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Articles Posted in DHS

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We have news that may be some relief to international students across the United States.

Today, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit in District Court in Boston against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), challenging new guidelines that prohibit international students from taking online classes during the upcoming fall semester.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief to bar the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, from enforcing recent federal guidelines just announced on Monday, that prohibit international students from attending U.S. colleges and universities offering only online instruction during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester.

As our loyal followers know, early this week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a news release introducing a new set of guidelines for international students who will take courses in the U.S. during the upcoming fall semester.

Among the new guidelines, we learned that F-1 and M-1 students will be prohibited from taking courses entirely online during the fall semester. The announcement stated that the Department of State would not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs operating entirely online, and Customs and Border Protection would not allow such students to enter the United States.

International students in the United States enrolled in schools and/or programs operating entirely online were only given two options (1) depart the United States or (2) take other measures such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

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Today, Monday, July 6, 2020, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release introducing new modifications taken by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that will apply to all international students in F-1 and M-1 status taking courses during this upcoming Fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be publishing new procedures and responsibilities for F-1 and M-1 students during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester in the Federal Register including changes to current policies for F-1 international students.

Monday’s modifications introduce surprising requirements for F-1 and M-1 students taking online classes due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the fall 2020 semester.


What are these new requirements?

There are three sets of new requirements.

F-1 and M-1 Students Attending Schools with Full Online Instruction During the Upcoming Fall 2020 Semester Must Transfer to In-Person Instruction or Depart the United States

Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students who are attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall 2020 semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.

Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

If the student fails to transfer to a school with in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester, the student may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.

F-1 Students Attending Schools With In-Person Instruction Bound to Existing Regulations – Can Take 3 Credits Online

F-1 students who will attend schools operating under “normal” in-person instruction during the Fall 2020 semester (as opposed to online classes) will be bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students are permitted to take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

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Today is a historic day for Dreamers from all walks of life. By a vote of 5-4, Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer rallied together in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, finding that the Trump administration’s 2017 efforts to dismantle the DACA program were improper. This means that the DACA program will remain in place at least for the foreseeable future. DACA was first created by executive order under former President Barack Obama eight years ago, in response to Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform shielding undocumented young adults from deportation.

The creation of the DACA program prompted fury from Republicans who felt former President Obama was side-stepping Congress to create laws of his own. Perhaps the most infuriated of these Republicans was then Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who promised voters he would dismantle the “illegal,” DACA program once and for all. While in office, President Trump nominated two conservative Justices to the Supreme Court to help him do just that, shifting the composition of the Supreme Court to a conservative one.

Today’s ruling is a stunning rebuke to the President’s agenda and hopes for re-election given that the dismantling of the DACA program has been a lynchpin of his campaign. Although the majority of conservatives on the Court favored dismantling the DACA program, Chief Justice Roberts put the debate to rest siding with the liberals on the court to leave the DACA program in place.

After the decision, President Trump immediately took to twitter condemning the ruling stating, “The recent Supreme Court decisions, not only on DACA, Sanctuary Cities, Censes, and others, tell you one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court…the DACA decision, while a highly political one, and seemingly not based on the law, gives the President of the United States far more power than ever anticipated…VOTE 2020!” What Trump failed to mention is that these rulings were handed down by a conservative court of his own making.

In their ruling, the five Justices stated that the Trump administration failed to provide an adequate reason to justify ending the DACA program. Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority stated, “we do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound polices. The wisdom of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” In addition, the five justices found that the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to adequately address important factors bearing on the administration’s decision to rescind the program.

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We have very exciting news for our readers. Yesterday, May 27th the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed that it is preparing to reopen some domestic offices and resume services to the public on or after June 4th.

As you know, on March 18th USCIS made the difficult decision to suspend in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) nationwide to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. While offices were closed, USCIS continued to provide emergency in-person services.

From the agency’s announcement it is clear that not all domestic offices will reopen to the public by June 4, but we know that at least some will begin to reopen to provide relief to those that have been waiting to attend their interviews or biometrics appointments.

USCIS will be following all state mandated precautions including reducing the number of appointments and interviews scheduled for the day, enforcing social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, and reducing waiting room occupancy. Members of the public will be required to wear masks covering their nose and mouth. Sanitizer will be provided to the public.

USCIS urges those who are feeling sick to stay home and schedule their appointments once they are feeling better. As a reminder, there is no penalty for rescheduling your appointment if you are sick.

We expect that USCIS will be scheduling far less appointments than usual to reduce the number of people in the facility at any one time. That means that appointment times will be spaced out and there will be a slight delay to reschedule everyone who has been waiting for an appointment. Please be patient and wait to receive a new appointment notice in the mail.

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The economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt by nearly all sectors of the economy, but perhaps the most unexpected victim has been the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Unlike many other government agencies, USCIS does not depend on government funding to survive. Instead, the agency primarily relies on fees, charged to applicants and petitioners applying for immigration benefits, to remain in operation.

A spokesman for the agency recently revealed that the agency is strapped for cash. Americans nationwide have had to cut back on spending during this coronavirus pandemic, leaving little money to spare on the very expensive filing fees required for various types of immigration benefits, such as citizenship and green card applications. The agency is in such a precarious position that it has now asked the United States government for a $1.2 billion bailout to remain in operation.

USCIS has said that its revenue could plummet by more than 60 percent by the end of the fiscal year which ends on September 30, 2020. If the agency does not receive additional funding from the government, it will run out of money by the summertime.

In anticipation of its decreased revenue, USCIS is preparing to take drastic measures to stay afloat, such as adding a 10 percent “surcharge” to applications, on top of proposed filing fee increases. These additional fees could be imposed within the coming months.

Of course, an increase in fees is bad news for non-citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Many have blamed President Trump’s restrictive policies on immigration for the decrease in revenue. The President’s most recent proclamations coupled with his restrictive immigration policies have made it more difficult for immigrants and non-immigrants alike to obtain immigration benefits. These policies have been designed to discourage foreign nationals from seeking immigration benefits because of the high rate of visa denials. In addition, the most recent proclamation has kept consular immigration at a standstill.

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The long-awaited Executive Order temporarily suspending the immigration of certain aliens into the United States has been released.


WHO IS IMPACTED BY THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?


The order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” suspends and limits the entry of the following types of aliens (for a 60-day period) beginning 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.


Your entry is suspended and limited if all of the following are true:

THREE PART TEST


  • You are an alien outside of the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd)
  • You are an alien that does not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd) and
  • You are an alien that does not have an official travel document other than a visa on the effective date of the proclamation (April 23rd) or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission
    • Official travel documents include a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or advance parole document.

ENFORCEMENT


This Proclamation shall be enforced by U.S. Consulates worldwide at their discretion giving them the power to determine whether an immigrant has established his or her eligibility and is otherwise exempted from the Proclamation. The Department of State will implement the proclamation as it applies to immigrant visas, at the discretion of the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The Department of State governs the immigration process outside of the United States, while the Department of Homeland Security governs the immigration process within the United States and guides the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


WHO IS EXEMPT FROM THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?


The order expressly exempts:

  • Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S.
  • Aliens who are the spouses of U.S. Citizens
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and any spouse and child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Aliens under 21 years of age who are children of United States Citizens and prospective adoptees
  • 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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UPDATE—The Latest on DACA: Last summer, the United States Supreme Court accepted the Trump administration’s writ of certiorari, agreeing to review several federal court cases challenging the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA. The Supreme Court could, at any moment, decide the fate of DACA, making this an extremely uncertain time for Dreamers. A decision is expected to be handed down by the Supreme Court in early 2020, just before the 2020 presidential election. In the meantime, given that no final decision has yet been made by the Supreme Court, DACA recipients may continue to submit renewal applications pursuant to three U.S. district court orders that remain in effect. As required by these orders, United States Citizenship and immigration Services (USCIS) resumed accepting renewal requests for DACA, however those who have never before been granted deferred action cannot apply.


DACA FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


USCIS Continues to Accept DACA Renewal Requests

In early January of 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs in the case Regents of the University of California, et al. v. Department of Homeland Security, et al., which challenged the government’s decision to terminate DACA. The preliminary injunction had the effect of temporarily blocking the termination of the DACA program until a final decision is reached on the merits of the case. The injunction applied nationwide and required USCIS to resume accepting DACA renewal applications. Shortly after this court order, USCIS announced that it would resume accepting DACA renewal applications.

The Sapochnick Law Firm has drafted the following answers to your frequently asked questions regarding the current state of DACA, CIS’ announcement informing the public that it will continue accepting DACA requests, and further developments relating to DACA.


WHY YOU SHOULD APPLY FOR YOUR DACA RENEWAL NOW


At this time the fate of the DACA program is extremely uncertain. The United States Supreme Court is set to make a final decision regarding the legality of the DACA program at any time. Given that the liberal justices on the court are outnumbered by 5-4, it is more and more probable that the DACA program will be terminated. Once the Supreme Court casts the final vote, DACA recipients will likely lose the opportunity to apply for renewal of their benefits. Now more than ever DACA holders should take advantage of their ability to apply for a final renewal of their benefits. We hope that the Supreme Court will be on the right side of history, but there can be no guarantees.


1. I have never applied for DACA before, can I still submit an application?

No. The preliminary injunction does not require USCIS to accept DACA applications from first-time applicants. USCIS has made clear that it will not be accepting DACA applications from those who have never before been granted deferred action. The agency will only continue accepting applications to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA.

2. Why did I hear that applications for first-time applicants would be accepted?

In a previous case out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, NAACP v. Trump, federal judge John D. Bates ordered the government to submit additional information to justify its decision to terminate DACA—failure to do so meant that USCIS would be required to accept first-time applications for DACA as well as applications from DACA holders for advance parole.

The government did respond within the required period of time, issuing a memorandum outlining the government’s rationale for terminating the DACA program. Having satisfied the court’s requirement to produce the information, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, “stayed” its previous order requiring that the DACA program be fully reinstated. As a result, the portions of the court order that would have allowed first-time applicants to seek DACA and allowed for DACA recipients to apply for advance parole, were stopped.

Given that the government complied with the court order, at this time, USCIS is not accepting DACA applications from first-time applicants, nor applications for advance parole from DACA recipients.

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In this post, we will discuss Form DS-5540, a mandatory public charge questionnaire that must be completed by all foreign nationals seeking an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and some non-immigrant visa applicants.

What is Form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire?

Shortly after the publication of the public charge rule in the Federal Register, the government published a separate rule requiring applicants seeking immigrant visas, including diversity visas, at a Consulate abroad, to complete Form DS-5540, except for certain types of immigrants exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility such as self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Afghan and Iraqi interpreters applying for special immigrant visas.

In addition, the government has given consular officers broad discretion to require nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540, if for example the officer determines more information is needed regarding the applicant’s ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on the government’s assistance, or if the consular officer is not satisfied with the information provided by the applicant.

Therefore, consular officers have the power to request nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540.

The DS-5540 solicits information that helps consular officers determine whether applicants are subject to the public charge visa ineligibility ground (section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) and will not rely on certain specific public resources upon entering the United States.

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Applying for adjustment of status just became a lot more difficult.

After announcing the nationwide implementation of the final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” on February 24, 2020, USCIS unveiled a brand-new form (Form I-944) that must be filed with all applications for adjustment of status postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

What is Form I-944?

This new Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, will be used by USCIS to determine whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge at any time in the future based on several factors including receipt of public benefits, as well as the applicant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills, prospective immigration status and period of stay, and the petitioner’s Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.

In general, a person is inadmissible based on public charge grounds if he or she is more likely than not at any time in the future to receive one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Who is Exempt from Filing this Form?

Certain special classes of immigrants are not required to file the new Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency with an adjustment of status application such as: VAWA self-petitioners, special immigrant juveniles, certain Afghani or Iraqi nationals, asylees, refugees, victims of qualifying criminal activity (U Nonimmigrants), victims of human trafficking (T nonimmigrants), applicants applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act, Haitian Refugee Fairness Act, certain Parolees, Nicaraguans and other Central Americans of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), and other special classes of immigrants.

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On February 21, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States by a vote of 5-4 stayed the remaining statewide injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which prevented the government from enforcing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds rule also known as the “public charge” rule in the State of Illinois. A “stay” is a ruling made by a court to stop or suspend a proceeding or trial temporarily.

What this means

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the government may now enforce the “public charge” rule in the state of Illinois, while it appeals the District Court’s decision.