Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! New developments are underway by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to improve the way the agency is communicating case processing times to members of the public.

The agency recently announced new efforts to streamline information provided on its processing times webpage. For each type of immigration benefit, USCIS releases information regarding how much time it is taking the agency to process that particular application, petition, or request. Previously, processing times were estimated based on how long the agency took to approve or deny a certain percentile of forms or petitions over the prior 6-month period.

Now, USCIS has updated their webpage so that users can find the processing time information for their particular type of case, rather than seeing an aggregate of all related case types. This provides applicants with a more accurate picture of how long their particular type of case is taking to be processed.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some interesting revelations. On April 28, 2022, President Biden issued a letter proposing a new immigration measure that, if passed, could offer highly educated Russian nationals a pathway to permanent residency.

What is it all about?


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has left scientists and engineers seeking stable ground, with many young STEM talent looking to its European neighbors for employment opportunities.

In a letter to the House of Representatives, the Biden administration called for a measure to be approved as part of requested legislation for emergency supplemental funding to Ukraine.

Biden’s proposals seek amendment of Section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(2)) effectively welcoming Russian STEM talent to the United States.


What does the measure propose?


By amending Section 203(b)(2), the U.S. government would essentially eliminate the need for Russian nationals, with a master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field, to obtain an employment sponsor (job offer from a U.S. employer) and eliminate placement in the green card backlogs.

Under Biden’s proposal, adjudication of visas for such individuals would occur within just 90 days if possible, taking into account the need for security assessments. The proposed measure would end after four years (unless extended by Congress).

The measure has been proposed to ensure retention of talented Russian scientists and engineers. Interestingly, the letter highlights that the prospects of obtaining H-1B visa status for this group are lowered considering the numerical limits, and record H-1B registrations that far outweigh the number of available visas. In fiscal year 2023, USCIS announced that it received 483,927 H-1B registrations, a 57% increase over the last year. Only 127,600 registrations were selected to meet the H-1B quota (or 26% of total registrations).


Legislative Text


The legislative text of the provision reads as follows:

“IN GENERAL.— Section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(2)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

“(D) Notwithstanding subparagraph (B), the requirements of subparagraph (A) that an alien’s services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business be sought by an employer in the United States shall not apply to aliens (and the parents, spouses, and children of such aliens if accompanying or following to join) who—

“(i) are citizens of Russia;

(ii) have earned a masters or doctoral degree in the United States or an equivalent foreign degree in a field involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, including but not limited to degrees relevant to the following fields: Advanced Computing, Advanced Engineering Materials, Advanced Gas Turbine Engine Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced and Networked Sensing and Signature Management, Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies, Advanced Particle Detector Instrumentation Technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems and Robotics, Biotechnologies, Communication and Networking Technologies, Cybersecurity, Directed Energy, Financial Technologies, Human-Machine Interfaces, Hypersonics, Advanced Missile Propulsion Technologies, Networked Sensors and Sensing, Quantum Information Technologies, Renewable Energy Generation and Storage, Semiconductors and Microelectronics, Space Technologies and Systems; and “(iii) are seeking admission to engage in work in the United States in an endeavor related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.”

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

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 May 2022

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Today, the Biden administration unveiled a brand-new program, Uniting for Ukraine, which seeks to provide humanitarian parole to an estimated 100,000 Ukrainian nationals who have been displaced by the Russian invasion which began on February 24, 2022 for a period of up to 2 years.


What is Uniting for Ukraine?


Uniting for Ukraine is a new Biden initiative that will allow Ukrainian citizens to apply for humanitarian parole in the United States. Humanitarian Parole is a process that allows foreign nationals to lawfully enter the U.S., provides temporary lawful presence in the U.S., and protects that person from deportation during the parole timeframe that has been granted to the foreign national. Humanitarian parole is a temporary permission to remain lawfully in the United States. It does not provide law permanent residence (a green card) and does not provide a pathway to citizenship.

To be eligible, Ukrainians must have been residents in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022, have a sponsor in the United States, complete vaccinations and other public health requirements, and pass rigorous biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks.

Ukrainians who are approved via this process will be authorized to travel to the United States and be considered for parole, on a case-by-case basis, for a period of up to two years. Once paroled through this process, Ukrainians will be eligible for work authorization.


Who can be a sponsor?


Effective Monday, April 25, 2022, U.S. based individuals and entities can apply to sponsor displaced Ukrainian citizens through the Uniting for Ukraine process, which will go live on the Department of Homeland Security website that same day.

Any U.S. citizen or individual, including representatives of non-government organizations, can sponsor Ukrainian applicants. Individuals and organizations seeking to sponsor Ukrainian citizens in the United States will be required to declare their financial support and pass security background checks to protect against exploitation and abuse. Eligibility requirements will include required vaccinations and other public health requirements, as well as biographic and biometric screening, vetting, and security checks.

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DACA Renewal E-Filing is here!

Exciting news is on the horizon for those filing a renewal of their deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)!

This week, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that applicants will now be able to file their applications online on Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Additionally, renewal applicants may also file applications to renew their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) online by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and the Form I-765 Worksheet.

This move will now make it easier for applicants to obtain a renewal of their status faster and more efficiently.

While the agency hopes to expand the possibility of electronic filing to a broader pool of applicants in the future, the e-file option is currently only available for individuals who have been previously granted DACA.

The e-filing option is expected to help reduce the substantial backlogs at the USCIS level. Currently, USCIS receives nearly half a million Form I-821D DACA requests every fiscal year, and processes more than 8.8 million requests for immigration benefits. As time has gone on, the agency has allowed online filings to streamline the application process.

How can you file online?


DACA renewal applicants who wish to file Form I-821D and Form I-765 online, must first create a USCIS online account, to submit their forms, pay fees and track the status of any pending USCIS immigration request throughout the adjudication process. There is no cost to set up an account, and one of the added benefits is that applicants have the ability to communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox and respond online to Requests for Evidence received.

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couple-g86465ecab_1920USCIS Updates Policy Guidance Highlighting Discretionary Power to Waive In-Person Interviews for I-751 Applicants


On April 7, 2022, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its Policy Manual on the interview waiver criteria for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove the conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions.

Under the law, those who attained their permanent resident status (green card) based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card, also known as “conditional permanent residency.”

This conditional green card is issued for a 2-year period. Prior to the expiration of the 2-year green card, the applicant must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions on permanent residence within the 90-day window before it expires.

The Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that a conditional permanent resident must appear for an in-person interview as part of the I-751 Removal of Conditions adjudication process, so that the immigration officer can verify the accuracy of the information included in the petition and determine whether the conditions on permanent residence should be removed.

The Act also carves out discretionary powers that allow USCIS officers to authorize waiver of the in-person interview.

The April 2022 updated Policy Guidance clarifies that USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require an interview.

The Guidance also eliminates automatic referrals in cases where a conditional permanent resident obtained status by way of Consular processing.

The language of the pertinent section indicates the following:

Volume 6: Immigrants, Part I, Family-Based Conditional Permanent Residents, Chapter 3, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence [6 USCIS-PM I.3]


CPRs who file a Form I-751 must appear for an interview at a USCIS field office, unless USCIS waives the interview requirement. USCIS officers may consider waiving the interview in cases where:

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In this blog post, we share exciting news in the world of immigration law. On March 29, 2022, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a much-anticipated announcement explaining the actions it will take to reduce the substantial backlog, and new policy changes that will be implemented to cut down processing times significantly.

The agency has outlined 3 main initiatives that will drastically improve processing times at the USCIS level across the board.

  1. USCIS has announced that it will be setting agency-wide backlog reduction goals
  2. Expansion of Premium Processing Service to other types of immigration petitions and
  3. Improving timely access to Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)

Backlog Reduction Initiatives


USCIS will be establishing a new system of “internal cycle time goals,” which are internal metrics that the agency will now be using to help guide the reduction of the current backlog and will determine how long it will take USCIS to process immigration benefits going forward.

The agency will be making certain efforts such as increasing its capacity, implementing technological improvements, and expanding staffing to improve these “cycle times,” so that processing times will be much quicker. USCIS expects these goals to be accomplished by the end of fiscal year 2023.


Cycle times explained


USCIS has stated that publicly, it releases processing times showing the average amount of time it takes the agency to process a particular form – from when the agency received the application until a decision was made on the case.

However, USCIS has said that it also utilizes internal mechanisms to monitor the number of pending cases in the agency’s workload through a metric called “cycle times.” A cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision.

According to USCIS, cycle times are generally comparable to the agency’s publicly posted median processing times. Cycle times are what the operational divisions of USCIS use to gauge how much progress the agency is, or is not, making on reducing the backlog and overall case processing times.

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The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia has prompted the U.S. Department of State to issue new guidance regarding the possibility of filing a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas for Afghan, Ethiopian, and Ukrainian immediate relatives fleeing conflict zones.

DOS has clarified that U.S. Citizens who are physically present with their Afghan, Ethiopian, or Ukrainian, immediate family members overseas, who have not yet filed the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), may do so by filing the application locally at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that processes immigrant visas.

Only U.S. Citizens impacted by the large-scale disruptive events in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Ukraine, are allowed to locally file Form I-130 at U.S. Embassies or Consulates overseas. It is required that the U.S. Citizen be physically present in the country where they wish to file their petition.


Who can you petition for with Local Filing?


DOS has stated that U.S. Citizens may locally file Form I-130 on behalf of their spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents, provided their relative fled:

  • Afghanistan after August 2, 2021
  • Ethiopia after November 1, 2020 or
  • Ukraine after February 1, 2022

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some long awaited and very happy news for EB-5 immigrant visa investors wishing to participate in the Regional Center program.

As you may know, the EB-5 Regional Center Program is a statutorily authorized program that must be extended by Congress in order to operate. Unfortunately, for months on end, members of Congress failed to pass a bill to reauthorize the Regional Center program leaving thousands of prospective applicants in limbo, and those waiting to file green cards with big worries. Following the program’s expiration at midnight on June 30, 2021, it remained in a period of lapse amid negotiations within Congress for a new government appropriations funding bill to be passed to extend the program.

As luck would have it on March 10, 2022, Congress reauthorized the EB-5 Regional Center Program through fiscal year 2027 in appropriations legislation passed by the government. While this is a big relief for many would-be Regional Center investors, the new legislation has also introduced some important changes to the program.

The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, as it is called has resurrected the EB-5 Regional Center Program until September 30, 2027, but introduces some new increases in the minimum EB-5 investments.

Once enacted, the new law will increase the new minimum investment amount to $1,050,000 for standard EB-5 investments (from the previous minimum investment of $1,000,000); $800,000 for investments in Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) (from the previous $500,000 investment); and $800,000 for minimum investment for infrastructure projects. New changes also allocate a portion of the EB-5 immigrant visa quota to investments in rural areas, high unemployment areas, and infrastructure projects.

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It is that time of the month again! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the April Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of April 2022.

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 April 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 April 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, except EB-5 Regional Center, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for April 2022.


April 2022 Visa Bulletin Final Action Cutoff Dates


Employment-Based Categories


FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES

According to the Department of State’s April 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following final 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: India will advance by more than 2 months to July 8, 2013, and China will remain at March 1, 2019. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India and China will remain unchanged from the previous month, at January 15, 2012, and March 22, 2018, respectively. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-5: The Non-Regional Center program will be current for all countries, including China. The Regional Center program has been reauthorized by recent legislation but is still listed as Unavailable in the April Visa Bulletin Final Action Date chart, given that certain provisions of the reauthorizing legislation have not yet taken effect.

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