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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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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We begin the start of the new week with some disappointing news regarding premium processing fee increases effective today October 19, 2020.

On October 16, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) quietly announced a substantial increase in filing fees for premium processing requests filed on Form I-907 that became effective today October 19, 2020,  in compliance with H.R.8337 (Public Law No. 116-159) a continuing appropriations bill that became public law on October 1, 2020.

Pursuant to this new bill, starting today USCIS will increase the filing fee for Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing from $1,440 to $2,500, for all filings except those from petitioners filing Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant worker status.

The premium processing fee for petitioners filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant status is increasing from $1,440 to $1,500.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing provides expedited processing for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. USCIS guarantees processing within 15 calendar days to those who choose to use this service.

The 15 calendar day period begins when USCIS properly receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.

Once the I-907 is received, USCIS either issues an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence within the 15-calendar day period.

H.R. 8337 will soon expand premium processing service to applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status, applications for employment authorization, and other types of benefit requests.

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On October 1, 2020, federal judge Jeffrey White of the U.S. Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the government from enforcing Presidential Proclamation 10052 issued on June 22, 2020, but only against the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit which include the National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Technet, and Intrax, Inc. See National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Homeland Security.

The plaintiffs brought the lawsuit before the court to challenge the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 10052, which suspends visa issuance for certain nonimmigrant workers until December 13, 2020, with discretion to be continued “as necessary.” Those impacted by this Proclamation include applicants who were not in the United States on June 24th or in possession of a valid visa as of that date, who seek visas in any of the following categories:

(1) H-1B or H-2B visa nonimmigrant visa applicants, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post we bring you the latest immigration updates.


Naturalization Ceremonies

Great news for naturalization applicants waiting for an oath ceremony. On July 1, 2020, USCIS issued an announcement notifying the public that it anticipates that it will complete nearly all postponed administrative naturalization ceremonies by the end of July of 2020.

USCIS has been prioritizing the scheduling of oath ceremonies for all naturalization applicants who were approved following their interviews. As we previously reported, USCIS is also exploring options to bypass the formal oath ceremony process in the future, and administer the oath immediately following a successful naturalization applicant’s interview. This will help move cases along quickly during the pandemic and limit further exposure.

USCIS remains committed to being as flexible as possible to welcome new citizens to the United States as fast as possible. We are glad that in the very least, naturalization applicants are being accommodated by the agency during this difficult time.

If you have not yet received your naturalization oath ceremony notice, you should be receiving one very soon. As always, we recommend calling USCIS to expedite the process.


Calls to Extend TPS for Yemen and Somalia due to COVID-19

Dozens of organizations are calling on the government to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for at least 180 days to all current Yemen and Somalia TPS holders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A letter was issued in early April by interested organizations urging USCIS and DHS to automatically extend work authorization and TPS for all current Yemen and Somalia TPS holders, or at the very least extend the re-registration period for TPS holders from Somalia and Yemen for a total of 180 days.

The letter emphasizes the importance of granting relief for Yemeni and Somalia TPS holders stating, “While states across the country are rightfully taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, these measures and the subsequent loss of income and freedom of movement establish insurmountable barriers for TPS holders to renew their status before the rapidly approaching re-registration deadline. TPS holders should not have to choose between missing a deadline and violating health directives that keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.”

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New rumors are yet again circling regarding the possibility of a future executive order banning the entry of certain non-immigrants from the United States. An official speaking on condition of anonymity has fueled these rumors divulging information that the Trump administration is getting ready to issue a new executive order that would temporarily suspend the entry of L-1, H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 non-immigrants for a period lasting several months.

A copy of the executive order has allegedly been leaked to the media; however, our office has not been able to find a draft copy of such an order. It is also important to note that even if a version of the executive order has been leaked, the official version of a future executive order banning non-immigrants might look substantially different.


What is being said about the potential executive order?


The order is rumored to suspend the entry of L-1, H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 non-immigrants for a temporary period lasting several months.

Like previous executive orders suspending immigrant and non-immigrant entry, the order will contain numerous exceptions, although these exceptions have not yet been made clear. We believe exceptions will likely apply to essential workers such as health professionals, those working to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, and essential workers in food-related industries.

As it relates to J-1 visas, it is rumored that only summer workers, camp counselors, trainees, and interns will be impacted, not medical physicians.

TAKEAWAY: If you have a valid L-1, H-1B, H-2B, or J-1 non-immigrant visa and you are abroad, you should consider returning to the United States as soon as possible.


Who will the order likely impact?


The order is rumored to impact only those in L, H, and J non-immigrant status outside the United States, however, the Trump administration is considering adding regulatory changes to the order that would impact OPT students and new H-1B applicants in the United States. This includes provisions that would end the STEM OPT program, and provisions tightening H-1B visa requirements to narrow the definition of “specialty occupation,” require higher wages, and increase H-1B filing fees.

TAKEAWAY: STEM OPT applications and extensions should be submitted as early as possible to avoid a negative impact.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we cover the latest immigration news of the week.

USCIS Launches Online Form to Report Fraud

On March 3rd USCIS announced the launch of a new online form available on the USCIS website that can be used to report suspected immigration fraud and abuse including asylum/refugee fraud, religious worker visa fraud, employment-based visa fraud, investor visa fraud (EB-5 program), student visa fraud, marriage or fiancé visa fraud, unauthorized practice of law (notarios), and other types of immigration fraud.

This “USCIS tip form” provides space for the form user to describe alleged fraud or abuse in detail. According to USCIS, the tip form was created to make the tip process more effective and efficient, so that the agency can better collect information and make an assessment regarding the credibility of tips sent to the agency.

Previously fraud reporting was done by email, making it difficult for USCIS to respond and investigate tips.

This new online system for reporting fraud represents the Trump administration’s commitment to crack down and prevent various forms of visa fraud.

Over the years, the Trump administration has signed various directives and executive orders such as “Buy American, Hire American” aimed at rooting out fraudulent H1B, asylum/refugee, and EB-5 investor visas. The Trump administration has also worked to limit or slow down the issuance of these visas by issuing aggressive requests for evidence in the case of H1B visas and increasing the minimum investment amount for EB-5 investors.

Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain Immigrants and Nonimmigrants who Pose a Risk of Transmitting the Coronavirus

On February 3rd the Department of State issued an important announcement reminding travelers of a Presidential proclamation signed on January 31st barring entry to the United States of immigrants or nonimmigrants who traveled to China within the 14 days immediately prior to arrival in the United States.

The proclamation went into effect on Sunday, February 2.

Travelers should note that the proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States.  Foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas are excepted from this proclamation.  Other exceptions include certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, including spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21).  There is also an exception for crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas.

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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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On February 22, 2019, USCIS announced it has received enough petitions to meet the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for temporary nonagricultural workers, for the second half of FY2019. February 19, 2019 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before October 1, 2019.

On Feb. 21, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select from H-2B petitions received on Feb. 19. As a result, USCIS assigned all petitions selected in the lottery the receipt date of Feb. 22. Premium processing service for petitions selected in the lottery began on Feb.22.

USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for:

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Senate Introduces Bill to Grant TPS to Venezuelans

The Senate has introduced a bipartisan bill that would allow Venezuelans to seek temporary protected status (TPS) in the United States.

The bill is spearheaded by Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

According to the United Nations, more than 3 million Venezuelans have fled their country to escape the dire economic crisis. Venezuelans are struggling to afford basic necessities such as food and toiletries due to the astronomic inflation rate plaguing the country.

The United Nations has called on nations like the United States to take in Venezuelan refugees, given the strain placed on South American countries who have few resources to provide for incoming refugees.

The bill is not expected to advance until the new year, but it is the first step in making Venezuela’s government accountable for the economic crisis and providing relief to Venezuelan nationals.

Asylum requests are currently at an all-time high for Venezuelan nationals.

I-539 Workload Transfer

USCIS has announced the transfer of Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status for F, M, J, or B nonimmigrants from the Vermont Service center to the Texas Service Center, Nebraska Service Center, California Service Center, and Potomac Service Center.

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For years you have 8276375308_d5f2721898_zput your trust in our office for all of your immigration needs and for that we thank you. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to serve you and your families. Throughout the years, we have helped thousands of immigrants from all over the world attain their American dream. Learning about their lives and their struggles has

always been an important part of our practice. Although many challenges lie ahead for immigration, we are confident that important changes will come about in the new year. Do not despair and know that our office will be with you every step of the way. We wish you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons.