Articles Posted in Consular Processing

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It is that time of the month again! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the February Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of February 2022.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.

Information has not yet been posted regarding the adjustment of status filing charts that should be used for green card filings. However, applicants are encouraged to monitor the USCIS webpage mentioned above within the next weeks.


February 2022 Visa Bulletin Final Action Cutoff Dates


Employment Based Categories


FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES


According to the Department of State’s February 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following final cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries, including India and China, will remain current.
  • EB-2: India will advance by nearly 6 months to January 1, 2013, and China will advance by more than 5 weeks to March 1, 2019. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India and China will remain the same as the previous months at January 15, 2012 and March 22, 2018 respectively. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-5: The Non-Regional Center program will be current for all countries, including China. The Regional Center program has expired and is listed as unavailable in the January 2022 Visa Bulletin. If reauthorized, the Regional Center program will mirror the Non-Regional Center final action dates, except China, which would be subject to a November 22, 2015, final action date.

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We are happy for you to join us today. In this blog post we share some new updates in the world of immigration law for Diversity Visa Program selectees.

The Department of State has just released important procedures for Diversity Visa Applicants selected in the 2022 DV program with cases assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul or Baghdad.

The agency is asking all such DV selectees to contact the Embassy in Kabul or Baghdad to request reassignment of their cases to another Embassy or Consulate processing immigrant visa applications abroad. Under the law, cases can be transferred to another Consular post (provided the alternate Consular post will accept them) however applicants must be physically present in the Consular district where the Embassy or Consulate is located at the time of their interview, and have permission to remain in the country by the host government for a period sufficient to complete the processing of their visa application.

Applicants may wish to contact a Congressman for assistance with the transfer of their case. Applicants should also be aware that they should first contact the alternate Embassy to confirm whether their case can be processed there. Each Consular post may have their own rules and regulations governing the DV application process.


What is the procedure for my case to be reassigned?


Under new guidance released by the Department of State, DV 2022 selectees can request reassignment by emailing KCC (Kentucky Consular Center) at KCCDV@state.gov with the subject line “Kabul/Baghdad Reassignment Request.”

To process your request, your email should include the following information:  (1)  full name, (2)  date of birth, (3) case number, and (4) the name of the embassy or consulate where you would like your case to be reassigned.  After KCC reviews your request, you will receive an email confirmation that your reassignment request was successful or, alternatively, requesting more information.  According to KCC, all emails will be reviewed in the order they are received.


When will my reassigned case be scheduled for an immigrant visa interview?


DOS guidance informs DV applicants that reassignment of their case to another embassy or consulate does not mean that it will be automatically scheduled for an immigrant visa interview.  Instead, interviews will be scheduled after the DS-260 immigrant visa application has been fully processed, your case number is current according to the Visa Bulletin, and when the reassigned embassy or consulate has an interview appointment available.

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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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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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Breaking news! The Department of State has published a final rule in the Federal Register announcing a new temporary final rule that grants consular officers flexibility to waive the personal appearance of certain “replacement” immigrant visa applicants who were approved for an immigrant visa in the same classification and on the same basis as the current application on or after August 4, 2019.

Under this new policy, consular officers will have the discretion to allow this subset of immigrant visa applicants to affirm the accuracy of the contents of their DS-260 application without appearing for an in-person interview before a consular officer. The temporary final rule is effective immediately and will expire after 24 months on December 13, 2023.


Who does the new temporary rule apply to?


This temporary final rule for a discretionary waiver of personal appearance and interview applies to immigrant visa applicants who were issued a U.S. immigrant visa on or after August 4, 2019, and meet the following additional criteria:

  • the applicant must be seeking an immigrant visa in the same classification (or another classification as the result of automatic conversion due to the death or naturalization of the petitioner of the previously issued immigrant visa)
  • the applicant seeks and remains qualified for an immigrant visa pursuant to the same approved petition as their previously approved application, and
  • they must continue to qualify for the immigrant visa sought.

Interview Waivers


Under this temporary final rule, the personal appearance and interview of certain applicants for an immigrant visa may be waived in the discretion of the consular officer, provided that the applicant is willing to affirm under penalty of perjury to the information provided on their Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, known as Form DS-260.

The consular officer may decide to either (1) communicate with the applicant by telephone or email, (2) request that the applicant provide additional information that the consular officer deems necessary, or (3) may request the applicant to appear in person.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope that you had a restful Thanksgiving holiday break with your friends and family members.

In this blog post, we share with you some unfortunate new developments relating to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic that will restrict the entry of foreign nationals from certain countries to the United States.

Just as the United States was beginning to ease restrictions on international air travel for the fully vaccinated starting November 8th, the world has once again been thrown into turmoil as a new Coronavirus variant known as “omicron” has been revealed with new cases emerging throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa, and the Netherlands.


President Biden Signs New Travel Ban Proclamation Amid Omicron Variant impacting South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi


President Biden and his Chief Medical Adviser were briefed on the unfolding situation, and on Friday, November 26, 2021, President Biden signed Presidential Proclamation, “A Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019,” that restricts the entry of non- U.S. Citizens who were physically present within the Republic of South Africa, Republic of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Republic of Namibia, Kingdom of Lesotho, Kingdom of Eswatini, the Republic of Mozambique, and Republic of Malawi, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States.

The new travel ban becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on Monday, November 29, 2021, as part of a global effort to reduce the spread of the omicron variant to the United States. The Proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 am eastern standard time on November 29th.

While no confirmed cases of the variant have yet been announced in the United States, the Chief Medical Adviser has explained that its eventual spread will be inevitable. The new travel ban indicates that the Republic of South Africa informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the new Omicron variant on November 24, 2021, and two days thereafter the WHO announced the new “Omicron” variant as a cause for concern that has been increasing in almost all provinces in the Republic of South Africa. Based on this information, and the lack of genomic sequencing throughout Southern Arica, the government has imposed the new travel restrictions from the named regions.


How long will the travel ban last?


At this time, we do not know how long the bans will remain in place, however it is very likely that they will remain until the Biden administration believes it is safe to rescind the travel bans. As has occurred with the previous COVID-19 geographic travel bans, it is highly likely that the new travel ban will remain in place until it is determined that current vaccinations approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are effective against the emerging Omicron variant. The Proclamation indicates that it will remain in effect until terminated by the President. Within 30 days, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must recommend whether the President should continue, modify, or terminate the Proclamation.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the December Visa Bulletin 2021 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of December 2021.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart December 2021


Please note that USCIS has not yet released information on its webpage regarding the appropriate filing chart to be used for family-sponsored adjustment of status filings and employment-based adjustment of status preference filings for December 2021. We recommend that applicants monitor the USCIS webpage below on a regular basis for those updates.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s November 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, also known as “Chats with Charlie,” broadcasted every month on the State Department’s YouTube channel.

This new series features a monthly Question-and-Answer session with Mr. Charles Oppenheim and a Consular officer, where they answer many of the public’s frequently asked questions and provide a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin. This discussion will provide details regarding what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of both family and employment-based preference categories on each month’s Visa Bulletin. It is with sad news that we announce that Mr. Charlie Oppenheim will soon be retiring from his position after 43 years as Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control division at the State Department. You will be greatly missed Charlie!

Be sure to subscribe to the State Department’s YouTube Channel and turn on your notifications so you do not miss any of these important updates.

Below are the highlights of the visa projections for November 2021.


DOS Q&A Session with Charlie Oppenheim: November 2021 Visa Bulletin Projections & Beyond



The Top 4 Advance Questions Sent in By Listeners


Q: Last month you said there was a 7% per country limit and seemed to defend the policy which I believe is a discriminatory rule. Why?

A: It’s a good question. I mentioned the 7% per country limit because we have been receiving numerous questions asking specifically why the India employment third preference category was not receiving more numbers, and because I felt that many listeners are not familiar with the intricacies of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The decisions which I’ve always made in the determination of the dates are based on the legally mandated guidelines in the INA, and they’re not arbitrary decisions on my part. Although Congress allows me to make discretionary decisions based on reasonable estimates which I’ve always done and typically in the applicants favor. I cannot legally make a decision once it is no longer reasonable to make estimates indicating for example that India would be entitled to using more numbers. For example, early last year I made the determination that the worldwide employment third preference number use would be insufficient to use all the numbers under the annual limit. At that point, I began advancing the India employment third preference and the China employment third preference dates at a very rapid pace. Although the employment third preference limit for fiscal 2021 was approximately 5200 numbers, the actions I took in advancing the India date allowed over 15,000 Indian employment third preference applicants to receive visas during fiscal year 2021.

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Exciting news for fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada! The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the United States will be lifting travel restrictions on nonessential travel for Canadian and Mexican nationals who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) so that they may enter the United States at land ports of entry along the United States/Canada and United States/Mexico border.

Further, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has said that the new measures have been made to align “with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November.” According to Mayorkas the United States, “will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings.” This will be a significant step in reopening the economy as “cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in [U.S.] border communities and benefits our broader economy.”

These new measures will occur in two phases over the next few months.  First, in November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin allowing fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the United States at land and ferry ports of entry for non-essential reasons. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination. Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes from Canada and Mexico into the United States via land and ferry ports of entry.

Second, beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry ports of entry – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated.


When will travel restrictions be lifted for vaccinated nonessential travelers?


The travel restrictions on nonessential travel for fully vaccinated Canadian and Mexican nationals will be lifted on November 8, 2021 – the same date that the relaxation will apply to fully vaccinated air travelers. Travelers crossing U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico for non-essential reasons will be required to present proof of vaccination to a Customs and Border Protection officer upon request. More details will be released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the coming weeks.

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