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Articles Posted in I-485

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We have important new developments to share with our readers regarding the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) planned increase in filing fees for certain applications and petitions, which was set to go into effect beginning October 2nd 2020.

As we previously reported on our blog, in early August USCIS published a final rule in the Federal Register entitled, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements.” This final rule discussed the agency’s planned increase in filing fees for applications, petitions, or requests filed with USCIS postmarked on or after October 2, 2020.

*For a complete list of the planned increases and petitions affected click here.

According to USCIS, the final rule was intended to ensure that the agency would have enough resources to provide adequate services to applicants and petitioners. The agency stated that after having conducted a review of current fees, the agency determined that they could not cover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services without a fee increase.

This news was not surprising to say the least. Since the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic, USCIS has been facing an unprecedented financial crisis that has forced the agency to take drastic measures to account for its revenue shortfalls.

Federal Judge Grants Injunction Blocking Increase in Filing Fees

In a surprising turn of events, just days before the final rule was set to go into effect, several organizations filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to stop the government from enforcing the final rule. Immigrant Legal Resource Center, et al., v. Chad F. Wolf.

On Tuesday, September 29, 2020, federal judge Jeffrey S. White of the District Court for the Northern District of California, granted the injunction temporarily preventing the government from enforcing the increase in filing fees as planned on October 2nd.

As a result of the court order, USCIS is prohibited from enforcing any part of the final rule while the lawsuit is being litigated in court. While the government is sure to appeal the court’s decision, for now applicants can continue to send their applications and petitions with the current filing fees as posted on the USCIS webpage.

In support of his ruling, judge White reasoned that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in challenging the final rule because both the previous and current acting secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were unlawfully appointed to their posts and therefore were not authorized to issue the final rule. The judge also agreed that the fee hike would put low income immigrants at a severe disadvantage stating, “Plaintiffs persuasively argue that the public interest would be served by enjoining or staying the effective date of the Final Rule because if it takes effect, it will prevent vulnerable and low-income applicants from applying for immigration benefits, will block access to humanitarian protections, and will expose those populations to further danger.”

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The public charge rule is back. On September 11, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision that allows the Department of Homeland Security to resume enforcement of the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility final rule on a nationwide basis, including in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

The court “stayed” or suspended the grant of a preliminary injunction issued on July 29, 2020 by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, meaning that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can now require Form I-944 in all jurisdictions, and continue to enforce the public charge rule nationwide.


Why the ruling?

The appellate court ruling comes after the Department of Homeland Security appealed the July 29th preliminary injunction preventing the enforcement of the public charge rule to residents of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. The government asked the court to “stay” or suspend the preliminary injunction, pending resolution of the appeal before the courts.

A three judge panel ruled in favor of the government finding that they were likely to succeed on the merits of the case and in any event the judges said that it was doubtful that the district court had jurisdiction to issue the preliminary injunction in the first place, given that the court of appeals was considering the issues raised by the public charge rule.

What does this mean for applicants?

Pursuant to the appellate court’s order, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume enforcement and implementation of the Public Charge Grounds Final Rule nationwide. The government is no longer prevented from enforcing the rule during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

USCIS has stated on their webpage that they will apply the public charge final rule to all applications and petitions postmarked or submitted electronically on or after Feb. 24, 2020, including pending applications and petitions. For applications or petitions sent by commercial courier (for example, UPS, FedEx, or DHL), USCIS will use the date on the courier receipt as the postmark date.

USCIS will not re-adjudicate any applications and petitions that were approved following the issuance of the July 29, 2020, injunction continuing until the date of the notice (September 22, 2020).

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elijah-o-donnell-t8T_yUgCKSM-unsplash-scaledA new media report has provided information revealing that the Trump administration is planning to put a temporary “hold” on green card applications filed from the United States.


What is this all about?


As you know earlier this year, the President signed “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” limiting the immigration of aliens outside of the U.S., without an immigrant visa, or official travel document as of April 23rd.

Recent information has surfaced suggesting that the Trump administration seeks to temporarily suspend adjustment of status requests to permanent residence from those living in the United States.

According to a source speaking on condition of anonymity, USCIS has internally told employees that the agency will be temporarily suspending the processing of adjustment of status petitions filed for individuals in the United States, with some exceptions.


What are the exceptions?


Those who fall within the following exceptions will not be impacted by this temporary suspension:

  • Cases already given to the adjudicator (the immigration officer in charging of issuing a decision in your case)
  1. Example: If you had an interview scheduled in April or March and that interview was cancelled because of COVID-19, the suspension does not apply to you
  • Continuations – people who have had their cases continued
  1. Example: Cases that were paused because of COVID, interview rescheduling, etc.
  • Applications filed by medical workers and/or providers
  1. Example: If you are an essential worker fighting COVID-19 you are exempted from the order
  • Cases at the National Benefits Center will not be impacted
  • Very old cases that are currently pending a decision
  • Adjustment of status applications filed on the basis of the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF)
  • Identified National Security Concerns

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We have very exciting news for our readers. Yesterday, May 27th the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed that it is preparing to reopen some domestic offices and resume services to the public on or after June 4th.

As you know, on March 18th USCIS made the difficult decision to suspend in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) nationwide to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. While offices were closed, USCIS continued to provide emergency in-person services.

From the agency’s announcement it is clear that not all domestic offices will reopen to the public by June 4, but we know that at least some will begin to reopen to provide relief to those that have been waiting to attend their interviews or biometrics appointments.

USCIS will be following all state mandated precautions including reducing the number of appointments and interviews scheduled for the day, enforcing social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, and reducing waiting room occupancy. Members of the public will be required to wear masks covering their nose and mouth. Sanitizer will be provided to the public.

USCIS urges those who are feeling sick to stay home and schedule their appointments once they are feeling better. As a reminder, there is no penalty for rescheduling your appointment if you are sick.

We expect that USCIS will be scheduling far less appointments than usual to reduce the number of people in the facility at any one time. That means that appointment times will be spaced out and there will be a slight delay to reschedule everyone who has been waiting for an appointment. Please be patient and wait to receive a new appointment notice in the mail.

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The government is yet again proposing sweeping changes to current immigration policy, this time targeting Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.

By law, petitioners seeking to immigrate their immediate relative to the United States are required to submit Form I-864 affidavit of support, to ensure to the government that the foreign national will not become a public charge once they have entered the country.

This is true regardless of whether the immigrant is applying for an immigrant visa overseas, or whether the immigrant is adjusting their status to lawful permanent resident in the United States.

The affidavit of support has recently been the subject of intense scrutiny by the Trump administration.

The President has been primarily concerned with alien’s obtaining government benefits that they are not entitled to receive and has sought to enforce a sponsor’s obligations to reimburse the government for any monies paid out to aliens.

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The long-awaited Executive Order temporarily suspending the immigration of certain aliens into the United States has been released.


WHO IS IMPACTED BY THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?


The order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” suspends and limits the entry of the following types of aliens (for a 60-day period) beginning 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.


Your entry is suspended and limited if all of the following are true:

THREE PART TEST


  • You are an alien outside of the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd)
  • You are an alien that does not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of the Proclamation (April 23rd) and
  • You are an alien that does not have an official travel document other than a visa on the effective date of the proclamation (April 23rd) or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission
    • Official travel documents include a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or advance parole document.

ENFORCEMENT


This Proclamation shall be enforced by U.S. Consulates worldwide at their discretion giving them the power to determine whether an immigrant has established his or her eligibility and is otherwise exempted from the Proclamation. The Department of State will implement the proclamation as it applies to immigrant visas, at the discretion of the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The Department of State governs the immigration process outside of the United States, while the Department of Homeland Security governs the immigration process within the United States and guides the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


WHO IS EXEMPT FROM THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?


The order expressly exempts:

  • Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S.
  • Aliens who are the spouses of U.S. Citizens
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and any spouse and child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Aliens under 21 years of age who are children of United States Citizens and prospective adoptees
  • Aliens seeking to enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional
  • Aliens seeking to enter the U.S. to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19
  • Any spouse any unmarried child under 21 years of age of any such alien who is accompanying or following to join the alien
  • Any alien applying for a visa pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
  • Aliens whose entry furthers important United States law enforcement objectives
  • Any alien seeking entry pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, and any spouse and child of any such individual
    • SI: Certain aliens employed by the U.S. Government in Iraq or Afghanistan as translators or interpreters
    • SQ: Certain Iraqis or Afghans employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government
  • Any alien whose entry would be in the national interest of the United States (national interest waivers)
  • Aliens seeking entry for asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

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UPDATE: Green card interviews are being waived for at least some applicants during COVID-19


Unprecedented times call for unusual measures. Recently USCIS announced the closure of field offices nationwide—until May 3rd–to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

This announcement was immediately concerning given that green card applicants (family and employment-based) must attend in-person interviews at USCIS field offices to establish green card eligibility before their green cards can be approved.

USCIS indicated in their announcement that all impacted interviews would be rescheduled at a future time when offices re-open to the public. Of course, the decision to reschedule interviews at a future time would create a backlog, delaying the adjudication of thousands of green cards.

As it appears, to avoid a drastic backlog, USCIS is relaxing the green card interview requirement for employment-based green card applicants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there is no official policy or memorandum waiving the interview requirement for employment-based green card applicants, USCIS has been doing just that.

We can report that certain employment-based green card applicants who had their interviews canceled as a result of the COVID-19 office closures, have seen their green card “case status” change to “approved” and have received their green cards in the mail shortly thereafter.

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Applying for adjustment of status just became a lot more difficult.

After announcing the nationwide implementation of the final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” on February 24, 2020, USCIS unveiled a brand-new form (Form I-944) that must be filed with all applications for adjustment of status postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

What is Form I-944?

This new Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, will be used by USCIS to determine whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge at any time in the future based on several factors including receipt of public benefits, as well as the applicant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills, prospective immigration status and period of stay, and the petitioner’s Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.

In general, a person is inadmissible based on public charge grounds if he or she is more likely than not at any time in the future to receive one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Who is Exempt from Filing this Form?

Certain special classes of immigrants are not required to file the new Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency with an adjustment of status application such as: VAWA self-petitioners, special immigrant juveniles, certain Afghani or Iraqi nationals, asylees, refugees, victims of qualifying criminal activity (U Nonimmigrants), victims of human trafficking (T nonimmigrants), applicants applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act, Haitian Refugee Fairness Act, certain Parolees, Nicaraguans and other Central Americans of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), and other special classes of immigrants.

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On February 21, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States by a vote of 5-4 stayed the remaining statewide injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which prevented the government from enforcing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds rule also known as the “public charge” rule in the State of Illinois. A “stay” is a ruling made by a court to stop or suspend a proceeding or trial temporarily.

What this means

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the government may now enforce the “public charge” rule in the state of Illinois, while it appeals the District Court’s decision.

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In this blog post, we discuss visa bulletin trends and projections for the month of March. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently released the March 2020 Visa Bulletin revealing some good and bad news for employment based categories and family preference categories.

Adjustment of Status Filing Charts March 2020:

For Family-Sponsored Filings:
In the F2A category, there is a cutoff date on the Dates for Filing chart.  However, the category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart.  Accordingly, applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for March 2020.

For all other family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for March 2020.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
For all employment-based preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for March 2020.

Employment-based Categories: The Highlights

China: This month, employment based categories for China experienced varying degrees of forward movement, with EB-3 experiencing the most advancement.

  • EB-1 China advanced ten days to June 1, 2017
  • EB-2 China advanced one month to August 15, 2015
  • EB-3 China advanced nearly three months to March 22, 2016

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