Articles Posted in Interviews

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Are you a Cuban national with a pending immigrant visa application? If so, we have some great news for you.

The Department of State today announced that the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba will now be responsible for scheduling all immediate relative immigrant visa appointments, including those of spouses and children under 21 of U.S. citizens (IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2), with interviews beginning in July 2022.

Previously, the Department of State announced that Havana would be scheduling interviews for applicants in the IR-5 category (parent of a U.S. Citizen) that began their processing there in May 2022.  While the government is working to expand services to reduce the ongoing backlogs, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana will continue to remain the primary processing location for all other Cuban immigrant visa applicants (IR/CR-1, IR/CR-2 and IR-5).


Documentarily Qualified Notifications on or after June 8th – U.S. Embassy Havana


IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2 applicants who were notified on or after June 8, 2022 that their case is ready to be processed will have their interview scheduled at the U.S. Embassy Havana, not the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, beginning in July.


Documentarily Qualified Notifications before June 8th – U.S. Embassy Georgetown


IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2 applicants who were notified prior to June 8, 2022 that their case was ready to be processed will be interviewed at the U.S. Embassy Georgetown, also beginning in July.

The Department of State has said that neither the U.S. Embassy in Havana nor the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown will be able to assist with requests to transfer cases due to resource constraints.

The government will continue to evaluate, further expansion of visa processing in Havana depending on resources and country conditions.

Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Havana will continue to offer services for American Citizens and limited emergency nonimmigrant visa processing. For further information please review the embassy’s website for updates at https://cu.usembassy.gov/consular-services-available-at-u-s-embassy-havana/.

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Did you file an EB-2 National Interest Waiver petition on or before June 1, 2021, and still haven’t received a decision? What about an EB-1 petition as a multinational executive or manager filed on or before January 1, 2021? If so, be prepared for some exciting news!

USCIS recently announced the news we have all been waiting for. The agency will soon allow such applicants to upgrade their petition to Premium Processing Service by filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, and paying the required filing fee.


What is this next update all about?


On May 24, 2022, USCIS released a news alert notifying the public that it will expand premium processing service for certain petitioners who have filed a pending Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker under the EB-1 multinational executive/managers and EB-2 NIW immigrant classifications.


Who does this update apply to?


To qualify for premium processing service, you must have applied for your I-140 either under the E13 multinational executive, E13 manager classification, or E21 classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver (NIW).

Those who fall under the above categories will be eligible to upgrade their petitions by requesting premium processing service and filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service provided they filed their petitions with USCIS within a certain time period as discussed below.


When can I apply?


  • USCIS will accept premium processing service requests for E13 multinational executive and manager petitions starting June 1, 2022, but only for those E13 executive and manager petitions that were received by USCIS on or before January 1, 2021.
  • Additionally, USCIS will accept premium processing service requests for E21 National interest Waiver petitions, starting July 1, 2022, but only for those E21 NIW petitions that were received by USCIS on or before March 1, 2021.
  • Starting July 1, 2021, USCIS will also accept premium processing service requests, but only for those E13 multinational executive and manager petitions that were received by USCIS on or before March 1, 2021. 

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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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We are happy to start this week with interesting new developments in the world of immigration law.

As some of our readers may be aware, all green card applicants filing Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, are given the opportunity to file the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, along with their green card application (or separately at a later time), in order to receive what has been commonly referred to as an employment authorization document (EAD) and advance parole (AP) “combo” card.

With this “combo” card, green card applicants have engaged in lawful employment inside of the United States, and cards with the notation ‘Serves as I-512 Advance Parole’ have been used to re-enter the U.S. after temporary foreign travel.

That is all about to change. USCIS has announced that in an effort to drastically reduce the processing times associated with EAD and AP documents, the agency will now be discontinuing its policy of issuing the “combo” card.

Going forward, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be separating the issuance of the employment authorization document (EAD card) and advance parole (AP) document. This means that green card applicants that file the Forms I-765 and I-131 together with their green card (or at a later time) can expect to receive two separate documents in the mail, instead of one single combo card.

EADs that do not have the notation ‘Serves as I-512 Advance Parole,’ can only be used for employment purposes. Green card applicants wishing to return to the U.S. after temporary foreign travel must have a valid Advance Parole document. Applicants should not engage in international travel without such document.


Substantial Backlogs


USCIS has made this change to help alleviate the substantial processing times of EAD and AP documents during the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, these delays have caused employment interruptions for thousands of applicants who have had to wait many months for these applications to be approved.

Presently, the Nebraska Service Center is currently reporting processing times of between 11.5 to 13.5 months for an EAD to be issued based on a pending adjustment of status application. While the California Service Center is currently reporting a wait period of between 20 months to 21.5 months.

This lengthy waiting period has prompted USCIS to take action to separate issuance of the EAD and AP, in what will hopefully result in faster processing times.

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In today’s blog post, we share some interesting Question and Answer responses recently provided by the Department of State’s Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs (L/CA), in a meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The responses below provide some important insight into current immigration policies and procedures taking place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we summarize the most interesting questions covered during the January 20 meeting:


Department of State/AILA Liaison Committee Meeting


January 20, 2022 Q & A Highlights


Q: What role do Consular sections assume when determining whether an individual is exempt from the CDC COVID-19 vaccine requirement to gain entry to the U.S.?

A: Consular sections’ role in the process is to ensure that an individual’s request for a [vaccine] exception is filled out in full, and to transmit those requests to the CDC.


Q: If consular posts are involved in transmitting information in support of a humanitarian exception to CDC, what is the process, if any, for making such a request of a consular post outside the context of a visa interview?

A: Travelers should contact the consular section of the nearest embassy or consulate using the information provided on that embassies or consulate’s website


Q: What is the Department of State doing to alleviate the substantial backlogs created by the slowdown of operations at Consular posts and Embassies worldwide?

A: The Department is planning to hire foreign service officers above attrition in FY 2022. The majority will be assigned to a consular position after initial training. Additionally, the Department continues to recruit Limited Non-career Appointment (LNA) Consular Professionals. With very limited LNA hiring in FY 2020 and a pause on LNA hiring in FY 2021 due to CA’s budgetary constraints, Consular Affairs plans to hire more than 60 LNAs in FY 2022

Consular Affairs is working with State’s office of Global Talent Management to ramp up hiring in FY 2022, but many posts will not see these new officers until the second half of FY 2022 or FY 2023, particularly for officers assigned to positions requiring language training. Increased hiring will not have an immediate effect on reducing current visa wait times. Because local pandemic restrictions continue to impact a significant number of our overseas posts, extra staff alone is not sufficient to combat wait times for interviews.


Q: Can Consular Affairs please advise regarding efforts to resume routine consular services?

A: Consular sections abroad must exercise prudence given COVID’s continuing unpredictability. The emergence of the Omicron variant has prompted countries to reevaluate plans to relax travel bans, thereby leading consular sections abroad to recalibrate plans to resume services. Some posts have already fully resumed routine services. Others, in an abundance of caution and out of concern for the health of both consular staff and clientele, are slowly reintroducing some routine services.

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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 February 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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