Articles Posted in Consulates

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The U.S. Department of State recently released the December 2019 Visa Bulletin. In this post, we will discuss the current state of the visa bulletin, potential for advancement, retrogression, and predictions.

Family-based Preference Categories

The Final Action Date for F2A has been current and remains current since July 2018 across all countries through December. Low demand in this category has made it “current” and is expected to remain current for the foreseeable future.

Movement for all other family-preference categories remains as before.

F-4 visa demand is increasing which may result in slow movement in this category in the foreseeable future, but not nearly enough to cause a retrogression.

Employment-based preference categories

Overview

For the month of December 2019, EB-2 Worldwide, as well as EB-2 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam remain current.

Similarly, EB-3 Worldwide, as well as EB-3 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Vietnam remain current.

The Visa Bulletin notes that visa availability is likely to slow down for employment-based visa categories due to the steady increase in the level of employment-based demand for adjustment of status cases filed with USCIS. If the current pace of demand continues, a final action date will be implemented for EB-2, EB-3, and EB-3 Other Worker preference categories as early as January.

Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State has reported that if the level of demand subsides, it is possible that these categories will remain current, however there is no evidence that demand will slow down for these categories, therefore visa applicants should be prepared for the implementation of Final Action Dates as early as January 2020.

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In the latest blow to President Trump’s embattled Presidency, on November 2nd federal judge Michael Simon issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the President’s Proclamation issued on October 4, 2019, suspending the entry of any immigrant who will “financially burden the United States healthcare system.”

Judge Simon’s decision came just one day before the government’s planned implementation of the Presidential Proclamation.

The judge’s order applies nationwide and prohibits the government from implementing any part of the Proclamation requiring individuals seeking an immigrant visa to provide evidence “to a consular officer’s satisfaction” that they would either be covered by an approved health insurance within 30 days of entry to the United States, or possess the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.

Judge Simon’s decision came in response to a class action lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in the District of Oregon by seven United States Citizens and a non-profit organization against the Trump administration, challenging the legality of the Presidential Proclamation.

Plaintiff’s argued that the Proclamation should be found unlawful because it does not advance the President’s goal of reducing the burden of uncompensated care for uninsured individuals. Plaintiff’s called into question the President’s true intentions in issuing the Proclamation, stating that the Proclamation “is but the latest link in a long chain of statements and actions by this President and his Administration expressing antipathy toward all noncitizens. . .particularly immigrants of color, from Central and Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.”

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The President has once again targeted the immigrant population by signing a Presidential Proclamation suspending the entry of any immigrant who will “financially burden the United States healthcare system.”

While the Presidential Proclamation is likely to encounter resistance in court, as it stands the Proclamation is slated to become effective on November 3, 2019.

According to the Proclamation, a person seeking to immigrate to the United States will be found to be a financial burden on the U.S. healthcare system, unless they can prove either one of the following:

  • They are covered by approved health insurance, within 30 days of their entry to the United States, or
  • They have the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.

Beginning November 3, 2019, prior to the adjudication and issuance of an immigrant visa, a non-citizen seeking to immigrate to the United States, must establish to the satisfaction of a consular officer that they will not become a burden on the health care system by either of the means outlined above.

Who does the Proclamation apply to?

Only non-citizens seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an immigrant visa.

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As previously reported, the government has issued a new final rule in the Federal Register entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” giving consular officials wide discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications on public charge grounds.

In line with this new rule, today October 24, 2019, the Department of State issued a 60-day notice in the Federal Register alerting consular applicants of the agency’s plan to require immigrant visa applicants to complete Form DS-5540, a Public Charge Questionnaire to determine whether the applicant is likely to become a public charge. Public comments will be accepted up to December 23, 2019. Comments may be submitted by going to www.Regulations.gov and entering ‘‘Docket Number: DOS–2019–0037’’ in the Search field.

Why is Form DS-5540 being proposed?

According to the 60-day Notice:

The Department seeks to better ensure that aliens subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient and will not rely on public resources to meet their needs, but rather, will rely on their own capabilities, as well as the resources of sponsors.

Through the DS–5540, the Department will collect information in a standardized format regarding applicants’ ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on government assistance.

Fields primarily pertain to the applicant’s health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, skills, health insurance coverage, and tax history. The DS–5540 would also require applicants to provide information on whether they have received certain specified public benefits from a U.S. Federal, state, local or tribal government entity on or after October 15, 2019.

Consular officers will use the completed forms in assessing whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge and is thus ineligible for a visa under section 212(a)(4)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (‘‘INA’’).

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In its latest act of defiance against the judicial branch, the Trump administration has published an Interim Final Rule entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” designed to give Consular officers wider discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to applicants on public charge grounds based on a variety of factors that could weigh positively or negatively on an applicant.

According to the rule, consular officials will now be able to weigh a variety of factors to determine whether a visa applicant is likely to become a public charge. These factors include the applicant’s age, health, educational background, and financial status. In addition, consular officers will have increased discretion to scrutinize certain applications more closely than others based on the type of visa classification sought by the applicant, as well as the duration of stay.

Applicants who are seeking a long-term visa, for example may be scrutinized more heavily than applicant’s seeking a short-term visa (such as a tourist visa).

How will these factors be weighed by Consular officials?

Age: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s age makes the alien more likely than not to become a public charge in the totality of the circumstances, such as by impacting the alien’s ability to work. Consular officers will consider an alien’s age between 18 and 62 as a positive factor.

Health: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s health serves as a positive or negative factor in the totality of the circumstances, including whether the alien has been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with the alien’s ability to provide and care for himself or herself, to attend school, or to work (if authorized).

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The Trump administration has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register expanding the social media information that can be collected as part of the non-immigrant and immigrant visa process.

This new proposed rule is part of the President’s plan to “Protect the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” as stated in Executive Order 13780.

As you may recall this Executive order seeks to “establish screening and vetting standards and procedures to enable DHS to assess an alien’s eligibility to travel to or be admitted to the United States or to receive an immigration-related benefit from DHS.”

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Fresh off the press! In this blog post we will discuss a new proposed rule that is set to be published in the Federal Register on September 4, 2019. We have reviewed an advance copy of this proposed rule and will tell you everything you need to know about the new rule.

At a Glance

The proposed rule will require petitioners filing H-1B cap-subject petitions to pay a $10 registration fee for each petition they submit to USCIS for the H-1B cap selection process beginning with the H-1B fiscal year 2021 cap season.

Overview

As you may recall, on January 31, 2019, DHS published a final rule requiring petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions (including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption) to first electronically register with USCIS during the designated registration period (“H-1B registration final rule”).

USCIS stated that the new H-1B registration system would be implemented beginning with H-1B fiscal year 2021 to ensure the registration system and process work correctly.

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On August 28, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new policy guidance defining “residence” as it relates to U.S. Citizenship.

The new policy guidance clarifies what it means to “reside in the United States” for the purpose of acquiring citizenship and sets out new policy guidelines as it relates to the acquisition of citizenship of children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members employed or stationed outside the United States.

Effective October 29, 2019, children residing abroad with their U.S. citizen parents (who are U.S. government employees or members of the U.S. armed forces stationed abroad) will not be considered to be residing in the United States for acquisition of citizenship. Similarly, leave taken in the United States while stationed abroad is not considered residing in the United States even if the person is staying in property he or she owns.

Therefore, U.S. citizen parents who are residing outside the United States with children who are not U.S. citizens should apply for U.S. citizenship on behalf of their children, by filing Form N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 and must complete the process before the child’s 18th birthday.

The child of a member of the U.S. armed forces accompanying his or her parent abroad on official orders may be eligible to complete all aspects of the naturalization proceedings abroad. This includes interviews, filings, oaths, ceremonies, or other proceedings relating to naturalization.

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USCIS will be publishing a final rule on August 14, 2019, in the Federal Register, that expands the list of public benefits that make a foreign national ineligible to obtain permanent residence and/or an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act makes inadmissible and therefore (1) ineligible for a visa, (2) ineligible for admission and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status, any alien who, in the opinion of the DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge.

The process of determining whether an alien is likely to become a public charge is called a “public charge determination.”

Receipt of certain public benefits leads to a “public charge determination” meaning that the applicant is ineligible to receive the benefit they are requesting (such as permanent residence) based on the fact that they are likely to become a public charge to the United States government.

What is a public charge?

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.

The final rule expands the scope of this definition by making a public charge any alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Under the final rule announced today, immigration will now be taking into consideration the following benefits to determine whether an individual is or is likely to become a public charge to the U.S. government:

Reliance on or receipt of non-cash benefits such as:

  • Cash benefits for income maintenance
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and
  • certain other forms of subsidized housing.

In addition, the government will continue to take into consideration the following types of benefits:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid

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USCIS has announced that it will be closing all of its International Immigration Offices by March 10, 2020.

As of June 30, 2019, USCIS has already permanently closed its field office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and on July 5th, the office in Manila, Philippines permanently closed.

By the end of January 2020, the majority of international USCIS field offices are expected to be closed, including offices in Mexico City, London, Athens, and Guatemala City.

The first offices to close will be those in Monterrey, Mexico, Seoul, South Korea, and Manila, Philippines, with a projected closing date of September 2019.

The following is a complete list of USCIS International Immigration Offices expected to close:

Latin America, Canada and the Caribbean (LACC) District

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