Articles Posted in COVID 19

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s August 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 Oppnheim 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.

Questions for Charlie can be emailed in advance to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of each monthly session with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.

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 trends and visa projections for August 2021 and beyond.


DOS Q&A Session with Charlie Oppenheim: August 2021 Visa Bulletin Projections & Beyond


 

Charlie Oppenheim advises against sending “mass like” chain emails to the Charlie Chats email address

Before we get into the questions for this session, I wanted to add that I have seen a significant number of questions being received that maybe online chat groups have provided in a suggested “copy this text” approach that were sent to the Charlie Chat email address. I want to say that this is a very unproductive approach to asking questions, since we must open a significant number of messages with the same question, and that diminishes our ability to review the hundreds and hundreds of questions which are coming in each month. Therefore, it’s likely that we may miss important questions which listeners would like addressed. I am happy to see questions come in but this massive number of duplicates is unproductive to the listener group.


The Top 8 Advance Questions Sent in By Listeners


Q: I submitted all my documentation to NVC a long time ago and I confirmed on their website that everything is completed correctly. My priority date became eligible in March, but I have not yet been scheduled for my final visa interview. Why haven’t I been scheduled despite the eligibility and when can I expect to be scheduled?

A: This is a question we have been getting a lot. It’s important to say that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the NVC has continued to schedule appointments and is warehousing cases for Consular sections that have not been able to resume the routine Immigrant Visa processing. Depending on the country’s local restrictions and resources, the Consular sections abroad provide their projected capacity for scheduling to the NVC about 30-60 days in advance.

This allows NVC to begin scheduling those appointments and getting the information out to the applicants early. Other than age-out cases, inter-country adoption cases, and expedite requests, based on certain FAM regulations upon visa availability, the NVC schedules their Immigrant Visa appointments for visa categories in chronological order, based on the date in which the case was deemed “documentarily qualified,” meaning they have been asked to submit certain required documents, all those documents have been received, and have been verified. Then the NVC fills the available appointment slots in a first come, first out manner within each visa class, in accordance with each Consular section’s capacity.

I would advise listeners to refer to the guidance on the NVC Immigrant Visa backlog report website to view the worldwide data count of applicants which have been processed by NVC. Then that will determine how many have become documentarily complete. NVC and the overseas posts are trying to get to all the appointments and applicants as quickly as possible. It’s being done in chronological order and basically, they’re having to catch up on cases that could have been scheduled as far back as March 2020.

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Source: Flickr, Attribution: mollyktadams

We are saddened to report that late Friday, July 16, 2021, Federal Judge Andrew Hanen of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted the plaintiffs in the case, State of Texas, et al., vs. United States of America, et.al, a permanent injunction, pending ongoing litigation over the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

As a result, new first-time applications for the DACA program will no longer be approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) following Judge Hanen’s ruling.  Friday’s decision in Texas v. United States is sure to be appealed, though there is a reasonable chance it will be upheld, especially by the conservative leaning Supreme Court of the United States.

In his ruling, Federal Judge Hanen declared that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) with the initial creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and its continued operation. Accordingly, he has ordered that the DACA Memorandum and the subsequent creation of the DACA program be vacated and remanded to DHS for further consideration.

This action removes protections from deportation for thousands of undocumented young adults who came to the United States as children, otherwise known as Dreamers, and casts doubt on the future of the program.

Judge Hanen specifically stated that his ruling does not impact the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and others who have relied on the DACA program for almost a decade. This means that while new first-time applications for DACA will no longer be adjudicated by USCIS, Hanen’s ruling will not impact current DACA recipients.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the August 2021 Visa Bulletin and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of August.

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.

If you would like to follow along on each month’s progress for the Visa Bulletin please be on the lookout for the next “Chats with Charlie” on the DOS YouTube Channel, a monthly series recently launched by the State Department where Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control & Reporting Division of the U.S. Department Of State, answers your frequently asked questions regarding each month’s Visa Bulletin.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


Unless otherwise indicated on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo, individuals seeking to file applications for adjustment of status with USCIS must use the “Final Action Dates” charts to determine when they can file such applications. When USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will state on its website www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo that applicants may instead use the “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” charts in this Bulletin.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart August 2021


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 August 2021.

For all other family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2021.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2021.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful fourth of July weekend with your family and loved ones.

In this blog post, we share with you some exciting news for Yemeni nationals receiving benefits under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. The Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Yemeni nationals currently receiving protections under the program until March 3, 2023. In addition, the re-designation means that certain eligible Yemeni nationals will be able to apply for TPS protections for the first time.

The main benefit of applying for this program is that those who are approved for Temporary Protected Status can remain in the country on a lawful basis, will receive protection against deportation (deferred status), and are eligible to apply for employment authorization and travel permission by filing, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


How did this all happen?


Extension of Designation of Yemen for TPS

On January 6, 2021, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced an 18-month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country of Yemen. This extension and re-designation will be in effect from September 4, 2021, through March 3, 2023 (an 18-month period)

Secretary Mayorkas made this decision after consulting with government officials and taking into consideration the ongoing armed conflict in Yemen, lack of access to food, water, and healthcare, the large-scale destruction of Yemen’s infrastructure, population displacement, the ongoing cholera outbreak since 2016, and the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country.

Mayorkas found that these circumstances ultimately prevented Yemeni nationals from safely returning to their home country stating, “Yemen continues to experience worsening humanitarian and economic conditions that prevent individuals from safely returning to their homes. Therefore, I have decided to extend and re-designate Yemen for Temporary Protected Status. We will continue to protect and offer these individuals a place of residency temporarily in the United States.”

Currently, there are an estimated 1,700 beneficiaries receiving TPS benefits under Yemen’s designation. The program’s extension will mean that these beneficiaries can re-register for benefits and retain TPS status through March 3, 2023, so long as they can demonstrate that they continue to meet the TPS eligibility requirements.

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Welcome to the start of a new week! In this blog post we share with you some good news regarding the continuing flexibility policy being followed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for applicants who have received a Request for Evidence, or Notice of Intent to Deny between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021, as well as new guidance for FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitioners, whose petitions were rejected or administratively closed solely because the requested start date was after Oct. 1, 2020.

 


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


On June 24, 2021, USCIS announced that it will continue its flexibility policy and 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 September 30, 2021.

What documents qualify for this flexibility in responding?

Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 can take advantage of the additional 60 days to respond to the request or notice:

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Welcome back to the start of a brand-new week! We are excited to announce brand new developments in the world of immigration specifically for U visa victims of crimes.

On June 14, 2021, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy alert, informing U visa applicants that the agency will now be exercising its discretion to issue four year Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) (also known as work permits),  as well as four-year “deferred action” status to certain U visa applicants, including those who have filed new U visa petitions, and those whose U visa petitions remain pending with USCIS, based on a new discretionary process called a “bona fide determination.”

This is a groundbreaking new development for U visa applicants because victims of crime will now be eligible to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), as well as “deferred action” status, while their U visa applications remain pending with USCIS. With this new policy change, U visa applicants will no longer need to wait 5+ years for their U visa approval, in order to become eligible for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and be protected from deportation.

Previously, only principal U visa applicants whose petitions were approved by USCIS, were authorized to work based on their approved status with immigration. Only those with an approved Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918) would automatically be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). All other applicants with pending petitions were forced to wait in the visa queue for a visa to become available due to the mandatory U visa cap. This process on average has taken up to 5 years.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! The Department of State recently released the visa bulletin for July 2021 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

Remember to stay on the lookout for the next “Chats with Charlie” on the DOS YouTube Channel, a monthly series recently launched with the State Department and Charlie Oppenheim to discuss Visa Bulletin projections.


NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts July 2021


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Per USCIS, applicants falling within the F2A category, may use the Final Action Dates Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2021. While there is a cutoff date on the Dates for Filing chart, the category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart, allowing F2A applicants to rely on it.

All other family-sponsored preference categories (other than F2A) must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2021.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2021.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important information for immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants residing in regions currently affected by the four geographic Presidential Proclamations still in place, for non-citizens in the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and India.

The Presidential Proclamations, collectively known as the COVID-19 Geographic Proclamations are as follows:

  • Presidential Proclamation 10143 (Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and South Africa)
  • Presidential Proclamation 9984 (China)
  • Presidential Proclamation 9992 (Iran)
  • Presidential Proclamation 10199 (India)

*The Schengen countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The COVID-19 Proclamations were issued early on during the pandemic to help contain the rapid spread of the Coronavirus in the United States, by limiting the entry to the United States, of non-citizen travelers who were physically present in any of the impacted regions during the 14-day period, prior to their planned entry or attempted entry to the United States.

To comply with these Proclamations, U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide have been unable to issue nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to those who have been physically present in any of the above mentioned 33 covered countries. But all of that has recently changed thanks to new National Interest Exception designations made by the Secretary of State for certain types of travelers.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you the latest immigration news from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


New USCIS Policies to Improve the Immigration System


We bring you some exciting news regarding new policies adopted by USCIS that have been designed to remove the barriers to immigration and help improve the current immigration system. The following are among the new changes being implemented by USCIS:

Expedited Processing

Under a newly updated expedite criteria policy, USCIS has now expanded the types of expedite criteria or circumstances under which the adjudication of a benefit request can be expedited, including where a request is made by a nonprofit organization whose request is in the furtherance of cultural and social interests of the United States.

According to the new change:

USCIS may consider an expedite request if it meets one or more of the following criteria or circumstance:

  • Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure to:
    1. Timely file the benefit request , or
    2. Timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
  • Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
  • Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
  • U.S. government interests (such as urgent cases for federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, DHS, or other public safety or national security interests); or
  • Clear USCIS error.

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We are excited to share with you some new updates regarding the immigrant visa backlog.

On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs, hosted a live YouTube Question and Answer session with Neal Vermillion, Division Chief at the U.S. Visa Office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, where he discussed how Consular sections have been prioritizing cases during the phased resumption of visa services, and information about the status of the current immigrant visa backlog worldwide.

Neal Vermillion works directly with the Office of Field Operations, which is a government agency that provides guidance to Consular sections including Embassies and Consulates around the world. He has worked with the Department of State since the early 2000’s in various roles and has invaluable expertise on visa operations at Consular sections around the globe.

In this post, we will share with you the highlights of this session which you may find useful to determine the progress of your visa and what you can expect with regard to visa processing in the coming months.


DOS Q&A Session with Neal Vermillion: Immigrant Visa Backlog Q&A



Neal’s Introductory Remarks

I would first like to say a few remarks before we get to that question and the other specific ones. In terms of the history, here we are almost June 2021. Those of you that follow our immigrant visa processing overseas know, we actually shut down due to the pandemic. Visa processing shut down for several months last year at this time, and we really didn’t start the reopening process until July of last year. This is one significant factor that is leading to this backlog discussion that we are having today.

Another point I want to highlight that is another prong of why we are where we are is, you may recall, last spring as well, then President Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 10014, which President Biden rescinded in late February of this year, but that Proclamation prevented the issuance, even when we were open and our Consular sections were processing some visas, that prevented the issuance and travel of many many different types of immigrant visas.

A third prong as we’re talking about Presidential Proclamations, is … some of you may be aware, there are actually still in effect geographic Proclamations, as we call them, which basically are again Presidential Proclamations that have been issued to help protect the homeland, protect health and security.

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