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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand new and exciting week in the world of immigration. In this post, we bring you the latest immigration updates from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

In a recent post on their Facebook page, the Bureau published a Frequently Asked Questions guide addressing the Immigrant Visa Backlog, including information about what Consulates are doing to help reduce the backlogs, and helpful information for K-1 visa applicants, Diversity Visa lottery applicants, and interview scheduling for employment-based applicants.

Want to know more? Check out the Q & A below:

 


Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Immigrant Visa Backlog


Q: Why are there still immigrant visa interview backlogs?

A: Our number one priority is the safety of our applicants and our staff. The IV (Immigrant Visa) interview backlog has developed because of limitations in staffing and other COVID-related operational constraints preventing us from processing the same volume of applicants as pre-pandemic. In addition, Presidential Proclamation 10014 and geographic COVID proclamations restricted visa processing for many immigrants for nearly a year; it will take time to process the cases that were impacted by these travel restrictions.

Q: What are you doing to decrease the backlog?

A: We are committed to decreasing this backlog by prioritizing certain visas, creating efficiencies in the visa process, and utilizing all available resources until our task is accomplished. Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for updates on what visa services are currently available.

Q: Are virtual/Zoom interviews available for Immigrant Visa applicants?

A: No. Current regulations require all immigrant visa applicants to appear in person before a consular officer.

Q: I live near a U.S. Consulate, but they do not process Immigrant Visas at that particular location and therefore I am forced to travel a long distance to appear for my interview. Why don’t you process IV interviews at every U.S. Embassy/Consulate?

A: As the best use of limited U.S. government resources, immigrant visa processing is consolidated in certain embassies and consulates. The Department of State continuously reviews the services we provide to best balance our service standards with efficient use of resources.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! Happy end of the week to all of our readers.

In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the upcoming month of May 2021 and beyond.

The Department of State’s Consular Affairs Unit has launched an exciting new monthly series on its YouTube channel, discussing current visa trends and future projections for immigrant visa preference categories with Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand-new week and we are excited to bring you more updates in the world of immigration.

We are happy to report that the Department of State has released important information for nonimmigrant visa applicants who may qualify for an interview waiver. That’s right. Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain a renewal of their visas without being required to attend a Consulate interview.

Who may take advantage of Non-Immigrant Visa Interview Waivers?

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, and temporarily expanded the ability of Consular officials to waive the in-person interview requirement, which is normally required of all individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas in the same visa classification – in other words renewal applicants.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, interview waivers were only available to those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa was set to expire within 24 months.

The Secretary has now temporarily extended the Interview Waiver eligibility to those whose visas are set to expire within 48 months. This new policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.

According to the Department of State, “This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications, while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.”

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important immigration updates.


USCIS Expands Premium Processing Service to E-3 Petitioners


We are happy to report that beginning February 24, 2021, petitioners filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, who are requesting a change or extension of status to E-3 classification, will be able to take advantage of premium processing service to expedite processing of their petition. The filing fee for premium processing service for E-3 petitions is $2,500.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing provides expedited processing for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. The main benefit of this service is a guaranteed 15-calendar day processing time for all those who take advantage of it.

When does the 15-calendar period begin?

The 15-calendar day period begins when USCIS properly receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.

Once the I-907 is received, USCIS either issues an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence within the 15-calendar day period.

Is premium processing available for other petitions?

At the moment premium processing service is only available for I-129 and I-140 petitions. However, H.R. 8337 proposed expanding premium processing service to other types of applications in the future including applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status, applications for employment authorization, and other types of benefit requests.


USCIS Introduces Flexibilities for Certain Students Filing Form I-765 for OPT


We are happy to report that on February 26, 2021, USCIS announced new flexibility policies for certain foreign students who have not received receipt notices for Form I-765 petitions for OPT as a result of USCIS delays.

USCIS has stated that the agency has been experiencing delays at certain lockboxes and has not been able to issue receipt notices for certain Form I-765 applications for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students in a timely manner.

As a result, USCIS will provide the following flexibilities to assist certain applicants for OPT who have been impacted by the delays.

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The H-1B cap season for FY 2022 is almost upon us!

USCIS has announced that the H-1B initial registration period for the FY 2022 cap is scheduled to open at noon ET on March 9, 2021 and will remain open until noon ET on March 25, 2021.

As our readers are aware, USCIS recently implemented a new mandatory H-1B electronic registration system for the H-1B cap.

Under this new electronic registration process, prospective petitioners (also known as registrants), and their authorized representatives, who are seeking authorization to employ H-1B workers subject to the cap, must complete an electronic registration process on the USCIS website that requires basic information about the prospective petitioner and each requested worker.

The H-1B selection process will then be run on properly submitted electronic registrations. Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.

That means that in order to have a chance of being selected, from now on all prospective petitioners and their authorized representatives seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2021, including for beneficiaries eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first register during the registration period (March 9, 2021 to March 25, 2021) and pay the associated $10 registration fee for each beneficiary.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post we bring you some breaking news about what you can expect to see from the Biden administration with respect to immigration in the coming days.

Tomorrow January 29th President Biden is expected to issue several important executive orders and memorandums aimed at reversing former President Trump’s damaging policies on immigration.

It is rumored that as part of these new orders, the President will be rescinding Proclamations 10014 and 10052.

As you may recall, Proclamation 10014 established a 60-day ban on the issuance of visas worldwide for a wide variety of immigrants including those who (1) were outside of the United States as of April 23rd and (2) who did not have a valid immigrant visa or official travel document as of that date.

Prior to its expiration, the President signed Proclamation 10052 to extend enforcement of Proclamation 10014 and expanded the categories of immigrants affected.


Overview of Proclamation 10014


When Proclamation 10014 was first issued on April 22, 2020, it rocked the world of immigration because of the wide variety of immigrants that were swept up in its grasp.

Among those impacted were the following classes of immigrants applying for a visa at a United States Consulate or Embassy abroad from April 23, 2020 to the present:

  • Spouses and children of green card holders (US citizens were not affected) applying at the consulate
  • Parents of US citizens applying at the consulate
  • Brothers and sisters of US citizens applying at the consulate
  • Sons and daughters (meaning over 21 years old) of US citizens applying at the consulate (children under 21 years old of US citizens were not affected)
  • Sons and daughters (meaning over 21 years old) of green card holders applying at the consulate
  • EB1A extraordinary abilities and their family applying at the consulate
  • PERM EB3, PERM EB2, NIW employment based and their family applying at the consulate
  • EB4 religious workers immigrants applying at the consulate
  • H1B and H4 dependents applying at the consulate
  • L1 and L2 applying at the consulate
  • J1 applying at the consulate  

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The nation awoke with a new President of the United States, and although President Joe Biden has been in office for less than one day, his administration is already planning sweeping immigration reforms and policy changes that will unfold throughout the coming months.

This is just the start of President Biden’s plan to reverse the numerous damaging policies and executive orders passed by the Trump administration during the past four years.

This morning, the White House issued a press release outlining President Biden’s commitment to modernize the U.S. immigration system by way of a legislative bill that will be introduced before Congress in a matter of days.

The new bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, proposes to overhaul the current immigration system to more effectively manage and secure our country’s border.

According to the Biden administration, the purpose of the bill is to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system….” providing “hardworking people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived here for years, in some cases for decades, an opportunity to earn citizenship.”

The bill will prioritize family reunification, address root causes of mass migration from Central America, and among other things ensure that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution.

Most importantly is the bill’s commitment to create a path to citizenship for eligible undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers and essential workers who have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In today’s post, we discuss a newly released final rule announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on January 7, 2021.

The new rule entitled “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions,” will modify the H-1B cap selection process, amend current lottery procedures, and prioritize wages to ensure H-1B visas are awarded only to the most highly skilled foreign workers according to a new wage level selection process.

According to USCIS this new rule will only affect H-1B cap-subject petitions. It will be enforced against both the H-1B regular cap and the H-1B advanced degree exemption beginning March 9, 2021 (its effective date).

The final rule is scheduled to be published on January 8, 2021, however an advance copy has already been posted in the Federal Register for review.

Click here to view the advance copy.


When does the final rule become effective?


The final rule will become effective 60 days after its date of publication in the Federal Register (falling on March 9, 2021).


What are some of the highlights of this new rule?


The USCIS final rule creates a wage-based selection process for H-1B registrations, instead of a randomized computer generated process which is currently in place.


Ranking by Wage Level


DHS will amend regulations governing the process by which USCIS selects H-1B registrations for the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions by generally first selecting registrations based on the highest Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) prevailing wage level indicated on the petition, where the proffered wage equals or exceeds the relevant Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and area(s) of intended employment, beginning with OES wage level IV and proceeding in descending order with OES wage levels III, II, and I.

The proffered wage is the wage that the employer intends to pay the beneficiary.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! Happy New Year to all of our readers. We hope that you had a relaxing holiday with your loved ones. We look forward to providing you with the latest updates on immigration as we soon enter the Biden administration on January 20th.

Although Biden’s inauguration looms on the horizon, the Trump administration continues to make last minute efforts to derail the issuance of visa applications for thousands of green card applicants residing abroad.

On New Year’s Eve, President Trump signed a new proclamation extending the enforcement of his previously issued April 22nd Proclamation 10014 entitled, “Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Present a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak,” as well as Proclamation 10052 issued on June 22, 2020.

The new proclamation extends the enforcement of these previously issued Proclamations until March 31, 2021. 


P.P. 10014 Overview

As you may recall the April 22nd Proclamation (10014) imposed a 60-day ban on the issuance of visas at U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad and limited the entry of certain classes of aliens beginning April 23, 2020 and terminating on June 22, 2020.

Pursuant to P.P. 10014, the entry of the following aliens was suspended and limited until June 22, 2020:

  • Aliens outside of the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23)
  • Aliens without an immigrant visa that was valid on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd) and
  • Aliens who did not have an official travel document other than a visa on the effective date of the proclamation (April 23rd) or issued on any date thereafter that permitted him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission

The order did not apply to the following classes of aliens:

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Can a social media influencer and OnlyFans model with a large online following qualify for the O-1B visa, as an individual of extraordinary ability in the arts or entertainment?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to do just that despite several challenges presented to us by USCIS, in which the adjudicating officer downplayed our client’s achievements, and unnecessarily applied a narrow interpretation of the standard “fashion model” to our client who did not fit the traditional mold of a “fashion model.”

Through a detailed presentation of additional evidence, we advocated for our client and explained that although our client did not neatly fit into the traditional category of “fashion model,” she did in fact satisfy at least three of the eight criteria for O-1B, based on her extraordinary achievement as a social media influencer and model, prominence, recognition, and her lead/critical role as founder of her own successful web platform.

Here, we will share with you how we were able to overcome such challenges and ultimately obtain an approval for our client.


The Rise of Social Media Influencers

Before the social media boom, fashion models were considered the primary vehicle by which companies promoted and advertised commercial products for global audiences. For those seeking success in today’s modeling landscape, social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, and Only Fans provided fertile ground for a new type of “model” to emerge – the social media influencer and “instafamous” model.

While such influencers do not fit the traditional “model” prototype, they have taken an unconventional approach to developing their social media presence, and leveraging their online presence in such a way that has enabled them to achieve and sustain an extraordinary level of achievement and recognition within their respective industries. Such influencers have been able to amass millions of followers and achieve an extraordinary level of achievement by inking lucrative brand deals, partnerships, and collaborations with some of the world’s largest companies.

There can be no doubt that the rise of the social media influencer marketing has revolutionized the way that companies do business. That is because the industry has recognized that influencers can engage and connect with their large audiences in a way that cannot be replicated through traditional media figures.

For instance, influencers build relationships with their audiences through sharing their opinions and personal stories, thereby establishing a sense of credibility and authenticity that differentiates them from most conventional models.

Those influencers that have achieved a high level of achievement in their field, by way of sustained national or international acclaim, and a degree of recognition that is substantially above that ordinarily encountered in the field, may qualify for the O-1B visa to live and work in the United States in the area of extraordinary ability.

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