Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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You have all heard the news. A new House bill has been introduced that if passed would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States without legal status. But what exactly does the bill include? In this blog post we share with you the highlights of the America’s Children Act of 2021 also known as H.R. 4331.


Bill Highlights


Among the highlights of America’s Children Act of 2021 the bill:

  • Provides a pathway to permanent residency for individuals who were brought to the United States at a young age, TPS recipients, individuals under DED status, and essential workers, who have maintained continuous physical presence in the United States since their entry, and/or have graduated from an institution of higher education;
  • Establishes protections for Diversity Visa lottery winners who could not come to the United States from 2017 to present due to COVID-19 related delays;
  • Creates special provisions to recapture unused visas and provides a waiver of numerical limitations for beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions currently waiting for their priority dates to become current

Who would benefit?


The main section of the bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for people in DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status and also people who may not have qualified for DACA. Individuals in Temporary Protected Status and those who received Deferred Enforced Departure would also be eligible. Qualifications differ among these groups and many more changes are expected however the key provisions have been mentioned above. To obtain permanent residence, individuals cannot be disqualified based on grounds of ineligibility and must complete “security and law enforcement background checks” and a medical examination.


Pathway to Citizenship for Dreamers


Under the committee print released by the House Judiciary Committee, certain aliens would be eligible to adjust their status to permanent residence within the United States, by paying a supplemental fee of $1,500 and passing criminal checks. To be eligible, an alien would have to show that he or she:

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s October 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, also known as “Chats with Charlie,” broadcasted every month on the State Department’s YouTube channel.

This new series features a monthly Question-and-Answer session with Mr. Charles Oppenheim and a Consular officer, where they answer many of the public’s frequently asked questions and provide a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin. This discussion will provide details regarding what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of both family and employment-based preference categories on each month’s Visa Bulletin.

Questions for Charlie can be emailed in advance to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of each monthly session with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.

Be sure to subscribe to the State Department’s YouTube Channel and turn on your notifications so you do not miss any of these important updates.

Below are the highlights of the visa projections for October 2021.


DOS Q&A Session with Charlie Oppenheim: October 2021 Visa Bulletin Projections & Beyond



The Top 9 Advance Questions Sent in By Listeners


Q: Last month, when describing the National Visa Center’s processing of cases, you mentioned a change in terminology from “documentarily qualified” to “documentarily complete.” Why the change and what’s the difference?

A: Well, the terminology means exactly the same thing. It’s my understanding that in changing it to “complete,” the National Visa Center was trying to make it very clear to the applicant that they had submitted all the required documents, that all those documents have been reviewed by the National Visa Center, and the case is considered to be “complete” and ready for the potential processing at an overseas post when an interview can be scheduled.

Q: In the September Visa Bulletin, the application dates for filing which are listed for China and India EB-3 were July 1, 2019, and March 1, 2014, respectively. But in the October Visa Bulletin, the dates for filing for China and India EB-3 were moved back to January 15, 2019, and January 8, 2014, respectively. Why did you move these two application dates backwards?

A: Each month before I’m making the determination of the final action dates and the application dates, I consult with USCIS officials and their inventory projections show that on October 1, 2021, coming up, the pending demand which both the State Department and USCIS has in the employment third preference category for applicants born in India and China will already exceed the amount of numbers that are available to applicants from those countries throughout fiscal year 2022 in the third preference category. Therefore, for that reason we made the decision to retrogress those application dates for filing to limit new applications, which we did not at the time anticipate could be processed during fiscal year 2022. But it is important to remember that as with the final action dates, we always continue to monitor the situation very carefully and that allows us to determine what if any future action will be required.

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The fate of nearly 8 million undocumented immigrants now rests in the hands of Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough.

On Friday, September 10, 2021, Democratic Congressmen, and women, met with the Senate staffer in hopes of convincing her to allow a piece of legislation to be introduced in the Democratic party’s upcoming $3.5 trillion spending bill, which would, for the first time in decades set in motion the implementation of comprehensive immigration reform.

The spending bill includes a provision that would carve out a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) that were brought to the United States illegally as children. The bill would also open a door for legalization to recipients of Temporary Protected Status, farmworkers, and certain undocumented workers deemed “essential.” It is estimated that nearly 8 million undocumented immigrants would qualify for permanent residence through this proposal, offering the first big victory for comprehensive immigration reform.

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Can you receive a green card under the EB-2 classification (National Interest Waiver) as the developer of an innovative application that improves the health and wellness of chronically ill U.S. Citizens?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to do just that despite initial challenges that were presented in our client’s case and previous unsuccessful filings in other visa classifications, where the adjudicating officer refused to recognize the applicant’s extraordinary ability in the field of health and business development despite a plethora of documentary evidence of his unique skills.


An Overview: What are the EB-2 NIW Requirements?

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we bring you a new update from the U.S. Department of State regarding the status of immigrant visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas. Today, the Department of State released an update reminding immigrant visa applicants that consular interview appointments are being scheduled using a four-tiered system that generally triages immigrant visa applications based on a system of priority.

The update adds that where possible, Consular posts and Embassies will attempt to schedule some appointments within all four priority tiers every month. These attempts will be made to help reduce the massive backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and operational constraints. The new update also carves out priority exceptions for certain healthcare workers seeking immigrant visas.

Applicants should keep in mind that public health and safety remain a paramount concern amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Consular posts and Embassies are continuing to do the best they can depending on local conditions to schedule interview appointments according to the priority schedule, taking into account restrictions on movement and gathering imposed by host country government.

It is also important to consider that posts overseas must abide by U.S. government guidance on safety in the workplace and are following social distancing protocols and safety measures which have reduced the number of applicants consular sections are able to see in a single day.  Consular sections will only resume routine visa services when it is safe to do so based on the particular geographic location.


The Department of State’s Four-Tiered Prioritization Schedule


The Department of State has said that while all immigrant visa categories are important, during the pandemic, it has been forced to make difficult decisions regarding how it will prioritize immigrant visa applications as they operate at limited capacity and work through the substantial backlogs of immigrant visa cases.

Having considered the difficult circumstances all applicants face, the Department of State has followed a guiding principle for immigrant visa prioritization, with family reunification being a top priority for the U.S. Government. The State Department’s prioritization schedule highlights Congressional objectives calling upon the agency to adopt policies that prioritize immediate relative visa applicants and K-1 fiancées of U.S. citizens, followed by family preference immigrant visa applicants.

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In this blog post we share with you some breaking news for green card applicants applying for adjustment of status on Form I-485, as well as those applying for immigrant visas from abroad.

As part of the green card process, USCIS and the Department of State require applicants to undergo a medical examination with a doctor designated as a civil surgeon, to establish that the applicant is not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds.

According to new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control, beginning October 1, 2021, green card applicants will now be required to establish that they have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine series, in order to be deemed eligible for permanent residence. Following the release of this new guidance, COVID-19 was added to the list of vaccinations required of those seeking U.S. lawful permanent residence.

The new vaccine requirement will apply to routine medical examinations necessary for both adjustment of status applicants applying for green cards in the United States and immigrant visa applicants applying at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.


Who must take the COVID-19 vaccine?


All applicants (1) applying for I-485 adjustment of status (a green card) or (2) those applying for an immigrant visa abroad, who will receive their medical examination from a Civil Surgeon or Panel Physician on or after October 1, 2021, will be subject to this requirement and are encouraged to complete a COVID-19 vaccine series as soon  as possible.

Eligible applicants must complete the COVID-19  vaccine  series if  a  COVID-19  vaccine  listed  for  emergency  use  by  the World  Health  Organization  (WHO)  or  licensed  or  authorized  for  emergency  use  by  the  U.S. Food  and  Drug Administration  (FDA)  is  available  to  the  applicant  in  the  country  where  the  medical  examination  is  conducted.


How can I show that I have met the vaccine requirement?


Applicants must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination to the civil surgeon in person before completion of the medical examination.  The COVID-19 vaccination requirement will differ from previous requirements in that the entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) must be completed in addition to the other routinely required vaccines.


How long will the COVID-19 vaccine requirement be in place?


These COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be in place until the CDC determines the vaccine is no longer needed to prevent the importation and spread of COVID-19.

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Exciting news for adjustment of status applicants filing their green card applications! On August 12, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency will be temporarily extending the validity period of medical examination (known as Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record), from two years to now four years due to COVID-19 related delays in processing applications. For those who are unaware, a sealed medical examination signed by a USCIS authorized civil surgeon on Form I-693 is a required component to receive lawful permanent resident status.


Who Will Benefit from this New Policy?


Effective immediately, USCIS will extend your Form I-693 medical examination if all of the following is true:

  • The civil surgeon’s signature on the medical examination (Form I-693) is dated no more than 60 days before the applicant filed Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;
  • No more than four years have passed since the date of the civil surgeon’s signature on Form I-693; and
  • A decision on the applicant’s Form I-485 is issued on or before Sept. 30, 2021.

Why is the validity of the medical exam being extended?


According to USCIS, this change is being made temporarily due to COVID-19 related processing delay that have affected the ability of many applicants to complete the required immigration medical examination. Previously, USCIS considered a completed Form I-693 to retain its validity for two years after the date the civil surgeon signed, as long as the date of the civil surgeon’s signature was no more than 60 days before the applicant filed for adjustment of status. Now the validity of the medical examination Form I-693 is being extended to four years (see the criteria above).

USCIS also revealed that it will be approving a record number of employment-based adjustment of status applications, with more approvals than it has issued since FY 2005.  The agency has prioritized the processing and adjudication of employment-based adjustment of status applications during this fiscal year. The agency vows to continue to make processing and resource allocation decisions to increase the pace of adjudications and limit the potential for employment-based visa numbers to go unused.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s September 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, also known as “Chats with Charlie,” broadcasted every month on the State Department’s YouTube channel.

This new series features a monthly Question-and-Answer session with Mr. Charles Oppenheim and a Consular officer, where they answer many of the public’s frequently asked questions and provide a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin. This discussion will provide details regarding what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of both family and employment-based preference categories on each month’s Visa Bulletin.

Questions for Charlie can be emailed in advance to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of each monthly session with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the September Visa Bulletin 2021 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of September 2021.

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.

If you would like to follow along on each month’s progress for the Visa Bulletin please be on the lookout for the next “Chats with Charlie” on the DOS YouTube Channel, which will take place on August 19, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Chats with Charlie is a monthly series recently launched by the State Department where Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control & Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, answers your frequently asked questions regarding each month’s Visa Bulletin. Questions can be emailed to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of the event with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


Unless otherwise indicated on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo, individuals seeking to file applications for adjustment of status with USCIS must use the “Final Action Dates” charts to determine when they can file such applications. When USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will state on its website www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo that applicants may instead use the “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” charts in this Bulletin.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart September 2021


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, 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. This means that applicants in the F2A category only may file using the Final Action Dates Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for September 2021.

For all other family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for September 2021.

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The National Interest Waiver, a subcategory of the EB-2 employment based, second preference visa, is a great option for professionals who can demonstrate possession of an advanced degree or exceptional ability in their proposed field or endeavor. The National Interest Waiver is an extremely attractive choice for those who qualify because it allows applicants to self-petition for permanent residence without having to submit a Labor Certification Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor.

It is also an interesting choice because the professions that qualify for a National Interest Waiver are not defined by statute, however, to be successful applicants must demonstrate their exceptional ability and prove that their employment in the United States would be of benefit to the nation. Without the filing of a National Interest Waiver, applicants must have employment sponsorship and their employers must go through the lengthy PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) Labor Certification process.


Why is NIW an attractive choice over traditional Labor Certification?


Simply put the National Interest Waiver takes a lot less time and is much easier to file when compared to the traditional EB-2 visa requiring labor certification. Obtaining approval of a labor certification application is no easy task. It can take anywhere from 6 months to more than 1 year to obtain approval, depending on a variety of different factors.

The PERM process is also time consuming for both the U.S. employer and the applicant, making the National Interest Waiver option extremely advantageous. For instance, during the PERM process, the U.S. employer is required to undergo a series of recruitment activities to test the labor market before filing the labor certification application. As part of these activities, the employer must go through a recruitment process where the employer must prove that there is not a sufficient number of able, qualified, and willing applicants, whether U.S. citizens or permanent residents, to fill the position. The employer must also go through an advertising period for the position and wait a mandatory 30-day period after the last advertisement runs before the PERM application can be filed.

The National Interest Waiver does away with these arduous steps, and instead allows an applicant to request a waiver of the Labor Certification process, by demonstrating that his or her proposed endeavor is in the interest of the United States. The applicant does not need employment sponsorship but must demonstrate possession of an advanced degree (master’s or bachelor’s) or exceptional ability in their field or endeavor. Exceptional ability is defined as having a degree of expertise that is significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the profession. That means that you must be prepared to prove to USCIS that you are an expert in your field and have attained a level of mastery in your field and/or achievements such that that you are considered “exceptional.”

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