Articles Posted in Consulates

outline-g3da870f14_1920
In this blog post, we share with you new immigration updates including major steps being taken by the Biden administration to support the people of Cuba, and the recent suspension of the NVC public inquiry telephone line.


Biden Administration Measures to Support the Cuban People


The Biden administration has taken new measures to provide relief to the people of Cuba as they face a humanitarian crisis. Among the major announcements, the government has said that it will be reinstating the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) program to promote family reunification and increase capacity for consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

may-g7649f9fc2_1920
In this blog post, we cover the release of the May Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the upcoming month of May.

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 Filing Chart May 2022

flags-g24bc48bb7_1920

Today, the Biden administration unveiled a brand-new program, Uniting for Ukraine, which seeks to provide humanitarian parole to an estimated 100,000 Ukrainian nationals who have been displaced by the Russian invasion which began on February 24, 2022 for a period of up to 2 years.


What is Uniting for Ukraine?


Uniting for Ukraine is a new Biden initiative that will allow Ukrainian citizens to apply for humanitarian parole in the United States. Humanitarian Parole is a process that allows foreign nationals to lawfully enter the U.S., provides temporary lawful presence in the U.S., and protects that person from deportation during the parole timeframe that has been granted to the foreign national. Humanitarian parole is a temporary permission to remain lawfully in the United States. It does not provide law permanent residence (a green card) and does not provide a pathway to citizenship.

To be eligible, Ukrainians must have been residents in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022, have a sponsor in the United States, complete vaccinations and other public health requirements, and pass rigorous biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks.

Ukrainians who are approved via this process will be authorized to travel to the United States and be considered for parole, on a case-by-case basis, for a period of up to two years. Once paroled through this process, Ukrainians will be eligible for work authorization.


Who can be a sponsor?


Effective Monday, April 25, 2022, U.S. based individuals and entities can apply to sponsor displaced Ukrainian citizens through the Uniting for Ukraine process, which will go live on the Department of Homeland Security website that same day.

Any U.S. citizen or individual, including representatives of non-government organizations, can sponsor Ukrainian applicants. Individuals and organizations seeking to sponsor Ukrainian citizens in the United States will be required to declare their financial support and pass security background checks to protect against exploitation and abuse. Eligibility requirements will include required vaccinations and other public health requirements, as well as biographic and biometric screening, vetting, and security checks.

Continue reading

couple-g86465ecab_1920USCIS Updates Policy Guidance Highlighting Discretionary Power to Waive In-Person Interviews for I-751 Applicants


On April 7, 2022, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its Policy Manual on the interview waiver criteria for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove the conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions.

Under the law, those who attained their permanent resident status (green card) based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card, also known as “conditional permanent residency.”

This conditional green card is issued for a 2-year period. Prior to the expiration of the 2-year green card, the applicant must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions on permanent residence within the 90-day window before it expires.

The Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that a conditional permanent resident must appear for an in-person interview as part of the I-751 Removal of Conditions adjudication process, so that the immigration officer can verify the accuracy of the information included in the petition and determine whether the conditions on permanent residence should be removed.

The Act also carves out discretionary powers that allow USCIS officers to authorize waiver of the in-person interview.

The April 2022 updated Policy Guidance clarifies that USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require an interview.

The Guidance also eliminates automatic referrals in cases where a conditional permanent resident obtained status by way of Consular processing.

The language of the pertinent section indicates the following:

Volume 6: Immigrants, Part I, Family-Based Conditional Permanent Residents, Chapter 3, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence [6 USCIS-PM I.3]


CPRs who file a Form I-751 must appear for an interview at a USCIS field office, unless USCIS waives the interview requirement. USCIS officers may consider waiving the interview in cases where:

Continue reading

ukraine-g74f4fa246_1920

The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia has prompted the U.S. Department of State to issue new guidance regarding the possibility of filing a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas for Afghan, Ethiopian, and Ukrainian immediate relatives fleeing conflict zones.

DOS has clarified that U.S. Citizens who are physically present with their Afghan, Ethiopian, or Ukrainian, immediate family members overseas, who have not yet filed the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), may do so by filing the application locally at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that processes immigrant visas.

Only U.S. Citizens impacted by the large-scale disruptive events in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Ukraine, are allowed to locally file Form I-130 at U.S. Embassies or Consulates overseas. It is required that the U.S. Citizen be physically present in the country where they wish to file their petition.


Who can you petition for with Local Filing?


DOS has stated that U.S. Citizens may locally file Form I-130 on behalf of their spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents, provided their relative fled:

  • Afghanistan after August 2, 2021
  • Ethiopia after November 1, 2020 or
  • Ukraine after February 1, 2022

Continue reading

calendar-g0ebb64ee6_1280

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


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for April 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, except EB-5 Regional Center, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for April 2022.


April 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 April 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 more than 2 months to July 8, 2013, and China will remain at March 1, 2019. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India and China will remain unchanged from the previous month, 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 been reauthorized by recent legislation but is still listed as Unavailable in the April Visa Bulletin Final Action Date chart, given that certain provisions of the reauthorizing legislation have not yet taken effect.

Continue reading

heart-gedffba8c7_1920

With the developing situation in Ukraine, we offer the latest information with respect to visa options and immigration alternatives for Ukrainian nationals to consider. For an in-depth discussion and evaluation of the best visa option for you, we encourage you to contact our office for a consultation.

At the outset, we would like to clarify that U.S. immigration law can best be explained as being divided into 3 broad categories: temporary nonimmigrant visa options, permanent immigrant visa options, and special immigrant visa types.

The Department of State recently provided the following guidance to further explain the difference between these visa types. We will be dedicating a future post to the possible visa alternatives that can be explored by Ukrainians. Please review our recent blog post here for information about Temporary Protected Status for Ukrainians that have been continuously present in the United States since Tuesday March 1, 2022.


Nonimmigrant Visas


Nonimmigrant visas are for temporary stays in the United States.  They are not the appropriate tool to begin an immigrant, refugee, or resettlement process.  If you apply for a nonimmigrant visa but are unable to demonstrate intent to leave the United States after a defined period in order to return to a residence abroad, a consular officer will refuse your application.

All B1/B2 visa applicants are assumed to be intending immigrants—and therefore ineligible for a nonimmigrant visa—unless they can establish otherwise.  Nonimmigrant visa applicants may apply at any embassy or consulate where they are physically present and where appointments are available.  A full list of embassies and consulates is available here: https://www.usembassy.gov/.  As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, applicants may face extended visa interview wait times at some Embassies and Consulates.  Appointment wait times are available at U.S. Visas (state.gov).  Once an interview appointment is made, applicants will have the ability to request an expedited appointment but must describe the unique circumstances that justify such a request.


Immigrant Visas


Immigrant visas are for foreign nationals who intend to live and/or work permanently in the United States.  In most cases, a relative or employer sponsors the individual by filing a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Further information on immigrant visas can be found here:  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate.html.


At which Consular Post, can I apply for an Immigrant Visa?


Newly Scheduled Immigrant Visa AppointmentsThe U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt, Germany, is the designated processing post for all Ukrainian immigrant visa applications except adoption cases.  All newly scheduled immigrant visa cases will be slated for appointments at the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany.  Adoption cases are being handled at U.S. Embassy Warsaw, Poland.


I have a pending I-130 with USCIS, can I ask for faster processing?


Requesting Expedited Processing of I-130 Petitions:  If you filed a Form I-130 petition with USCIS and it has not yet been approved, you may inquire with USCIS regarding expedition of the application. USCIS has clear criteria outlined on its webpage listing the requirements to apply for an expedite. You may wish to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney to determine if you qualify for an expedite request: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/filing-guidance/how-to-make-an-expedite-request.

There is also a USCIS help line if you are an active U.S. military member: https://www.uscis.gov/military/military-help-line.

Continue reading

ukraine-1524617_1280

Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! New developments in the world of immigration are happening on a daily basis. In today’s post we cover the status of consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.

As you may know, the region has been embroiled in political turmoil with U.S. sanctions on Russia escalating. To protect Americans in the region, the Department of State has announced the departure of all diplomatic employees from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

Beginning February 13th, the Embassy in Kyiv has suspended Consular visa services including interview waiver services. The Department of State has indicated that applicants who had visa appointments in Kyiv can apply for their visas in any other country in which they are physically present, so long as appointments are available. Applicants are advised to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they wish to apply to inquire about case transfers.

Those with immigrant visas that were pending in Kyiv can request a transfer of their case to another U.S. Embassy by contacting the receiving U.S. Embassy’s country to authorize and initiate the transfer. Each Embassy will have a list of requirements that must be satisfied to initiate the transfer process.

Non-immigrants and immigrant visa holders must continue to abide by the vaccination mandate in order to gain admission to the United States.


Vaccination Mandate


 Effective November 8, all non-citizen, nonimmigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) airline passengers traveling to the United States, must demonstrate proof of vaccination as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Order prior to boarding a U.S. bound aircraft. More details regarding what constitutes full vaccination are available on this page of the CDC website.

All travelers to the United States, regardless of vaccination status, must show a pre-departure negative COVID-19 viral test taken within one (1) day of travel to the United States prior to boarding. This applies to all travelers – U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and foreign nationals. Additional information may be found on CDC’s website.

Continue reading

march-6028872_1920

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


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, in the F2A category, there is a cutoff date on the Dates for Filing chart. However, the category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart. This means that applicants in the F2A category only may file using the Final Action Dates Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for March 2022.

For all other family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for March 2022.


For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, except EB-5 Regional Center, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for March 2022. This means that USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment of status applications (except EB-5 Regional Center) with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the March Visa Bulletin.

NOTE: USCIS will not accept any new employment-based fifth preference adjustment of status applications based on the Regional Center Program until that program is reauthorized by Congress.

Continue reading

confused-gda7145471_1280

In today’s blog post, we share some interesting Question and Answer responses recently provided by the Department of State’s Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs (L/CA), in a meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The responses below provide some important insight into current immigration policies and procedures taking place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we summarize the most interesting questions covered during the January 20 meeting:


Department of State/AILA Liaison Committee Meeting


January 20, 2022 Q & A Highlights


Q: What role do Consular sections assume when determining whether an individual is exempt from the CDC COVID-19 vaccine requirement to gain entry to the U.S.?

A: Consular sections’ role in the process is to ensure that an individual’s request for a [vaccine] exception is filled out in full, and to transmit those requests to the CDC.


Q: If consular posts are involved in transmitting information in support of a humanitarian exception to CDC, what is the process, if any, for making such a request of a consular post outside the context of a visa interview?

A: Travelers should contact the consular section of the nearest embassy or consulate using the information provided on that embassies or consulate’s website


Q: What is the Department of State doing to alleviate the substantial backlogs created by the slowdown of operations at Consular posts and Embassies worldwide?

A: The Department is planning to hire foreign service officers above attrition in FY 2022. The majority will be assigned to a consular position after initial training. Additionally, the Department continues to recruit Limited Non-career Appointment (LNA) Consular Professionals. With very limited LNA hiring in FY 2020 and a pause on LNA hiring in FY 2021 due to CA’s budgetary constraints, Consular Affairs plans to hire more than 60 LNAs in FY 2022

Consular Affairs is working with State’s office of Global Talent Management to ramp up hiring in FY 2022, but many posts will not see these new officers until the second half of FY 2022 or FY 2023, particularly for officers assigned to positions requiring language training. Increased hiring will not have an immediate effect on reducing current visa wait times. Because local pandemic restrictions continue to impact a significant number of our overseas posts, extra staff alone is not sufficient to combat wait times for interviews.


Q: Can Consular Affairs please advise regarding efforts to resume routine consular services?

A: Consular sections abroad must exercise prudence given COVID’s continuing unpredictability. The emergence of the Omicron variant has prompted countries to reevaluate plans to relax travel bans, thereby leading consular sections abroad to recalibrate plans to resume services. Some posts have already fully resumed routine services. Others, in an abundance of caution and out of concern for the health of both consular staff and clientele, are slowly reintroducing some routine services.

Continue reading