Articles Posted in DOS

iga-palacz-uHlChMfA2ms-unsplash-scaled

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

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 “Chats with Charlie” series on the DOS YouTube Channel. 

Chats with Charlie is 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. Questions can be emailed to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of the event with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.


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


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.

Continue reading

alexas_fotos-x1CLah6pv6g-unsplash-scaled

Happy Columbus Day! In this blog post, we share important updates regarding the Diversity Visa Lottery Program for fiscal year 2023.


What you need to know


The State Department is now accepting online registrations for the Diversity Visa Lottery program for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 (registration opened Wednesday, October 6, 2021, at noon EDT).

Foreign nationals who want to have a chance of being selected must register for the lottery by Tuesday, November 9, 2021, at noon EST online.

The Fiscal Year 2023 DV lottery program will have up to 55,000 green cards up for grabs that will be selected through a randomized computer-generated process. Winners for FY 2023 are expected to be announced in May 8, 2022.


Why should I apply?


Foreign nationals selected in the FY 2023 lottery are eligible to file their green card applications starting on October 1, 2022.


Am I eligible to enter?


You are eligible to participate if you meet the following requirements.

Requirement #1: You must be a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States to enter

Click here for the complete list of countries eligible (p. 16 to 20).

If you are not a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States, there are two other ways you might be able to qualify.

  • Is your spouse a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States? If yes, you can claim your spouse’s country of birth – provided that you and your spouse are named on the selected entry, are found eligible and issued diversity visas, and enter the United States at the same time.
  • Are you a native of a country that does not have historically low rates of immigration to the United States, but in which neither of your parents was born or legally resident at the time of your birth? If yes, you may claim the country of birth of one of your parents if it is a country whose natives are eligible for the DV-2023 program.

Continue reading

tom-barrett-M0AWNxnLaMw-unsplash-scaled

We have very interesting and exciting news to report to our readers. We are happy to report that on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, a federal judge from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, declared that the State Department cannot use the various geographic COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamations to cease the processing of visas at Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As our readers will know, beginning in January of 2020, to protect against the rise of COVID-19 infections in the United States, the President issued a series of Presidential Proclamations that suspended and restricted entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

These Presidential Proclamations did not have a termination date and have continued to be in force to the present day. The most widely discussed ban (the Schengen visa ban “Proclamation 9993,”) applied to immigrants and nonimmigrants from 26 European countries including: 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. However separate visa bans have also impacted the entry of Brazilian nationals, Chinese nationals, Iranian nationals, and Indian nationals (see the list of COVID-19 travel bans listed below.)

Since the issuance of these travel bans, U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide have refused to issue any visas to those who do not otherwise qualify for an exemption and have been physically present in any of the affected regions during the 14-day period preceding their entry into the United States. The only way applicants have succeeded in pushing their cases forward has been by requesting a National Interest Exception from their respective Embassy.


The COVID-19 related travel bans are as follows:

  • China Visa Ban – Proclamation 9984 issued January 21, 2020 – No termination date
  • Iran Visa Ban –Proclamation 9992 issued February 29, 2020 –No termination date
  • European Schengen Area Visa Ban—Proclamation 9993 issued March 11, 2020—No termination date
  • Ireland and UK Visa Ban –Proclamation 9996 issued March 14, 2020 –No termination date
  • India Visa Ban –Proclamation 10199 issued April 30, 2021—No termination date
  • Brazil Visa Ban—Proclamation 10041 issued May 25, 2020 –No termination date

For a complete list of COVID-19 country-specific proclamations click here.


Continue reading

mufid-majnun-9D0lPu7wtag-unsplash-scaled

We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important new updates regarding the new COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all immigrant visa applicants, fiancé(e) visa applicants, and nonimmigrant visa applicants. We also share with you some new information regarding Croatia’s designation as a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program. When can Croatians start to apply for ESTA? Find out here!


COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Immigrant Visa Applicants Overseas


The Department of State has issued a brand-new press release informing the public that effective October 1, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Technical Instructions for panel physicians, will now require all immigrant visa applicants, all K fiancé(e) visa applicants, and nonimmigrant visa applicants who are referred to the panel physicians to receive a full COVID-19 vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) as part of their medical exam prior to being issued a visa.  The CDC is requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved through either the World Health Organization (WHO) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Blanket waivers for the COVID vaccination will be applied in countries where the vaccine is not routinely available or when the vaccine is not age appropriate.  The Department of State is encouraging all immigrant visa applicants and others subject to a medical exam to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to avoid delays in their visa processing. If any of the below mentioned circumstances apply a blanket waiver may be available to you.


Circumstances in which Blanket Waivers are available for COVID-19 vaccinations:


  • Where it is not age-appropriate to receive the vaccination
    For COVID-19 vaccines, the age for which a particular vaccine can be administered differs by formulation. If the applicant is younger than the lowest age limit for the formulations in use (less than 12 years of age at the time of posting), this blanket waiver should be documented.
  • In cases where a contraindication exists – a condition that serves as a reason not to take a certain medical treatment due to the harm that it would cause the patient.

If an applicant has a contraindication or precaution to the COVID-19 vaccine formulation available, the “Contraindicated” reason should be documented, and the vaccine should not be administered. If the applicant has had a severe reaction to the first dose that is considered a contraindication to receiving a second dose, the first dose should be documented in addition to the blanket waiver.  Please refer to Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States for COVID-19 specific information about contraindications and precautions.

  • Where a vaccine is not routinely available
    If no COVID-19 vaccine is routinely available in the state where the Civil Surgeon practices, the “Not routinely available” reason should be documented.  If vaccine is available to the applicant but due to limited supply, it would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive their vaccination, then this situation would also be considered “Not routinely available.”

Continue reading

maddi-bazzocco-O-v6LWnU0OU-unsplash-scaled

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

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 “Chats with Charlie” series on the DOS YouTube Channel. 

Chats with Charlie is 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. Questions can be emailed to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of the event with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.

For a detailed dive into the October 2021 Chats with Charlie broadcast please click here.


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


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart October 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 October 2021.

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

Continue reading

on-air-4901461_1920

Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s October 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 Oppenheim 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 visa projections for October 2021.


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



The Top 9 Advance Questions Sent in By Listeners


Q: Last month, when describing the National Visa Center’s processing of cases, you mentioned a change in terminology from “documentarily qualified” to “documentarily complete.” Why the change and what’s the difference?

A: Well, the terminology means exactly the same thing. It’s my understanding that in changing it to “complete,” the National Visa Center was trying to make it very clear to the applicant that they had submitted all the required documents, that all those documents have been reviewed by the National Visa Center, and the case is considered to be “complete” and ready for the potential processing at an overseas post when an interview can be scheduled.

Q: In the September Visa Bulletin, the application dates for filing which are listed for China and India EB-3 were July 1, 2019, and March 1, 2014, respectively. But in the October Visa Bulletin, the dates for filing for China and India EB-3 were moved back to January 15, 2019, and January 8, 2014, respectively. Why did you move these two application dates backwards?

A: Each month before I’m making the determination of the final action dates and the application dates, I consult with USCIS officials and their inventory projections show that on October 1, 2021, coming up, the pending demand which both the State Department and USCIS has in the employment third preference category for applicants born in India and China will already exceed the amount of numbers that are available to applicants from those countries throughout fiscal year 2022 in the third preference category. Therefore, for that reason we made the decision to retrogress those application dates for filing to limit new applications, which we did not at the time anticipate could be processed during fiscal year 2022. But it is important to remember that as with the final action dates, we always continue to monitor the situation very carefully and that allows us to determine what if any future action will be required.

Continue reading

convertkit-htQznS-Rx7w-unsplash-scaled

Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we bring you a new update from the U.S. Department of State regarding the status of immigrant visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas. Today, the Department of State released an update reminding immigrant visa applicants that consular interview appointments are being scheduled using a four-tiered system that generally triages immigrant visa applications based on a system of priority.

The update adds that where possible, Consular posts and Embassies will attempt to schedule some appointments within all four priority tiers every month. These attempts will be made to help reduce the massive backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and operational constraints. The new update also carves out priority exceptions for certain healthcare workers seeking immigrant visas.

Applicants should keep in mind that public health and safety remain a paramount concern amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Consular posts and Embassies are continuing to do the best they can depending on local conditions to schedule interview appointments according to the priority schedule, taking into account restrictions on movement and gathering imposed by host country government.

It is also important to consider that posts overseas must abide by U.S. government guidance on safety in the workplace and are following social distancing protocols and safety measures which have reduced the number of applicants consular sections are able to see in a single day.  Consular sections will only resume routine visa services when it is safe to do so based on the particular geographic location.


The Department of State’s Four-Tiered Prioritization Schedule


The Department of State has said that while all immigrant visa categories are important, during the pandemic, it has been forced to make difficult decisions regarding how it will prioritize immigrant visa applications as they operate at limited capacity and work through the substantial backlogs of immigrant visa cases.

Having considered the difficult circumstances all applicants face, the Department of State has followed a guiding principle for immigrant visa prioritization, with family reunification being a top priority for the U.S. Government. The State Department’s prioritization schedule highlights Congressional objectives calling upon the agency to adopt policies that prioritize immediate relative visa applicants and K-1 fiancées of U.S. citizens, followed by family preference immigrant visa applicants.

Continue reading

hakan-nural-niBllet7sTw-unsplash-scaled

In this blog post we share with you some breaking news for green card applicants applying for adjustment of status on Form I-485, as well as those applying for immigrant visas from abroad.

As part of the green card process, USCIS and the Department of State require applicants to undergo a medical examination with a doctor designated as a civil surgeon, to establish that the applicant is not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds.

According to new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control, beginning October 1, 2021, green card applicants will now be required to establish that they have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine series, in order to be deemed eligible for permanent residence. Following the release of this new guidance, COVID-19 was added to the list of vaccinations required of those seeking U.S. lawful permanent residence.

The new vaccine requirement will apply to routine medical examinations necessary for both adjustment of status applicants applying for green cards in the United States and immigrant visa applicants applying at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.


Who must take the COVID-19 vaccine?


All applicants (1) applying for I-485 adjustment of status (a green card) or (2) those applying for an immigrant visa abroad, who will receive their medical examination from a Civil Surgeon or Panel Physician on or after October 1, 2021, will be subject to this requirement and are encouraged to complete a COVID-19 vaccine series as soon  as possible.

Eligible applicants must complete the COVID-19  vaccine  series if  a  COVID-19  vaccine  listed  for  emergency  use  by  the World  Health  Organization  (WHO)  or  licensed  or  authorized  for  emergency  use  by  the  U.S. Food  and  Drug Administration  (FDA)  is  available  to  the  applicant  in  the  country  where  the  medical  examination  is  conducted.


How can I show that I have met the vaccine requirement?


Applicants must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination to the civil surgeon in person before completion of the medical examination.  The COVID-19 vaccination requirement will differ from previous requirements in that the entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) must be completed in addition to the other routinely required vaccines.


How long will the COVID-19 vaccine requirement be in place?


These COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be in place until the CDC determines the vaccine is no longer needed to prevent the importation and spread of COVID-19.

Continue reading

charles-deluvio-S5meg_j_W1U-unsplash-scaled

Exciting news for adjustment of status applicants filing their green card applications! On August 12, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency will be temporarily extending the validity period of medical examination (known as Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record), from two years to now four years due to COVID-19 related delays in processing applications. For those who are unaware, a sealed medical examination signed by a USCIS authorized civil surgeon on Form I-693 is a required component to receive lawful permanent resident status.


Who Will Benefit from this New Policy?


Effective immediately, USCIS will extend your Form I-693 medical examination if all of the following is true:

  • The civil surgeon’s signature on the medical examination (Form I-693) is dated no more than 60 days before the applicant filed Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;
  • No more than four years have passed since the date of the civil surgeon’s signature on Form I-693; and
  • A decision on the applicant’s Form I-485 is issued on or before Sept. 30, 2021.

Why is the validity of the medical exam being extended?


According to USCIS, this change is being made temporarily due to COVID-19 related processing delay that have affected the ability of many applicants to complete the required immigration medical examination. Previously, USCIS considered a completed Form I-693 to retain its validity for two years after the date the civil surgeon signed, as long as the date of the civil surgeon’s signature was no more than 60 days before the applicant filed for adjustment of status. Now the validity of the medical examination Form I-693 is being extended to four years (see the criteria above).

USCIS also revealed that it will be approving a record number of employment-based adjustment of status applications, with more approvals than it has issued since FY 2005.  The agency has prioritized the processing and adjudication of employment-based adjustment of status applications during this fiscal year. The agency vows to continue to make processing and resource allocation decisions to increase the pace of adjudications and limit the potential for employment-based visa numbers to go unused.

Continue reading

fringer-cat-hddmXlPaFGo-unsplash-scaled
Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s September 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 Oppenheim 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.