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Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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We have great news for our readers regarding a recent court’s decision to temporarily halt the “public charge” rule during the Coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, July 29, a federal judge in the state of New York issued a ruling that blocks the government’s enforcement of the “public charge” rule on non-citizens seeking permanent residency in the United States, and nonimmigrant visa applicants alike, for as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains a public health emergency. The ruling was made in response to a federal lawsuit filed by several states against the government entitled, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in State of New York, et al. v. DHS, et al. and Make the Road NY et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al.


What does this mean for visa and adjustment of status applicants?

Federal Judge George Daniels has approved a nationwide injunction, immediately stopping the government from “enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating,” as effective the “public charge” rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This means that effective June 29th both consular officers and USCIS immigration officials cannot enforce any part of the “public charge” rule for as long as the injunction remains and place, and a national public health emergency exists.


Why did the judge make this ruling?

The judge agreed with the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont that the “public charge” rule would cause irreparable harm on non-citizens seeking entry to the United States because the rule discourages such individuals from obtaining the necessary treatment and care needed during the Coronavirus pandemic. The judge considered the “substantial harm” the public would suffer if the government continued to enforce the “public charge” rule and found that the temporarily injunction was necessary to allow non-citizens to obtain much needed public benefits for preservation of the public’s health and safety.

In defense of his opinion, the judge stated, “no person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact.”

The judge further stated in his ruling that the continued application of the “public charge” rule during the global pandemic, “would only contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

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During the past year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been facing a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As early as May of this year, a USCIS spokesperson informed the United States government that it needed a cash bailout of $1.2 billion by summertime in order to meet its operational costs. The agency found that fewer and fewer applicants were filing applications and petitions with USCIS which created a massive revenue shortfall for the agency.

To keep itself afloat, the agency said it would be preparing to increase filing fees for certain types of applications and petitions.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security officially announced a final rule that will be posted in the Federal Register on August 3rd that will increase filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits.

The final rule will become effective 60 days from August 3rd – the date of publication which falls on October 2, 2020.

That means that applications postmarked on or after October 2, 2020 with incorrect fees will be rejected by USCIS.


MOST IMPACTED APPLICATIONS AND PETITIONS

The following types of immigration requests are the most impacted with significant price increases:

  • I-929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant

Current Fee: $230

Final Fee: $1,485 (Increase of 546%)

  • I-881 Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal

Current Fee: $285

Final Fee: $1,810 (Increase of 535%)

  • I-193 Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa

Current Fee: $585

Final Fee: $2,790 (Increase of 377%)

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Great news! The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for August 2020 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts August 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.  This means that applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for August 2020.

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

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
For all employment-based preference categories, you must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2020.

August Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


Employment Based Categories

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

  • EB-1: All countries remain current during the month of August except for China and India. EB-1 China will advance by almost six months to February 8, 2018, while EB-1 India will advance by nine months to February 8, 2018.
  • EB-2: All countries except EB-2 China and India remain current. EB-2 China will advance by more than two months to January 15, 2016, and EB-2 India will remain at July 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries except EB-3 India and China will advance by almost a full year to April 1, 2019. Cutoff dates for EB-3 China will advance by almost 8 months to February 15, 2017, and for India by four months to October 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: EB-5 India will remain current, joining all other countries except for EB-5 China and Vietnam.  China’s cutoff date will advance by two weeks to August 8, 2015, while Vietnam’s cutoff date will advance by more than two months to July 22, 2017

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The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for July 2020 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts July 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.  This means that applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for July 2020.

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

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:For all employment-based preference categories, you must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2020.


July Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


Employment Based Categories

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

  • EB-1: All countries remain current during the month of July except for China and India. EB-1 China will advance by one week to August 22, 2017, while EB-1 India will advance by 11 months to May 8, 2017.
  • EB-2: All countries except EB-2 China and India remain current. EB-2 China will advance by one week to November 8, 2015, and EB-2 India will advance by just under four weeks to July 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries except EB-3 India and China will advance by almost five months to April 15, 2018. Cutoff dates for EB-3 China will advance by one week to June 22, 2016, and for India by two months to June 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: EB-5 India will become current, joining all other countries except for EB-5 China and Vietnam.  China’s cutoff date will advance by one week to July 22, 2015, while Vietnam’s cutoff date will advance by three weeks to May 15, 2017.

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In response to the growing rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Brazil, on May 24, 2020, the President signed the “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Novel Coronavirus.” This marks the fifth presidential proclamation to limit the entry of foreign nationals to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the United States. The previous proclamations were as follows:


Overview


The May 24th proclamation suspends the entry of immigrants or nonimmigrants to the United States who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.


Who is Exempted?


The proclamation specifically exempts:

  • Lawful permanent residents of the United States
  • Any alien who is the spouse of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Any alien who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any alien who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any alien who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Any alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • Any alien traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any alien otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;
  • Any alien: seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following visas: A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories); or

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In this post we will share with our readers what we know is happening locally with the scheduling of interviews at the San Diego Field Office and oath ceremonies. Please keep in mind that we do not have information about other Field Offices at this time.

Oath Ceremonies

The San Diego Field office will prioritize the scheduling of oath ceremonies in the month of June. These ceremonies will be “drive thru” ceremonies to ensure the health and safety of participants. These ceremonies will take place at two locations that are offsite from the San Diego field office at the Cabrillo National Monument and the City of El Cajon parking lot adjacent to the police department. El Cajon will schedule ceremonies more frequently. Start and end times have not yet been provided for these ceremonies.

We have received information that judges will be present at both oath ceremony locations to address name change issues for participants.

When will the San Diego Field Office open to the public?

The San Diego Field Office will not officially open to the public for interviews until June 21st. However, we have received information that the office is more likely to open to the public in July for interviews. The San Diego Field Office will continue to be open for urgent cases and emergency appointments.

How will the procedure change once offices reopen?

Social distancing procedures will be put in place including installation of plexiglass to separate the interviewing officer from applicants, lines demarcating social distancing, and face mask coverings required to enter the building. The amount of people allowed in the facility will be reduced to comply with social distancing requirements. The San Diego Field Office is exploring extending work hours to allow more interviews to take place. Interviews will take place in person; no remote interviews will be allowed.

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Great news for our loyal followers! The time has come – today the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that premium processing services will resume.

Beginning June 1, 2020, premium processing services for all Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers will be resumed.

What about other types of petitions?

Premium processing service will be resume for other types of petitions in phases as follows:

-Beginning June 8th USCIS will accept premium processing requests for:

  • H-1B petitions filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication and are cap-exempt (for example, petitions filed by petitioners that are cap-exempt and petitions filed for beneficiaries previously counted toward the numerical allocations).
  • All other Form I-129 petitions (non H-1B petitions) for nonimmigrant classifications eligible for premium processing filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication.

-Beginning June 15th USCIS will resume premium processing for:

  • H-1B petitions requesting premium processing where Form I-907 was filed concurrently with Form I-129 (or request for a petition filed on or after June 8) and the beneficiary is exempt from the cap because:
    • The employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity or organization (such as an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization); or
    • The beneficiary is cap-exempt based on a Conrad/IGA waiver under INA section 214(l).

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A brand-new bill called the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2020 (S. 3770) sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has recently surfaced. As you might have already guessed, the bill seeks to make changes to the current H-1B and L visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse within the H-1B and L visa programs, provide protections for American workers, and enforce stricter requirements for the recruitment of foreign workers. The H-1B visa program is aggressively targeted in this new piece of legislation.


Proposed Changes to the H-1B visa program


First, as it relates to the H-1B visa worker program, the bill proposes changes to existing wage requirements.

The law would require employers to pay the highest wage from three categories:

1) the locally determined prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment

2) the median average wage for all workers in the occupational classification in the area of employment; or

3) the median wage for skill level 2 in the occupational classification found in the most recent OES survey.

Second, the bill would make changes to current law and require U.S. employers seeking to hire H-1B workers to publish job postings on a website established by the Department of Labor. After filing the labor condition application, the employer would be required to post the job on the website for at least 30 calendar days. The job posting would have to include a detailed description of the position, including the wages and other terms and conditions of employment, minimum education, training, experience, and other requirements for the position, as well as the process for applying for the position.

Third, all H-1B employers would be required to prove that they have tried to recruit American workers for jobs offered to H-1B workers. Under current law, only H-1B dependent employers (those with more than 50 full time employees of which at least 15% are H-1B employees) are required to recruit American workers for H-1B positions. This would be a drastic change in the law creating additional burdens for U.S. employers seeking to hire foreign workers with specialized skills.

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We have received an outpouring of emails, comments, and messages from our loyal followers asking when Consular posts and Embassies worldwide will reopen. We understand the frustration that our readers feel and sympathize with the world situation.

While USCIS has announced that in person appointments will resume on June 4th, the Department of State has not yet released any updates regarding procedures for reopening Consulates and Embassies nationwide. Given that the pandemic is a fluid situation and travel restrictions vary from country to country, each Consulate and Embassy will reopen for in person services at a different pace.

For the moment, emergency consular services continue to be available and appointments can be scheduled for emergency related issues by contacting the US Consulate or Embassy directly. Click here for a complete list of US Consulate and Embassies including their contact information.

Outside of emergency services, the vast majority of consulates and embassies will continue to remain closed for in-person appointments for the time being. Most consulates and embassies have provided the following message on their webpage regarding availability of visa appointments:

We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time. The MRV fee is valid and may be used for a visa application in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment. If you have an urgent matter and need to travel immediately, please follow the guidance provided at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/ to request an emergency appointment or contact AIS by phone by dialing the local number: +374 60 465 986. If calling from the U.S. dial +1-703-520-2525 or contact by email weeac_contactus+gb+info+en@visaops.net to request an emergency appointment.

You can find the local AIS number by clicking on your country on the AIS website then scrolling to the bottom of the website and clicking on “Contact Us” under the “Help” section.

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The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for June 2020 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.


NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts June 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.  This means that applicants in the F2A category may file for adjustment applications using the Final Action Dates chart for June 2020.

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

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
For all employment-based preference categories, you must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for June 2020.


June Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


Employment Based Categories

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

  • EB-1: All countries remain current during the month of June except for China and India. EB-1 China moved forward by one month to August 15, 2017, while EB-1 India moved forward by more than 10 months to June 8, 2016.
  • EB-2: All countries remain current during the month of June except for China and India. EB-2 China moved forward by one month to November 1, 2015, and India moved forward by 10 days to June 12, 2009.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries remain current except for India and China. Except for India and China all countries moved forward by more than ten months to November 8, 2017. Cutoff dates for China and India advanced by one month, with China moving ahead to June 15, 2016, and India moving ahead to April 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: Most countries remain current. EB-5 China moved forward by two weeks to July 15, 2015; EB-5 India moved forward by three months to January 1, 2020; and Vietnam moved forward by three weeks to April 22, 2017.

Cutoff dates in the Dates for Filing Chart for June have remained mostly the same in comparison to the previous month, the only change is for EB-4 El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala which moved forward four and a half months to February 1, 2017.  USCIS will accept adjustment applications based on the Final Action Dates chart for June 2020, the same as last month.

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 Family-Sponsored Categories

According to the Department of State’s June Visa Bulletin, the following cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for family-sponsored categories:

**Note only applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for June 2020 to file adjustment applications. All other family-sponsored preference categories must use the Dates for Filing chart.

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Alert Regarding the April 22nd Presidential Proclamation


As you may be aware President Trump’s April 22nd presidential proclamation suspends the issuance of immigrant visas at U.S. Consulates worldwide for certain classes of immigrants until June 22, 2020, assuming the proclamation is not extended beyond this date. As Consulates worldwide begin to reopen, consular officers will enforce the presidential proclamation by refusing immigrant visas to those who were outside of the United States as of 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 23, 2020, have not been issued an immigrant visa or similar U.S. travel document, and are not otherwise exempt from the proclamation. The following types of immigrants have been specifically exempted from the proclamation and are eligible for visa issuance in June:

  • Applicants for EB-5 immigrant visas;
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens;
  • Children under 21 of U.S. citizens and prospective adoptees in the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Foreign nationals seeking to enter on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse or other healthcare professional, as well as their spouse and unmarried children under 21;
  • Foreign nationals whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives;
  • Members of the U.S. armed forces and the spouses and children of such individuals;
  • Foreign nationals seeking to enter as Special Immigrants in the SI or SQ classification, and the spouse and children of such individuals; and
  • Foreign nationals whose entry is in the U.S. national interest.

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