Articles Posted in Green card

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In this post we bring you the latest immigration news.

Final Rule Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds

The Department of Homeland Security has posted the official version of final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” in the Federal Register.

The Final Rule will become effective at 12:00 a.m. EST on October 15, 2019.

Who does the rule apply to?

The rule will be applied to applications and petitions postmarked (or electronically submitted) on or after October 15, 2019.

The rule will not apply to applications and petitions pending with USCIS prior to October 15, 2019.

To read the official version of the rule please click here.

USCIS Completes Return of Unselected H-1B Petitions

As of August 15, 2019, USCIS has returned all FY2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the lottery. Unselected petitions contain a rejection notice explaining that the petition was not selected in the lottery.

If you submitted a FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petition that was delivered to USCIS between April 1 and April 5, 2019, and you do not receive a receipt notice or returned petition by August 29, 2019, contact USCIS for assistance.

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USCIS will be publishing a final rule on August 14, 2019, in the Federal Register, that expands the list of public benefits that make a foreign national ineligible to obtain permanent residence and/or an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act makes inadmissible and therefore (1) ineligible for a visa, (2) ineligible for admission and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status, any alien who, in the opinion of the DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge.

The process of determining whether an alien is likely to become a public charge is called a “public charge determination.”

Receipt of certain public benefits leads to a “public charge determination” meaning that the applicant is ineligible to receive the benefit they are requesting (such as permanent residence) based on the fact that they are likely to become a public charge to the United States government.

What is a public charge?

A person is a “public charge” if they are primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense.

The final rule expands the scope of this definition by making a public charge any alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Under the final rule announced today, immigration will now be taking into consideration the following benefits to determine whether an individual is or is likely to become a public charge to the U.S. government:

Reliance on or receipt of non-cash benefits such as:

  • Cash benefits for income maintenance
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and
  • certain other forms of subsidized housing.

In addition, the government will continue to take into consideration the following types of benefits:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid

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New changes are coming to the naturalization examination beginning in December of 2020 to early 2021.

We have learned that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been busy revising the current naturalization test to ensure that the test accurately reflects an applicant’s knowledge of civics and United States history.

Back in December of 2018 a group was formed with the task of updating the test questions that appear on the naturalization exam, as well as implementing changes to the speaking portion of the examination. Prior to its implementation, USCIS will be testing the revision via a pilot program.

Section 312 of the INA requires naturalization applicants to pass an English and civics examination as part of the naturalization process. As part of this examination, applicants must demonstrate “…an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language…” and “…knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States…”

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We are happy to report that on July 10, 2019 the House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 (H.R. 1044), a bill that if enacted, would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, and increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants.

What is H.R. 1044?

H.R. 1044 is a piece of legislation that was first introduced before the House of Representatives on February 7, 2019 by Representative Zoe Lofgren.

Employment-Based Sponsorship

The bill seeks to drastically change the way that our employment-based green card system works by eliminating the “per country cap” that limits the number of green cards that may be issued to applicants per fiscal year depending on their country of origin also known as country of chargeability.

Currently, employment-based workers fall into one of five “preference categories” including EB-1 Priority Workers, EB-2 Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees/Persons of Exceptional Ability, EB-3 Skilled Workers, Professionals, EB-4 Special Immigrants, and EB-5 Investors. Each of these categories is subject to Congressional numerical limitations, as well as per-country limitations.

H.R. 1044 proposes to remove the per-country limitations to enable applicants to obtain employment visas based on merit, and not based on country of origin. The bill would also eliminate the 7% cap for employment-based visas and remove an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China.

The bill also establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY2020-FY2022, by reserving a percentage of EB-2 (workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability), EB-3 (skilled and other workers), and EB-5 (investors) visas for individuals not from the two countries with the largest number of recipients of such visas. Of the unreserved visas, not more than 85% would be allotted to immigrants from any single country.

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Spouses and minor children of Green Card Holders can file for I-485 Adjustment of Status starting July 1, 2019

The US Department of State (DOS) has released its July 2019 Visa Bulletin announcing that the Family 2A category, spouses and unmarried minor children of lawful permanent residents, will become current for all countries of the world beginning July 1, 2019.

The DOS Visa Bulletin dictates how long immigrants must wait in the ever-growing line to permanent resident status, and for many this means years, even decades, of backlogs, delays, and prolonged family separation. The DOS Visa Bulletin provides updated priority dates for immigrants who are subject to the quota system, regulating who can apply for adjustment of status and consular immigrant visa applications.

With the release of the July 2019 Visa Bulletin and F2A current as of July 1, 2019, comes renewed hope for green card holders hoping to finally be reunited with their family members. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for green card holders/permanent residents especially for those from countries subject to longer waiting times including China, India, Mexico and the Philippines.

What does this mean for green card holders? If your spouse and children (under 21 and unmarried) are in lawful status and have already filed an I-130, they should be ready to file their I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status, starting July 1. If your spouse and children (under 21 and unmarried) are in lawful status in the US and you have not already filed an I-130, the I-130 and I-485 should be filed concurrently starting July 1. If your spouse and children (under 21 and unmarried) are overseas and they have an approved I-130, they should be ready to submit all necessary documents to the National Visa Center so an immigrant visa interview can be scheduled.

Previously, wait times for F2A category averaged 2-3 years.

Why green card holders must act NOW. If you are an green card holder and would like to petition for your spouse and unmarried minor children, it is important to act quickly as the cutoff date for filing is July 31, 2019 as there is no guarantee that the F2A will continue to be current in August 2019.

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Immigration Raids Cancelled for Two Weeks

In a new turn of events, President Trump announced on Saturday, June 22, 2019, that he would delay the immigration raids that were set to begin on June 23, 2019, for a period of two weeks to give Congress more time to make changes to existing asylum law.

On the eve of the immigration raids, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi brokered a deal in which she asked the President to cancel the planned immigration raids. On Saturday the President tweeted that at the request of the Democrats, the raids would be pushed back for two weeks giving both parties time to roll out proposals regarding immigration reform.

For the time being the immigration raids will not be going forward as originally planned.

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Digitized FOIA System

USCIS has announced that its FOIA System is now digitized. Users will now be able to submit, track, and receive FOIA requests digitally. This is great news because this option will speed up the process of requesting a FOIA and also speed up the form of delivery. Previously, applicants were required to submit a request by mail and would receive the results of the FOIA request by mail in compact disc form. Now, applicants will be able to access their documents digitally.

Applicants will simply need to create a USCIS online account to take advantage of this new and improved system.

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Today, June 17, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced a new strategy aimed at reducing the processing times for applications for naturalization and adjustment of status. This new strategy will attempt to equalize the processing times for citizenship and adjustment applicants who live in a jurisdiction that has been burdened by higher than normal demand.

USCIS has issued a press release indicating that during fiscal years 2016 and 2017 the agency received a higher than expected volume of applications. Unfortunately, the increase in applications received throughout this period has burdened some field offices more than others, resulting in the disparities we are seeing in processing times across field offices.

To decrease the processing times in hard hit regions, USCIS will now be shifting citizenship and adjustment of status cases between different field offices to better distribute the workload and increase efficiency. This strategy should result in a decrease in processing times in regions that were previously experiencing higher than normal processing times.

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Photo: CafeCredit

The Trump administration is mobilizing to strictly enforce laws that require the reimbursement of funds from an alien’s financial sponsor, where the alien has requested certain types of public benefits from a government agency.

The White House has issued a memorandum stating that, “Financial sponsors who pledge to financially support a sponsored alien in the event the alien applies for or receives public benefits will be expected to fulfill their commitment under the law.”

Financial sponsors are required to sign Form I-864 Affidavit of Support for most family-based immigrant petitions, as well as some employment-based petitions to show that the intending immigrant has adequate means of financial support and will not become a public charge on the United States government.

The White House has directed various government agencies including the Department of labor, housing, health and human services, etc. to hold sponsors accountable for making a financial commitment to sponsor an alien in the United States, who receives forms of government assistance they are not entitled to receive.

Such benefits that will require reimbursement from a financial sponsor are benefits received from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which provides food stamps, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

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The Trump administration is making another bold move, this time the target is H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers seeking permanent residence.

The Department of Homeland Security has published a notice of proposing rule-making (NRPM) to rescind an Obama era rule extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B workers seeking permanent residence.

We are awaiting publication of the proposed rule in the federal register. At this time, the regulation has preliminarily appeared on the government website reginfo.gov.

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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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