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In this post, we bring you great 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 this new update?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS 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.

On January 24, 2023, USCIS made the announcement that it will grant one FINAL extension to 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 March 23, 2023. 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 March 23, 2023 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.

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Today, January 12, 2023, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is implementing the final phase of its expansion of premium processing for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, under the EB-1 and EB-2 immigrant classifications.


Who does this phase apply to?


This phase applies to new (initial) petitions, and all previously filed Form I-140 petitions under an E13 multinational executive and manager (EB-1C) classification or E21 classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver (NIW) (EB-2).


When does premium processing open for new and pending EB-1C and EB-2 petitions?


Under the final phase of premium processing, effective January 30, 2023, USCIS will begin accepting premium processing upgrades for:

  • All pending E13 multinational executive and manager petitions (EB-1C) and E21 NIW petitions (EB-2), and
  • All initial E13 multinational executive and manager petitions (EB-1C) and E21 NIW petitions (EB-2)
  • Petitioners who wish to request a premium processing upgrade must file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

The expansion of premium processing was first known to the public with the release of the final rule entitled, “Implementation of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act,” published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2022. As part of this final rule, USCIS announced the gradual expansion of premium processing to certain additional form types over a three-year period.


Background of the Planned Expansion of Premium Processing


The first phase of the planned expansion of premium processing was announced during May of 2022 and applied to certain pending EB-1 Multinational Executive and Manager and EB-2 NIW petitions.

Later, in July the agency announced a second phase of premium processing expanding premium processing of these categories to EB-1C petitions received by USCIS on or before July 1, 2021, and EB-2 petitions received by USCIS on or before August 1, 2021.

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With the new year comes exciting new changes in immigration. We are happy to report that the government has just announced a brand-new parole process for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans modeled after the Uniting for Ukraine program and parole program for Venezuelans (introduced in October of 2022), granting eligible individuals two-year parole, including the ability to apply for employment authorization and remain lawfully present in the United States.

Separately, the government has released the CBP One mobile app, a new mechanism for noncitizens (land travelers only) to schedule appointments to present themselves at ports of entry, encouraging safe and orderly arrivals. Once Title 42 is no longer in place, this will be the scheduling mechanism for noncitizens to schedule a time to present themselves at a U.S. port of entry for inspection and processing, rather than arriving unannounced or attempting to cross in-between ports of entry. This includes those who seek to make asylum claims. Those who use the CBP One process will be eligible for employment authorization during their period of authorized stay.

Individuals who use the CBP One app will be able to schedule an appointment to present themselves at the following ports of entry:

  • Arizona: Nogales;
  • Texas: Brownsville, Hidalgo, Laredo, Eagle Pass, and El Paso (Paso Del Norte); and
  • California: Calexico and San Ysidro (Pedestrian West – El Chaparral).

During their inspection process, noncitizens must verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status and provide, upon request, proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in accordance with Title 19 vaccination requirements.

Individuals will be able to schedule appointments in CBP One in the coming days. The CBP One application is free to download and available in the Apple and Google App Stores.


Parole Program for Nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela


The United States government has implemented a new parole program for nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to prevent those eligible from making a dangerous trek to the United States.

*Please note Venezuela’s parole program has been in effect since October 18, 2022. 

The parole program will allow up to 30,000 qualifying nationals per month from all four of these countries to reside legally in the United States.

Eligible individuals will be able to seek advance authorization to travel to the United States and be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for a temporary grant of parole for up to two years, including employment authorization.

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In this blog post, we share with you an important announcement from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On December 30, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) benefits for Yemeni nationals for an 18-month period beginning from March 4, 2023, through September 3, 2024.

The Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Yemeni nationals due to ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent Yemeni nationals from safely returning to their home country.

This means that Yemeni nationals (and individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Yemen) who are residing in the United States as of December 29, 2022, are eligible for Temporary Protected Status under Yemen’s designation.

Existing beneficiaries of TPS may re-register for benefits during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from January 3, 2023, through March 4, 2023.

Those who do not currently have TPS but who qualify for TPS benefits can register from January 3, 2023 through September 3, 2024.

It is important for re-registrants to timely re-register during the registration period and not wait until their Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) expire, as delaying reregistration could result in gaps in their employment authorization documentation.

The main benefit of applying for TPS is that those who are approved 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).

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Welcpuzzle-g75f3e575f_1920ome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful holiday break and wish you a prosperous new year ahead.

We kick off the new year with some important updates in the world of immigration.

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will be posted in the Federal Register tomorrow Wednesday, January 4, 2023 that will increase filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits. An unpublished version is already available in the Federal Register.

A 60-day public comment period will follow the publication of the NPRM on January 4, 2023 and will close on March 5, 2023.

Fees will not change until the final rule goes into effect, and only after the public has had the opportunity to comment and USCIS finalizes the fee schedule in response to such public comments. USCIS will host a public engagement session on the proposed fee rule on January 11, 2023.

According to USCIS, the proposed fee increases are necessary to ensure that the agency will have enough resources to provide adequate services to applicants and petitioners moving forward. The agency has said that after having conducted a review of current fees, it has determined that it cannot cover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services without a fee increase.

The agency cited the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the factors leading the agency to increase its fees. As you may recall, the pandemic caused a dramatic reduction in the filing of new applications, leaving USCIS with a substantial decrease in revenues of 40 percent. This unfortunate drop in applications led USCIS to reduce its workforce accordingly.

With current resources, the agency has said it is incapable of adjudicating applications in a timely manner, when considering that agency caseloads are now returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Among the new proposals included in the NPRM are measures that:

  • Incorporate biometrics costs into the main benefit fee and remove the separate biometric services fee
  • Require separate filing fees for Form I-485 and associated Form I-131 and Form I-765 filings
  • Establish separate fees for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, by nonimmigrant classification.
  • Revise the premium processing timeframe interpretation from 15 calendar days to 15 business days
  • Create lower fees for certain immigration forms filed online.

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Happy Holidays from the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick!

In this blog post, we share with you the release of the January Visa Bulletin for the year 2023, what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories, including visa availability, movement, and projections for each category in the months ahead.


What is the Visa Bulletin?


The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month in the employment and family preference categories. 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.

To be eligible to file an employment-based adjustment application in January, foreign nationals must have a priority date that is earlier than the date listed below for their preference category and country.

Those currently residing in the United States, may file for adjustment of status once their priority dates become current, following the adjustment of status filing chart guidance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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If you are considering applying for U.S. Citizenship in the new year, you may be interested to learn that yesterday December 15, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to conduct trial testing of a newly redesigned naturalization examination for N-400 naturalization applicants in the year 2023.

The main purpose of the trial is to test an updated format of the civics component that evaluates an applicant’s knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history, as well as introduce a brand-new English-speaking component that may become the new standard of the N-400 examination.


Why the change?


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented this change in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, which includes a directive to review the naturalization process. To align with the goals of this Executive Order, USCIS has called for a review of the naturalization examination and recommended redesigning the speaking and civics test to improve testing standards.


How will the trial testing occur?


USCIS has said that the trial will be rolled out with the assistance of nationwide volunteer community-based organizations known as CBOs working with immigrant English language learners and lawful permanent residents preparing for naturalization. USCIS will seek approximately 1,500 individuals enrolled in adult education classes to take the trial test. The agency may use the results of the trial to support its proposed changes to the naturalization test.

The trial will test both the standardized English-speaking test as part of the requirement to demonstrate an understanding of the English language, and the civics examination with updated content and format. The trial testing will not include the reading or writing portions of the naturalization examination.

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We start off the week with some exciting news for naturalization applicants filing N-400, Application for Naturalization.

On December 9, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new updates to its policy guidance including a new procedure that will allow USCIS to automatically extend the validity of a Permanent Resident Card for a period of 24-months, through the issuance of an N-400 Application for Naturalization, receipt notice. This means that generally Permanent Residents with a pending N-400 Application, will no longer need to file Form I-90 to renew their green cards.

This policy is effective as of today, Monday, December 12, 2022, and applies to all applications filed on or after December 12, 2022.

Lawful permanent residents who filed for N-400 naturalization PRIOR to December 12, 2022, will NOT receive an N-400 receipt notice with the 24-month extension, and will be required to file Form I-90 if their green card expires, or request an appointment to receive an ADIT stamp in their passport to maintain valid evidence of their status as required under the law.


What You Need to Know


Previously, naturalization applicants who did not apply for naturalization at least six months before the expiration date on their green cards needed to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, (green card) to maintain proper documentation of their lawful status.

Applicants who applied for naturalization at least six months prior to their green card expiration were eligible to request an appointment to receive an Alien Documentation, Identification, and Telecommunications (ADIT) stamp in their passport, which served as temporary evidence of their LPR status.

This policy is no more.

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We close off the week with some new announcements from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding TPS extensions for Haitian nationals, and USCIS commitments to improve immigration in the new year – fiscal year 2023.


TPS Extended for Haitian Nationals


On December 5, 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, announced that the TPS designation for Haiti will be automatically extended for 18 additional months. Haitian nationals with TPS benefits will have the opportunity to re-register for an extension of their TPS benefits for a period of 18 months from February 4, 2023, through August 3, 2024.

This automatic extension has been granted because the Secretary has determined that conditions continue to exist to support Haiti’s TPS designation due to extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country including a prolonged political crisis, insecurity, gang violence, and catastrophic earthquakes. According to Secretary Mayorkas, “The conditions in Haiti, including socioeconomic challenges, political instability, and gang violence and crime – aggravated by environmental disaster – compelled the humanitarian relief we are providing today.”

As a reminder, Haitians entering the United States after November 6, 2022, are not eligible for TPS benefits and, will be subject to removal from the United States if they have no legal basis to remain in the country.

TPS will apply only to those individuals who have already been residing in the United States as of November 6, 2022, and who meet all other requirements to receive the TPS extension. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after November 6, 2022, are NOT eligible for TPS benefits.

Soon, the Department of Homeland Security will publish a notice in the Federal Register explaining the eligibility criteria and procedures to re-register for TPS, renew Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), and submission of initial TPS application under the re-designation.

For more information, please click here.

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In this blog post, we share with you the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs next year.

By law, DHS has the authority to update the eligible countries lists at any time by publishing a notice in the Federal Register, if the agency determines that a country fails to meet the requirements for continued designation.

The H-2A and H-2B visa programs enable U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, respectively.

USCIS approves H-2A and H-2B petitions only for nationals of countries that the secretary of homeland security has designated as eligible to participate in the programs. However, USCIS may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions, including those that were pending as of the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice, for nationals of countries not on the lists on a case-by-case basis only if doing so is determined to be in the interest of the United States.

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