Articles Posted in Coronavirus

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We begin the start of a new week with more unpleasant COVID-19 related delays. If you planned to attend an immigration hearing before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), you may find yourself out of luck.

The EOIR recently announced that beginning January 10, 2022, the agency has postponed non-detained, non-represented case hearings due to the surge in Omicron variant cases nationwide.

Individuals in immigration proceedings should be sure to maintain updated contact information with their immigration court to ensure they receive the latest news regarding the status of their immigration hearings.


Which hearings have been postponed by the court?


According to new information released by the EOIR regarding the latest status of hearings, the following types of cases have been postponed, while others are proceeding as scheduled.


Postponed/Rescheduled

  • Non-detained cases without a lawyer or other representative of record

Proceeding as Scheduled

  • Detained cases, including bond requests and custody redeterminations
  • Non-detained cases with a lawyer or other representative of record
  • Non-detained cases without a lawyer or other representative of record who wish to proceed
  • Cases of individuals outside the U.S. who are enrolled in the Migrant Protection Protocols
  • Non-detained individuals without a lawyer or other representative of record should not appear for any hearing scheduled through January 31, 2022.

Will I receive a notice of postponement from the Court?


The EOIR will mail notices to all parties affected by these postponements, however some parties will not receive the mailed notice of postponement or rescheduling in advance of hearings scheduled before January 15, 2022.


Where can I find more information about postponed hearings?


If you have questions or are uncertain whether your hearing has been postponed, please check the Automated Court Information System online or at 800-898-7180 (TDD: 800-828-1120) or call the immigration court handling your case.

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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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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we continue to share with our readers some important new updates regarding travel to the United States for Americans with expired passports currently overseas.

Our readers may remember in May of 2021, the State Department announced a policy that would enable stranded U.S. Citizens stuck overseas, to use their expired passports to make a direct return to the United States, provided their passports expired on or after January 1, 2020. The policy was to be in effect until December 31, 2021.

This temporary form of relief was granted in response to the extensive waiting period to renew a U.S. passport from outside the United States. Unlike Americans inside the United States, those abroad are required to apply for passport renewal in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Due to the limited operational capacity of U.S. Embassies and Consulates during the global pandemic, many Americans were finding themselves stranded abroad.

On December 21, 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Carrier Liaison Program issued a press release informing U.S. Citizens that the State Department is extending this policy through March 31, 2022.


What criteria do I need to meet to use my expired passport for direct travel to the United States from overseas?


If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may now use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until March 31, 2022.

You qualify for this exception if all the following are true:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
  • You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit (“connecting flights”) through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
  • Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
  • Your expired passport is undamaged.
  • Your expired passport is unaltered.
  • Your expired passport is in your possession.

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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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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some breaking news. On Tuesday, December 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its international travel guidance to require all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States starting today, Monday, December 6, 2021.

The CDC has also published a new webpage that summarizes the international travel requirements and recommendations for U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and Immigrants. Another webpage also provides information for non-U.S. Citizens, non-U.S. immigrants traveling by air to the United States.


International Air Travel Guidance for non-U.S. Citizens and non-U.S. immigrants


Starting today, Monday December 6, 2021, all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States.

Additionally, non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants (those who are not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States by plane. Only limited exceptions apply.

Travelers are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 when traveling to the United States by air.

Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth are also required in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) traveling into, within, or out of the United States and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports).


What if I am not fully vaccinated?


Non-citizens who are nonimmigrants and seeking to enter the United States by air are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States from a foreign country.

If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will NOT be allowed to board a flight to the United States, unless you meet the limited criteria for an exception under the Proclamation and CDC’s Order.

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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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In this blog post, we share with you a roundup of new immigration updates for the week starting with some important reminders.


U.S. Welcomes International Air Travel from Fully Vaccinated Starting Monday November 8th


As we have reported on our blog, the Biden administration has issued a new Presidential Proclamation that rescinds the geographic COVID-19 related travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international air travelers to the United States. The new Proclamation will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, November 8, 2021. Travelers will need to be prepared to provide documentary evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 (both doses are required for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 3 days of boarding. Certain narrow exceptions to the vaccine requirement have been made in the Presidential Proclamation, however it is important to note that even those who fall under an exception must become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of entry to the United States unless any of the following apply.

  • the noncitizen’s intended stay is sufficiently brief, as determined by the Director of the CDC;
  • the noncitizen is one for whom, given their age, requiring vaccination would be inappropriate, as determined by the Director of the CDC;
  • the noncitizen has participated or is participating in certain clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccination, as determined by the Director of the CDC;
  • COVID-19 vaccination is medically contraindicated for the noncitizen, as determined by the Director of the CDC;
  • the noncitizen is described in section 3(b)(i) or 3(b)(ii) of this proclamation and has previously received a COVID-19 vaccine that is authorized or approved by the noncitizen’s country of nationality, as determined by the Director of the CDC, in consultation with the Secretary of State; or
  • the Director of the CDC otherwise determines that COVID-19 vaccination is not warranted for the noncitizen.

To read the complete details regarding the Presidential Proclamation 10294 please click here.


U.S. will also open the land border to fully vaccinated non-essential travelers from Canada and Mexico starting November 8


In similar fashion, also on Monday, November 8, 2021, the United States will be opening its land border and ferry ports of entry to fully vaccinated nonessential travelers from Canada and Mexico. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination. The entry of individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will continue to be restricted for non-essential travelers.

For more information please click here.


Diversity Visa Lottery Registration for FY 2023 closes on Tuesday November 9th


As a reminder, registration for the Diversity Visa Lottery program for fiscal year 2023 will come to a close on Tuesday November 9, 2021, at noon Eastern Standard Time. Don’t lose your chance of being selected. Registration is easy and completely free. Winners of the diversity visa lottery program for fiscal year 2023 will be announced May 8, 2022 and can apply for their immigrant visas or adjust their status starting October 1, 2022.

For information on how to enter and eligibility please click here.

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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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