Articles Posted in Communicating with USCIS

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Did you know that if you fail to provide USCIS written notice of a change of address, within 10 days of moving to your new address, you may be convicted of a misdemeanor crime?  If you currently have a case pending with USCIS, and you fail to provide written notice of a change of address to USCIS, within 10 days of moving, you could face a fine of up to $200, imprisonment up to 30 days, or both if convicted. If you are an alien (non U.S. Citizen) you could also face removal from the United States for non-compliance (INA Section 266(b)).

It is extremely important for applicants to notify USCIS immediately upon moving to a new address. Filing a change of address with USCIS is easy and it’s free. Applicants may change their address online by visiting the USCIS website and completing Form AR-11 online. In order to file a change of address online, you must know the Receipt Number (appearing on the Notice of Action) associated with your application, if your application is currently pending with USCIS. A Receipt Number is also known as the case number, identifying the petition submitted. The Receipt Number typically begins with three letters and is followed by ten digits.

The first three letters of the Receipt Number indicate the USCIS service center which is processing the petition, as follows:
– EAC – Vermont Service Center;
– WAC – California Service Center;
– LIN – Nebraska Service Center; and
– SRC – Texas Service Center

If you have filed more than one petition with USCIS (as in cases of adjustment of status for spouses of U.S. Citizens) you must provide the receipt number of each petition you have filed, when submitting the change of address online. If you do not have your receipt notice or have lost it, you should contact USCIS National Customer Service Center by telephone for assistance:

Our number is: 1 (800) 375-5283
Our TTY number is: 1 (800) 767-1833

If you are outside the United States and have filed an application or petition with a USCIS Service Center, you can call 212-620-3418 to check the status of your case.

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For this blog we are answering 5 questions we have recently received through our social media platforms and our website. Please remember that every case is different and every immigration journey is unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. If you have any further questions, please call our office for a free legal consultation. We serve international clients and domestic clients in all 50 states. We thank you for your continued trust and interest in our law office.

Change of Status B-2 to F-1

Q: I need advice regarding my change of status. I am currently in the United States on a B-2 tourist visa. I have filed a change of status application to change my status to F-1 student. My B-2 duration of stay will expire today and my change of status application to F-1 student is still pending with USCIS. I informed my school that I will be postponing my classes and was notified that I need to file a new I-20 and provide some missing information. I have time to make adjustments to my application but I would like to know the steps to correct any missing information. I also wanted to know if I need to leave the United States immediately since my F-1 application is still pending. Please assist.

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It is our pleasure to introduce our legal assistant and bookkeeper, Grace Artiga. Ms. Artiga does everything from setting appointments for our clients to administrative work and recordkeeping. Additionally, Ms. Artiga assists attorneys with their case load and communicates with clients to discuss documental requirements to process their immigration cases. Helping others achieve their goals and secure their family’s future in the U.S. is what’s important for Ms. Artiga. She is fluent in Spanish.

Ms. Artiga was born in Ensenada, Baja California, and was raised in New York until the age of 15. After returning to Mexico to finish high school, Ms. Artiga relocated to San Diego, where she has been living ever since.

Since childhood, Ms. Artiga felt the need to give back to the community and has always strived to help out whenever possible. Ms. Artiga was heavily involved in extracurricular activities, such as volunteering for non-profit organizations helping animals and keeping the oceans clean. Having the opportunity to help others is what Mr. Artiga finds particular important in the immigration field. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, camping, dancing, traveling and spending time with her toddler.

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In order to alleviate the workload received by the Vermont Service Center, USCIS recently announced that some cases normally processed at the Vermont Service Center will be transferred to the California Service Center. Cases that may be affected include I-130 petitions for alien relatives and I-751 petitions to remove the conditions on permanent residence.

For cases that are transferred to the CSC, USCIS will issue applicants a receipt notice confirming the transfer of their application. The transfer notice will include the date of transfer and the new location where the application will be processed. The receipt number identifying your application will remain unchanged. There may be a slight delay in the processing time for cases that are transferred to a new location.

CIS has clarified that the filing location for I-130 and I-751 applications will remain the same and applicants should continue to follow the form instructions before filing their applications with CIS.

Applicants can check the status of their applications by navigating to the CIS website and entering their receipt number in the Case Status Online system. Applicants are also encouraged to continue to check the processing times published on the CIS website for the California Service Center or by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. If your application is outside of the normal processing time you should submit an e-Request inquiry on the CIS website or by calling the NCSC. When submitting the e-Request by telephone you must have your receipt number on hand and notify the customer service representative that your application has been transferred to a new location.

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In this blog we are answering 5 of your frequently asked questions in detail. Please remember that every case and every story is different and unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. For any further questions call our office for a free legal consultation. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office.

Q: I would like to understand if my case has any possibility of success. I am a Mexican citizen, my mother is a US Citizen. Years back she began the immigration process for me, but lost a notification due to a change of address. The whole process stopped. We both talked and would like to reinstate the process, can you please assist?

A: Thank you for your question. Did you save a copy of the case file that was mailed to CIS? It is important for an attorney to first evaluate your application to make sure you sent all necessary documentation along with your application. You will also need to provide copies of your receipt notices with your corresponding receipt numbers. It may be that you may have received a request for additional evidence. If you failed to change your address with CIS or if you failed to respond to CIS within the required timeframe you will need to reinstate your application. Our office has experience reinstating applications with CIS however the process can be time consuming. In some cases it is better to re-file to save time. If you have criminal history, have been deported, or detained these factors will have a profound impact on the success of your application. To determine the best strategy for you please contact our office.

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National Visa Center Blunders

On July 30th the National Visa Center sent out a notification confirming reports that applicants had been receiving letters or emails from the NVC on July 29, 2015. These letters and/or emails stated that applications would be terminated or that their applications were in the process of being terminated under INA 203(g) for failure to contact the NVC within a year of receiving a notification of the availability of a visa, even if the individual or their legal representative had been in contact with the NVC during the one-year period.

The NVC is taking action to resolve these issued and will send all affected applications a follow up email confirming that their applications are still in process.

Upcoming Congressional Topics on Immigration

On August 4, 2015 the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will be discussing challenges facing the federal prison system

On August 6, 2015 the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold an Executive Business meeting on the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act and Transnational Drug Trafficking

DOL Power Outage

The Department of Labor Website will be experiencing a power outage from Friday 7/31/15 to Sunday 8/2/15 with service returning on 8/2/15.

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The Department of State has issued an alert announcing that as of June 26, 2015 all visa issuing US embassies and consulates are now able to continue visa processing. Staff at US consulates and embassies were able to work over the weekend and resolve backlogs which are expected to be eliminated this week.

As you may recall between the time period of June 9, 2015 to June 19, 2014, 335,000 visas were unable to be printed due to clearance and technological issues. Of those 335,000 visas, approximately 300,000 have now been printed.

Consulates and embassies worldwide are now scheduling visa interviews and issuing non-immigrant and immigrant visas.

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What are the most challenging questions for couples at a STOKES/Fraud Interview?

By Attorney Marie Puertollano, Esq.

What happens when a US Citizen Spouse and the intending immigrant spouse fail an interview pending an application for permanent residence?

Normally couples who have failed to provide sufficient documentation to an immigration officer, for the purpose of establishing their bona fide marriage—in other words that the marriage between both parties was entered in good faith and NOT to obtain an immigration benefit—may receive an appointment for a second interview also known as the STOKES or fraud interview. In some cases however a couple may be scheduled for a STOKES or fraud interview the very first time around. There are multiple reasons a couple may be scheduled for a STOKES/fraud interview. Couples should note that the burden of proof always rests on the couple. So what happens at this fraud interview? During the STOKES/fraud interview the couple is separated in different rooms and interrogated by an immigration officer. The officer will first interrogate one of the parties in a separate room. Then, the officer will question the other party asking the same exact questions.

Fraud interviews are lengthy and very complex. Officers ask very detailed questions that are challenging even for couples who have been together for many years. Our attorneys have successfully represented couples at hundreds of fraud interviews. Here are the most challenging questions that almost all couples are unprepared to answer despite having been together for many years. It is important that if a question is unclear or if the context of the question is unclear that the party ask the immigration officer for clarification.

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Presently, attorneys Jacob Sapochnick, Esq., Ekaterina Powell, Esq., and Yingfei Zhou, Esq. from our office are in attendance at the 2015 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference on Immigration Law taking place in Washington, DC. Together, they have had the privilege of being present for an open forum where officials from the Department of State and the National Visa Center provided valuable information in regards to modernization of PERM, improvements in visa processing at the National Visa Center, technical issues experienced at U.S. Consulates abroad, H-1B fee announcements, and more!

Technical issues experienced at U.S. Consulates worldwide

1. In regards to technical issues causing delays in visa issuance at U.S. Consulates worldwide, visa issuance is currently frozen. No visas are currently being issued at any U.S. Consulates worldwide. U.S. Consulates are rescheduling appointments for visas that were affected by the technical issues. The DOS is working to repair the hardware, however it will not be until next week when all issues will be resolved. Due to this, there will be a backlog for visa issuance and it will take longer to schedule a consular appointment for a visa.

2. If a visa applicant was affected by the technical issues at a U.S. Consulate abroad and they need to retrieve their passport urgently, they will be able to retrieve their passport, however, in doing so, applicants will forfeit the visa fees they have paid, and will be issued a 221(g) visa denial letter. If applicants are still interested in receiving a visa, they must re-apply and re-pay any visa fees. Applicants who are re-applying must note on future applications that their visa was denied due to a technical glitch. Applicants from visa waiver countries who are concerned that the visa denial will automatically result in an ESTA denial can rest assured. ESTA submissions will not be denied based on the technical glitch. DOS has responded that the technical issues will not affect future visa applications. Continue reading

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You have Questions, We have your Answers. Here are answers to 6 of our Frequently Asked Questions

In this blog we are answering 6 of your frequently asked questions in detail. Please remember that every case and every story is different and unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance on your immigration journey. For any further questions please visit our website or call our office for a free legal consultation. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office.

Q: I have my green card and I can file for citizenship in the near future but my marriage is not working and I am trying to figure out my options.

A: The first question our office would have for you is whether you have a conditional 2 year green card or a 10 year green card? If you have a conditional 2 year green card you must apply for the I-751 removal of conditions application in order to receive the 10 year green card. It is possible to file the I-751 application for removal of conditions, even if you are now separated and in the process of dissolving the marriage or if you are legally divorced. This is called seeking a waiver of the joint filing requirement for the I-751 removal of conditions application or what is typically referred to as the I-751 waiver. In order to do so, you will need to indicate on the I-751 Removal of Conditions Application that you are seeking a waiver of the joint filing requirement. To file for an I-751 Waiver you must be presently separated and in the process of dissolving your marriage or already be legally divorced. Filing for a waiver of the I-751 is very detail-oriented and a very time consuming process, given that the applicant needs to prepare a detailed personal statement providing a detailed timeline of the relationship from beginning to end, as well as detailed information regarding why the marriage broke down and the applicant’s plans for the future. In addition, the applicant must be prepared to provide documented evidence that the marriage was entered into in good faith and the relationship and marriage was bona fide. You should definitely seek the help of an accredited legal representative to assist you in order for your application to be successful.

If you already have the 10 year green card, you cannot apply for citizenship until at least 5 years have passed from the date of becoming a permanent resident. If you have any arrests or other criminal history you must consult with an attorney or accredited legal representative. We would be happy to assist.

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