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It is that time of the month again! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the February Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of February 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 Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.

Information has not yet been posted regarding the adjustment of status filing charts that should be used for green card filings. However, applicants are encouraged to monitor the USCIS webpage mentioned above within the next weeks.


February 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 February 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 nearly 6 months to January 1, 2013, and China will advance by more than 5 weeks to March 1, 2019. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India and China will remain the same as the previous months 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 expired and is listed as unavailable in the January 2022 Visa Bulletin. If reauthorized, the Regional Center program will mirror the Non-Regional Center final action dates, except China, which would be subject to a November 22, 2015, final action date.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you some recent news regarding a new class action lawsuit that has been filed by 49 plaintiffs against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), seeking relief from the extreme processing delays currently taking place for I-765 applications for employment authorization (EADs) filed by individuals seeking adjustment of status (AOS) in the United States, and for I-765 applications filed by E-2 dependent spouses with USCIS.

Currently, USCIS reports that I-765 work permit applications based on a pending I-485 adjustment of status application are taking between 20 to 21.5 months to process at the California Service Center; while it is taking 9 to 9.5 months to process work permit applications at the National Benefits Center; and 9.5 to 10.5 months to process such applications at the Nebraska Service Center.

The new legal challenge against the government has been mounted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP, Joseph and Hall PC, Kuck Baxter Immigration LLC, and Siskind Susser PC.

The lawsuit seeks to hold the government accountable once and for all for the exorbitant processing times taking place for work permit applications to be adjudicated, especially those at the California Service Center. Under the law, applicants for adjustment of status are afforded the option of applying for temporary employment authorization while their green card applications are pending with USCIS, through what is supposed to be an easy procedure that involves filing a simple I-765 application for employment authorization. In normal circumstances, such employment authorization applications took on average 7 to 9 months to be adjudicated. Since the onset of the pandemic however USCIS has not been able to adjudicate these applications within reasonable timeframes.

Processing times have gotten worse and worse to the point that applicants are receiving their green card interview appointments before even coming close to receiving an approved employment authorization document. This has resulted in applicants being unable to seek employment while waiting for their green card applications to process. This has caused great cause for concern for individuals who have a job offer lined up or who need to work to maintain their households. Further, the American economy is experiencing more and more labor shortages as they struggle to get individuals back to work. The situation at the USCIS level is making it even more difficult for American businesses to find qualified workers.

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In this blog post we share with you some breaking news for green card applicants applying for adjustment of status on Form I-485, as well as those applying for immigrant visas from abroad.

As part of the green card process, USCIS and the Department of State require applicants to undergo a medical examination with a doctor designated as a civil surgeon, to establish that the applicant is not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds.

According to new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control, beginning October 1, 2021, green card applicants will now be required to establish that they have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine series, in order to be deemed eligible for permanent residence. Following the release of this new guidance, COVID-19 was added to the list of vaccinations required of those seeking U.S. lawful permanent residence.

The new vaccine requirement will apply to routine medical examinations necessary for both adjustment of status applicants applying for green cards in the United States and immigrant visa applicants applying at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.


Who must take the COVID-19 vaccine?


All applicants (1) applying for I-485 adjustment of status (a green card) or (2) those applying for an immigrant visa abroad, who will receive their medical examination from a Civil Surgeon or Panel Physician on or after October 1, 2021, will be subject to this requirement and are encouraged to complete a COVID-19 vaccine series as soon  as possible.

Eligible applicants must complete the COVID-19  vaccine  series if  a  COVID-19  vaccine  listed  for  emergency  use  by  the World  Health  Organization  (WHO)  or  licensed  or  authorized  for  emergency  use  by  the  U.S. Food  and  Drug Administration  (FDA)  is  available  to  the  applicant  in  the  country  where  the  medical  examination  is  conducted.


How can I show that I have met the vaccine requirement?


Applicants must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination to the civil surgeon in person before completion of the medical examination.  The COVID-19 vaccination requirement will differ from previous requirements in that the entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) must be completed in addition to the other routinely required vaccines.


How long will the COVID-19 vaccine requirement be in place?


These COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be in place until the CDC determines the vaccine is no longer needed to prevent the importation and spread of COVID-19.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! The Department of State recently released the visa bulletin for July 2021 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

Remember to stay on the lookout for the next “Chats with Charlie” on the DOS YouTube Channel, a monthly series recently launched with the State Department and Charlie Oppenheim to discuss Visa Bulletin projections.


NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts July 2021


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Per USCIS, applicants falling within the F2A category, may use the Final Action Dates Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2021. While there is a cutoff date on the Dates for Filing chart, the category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart, allowing F2A applicants to rely on it.

All other family-sponsored preference categories (other than F2A) must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2021.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2021.

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We are excited to share with you some new updates regarding the immigrant visa backlog.

On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs, hosted a live YouTube Question and Answer session with Neal Vermillion, Division Chief at the U.S. Visa Office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, where he discussed how Consular sections have been prioritizing cases during the phased resumption of visa services, and information about the status of the current immigrant visa backlog worldwide.

Neal Vermillion works directly with the Office of Field Operations, which is a government agency that provides guidance to Consular sections including Embassies and Consulates around the world. He has worked with the Department of State since the early 2000’s in various roles and has invaluable expertise on visa operations at Consular sections around the globe.

In this post, we will share with you the highlights of this session which you may find useful to determine the progress of your visa and what you can expect with regard to visa processing in the coming months.


DOS Q&A Session with Neal Vermillion: Immigrant Visa Backlog Q&A



Neal’s Introductory Remarks

I would first like to say a few remarks before we get to that question and the other specific ones. In terms of the history, here we are almost June 2021. Those of you that follow our immigrant visa processing overseas know, we actually shut down due to the pandemic. Visa processing shut down for several months last year at this time, and we really didn’t start the reopening process until July of last year. This is one significant factor that is leading to this backlog discussion that we are having today.

Another point I want to highlight that is another prong of why we are where we are is, you may recall, last spring as well, then President Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 10014, which President Biden rescinded in late February of this year, but that Proclamation prevented the issuance, even when we were open and our Consular sections were processing some visas, that prevented the issuance and travel of many many different types of immigrant visas.

A third prong as we’re talking about Presidential Proclamations, is … some of you may be aware, there are actually still in effect geographic Proclamations, as we call them, which basically are again Presidential Proclamations that have been issued to help protect the homeland, protect health and security.

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In its continued efforts to improve communications with the public regarding the status of visa operations worldwide, the Department of State recently provided new insights regarding Immigrant Visa Prioritization at Consular posts overseas.

To reduce the immigrant visa backlog, the Department has announced the adoption of a new four-tiered approach that is designed to triage the processing of immigrant visa applications according to prioritization standards set by U.S. Congress. Such standards will ensure prioritized visa processing for certain categories of immigrant visa applicants, while posts prepare to resume and expand visa processing as local conditions improve.

Prioritization of immigrant visas will begin with a first tier including prioritization of immigrant visas for immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), and certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government).

The second tier will include prioritization of immigrant visas for immediate relatives, fiancé(e) visas, and returning resident visas.

While the third tier will prioritize immigrant visas for family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad.

Finally, the fourth tier will prioritize immigrant visa processing for all other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas.

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Happy Monday! It is another exciting week filled with new immigration updates unfolding in our ever-changing immigration landscape. Our office is committed to bringing you the latest immigration news, and keeping you informed on the evolving status of immigration during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

As the rates of COVID-19 have continued to erupt in certain regions of the world, applicants residing overseas have been forced to adapt to their “new normal.”

At the height of the pandemic, Consular posts worldwide found themselves forced to limit operations due to safety concerns, lack of resources, country conditions, and mandatory quarantines.

Complicating matters further, the Trump administration began issuing regional travel bans suspending and restricting the entry into the United States, of immigrant and nonimmigrant travelers, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Those who have been physically residing within these regions have been unable to enter the United States.

When President Biden assumed the Presidency, his administration continued to enforce these regional travel bans and began “rolling out” new regional travel bans suspending the entry of travelers from other regions with high rates of COVID-19.


India Joins Countries Now Subject to Regional Travel Ban 


India is now the latest country to be added to a growing list of countries subject to a Regional travel ban. On April 30, 2021, President Biden issued a new Presidential Proclamation temporarily restricting and suspending the entry of nonimmigrants from the Republic of India into the United States. Just as the previous proclamations, the India travel ban will impact any nonimmigrant who has been physically present within the Republic of India during the 14-day period preceding his or her entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Certain exemptions have been made for green card holders, spouses of U.S. Citizens or green card holders, parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders, and others.

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In today’s blog post, we are happy to bring our readers some very exciting news.

On April 26, 2021, the Department of State formally announced a new National Interest Determination for certain categories of nonimmigrant visa applicants currently unable to enter the United States due to COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations issued earlier this year. This new determination will allow certain travelers to obtain their visas and enter the United States, despite the issuance of COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations, known as Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 10143.

These Proclamations were issued early last year to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 to the United States, specifically from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Such Proclamations had the effect of restricting and suspending the entry into the United States, of both immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Few categories of individuals were exempted from these Presidential Proclamations, including lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders), spouses of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents, and others who were similarly exempted.

Individuals who have not been specifically exempted from the Regional Proclamations and have remained physically present in the impacted regions, have been unable to proceed with visa processing. Consulates worldwide have refused to grant visas to these individuals due to the enforcement of the Proclamations.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand new and exciting week in the world of immigration. In this post, we bring you the latest immigration updates from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

In a recent post on their Facebook page, the Bureau published a Frequently Asked Questions guide addressing the Immigrant Visa Backlog, including information about what Consulates are doing to help reduce the backlogs, and helpful information for K-1 visa applicants, Diversity Visa lottery applicants, and interview scheduling for employment-based applicants.

Want to know more? Check out the Q & A below:

 


Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Immigrant Visa Backlog


Q: Why are there still immigrant visa interview backlogs?

A: Our number one priority is the safety of our applicants and our staff. The IV (Immigrant Visa) interview backlog has developed because of limitations in staffing and other COVID-related operational constraints preventing us from processing the same volume of applicants as pre-pandemic. In addition, Presidential Proclamation 10014 and geographic COVID proclamations restricted visa processing for many immigrants for nearly a year; it will take time to process the cases that were impacted by these travel restrictions.

Q: What are you doing to decrease the backlog?

A: We are committed to decreasing this backlog by prioritizing certain visas, creating efficiencies in the visa process, and utilizing all available resources until our task is accomplished. Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for updates on what visa services are currently available.

Q: Are virtual/Zoom interviews available for Immigrant Visa applicants?

A: No. Current regulations require all immigrant visa applicants to appear in person before a consular officer.

Q: I live near a U.S. Consulate, but they do not process Immigrant Visas at that particular location and therefore I am forced to travel a long distance to appear for my interview. Why don’t you process IV interviews at every U.S. Embassy/Consulate?

A: As the best use of limited U.S. government resources, immigrant visa processing is consolidated in certain embassies and consulates. The Department of State continuously reviews the services we provide to best balance our service standards with efficient use of resources.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! Happy end of the week to all of our readers.

In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the upcoming month of May 2021 and beyond.

The Department of State’s Consular Affairs Unit has launched an exciting new monthly series on its YouTube channel, discussing current visa trends and future projections for immigrant visa preference categories with Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State.