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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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In this blog post we answer your frequently asked questions regarding the public charge rule.

Overview:

On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security first published the final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” which dramatically changes the way in which an individual is determined to be a “public charge.” Although five separate courts issued injunctions to stop the government from implementing the final rule, on January 27, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of the Trump administration, allowing the government to implement the public charge rule, except in the state of Illinois where a state-wide injunction remains in place.

The new regulations will make it more difficult for certain adjustment of status and immigrant visa applicants to prove that they are not likely to become a public charge to the United States government.

The following frequently asked questions have been prepared to better inform our readers and address concerns regarding the effect of the public charge rule.

Q: When will the public charge rule take effect?

A: Shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, USCIS formally announced on its website that the public charge rule will affect all applications for adjustment of status (green card applications) postmarked on or after February 24, 2020 (except in the state of Illinois, where the rule remains enjoined by a federal court).

Q: Who does the public charge rule apply to?

A: In general, all applicants for admission to the United States are subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility under INA § 212(a)(4) unless specifically exempted.

The following non-citizens are affected by the public charge rule:

  • Applicants for adjustment of status in the United States
  • Applicants for an immigrant visa abroad
  • Applicants for a nonimmigrant visa abroad
  • Applicants for admission at the U.S. border who have been granted an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, and
  • Nonimmigrants applying for an extension or change of status within the United States (new policy under the final rule).

Applicants seeking lawful permanent resident status (applicants for adjustment of status) based on a family relationship are most affected by the public charge rule.

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In this post, we would like to provide our readers with an important update released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with respect to the public charge rule.

Given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of the government, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that they will begin implementing the “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule on February 24, 2020, EXCEPT for in the State of Illinois, where the rule remains enjoined for the time being by a federal court.

That means that EXCEPT for in the State of Illinois, USCIS will begin to apply the Final Rule to applications and petitions postmarked (or submitted electronically) on or after February 24, 2020.

The postmark date for all applications and petitions sent by commercial courier (UPS/FedEx/DHL) is the date reflected on the courier receipt.

The public charge rule will NOT apply to applications or petitions postmarked before February 24, 2020 and petitions that remain pending with USCIS.

Prepare for Changes: USCIS to update all Adjustment of Status Forms

USCIS has announced that the agency will be updating all forms associated with the filing of adjustment of status, its policy manual, and will be providing updated submission instructions on its website this week to give applicants and their legal representatives enough time to review filing procedures and changes that will apply to all applications for adjustment of status postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

Failure to submit forms with the correct edition dates and/or abide by the new filing procedures will result in the rejection of an application or petition.

The Final Rule provides that adjustment of status applicants subject to the public charge grounds of inadmissibility will be required to file Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency along with Form I-485, as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination to demonstrate they are not likely to become a public charge. Therefore, we expect USCIS to provide instructions regarding the submission of Form I-944 with adjustment of status applications.

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The Trump administration’s controversial rule making certain foreign nationals inadmissible to receive permanent residence on public charge grounds, will become effective beginning October 15, 2019.

First, and foremost let’s recap what this rule is about and who it will apply to:

Under immigration law, an individual who, in the opinion of DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge is (1) ineligible for a visa (2) ineligible for admission to the United States and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status (permanent residence).

This means that the rule applies to foreign nationals applying for a U.S. visa, foreign nationals seeking admission through a port of entry, and individuals applying for adjustment of status.

When an individual applies for any immigration benefit with the government, (whether a U.S. visa or green card application), the official adjudicating the petition must determine whether that individual is or will likely become a public charge. This determination is referred to as a “public charge determination.”

What makes someone a public charge in the eyes of immigration?

A person is a “public charge” if they are primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense.

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Immigration Raids Cancelled for Two Weeks

In a new turn of events, President Trump announced on Saturday, June 22, 2019, that he would delay the immigration raids that were set to begin on June 23, 2019, for a period of two weeks to give Congress more time to make changes to existing asylum law.

On the eve of the immigration raids, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi brokered a deal in which she asked the President to cancel the planned immigration raids. On Saturday the President tweeted that at the request of the Democrats, the raids would be pushed back for two weeks giving both parties time to roll out proposals regarding immigration reform.

For the time being the immigration raids will not be going forward as originally planned.

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Digitized FOIA System

USCIS has announced that its FOIA System is now digitized. Users will now be able to submit, track, and receive FOIA requests digitally. This is great news because this option will speed up the process of requesting a FOIA and also speed up the form of delivery. Previously, applicants were required to submit a request by mail and would receive the results of the FOIA request by mail in compact disc form. Now, applicants will be able to access their documents digitally.

Applicants will simply need to create a USCIS online account to take advantage of this new and improved system.

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