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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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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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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’s the start of a brand-new year! On behalf of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we would like to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year. It has been a challenging time in the world of immigration law but we at the Law Office are proud to help you navigate the new normal.

In this blog post we share with you a new proposed rule that has been published in the Federal Register. The new rule seeks to raise certain nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, fees for the Border Crossing Card for Mexican Citizens age 15 and over, and fees to waive the two-year residency requirement (J waiver).


What is this all about?


On December 29, 2021, the Department of State released a new rule proposing the adjustment of various fees for Consular Services.


Non-Petition Based NIVs to Increase to $245 USD for B1/B2, F, M, J, C, D, I, and BCC applicants


Among the proposed fee changes is an increase of “non-petition” based NIV fees from $160 USD to $245 USD per application.

This change would impact a variety of nonimmigrant visas, such as:

  • those for business and tourist travel (B1/B2);
  • students and exchange visitors (F, M, and J);
  • crew and transit visas (C and D);
  • representatives of foreign media (I), and
  • other country-specific visa classes, as well as BCCs for applicants age 15 or older who are citizens of and resident in Mexico.

According to the Department of State, “non-petition” means visas that do not require separate requests known as “petitions” to be adjudicated prior to the visa application to establish that the individual meets certain qualifying criteria for the relevant status ( e.g. , that the beneficiary of the petition has the relevant familial relationship to the petitioner). Non-petition based NIVs make up nearly 90 percent of all NIV workload.

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The bad news continues for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program. As our readers will know, the EB-5 Regional Center program has been in a period of lapse following Congressional failure to reauthorize the program after its expiration at midnight on June 30, 2021. Such reauthorization was expected to be included in the government’s appropriations funding bills, but no such action has yet taken place to extend the program.

In a glimmer of hope, on December 3, 2021, President Biden signed H.R. 6119 into law, “Further Extending Government Funding Act” which includes a short-term continuing resolution that funds the federal government through February 18, 2022. EB-5 Regional Center legislation extending the program is expected to be included in future appropriation bills.

With its hands tied on the matter, on October 4, 2021, USCIS updated its website to indicate that it would not be accepting new I-526 petitions based on a regional center investment, but would be placing all pending I-526 petitions based on the Regional Center program in “abeyance,” (a temporary hold), as well as placing all pending I-485 green card applications based on a Regional Center investment on hold at least through the end of 2021, pending further action from Congress. No acting is being taken on applications placed on hold.

I-829 Petitions filed by conditional permanent residents under the Regional Center program remain unaffected. USCIS has confirmed that such applications are being accepted and processed by the agency.

Acting upon the government lapse, for its part, the Department of State has stopped processing immigrant visa applications for EB-5 Program applicants altogether.

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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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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we give you the rundown on the most exciting immigration updates recently announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

These announcements provide important information for applicants including, extended flexibility policies for responding to Requests for Evidence, new COVID-19 vaccination requirements for green card applicants, automatic 24-month extensions of status for petitioners who have properly filed Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status starting September 4, 2021, and continuance of TPS designations for nationals from certain countries.


The Rundown: What do I need to know about these new updates?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests

USCIS has announced that it will continue its flexibility policy giving applicants and petitioners more time to respond to Requests for Evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic. On September 24, 2021, USCIS made the announcement that it will continue to grant applicants who have received a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or such a related document, an additional 60 calendar days after the response deadline indicated on the notice or request, to submit a response to a request or notice, provided the request or notice was issued by USCIS between March 1, 2020 through January 15, 2022. This is great news because it will allow applicants and petitioners more time to gather documents that are hard to obtain during the COVID-10 pandemic.

What documents qualify for this flexibility in responding?

Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and January 15, 2022 can take advantage of the additional 60 days to respond to the request or notice:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind;
  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

In addition, USCIS will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion or Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, if:

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog and a very happy Thursday to all our loyal readers. In this blog post, we bring you the latest information regarding the expiration of the EB-5 Regional Center program.


What is the EB-5 Regional Center Program?


To become eligible to receive a green card (permanent residence) under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, a foreign national must make either (1) a direct investment in a new commercial enterprise or (2) an investment in a Regional Center project, resulting in the creation of at least 10 jobs, during the time that the investor is granted conditional permanent residence. These are considered the two different “types” of investments under the EB-program. The amount required to be invested depends on whether the investment is “direct” or made in a Regional Center project.

Several considerations need to be taken into account by the investor when deciding which type of investment is right for them (whether “direct” or in a Regional Center). Most often “direct” investment is the most suitable option where the foreign investor wishes to open and operate his own commercial enterprise in the United States and wants to have full control over his or her investment.

The “direct” EB-5 program has three basic requirements: (1) investment in a “new commercial enterprise” (2) of at least $1,000,000 (or $500,000 if the investment is being made in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) that is underserved) (3) that results in the creation of at least 10 new full-time jobs. Investors are also required to take an active enough role in the business having at least a policy-making position.

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Federal District Judge Rules to Reinstate $500,000 Minimum Investment For the EB-5 Visa Program

In this blog post, we share with you a new landmark court decision affecting the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, known as matter of Behring Regional Center LLC V. Chad Wolf et al.

In this case, decided on June 22, 2021, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California vacated the controversial 2019 ‘EB-5 Modernization Rule’ that sought to ‘modernize’ the EB-5 visa program, by increasing the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $900,000.  In her ruling, Judge Corley concluded that the 2019 Modernization Rule should be vacated because the former acting DHS Security, Kevin McAleenan was not properly appointed in his position under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when he implemented the Regulations.  Therefore, the officials had no legal authority to make and to announce the changes.

The judge’s new ruling means that the district court’s decision will restore the original rules for the EB-5 program, initially established by the Immigration Act of 1990 as a legal pathway to provide qualified foreign/immigrant investors the opportunity to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. (commonly known as the “green card”). The now-defunct EB-5 Modernization Regulations of 2019 had increased the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $900,000, but with this new ruling the minimum investment amount has again reverted to $500,000.

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Welcome back to the Visalawyerblog! We have a very exciting announcement for you this afternoon. The International Entrepreneur Parole Program is back and in full force!

Today, May 10, 2021, USCIS announced that it will no longer pursue Trump era efforts to terminate the International Entrepreneur Parole Program and will instead remain committed to the continuance and implementation of the program to benefit immigrant entrepreneurs.

This decision is all part of the Biden administration’s efforts to restore faith in our legal immigration system, as outlined in Executive Order 14012, requiring DHS to identify and remove agency actions that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system.


What’s been happening with the International Entrepreneur Parole Program?


The International Entrepreneur Parole program was first established during the final days of the Obama administration with a planned implementation date of July 17, 2017. The program was designed to expand the admission of certain entrepreneurs into the United States by granting them temporary permission to enter the United States, (also known as “parole”) for a period of up to five years in order for the entrepreneur to begin a start-up business in the United States. Qualifying businesses include those with a high potential for growth and expansion.

The program did not establish a permanent immigration option, nor did it qualify an entrepreneur for permanent residence. Instead, the program was implemented as an option for eligible entrepreneurs wishing to remain in the United States on a temporary basis. One of the main advantages of the program was that entrepreneurs could take advantage of a much simpler immigration process known as requesting “parole” instead of having to apply for an investor visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Sadly, shortly after Donald Trump assumed the Presidency in early 2017, his administration quickly went to work to dismantle and undo the International Entrepreneur Rule before its planned implementation date.

The Trump administration set the stage for the undoing of the program by first issuing a rule in the federal register to delay the program’s implementation date to March 14, 2018, giving the agency more time to terminate the program.

On May 29, 2018, the administration formally moved to terminate the program by publishing a proposed rule to terminate the program altogether. Since then, the program has remained in a state of limbo, with the Trump era proposed rule still sitting idle in the Federal Register.

Today, the Biden administration made clear that the International Entrepreneur Parole Program is here to stay.

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