Articles Posted in Federal Register

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful fourth of July weekend with your family and loved ones.

In this blog post, we share with you some exciting news for Yemeni nationals receiving benefits under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. The Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Yemeni nationals currently receiving protections under the program until March 3, 2023. In addition, the re-designation means that certain eligible Yemeni 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 Yemen for TPS

On January 6, 2021, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced an 18-month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country of Yemen. This extension and re-designation will be in effect from September 4, 2021, through March 3, 2023 (an 18-month period)

Secretary Mayorkas made this decision after consulting with government officials and taking into consideration the ongoing armed conflict in Yemen, lack of access to food, water, and healthcare, the large-scale destruction of Yemen’s infrastructure, population displacement, the ongoing cholera outbreak since 2016, and the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country.

Mayorkas found that these circumstances ultimately prevented Yemeni nationals from safely returning to their home country stating, “Yemen continues to experience worsening humanitarian and economic conditions that prevent individuals from safely returning to their homes. Therefore, I have decided to extend and re-designate Yemen for Temporary Protected Status. We will continue to protect and offer these individuals a place of residency temporarily in the United States.”

Currently, there are an estimated 1,700 beneficiaries receiving TPS benefits under Yemen’s designation. The program’s extension will mean that these beneficiaries can re-register for benefits and retain TPS status through March 3, 2023, so long as they can demonstrate that they continue to meet the TPS eligibility requirements.

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We start off the week with some interesting immigration updates.


USCIS Updates – ASC and Interview Appointments Scheduled on January 19th and 20th will be Rescheduled


In anticipation of the Presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the temporary suspension of in-person services at all field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASC biometrics offices) on January 19th and January 20th to ensure the safety of employees and individuals with appointments on these dates.

Accordingly, for individuals who had appointments on these dates (either for biometrics or for an interview) USCIS will be rescheduling these appointments and sending notices with the new appointment dates.

Please keep a look out for these notices in the mail within the next few weeks.


Nationals Eligible to Participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa Program

In other news, last week the Department of Homeland Security released the list of countries eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs in the Federal Register.

The H-2A and H-2B visa programs allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and nonagricultural jobs.

Typically, USCIS approves H-2A and H-2B petitions only for nationals of countries that the secretary of Homeland Security has designated as eligible to participate in the programs.

However, USCIS may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions, including those that were pending as of the date of the Federal Register notice, for nationals of countries not on the list on a case-by-case basis only if doing so is determined to be in the interest of the United States based on the evidence submitted.

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In the few months remaining in the Trump presidency, the Trump administration continues to pass laws and regulations that make it more difficult for immigrants and nonimmigrants to enter the United States.

Most recently, the administration has targeted the B-1/B-2 temporary business visitor/tourist visa program.

On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of State published a temporary final rule in the Federal Register entitled, “Visas: Visa Bond Pilot Program.”


What is this rule about?

The final rule calls for the creation of a temporary 6-month visa bond pilot program that authorizes Consular officials at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide to mandate a bond of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 for certain B-1/B-2 visa applicants in order for them to receive visas and travel to the United States.

If a consular official finds that a bond is appropriate, the amount of the bond will be determined by him or her based on the circumstances of the visa applicant.

According to the rule, “the Pilot Program is designed to apply to nationals of specified countries with high overstay rates to serve as a diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to take all appropriate actions to ensure their nationals timely depart the United States after making temporary visits.”


When does the final rule go into effect?

The final rule becomes effective December 24, 2020 for a period of 6 months (through June 24, 2021).


Who will be impacted?

According to the final rule, visa applicants potentially subject to the Pilot Program include aliens who are applying for visas as temporary visitors for business or pleasure (B-1/B-2); are from countries with high visa overstay rates; and are already approved by DHS for an inadmissibility waiver.

Aliens traveling under the Visa Waiver Program fall outside the scope of the Pilot Program, since a visa application is not required for their entry to the United States.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! Happy Friday. In this post we bring you very important yet unfortunate news regarding ongoing litigation in the fight to invalidate the public charge rule known as “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.”

As we previously reported, on November 2, 2020, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, issued a ruling in the case Cook County Illinois et al. v. Chad Wolf et al. which immediately set aside the public charge rule. The judge’s ruling allowed applicants to proceed with adjustment of status filings without having to include Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency.

Now things have changed.

In a stunning rebuke of the lower court’s decision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has put the public charge rule back in place. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may continue to enforce the public charge rule as before.

What did the appellate court decide?

On November 4, 2020, the appellate court placed an “administrative stay” on the November 2nd decision stopping the lower court from invalidating the public charge rule.

What does this mean for applicants for adjustment of status?

As a result of this decision, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may continue to implement the public charge rule until another order of the Seventh Circuit or another court states otherwise.

Accordingly, all applicants for adjustment of status must include Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency as well as all appropriate fees and supporting documentation.

What does this mean for employers and foreign nationals?

Until further notice, adjustment of status applications and nonimmigrant extension and change of status applications must continue to be submitted with public charge forms and documentation.

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In this post we discuss a new proposed rule published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that seeks to amend regulations governing Form, I-864 Affidavit of Support. The I-864 Affidavit of Support is a required form that must be completed by the person petitioning the foreign national, in order for their relative to immigrate to the United States. The petitioner must attest that they meet the income requirement based on their household size to sponsor the foreign national. Petitioners who are unable to meet the income requirement, must obtain a joint sponsor who does meet this requirement.

Essentially, when the petitioner or joint sponsor signs the affidavit of support, he or she is entering into an enforceable contract with the U.S. government, in which they agree to use their financial resources to support the beneficiary named in the affidavit of support. Where the beneficiary seeks public benefits from a government agency, the petitioner or sponsor can be held legally responsible for repaying those costs to the government agency.

The rules and regulations governing the affidavit of support have recently come under fire during the Trump administration. The President has consistently pushed for stricter enforcement of a sponsor’s obligations, requiring government agencies to hold sponsors liable for any benefits paid out to beneficiaries of an affidavit of support.


What is the New Rule About?

On October 2, 2020 DHS announced a proposed rule that (1) clarifies how a sponsor must demonstrate that he or she has the means to maintain income (2) revises documentation that sponsors and household members must meet as evidence of their income (3) modifies when an applicant is required to submit an Affidavit from a joint sponsor and (4) updates reporting and information sharing between government agencies.

Changes to Documentation Required of Sponsors

The proposed rule updates the evidentiary requirements for sponsors submitting an Affidavit, to “better enable immigration officers and immigration judges to determine whether the sponsor has the means to maintain an annual income at or above the applicable threshold, and whether the sponsor can, in fact, provide such support to the intending immigrant and meet all support obligations during the period the Affidavit is in effect.”

Specifically, this proposed rule would require sponsors and household members who execute an Affidavit or Contract to provide Federal income tax returns for 3 years, credit reports, credit scores, and bank account information.

Receipt of Means-Tested Benefits May Disqualify Sponsor

The proposed rule also seeks to change the regulations to specify that a sponsor’s prior receipt of any means-tested public benefits and a sponsor’s failure to meet support obligations on another executed Affidavit, or household member obligations on a previously executed Affidavit of Support, will impact the determination as to whether the sponsor has the means to maintain the required income threshold to support the immigrant.

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