Articles Posted in DHS

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On November 14, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register to increase immigration fees for certain petitions. After publication, the proposal will be open for a 30-day comment period. After that point the agency will review public comments and draft the final rule. At this time there is no definitive date set out in the proposed rule for enforcement of these fees. Therefore, readers should note that these fee increases will likely not take effect until well into Fiscal Year 2020.

What does the rule propose?

The rule proposes the following fee increases by immigration benefit:

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Moreover, DHS proposes that fees for the following types of petitions be limited to a 5 percent increase above current fees:

  • Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
  • Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant.
  • Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative
  • Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition
  • Form I-600A/I-600, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-600A/I600.42
  • Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative.
  • Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country.
  • Form I-800A, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-800A

Changes to Fee Waiver Requests

DHS further proposes to limit fee waivers grants to individuals who have an annual household income of less than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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In its latest act of defiance against the judicial branch, the Trump administration has published an Interim Final Rule entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” designed to give Consular officers wider discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to applicants on public charge grounds based on a variety of factors that could weigh positively or negatively on an applicant.

According to the rule, consular officials will now be able to weigh a variety of factors to determine whether a visa applicant is likely to become a public charge. These factors include the applicant’s age, health, educational background, and financial status. In addition, consular officers will have increased discretion to scrutinize certain applications more closely than others based on the type of visa classification sought by the applicant, as well as the duration of stay.

Applicants who are seeking a long-term visa, for example may be scrutinized more heavily than applicant’s seeking a short-term visa (such as a tourist visa).

How will these factors be weighed by Consular officials?

Age: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s age makes the alien more likely than not to become a public charge in the totality of the circumstances, such as by impacting the alien’s ability to work. Consular officers will consider an alien’s age between 18 and 62 as a positive factor.

Health: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s health serves as a positive or negative factor in the totality of the circumstances, including whether the alien has been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with the alien’s ability to provide and care for himself or herself, to attend school, or to work (if authorized).

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A new lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California now allows Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applicants to challenge long standing delays in receiving their immigration records from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The U.S. District Court has certified two class action lawsuits allowing FOIA applicants and attorneys requesting FOIA records on their behalf to join in the class action so that class members may receive timely determinations on their FOIA requests. This decision was made in response to significant delays that applicants face in obtaining their immigration records from the agency.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick who granted the class action request wrote in his order that delays in receiving immigration records are particularly precarious for, “Noncitizens in removal proceedings” who “particularly rely on FOIA requests because discovery is not available. Consequently, obtaining A-Files from defendants is critical in immigration cases; delays in obtaining A-Files leave noncitizen and their attorneys “in legal limbo” that inflicts substantial hardship.”

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On Friday October 11, 2019, three Federal courts in California, New York, and Washington issued three temporary injunctions blocking the Trump administration from enforcing the Public Charge rule on a nationwide basis, which was set to go into effect on October 15, 2019.

The decision to block the government from enforcing the Public Charge rule is sure to set off a contentious legal battle that is just beginning to unfold.

California’s Injunction

In California, the City of San Francisco, State of California, and La Clinica de La Raza, a health care provider, joined together as plaintiffs to sue the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the President of the United States to prevent the Public Charge rule from going forward.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton granted the Plaintiffs a preliminary injunction bringing a temporary stop to the government’s plans to enforce the rule, in states falling under the purview of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Hamilton wrote that in seeking to enforce the final rule, the government failed to consider the impact the rule would have on local and state governments when immigrants chose to leave public health benefit program, “[DHS] made no attempt, whatsoever, to investigate the type or magnitude of harm that would flow from the reality which it admittedly recognized would result—fewer people would be vaccinated,”

Washington’s Injunction

Similarly in a separate but related lawsuit, the States of Washington, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island joined together as Plaintiffs to sue the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the heads of these agencies, and the President of the United States.

The Washington injunction was more sweeping in scope in that the Federal Judge in that case, Rosanna Malouf Peterson, ordered a nationwide injunction forcing the government to refrain from implementing or enforcing the rule on a temporary but nationwide basis. In her decision Judge Peterson wrote, “the Court declines to limit the injunction to apply only in those states within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”

As a result, the broad scope of the injunction prevents the government from enforcing the Public Charge rule on a nationwide basis.

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The Trump administration has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register expanding the social media information that can be collected as part of the non-immigrant and immigrant visa process.

This new proposed rule is part of the President’s plan to “Protect the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” as stated in Executive Order 13780.

As you may recall this Executive order seeks to “establish screening and vetting standards and procedures to enable DHS to assess an alien’s eligibility to travel to or be admitted to the United States or to receive an immigration-related benefit from DHS.”

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Fresh off the press! In this blog post we will discuss a new proposed rule that is set to be published in the Federal Register on September 4, 2019. We have reviewed an advance copy of this proposed rule and will tell you everything you need to know about the new rule.

At a Glance

The proposed rule will require petitioners filing H-1B cap-subject petitions to pay a $10 registration fee for each petition they submit to USCIS for the H-1B cap selection process beginning with the H-1B fiscal year 2021 cap season.

Overview

As you may recall, on January 31, 2019, DHS published a final rule requiring petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions (including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption) to first electronically register with USCIS during the designated registration period (“H-1B registration final rule”).

USCIS stated that the new H-1B registration system would be implemented beginning with H-1B fiscal year 2021 to ensure the registration system and process work correctly.

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On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced a proposal that will change the settlement agreement reached in Flores v. Reno, an agreement that limited the amount of time and conditions under which the U.S. government could detain immigrant children.

Reno v. Flores prevented the government from holding immigrant children in detention for over 20 days. The Trump administration is now seeking to do away with that prohibition and hold undocumented families traveling with children for an indefinite period of time.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, announced the administration’s plans to publish a final rule in the Federal Register to do away with the Flores rule. The rule would become effective 60 days after publication. The proposal however will likely be met with great opposition and result in years long litigation.

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In this post we bring you the latest immigration news.

Final Rule Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds

The Department of Homeland Security has posted the official version of final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” in the Federal Register.

The Final Rule will become effective at 12:00 a.m. EST on October 15, 2019.

Who does the rule apply to?

The rule will be applied to applications and petitions postmarked (or electronically submitted) on or after October 15, 2019.

The rule will not apply to applications and petitions pending with USCIS prior to October 15, 2019.

To read the official version of the rule please click here.

USCIS Completes Return of Unselected H-1B Petitions

As of August 15, 2019, USCIS has returned all FY2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the lottery. Unselected petitions contain a rejection notice explaining that the petition was not selected in the lottery.

If you submitted a FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petition that was delivered to USCIS between April 1 and April 5, 2019, and you do not receive a receipt notice or returned petition by August 29, 2019, contact USCIS for assistance.

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USCIS will be publishing a final rule on August 14, 2019, in the Federal Register, that expands the list of public benefits that make a foreign national ineligible to obtain permanent residence and/or an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act makes inadmissible and therefore (1) ineligible for a visa, (2) ineligible for admission and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status, any alien who, in the opinion of the DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge.

The process of determining whether an alien is likely to become a public charge is called a “public charge determination.”

Receipt of certain public benefits leads to a “public charge determination” meaning that the applicant is ineligible to receive the benefit they are requesting (such as permanent residence) based on the fact that they are likely to become a public charge to the United States government.

What is a public charge?

A person is a “public charge” if they are primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense.

The final rule expands the scope of this definition by making a public charge any alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Under the final rule announced today, immigration will now be taking into consideration the following benefits to determine whether an individual is or is likely to become a public charge to the U.S. government:

Reliance on or receipt of non-cash benefits such as:

  • Cash benefits for income maintenance
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and
  • certain other forms of subsidized housing.

In addition, the government will continue to take into consideration the following types of benefits:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid

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USCIS International Field Offices

On August 9, 2019, USCIS announced its plans to maintain seven international field offices open in Beijing, Guangzhou, Nairobi, New Delhi, Guatemala City, Mexico City, and San Salvador.

As previously reported, all other USCIS international field offices will close between now and August 2020.

Functions performed at closing international offices will be handled domestically or by USCIS domestic staff on temporary assignments abroad. In addition, the Department of State (DOS) will assume responsibility for certain in-person services that USCIS currently provides at international field offices.

In addition to issuing visas to foreign nationals who are abroad, DOS already performs many of these service functions where USCIS does not have an office.

Targeted Immigration Raids

As our readers may be aware, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been conducting targeted immigration raids (Enforcement and Removal Operations) to remove undocumented immigrants from the United States.

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