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Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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In this post we bring you the latest immigration related COVID-19 updates. During this difficult time, we would like to extend our heartfelt regards to you and your families. We hope you are staying safe and taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The sooner we abide by government measures, the sooner we can overcome this pandemic as a Nation. Additionally, please remember that although our office is closed to the public, we continue to function behind the scenes to file your petitions on a timely basis. If you have any questions regarding your immigration options, or your currently pending case, we would be glad to assist you by telephone, Zoom, or Skype.

President Extends Federal Social Distancing Guidelines to April 30

This past Sunday, March 29, 2020, the President of the United States extended the Nation’s social distancing guidelines for another 30 days, following warnings from health advisers of the serious consequences that could result if Americans were allowed to return to normal life. Pursuant to this order, social time will continue to be limited only to necessary outings such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, etc. until April 30.

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It has been nearly two weeks since the President of the United States declared a public health emergency for COVID-19, forcing the American economy to come to a screeching halt. Thereafter, states enacted their own measures requiring non-essential businesses across the country to shutter temporarily until the virus has been contained. Although these measures have been undoubtedly necessary to prevent the rapid spread of the virus, the majority of Americans nationwide have lost their livelihoods overnight.

This past week lawmakers have been busy drawing up legislation that would provide emergency financial assistance for individuals, families, and businesses in the United States.

This afternoon Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), and the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

Although this legislation is sweeping in scope, this post will specifically discuss financial relief for individuals and families, and more importantly which individuals will qualify to receive financial assistance.

What does the CARES Act do for individuals and their families?

Under the Act, most single individuals earning less than $75,000 can expect to receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Married couples filing jointly (earning less than $150,000), would each receive a check ($2,400) and families would receive $500 per child. For example, a family of four earning less than $150,000 can expect to receive $3,400.

Rebates would begin to phase out at $75,000 for singles, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for joint taxpayers at 5 percent per dollar of qualified income, or $50 per $1,000 earned. Rebates phase out completely at $99,000 for single taxpayers with no children and $198,000 for joint taxpayers with no children.

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As the impact of COVID-19 grows, we think it is important that you hear directly from us about the mitigation efforts that we the Sapochnick Law Firm have enacted to reduce the risk of infection to our clients, attorneys, and valued staff members.

At this critical juncture, our focus remains providing the highest quality of service to our clients, while at the same time preserving the health, safety, and wellbeing of all those we come in contact with.

To that end, our Firm is hard at work to avoid critical disruptions in service from the COVID-19 outbreak, while at the same time acting responsibly to do what we can to prevent further spread of this virus. We continue to closely monitor and assess this evolving situation and are diligent about communicating with affected clients regarding delays or other issues resulting from this evolving situation. In recognizing the fluidity of this situation, we have engaged our executive staff to meet regularly to monitor activities and amend our policies accordingly.

Our approach to COVID-19

In meeting the needs of our clients while complying with government directives, our Firm has established an Alternate Work Schedule Program that incorporates business continuity for all critical and essential services, especially those in which time is of the essence. In part, our Firm will engage the use of sophisticated and effective remote working software that will allow non-essential employees to work from the comfort of their homes to promote social distancing and reduce transmission. Essential employees in good health will continue to work in office, however every effort will be made to limit client meetings to only those that are essential and cannot be carried out through online platforms.

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In this post, we will discuss Form DS-5540, a mandatory public charge questionnaire that must be completed by all foreign nationals seeking an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and some non-immigrant visa applicants.

What is Form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire?

Shortly after the publication of the public charge rule in the Federal Register, the government published a separate rule requiring applicants seeking immigrant visas, including diversity visas, at a Consulate abroad, to complete Form DS-5540, except for certain types of immigrants exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility such as self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Afghan and Iraqi interpreters applying for special immigrant visas.

In addition, the government has given consular officers broad discretion to require nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540, if for example the officer determines more information is needed regarding the applicant’s ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on the government’s assistance, or if the consular officer is not satisfied with the information provided by the applicant.

Therefore, consular officers have the power to request nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540.

The DS-5540 solicits information that helps consular officers determine whether applicants are subject to the public charge visa ineligibility ground (section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) and will not rely on certain specific public resources upon entering the United States.

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In light of the global Coronavirus pandemic, on March 11, 2020, the President signed a presidential proclamation suspending and limiting the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present within the Schengen Area (most EU states) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, effective 11:59 eastern time Friday, March 13, 2020.

The proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by the President at his discretion based on recommendations by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 eastern time on March 13, 2020.

Who is exempted from the Proclamation?

The proclamation will not apply to the following categories of people:

  • lawful permanent resident 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;

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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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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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PLEASE NOTE: THE INFORMATION IN THIS POST NO LONGER APPLIES. ON FEBRUARY 21, 2020, THE SUPREME COURT ISSUED A RULING ALLOWING THE GOVERNMENT TO IMPLEMENT THE PUBLIC CHARGE RULE TO RESIDENTS IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS. USCIS HAS ANNOUNCED THAT THE PUBLIC CHARGE RULE WILL BE IMPLEMENTED NATIONWIDE INCLUDING IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS TO APPLICATIONS POSTMARKED ON OR AFTER FEBRUARY 24, 2020.

In this blog post we will discuss whether the public charge rule applies to individuals living in Illinois.

The Supreme Court’s decision on January 27, 2020 lifted all lower court injunctions preventing the government’s implementation of the public charge rule, with the exception of an injunction preventing the government from imposing the rule in the state of Illinois.

USCIS has clearly stated that although the agency will implement the public charge rule on February 24, 2020, the agency is prohibited from implementing the rule in the state of Illinois, where it remains enjoined by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Accordingly, at this time, the public charge rule does not apply to individuals living in the state of Illinois. In the event the injunction in Illinois is lifted the public charge rule may apply. If this occurs, USCIS will provide additional guidance for individuals residing in the state of  Illinois on its website.

The following frequently asked questions have been prepared to better inform applicants and petitioners living in the state of Illinois regarding the public charge rule.

Q: Does the rule apply to adjustment of status applicants in State of Illinois?

A: No. USCIS has clearly stated on its website that, “applicants for adjustment of status who live in Illinois and who are subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility are not subject to the final rule.”

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Are you ready for the upcoming H1B season for fiscal year 2021?

With the registration period fast approaching, we want to make sure you know everything there is to know about the new mandatory H-1B electronic registration process for fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021).

The following FAQ provides the most up to date information regarding the mandatory electronic registration requirement.

 

H-1B Registration Process Timeline

Feb. 24: Prospective petitioners may begin creating H-1B registrant accounts (account creation will remain open throughout the entire registration period). Representatives may create an account at any time.

March 1: H-1B registration period opens at noon ET.

March 20: H-1B registration period closes at noon ET.

March 31: Date by which USCIS intends to notify selected registrants.

April 1: The earliest date that FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions may be filed.

FAQs

Q: What is the electronic registration requirement?

A: In order to participate in the upcoming H-1B lottery, prospective petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2021, including for beneficiaries eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first electronically register and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each beneficiary.

Only those petitioners who have submitted an electronic registration and have received a “Selected” registration notification may properly file an H-1B cap-subject petition for FY 2021.

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