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Happy Friday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we bring you a recent success story and share with you how our office was able to expedite our client’s fiancé visa to help her reunite with her U.S. Citizen fiancé despite being subject to Presidential Proclamation 9993 also known as the “Schengen” visa ban.

We recognize that these are truly challenging times in the world of immigration and would like our readers to know that they are not alone. For many, there are alternatives and solutions that can be explored by our knowledgeable immigration attorneys to help them reunite with their family members. From our staff members to our attorneys, we are with you every step of the way on your immigration journey.

For a comprehensive consultation to discuss solutions to your immigration issues, you may contact us at 619-819-9204.


Overview of the Schengen Ban

To understand our client’s situation let’s first discuss the Schengen visa ban. Beginning in January of 2020, President Trump issued a series of Coronavirus proclamations to combat the rapid spread of Coronavirus cases in the United States.

Specifically, the President signed “Proclamation 9993,” into law on March 11, 2020, which restricts and suspends the entry into the United States of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

As a result of P.P. 9993, U.S. Consulates and Embassies around the world have refused to issue visas for those residing in the Schengen area including K fiancé visas until further notice. There is unfortunately no termination date for PP 9993 which means that visa applicants residing in the Schengen area will be stuck in “limbo” at least for the time being.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of the weekend with some exciting news for K-1 visa petitioners and their foreign fiancés. Yesterday, November 19, 2020, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision finding that the government acted unlawfully in suspending visa issuance for K visa beneficiaries subject to the Coronavirus Presidential Proclamations. See Daniel Milligan, et al., v. Michael Pompeo et al.

The plaintiffs in this case – 153 U.S. Citizens and their foreign fiancés – brought suit against the United States government challenging a series of Coronavirus proclamations passed by President Trump that prohibit certain foreign fiancés from receiving their K-1 visas and entering the United States. Such K visa applicants who have been impacted by these Coronavirus Proclamations include those who have been physically present in the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Brazil, and Iran, within the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States. As you may be aware, U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide have refused to process visas for this class of immigrants because of these Coronavirus proclamations. The issue has now been settled – the government may not stop visa processing simply because these individuals are subject to these proclamations.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit also include couples who have been kept apart during the Coronavirus pandemic due to the State Department’s protracted delays in visa processing and Consular refusal to schedule visa interviews worldwide due to the pandemic.


Plaintiffs Arguments 

In their suit, the plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction to immediately stop the State Department’s visa processing suspension based on two arguments (1) the State Department has unreasonably delayed visa processing for K visa applicants not subject to the COVID proclamations and (2) the State Department has unlawfully stopped visa processing for K visa applicants subject to the COVID proclamations.

Since the start of the pandemic, the majority of K visa applications have been stuck at the National Visa Center awaiting transfer to the Embassy or Consulate for visa scheduling. Still others have completed the interview process and have been awaiting K visa issuance for months on end with no reassurance from the Consulate regarding visa issuance in the near future.

The central issue for the court to resolve was whether the plaintiffs in the case met their burden of proof to demonstrate a likelihood of success with respect to their arguments.

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Welcome back to Visalawerblog! In this post, we discuss the newly released visa bulletin for November 2020 which outlines the availability of immigrant visa numbers for family-sponsored and employment-based preference categories.

Impact of April 22nd Presidential Proclamation

As a preliminary matter, we would like to remind our readers that presidential proclamation 10014 signed into law on April 22, 2020, temporarily suspends the entry and issuance of immigrant visas at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide for the following types of immigrants until December 31, 2020.

*Note: Applicants residing in the United States are unaffected by P.P. 10014 and may apply for adjustment of status with USCIS provided their priority date is current on the visa bulletin.

  • Spouses and children of green card holders (US citizens are not affected) applying at the consulate
  • Parents of US citizens applying at the consulate
  • Brothers and sisters of US citizens applying at the consulate
  • Sons and daughters (over 21 years of age) of US citizens applying at the consulate (children under 21 years of age of US citizens are not affected)
  • Sons and daughters (over 21 years of age) of green card holders applying at the consulate
  • EB1A extraordinary abilities and their family applying at the consulate
  • PERM EB2 employment based (NIW is not affected) and their family applying at the consulate
  • PERM EB3 employment based and their family applying at the consulate
  • EB4 religious workers immigrants applying at the consulate

Unfortunately, this proclamation applies to the majority of family-sponsored preference categories which means that U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide will not issue visas to these individuals until the visa ban is lifted after December 31, 2020.

It is possible that President Trump may choose to extend the proclamation beyond December 31, 2020 if he finds it necessary. However it is unlikely to remain in effect after Joe Biden becomes President on January 20, 2021.


Suspension of Routine Visa Services Continues

As an additional note, although spouses and minor children of U.S. Citizens applying for immigrant visas at the Consulate are not impacted by P.P. 10014, the majority of Consulates and Embassies nationwide have suspended routine visa services until further notice. Applicants with emergencies or urgent travel needs may request expedited visa processing with the National Visa Center. We strongly encourage applicants to obtain legal assistance to help expedite visa interviews where the applicant can demonstrate extreme hardship to the U.S. Citizen relative.


Other Visa Bans May Apply 

Certain immigrant visa applicants who are not impacted by P.P. 10014, may still be impacted by other presidential proclamations restricting visa issuance and travel to the United States.

For instance, beginning January 2020 the President issues a series of Coronavirus proclamations, which similarly restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are very pleased to celebrate yet another client success story.

This time our office was able to expedite a client’s fiancé visa to help her reunite with her partner despite being subject to Presidential Proclamation 9993 also known as the “Schengen” visa ban.

We recognize that these are truly challenging times in the world of immigration and would like our readers to know that they are not alone. For many, there are alternatives and solutions that can be explored by our knowledgeable immigration attorneys to help them reunite with their family members. From our staff members to our attorneys, we are with you every step of the way on your immigration journey.

For a comprehensive consultation to discuss solutions to your immigration issues, you may contact us at 619-569-1768.


The Schengen Visa Ban

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic fiancé visa applicants have found it increasingly difficult to receive a visa interview appointment at consulates and embassies across the globe. During the start of the pandemic, the Department of State announced widespread consular closures to prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus. While phased resumption of visa services was scheduled to begin on July 14, 2020 with “high priority” given to K visa applicants, the majority of consulates and embassies have refused to schedule visa appointments. The result has been that fiancé visa cases have been stuck at the National Visa Center with no guarantee of receiving an appointment in the future.

To make matters worse, during the month of March, the President signed a series of coronavirus proclamations designed to limit immigration from certain countries in order to keep the virus at bay.

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The Coronavirus pandemic has created new obstacles and challenges for immigrants applying for visas at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide. Since the Department of State first announced the phased resumption of routine visa services on July 14, 2020, applicants were thrown into a state of chaos and confusion.

Global conditions have only moderately improved in some regions, while in others they have worsened. This has caused the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates to remain shuttered to the general public. As it stands, very few Consular posts and Embassies have resumed scheduling of visa interviews. In the vast majority of cases, posts are only scheduling interviews and issuing visas for those with emergencies and those who qualify for expedited visa issuance.

Unfortunately, there is no specific date for when each mission will resume routine visa services, nor when there will be a sense of normalcy in the operations of U.S. Consulates and Embassies.

Our office has determined that one of the few ways to break through this state of limbo is to submit an expedite request with the National Visa Center. However not everyone will qualify to submit an expedited visa request.

Why aren’t spousal visas cases moving forward?

In normal circumstances once the spouse of a U.S. Citizen is documentarily qualified by the National Visa Center, the file is forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near the foreign spouse and prepared for interview scheduling. The NVC is an important agency because it acts as an intermediary to prepare a case for the eventual interview stage.

Since March of this year, files have not been able to move past the NVC stage and have remained with the agency in a sort of “limbo,” given that the majority of U.S. Consulates and Embassies are not opening visa interview slots for applicants until further notice.

As a result, NVC has accumulated a large number of spousal visa cases that are unable to proceed until more Consular posts begin to open their calendars.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we celebrate a client’s recent success story and share with you how our office was able to expedite our client’s immigrant visa (CR-1) to help him reunite with his U.S Citizen spouse in the United States.

We recognize that these are truly challenging times in the world of immigration and would like our readers to know that they are not alone. For many, there are alternatives and solutions that can be explored by our knowledgeable immigration attorneys to help them reunite with their family members. From our staff members to our attorneys, we are with you every step of the way on your immigration journey.

For a comprehensive consultation to discuss solutions to your immigration issues, you may contact us at 619-819-9204. 

Suspension of Routine Visa Services Continues at Most Consulates Worldwide

As our readers will know, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made it extremely difficult for immigrants residing abroad to secure appointments for visa interviews at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies worldwide.

While some Consulates and U.S. Embassies have resumed routine visa services, these are very few and far in between. At the moment, routine visa services are only available on a “post-by-post” basis as individual country conditions permit operations to return to normalcy. For the most part, Consulates and Embassies have not been able to provide specific dates regarding when each post will completely resume routine visa services. This has left many immigrants in a state of uncertainty during what is already a very difficult time in our history. Many family members remain apart for extended periods of time with no end in sight.

Despite these limitations however, Consulates and Embassies are continuing to accommodate emergency and expedite requests for applicants with urgent matters who need to travel immediately. Where an applicant has been documentarily qualified by the National Visa Center, a U.S. Citizen petitioner may submit a request with the NVC to expedite the consular interview based on extreme hardship to the U.S. Citizen. Extreme hardship to a U.S. Citizen spouse can be demonstrated in several ways including where the USC is suffering from a disability or severe medical and/or psychological condition.

Our Client’s Situation

Amid this backdrop, our client came to us in a state of desperation. Our client had petitioned to immigrate her husband to the United States under the CR-1 category. The good? Her husband was already documentarily qualified by the NVC. The problem? Unfortunately the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan refused to grant him an interview due to the general suspension of routine visa services.

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We kick off the start of a brand new week with very exciting news.

We are happy to report that on October 1, 2020, Congress passed H.R. 8337, an appropriations bill that will expand the availability of premium processing service provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to a larger pool of applicants for immigration benefits.

The legislation calls for expansion of premium processing to most employment-based immigration applications and potentially all USCIS benefits. This move could prove enormously beneficial especially during the Coronavirus pandemic to help move cases along more quickly than ever before. Applicants who request an employment authorization document (EAD) for example can seek premium processing service along with their applications, allowing for EADs to be issued within 15 calendar days.

During this pandemic, the processing of EAD applications has slowed significantly with most taking at least 7 months or longer to be issued. This new legislation will dramatically improve processing times for those that are willing to pay for premium processing service.

Before H.R. 8337, USCIS allowed certain employment-based petitioners to request premium processing service for E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ (blanket L-1), O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, P-3, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2 applications for a fee of $1,440 with guaranteed processing of applications within 15 calendar days. For immigrant petitions, premium processing was available, with certain exceptions, for the employment-based first, second and third preferences (EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3).


What types of petitions will benefit from the expansion of premium processing service?

The new legislation will now allow premium processing service for:

(A) employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents of the beneficiaries of such petitions;

(B) employment-based immigrant petitions filed by or on behalf of aliens described in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of section 203(b); [the first three employment-based preferences]

(C) applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status;

(D) applications for employment authorization; and

(E) any other immigration benefit type that the Secretary deems appropriate for premium processing.


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On October 1, 2020, federal judge Jeffrey White of the U.S. Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the government from enforcing Presidential Proclamation 10052 issued on June 22, 2020, but only against the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit which include the National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Technet, and Intrax, Inc. See National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Homeland Security.

The plaintiffs brought the lawsuit before the court to challenge the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 10052, which suspends visa issuance for certain nonimmigrant workers until December 13, 2020, with discretion to be continued “as necessary.” Those impacted by this Proclamation include applicants who were not in the United States on June 24th or in possession of a valid visa as of that date, who seek visas in any of the following categories:

(1) H-1B or H-2B visa nonimmigrant visa applicants, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;

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We have important new developments to share with our readers regarding the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) planned increase in filing fees for certain applications and petitions, which was set to go into effect beginning October 2nd 2020.

As we previously reported on our blog, in early August USCIS published a final rule in the Federal Register entitled, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements.” This final rule discussed the agency’s planned increase in filing fees for applications, petitions, or requests filed with USCIS postmarked on or after October 2, 2020.

*For a complete list of the planned increases and petitions affected click here.

According to USCIS, the final rule was intended to ensure that the agency would have enough resources to provide adequate services to applicants and petitioners. The agency stated that after having conducted a review of current fees, the agency determined that they could not cover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services without a fee increase.

This news was not surprising to say the least. Since the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic, USCIS has been facing an unprecedented financial crisis that has forced the agency to take drastic measures to account for its revenue shortfalls.

Federal Judge Grants Injunction Blocking Increase in Filing Fees

In a surprising turn of events, just days before the final rule was set to go into effect, several organizations filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to stop the government from enforcing the final rule. Immigrant Legal Resource Center, et al., v. Chad F. Wolf.

On Tuesday, September 29, 2020, federal judge Jeffrey S. White of the District Court for the Northern District of California, granted the injunction temporarily preventing the government from enforcing the increase in filing fees as planned on October 2nd.

As a result of the court order, USCIS is prohibited from enforcing any part of the final rule while the lawsuit is being litigated in court. While the government is sure to appeal the court’s decision, for now applicants can continue to send their applications and petitions with the current filing fees as posted on the USCIS webpage.

In support of his ruling, judge White reasoned that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in challenging the final rule because both the previous and current acting secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were unlawfully appointed to their posts and therefore were not authorized to issue the final rule. The judge also agreed that the fee hike would put low income immigrants at a severe disadvantage stating, “Plaintiffs persuasively argue that the public interest would be served by enjoining or staying the effective date of the Final Rule because if it takes effect, it will prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, will block access to humanitarian protections, and will expose those populations to further danger.”

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Our office has been eagerly awaiting the release of the October visa bulletin which ushers in the beginning of a brand-new fiscal year. As our readers will know, a lot has been happening in the world of immigration.

Since March of 2020, U.S. Consulates and Embassies nationwide have suspended routine visa services to the public amid the Coronavirus pandemic. To make matters even more complicated, the President issued a series of Presidential Proclamations suspending the issuance of immigrant visas for most family-sponsored preference categories with limited exceptions including spouses and minor children of United States Citizens. In this post we cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of the release of the October 2020 visa bulletin.


THE BAD AND THE UGLY –

Most Family Sponsored Categories Unable to Obtain Immigrant Visas Due to Consular Closures and Presidential Proclamations

For the most part, nearly all family-sponsored categories on the visa bulletin are impacted by the Presidential Proclamations and individuals impacted cannot obtain an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate until the Proclamations terminate on December 31, 2020.

What Family Preference Categories are Impacted?

Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052 together suspend the entry of and issuance of visas for the following types of family-sponsored immigrants until December 31, 2020:

  • F2A Spouses and children of green card holders applying at the consulate
  • F-2B Unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders applying at the consulate (21 years of age or older)
  • F-3 Married sons and daughters meaning of US citizens applying at the consulate (children under 21 years old of US citizens are not affected)
  • F-4 Brothers and sisters of US citizens applying at the consulate

As you can see these categories make up the vast majority of the family-sponsored preference categories on the visa bulletin. Only very narrow categories of individuals have been specifically exempted from the Proclamations.

Those exempted include the following:

  • Spouses and children of US citizens applying at the consulate are not affected
  • Sons and daughters under 21 years old of US citizens applying at the consulate are not affected
  • Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S.
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and any spouse and child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • 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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