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Articles Posted in Consular Processing

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The government is yet again proposing sweeping changes to current immigration policy, this time targeting Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.

By law, petitioners seeking to immigrate their immediate relative to the United States are required to submit Form I-864 affidavit of support, to ensure to the government that the foreign national will not become a public charge once they have entered the country.

This is true regardless of whether the immigrant is applying for an immigrant visa overseas, or whether the immigrant is adjusting their status to lawful permanent resident in the United States.

The affidavit of support has recently been the subject of intense scrutiny by the Trump administration.

The President has been primarily concerned with alien’s obtaining government benefits that they are not entitled to receive and has sought to enforce a sponsor’s obligations to reimburse the government for any monies paid out to aliens.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post we will discuss a few recent updates released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


UPDATE: USCIS Extends Flexibility Policy for RFEs, NOIDs, I-290bs, and more


Due to the ongoing circumstances relating to COVID-19, USCIS will continue to provide flexibility in responding to certain deadline-oriented requests, provided the notice or decision requesting the additional evidence was issued between March 1st and July 1st.


What types of documents will USCIS provide flexibility for?


Flexibility will be provided for the following:

  • Requests for Evidence
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14)
  • Notices of Intent to Deny
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers and
  • Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion

To reiterate, flexibility will only be granted for notices or decisions with an issuance date between March 1st and July 1st. Notices issued before March 1st or after July 1st will not receive this leniency.


When can I respond to my notice or decision?


USCIS will accept responses to any of the above notices or decisions if they are received within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set in the initial request or notice.

This will provide relief to individuals who need more time to acquire necessary documents requested by USCIS from offices and agencies that are currently closed due to COVID-19.


Military Personnel and Veterans Eligible to File Form N-400 Online


USCIS recently announced that U.S. service members and veterans can now apply for naturalization on Form N-400 online.

This is an exciting new development because these applicants will not only be able to file their application and documents electronically, they can also check the status of their case and receive notices from USCIS online. In addition, USCIS will be using previously submitted biometrics where available. Where biometrics are not available, a U.S. service member stationed outside the U.S., can submit two properly completed FD-258 fingerprint cards and two passport style photos taken by the military police, officials with DHS, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Please note that aliens currently serving or who have served in the armed forces may be eligible for naturalization under special provisions of immigration law. These individuals would have their application fee waived.

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Great news has come down from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this afternoon.

Dealing a blow to the Trump administration, the court issued a majority decision denying the federal government’s motion to lift a lower court injunction that prevented the government from implementing Presidential Proclamation No. 9945, signed by the President on October 4, 2019.

The Proclamation attempted to bar certain individuals from entering the United States pursuant to an immigrant visa, unless they could demonstrate (1) that they would be covered by certain approved health insurance within 30 days of entry or (2) that they had the sufficient financial resources to cover foreseeable healthcare costs.

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We are pleased to report the introduction of a brand-new Senate bill called the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, sponsored by Senators David Perdue, Todd Young, Dick Durbin, and Chris Coons. The purpose of the bill is to increase the number of health care workers available to meet the demand of the COVID 19 pandemic.

If passed, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, would allow nurses and physicians with approved immigrant visas the ability to adjust their status, so that they can help our nation fight the coronavirus and have a durable immigration status.

As you know, there are currently thousands of nurses and doctors stuck overseas waiting in line for green cards to become available, despite a grave need for their services during this public health crisis. What’s worse is that many of these workers already have approved immigrant petitions but are prevented from serving our communities due to the long visa backlogs.

The bill would authorize the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to “recapture” up to 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 immigrant visas for physicians. USCIS would also recapture immigrant visas for the families of these medical professionals.

These recaptured visas would be drawn from the pool of unused employment-based visas that Congress has previously authorized. These visas would be issued in order of priority date and would not be subject to the country caps. To facilitate timely action, premium processing would be applied to qualifying petitions and applications. Furthermore, the bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to prioritize visa appointments for fully qualified nurses and physicians to enter the United States as fast as possible.

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It’s been just a few days since President Trump signed his long awaited executive order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” and already it is being challenged in federal court.

On April 25, 2020, the first of what is sure to be many lawsuits, Doe v. Trump, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon challenging the President’s new executive order.

The lawsuit was filed by several individuals and the organization Latino Network against President Trump and the federal government.

Plaintiffs in this case have filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order to block the government from enforcing the new executive order, because the executive order does not contain exceptions that preserve the opportunity to request urgent or emergency services for immigrant visa applicants, including for children of immigrants who are at risk of aging out of their current visa eligibility status “by the simple passage of time.”

The lawsuit is concerned specifically with children who are in danger of aging out of their place in the visa queue because they do not have access to emergency services that would have otherwise been available had the proclamation not been issued.

“Without access to such emergency services, children whose underage preference relative status will result in unnecessary and prolonged family separation “for years—or even decades,” the lawsuit says.

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The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for May 2020 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.


Please note:

Unless otherwise indicated on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo, individuals seeking to file applications for adjustment of status with USCIS in the Department of Homeland Security must use the “Final Action Dates” charts below for determining when they can file such applications. When USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will state on its website that applicants may instead use the “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” charts in this Bulletin. 


May Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


According to the Department of State’s May Visa Bulletin, the following cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa:

  • EB-1: All countries except for China and India will become current on May 1. China will advance by five weeks to July 15, 2017, while India will advance by three months to August 1, 2015.
  • EB-2: China will advance by one month to October 1, 2015, and India will advance by one week to June 2, 2009. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries except India and China will remain retrogressed at January 1, 2017. Cutoff dates for China and India will advance, with China moving ahead by one month to May 15, 2016, and India moving ahead by more than five weeks to March 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: Most countries will remain current. China will advance by more than six weeks to July 1, 2015; India will advance by nine months to October 1, 2019; and Vietnam will advance by just under two months to April 1, 2017.

Employment-Based Priority Cut-off Dates for May 2020


USCIS recently announced that it will honor Final Action dates for adjustment of status filings in May. In order to file an employment-based adjustment of status application next month, employer-sponsored foreign nationals must have a priority date that is earlier than the date listed below for their preference category and country. This is the second consecutive month that USCIS has chosen the Final Action Dates chart, after several months of honoring the Dates for Filing chart.

The May Final Action Dates chart is current for EB-1 countries worldwide, after several months of retrogression.


How will the President’s Executive Order affect immigrant visas?


The President’s executive order will temporarily suspend and limit the entry of foreign nationals seeking an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Although the order will apply for the next 60 days, the order will have little practical effect on immigration, given that U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide have suspending the issuance of all visas until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

If U.S. Consulates and Embassies resume operations within the next 60 days, the executive order will prevent foreign nationals from obtaining immigrant visas at U.S. Consulates worldwide. The suspension will apply to individuals who, as of Wednesday, were outside of the United States, do not have an immigrant visa, do not have official travel documents other than visas, and have not been exempted by the executive order.

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The long-awaited Executive Order temporarily suspending the immigration of certain aliens into the United States has been released.


WHO IS IMPACTED BY THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?


The order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” suspends and limits the entry of the following types of aliens (for a 60-day period) beginning 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.


Your entry is suspended and limited if all of the following are true:

THREE PART TEST


  • You are an alien outside of the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd)
  • You are an alien that does not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd) and
  • You are an alien that does not have an official travel document other than a visa on the effective date of the proclamation (April 23rd) or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission
    • Official travel documents include a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or advance parole document.

ENFORCEMENT


This Proclamation shall be enforced by U.S. Consulates worldwide at their discretion giving them the power to determine whether an immigrant has established his or her eligibility and is otherwise exempted from the Proclamation. The Department of State will implement the proclamation as it applies to immigrant visas, at the discretion of the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The Department of State governs the immigration process outside of the United States, while the Department of Homeland Security governs the immigration process within the United States and guides the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


WHO IS EXEMPT FROM THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?


The order expressly exempts:

  • Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S.
  • Aliens who are the spouses of U.S. Citizens
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and any spouse and child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Aliens under 21 years of age who are children of United States Citizens and prospective adoptees
  • Aliens seeking to enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional
  • Aliens seeking to enter the U.S. to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19
  • Any spouse any unmarried child under 21 years of age of any such alien who is accompanying or following to join the alien
  • Any alien applying for a visa pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
  • Aliens whose entry furthers important United States law enforcement objectives
  • Any alien seeking entry pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, and any spouse and child of any such individual
    • SI: Certain aliens employed by the U.S. Government in Iraq or Afghanistan as translators or interpreters
    • SQ: Certain Iraqis or Afghans employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government
  • Any alien whose entry would be in the national interest of the United States (national interest waivers)
  • Aliens seeking entry for asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

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In this post, we summarize all of the major and recent developments taken by USCIS, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These developments directly impact immigration in significant ways that will be discussed in further detail below.

As this situation evolves, we will continue to update this post for your benefit. You may also read all of our COVID-19 related posts here.


USCIS Field Offices, ASCs, and Asylum Offices Temporary Closed to the Public

To combat the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, on March 18th USCIS announced the temporary closure of field offices, application support centers, and asylum offices, to the public until at least May 3rd.

We suspect that this closure will be further extended given the current public health crisis we are experiencing nationwide.

Applicants who were scheduled to appear for an interview, biometrics, or asylum interview from March 18 to May 3rd will receive a notice in the mail regarding impacted services, as well as a notice rescheduling the appointment.

ASC appointments will be rescheduled once offices are re-opened to the public.

At this time, please continue to be patient and monitor your mail closely.


USCIS Field Office and Service Center Operations Continue

Although USCIS is closing field offices to the public, the agency has stated that office employees will continue to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public.

Furthermore, USCIS service centers and facilities continue to operate and will continue to adjudicate petitions filed nationwide.


USCIS Expands RFE/NOID/NOIR/NOIT/I-290B Deadlines

On March 30, 2020, USCIS announced that it will consider any response to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before any action is taken by USCIS.

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In this post we bring you the latest immigration related COVID-19 updates. During this difficult time, we would like to extend our heartfelt regards to you and your families. We hope you are staying safe and taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The sooner we abide by government measures, the sooner we can overcome this pandemic as a Nation. Additionally, please remember that although our office is closed to the public, we continue to function behind the scenes to file your petitions on a timely basis. If you have any questions regarding your immigration options, or your currently pending case, we would be glad to assist you by telephone, Zoom, or Skype.

President Extends Federal Social Distancing Guidelines to April 30

This past Sunday, March 29, 2020, the President of the United States extended the Nation’s social distancing guidelines for another 30 days, following warnings from health advisers of the serious consequences that could result if Americans were allowed to return to normal life. Pursuant to this order, social time will continue to be limited only to necessary outings such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, etc. until April 30.

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In this post, we will discuss Form DS-5540, a mandatory public charge questionnaire that must be completed by all foreign nationals seeking an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and some non-immigrant visa applicants.

What is Form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire?

Shortly after the publication of the public charge rule in the Federal Register, the government published a separate rule requiring applicants seeking immigrant visas, including diversity visas, at a Consulate abroad, to complete Form DS-5540, except for certain types of immigrants exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility such as self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Afghan and Iraqi interpreters applying for special immigrant visas.

In addition, the government has given consular officers broad discretion to require nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540, if for example the officer determines more information is needed regarding the applicant’s ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on the government’s assistance, or if the consular officer is not satisfied with the information provided by the applicant.

Therefore, consular officers have the power to request nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540.

The DS-5540 solicits information that helps consular officers determine whether applicants are subject to the public charge visa ineligibility ground (section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) and will not rely on certain specific public resources upon entering the United States.

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