Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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The U.S. Department of State recently released the December 2019 Visa Bulletin. In this post, we will discuss the current state of the visa bulletin, potential for advancement, retrogression, and predictions.

Family-based Preference Categories

The Final Action Date for F2A has been current and remains current since July 2018 across all countries through December. Low demand in this category has made it “current” and is expected to remain current for the foreseeable future.

Movement for all other family-preference categories remains as before.

F-4 visa demand is increasing which may result in slow movement in this category in the foreseeable future, but not nearly enough to cause a retrogression.

Employment-based preference categories

Overview

For the month of December 2019, EB-2 Worldwide, as well as EB-2 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam remain current.

Similarly, EB-3 Worldwide, as well as EB-3 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Vietnam remain current.

The Visa Bulletin notes that visa availability is likely to slow down for employment-based visa categories due to the steady increase in the level of employment-based demand for adjustment of status cases filed with USCIS. If the current pace of demand continues, a final action date will be implemented for EB-2, EB-3, and EB-3 Other Worker preference categories as early as January.

Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State has reported that if the level of demand subsides, it is possible that these categories will remain current, however there is no evidence that demand will slow down for these categories, therefore visa applicants should be prepared for the implementation of Final Action Dates as early as January 2020.

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On November 14, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register to increase immigration fees for certain petitions. After publication, the proposal will be open for a 30-day comment period. After that point the agency will review public comments and draft the final rule. At this time there is no definitive date set out in the proposed rule for enforcement of these fees. Therefore, readers should note that these fee increases will likely not take effect until well into Fiscal Year 2020.

What does the rule propose?

The rule proposes the following fee increases by immigration benefit:

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Moreover, DHS proposes that fees for the following types of petitions be limited to a 5 percent increase above current fees:

  • Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
  • Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant.
  • Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative
  • Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition
  • Form I-600A/I-600, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-600A/I600.42
  • Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative.
  • Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country.
  • Form I-800A, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-800A

Changes to Fee Waiver Requests

DHS further proposes to limit fee waivers grants to individuals who have an annual household income of less than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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In the latest blow to President Trump’s embattled Presidency, on November 2nd federal judge Michael Simon issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the President’s Proclamation issued on October 4, 2019, suspending the entry of any immigrant who will “financially burden the United States healthcare system.”

Judge Simon’s decision came just one day before the government’s planned implementation of the Presidential Proclamation.

The judge’s order applies nationwide and prohibits the government from implementing any part of the Proclamation requiring individuals seeking an immigrant visa to provide evidence “to a consular officer’s satisfaction” that they would either be covered by an approved health insurance within 30 days of entry to the United States, or possess the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.

Judge Simon’s decision came in response to a class action lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in the District of Oregon by seven United States Citizens and a non-profit organization against the Trump administration, challenging the legality of the Presidential Proclamation.

Plaintiff’s argued that the Proclamation should be found unlawful because it does not advance the President’s goal of reducing the burden of uncompensated care for uninsured individuals. Plaintiff’s called into question the President’s true intentions in issuing the Proclamation, stating that the Proclamation “is but the latest link in a long chain of statements and actions by this President and his Administration expressing antipathy toward all noncitizens. . .particularly immigrants of color, from Central and Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.”

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The President has once again targeted the immigrant population by signing a Presidential Proclamation suspending the entry of any immigrant who will “financially burden the United States healthcare system.”

While the Presidential Proclamation is likely to encounter resistance in court, as it stands the Proclamation is slated to become effective on November 3, 2019.

According to the Proclamation, a person seeking to immigrate to the United States will be found to be a financial burden on the U.S. healthcare system, unless they can prove either one of the following:

  • They are covered by approved health insurance, within 30 days of their entry to the United States, or
  • They have the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.

Beginning November 3, 2019, prior to the adjudication and issuance of an immigrant visa, a non-citizen seeking to immigrate to the United States, must establish to the satisfaction of a consular officer that they will not become a burden on the health care system by either of the means outlined above.

Who does the Proclamation apply to?

Only non-citizens seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an immigrant visa.

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As previously reported, the government has issued a new final rule in the Federal Register entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” giving consular officials wide discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications on public charge grounds.

In line with this new rule, today October 24, 2019, the Department of State issued a 60-day notice in the Federal Register alerting consular applicants of the agency’s plan to require immigrant visa applicants to complete Form DS-5540, a Public Charge Questionnaire to determine whether the applicant is likely to become a public charge. Public comments will be accepted up to December 23, 2019. Comments may be submitted by going to www.Regulations.gov and entering ‘‘Docket Number: DOS–2019–0037’’ in the Search field.

Why is Form DS-5540 being proposed?

According to the 60-day Notice:

The Department seeks to better ensure that aliens subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient and will not rely on public resources to meet their needs, but rather, will rely on their own capabilities, as well as the resources of sponsors.

Through the DS–5540, the Department will collect information in a standardized format regarding applicants’ ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on government assistance.

Fields primarily pertain to the applicant’s health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, skills, health insurance coverage, and tax history. The DS–5540 would also require applicants to provide information on whether they have received certain specified public benefits from a U.S. Federal, state, local or tribal government entity on or after October 15, 2019.

Consular officers will use the completed forms in assessing whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge and is thus ineligible for a visa under section 212(a)(4)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (‘‘INA’’).

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In its latest act of defiance against the judicial branch, the Trump administration has published an Interim Final Rule entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” designed to give Consular officers wider discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to applicants on public charge grounds based on a variety of factors that could weigh positively or negatively on an applicant.

According to the rule, consular officials will now be able to weigh a variety of factors to determine whether a visa applicant is likely to become a public charge. These factors include the applicant’s age, health, educational background, and financial status. In addition, consular officers will have increased discretion to scrutinize certain applications more closely than others based on the type of visa classification sought by the applicant, as well as the duration of stay.

Applicants who are seeking a long-term visa, for example may be scrutinized more heavily than applicant’s seeking a short-term visa (such as a tourist visa).

How will these factors be weighed by Consular officials?

Age: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s age makes the alien more likely than not to become a public charge in the totality of the circumstances, such as by impacting the alien’s ability to work. Consular officers will consider an alien’s age between 18 and 62 as a positive factor.

Health: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s health serves as a positive or negative factor in the totality of the circumstances, including whether the alien has been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with the alien’s ability to provide and care for himself or herself, to attend school, or to work (if authorized).

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A new lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California now allows Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applicants to challenge long standing delays in receiving their immigration records from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The U.S. District Court has certified two class action lawsuits allowing FOIA applicants and attorneys requesting FOIA records on their behalf to join in the class action so that class members may receive timely determinations on their FOIA requests. This decision was made in response to significant delays that applicants face in obtaining their immigration records from the agency.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick who granted the class action request wrote in his order that delays in receiving immigration records are particularly precarious for, “Noncitizens in removal proceedings” who “particularly rely on FOIA requests because discovery is not available. Consequently, obtaining A-Files from defendants is critical in immigration cases; delays in obtaining A-Files leave noncitizen and their attorneys “in legal limbo” that inflicts substantial hardship.”

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On Friday October 11, 2019, three Federal courts in California, New York, and Washington issued three temporary injunctions blocking the Trump administration from enforcing the Public Charge rule on a nationwide basis, which was set to go into effect on October 15, 2019.

The decision to block the government from enforcing the Public Charge rule is sure to set off a contentious legal battle that is just beginning to unfold.

California’s Injunction

In California, the City of San Francisco, State of California, and La Clinica de La Raza, a health care provider, joined together as plaintiffs to sue the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the President of the United States to prevent the Public Charge rule from going forward.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton granted the Plaintiffs a preliminary injunction bringing a temporary stop to the government’s plans to enforce the rule, in states falling under the purview of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Hamilton wrote that in seeking to enforce the final rule, the government failed to consider the impact the rule would have on local and state governments when immigrants chose to leave public health benefit program, “[DHS] made no attempt, whatsoever, to investigate the type or magnitude of harm that would flow from the reality which it admittedly recognized would result—fewer people would be vaccinated,”

Washington’s Injunction

Similarly in a separate but related lawsuit, the States of Washington, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island joined together as Plaintiffs to sue the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the heads of these agencies, and the President of the United States.

The Washington injunction was more sweeping in scope in that the Federal Judge in that case, Rosanna Malouf Peterson, ordered a nationwide injunction forcing the government to refrain from implementing or enforcing the rule on a temporary but nationwide basis. In her decision Judge Peterson wrote, “the Court declines to limit the injunction to apply only in those states within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”

As a result, the broad scope of the injunction prevents the government from enforcing the Public Charge rule on a nationwide basis.

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Instructions for the 2021 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program registration season is now among us. The U.S. Department of State has released instructions on how to apply for the FY 2021 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program in which 55,000 Diversity Visas (DVs) will be up for grabs. Registration will begin promptly at 12:00 pm (ET) on October 2, 2019 and will continue until 12:00 pm (ET) on November 5, 2019. There is no cost to register for the Diversity Visa Program.

Please remember that the law allows only one entry per person during each registration period. Individuals who submit more than one entry will be disqualified.

How does selection occur?

The Department of State determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing. The Department of State distributes diversity visas among six geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.

Am I eligible to apply?

You are eligible to apply if you meet the following requirements:

Requirement #1: You must be a national of one of the following countries (see below) OR

If you were not born in an eligible country, you may apply if your spouse was born in a country whose natives are eligible provided that both you and your spouse are named on the selected entry, are found eligible and issued diversity visas, and enter the United States simultaneously

OR

If you were born in a country that is ineligible, but neither of your parents were born or legally residents of that country at the time of your birth, you may claim the country of their birth.

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The process of getting a visa for a family member can be stressful.

The immigration system is complex. Being separated from your family can be painful and visa processing times frustrating. The law seems to change so often, it can be hard to keep track of what rules you’re supposed to follow.

Recently, the United States Department of State changed the family sponsored visa numbers for several countries. They released these new numbers in the September 2019 Visa Bulletin.