Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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On behalf of all of us at the Sapochnick Law Firm, we would like to wish you and your family a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

We thank you for your trust and support these past years. We take this time to reflect on the stories of our clients. Day in and day out, we draw inspiration from your struggles, and most of all, we recognize the great impact that we have on your lives and those of your loved ones. We are grateful to have a community that supports our mission and pushes us to set the bar even higher. It is a privilege to serve you.

Indeed, we have much to be thankful for. We invite you to share with us what you are grateful for this holiday season.

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We kick off the Thanksgiving week with some exciting news.

Recently, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) met with representatives from the Department of State to address some issues of concern relating to several different immigration topics.

We provide a summary of the questions asked and responses from the Department of State down below that was part of a recent roundtable with representatives from Consular Affairs.


Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Applications from Third Country Nationals


Representatives reminded nonimmigrant visa applicants, including students, that they can apply for their visas at any embassy or consulate where they are physically present and obtain a visa appointment.

Additionally, immigrant visa applicants can request to transfer their case to another embassy or consulate if they are unable to travel to the post where their case is assigned.

As to the possibility for virtual visa interviews, the State Department has said immigrant visa applicants are required to appear in person before a consular officer to provide fingerprints, therefore video interviews would be of limited utility.


Interview Waivers


AILA informed the State Department that it appears that some appointment scheduling systems incorrectly identify applicants that are clearly not eligible for interview waivers as eligible and invite them to send in their passports for visa issuance.

In these instances, once the passport is submitted to the post, it is determined that the applicant is not eligible for an interview waiver, the applicant has to be contacted, their passport has to be returned, and they have to then schedule an in-person interview appointment.

The State Department has said it is not aware of this issue happening at posts and recommended that those experiencing issues with applications submitted via interview waiver processes should contact the relevant post for information.


E-2 Treaty Investor Visas  


Question: 9 FAM 402.9-6(A)(a)(4) informs officers that one of the determinations in evaluating E-2 Treaty Investor applications is that the: “Enterprise is a real and operating commercial enterprise,” and is then referred to 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) for further discussion.

The first sentence of 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) states: “The enterprise must be a real and active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking, producing some service or commodity.” The third sentence of 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) continues the description of the enterprise to state, “It cannot be a paper organization or an idle speculative investment…”Especially in the context of start-up businesses, defining these terms will provide greater clarity and guidance to E-2 visa applicants.

Please confirm: Are the words “operating” at 402.9-6(A)(a)(4) and “active” at 402.9-6(C) used interchangeably?

Answer: Almost. The term “active” at 402.9-6(C) was used to ensure that new enterprises that had not yet begun producing services or commodities, but which were actively taking steps to become operational, could also provide a basis for E visa issuance.

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Happy Veterans Day! On behalf of our law office, we would like to thank the servicemen and women who have dedicated their lives to protect our country. We are grateful to you for the sacrifices you have made and your service.

We close off the week with a recent update from the U.S. Department of State regarding immigrant visa processing in Havana, Cuba.

According to a new announcement made yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, will fully resume immigrant visa processing beginning January 4, 2023.

This will include processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives, other family preference categories, diversity visas, and K fiancé(e) visas.

For its part, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, will continue processing of Cuban immigrant visa applications for those individuals who were scheduled to attend in-person interviews there through the end of December of this year.

Immigrant visa applicants whose appointments were originally scheduled in Georgetown will complete case processing in Georgetown.

Sadly, case transfers from Georgetown to U.S. Embassy, Havana are not available for applicants who have already been scheduled to attend interviews in Georgetown.

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Our readers will be happy to know that the Department of State has released a new update in the month of October on the status of worldwide consular visa operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a period of uncertainty and created tremendous backlogs at the Consular level. As most of you will remember, Consular missions around the world suspended routine visa services in March of 2020 to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. Later, the Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services, however some Consulates and Embassies resumed services faster than others. Since then, things have slowly but surely started to turn around.

To help improve visa processing, the State Department has said that worldwide visa operations are now recovering faster than expected. More U.S. foreign service personnel have been hired to reduce visa interview wait times at Consular posts worldwide. It is expected that this year, the Department of State will reach pre-pandemic processing levels. This is amazing news for immigrants that have been waiting for visa interview appointments for months, or even years.


How did COVID-19 impact Worldwide Visa Operations?


The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the agency’s ability to process visa applications in two major ways.

First, restrictions on travel to the United States, social distancing, and local quarantine restrictions made it difficult to accommodate large groups of people inside Consular facilities, such as waiting rooms. This of course reduced the number of people that could be scheduled for in-person visa appointments dramatically, causing a reduction in the number of visa applications that could be processed.

Secondly, due to the suspension of visa services worldwide, the State Department experienced a substantial decrease in funding which led to a declining workforce in 2020 and 2021. This dramatically impacted the number of applications that could be processed.

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In this blog post, we cover the release of the November Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the upcoming month of November.

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.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart November 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the  Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2022.


November 2022 Visa Bulletin Dates for Filing Cutoff Dates


Employment-Based Categories


DATES FOR FILING FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES


According to the Department of State’s November 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following Dates for Filing cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries, including India and China, will remain current.
  • EB-2: EB-2 China will remain at July 8, 2019 and EB-2 India at May 1, 2012. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India will remain at July 1, 2012, and EB-3 China will remain at July 15, 2018. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB3 Other Workers: EB-3 China will remain at November 1, 2015, and EB-3 India will remain at July 1, 2012. A Date for Filing cut-off date of September 8, 2022, applies to all other countries.
  • EB-4: EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras will remain at April 15, 2018, and EB-4 Mexico at October 15, 2020. All other countries remain current
  • EB-5: For the EB-5 Unreserved categories (C5, T5, I5, and R5), the Date for Filing for China will remain at January 1, 2016, India will have a Date for Filing cut-off imposed of December 8, 2019, and all other countries will remain current. For the EB-5 “Set-Aside” categories (Rural, High Unemployment, and Infrastructure), the Date for Filing will remain current for all countries.

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Happy Columbus Day! We start the week with great news for green card applications.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it is extending a policy that previously waived the requirement for civil surgeons to sign the Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, no more than 60 days before filing the green card application.

USCIS previously issued its waiver policy until September 30, 2022 but has decided to extend the waiver until March 31, 2023.


Why the extension?


Due to processing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has decided that extending this policy is necessary to provide relief to applicants for the delays and difficulties that it takes to complete the green card medical examination.

Moving forward, the waiver will apply to all Form I-693 medical examinations for green card applications that have not been adjudicated, regardless of when the application was submitted to USCIS or when a civil surgeon signed the Form I-693.

USCIS expects this extension to provide much needed relief to Afghan nationals evacuated under Operation Allies Welcome, who completed immigration medical examinations but could not apply for adjustment of status within 60 days of a civil surgeon signing their Form I-693.

For more information about this important update, please click here.

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In the latest legal saga concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a federal appeals court has declared the DACA program illegal, causing uncertainty for the future of the program.

Yesterday, the three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling in which it found that the Obama administration did not have the legal authority to create the DACA program in 2012. The Circuit Court ruling affirms a previous ruling handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas which halted the Biden administration’s plans to revive the program last year.

While the panel declared the DACA program illegal, it stopped short of ordering the Biden administration to completely invalidate the program for those with existing DACA benefits, or those seeking to renew those benefits. For the time being, DACA policy remains intact for current beneficiaries, allowing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to continue to accept and adjudicate renewal requests. However, USCIS is prohibited from approving initial applications for DACA, and accompanying requests for employment authorization.


What happens next?


The appeals court has sent the lawsuit back to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, the same judge that previously ordered a nationwide injunction preventing the approval of new DACA applications. Judge Hanen will review the legality of the program under the Biden administration’s policy memorandum which includes revisions to the program.

Sadly, it is unlikely that Judge Hanen will rule in favor of the Biden administration which will likely result in a formal appeal sent to the United States Supreme Court, where chances of its survival hinge on a conservative leaning court. Judge Hanen previously found the program illegal because the government failed to follow the notice and comment periods required by the federal Administrative Procedures Act. In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 decision over expanding DACA to parents of DACA recipients, keeping in place a lower court decision preventing its expansion.

The appellate court’s decision will have long-lasting repercussions, as it forces members of Congress to safeguard the future of the program by passing legislation to settle the matter once and for all. While the topic has been argued for the past decade on Capitol Hill, no meaningful steps have been taken to preserve the program and create a path to residency for Dreamers.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some exciting news.

In this blog post, we would like to notify our readers that the Department of State will soon open the online green card lottery registration system for the Diversity Visa Lottery Program for fiscal year 2024 (DV-2024)


What you need to know


The State Department will be accepting online registrations for the Diversity Visa Lottery program for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 beginning Wednesday, October 5, 2022, at 12 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) with online registration closing on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-5). 

It is completely free to submit an online registration.

Foreign nationals who want to have a chance of being selected must register for the lottery by Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at noon EST online.

Submission of more than one entry for a person will disqualify all entries for that person.

The Fiscal Year 2024 DV lottery program will have up to 55,000 green cards up for grabs that will be selected through a randomized computer-generated process. Winners for FY 2024 are expected to be announced starting May 6, 2023 through September 30, 2024 on the E-DV Website.


Why should I apply?


Foreign nationals selected in the FY 2024 lottery are eligible to file their green card applications starting October 2023.


Am I eligible to enter?


You are eligible to participate if you meet the following requirements.

Requirement #1: You must be a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States to enter

Click here for the complete list of countries eligible (p. 16 to 20).

If you are not a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States, there are two other ways you might be able to qualify.

  • Is your spouse a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States? If yes, you can claim your spouse’s country of birth – provided that you and your spouse are named on the selected entry, are found eligible and issued diversity visas, and enter the United States at the same time.
  • Are you a native of a country that does not have historically low rates of immigration to the United States, but in which neither of your parents was born or legally resident at the time of your birth? If yes, you may claim the country of birth of one of your parents if it is a country whose natives are eligible for the DV-2023 program.

Requirement #2: Each DV applicant must meet the education/work experience requirement of the DV program by having either:

  • at least a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education;

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Have you ever wondered: is there an exception to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement mandated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for those undergoing the green card process?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to obtain successful waivers of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement, information about what exceptions exist to the vaccine requirement, the criteria that must be proven to obtain a vaccine waiver, and the resulting victories we gained on behalf of our clients.

We also describe how we were able to accomplish vaccine waiver approvals, by presenting an abundance of documentary evidence to help these individuals prove their case.


An Overview: What is the COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement


In response to the rapid rise in Coronavirus cases, the U.S. government announced that starting October 1, 2021, those applying for permanent residency (a green card) within the United States, or an immigrant visa abroad, would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (one or two doses depending on the vaccine taken).


The Medical Examination Form I-693

As part of the green card process, applicants are required to complete a medical examination conducted by a civil surgeon on Form I-693, to establish that they are not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds. The government made it a matter of policy as of October 1, 2021, to require all those subject to the medical examination requirement to complete the COVID-19 vaccination to prove their admissibility (and therefore) receive approval of their green cards.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced that this policy would apply “prospectively to all Forms I-693 [medical examinations] signed by the civil surgeons” on or after October 1, 2021. The agency also took steps to revise Form I-693 and its instructions to include the new vaccination requirement.

Its policy guidance followed the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) August 17, 2021, update to the Technical Instructions for Civil Surgeons. The CDC update requires applicants subject to the immigration medical examination to “complete the COVID-19 vaccine series [in addition to the other routinely required vaccines] and provide documentation of vaccination to the civil surgeon or panel physician in person before completion of the medical examination.”


Does the COVID-19 vaccination requirement also apply to those seeking immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad?


Yes. The government made clear that the COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to those seeking to adjust their immigration status within the United States, as well as applicants applying for immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. That is because complete vaccination is necessary for a medical examination conducted by a civil surgeon or physician abroad, as part of the green card admissibility process.

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Welcome to the start of a brand-new week. In this blog, we cover new reports from the U.S./Mexico border addressing the growing number of asylum seekers entering the United States from Tijuana into San Diego, through a process known as “humanitarian parole.”

According to a recent report published by the National Institute for Migration in Baja California, in April of 2022, just under 400 migrants were granted permission to cross through Ped West, one of two pedestrian crossings at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

When compared to crossings in August, that number has skyrocketed to 4,075 migrants entering using their humanitarian parole document.


What is humanitarian parole?

  • Humanitarian parole is a process by which a foreign national (who may be inadmissible or otherwise ineligible for admission into the United States) may enter for a temporary period of time for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit by filing Form I-131 Application for Travel Document and Form I-134 Affidavit of Support including their supporting documentation.

In addition to those entering with humanitarian parole, the Institute reports that more than 2,500 Haitian refugees have been granted permission to cross into the United States, as well as 440 migrants from Honduras fleeing organized crime.

At the same time, the Institute reports that many migrants in Tijuana are being falsely misled to believe that migrant shelters can help them bypass detention upon requesting asylum at the U.S. border.

Sadly, the Biden administration has not done little to address the growing number of asylum seekers. In fact, the Biden administration has been silently asking the Mexican government to allow for the expulsion of thousands of asylum-seeking migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela through a little-known policy known as “Title 42.” This expulsion policy began under the Trump administration in March 2020 and has continued under President Biden. Since that time, the Mexican government agreed to accept expulsions of its citizens, along with those of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras totaling more than 2 million migrants.

According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) the expulsion of migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras is near the highest-level seen in over 15 years, but has declined from 2021 (154,000 in July 2021, 104,000 in July 2022). It is estimated that the U.S. government has used Title 42 to expel 78 percent of these migrants.

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