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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we give you the rundown on the most exciting immigration updates recently announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

These announcements provide important information for applicants including, extended flexibility policies for responding to Requests for Evidence, new COVID-19 vaccination requirements for green card applicants, automatic 24-month extensions of status for petitioners who have properly filed Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status starting September 4, 2021, and continuance of TPS designations for nationals from certain countries.


The Rundown: What do I need to know about these new updates?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests

USCIS has 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 September 24, 2021, USCIS made the announcement that it will continue to 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 January 15, 2022. 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 January 15, 2022 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; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

In addition, USCIS will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion or Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, if:

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope that you are having a wonderful week and are looking forward to your Labor Day weekend.

In this blog post, we share with you some recent immigration updates relating to automatic renewals for certain categories of applicants filing Employment Authorization Document renewal applications. In this post we also discuss Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification flexibilities recently extended due to the COVID-19 health crisis.


DHS Extends Form I-9 Requirement Flexibility (Effective September 1, 2021)


In order to remain in compliance with federal regulations, U.S. employers must complete Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification, to verify the identity and employment authorization documents of their employees.

On September 1, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, announced that they will be extending previously issued flexibility guidelines for employers and noncitizen employees to comply with Form I-9 requirements due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. DHS has extended these flexibility requirements until December 31, 2021.


What do the flexibility guidelines say?


DHS first introduced the I-9 flexibility guidelines on April 1, 2021, abandoning the requirement that employers inspect employees’ Form I-9 identity and employment eligibility documentation in-person for most employees. Employees who physically report to work at a company location on any “regular, consistent, or predictable basis” are not exempt from the in-person inspection requirement.

The physical inspection requirement would not apply to employees hired on or after April 1, 2021, who are working in a remote setting due to COVID-19-related precautions, under Section 274A of the INA, until they undertake non-remote employment on a “regular, consistent, or predictable basis,” or where the extension of the flexibilities related to such requirements is terminated, whichever is earlier.

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In this blog post we share with you some happy news for first time Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applicants from Venezuela, Syria, and Burma.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it is extending the initial registration periods for applications under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for Venezuela, Syria, and Burma (Myanmar), from 180 days to 18 months.

Foreign nationals eligible to file initial (new) applications under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for Venezuela, Syria and Burma (Myanmar), will now have up to 18 months to submit their requests, up from 180 days, according to a recent Federal Register notice that has been published in the Federal Register by USCIS. The registration periods, which were to expire this fall, are being extended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in an effort to ensure that eligible applicants have an opportunity to obtain TPS and to reduce operational burdens on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by spreading out applications over a period of time.

The new 18-month filing periods align with the TPS designation for each country and are in keeping with the filing periods recently allotted in for Yemen, Haiti, and Somalia TPS designations.


What does the new filing extension allow me to do?


This new filing extension will allow eligible individuals to submit an initial Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, application for an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765 work permit), and application for Travel Permission (Form I-131) (if desired) at any time during the 18-month designation or redesignation periods for these three countries.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are happy to bring you the latest immigration updates recently announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


USCIS Guidance Following DACA Permanent Injunction in State of Texas, et al., v. United States of America, et al., 1:18-CV-00068, (S.D. Texas July 16, 2021)


USCIS has announced on its official webpage that consistent with the permanent injunction granted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on July 16, 2021, declaring DACA policy illegal, USCIS is prohibited from granting initial requests for first time DACA applicants, and accompanying requests for employment authorization.

However, USCIS will continue to accept both initial and renewal DACA requests but will not be able to adjudicate requests for first time DACA applicant’s pursuant to the court order.

Renewal filings for those who have received DACA benefits in the past, will continue unaffected by the court order, and USCIS will continue to adjudicate renewal requests, and accompanying renewal requests for employment authorization as before.

What’s next? The Department of Justice will be appealing the District Court’s decision and the Biden administration is urging Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021.

Read Biden’s Statement responding to the Court’s injunction here.


Applicants Filing Change of Status Applications to F-1 No Longer Need to Submit Subsequent Applications to ‘Bridge the Gap’


We are happy to report that USCIS recently ended the “Bridge the Gap” policy. Previously, prospective students with a current nonimmigrant status in the United States, that was set to expire more than 30 days before their F-1 program start date, were required to “Bridge the Gap,” by filing Form I-539 with USCIS to request an extension of their current status, or a change to another status ensuring that they would not have a “gap” in status.

Effective July 20, 2021, USCIS announced that individuals who have applied for a change of status to F-1 student, will no longer need to “Bridge the Gap,” while their initial F-1 change of status application is pending with USCIS.

To prevent a “gap” in status, USCIS has said that it will now grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day the applicant’s Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status is approved. If USCIS approves an application more than 30 days before the student’s program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time (such as engaging in unauthorized employment, more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on the Form I-20.)

These changes have been introduced to decrease current backlogs and USCIS workloads. A revision of the Form I-539 instructions will soon be published to reflect these new policy changes.

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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! 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 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! 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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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It’s a brand-new week and we are excited to share with you a recent update that will benefit F-1 students applying for employment authorization under the Optional Practical Training program (OPT).

Today, April 12, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students requesting OPT may now file their Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, online by creating an online account at myaccount.uscis.gov, instead of having to submit a paper application by mail to USCIS, if they fall under one of the following categories:

  • (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
  • (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
  • (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?


Optional Practical Training (OPT) refers to a temporary period of employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.

Eligible F-1 students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).

Eligible F-1 students who receive STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT.


How Can You Qualify for OPT?


All OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. If you are an F-1 student, you may be eligible to participate in OPT in two different ways:

  • Pre-completion OPT:  You may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after you have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll F-1 students. You do not need to have had F-1 status for the one full academic year; you can satisfy the “one full academic year” requirement even if you had another nonimmigrant status during that time.

If you are authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT, you may work part time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session. You may work full time when school is not in session.

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Welcome back to Visalawerblog! We hope you are having a wonderful start to your week.

In this blog post, we discuss a new update for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for the country of Venezuela.

As luck would have it, on March 8, 2021, the newly sworn Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced the designation of Venezuela, as a foreign country qualifying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the safe return of Venezuelan nationals to their country of origin.

The designation will allow Venezuelan nationals (and those without nationality who last resided in Venezuela) to file initial applications for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), provided they meet the eligibility requirements.


What is TPS?


Temporary Protected Status is a temporary immigration status given to certain foreign nationals from certain countries that are experiencing ongoing armed conflict, environment disaster, humanitarian crisis, and other such conditions. TPS allows qualifying applicants to remain in the United States on a temporary lawful basis without fear of deportation, and also allows applicants to apply for a temporary work permit. Only nationals from countries who have been designated as eligible for Temporary Protected Status by the Secretary of Homeland Security are eligible to participate. Countries with such designation include El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.


What are the eligibility requirements?


  • To be eligible, applicants must be a national of Venezuela, or be a person without nationality who last habitually resided in Venezuela.
  • Venezuelan nationals must file for TPS during the open initial registration or re-registration period, which falls on March 9, 2021 to September 5, 2021. That means all initial applications must be received within this time frame.
  • Venezuelan nationals must prove they have been continuously physically present in the United States since March 9, 2021, the effective date of Venezuela’s designation date; and
  • Venezuelan nationals must prove that they have been continuously residing in the United States since March 8, 2021.
  • Those who meet the requirements outlined above may obtain TPS benefits for a period of 18 months lasting until September 9, 2022.

How to file


All applicants must submit the necessary forms, supporting documentation, and filing fees with USCIS by filing Form I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status, as well as Form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization. For information about the forms and supporting documentation required click here.

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