Articles Posted in Federal Register

yemen-g4f3484adf_1280

In this blog post, we share with you an important announcement from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On December 30, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) benefits for Yemeni nationals for an 18-month period beginning from March 4, 2023, through September 3, 2024.

The Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Yemeni nationals due to ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent Yemeni nationals from safely returning to their home country.

This means that Yemeni nationals (and individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Yemen) who are residing in the United States as of December 29, 2022, are eligible for Temporary Protected Status under Yemen’s designation.

Existing beneficiaries of TPS may re-register for benefits during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from January 3, 2023, through March 4, 2023.

Those who do not currently have TPS but who qualify for TPS benefits can register from January 3, 2023 through September 3, 2024.

It is important for re-registrants to timely re-register during the registration period and not wait until their Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) expire, as delaying reregistration could result in gaps in their employment authorization documentation.

The main benefit of applying for TPS is that those who are approved can remain in the country on a lawful basis, will receive protection against deportation (deferred status), and are eligible to apply for employment authorization and travel permission by filing, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Continue reading

Welcpuzzle-g75f3e575f_1920ome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful holiday break and wish you a prosperous new year ahead.

We kick off the new year with some important updates in the world of immigration.

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will be posted in the Federal Register tomorrow Wednesday, January 4, 2023 that will increase filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits. An unpublished version is already available in the Federal Register.

A 60-day public comment period will follow the publication of the NPRM on January 4, 2023 and will close on March 5, 2023.

Fees will not change until the final rule goes into effect, and only after the public has had the opportunity to comment and USCIS finalizes the fee schedule in response to such public comments. USCIS will host a public engagement session on the proposed fee rule on January 11, 2023.

According to USCIS, the proposed fee increases are necessary to ensure that the agency will have enough resources to provide adequate services to applicants and petitioners moving forward. The agency has said that after having conducted a review of current fees, it has determined that it cannot cover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services without a fee increase.

The agency cited the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the factors leading the agency to increase its fees. As you may recall, the pandemic caused a dramatic reduction in the filing of new applications, leaving USCIS with a substantial decrease in revenues of 40 percent. This unfortunate drop in applications led USCIS to reduce its workforce accordingly.

With current resources, the agency has said it is incapable of adjudicating applications in a timely manner, when considering that agency caseloads are now returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Among the new proposals included in the NPRM are measures that:

  • Incorporate biometrics costs into the main benefit fee and remove the separate biometric services fee
  • Require separate filing fees for Form I-485 and associated Form I-131 and Form I-765 filings
  • Establish separate fees for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, by nonimmigrant classification.
  • Revise the premium processing timeframe interpretation from 15 calendar days to 15 business days
  • Create lower fees for certain immigration forms filed online.

Continue reading

international-g2584bbbb2_1920

We close off the week with some new announcements from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding TPS extensions for Haitian nationals, and USCIS commitments to improve immigration in the new year – fiscal year 2023.


TPS Extended for Haitian Nationals


On December 5, 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, announced that the TPS designation for Haiti will be automatically extended for 18 additional months. Haitian nationals with TPS benefits will have the opportunity to re-register for an extension of their TPS benefits for a period of 18 months from February 4, 2023, through August 3, 2024.

This automatic extension has been granted because the Secretary has determined that conditions continue to exist to support Haiti’s TPS designation due to extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country including a prolonged political crisis, insecurity, gang violence, and catastrophic earthquakes. According to Secretary Mayorkas, “The conditions in Haiti, including socioeconomic challenges, political instability, and gang violence and crime – aggravated by environmental disaster – compelled the humanitarian relief we are providing today.”

As a reminder, Haitians entering the United States after November 6, 2022, are not eligible for TPS benefits and, will be subject to removal from the United States if they have no legal basis to remain in the country.

TPS will apply only to those individuals who have already been residing in the United States as of November 6, 2022, and who meet all other requirements to receive the TPS extension. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after November 6, 2022, are NOT eligible for TPS benefits.

Soon, the Department of Homeland Security will publish a notice in the Federal Register explaining the eligibility criteria and procedures to re-register for TPS, renew Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), and submission of initial TPS application under the re-designation.

For more information, please click here.

Continue reading

venezuela-g25f459dd7_1920

In this blog post, we follow up on our previous reporting relating to a brand-new program launched by the Biden administration that will allow for the admission of up to 24,000 Venezuelans, closely following in the footsteps of the Uniting for Ukraine program.

Today, October 18, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services updated its “Venezuela” webpage including all the details regarding this new program. Applications are currently being accepted by USCIS.

We break down the details for you down below.


What is this program all about?


USCIS has launched a new process that allows Venezuelan nationals and their immediate family members to come to the United States in a safe and orderly manner.

Like the Uniting for Ukraine program, nationals of Venezuela who are outside the United States and who lack U.S. entry documents will be considered for admission to the United States on a case-by-case basis.

Those who are found eligible, will receive advance authorization to travel to the United States and a temporary period of parole for up to 2 years for urgent humanitarian reasons and significant public benefit.

After being paroled into the United States, beneficiaries are eligible to apply for discretionary employment authorization from USCIS. To apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), applicants must submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, using the (c)(11) category code with the required fee or apply for a fee waiver.

Using the same Form I-765 form, applicants can also apply for a Social Security number (SSN) by following the form instructions.

If you request an SSN in Part 2 (Items 13a-17.b) of your Form I-765, and your application is approved, USCIS will electronically transmit that data to the Social Security Administration (SSA), and SSA will assign you an SSN and issue you a Social Security card. SSA will mail your Social Security card directly to the address you provide on Form I-765.

Continue reading

venezuela-g23fe78edf_1280

Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful weekend.

In this blog post, we share with you some exciting news for Venezuelan nationals receiving benefits under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.

The Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan nationals currently receiving protections under the program until March 10, 2024. In addition, the re-designation means that certain eligible Venezuelan nationals will be able to apply for TPS protections for the first time.

The main benefit of applying for this program is that those who are approved for Temporary Protected Status can remain in the country on a lawful basis, will receive protection against deportation (deferred status), and are eligible to apply for employment authorization and travel permission by filing, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


How did this all happen?


Extension of Designation of Venezuela for TPS

On July 11, 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced an 18-month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country of Venezuela. This extension and re-designation will be in effect from September 10, 2022, through March 10, 2024 (an 18-month period).

Secretary Mayorkas made this decision after consulting with government officials and taking into consideration the ongoing conflict in Venezuela, lack of access to food, water, healthcare, and other conditions.

Mayorkas found that these circumstances ultimately prevented Venezuelan nationals from safely returning to their home country stating, “After careful consideration, and in consultation with the Secretary of State, today I am extending that designation. This action is one of many ways the Biden administration is providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans at home and abroad, together with our regional partners. We will continue to work with our international partners to address the challenges of regional migration while ensuring our borders remain secure.”

Currently, there are an estimated 343,000 individuals potentially eligible for TPS under the existing designation of Venezuela. The program’s extension will mean that these beneficiaries can re-register for benefits and retain TPS status through March 10, 2024, so long as they can demonstrate that they continue to meet the TPS eligibility requirements.

Continue reading

woman-g95091901a_1280

USCIS is about to make it a lot easier for certain noncitizens to remain employment authorized. On May 3, 2022, the agency announced a new Temporary Final Rule (TPR) that automatically extends the period of employment authorization on Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) from 180 days up to 540 total days.

The automatic extension time is counted from the expiration date of the employment authorization and/or EAD. This new regulation became effective as of yesterday, May 4, 2022, and will be in effect until October 15, 2025. Once the regulation reaches its time limit, the automatic extension will revert to 180 days.

USCIS decided to issue this new policy to prevent employment interruptions for noncitizens that have pending EAD renewal applications with the agency (Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization).


Who qualifies for the automatic extension?


The additional extension of up to 540 total days will be available only to renewal applicants who timely file a Form I-765 renewal application with USCIS from the period of May 4, 2022, to October 26, 2023, and who were previously eligible to receive the 180-day automatic extension.

For those who file their Form I-765 renewal application after October 26, 2023, the normal 180-day automatic extension period will apply.


You are eligible for the automatic extension if you:

  • Properly filed Form I-765 for a renewal of their employment authorization and/or EAD before their current EAD expired, and
  • Were otherwise eligible for a renewal, meaning that:
    • Their renewal application is under a category that is eligible for an automatic extension (see the list of categories below); and
    • The Category on their current EAD matches the “Class Requested” listed on their Form I-797C Notice of Action, Receipt Notice. (Note: If you are a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiary or pending applicant, your EAD and this Notice must contain either the A12 or C19 category, but the categories do not need to match each other. In addition, for H-4, E, and L-2 dependent spouses, an unexpired Form I-94 indicating H-4, E, or L-2 nonimmigrant status (including E-1S, E-2S, E-3S, and L-2S class of admission codes) must accompany Form I-797C when presenting proof of employment authorization to an employer for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, purposes).

Which categories are eligible?


You must be in one of the following employment eligible categories to be eligible to receive an automatic extension of up to 540 days and your renewal application must be timely filed by October 26, 2023:

Continue reading

hands-g918319917_1920

Happy Monday! We are glad to bring you the latest updates relating to Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Recently, USCIS added Ukraine and Sudan as new countries eligible to participate in Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months. The agency has now announced that the TPS registration process for Ukrainian and Sudanese nationals will begin tomorrow, Tuesday, April 19, 2022.


Ukraine and Sudan’s TPS Registration Period Begins April 19th 


We bring Ukrainian and Sudanese nationals good news. Beginning April 19, 2022, through October 19, 2023, such individuals can begin the registration process to receive Temporary Protected Status in the United States.


Who can apply?


To be eligible for TPS under the Ukraine designation, individuals must demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since April 11, 2022, and continuous physical presence in the United States since the date listed in the Federal Register notice authorizing the TPS designation. To be eligible under the Sudan designation, individuals must demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since March 1, 2022, and continuous physical presence since the designation date in the Federal Register notice.

As a reminder, TPS applicants must meet all eligibility requirements and undergo security and background checks to gain approval.

USCIS estimates that with this new designation, approximately 59,600 Ukrainians currently residing in the United States will be able to benefit from the new Temporary Protected Status designation. Ukrainians who were outside of the United States after April 11, 2022, are ineligible for TPS benefits and must apply for any visa they are eligible to receive at the appropriate Embassy.

For its part, only about 3,090 are expected to benefit under the TPS designation for Sudan.

Those who are eligible may e-file their applications for TPS under the Ukraine or Sudan designations by using Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, during the 18-month initial registration period that runs from April 19, 2022, through October 19, 2023. Applicants may also request an Employment Authorization Document by e-filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the Form I-821.

Continue reading

approved-g13d1183f5_1920

In this blog post, we share exciting news in the world of immigration law. On March 29, 2022, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a much-anticipated announcement explaining the actions it will take to reduce the substantial backlog, and new policy changes that will be implemented to cut down processing times significantly.

The agency has outlined 3 main initiatives that will drastically improve processing times at the USCIS level across the board.

  1. USCIS has announced that it will be setting agency-wide backlog reduction goals
  2. Expansion of Premium Processing Service to other types of immigration petitions and
  3. Improving timely access to Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)

Backlog Reduction Initiatives


USCIS will be establishing a new system of “internal cycle time goals,” which are internal metrics that the agency will now be using to help guide the reduction of the current backlog and will determine how long it will take USCIS to process immigration benefits going forward.

The agency will be making certain efforts such as increasing its capacity, implementing technological improvements, and expanding staffing to improve these “cycle times,” so that processing times will be much quicker. USCIS expects these goals to be accomplished by the end of fiscal year 2023.


Cycle times explained


USCIS has stated that publicly, it releases processing times showing the average amount of time it takes the agency to process a particular form – from when the agency received the application until a decision was made on the case.

However, USCIS has said that it also utilizes internal mechanisms to monitor the number of pending cases in the agency’s workload through a metric called “cycle times.” A cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision.

According to USCIS, cycle times are generally comparable to the agency’s publicly posted median processing times. Cycle times are what the operational divisions of USCIS use to gauge how much progress the agency is, or is not, making on reducing the backlog and overall case processing times.

Continue reading

afghanistan-gb0b2cb578_1280

In this blog post, we share with you some recent updates for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. On March 16, 2022, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the designation of Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months.


What is Temporary Protected Status?


Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a statutorily authorized program established by the United States Congress in 1990. The program allows migrants whose home countries are considered unsafe, the right to live and work in the United States for a temporary, but extendable, period of time. Though they are not considered lawful permanent residents (green card holders) or U.S. citizens, they are authorized to live in the United States without fear of deportation under temporary protected status. Applicants may also apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS along with their application for TPS.

A country may be designated for TPS when conditions in the country fall into one or more of the three statutory bases for designation: ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or extraordinary and temporary conditions.

Afghanistan’s recent designation is based on both ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Afghanistan that prevent Afghan nationals, from returning safely.


Who can apply?


Individuals eligible for TPS under this designation must have continuously resided in the United States since Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Eligible applicants must be a national of Afghanistan or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in Afghanistan.

Any Afghan nationals who attempt to travel to the United States after Tuesday, March 15, 2022, will not be eligible for Temporary Protected Status.

Continue reading

student-g436e437d9_1280

More immigration news is coming your way. This week important updates have been released for F-1 students seeking post-completion Optional Practical Training in certain STEM-related fields of study.


DHS Issues Advance Copy of STEM Designated Degree Program List for post-completion Optional Practical Training


If you are an international student studying in F-1 visa status in the United States, this update may be of interest to you. Today, January 20, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security released an advance copy of the Federal Notice, “Update to the Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Program List,” which is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, Friday, January 21, 2022.

With this notice, DHS has indicated that the agency will be adding 22 qualifying fields of study to the STEM Designated Degree Program List. This change is significant because DHS relies on the STEM Degree Program List to determine whether an F-1 international student has obtained a degree in a program of study that qualifies as a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree, to seek employment in the United States following graduation.


What is post-completion OPT?


F-1 students that have earned a degree in a qualifying STEM field, are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing their studies. Those authorized for post-completion OPT can work part time (20 hours or less per week) or full time.

For those who participated in pre-completion OPT, USCIS reduces the amount of time that an individual is eligible to participate in post-completion OPT by deducting from the authorization period. For example, students you participated in 10 months of pre-completion OPT, would only be eligible for up to 2 months of post-completion OPT.


Who is impacted by this notice?


This notice impacts qualifying F-1 nonimmigrant students who seek a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT who have earned a degree in a STEM field of study as designated by the STEM list.


What are the 22 qualifying fields of study being added to the STEM list?


  • Bioenergy (03.0210). A program of study that focuses on the environmental and economic impact of using plants and microbes for the production of bio-based fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Includes instruction in biochemical engineering, bioprocessing, bioseparations, conversion, feedstock, economics, environmental sustainability, hydrology, and natural resource management.

  • Forestry, General (03.0501). A program that generally prepares individuals to manage and develop forest areas for economic, recreational, and ecological purposes. Includes instruction in forest related sciences, mapping, statistics, harvesting and production technology, natural resources management and economics, wildlife sciences, administration, and public relations

  • Forest Resources Production and Management (03.0510). A program that focuses on the application of forestry principles to the production, harvesting, and processing of forest resources and that prepares individuals to perform associated technical and managerial functions. Includes instruction in forest production and utilization, industrial forestry, agroforestry, transplantation, timber harvesting, selection and identification of trees, processing technologies and systems, equipment operations and maintenance, and related management skills.

  • Human-Centered Technology Design (11.0105). A program that focuses on incorporating a human perspective into designing, researching, and creating technological interfaces. Includes instruction in design, human-computer interaction, learning, neuroscience, perception, product design, user centered design, and usability.

  • Cloud Computing (11.0902). A program that prepares individuals to design and implement enterprise software systems that rely on distributed computing and service-oriented architecture, including databases, web services, cloud computing, and mobile apps. Includes instruction in data management, distributed and cloud computing, enterprise software architecture, enterprise and cloud security, mobile systems and applications, server administration, and web development.

Continue reading