Articles Posted in Consulates

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 February 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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