Articles Posted in Biden administration

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We begin the start of a new week with more unpleasant COVID-19 related delays. If you planned to attend an immigration hearing before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), you may find yourself out of luck.

The EOIR recently announced that beginning January 10, 2022, the agency has postponed non-detained, non-represented case hearings due to the surge in Omicron variant cases nationwide.

Individuals in immigration proceedings should be sure to maintain updated contact information with their immigration court to ensure they receive the latest news regarding the status of their immigration hearings.


Which hearings have been postponed by the court?


According to new information released by the EOIR regarding the latest status of hearings, the following types of cases have been postponed, while others are proceeding as scheduled.


Postponed/Rescheduled

  • Non-detained cases without a lawyer or other representative of record

Proceeding as Scheduled

  • Detained cases, including bond requests and custody redeterminations
  • Non-detained cases with a lawyer or other representative of record
  • Non-detained cases without a lawyer or other representative of record who wish to proceed
  • Cases of individuals outside the U.S. who are enrolled in the Migrant Protection Protocols
  • Non-detained individuals without a lawyer or other representative of record should not appear for any hearing scheduled through January 31, 2022.

Will I receive a notice of postponement from the Court?


The EOIR will mail notices to all parties affected by these postponements, however some parties will not receive the mailed notice of postponement or rescheduling in advance of hearings scheduled before January 15, 2022.


Where can I find more information about postponed hearings?


If you have questions or are uncertain whether your hearing has been postponed, please check the Automated Court Information System online or at 800-898-7180 (TDD: 800-828-1120) or call the immigration court handling your case.

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While the global Coronavirus pandemic rages on, the government is taking careful steps to manage the ongoing health crisis while also opening the country to fully vaccinated international travelers.

Last week, President Biden made the decision to rescind Presidential Proclamation 10315, an order that previously suspended and restricted the entry of foreign nationals, who were physically present within any of the following countries, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States:

  • Republic of Botswana
  • Kingdom of Eswatini
  • Kingdom of Lesotho
  • Republic of Malawi
  • Republic of Mozambique
  • Republic of Namibia
  • Republic of South Africa, and
  • Republic of Zimbabwe

Accordingly, as of December 31, 2021, Proclamation 10315 has been officially rescinded.


Background


President Biden had previously issued Proclamation 10315 to guard against the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United States. Our readers may recall that on November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) first reported the emergence of Omicron as a variant of concern. Thereafter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that the government restrict the entry of foreign nationals from regions where the variant had been reported. The above countries were identified as regions where the variant was spreading, and the government swiftly issued the Proclamation temporarily barring such travelers from entering.

According to the Biden administration, the government has now learned more about the Omicron variant and has taken appropriate mitigation efforts to combat its spread. The CDC has recommended that the government lift the travel restrictions previously imposed by Order 10315, because scientists have determined that vaccination against COVID-19 provides adequate protection against the new variant.

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It’s the start of a brand-new year! On behalf of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we would like to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year. It has been a challenging time in the world of immigration law but we at the Law Office are proud to help you navigate the new normal.

In this blog post we share with you a new proposed rule that has been published in the Federal Register. The new rule seeks to raise certain nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, fees for the Border Crossing Card for Mexican Citizens age 15 and over, and fees to waive the two-year residency requirement (J waiver).


What is this all about?


On December 29, 2021, the Department of State released a new rule proposing the adjustment of various fees for Consular Services.


Non-Petition Based NIVs to Increase to $245 USD for B1/B2, F, M, J, C, D, I, and BCC applicants


Among the proposed fee changes is an increase of “non-petition” based NIV fees from $160 USD to $245 USD per application.

This change would impact a variety of nonimmigrant visas, such as:

  • those for business and tourist travel (B1/B2);
  • students and exchange visitors (F, M, and J);
  • crew and transit visas (C and D);
  • representatives of foreign media (I), and
  • other country-specific visa classes, as well as BCCs for applicants age 15 or older who are citizens of and resident in Mexico.

According to the Department of State, “non-petition” means visas that do not require separate requests known as “petitions” to be adjudicated prior to the visa application to establish that the individual meets certain qualifying criteria for the relevant status ( e.g. , that the beneficiary of the petition has the relevant familial relationship to the petitioner). Non-petition based NIVs make up nearly 90 percent of all NIV workload.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we share with you an exciting new update from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that will provide relief to those who have received a Request for Evidence, Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), or such similar request.


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 and such related requests.

Today, Thursday December 30, 2021, USCIS made the announcement stating it will continue to give 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 March 26, 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 March 26, 2022 can take advantage of the additional 60 calendar 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; 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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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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We have very exciting news for nonimmigrant visa applicants. Today, December 23rd, the Department of State announced that the agency has granted Consular officers the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants, provided such applicants have a petition approved by USCIS.  This new discretionary power will apply to temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.


Interview Waiver Policy for Certain Nonimmigrant Workers


Pursuant to this new policy, Consular officers now have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided that they have no ineligibility issues and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

Interview Waiver Policy for Certain F, M, and academic J visa applicants


At the same time, the Secretary of State has extended a previously approved policy designed to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022.

To be eligible for the interview waiver as citizens or nationals of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, applicants must (1) have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via ESTA and (2) must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.

Additionally, just like the policy applied to certain non-immigrant workers, Consular officers will also have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants that are (1) citizens or nationals of a country that participates in VWP and (2) that have previously traveled to the United States via an ESTA authorization, and that have not had any visa ineligibility issues in the past

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The bad news continues for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program. As our readers will know, the EB-5 Regional Center program has been in a period of lapse following Congressional failure to reauthorize the program after its expiration at midnight on June 30, 2021. Such reauthorization was expected to be included in the government’s appropriations funding bills, but no such action has yet taken place to extend the program.

In a glimmer of hope, on December 3, 2021, President Biden signed H.R. 6119 into law, “Further Extending Government Funding Act” which includes a short-term continuing resolution that funds the federal government through February 18, 2022. EB-5 Regional Center legislation extending the program is expected to be included in future appropriation bills.

With its hands tied on the matter, on October 4, 2021, USCIS updated its website to indicate that it would not be accepting new I-526 petitions based on a regional center investment, but would be placing all pending I-526 petitions based on the Regional Center program in “abeyance,” (a temporary hold), as well as placing all pending I-485 green card applications based on a Regional Center investment on hold at least through the end of 2021, pending further action from Congress. No acting is being taken on applications placed on hold.

I-829 Petitions filed by conditional permanent residents under the Regional Center program remain unaffected. USCIS has confirmed that such applications are being accepted and processed by the agency.

Acting upon the government lapse, for its part, the Department of State has stopped processing immigrant visa applications for EB-5 Program applicants altogether.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some breaking news. On Tuesday, December 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its international travel guidance to require all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States starting today, Monday, December 6, 2021.

The CDC has also published a new webpage that summarizes the international travel requirements and recommendations for U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and Immigrants. Another webpage also provides information for non-U.S. Citizens, non-U.S. immigrants traveling by air to the United States.


International Air Travel Guidance for non-U.S. Citizens and non-U.S. immigrants


Starting today, Monday December 6, 2021, all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States.

Additionally, non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants (those who are not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States by plane. Only limited exceptions apply.

Travelers are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 when traveling to the United States by air.

Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth are also required in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) traveling into, within, or out of the United States and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports).


What if I am not fully vaccinated?


Non-citizens who are nonimmigrants and seeking to enter the United States by air are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States from a foreign country.

If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will NOT be allowed to board a flight to the United States, unless you meet the limited criteria for an exception under the Proclamation and CDC’s Order.

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Did you participate in the H-1B electronic registration for Fiscal Year 2022? If so, we have some exciting news for you.

In this post we share with you some exciting news for individuals who submitted H-1B registrations for the fiscal year 2022 H-1B cap. On Friday, November 19, 2021, USCIS issued a news alert informing the public that they have selected additional H-1B registrations to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption to reach the mandated cap for the H-1B program.

As our readers may recall, USCIS conducted a second lottery on July 28, 2021, making this the third lottery conducted to meet the Congressionally mandated FY 2022 cap.

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We are happy to deliver some amazing news for H-4, E, and L dependent spouses! On November 12, 2021, following a settlement agreement known as Shergill v. Mayorkas, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new Policy Memorandum (Policy Alert PA-2021-25) outlining that the agency will automatically allow for employment authorization for dependent E, L, and certain H-4 spouses of principal visa holders, without requiring spouses to file I-765 application for employment authorization to be eligible to work in the United States.

The new Policy Memorandum also rescinds the agency’s previous 2002 Memorandum which did not allow dependent spouses in E, L and certain H-4 visa holders to automatically qualify for work authorization in the United States.

Following this new settlement, E, L, and certain H-4 spouses will be able to work just by having their valid visas, and they will not need to file any separate applications nor need an employment authorization card (work permit) to lawfully work in the United States.

While some doubt initially arose regarding whether E dependent spouses would qualify for automatic employment authorization, USCIS has now explicitly confirmed that it will indeed consider E and L dependent spouses to be employment authorized incident to their valid E or L nonimmigrant status.

The new November 12, 2021, Policy Memorandum outlines the following:

  • Certain H-4, E, or L dependent spouses to qualify for an automatic extension of their existing employment authorization and accompanying employment authorization document (EAD) if they properly filed an application to renew their H-4, E or L-based EAD before the document expires and they have an unexpired Form I-94 evidencing their status as an H-4, E, or L nonimmigrant;
  • The automatic extension of the EAD will continue until the earlier of: end date on Form I-94 evidencing valid status the approval or denial of the EAD renewal application, or 180 days from the date of expiration of the prior EAD document; Form I-94, evidencing unexpired nonimmigrant status (H-4, E or L), Form I797C receipt for a timely – filed EAD renewal application stating “Class requested as “(a)(17),” “(a)(18) or ((c)(26)”, and the facially expired EAD issued under the same category);

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