Articles Posted in COVID 19

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Have you ever wondered: is there an exception to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement mandated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for those undergoing the green card process?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to obtain successful waivers of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement, information about what exceptions exist to the vaccine requirement, the criteria that must be proven to obtain a vaccine waiver, and the resulting victories we gained on behalf of our clients.

We also describe how we were able to accomplish vaccine waiver approvals, by presenting an abundance of documentary evidence to help these individuals prove their case.


An Overview: What is the COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement


In response to the rapid rise in Coronavirus cases, the U.S. government announced that starting October 1, 2021, those applying for permanent residency (a green card) within the United States, or an immigrant visa abroad, would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (one or two doses depending on the vaccine taken).


The Medical Examination Form I-693

As part of the green card process, applicants are required to complete a medical examination conducted by a civil surgeon on Form I-693, to establish that they are not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds. The government made it a matter of policy as of October 1, 2021, to require all those subject to the medical examination requirement to complete the COVID-19 vaccination to prove their admissibility (and therefore) receive approval of their green cards.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced that this policy would apply “prospectively to all Forms I-693 [medical examinations] signed by the civil surgeons” on or after October 1, 2021. The agency also took steps to revise Form I-693 and its instructions to include the new vaccination requirement.

Its policy guidance followed the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) August 17, 2021, update to the Technical Instructions for Civil Surgeons. The CDC update requires applicants subject to the immigration medical examination to “complete the COVID-19 vaccine series [in addition to the other routinely required vaccines] and provide documentation of vaccination to the civil surgeon or panel physician in person before completion of the medical examination.”


Does the COVID-19 vaccination requirement also apply to those seeking immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad?


Yes. The government made clear that the COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to those seeking to adjust their immigration status within the United States, as well as applicants applying for immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. That is because complete vaccination is necessary for a medical examination conducted by a civil surgeon or physician abroad, as part of the green card admissibility process.

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

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 October 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 October 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for October 2022.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with very good news for Cuban nationals.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will be resuming operations under the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program also known as CFRP starting with pending CFRP applications.

CFRP processing was suspended due to the significant decrease in U.S. government personnel at the U.S. Embassy Havana in 2017 and the closure of the USCIS field office in Havana in 2018.


What is the Cuban Family Reunification Parole?


Cuban Family Reunification Parole is a program that was created in 2007 to allow certain eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to apply for parole for their family members in Cuba. If granted parole, family members can come to the United States without waiting for their immigrant visas to become available. Once in the United States, CFRP Program beneficiaries may apply for work authorization while they wait to apply for lawful permanent resident status.


Who is eligible?


You may be eligible to apply for parole for your relatives in Cuba under the CFRP program if:

  • You are either a U.S. citizen or LPR;
  • You have an approved Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for a Cuban family member;
  • An immigrant visa is not yet available for your relative; and
  • You received an invitation from the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) to participate in the CFRP Program. 

To be eligible, the principal beneficiary must:

  • Be a Cuban national living in Cuba; and
  • Have a petitioner who has been invited to participate in the CFRP Program.

You cannot apply for CFRP until you are invited to do so by the National Visa Center. Additionally, you cannot self-petition for the program.

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In this blog post, we share with you some new updates regarding the employment-based numerical limits for immigrant visas in fiscal year 2022.

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of visa services at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide, approximately 140,000 family-sponsored visa numbers went unused during fiscal year 2021.

This was due to the pent-up demand for in-person visa interviews that could not be accommodated. Fortunately, these visa numbers have trickled down to the employment-based categories, expanding the number of visa numbers available in fiscal year 2022 to nearly double the usual amount.

Sadly, fiscal year 2022 is nearly coming to a close. To provide the public with more transparency regarding the usage of employment-based visa numbers, the U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its frequently asked questions for employment-based adjustment of status. We breakdown the questions and answers down below.

How many employment-based visas did USCIS and DOS use in FY 2021? How many employment-based visas went unused in FY 2021?


A: The annual limit for employment-based visa use in FY 2021 was 262,288, nearly double the typical annual total. The Department of State (DOS) publishes the official figures for visa use in their Report of the Visa Office.

Overall, the two agencies combined to use 195,507 employment-based immigrant visas in FY 2021.

  • DOS issued 19,779 employment-based immigrant visas, and USCIS used 175,728 employment-based immigrant visas through adjustment of status, more than 52% higher than the average before the pandemic.
  • Despite our best efforts, 66,781 visas went unused at the end of FY 2021.

UPDATED: Can you estimate how many family-sponsored or employment-based immigrant visas USCIS and DOS will use during FY 2022?


A:  DOS has determined that the FY 2022 employment-based annual limit is 281,507 – (slightly more than double the typical annual total) – due to unused family-based visa numbers from FY 2021 being allocated to the current fiscal year’s available employment-based visas.

  • Through July 31, 2022, the two agencies have combined to use 210,593 employment-based immigrant visas (FY2022 data is preliminary and subject to change).
  • USCIS alone approved more than 10,000 employment-based adjustment of status applications in the week ending August 14, 2022, and DOS continues its high rate of visa issuance, as well. USCIS states that it will maximize our use of all available visas by the end of the fiscal year and are well-positioned to use the remaining visas.

NEW: Will my case be processed faster if I file a second Form I-485?


A: Submitting a new adjustment of status application typically does not result in faster adjudication and may have the opposite effect by adding extra burden to the USCIS workload.

  • USCIS is identifying and prioritizing all employment-based adjustment of status applications with available visas and approved underlying petitions, including those received prior to this fiscal year. This includes applications where noncitizens have submitted a transfer of underlying basis requests.

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Are you a participant of the Uniting for Ukraine parole program? If so, then you may be interested in learning more about the new COVID-19 vaccination requirements recently implemented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The agency has announced that effective immediately, all beneficiaries aged 6 months and older must have an attestation submitted, verifying that they have received COVID-19 vaccinations both before traveling to the United States and after arrival in the United States, unless they are eligible for an exception. Previously, beneficiaries younger than 5 years old qualified for an exception to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement because the vaccine was not approved or licensed for use in that age group.

Before Traveling to the United States

To receive travel authorization under the Uniting for Ukraine program, all beneficiaries aged 6 months and older must have an attestation submitted verifying that they received at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or a COVID-19 vaccine listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, unless they are eligible for an exception.

After Arrival in the United States

After being paroled into the United States, all beneficiaries aged 6 months and older must have an attestation submitted attesting that they completed or will complete their COVID-19 vaccination series (in other words, they will be fully vaccinated) within 90 days of their arrival or within 90 days of reaching the eligible age for vaccination according to the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, unless they are eligible for an exception.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest news regarding COVID-19-related flexibilities for responses to Requests for Evidence, NOIDs, and such related notices issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


What do I need to know about these new updates?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS has announced that it will continue its flexibility policy giving applicants and petitioners more time to respond to Requests for Evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, Monday, July 25, 2022, USCIS made the announcement that it will continue to grant applicants who have received a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or such a related document, an additional 60 calendar days after the response deadline indicated on the notice or request, to submit a response to a request or notice, provided the request or notice was issued by USCIS between March 1, 2020 through October 23, 2022. This is great news because it will allow applicants and petitioners more time to gather documents that are hard to obtain during the COVID-10 pandemic.


What documents qualify for this flexibility in responding?


Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and October 23, 2022 can take advantage of the additional 60 days to respond to the request or notice:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind;
  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
  • Notices of Intent to Withdraw Temporary Protected Status; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

In addition, USCIS will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion or Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, if:

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In this blog post, we share with you new developments related to immigration law.


Uniting for Ukraine: USCIS Extends Completion of Medical Screening & Attestation Within 90 Days of Arrival to the United States 


Effective immediately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will extend the amount of time that beneficiaries paroled into the United States under the “Uniting for Ukraine” program must comply with the medical screening and attestation requirements for required vaccinations such as tuberculosis and COVID-19. Previously, parolees were required to complete the medical screening and attestation requirements within 14 days of their arrival to the United States.

Now, Uniting for Ukraine parolees will be given 90 days from the date of their arrival to the United States to fulfill the attestation requirement, which is one of the conditions of being granted parole. The attestation can be completed in the beneficiary’s USCIS online account. USCIS notes that beneficiaries are responsible for arranging to have their vaccinations and medical screening for tuberculosis, including an Interferon-Gamma Release Assay (IGRA) blood test.

Those who test positive for tuberculosis, may be subject to additional procedures such as undergoing additional screening (a chest radiograph, isolation, and treatment if applicable).

Beneficiaries will also be required to complete the tuberculosis screening attestation for their minor children within 90 days of arrival to the United States, even if the child is under the age of 2 years old and qualifies for an exception to the tuberculosis test screening.

For more information and resources, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Uniting for Ukraine: Information for TB Programs page.

For more information about the Uniting for Ukraine program please click here.

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We end the week with some new developments for United States Citizens with expired passports.

On June 29, 2022, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Carrier Liaison Program announced the end of a policy that previously allowed U.S. Citizens to re-enter the United States from abroad with expired passports.

You may recall that back in May of 2021, the State Department made the decision to allow stranded U.S. Citizens stuck overseas, to temporarily 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 June 30, 2022.

This temporary form of relief was granted in response to the extensive waiting period to renew a U.S. passport from abroad. Unlike Americans inside the United States, those waiting abroad have faced long waiting periods, due to the limited availability of appointments at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, caused by the global pandemic.

CBP has announced that as of Thursday, June 30, 2022,U.S. citizens will no longer be allowed to use their expired U.S. passport for direct return to the U. S. after June 30, 2022.

In a press release dated June 29, 2022, CBP advises officials that if a U.S. citizen overseas presents an expired U.S. passport to board a flight into the U.S., they must turn the traveler away and direct them to contact their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for a renewal.

Furthermore, CBP has stated that the Regional Carrier Liaison Group will now be responsible for implementing the scope of these new procedures.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! New developments are underway by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to improve the way the agency is communicating case processing times to members of the public.

The agency recently announced new efforts to streamline information provided on its processing times webpage. For each type of immigration benefit, USCIS releases information regarding how much time it is taking the agency to process that particular application, petition, or request. Previously, processing times were estimated based on how long the agency took to approve or deny a certain percentile of forms or petitions over the prior 6-month period.

Now, USCIS has updated their webpage so that users can find the processing time information for their particular type of case, rather than seeing an aggregate of all related case types. This provides applicants with a more accurate picture of how long their particular type of case is taking to be processed.

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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