Articles Posted in Green Card Interview

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USCIS Updates Policy Manual Clarifying Physical Presence Requirement for Asylees and Refugees


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently updated its Policy Manual to clarify that BOTH asylees and refugees must have been physically present in the United States for one year at the time the Immigration Officer adjudicates their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, rather than at the time the individual files their adjustment of status application.

This policy is effective immediately and applies to all Form I-485 Applications to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and Form N-400, Applications for Naturalization, that are pending on February 2, 2023, and applications filed on or after that date.


What does this mean?


This means that in order to be eligible for adjustment of status (a green card), an asylee or refugee must have been physically present in the United States for at least 1 year after either being granted asylum status or admitted as a refugee.

Additionally, the policy manual:

  • Provides that asylees and refugees are required to accrue 1 year of physical presence by the time of adjudication of the adjustment of status application, rather than by the time they file the application (and that USCIS may request additional information to determine such physical presence in the United States).
  • Clarifies that asylee and refugee adjustment applicants who have held the immigration status of exchange visitor (J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrants) and who are subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement under INA 212(e) are not required to comply with or obtain a waiver of such requirement in order to adjust status under INA 209.
  • Makes technical updates, including clarifying processing steps for refugees seeking waivers of inadmissibility and removing references to the obsolete Decision on Application for Status as Permanent Resident (Form I-291).
  • Provides that USCIS considers a refugee or asylee who adjusted status to a permanent resident despite filing for adjustment before accruing 1 year of physical presence to have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence for purposes of naturalization if the applicant satisfied the physical presence requirement at the time of approval of the adjustment of status application.

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The Green Card and Employment Authorization Document just got a brand-new look.

In this post, we bring you the lowdown on what you can expect. USCIS recently announced that the agency will be issuing newly redesigned Permanent Resident Cards (also known as green cards) and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) starting Monday, January 30, 2023.

The previous design was implemented in 2017. To mitigate the risk of fraud and counterfeiting, USCIS redesigns green cards and EADs every three to five years.

The new design includes state-of-the-art technology designed to improve its security and integrity against counterfeiting.

Along with completely redesigned artwork, the new green card and EADs come with tactile printing, enhanced optically variable ink, secure holographic images on the front and back, and a new layer-reveal feature showcasing a partial window on the back photo box, and data fields that have been placed in different areas than on previous versions.

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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.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog!

In this blog post, we bring you the latest information regarding Diversity Visa reassignment procedures for Afghan nationals.

Recently, the State Department announced the appropriate procedures for Diversity Visa lottery case reassignment for Afghan nationals.

Due to the suspension of visa operations at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Diversity Visa selectees for the 2023 Diversity Visa program year are advised to request reassignment of their cases to another embassy or consulate abroad that processes Diversity Visa applications.

To understand which Consular posts can accept your case, you must carefully review the U.S. Embassy webpage where you are seeking reassignment. For case reassignment to occur, you must be physically present in the consular district where the consulate or embassy is located at the time of your visa interview. Additionally, you must have permission from the consulate for case reassignment and the ability to remain in that country for a period of time sufficient to complete the processing of your visa application.


How Can I Request Reassignment?


To request reassignment, you must send an e-mail to KCC at KCCDV@state.gov with the subject line “Kabul Reassignment Request.”  Your email must include the following information: (1) full name, (2) date of birth, (3) case number, and (4) the name of the embassy or consulate where you would like your case to be reassigned.  After the KCC reviews your request, you will receive an email confirmation that your reassignment request was successful or, alternatively, requesting more information.  All emails are reviewed in the order they are received.

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We kick off the Thanksgiving week with some exciting news.

Recently, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) met with representatives from the Department of State to address some issues of concern relating to several different immigration topics.

We provide a summary of the questions asked and responses from the Department of State down below that was part of a recent roundtable with representatives from Consular Affairs.


Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Applications from Third Country Nationals


Representatives reminded nonimmigrant visa applicants, including students, that they can apply for their visas at any embassy or consulate where they are physically present and obtain a visa appointment.

Additionally, immigrant visa applicants can request to transfer their case to another embassy or consulate if they are unable to travel to the post where their case is assigned.

As to the possibility for virtual visa interviews, the State Department has said immigrant visa applicants are required to appear in person before a consular officer to provide fingerprints, therefore video interviews would be of limited utility.


Interview Waivers


AILA informed the State Department that it appears that some appointment scheduling systems incorrectly identify applicants that are clearly not eligible for interview waivers as eligible and invite them to send in their passports for visa issuance.

In these instances, once the passport is submitted to the post, it is determined that the applicant is not eligible for an interview waiver, the applicant has to be contacted, their passport has to be returned, and they have to then schedule an in-person interview appointment.

The State Department has said it is not aware of this issue happening at posts and recommended that those experiencing issues with applications submitted via interview waiver processes should contact the relevant post for information.


E-2 Treaty Investor Visas  


Question: 9 FAM 402.9-6(A)(a)(4) informs officers that one of the determinations in evaluating E-2 Treaty Investor applications is that the: “Enterprise is a real and operating commercial enterprise,” and is then referred to 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) for further discussion.

The first sentence of 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) states: “The enterprise must be a real and active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking, producing some service or commodity.” The third sentence of 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) continues the description of the enterprise to state, “It cannot be a paper organization or an idle speculative investment…”Especially in the context of start-up businesses, defining these terms will provide greater clarity and guidance to E-2 visa applicants.

Please confirm: Are the words “operating” at 402.9-6(A)(a)(4) and “active” at 402.9-6(C) used interchangeably?

Answer: Almost. The term “active” at 402.9-6(C) was used to ensure that new enterprises that had not yet begun producing services or commodities, but which were actively taking steps to become operational, could also provide a basis for E visa issuance.

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Happy Veterans Day! On behalf of our law office, we would like to thank the servicemen and women who have dedicated their lives to protect our country. We are grateful to you for the sacrifices you have made and your service.

We close off the week with a recent update from the U.S. Department of State regarding immigrant visa processing in Havana, Cuba.

According to a new announcement made yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, will fully resume immigrant visa processing beginning January 4, 2023.

This will include processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives, other family preference categories, diversity visas, and K fiancé(e) visas.

For its part, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, will continue processing of Cuban immigrant visa applications for those individuals who were scheduled to attend in-person interviews there through the end of December of this year.

Immigrant visa applicants whose appointments were originally scheduled in Georgetown will complete case processing in Georgetown.

Sadly, case transfers from Georgetown to U.S. Embassy, Havana are not available for applicants who have already been scheduled to attend interviews in Georgetown.

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Our readers will be happy to know that the Department of State has released a new update in the month of October on the status of worldwide consular visa operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a period of uncertainty and created tremendous backlogs at the Consular level. As most of you will remember, Consular missions around the world suspended routine visa services in March of 2020 to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. Later, the Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services, however some Consulates and Embassies resumed services faster than others. Since then, things have slowly but surely started to turn around.

To help improve visa processing, the State Department has said that worldwide visa operations are now recovering faster than expected. More U.S. foreign service personnel have been hired to reduce visa interview wait times at Consular posts worldwide. It is expected that this year, the Department of State will reach pre-pandemic processing levels. This is amazing news for immigrants that have been waiting for visa interview appointments for months, or even years.


How did COVID-19 impact Worldwide Visa Operations?


The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the agency’s ability to process visa applications in two major ways.

First, restrictions on travel to the United States, social distancing, and local quarantine restrictions made it difficult to accommodate large groups of people inside Consular facilities, such as waiting rooms. This of course reduced the number of people that could be scheduled for in-person visa appointments dramatically, causing a reduction in the number of visa applications that could be processed.

Secondly, due to the suspension of visa services worldwide, the State Department experienced a substantial decrease in funding which led to a declining workforce in 2020 and 2021. This dramatically impacted the number of applications that could be processed.

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We start off the week with the latest news regarding COVID-19-related flexibilities for responses to Requests for Evidence, NOIDs, and such related notices issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


What do I need to know about these new updates?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS has announced that it will continue its flexibility policy giving applicants and petitioners more time to respond to Requests for Evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, Monday, October 24, 2022, USCIS made the announcement that it will continue to grant applicants who have received a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or such a related document, an additional 60 calendar days after the response deadline indicated on the notice or request, to submit a response to a request or notice, provided the request or notice was issued by USCIS between March 1, 2020 through January 24, 2023. This is great news because it will allow applicants and petitioners more time to gather documents that are hard to obtain during the COVID-10 pandemic.

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In this blog post, we cover the release of the November Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the upcoming month of November.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart November 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the  Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2022.


November 2022 Visa Bulletin Dates for Filing Cutoff Dates


Employment-Based Categories


DATES FOR FILING FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES


According to the Department of State’s November 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following Dates for Filing cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries, including India and China, will remain current.
  • EB-2: EB-2 China will remain at July 8, 2019 and EB-2 India at May 1, 2012. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India will remain at July 1, 2012, and EB-3 China will remain at July 15, 2018. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB3 Other Workers: EB-3 China will remain at November 1, 2015, and EB-3 India will remain at July 1, 2012. A Date for Filing cut-off date of September 8, 2022, applies to all other countries.
  • EB-4: EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras will remain at April 15, 2018, and EB-4 Mexico at October 15, 2020. All other countries remain current
  • EB-5: For the EB-5 Unreserved categories (C5, T5, I5, and R5), the Date for Filing for China will remain at January 1, 2016, India will have a Date for Filing cut-off imposed of December 8, 2019, and all other countries will remain current. For the EB-5 “Set-Aside” categories (Rural, High Unemployment, and Infrastructure), the Date for Filing will remain current for all countries.

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Happy Columbus Day! We start the week with great news for green card applications.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it is extending a policy that previously waived the requirement for civil surgeons to sign the Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, no more than 60 days before filing the green card application.

USCIS previously issued its waiver policy until September 30, 2022 but has decided to extend the waiver until March 31, 2023.


Why the extension?


Due to processing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has decided that extending this policy is necessary to provide relief to applicants for the delays and difficulties that it takes to complete the green card medical examination.

Moving forward, the waiver will apply to all Form I-693 medical examinations for green card applications that have not been adjudicated, regardless of when the application was submitted to USCIS or when a civil surgeon signed the Form I-693.

USCIS expects this extension to provide much needed relief to Afghan nationals evacuated under Operation Allies Welcome, who completed immigration medical examinations but could not apply for adjustment of status within 60 days of a civil surgeon signing their Form I-693.

For more information about this important update, please click here.

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