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In this blog post we answer your frequently asked questions regarding the public charge rule.

Overview:

On October 10, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security first published the final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” which dramatically changes the way in which an individual is determined to be a “public charge.” Although five separate courts issued injunctions to stop the government from implementing the final rule, on January 27, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of the Trump administration, allowing the government to implement the public charge rule, except in the state of Illinois where a state-wide injunction remains in place.

The new regulations will make it more difficult for certain adjustment of status and immigrant visa applicants to prove that they are not likely to become a public charge to the United States government.

The following frequently asked questions have been prepared to better inform our readers and address concerns regarding the effect of the public charge rule.

Q: When will the public charge rule take effect?

A: Shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, USCIS formally announced on its website that the public charge rule will affect all applications for adjustment of status (green card applications) postmarked on or after February 24, 2020 (except in the state of Illinois, where the rule remains enjoined by a federal court).

Q: Who does the public charge rule apply to?

A: In general, all applicants for admission to the United States are subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility under INA § 212(a)(4) unless specifically exempted.

The following non-citizens are affected by the public charge rule:

  • Applicants for adjustment of status in the United States
  • Applicants for an immigrant visa abroad
  • Applicants for a nonimmigrant visa abroad
  • Applicants for admission at the U.S. border who have been granted an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, and
  • Nonimmigrants applying for an extension or change of status within the United States (new policy under the final rule).

Applicants seeking lawful permanent resident status (applicants for adjustment of status) based on a family relationship are most affected by the public charge rule.

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On January 23, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) formally announced by way of a notice published in the Federal Register that nationals of Iran and their dependents are no longer eligible to change or extend their stay in E-1 or E-2 nonimmigrant status due to the termination of the 1995 Treaty of Economic Relations (also known as the Treaty of Amity) between the United States and Iran.

Under current immigration law, “the existence of a qualifying treaty or authorizing legislation is . . . a threshold requirement for issuing an E visa.” Therefore, the termination of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and Iran no longer provides a basis for Iranian nationals to qualify for the E nonimmigrant visa classification.

When did the Treaty end?

On October 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified Iran of the Termination of the Treaty of Amity. On October 23, 2019, the Department of State provided DHS with formal notice of the termination of the treaty. Currently, there are no other qualifying treaties with Iran or any legislation for granting E-1 or E-2 status to Iranian nationals.

What does this mean?

Accordingly, a national of Iran is no longer eligible for an extension of stay in E-1 or E-2 status or a change of status to E-1 or E-2 on the basis of the Treaty of Amity.

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We kick off a brand-new week with breaking news handed down by the United States Supreme Court.

Today, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration may enforce  the controversial rule entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” which expands the scope of public benefits that will render a permanent resident or immigrant visa applicant ineligible for immigration benefits. The public charge rule makes certain individuals inadmissible to receive permanent residence on public charge grounds based on their use of certain government assistance programs.

As we reported, on January 13, 2020 the Trump administration filed an emergency appeal asking the Supreme Court to lift a remaining lower court injunction preventing the government from enforcing the public charge rule. Today, the conservatives on the Supreme Court overpowered the four liberal justices on the court, in favor of the Trump administration, ruling that the government may now begin to enforce the public charge rule despite challenges to the rule pending in the lower courts.

Overview: 

Under current 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).

In determining whether an applicant is or will likely become a public charge USCIS has always considered the receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid, benefits that make an applicant ineligible for permanent residence.

The public charge rule goes further and expands the list of benefits that make a foreign national ineligible to obtain permanent residence or an immigrant visa (in addition to the benefits listed above). These additional benefits include:

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The Trump administration is ready to announce new restrictions that will make it more difficult for foreign nationals to give birth in the United States, striking a blow to the “birth tourism” industry.

In a 2015 speech in Orlando, Florida the President told supporters, “the birthright citizenship, the anchor baby …it’s over, not going to happen.” Tomorrow, the President will make good on his promise.

On January 24, 2020, the government will publish a final rule in the Federal Register that will be effective as of that date, amending current B visa regulations to establish a rebuttable presumption that a B nonimmigrant visa applicant, who a consular official has reason to believe will give birth during her stay in the United States, is traveling for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. Citizenship for the child.

Accordingly, an applicant who fails to overcome the presumption will be denied a B nonimmigrant visa application.

This change in regulation will apply specifically to the B nonimmigrant visa classification for temporary visitors for pleasure.

An advance copy of the government’s final rule has been released which establishes that “travel to the United States with the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States is an impermissible basis for the issuance of a B nonimmigrant visa.”

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As we approach the end of the year, in this blog post, we look back at the major policy changes implemented by the Trump administration in the year 2019 that have had a profound impact on the way our immigration system functions today.

JANUARY 

Government Shutdown Woes

The start of 2019 began on a very somber note. From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 Americans experienced the longest government shutdown in American history (lasting a period fo 35 days) largely due to political differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of government funding to build a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

The government shutdown created a massive backlog for non-detained persons expecting to attend hearings in immigration court. Because of limited availability of federal workers, non-detained persons experienced postponements and were required to wait an indeterminate amount of time for those hearings to be re-scheduled.

To sway public opinion, 17 days into the government shutdown, the President delivered his first primetime address from the Oval office where he called on Democrats to pass a spending bill that would provide $5.7 billion in funding for border security, including the President’s border wall.

With no agreement in sight, on January 19, 2019, the President sought to appease Democrats by offering them a compromise solution. In exchange for funding his border wall and border security, the President announced a plan that would extend temporary protected status of TPS recipients for a three-year period and provide legislative relief to DACA recipients for a three-year period. The President’s proposal however did not provide a pathway to residency for Dreamers, and was quickly rejected by Democrats.

On January 25, 2019, with still no solution and pressure mounting, the President relented and passed a temporary bill reopening the government until February 15, 2019.

Meanwhile, immigration courts across the country were forced to postpone hundreds of immigration hearings, with Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky being the most deeply affected by the shutdown.

Changes to the H1B Visa Program

On January 30, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed changes to the H-1B visa program including a mandatory electronic registration requirement for H1B petitioners filing cap-subject petitions beginning fiscal year 2020, and a reversal in the selection process for cap-subject petitions. The government outlined that it would first select H-1B registrations submitted on behalf of all H-1B beneficiaries (including regular cap and advanced degree exemption) and then if necessary select the remaining number of petitions from registrations filed for the advanced degree exemption. Moreover, only those registrations selected during fiscal year 2020 and on, would be eligible to file a paper H1B cap petition.

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In this blog post we highlight the best features of E-2 Treaty Investor Visa program, for individuals seeking to live and work in the United States for a temporary period of time.

First let’s discuss what the E-2 visa is. The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa type, which means that it is a temporary visa option for individuals who do not wish to immigrate to the United States, but rather are interested in remaining in the United States for a limited period of time.

Secondly, the E-2 visa is a treaty investor visa. This means that in order to qualify for this visa type you must be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. This visa type allows a national of a treaty country to apply for admission to the United States under the E-2 visa category for the purpose of investing a substantial amount of capital in a United States business.

Currently, 89 countries maintain a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. Israel and New Zealand are the most recent countries to enter into a treaty commerce and navigation with the United States, allowing nationals of these countries to participate in the E-2 visa program. For a complete list of the countries with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, please click here.

The most frequently asked question when it comes to the E-2 visa is, how much money must I invest in order to qualify for this visa type?

The amount of money that must be invested depends on the nature of the business’ operations. USCIS defines the amount of capital to be invested as “a substantial amount of capital” interpreted as:

  • Substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one
  • Sufficient to ensure the treaty investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise
  • Of a magnitude to support the likelihood that the treaty investor will successfully develop and direct the enterprise.  The lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher, proportionately, the investment must be to be considered substantial.

Thirdly, to qualify for the E-2 visa the investment must be in a bona fide business enterprise that is real, active, and operating and is producing either services or goods for profit. Passive investments are not allowed.

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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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