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Articles Posted in Family Visas

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The economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt by nearly all sectors of the economy, but perhaps the most unexpected victim has been the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Unlike many other government agencies, USCIS does not depend on government funding to survive. Instead, the agency primarily relies on fees, charged to applicants and petitioners applying for immigration benefits, to remain in operation.

A spokesman for the agency recently revealed that the agency is strapped for cash. Americans nationwide have had to cut back on spending during this coronavirus pandemic, leaving little money to spare on the very expensive filing fees required for various types of immigration benefits, such as citizenship and green card applications. The agency is in such a precarious position that it has now asked the United States government for a $1.2 billion bailout to remain in operation.

USCIS has said that its revenue could plummet by more than 60 percent by the end of the fiscal year which ends on September 30, 2020. If the agency does not receive additional funding from the government, it will run out of money by the summertime.

In anticipation of its decreased revenue, USCIS is preparing to take drastic measures to stay afloat, such as adding a 10 percent “surcharge” to applications, on top of proposed filing fee increases. These additional fees could be imposed within the coming months.

Of course, an increase in fees is bad news for non-citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Many have blamed President Trump’s restrictive policies on immigration for the decrease in revenue. The President’s most recent proclamations coupled with his restrictive immigration policies have made it more difficult for immigrants and non-immigrants alike to obtain immigration benefits. These policies have been designed to discourage foreign nationals from seeking immigration benefits because of the high rate of visa denials. In addition, the most recent proclamation has kept consular immigration at a standstill.

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President Signs New Bill Authorizing Additional Funding for PPP


Last week President Trump signed a new bill into law that provides an additional $310 billion in aid to small business owners that will be funneled into the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL) administered by the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).

As a recap, the PPP and EIDL was first introduced by the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) to help small businesses keep workers on their payroll.

Out of the $310 additional funding, $60 billion will go toward the EIDL program, $250 billion will go toward PPP loans, and $60 billion will be set aside for community banks and community development financial institutions (CDFIs).

Additional funding was required because the first round of $349 billion in aid ran out after just a few weeks of the program being put into effect.

Small business owners who are still need of funds to help pay their company’s payroll costs should take advantage of the additional funding as soon as possible. Intense demand remains high for these forgivable-low interest loans, and funding will dry up quickly.

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It’s been just a few days since President Trump signed his long awaited executive order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” and already it is being challenged in federal court.

On April 25, 2020, the first of what is sure to be many lawsuits, Doe v. Trump, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon challenging the President’s new executive order.

The lawsuit was filed by several individuals and the organization Latino Network against President Trump and the federal government.

Plaintiffs in this case have filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order to block the government from enforcing the new executive order, because the executive order does not contain exceptions that preserve the opportunity to request urgent or emergency services for immigrant visa applicants, including for children of immigrants who are at risk of aging out of their current visa eligibility status “by the simple passage of time.”

The lawsuit is concerned specifically with children who are in danger of aging out of their place in the visa queue because they do not have access to emergency services that would have otherwise been available had the proclamation not been issued.

“Without access to such emergency services, children whose underage preference relative status will result in unnecessary and prolonged family separation “for years—or even decades,” the lawsuit says.

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The long-awaited Executive Order temporarily suspending the immigration of certain aliens into the United States has been released.


WHO IS IMPACTED BY THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?


The order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” suspends and limits the entry of the following types of aliens (for a 60-day period) beginning 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.


Your entry is suspended and limited if all of the following are true:

THREE PART TEST


  • You are an alien outside of the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd)
  • You are an alien that does not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd) and
  • You are an alien that does 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 permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission
    • Official travel documents include a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or advance parole document.

ENFORCEMENT


This Proclamation shall be enforced by U.S. Consulates worldwide at their discretion giving them the power to determine whether an immigrant has established his or her eligibility and is otherwise exempted from the Proclamation. The Department of State will implement the proclamation as it applies to immigrant visas, at the discretion of the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The Department of State governs the immigration process outside of the United States, while the Department of Homeland Security governs the immigration process within the United States and guides the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


WHO IS EXEMPT FROM THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?


The order expressly exempts:

  • Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S.
  • Aliens who are the spouses of U.S. Citizens
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and any spouse and child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Aliens under 21 years of age who are children of United States Citizens and prospective adoptees
  • Aliens seeking to enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional
  • Aliens seeking to enter the U.S. to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19
  • Any spouse any unmarried child under 21 years of age of any such alien who is accompanying or following to join the alien
  • Any alien applying for a visa pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
  • Aliens whose entry furthers important United States law enforcement objectives
  • Any alien seeking entry pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, and any spouse and child of any such individual
    • SI: Certain aliens employed by the U.S. Government in Iraq or Afghanistan as translators or interpreters
    • SQ: Certain Iraqis or Afghans employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government
  • Any alien whose entry would be in the national interest of the United States (national interest waivers)
  • Aliens seeking entry for asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

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In this post, we bring you a late-breaking update regarding the President’s recent tweet announcing the temporary suspension of immigration into the United States by executive order.

While the President has not yet signed the executive order suspending immigration, in a press briefing held today, reporters had the opportunity to ask President Trump who will be most affected by his suspension.

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Yesterday evening, President Donald Trump made an unusual announcement via twitter stating, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy [COVID-19], as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporary suspend immigration into the United States!”

Since that tweet, no executive order has been released by the White House and no details have been provided relating to what that executive order might include, who might be affected, and how long the temporary suspension might last.

According to NPR, an official from the Department of Justice reported that the draft executive order is currently under review by the Office of Legal Counsel.

Is it worth noting that at present United States Consulates and Embassies abroad have already suspended routine visa processing and are not taking appointments for visa interviews until further notice. USCIS is still accepting and adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits as usual, however USCIS field offices, ASC offices, and asylum offices are closed to the public until May 3rd.

Responding to the President’s tweet, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said today in a statement that the President, “is committed to protecting the health and economic well-being of American citizens as we face unprecedented time,” she continued, “As President Trump has said, ‘Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African American and Latino workers. At a time when Americans are looking to get back to work, action is necessary.”

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In this post, we summarize all of the major and recent developments taken by USCIS, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These developments directly impact immigration in significant ways that will be discussed in further detail below.

As this situation evolves, we will continue to update this post for your benefit. You may also read all of our COVID-19 related posts here.


USCIS Field Offices, ASCs, and Asylum Offices Temporary Closed to the Public

To combat the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, on March 18th USCIS announced the temporary closure of field offices, application support centers, and asylum offices, to the public until at least May 3rd.

We suspect that this closure will be further extended given the current public health crisis we are experiencing nationwide.

Applicants who were scheduled to appear for an interview, biometrics, or asylum interview from March 18 to May 3rd will receive a notice in the mail regarding impacted services, as well as a notice rescheduling the appointment.

ASC appointments will be rescheduled once offices are re-opened to the public.

At this time, please continue to be patient and monitor your mail closely.


USCIS Field Office and Service Center Operations Continue

Although USCIS is closing field offices to the public, the agency has stated that office employees will continue to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public.

Furthermore, USCIS service centers and facilities continue to operate and will continue to adjudicate petitions filed nationwide.


USCIS Expands RFE/NOID/NOIR/NOIT/I-290B Deadlines

On March 30, 2020, USCIS announced that it will consider any response to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before any action is taken by USCIS.

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In this post, we will discuss Form DS-5540, a mandatory public charge questionnaire that must be completed by all foreign nationals seeking an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and some non-immigrant visa applicants.

What is Form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire?

Shortly after the publication of the public charge rule in the Federal Register, the government published a separate rule requiring applicants seeking immigrant visas, including diversity visas, at a Consulate abroad, to complete Form DS-5540, except for certain types of immigrants exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility such as self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Afghan and Iraqi interpreters applying for special immigrant visas.

In addition, the government has given consular officers broad discretion to require nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540, if for example the officer determines more information is needed regarding the applicant’s ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on the government’s assistance, or if the consular officer is not satisfied with the information provided by the applicant.

Therefore, consular officers have the power to request nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540.

The DS-5540 solicits information that helps consular officers determine whether applicants are subject to the public charge visa ineligibility ground (section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) and will not rely on certain specific public resources upon entering the United States.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest immigration news for the week.

USCIS Announces Workload Transfers

In an effort to manage heavy workloads, increase efficiency, and decrease processing times, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been transferring cases between service centers.

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In this blog post, we would like to remind our readers that today is the last day to submit a public comment on the USCIS proposed rule increasing immigration fees for certain petitions. Initially USCIS had set a 30-day comment period ending on December 16, 2019, however the comment period was later extended for two more weeks, ending today December 30, 2019.

Once the comment period has closed, USCIS will review all public comments and publish a final rule in the Federal Register which will contain the rule’s effective date of implementation.

The filing fees for the following petitions would increase substantially under the proposed rule: