Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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As previously reported, on October 8, 2017, the United States announced the suspension of all non-immigrant visa services across U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Turkey “until further notice,” following news that a U.S. embassy official was placed under arrest without explanation and without access to counsel. This included the suspension of the issuance of: B-2 visas for temporary tourism or medical reasons, B-1 visas for temporary business visitors, F-1 student visas, E-1 treaty trader visas, E-2 treaty trader visas, and other non-immigrant visa types.

Since October 8, 2017 until just recently, no new non-immigrant visa applications were being processed in Turkey until the U.S. government could receive assurances form the Turkish government that embassy staff officials would not be detained or placed under arrest without cause, or access to counsel.

On November 6, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, announced that the United States has received sufficient assurances from the Government of Turkey that employees under the diplomatic mission are not under investigation, that local staff of U.S. embassies and consulates will not be detained or arrested in connection with their official duties, and finally that the U.S. government will be notified in advance if the Turkish government plans to arrest or detain any local staff at U.S. embassies in Turkey. The announcement however provides that the United States “continues to have serious concerns about the existing cases against arrested local employees” of the Mission in Turkey and of “. . . the cases against U.S. citizens who have been arrested under [a] state of emergency.”

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It did not take long for President Trump to capitalize on the terrorist attack which took place several days ago in New York City, to attack the Diversity Visa Program and the process by which US Citizens, and in some cases green card holders, can petition for extended family members to immigrate to the United States.

Following the terrorist attack in New York City, which claimed the lives of 8 Americans, the President fired off a series of tweets calling on Congress to terminate the Diversity Visa Program, claiming that the perpetrator of the attack, Sayfullo Saipov, had gained admission to the United States seven years ago through the diversity immigrant visa program, a congressionally mandated program made possible by section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). According to CNN, the Department of Homeland Security has said that Saipov came to the United States in 2010 on a diversity visa. Department of Homeland Security archives confirm that Uzbekistan was a country participating in the Diversity Visa program as early as 2007, and continues to participate in the Diversity Visa Program.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is a program enacted by Congress, which allocates up to 50,000 immigrant visas per fiscal year to a special class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants.” Each fiscal year diversity applicants register for the visa program electronically at no cost. Applicant entries are selected at random through a computerized “lottery” system to allocate the 50,000 available immigrant visas for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Only diversity immigrants who are natives of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States qualify for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. In other words, to qualify for a diversity visa, essentially a green card, you must be a native of a country participating in the diversity visa program. Countries with historically high rates of immigration to the United States DO NOT qualify.

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On October 17, 2017, federal judge Derrick Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, issued a temporary restraining order preventing the government from enforcing Sections 2(a), (b), (c), (e), (g), and (h) of the Presidential Proclamation 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public-Safety Threats” signed by the President on September 24, 2017. These sections of the Presidential Proclamation were to be enforced at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on October 18, 2017.

As a result, foreign nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia will NOT be affected by the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation and may continue to travel freely to the United States. Visa applications for these countries will continue to be adjudicated in accordance with existing immigration law, and visa processing standards, irrespective of the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation.

However, the court order does not prevent the government from implementing restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela. In addition, the order does not prevent the government from scrutinizing the adjudication of visas for Iraqi nationals and their admittance to the United States. Sections (d) and (f) of the Proclamation, outline the provisions that remain in force. Restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq began on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 and will continue until further notice. The restrictions on Venezuela as you will see below are the most lenient of the restrictions. 

Restrictions on North Korean nationals: Entry of foreign nationals from North Korea has been suspended for all immigrants and non-immigrants (including diversity visa holders).

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In 2013, as a Polish citizen who worked in Ireland, I started very seriously considering going to the United States to become a student and receive education to excel at my job. Little did I know how difficult it could actually be to cross the doorstep of the US embassy and go through the interview process. My heart broke when I experienced denial. I remember walking out of the building crying and then running through the rain towards the bus station. It felt like some horrific movie scene. 

I wanted to give up and never try again. I went back to work and tried my hardest not to think about it. Within a few days, however, my friend and I, found Jacob Sapochnick’s website. I looked up reviews instantly, and I became very excited about the idea of talking to him and his team about my situation. 

My consultation was over the phone, but Jacob did a marvelous job outlining details, and, in fact, his prognosis was very positive. I couldn’t believe that I could still be able to fulfill my dreams and, perhaps, reapply. In 2014, while I was visiting the US on a tourist visa, I met with Jacob and his team in person and decided to file a change of status application. I didn’t think twice, and we gave it a go. Everyone did an incredible job filling out all the necessary paperwork. Whenever I was worried or felt down, I could call them and get a prompt calming answer. I still remember talking to Inese, one of Jacob’s employees, and hearing how positive she was about the outcome of my case.  

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In a continuing saga, the President is maintaining his hardline stance on immigration, this time expanding into the realm of legal immigration. Earlier this month, the Department of State released an amended version of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) used by governmental agencies and other federal agencies as a manual, which directs and codifies information that must be carried out by respective agencies “in accordance with statutory, executive and Department mandates.”

The new amended version of the manual expands the definition of misrepresentation, the types of activities that may support a presumption of fraud, and establishes changes to existing policies that federal agents must follow in making assessments of fraud or material representation.

The manual sets out a list of activities which may support a presumption of fraud or material representation by an individual applying for any immigration benefit:

  • Engaging in unauthorized employment;
  • Enrolling in a course of academic study, if such study is not authorized for that nonimmigrant classification (e.g. B status);
  • A nonimmigrant in B or F status, or any other status prohibiting immigrant intent, marrying a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident and taking up residence in the United States; or
  • Undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or an adjustment of status would be required, without the benefit of such a change or adjustment.

Old Rule: Previously, the rules set out by the Foreign Affairs Manual and USCIS imposed a presumption of fraud on persons who entered the United States with a non-immigrant visa type (e.g. as a tourist, business visitor, student, trainee etc.) and subsequently married a U.S. Citizen and applied for adjustment of status within the first 30 days of entering the United States.

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On September 24, 2017, the President issued a Presidential Proclamation expanding the list of countries subject to the travel ban outlined in Executive Order 13780 entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” As you may recall, as part of that executive order, in March 2017, the President had asked the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General to conduct a worldwide review to assess the dangers that foreign nationals from designated countries of concern pose to the national security of the United States. Under Executive Order 13780, DHS was directed to implement additional security mechanisms and vetting procedures for countries identified as potential threats to national security.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, and Attorney General identified 16 additional countries which “remain deficient . . . with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilities, protocols, and practices,” and as a result pose a potential threat to our country’s national security.  By proclamation, the entry of foreign nationals from eight of these countries will remain suspended and limited for the time being.

The President has determined that the immigrant and non-immigrant entry of foreign nationals from the following countries would be detrimental to the national interests of the United States, at least until increased security mechanisms can be implemented, and identity and information-sharing capabilities can be improved.

Per Section 2 of the Proclamation

Suspension of Entry for Nationals of Countries of Identified Concern

“The following countries continue to have “inadequate” identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices, and risk factors . . . such that entry restrictions and limitations are recommended:”

The entry of foreign nationals from the designated countries listed below will be suspended and limited to a few exceptions and case-by-case waivers beginning October 18, 2017.

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37047550995_996d754972_zGiven the recent termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the controversy surrounding the immigration system as of late, in this post we address the numerous myths surrounding the DACA program and of immigration law in general. Although there are numerous studies and empirical research debunking the common myths attributed to the immigration system, as well as detailed economic reports published by governmental agencies corroborating the positive effects of immigration, Americans continue to hold a negative perception of immigrants and are increasingly skeptical of the immigration process. In truth, much of these perceptions are perpetuated by the unwillingness of Americans to obtain readily available information on the internet, to discover that the immigration process for individuals who entered the United States illegally is riddled with obstacles. More and more we are seeing Americans rely on news stations to accurately deliver the news and do the work for them. Unfortunately, the best way to understand the immigration process itself is to go straight to the source, and not rely on such sources for information.

The public needs to know the facts to better understand that the average immigrant actually has very few immigration options available to them under the current immigration system.

MYTH #1 It is easy to get a green card under current immigration laws

Most Americans believe that it is relatively easy to get a green card. This cannot be further from the truth. Immigration laws are highly complex and are designed to make it more difficult for extended family members, low-skilled workers, and undocumented immigrants to immigrate to the United States. Under current immigration laws, there are generally only two ways to immigrate to the United States and obtain permanent residency, outside of special immigrant categories specifically reserved for special categories of individuals including: asylees, refugees, certain witnesses of crimes, victims of abuse, and individuals who may qualify for withholding of removal. It is extremely difficult for individuals to qualify for permanent residency under one of these special categories.

Outside of these special categories, foreign nationals may immigrate to the United States and obtain permanent residency, only if they have a qualifying family member (such as a US Citizen or LPR spouse, child, etc.) who may petition for them or if the beneficiary works for a U.S. employer on a valid visa who is willing to sponsor the foreign national by petitioning for their permanent residency.

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Now is a good time to file your green card application. Significant wait times are expected given a new policy passed by the Trump administration that will require in-person interviews for LPR applicants filing based on employment sponsorship

In yet another controversial move, the Trump administration has recently adopted a new policy change that will require an in-person interview for individuals wishing to obtain lawful permanent residency based on employment sponsorship. The new policy will be implemented beginning October 1st.
Previously, foreign nationals applying for permanent residency, based on employment sponsorship, were not required to attend an in-person interview, although this allowance was discretionary. In recent years, the in-person interview requirement was typically reserved for individuals applying for permanent residency based on a qualifying familial relationship, and not for individuals applying based on employment sponsorship.

A USCIS spokesperson announced the new policy change on Friday August 25th, a change that will delay the process of obtaining a green card significantly, given the increased number of individuals that will be required to attend an in-person interview. According to USCIS this change in policy will apply to any individual adjusting their status to legal permanent residency from an employment-based visa category.

What’s more, family members of refugees or asylees, holding a valid U.S. visa, will also be required to attend an in-person interview when applying for provisional status.

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Trump Administration ends the Central American Minors Program

On August 16, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security terminated the Central American Minors (CAM) program started under former President Barack Obama in 2014 in response to Central America’s humanitarian crisis. Beginning in 2014, the number of accompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States swelled to the thousands. Although these numbers have decreased significantly under President Trump, it is estimated that there are still over 3,000 unaccompanied minors fleeing gang violence and organized crime in Central America in the hopes of settling in the United States. In the past two years alone it is estimated that approximately 33,000 people have been brutally murdered. Unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence hail from countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The CAM program previously granted safe passage to unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence in Central America, as well as admission to the United States, so long as the unaccompanied minor could establish that they had a parent legally residing in the United States who would care for them. The creation of the CAM program was a progressive step in the country’s immigration policy given that the United States through the creation of this program recognized the importance of resolving the humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children, and acknowledged the refugee status of individual’s fleeing the brutal violence in Central America. The Trump administration’s decision to terminate the program signals an unwillingness to recognize the legitimacy of the humanitarian crisis and an unwillingness to acknowledge that individuals fleeing Central American violence are “refugees.”

True to the ethos of the Trump administration, this decision signals a cautious administration that does not see Central American children as being in danger and by extension in need of protection from the United States.

Immigration Crackdown

On Friday August 18, 2017 ICE agents conducted a sting operation on the U.S.-Mexico Border detaining more than 400 people including individuals accused of smuggling unaccompanied minors to the United States. The operation specifically targeted undocumented parents and guardians who it is alleged paid smugglers to bring their children to the United States illegally. Some of these children were unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence in Central America. A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement stated that the operation was part of the Human Smuggling Disruption Initiative. ICE has confirmed that its focus will shift from conducting immigration raids to ending the transnational smuggling trade that is responsible for bringing many unaccompanied minors from Central America to the U.S. Mexico border.

The most recent series of immigration raids involved a four-day operation that took place at the end of July, in which 650 people were arrested, 70% of which were not a target of the raid, but were swept up in the frenzy.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the month of October. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories.

Below are the highlights of those trends and projections:

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: October 2017

EB-1 China and EB-1 India.  Good news for EB-1 China and EB-1 India. Both employment categories are expected to become current in the month of October. The imposition of a final action date is expected until the summer of 2018.

EB-2 Worldwide. Similarly, EB-2 Worldwide is expected to become current beginning October 1, 2017 through to the foreseeable future.

EB-2 India.  EB-2 India is experiencing and will continue to experience slow movement of a few weeks at a time. A final action date may be expected between January and April 2018. If a final action date is imposed EB-2 India will advance to a date in December 2008. This will largely depend on the level of EB-3 upgrade demand. Alternatively, it is possible for the final action date for this category to advance to a date in 2009 during the second half of fiscal year 2018.

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