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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest immigration news for the week.

USCIS Temporarily Closing Offices to the Public March 18-April 1 to Reduce Spread of COVID 19 

In response to the widespread COVID 19 pandemic, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that effective March 18, 2020 the agency will suspend in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers (ASC) nationwide in an effort to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

USCIS plans to suspend in-person services until at least April 1st.

What if I have a scheduled appointment or naturalization ceremony?

USCIS has stated that all applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure will receive notices in the mail.

In addition, USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When an interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location of the interview.

When USCIS resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule ASC appointments impacted by the office closure. Impacted applicants and petitioners will receive a new appointment letter in the mail.

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In this blog post we highlight the best features of E-2 Treaty Investor Visa program, for individuals seeking to live and work in the United States for a temporary period of time.

First let’s discuss what the E-2 visa is. The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa type, which means that it is a temporary visa option for individuals who do not wish to immigrate to the United States, but rather are interested in remaining in the United States for a limited period of time.

Secondly, the E-2 visa is a treaty investor visa. This means that in order to qualify for this visa type you must be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. This visa type allows a national of a treaty country to apply for admission to the United States under the E-2 visa category for the purpose of investing a substantial amount of capital in a United States business.

Currently, 89 countries maintain a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. Israel and New Zealand are the most recent countries to enter into a treaty commerce and navigation with the United States, allowing nationals of these countries to participate in the E-2 visa program. For a complete list of the countries with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, please click here.

The most frequently asked question when it comes to the E-2 visa is, how much money must I invest in order to qualify for this visa type?

The amount of money that must be invested depends on the nature of the business’ operations. USCIS defines the amount of capital to be invested as “a substantial amount of capital” interpreted as:

  • Substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one
  • Sufficient to ensure the treaty investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise
  • Of a magnitude to support the likelihood that the treaty investor will successfully develop and direct the enterprise.  The lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher, proportionately, the investment must be to be considered substantial.

Thirdly, to qualify for the E-2 visa the investment must be in a bona fide business enterprise that is real, active, and operating and is producing either services or goods for profit. Passive investments are not allowed.

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Immigration Raids Cancelled for Two Weeks

In a new turn of events, President Trump announced on Saturday, June 22, 2019, that he would delay the immigration raids that were set to begin on June 23, 2019, for a period of two weeks to give Congress more time to make changes to existing asylum law.

On the eve of the immigration raids, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi brokered a deal in which she asked the President to cancel the planned immigration raids. On Saturday the President tweeted that at the request of the Democrats, the raids would be pushed back for two weeks giving both parties time to roll out proposals regarding immigration reform.

For the time being the immigration raids will not be going forward as originally planned.

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Digitized FOIA System

USCIS has announced that its FOIA System is now digitized. Users will now be able to submit, track, and receive FOIA requests digitally. This is great news because this option will speed up the process of requesting a FOIA and also speed up the form of delivery. Previously, applicants were required to submit a request by mail and would receive the results of the FOIA request by mail in compact disc form. Now, applicants will be able to access their documents digitally.

Applicants will simply need to create a USCIS online account to take advantage of this new and improved system.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the month of May and June. 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: May 2018

Employment Based Categories

For the month of May, the following categories remained steady with no changes in the final action dates:

  • EB-1 China and India
  • EB-2 India
  • EB-3 China and Philippines
  • EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and
  • EB-5 China

Categories that experienced some forward movement included:

  • EB-2 China to move forward one month to September 1, 2014
  • EB-3 India to advance three months to May 1, 2008
  • EB-3 Other Workers—China to move forward one month to May 1, 2007
  • EB-4 Other Workers—India to move forward about 3 months to May 1, 2008
  • EB-4 Mexico to advance 5 weeks to October 22, 2016

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H-1B Update: Return of Unselected Petitions

USCIS has now completed data entry for all fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap-subject petitions that were selected in this year’s H-1B visa lottery. USCIS will begin the lengthy process of returning thousands of H-1B cap-petitions that were not selected in the lottery. Although USCIS has not provided a time frame on when they will begin returning unselected petitions, in previous years, our office began receiving unselected petitions in mid-June. All unselected petitions will include an official hard copy rejection notice from USCIS.

Updated Policy Guidance regarding Adjustment of Status interviews.

USCIS has revised its policy for adjustment of status interviews. All adjustment of status applicants must be interviewed by an officer unless USCIS determines that the interview is unnecessary. The decision to waive the adjustment of status interview is determined on a case-by-case basis.

In the following circumstances the adjustment of status interview may be waived:

  1. General Waiver Categories

“USCIS officers may determine, on a case-by case-basis, that it is unnecessary to interview certain adjustment of status applicants. The following list includes, but is not limited to, categories of cases where officers may decide to waive an interview: 

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On Friday, March 30, 2018, the Department of State published a 60 day notice in the Federal Register entitled “Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration,” proposing to require immigrant visa applicants to submit five years of social media history as part of the information requested on the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application used by applicants to schedule Immigrant Visa interviews at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. The DS-260 is an Electronic Form that is completed by immigrant visa applicants and used by consular officials to determine whether the applicant is eligible for an immigrant visa.

Specifically, the Department wishes to, “add several additional questions for immigrant visa applicants. One question lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifies used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of the application.”

Information provided by immigrant visa applications relating to their social media will be used to enhance “vetting” of applicants to verify their identity, ensure that they meet all visa eligibility requirements, and to prevent individuals from entering the country who pose a threat to the county’s national security, or have been associated with a terrorist organization.

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Beginning April 1st New Delhi Will No Longer Process IR1/CR1 or IR2/CR2 visas

The U.S. Department of State announced via their website that the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi will no longer process IR1/CR1 visas for spouse of US Citizens or IR2/CR2 visas for unmarried minor children of US Citizens beginning April 1, 2018. Foreign nationals who are in the process of obtaining an IR1/CR1 visa or IR2/CR2 visa with an interview that has been scheduled on or after April 1, 2018, will have their interview at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai. We recommend that petitioners be on guard for any letters from the National Visa Center specifying the location of the intending immigrant’s interview, as well as details about how to prepare for the interview stage.

President’s DACA Deadline Passes

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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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Image Courtesy of Scotland Shop

In this informational post we discuss the I-130 Consular Process for spouses. Consular processing refers to the process by which a U.S. Citizen immigrates their foreign spouse to the United States from abroad. Depending on the foreign spouse’s country of residence, and the volume of applications processed by USCIS, the National Visa Center, and the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where the foreign spouse will have their immigrant visa interview, the process to immigrate a spouse to the United States can take anywhere from 8 to 12 months. Consular processing is a complicated process. It is recommended that applicants obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney to file this type of application.

What is the first step involved in the process?

The first step involves filing the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This petition establishes that a relationship exists between the U.S. Citizen and intending immigrant. This petition thus is used for family-based immigration to the United States. A separate I-130 must be filed for each eligible relative that will immigrate to the United States including minor children of the foreign spouse. The filing and approval of the I-130 is the first step to immigrate a relative to the United States. Because this petition is filed by the U.S. Citizen petitioner, the foreign spouse does not need to wait until a visa number becomes available before applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate/Embassy abroad. By contrast, if the petitioner is not a U.S. Citizen and is instead a Lawful Permanent Resident, an immigrant visa is not immediately available to the foreign spouse. Due to this, the foreign spouse must wait until their priority date becomes current according to the visa bulletin issued by the Department of State. The I-130 is accompanied by various supporting documents mostly biographical in nature. These documents include the signed forms, the filing fees, passport photographs of the petitioner and beneficiary, the petitioner’s proof of citizenship, a copy of the beneficiary’s passport ID page, copy of their birth certificate with a certified translation, and a copy of the marriage certificate. Once these documents have been compiled, the applicant mails them to USCIS for approval. USCIS takes approximately 4 months to process and approve this application. This time frame will depend on the volume of applications being processed by USCIS at the time of filing.

The National Visa Center Stage

Once the I-130 petition has been approved, USCIS will mail the petitioner a receipt notice known as the I-797 Notice of Action. This Notice of Action serves as proof that the I-130 petition has been approved, and more importantly indicates that the petition will be forwarded to the Department of State’s National Visa Center within 30 days. The National Visa Center is a government agency that conducts pre-processing of all immigrant visa petitions that require consular action. The National Visa Center requires the applicant to send various documents, before the application can be sent to the United States Consular unit where the foreign spouse will attend their immigrant visa interview. The NVC determines which consular post will be most appropriate according to the foreign spouse’s place of residence abroad, as indicated on the I-130 petition. Once the NVC has received all documents necessary to complete pre-processing of the immigrant application, the case is mailed to the consular unit abroad. From the date the I-130 has been approved, it takes approximately 30-45 days for the National Visa Center to receive the application from USCIS and begin pre-processing.

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Here at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we like to celebrate our client’s successes. From our staff members to our attorneys, we are with you every step of the way on your immigration journey. Every client has a story, and it is these stories that inspire us to deliver the best service every day to achieve optimum results for our clients.

Several months ago a client visited our office after she received a denial for an N-400 application for naturalization that she had filed on her own early last year. Our client was an elderly woman seeking a waiver of the English language and Civics requirement of the N-400 application for naturalization on the basis of her disability. The issue in this case was that our client had various medical diagnoses that greatly impaired her cognitive abilities and by extension her capacity to learn. Due to these conditions, our client would not be able to successfully pass the English language and Civics component of the N-400.

In order to seek a waiver of the English language and Civics requirement, on the basis of physical or mental disability, Form N-648 must be properly completed by a licensed medical professional, who can attest to the applicant’s physical or mental disabilities. After consulting with the client and reviewing the paperwork that had been previously submitted to USCIS, we discovered that the Form N-648 was unsatisfactorily completed. The medical professional that had completed this form on our client’s behalf did not adequately explain the origin, nature, and extent of our client’s disability. The medical professional did not provide any documentation to support the explanation of our client’s medical condition, including such evidence as medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnoses to bolster the report. Most importantly, the medical professional failed to explain how the origin, nature, and extent of our client’s medical condition was so severe that they rendered her unable to learn or demonstrate English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and government.

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