Articles Posted in Bona fide marriage

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Are you a Cuban national with a pending immigrant visa application? If so, we have some great news for you.

The Department of State today announced that the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba will now be responsible for scheduling all immediate relative immigrant visa appointments, including those of spouses and children under 21 of U.S. citizens (IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2), with interviews beginning in July 2022.

Previously, the Department of State announced that Havana would be scheduling interviews for applicants in the IR-5 category (parent of a U.S. Citizen) that began their processing there in May 2022.  While the government is working to expand services to reduce the ongoing backlogs, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana will continue to remain the primary processing location for all other Cuban immigrant visa applicants (IR/CR-1, IR/CR-2 and IR-5).


Documentarily Qualified Notifications on or after June 8th – U.S. Embassy Havana


IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2 applicants who were notified on or after June 8, 2022 that their case is ready to be processed will have their interview scheduled at the U.S. Embassy Havana, not the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, beginning in July.


Documentarily Qualified Notifications before June 8th – U.S. Embassy Georgetown


IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2 applicants who were notified prior to June 8, 2022 that their case was ready to be processed will be interviewed at the U.S. Embassy Georgetown, also beginning in July.

The Department of State has said that neither the U.S. Embassy in Havana nor the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown will be able to assist with requests to transfer cases due to resource constraints.

The government will continue to evaluate, further expansion of visa processing in Havana depending on resources and country conditions.

Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Havana will continue to offer services for American Citizens and limited emergency nonimmigrant visa processing. For further information please review the embassy’s website for updates at https://cu.usembassy.gov/consular-services-available-at-u-s-embassy-havana/.

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We are happy to start this week with interesting new developments in the world of immigration law.

As some of our readers may be aware, all green card applicants filing Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, are given the opportunity to file the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, along with their green card application (or separately at a later time), in order to receive what has been commonly referred to as an employment authorization document (EAD) and advance parole (AP) “combo” card.

With this “combo” card, green card applicants have engaged in lawful employment inside of the United States, and cards with the notation ‘Serves as I-512 Advance Parole’ have been used to re-enter the U.S. after temporary foreign travel.

That is all about to change. USCIS has announced that in an effort to drastically reduce the processing times associated with EAD and AP documents, the agency will now be discontinuing its policy of issuing the “combo” card.

Going forward, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be separating the issuance of the employment authorization document (EAD card) and advance parole (AP) document. This means that green card applicants that file the Forms I-765 and I-131 together with their green card (or at a later time) can expect to receive two separate documents in the mail, instead of one single combo card.

EADs that do not have the notation ‘Serves as I-512 Advance Parole,’ can only be used for employment purposes. Green card applicants wishing to return to the U.S. after temporary foreign travel must have a valid Advance Parole document. Applicants should not engage in international travel without such document.


Substantial Backlogs


USCIS has made this change to help alleviate the substantial processing times of EAD and AP documents during the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, these delays have caused employment interruptions for thousands of applicants who have had to wait many months for these applications to be approved.

Presently, the Nebraska Service Center is currently reporting processing times of between 11.5 to 13.5 months for an EAD to be issued based on a pending adjustment of status application. While the California Service Center is currently reporting a wait period of between 20 months to 21.5 months.

This lengthy waiting period has prompted USCIS to take action to separate issuance of the EAD and AP, in what will hopefully result in faster processing times.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you some recent news regarding a new class action lawsuit that has been filed by 49 plaintiffs against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), seeking relief from the extreme processing delays currently taking place for I-765 applications for employment authorization (EADs) filed by individuals seeking adjustment of status (AOS) in the United States, and for I-765 applications filed by E-2 dependent spouses with USCIS.

Currently, USCIS reports that I-765 work permit applications based on a pending I-485 adjustment of status application are taking between 20 to 21.5 months to process at the California Service Center; while it is taking 9 to 9.5 months to process work permit applications at the National Benefits Center; and 9.5 to 10.5 months to process such applications at the Nebraska Service Center.

The new legal challenge against the government has been mounted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP, Joseph and Hall PC, Kuck Baxter Immigration LLC, and Siskind Susser PC.

The lawsuit seeks to hold the government accountable once and for all for the exorbitant processing times taking place for work permit applications to be adjudicated, especially those at the California Service Center. Under the law, applicants for adjustment of status are afforded the option of applying for temporary employment authorization while their green card applications are pending with USCIS, through what is supposed to be an easy procedure that involves filing a simple I-765 application for employment authorization. In normal circumstances, such employment authorization applications took on average 7 to 9 months to be adjudicated. Since the onset of the pandemic however USCIS has not been able to adjudicate these applications within reasonable timeframes.

Processing times have gotten worse and worse to the point that applicants are receiving their green card interview appointments before even coming close to receiving an approved employment authorization document. This has resulted in applicants being unable to seek employment while waiting for their green card applications to process. This has caused great cause for concern for individuals who have a job offer lined up or who need to work to maintain their households. Further, the American economy is experiencing more and more labor shortages as they struggle to get individuals back to work. The situation at the USCIS level is making it even more difficult for American businesses to find qualified workers.

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Exciting news for green card applicants! On August 9, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new partnership with the Social Security Administration that will allow most applicants filing for adjustment of status to register lawful permanent residence, to apply for a new Social Security number or replacement Social Security card using the newly updated Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

As many of you know, a foreign national must show evidence of their identity and employment eligibility before they can lawfully work in the United States. An acceptable document showing such employment eligibility is an unrestricted Social Security card issued by the Social Security Administration.

Previously, applicants granted lawful permanent resident status were required to attend their local Social Security office and submit documentation in person in order to obtain their Social Security card.

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We have very unfortunate news regarding the implementation of the “public charge” rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on adjustment of status applicants.

In an unexpected turn of events, yesterday three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, issued a ruling in the case, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in State of New York, et al. v. DHS, et al. and Make the Road NY et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al., stating that while they agreed with a lower court’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent the government from enforcing the “public charge,” rule during the Coronavirus pandemic, the judges held that the injunction was warranted only with respect to the states that filed the lawsuit and that were able to demonstrate standing, which included the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Accordingly, the Second Circuit Court’s opinion modifies the scope of the “public charge” injunction, and only prevents DHS and USCIS from enforcing the “public charge” rule with respect to those residing in the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. The Court’s decision modifies the previous lower court decision issued by Federal Judge George Daniels on July 29th.

As you may recall that decision was made out of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and applied nationwide.

Shortly after that decision was made, DHS immediately appealed the Daniels decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which ultimately modified the scope of the injunction, preventing DHS from enforcing the public charge rule only with respect to New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, but allowing DHS and USCIS to enforce the “public charge,” rule elsewhere.

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Interviews at the San Diego Field Office

We have great news for our local readers. The USCIS San Diego Field Office is scheduled to resume interviews on July 6, 2020, with priority given to adjustment of status applications filed by doctors and front-line workers fighting to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. Under certain circumstances, USCIS will exercise its discretion to waive adjustment of status interviews on a case-by-case basis.


What will be the approach for rescheduling?

The USCIS San Diego Field Office will begin rescheduling all other interviews on a “first-in, first-out,” basis based on receipt date of filing. This will occur as soon as possible.


When will biometrics offices reopen to the public?

Application Support Centers in San Marcos in Chula Vista are scheduled to reopen to the public on July 27, we ask our readers to please be patient while they wait to be rescheduled. Those with cancelled biometrics will be automatically rescheduled and will receive a notice in the mail with a new biometrics appointment.


What about Parole in Place cases?

Parole in place applications continue to be adjudicated, however applicants should expect delays.


What about citizenship applications?

USCIS will continue to prioritize the scheduling of oath ceremonies for naturalization applicants. Those who did not appear at a scheduled oath ceremony will receive a letter by mail. As we previously reported, oath ceremonies in San Diego are being held at the Cabrillo National Monument and the City of El Cajon parking lot adjacent to the police department.

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Our readers and clients have eagerly been asking why the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reported extremely long processing times on their webpage. Others are concerned about when their field offices will reopen and reschedule their interviews. In this post we hope to provide some clarification regarding these very important issues.


Long Processing Times


As some of you may know as a result of the pandemic, USCIS has experienced a significant loss of revenue that has left the agency with no choice but to begin the process of furloughing much needed employees. The agency is no longer able to meet current workloads and has been taking drastic measures to try to cope with the current situation. CIS has requested $1.2 billion in aid from Congress to help keep the agency afloat. Among other things, CIS plans to increase filing fees this summer, and implement additional surcharges on all applications. The agency’s funding crisis has unfortunately resulted in very long processing times for those with pending applications. As many of you have noticed, the processing times listed on the CIS website vary widely depending on the service center processing the application or petition, and the relationship between the applicant and petitioner (for family-based petitions).


What accounts for the different processing times?


First, processing times vary depending on the service center that is processing your application or petition. Each service center has been specifically designated to handle specific types of immigration benefits. The type of center that will process your case depends on a number of different factors including: the type of immigration benefit you are requesting, your immigration category, and also your state of residency.

Since some types of immigration benefits are in great demand, such as permanent residency, service centers handling these types of applications generally have a heavier workload than others. Unfortunately, this means that processing times for service centers with heavier workloads will be longer than others. USCIS has tried to balance the workload by transferring some petitions to other service centers that do not have such a heavy workload. These efforts have been made to try to speed up the adjudication process.

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We have very exciting news for our readers. Yesterday, May 27th the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed that it is preparing to reopen some domestic offices and resume services to the public on or after June 4th.

As you know, on March 18th USCIS made the difficult decision to suspend in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) nationwide to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. While offices were closed, USCIS continued to provide emergency in-person services.

From the agency’s announcement it is clear that not all domestic offices will reopen to the public by June 4, but we know that at least some will begin to reopen to provide relief to those that have been waiting to attend their interviews or biometrics appointments.

USCIS will be following all state mandated precautions including reducing the number of appointments and interviews scheduled for the day, enforcing social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, and reducing waiting room occupancy. Members of the public will be required to wear masks covering their nose and mouth. Sanitizer will be provided to the public.

USCIS urges those who are feeling sick to stay home and schedule their appointments once they are feeling better. As a reminder, there is no penalty for rescheduling your appointment if you are sick.

We expect that USCIS will be scheduling far less appointments than usual to reduce the number of people in the facility at any one time. That means that appointment times will be spaced out and there will be a slight delay to reschedule everyone who has been waiting for an appointment. Please be patient and wait to receive a new appointment notice in the mail.

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On February 21, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States by a vote of 5-4 stayed the remaining statewide injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which prevented the government from enforcing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds rule also known as the “public charge” rule in the State of Illinois. A “stay” is a ruling made by a court to stop or suspend a proceeding or trial temporarily.

What this means

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the government may now enforce the “public charge” rule in the state of Illinois, while it appeals the District Court’s decision.

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In this blog post we discuss the highlights of the newly updated Policy Manual guidance released by USCIS which addresses the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule. The Final Rule and guidance is effective as of February 24, 2020 and applies to all applications and petitions postmarked on or after February 24, 2020 (except for in the State of Illinois where the Final Rule remains enjoined by court order).

These highlights are broken down by volume. Volume 2 addresses public charge grounds of inadmissibility for non-immigrants, Volume 8 discusses the public charge ground of inadmissibility in great detail, and Volume 12 discusses how the public charge rule may apply to citizenship and naturalization applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

Highlights:

Non-Immigrants Seeking Extension of Stay or Change of Status (Volume 2 Chapter 4)

This section of the policy guidance clarifies that although the public charge ground of inadmissibility does not apply to nonimmigrants seeking either an extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS) on Forms I-129 or Form I-539, these applicants are generally subject to the “public benefits condition,” unless specifically exempted by law.

What is the public benefits condition?

According to the policy manual, “the public benefits condition requires an applicant seeking EOS or COS on or after February 24, 2020 (postmarked or if applicable, submitted electronically on or after that date) to demonstrate that he or she has not received, since obtaining the nonimmigrant status he or she is seeking to extend or from which he or she seeks to change, one or more public benefits, or more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (where, for instance, receipt of two public benefits in 1 month counts as 2 months).

USCIS only considers public benefits received on or after February 24, 2020 for petitions or applications postmarked (or, if applicable, submitted electronically) on or after that date.”

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