Articles Posted in Family Visas

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A new policy brief published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) analyzing USCIS processing times reveals that the agency has reached “crisis” level delays in processing immigrant and non-immigrant petitions. These delays have worsened during the Trump administration.

According to the report the most vulnerable populations include immigrant families, domestic abuse survivors and their children, traumatized and threatened persons seeking humanitarian aid, and U.S. businesses.

Specifically, the report finds that USCIS data released for fiscal years 2014 through 2018 reveals that USCIS is failing to adjudicate cases in a reasonable and timely manner:

  • The overall average case processing time surged by 46 percent over the past two fiscal years and 91 percent since FY 2014.
  • USCIS processed 94 percent of its form types—from green cards for family members to visas for human trafficking victims to petitions for immigrant workers—more slowly in FY 2018 than in FY 2014.
  • Case processing times increased substantially in FY 2018 even as case receipt volume appeared to markedly decrease
  • Data revealed a “net backlog” exceeding 2.3 million delayed cases at the end of FY 2017
  • DHS identified a net backlog of 2,330,143 USCIS cases as of the end of FY 2017.7
  • DHS observed that USCIS’s “net backlog has been as high as 1.7 million in FY 2004 and 1.5 million in FY 2008”—suggesting that USCIS’s net backlog at the conclusion of FY 2017 was its highest on record
  • the FY 2017 net backlog more than doubled from 1,047,751 cases at the conclusion of FY 2016—despite only a four percent increase in case receipts during that one-year period

What is to blame?

According to the report the following decisions made under the Trump administration have exacerbated delays and slowed the level of immigration to the United States:

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A new report released by CBS news estimates that the immigration court system could face a staggering backlog of more than one million cases, if the government shutdown extends into February and March.

According to the report, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky in particular will be the most affected, owing to a surge of Central American immigration that has caused significant backlogs in these state’ systems.

The government shutdown has now entered its 30th day, with no end in sight. Immigration judges have been forced to postpone hundreds of hearing that had been scheduled months or even years in advance. The only cases that have not been impacted by the shutdown are those of detained immigration seekers. All other non-detained individuals have had their hearings cancelled.

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You’ve filed your petition with USCIS and have received your receipt notice in the mail, now what?

A receipt notice also known as a “Notice of Action” is sent by USCIS to an applicant/petitioner of an immigrant or non-immigrant benefit, to communicate information relating to receipt of the benefit requested, or to notify the applicant of a rejection, extension, transfer, re-opening, or of an appointment (for biometrics or interview).

Why is this notice important?

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The government shutdown has now entered its 13th day with no agreement in sight between the President and lawmakers to settle government funding for the President’s wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

Today, January 3, 2019, the President awoke to a newly convened House of Representatives, now controlled by the Democratic party. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is now seeking to pass legislation to re-open the government but will be unable to do so without support from the Republican-led Senate.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the Senate would not vote to pass any legislation that did not concede to the President’s demands to fund the wall.

The President tweeted Wednesday evening his willingness to continue talks with Democrats “to pass a bill that secures our borders, supports the agents and officers on the ground, and keeps America safe.”

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Good News for Adjustment of Status Applicants! The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating its policy, extending the validity of Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, submitted along with an application for an immigration benefit (such as an I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status).

Effective November 1, 2018, Form I-693 will be valid for a maximum period of 2 years from the date of the civil surgeon’s signature on Form I-693, provided that the civil surgeon signs the medical examination 60 days before the date the applicant files an application for an underlying immigration benefit with USCIS.

Previously, Form I-693 was only valid for a period of one year from the date of the civil surgeon’s signature.

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On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new proposed rule that may prevent non-citizens reliant, or likely to become reliant on public benefits, from gaining admission to the United States.  The new proposal entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” has been signed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the proposed rule is expected to be published in the federal register in the coming weeks, according to a DHS press release.

APA Procedure

Once the proposed rule has been published in the federal register, the government must allow the public to comment on the proposed rule for a 60-day period. Once that period is over, the government will have the opportunity to review comments and make changes if necessary to the proposed rule. Thereafter, the government will publish a final rule which will become law 60 days after the date of publication.

Who is a Public Charge?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a public charge is defined as an “alien who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” Such aliens are not admissible to the United States on public charge grounds.

Applicants seeking admission to the United States should be aware that, “an alien who is incapable of earning a livelihood, who does not have sufficient funds in the United States for support, and who has no person in the United States willing and able to assure the alien will not need public support, generally is inadmissible as likely to become a public charge.”

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In this post, we will discuss our top ten tips to help you survive the marriage fraud interview also known as the “STOKES” interview. An applicant filing for adjustment of status to permanent residence may be scheduled for a second interview, known as the “STOKES” interview if the immigration officer is not convinced at the initial I-485 interview that the applicant has a bona fide marriage.

  1. Be Honest

Our first tip to avoid being scheduled for a second interview also known as the STOKES interview is simple. Be honest with yourself, with your partner (the U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse), and your attorney if you have one. Before walking into your initial I-485 interview you should be careful not to misrepresent the facts in your relationship and ensure that you and your partner are both being honest and truthful regarding all aspects of your marriage. If you or your spouse misrepresent any facts about your relationship, the immigration officer will presume that you do not have a bona fide/genuine marriage, and it will be very difficult to overcome this presumption at the second interview.

  1. Preparation

The second tip to avoid the STOKES interview is to be well prepared. You and your spouse should prepare all of your documentation proving bona fide marriage well in advance of your I-485 interview, so that you have enough time to review your documentation with your spouse and your attorney in preparation of your interview. This well make you feel more confident and prepared when it comes time to your I-485 interview.

  1. Never Lie, Misrepresent, or Provide False Information

If you do not know the answer to a question asked by an immigration officer, DO NOT under any circumstances LIE, MISREPRESENT, or provide FALSE information. If you do not know the answer, simply tell the officer that you do not know. Always be honest. If you are not honest with an immigration officer this will indicate not only that you are a person of bad moral character, but that you are committing fraud in order to obtain an immigration benefit. Do not under any circumstances, invent facts that are not true. Remember that immigration has various tools to uncover fraud including the ability to visit you and your spouse at your home unexpectedly if they believe that you are lying or are not being honest about your marriage.

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If you have applied for the I-130/485 based on marriage to your US Citizen spouse, chances are you are anxiously awaiting an interview. In this post we will cover the documentation you need to provide at the I-485 interview to prove the bona fides of your relationship. The most common question clients ask is, what a bona fide marriage is and how do I prove that I have a bona fide marriage.

A bona fide marriage is one that was entered in good faith and not with an intention to deceive. A green card applicant does not have a bona fide marriage if he or she entered the marriage solely to receive an immigration benefit from USCIS. Immigration officers are trained to identify fraudulent or “sham” marriages where either party or both parties have entered the marriage simply for the green card applicant to obtain his or her permanent residence in the United States, without any sincere intention to live together in the same household or form a marital bond.  Immigration officers search for inconsistencies in any answers provided by either party to the marriage, and carefully scrutinize supporting documentation provided by the couple with the initial I-485 filing.

There are various forms of documentation that are strong evidence proving the bona fides of a relationship. Generally speaking, evidence of cohabitation, joint ownership of assets and joint responsibility for liabilities, and birth certificates of children born to the marriage are strong evidence proving that a marriage is genuine.

Cohabitation: One of the most important aspects of proving bona fide marriage is to show cohabitation—that you are living with your spouse. You can show evidence of cohabitation by providing a copy of your lease agreement showing both of your names on the lease if you are renting an apartment. If your spouse maintains ownership of a private residence, your spouse can provide a copy of the deed including both of your names, or if the green card applicant’s name is not yet on the deed, the petitioner can provide a statement as evidence of cohabitation. Other documents that can be shown to prove cohabitation include joint utility bills such for gas and electricity, water, internet bills, phone bills, etc. that contain both of your names. In addition, any mail sent to your residential address containing both of your names may be used as evidence of cohabitation. The strongest evidence showing cohabitation however is a copy of the lease agreement or deed containing both names.

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COMMON IMMIGRATION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

In this blog post we answer your immigration questions. Please contact our office or send us a message through Facebook if you have a question that has not been answered on our blog. For more information about the services we offer please visit our website. We proudly offer our immigration services to clients from all over the world. Our staff members are available to assist you in Spanish, Russian, Chinese (Mandarin), French, and Hebrew. Read our success stories to find out more about how our office has helped our clients achieve their immigration dreams.

Medical Exam

Q: Can I provide my medical examination at the I-485 interview or must I send it with initial filing?

A: As you may have already heard, beginning September 11, 2018, USCIS will no longer issue requests for evidence for initial filings sent with insufficient evidence, and will instead deny the application without giving an applicant the opportunity to cure the defect. All applicants filing for adjustment of status to permanent resident must submit Form I-693 to be completed by a civil surgeon. While it was previously acceptable to submit a medical examination at the I-485 interview, with the changing state of the law it is highly recommended to submit the I-693 medical examination with the initial filing to avoid a possibility of denial.

EAD

Q: I have been waiting for my employment authorization card to arrive for over 7 months now. I am feeling very desperate to work and I also want to use my employment authorization card to travel using my advance parole. Is there anything I can do to speed this process up?

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a new policy memorandum that will have wide ranging implications for immigrants. Beginning September 11, 2018, USCIS will use their discretion to deny an application, petition, or request filed with USCIS without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), if insufficient evidence is sent with the initial filing of the application or if the evidence provided does not establish the applicant’s eligibility for the benefit requested.

The new policy memorandum “Issuance of Certain RFEs and NOIDs; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 10.5(a), Chapter 10.5(b)” supersedes the 2013 policy memorandum titled “Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny” which previously governed an officer’s discretion to deny an application, petition, or request without first issuing a request for evidence. Previously, the 2013 memo required requests for evidence to be issued where the initial evidence was unsatisfactory or did not establish the applicant’s eligibility for the benefit requested.

As of September 11, 2018, USCIS now has the power to deny petitions lacking initial evidence without sending a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny to cure the defect. This is bad news for applicants of immigrant and non-immigrant visa types, because applicants who have not provided sufficient evidence to USCIS to establish that they are eligible for the benefit requested can be denied without having the opportunity to cure the defect.

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