for the job and interviewed with President Barack Obama. But the slot ultimately went to Justice Elena Kagan. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Chief Judge Garland was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals in April 1997 and became Chief Judge on February 12, 2013. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1974 and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1977. Following graduation, he served as law clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. From 1979 to 1981, he was Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. He then joined the law firm of Arnold & Porter, where he was a partner from 1985 to 1989 and from 1992 to 1993. He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1989 to 1992, and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1993 to 1994. From 1994 until his appointment as U.S. Circuit Judge, he served as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, where his responsibilities included supervising the Oklahoma City bombing and UNABOM prosecutions.

The Obama administration may announce its choice for the Supreme Court nomination as early as this week. We have learned that there are three contenders being considered for the Supreme Court nomination. All three candidates serve as judges for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and are well respected by both parties. They include Sri Srinivasan, Merrick Garland, and Paul Watford, who is rumored to be at the top of the President’s list. The Supreme Court nominee will be required to face a Republican Senate, in order to be formally appointed to the Supreme Court. Senate Republicans have already warned the White House that they will not hold hearings for any Supreme Court nominee suggested by President Barack Obama. As soon as Republicans heard of the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, they urged caution from the White House. Senate Republicans anticipate that the next President of the United States will be the party’s Presidential nominee. It is for this reason that they claim that the Supreme Court nomination should be made by the next President of the United States, and not by Barack Obama. In a televised announcement, following the death of Antonin Scalia, President Obama made it very clear that his intentions were to choose the Supreme Court nomination, despite warnings from Republicans. Senate Republicans responded by stating that they would block any of the President’s advancements.

President Obama will need to choose a Justice that will have a tendency to vote liberally in order for his expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program to survive. The expanded DACA and new DAPA program were introduced in November 2014 as part of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. These programs have been temporarily suspended following a federal court order filed by Texas and other states. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case, United States v. Texas, this April with a final ruling made by summer time.

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Last week, we reported to our readers that on September 25th the Department of State and USCIS re-issued the October Visa Bulletin and changed the date of filing chart drastically, rolling back the ‘Dates of Filing’ for heavily used visa categories, including employment based and family-sponsored petitions. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, along with policymakers, and immigration advocates, are urging Congress, the White House, USCIS, and Department of State to restore the initial dates of filing that were authorized and released on September 9th 2015 with the October Visa Bulletin.

If you would like to pressure the government to honor the initial dates of filing, released on September 9th, we invite you to sign the White House petition by clicking here. We must hold the government accountable for their actions by advocating for the restoration of the initial dates of filing. With the release of the October Visa Bulletin, the DOS introduced a dual chart system for the first time in history which included a new ‘date of filing’ chart. The new date of filing chart would have allowed thousands of foreign nationals to file their adjustment of status and employment authorization applications, before a visa became available to them. This action was made by the DOS in an effort to modernize and streamline our immigration system as part of President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration announced on November 20th of last year. Due to the recent drastic changes that have been made to the date of filing chart, we encourage you to become involved by signing the petition or writing to your local Congressman/Congresswoman. Thousands of foreign workers and family members of foreign nationals have been impacted by the recent changes, given that the majority of applicants who would have been eligible to file for their green card applications and employment authorization cards, will no longer be able to do so. They must continue to wait until their priority date becomes current on the date of filing chart.

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