Articles Posted in Embassies

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As previously reported, the government has issued a new final rule in the Federal Register entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” giving consular officials wide discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications on public charge grounds.

In line with this new rule, today October 24, 2019, the Department of State issued a 60-day notice in the Federal Register alerting consular applicants of the agency’s plan to require immigrant visa applicants to complete Form DS-5540, a Public Charge Questionnaire to determine whether the applicant is likely to become a public charge. Public comments will be accepted up to December 23, 2019. Comments may be submitted by going to www.Regulations.gov and entering ‘‘Docket Number: DOS–2019–0037’’ in the Search field.

Why is Form DS-5540 being proposed?

According to the 60-day Notice:

The Department seeks to better ensure that aliens subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient and will not rely on public resources to meet their needs, but rather, will rely on their own capabilities, as well as the resources of sponsors.

Through the DS–5540, the Department will collect information in a standardized format regarding applicants’ ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on government assistance.

Fields primarily pertain to the applicant’s health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, skills, health insurance coverage, and tax history. The DS–5540 would also require applicants to provide information on whether they have received certain specified public benefits from a U.S. Federal, state, local or tribal government entity on or after October 15, 2019.

Consular officers will use the completed forms in assessing whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge and is thus ineligible for a visa under section 212(a)(4)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (‘‘INA’’).

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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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The Trump administration’s controversial rule making certain foreign nationals inadmissible to receive permanent residence on public charge grounds, will become effective beginning October 15, 2019.

First, and foremost let’s recap what this rule is about and who it will apply to:

Under immigration law, an individual who, in the opinion of DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge is (1) ineligible for a visa (2) ineligible for admission to the United States and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status (permanent residence).

This means that the rule applies to foreign nationals applying for a U.S. visa, foreign nationals seeking admission through a port of entry, and individuals applying for adjustment of status.

When an individual applies for any immigration benefit with the government, (whether a U.S. visa or green card application), the official adjudicating the petition must determine whether that individual is or will likely become a public charge. This determination is referred to as a “public charge determination.”

What makes someone a public charge in the eyes of immigration?

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.

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House Passes CR Bill to Fund EB-5 through November 21st 

Great news! On September 19, 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4378, a continuing resolution bill that will fund the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program through November 21, 2019.

H.R. 4378 has now passed on to the Senate where it will be considered and voted on. The bill is expected to clear the Senate and be signed into law by the President prior to September 30, 2019, the fiscal year deadline.

If the Senate is unable to pass the bill by that date, a government shutdown will likely occur until Congress is able to pass the continuing resolution bill to keep the government open and federal programs afloat.

Performance Data Form I-829 and Form I-526

Just days before the House passed H.R. 4378, USCIS published its third quarterly report for FY 2019 providing insight on performance data for petitions filed by entrepreneurs to remove conditions (Form I-829) and performance data for Immigrant Petitions filed by Alien Entrepreneurs (Form I-526).

What does the Quarterly Report reveal?

  • First off, USCIS is approving dramatically fewer I-526 than ever before:
    • Completion rates for I-526 have fallen 63%, comparing FY2019 with FY2018 year-to-date.
    • In FY2019 Q3, USCIS processed fewer I-526 than ever before in its history – only 579 completions for the whole quarter, as compared with 3,000-4,400 completions per quarter last year.
    • In FY2019 Q3, a record number of I-526 decisions were denials — 42%. The average I-526 denial rate is 20% in FY2019 YTD, as compared with 9% in FY2018 YTD.
  • Secondly, USCIS is processing dramatically fewer forms in total than ever before:
    • Completion rates across EB-5 forms (I-526, I-829, I-924) have collectively fallen 59%, comparing FY2019 with FY2018 year-to-date.
    • In FY2019 Q3, IPO processed more I-829 than in the previous quarter, but still a low volume – lower than average 2017/2018 performance for I-829.
  • Overall this data reflects reduced performance combined with backlogs causing extremely long processing times (The Current Processing Times report indicates that an I-924 is only considered “outside normal” processing after 90 months)

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the coming months. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories. This post will focus on the EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, and EB-5 categories.

Below are the highlights of those trends and projections for the coming months.

Employment-Based Immigration: First Preference EB-1

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Validity of TPS EADs with a September 9, 2019 Expiration Date Remain Valid through January 2, 2020 for El Salvador, Sudan, Nicaragua, and Haiti

The DOJ has announced that Employment Authorization Cards received under the Temporary Protected Status country designation for El Salvador, Sudan, Nicaragua, and Haiti, with a September 9, 2019 expiration date will remain valid through January 2, 2020.

Earlier this year, the government published a notice in the Federal Register indicating that DHS would be automatically extending through January 2, 2020, the validity of TPS-related Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), Forms I-797, Notice of Action (Approval Notice), and Forms I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) (collectively “TPS-Related Documentation”), for beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador, provided that the affected TPS beneficiaries remain otherwise individually eligible for TPS.

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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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On August 28, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new policy guidance defining “residence” as it relates to U.S. Citizenship.

The new policy guidance clarifies what it means to “reside in the United States” for the purpose of acquiring citizenship and sets out new policy guidelines as it relates to the acquisition of citizenship of children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members employed or stationed outside the United States.

Effective October 29, 2019, children residing abroad with their U.S. citizen parents (who are U.S. government employees or members of the U.S. armed forces stationed abroad) will not be considered to be residing in the United States for acquisition of citizenship. Similarly, leave taken in the United States while stationed abroad is not considered residing in the United States even if the person is staying in property he or she owns.

Therefore, U.S. citizen parents who are residing outside the United States with children who are not U.S. citizens should apply for U.S. citizenship on behalf of their children, by filing Form N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 and must complete the process before the child’s 18th birthday.

The child of a member of the U.S. armed forces accompanying his or her parent abroad on official orders may be eligible to complete all aspects of the naturalization proceedings abroad. This includes interviews, filings, oaths, ceremonies, or other proceedings relating to naturalization.

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USCIS has announced that it will be closing all of its International Immigration Offices by March 10, 2020.

As of June 30, 2019, USCIS has already permanently closed its field office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and on July 5th, the office in Manila, Philippines permanently closed.

By the end of January 2020, the majority of international USCIS field offices are expected to be closed, including offices in Mexico City, London, Athens, and Guatemala City.

The first offices to close will be those in Monterrey, Mexico, Seoul, South Korea, and Manila, Philippines, with a projected closing date of September 2019.

The following is a complete list of USCIS International Immigration Offices expected to close:

Latin America, Canada and the Caribbean (LACC) District

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The Trump administration is bringing about more changes to the world of immigration, this time targeting the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.

USCIS has just announced that it is planning to revise regulations governing the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.

Tomorrow, the agency will be publishing a final rule in the federal register outlining these changes. The final rule becomes effective on November 21, 2019.