Articles Posted in N-400

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On January 30, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule in the Federal Register making significant fee increases for various immigration applications and benefit requests. This fee increase will be the first major adjustment in the filing fees since 2016. The increase is meant to address the agency’s operational and financial challenges to support the timely processing of new applications.

The fee increase will take effect starting April 1, 2024. All applications postmarked after this date will be subject to the fee increases in the final rule.

TIP: To avoid paying the higher fees, USCIS must receive applications before April 1, 2024.


Highlights


  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), used to petition for family members, including marriage green cards, will increase by 26% to $675 for paper filing, and $625 for online filers.
  • Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)), used by U.S. Citizens to petition for their fiancé(e) to enter the U.S., will increase by 26 percent from $535 to $675
  • Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), used by immigrants seeking a green card for permanent residency, will increase by 18% from $1,225 to $1,440. Employment authorization, and advance parole, will now cost an additional $260 and $630, respectively. Previously these applications carried no additional cost when filing them alongside adjustment of status applications

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In this blog post, we give you an update on the status of the proposed rule increasing the filing fees for certain applications and petitions filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

As you may remember, on January 4, 2023, USCIS published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register proposing an increase in the filing fees of many types of applications, including but not limited to, the I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, N-400 Application for Naturalization, I-129F petition for alien fiancé(e), Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence, Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker for H, L, and O classifications, Form I-526 Immigrant Petition for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, among many others.

The proposed rule also sought to do the following:

  • Incorporate biometrics costs into the main benefit fee and remove the separate biometric services fee
  • Require separate filing fees for Form I-485 and associated Form I-131 and Form I-765 filings
  • Establish separate fees for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, by nonimmigrant classification.
  • Revise the premium processing timeframe interpretation from 15 calendar days to 15 business days
  • Create lower fees for certain immigration forms filed online.

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, before the government can implement a proposed rule they must abide by a mandatory notice-and-comment rule-making process. This includes offering a public comment period of at least 60 days from the date of the NPRM’s publication in the Federal Register.

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USCIS Updates Policy Manual Clarifying Physical Presence Requirement for Asylees and Refugees


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently updated its Policy Manual to clarify that BOTH asylees and refugees must have been physically present in the United States for one year at the time the Immigration Officer adjudicates their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, rather than at the time the individual files their adjustment of status application.

This policy is effective immediately and applies to all Form I-485 Applications to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and Form N-400, Applications for Naturalization, that are pending on February 2, 2023, and applications filed on or after that date.


What does this mean?


This means that in order to be eligible for adjustment of status (a green card), an asylee or refugee must have been physically present in the United States for at least 1 year after either being granted asylum status or admitted as a refugee.

Additionally, the policy manual:

  • Provides that asylees and refugees are required to accrue 1 year of physical presence by the time of adjudication of the adjustment of status application, rather than by the time they file the application (and that USCIS may request additional information to determine such physical presence in the United States).
  • Clarifies that asylee and refugee adjustment applicants who have held the immigration status of exchange visitor (J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrants) and who are subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement under INA 212(e) are not required to comply with or obtain a waiver of such requirement in order to adjust status under INA 209.
  • Makes technical updates, including clarifying processing steps for refugees seeking waivers of inadmissibility and removing references to the obsolete Decision on Application for Status as Permanent Resident (Form I-291).
  • Provides that USCIS considers a refugee or asylee who adjusted status to a permanent resident despite filing for adjustment before accruing 1 year of physical presence to have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence for purposes of naturalization if the applicant satisfied the physical presence requirement at the time of approval of the adjustment of status application.

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In this post, we bring you great news regarding COVID-19-related flexibilities for responses to Requests for Evidence, NOIDs, and such related notices issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


What do I need to know about this new update?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS 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 January 24, 2023, USCIS made the announcement that it will grant one FINAL extension to 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 March 23, 2023. 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 March 23, 2023 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;
  • Notices of Intent to Withdraw Temporary Protected Status; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

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Welcpuzzle-g75f3e575f_1920ome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful holiday break and wish you a prosperous new year ahead.

We kick off the new year with some important updates in the world of immigration.

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will be posted in the Federal Register tomorrow Wednesday, January 4, 2023 that will increase filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits. An unpublished version is already available in the Federal Register.

A 60-day public comment period will follow the publication of the NPRM on January 4, 2023 and will close on March 5, 2023.

Fees will not change until the final rule goes into effect, and only after the public has had the opportunity to comment and USCIS finalizes the fee schedule in response to such public comments. USCIS will host a public engagement session on the proposed fee rule on January 11, 2023.

According to USCIS, the proposed fee increases are necessary to ensure that the agency will have enough resources to provide adequate services to applicants and petitioners moving forward. The agency has said that after having conducted a review of current fees, it has determined that it cannot cover the full cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services without a fee increase.

The agency cited the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the factors leading the agency to increase its fees. As you may recall, the pandemic caused a dramatic reduction in the filing of new applications, leaving USCIS with a substantial decrease in revenues of 40 percent. This unfortunate drop in applications led USCIS to reduce its workforce accordingly.

With current resources, the agency has said it is incapable of adjudicating applications in a timely manner, when considering that agency caseloads are now returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Among the new proposals included in the NPRM are measures that:

  • Incorporate biometrics costs into the main benefit fee and remove the separate biometric services fee
  • Require separate filing fees for Form I-485 and associated Form I-131 and Form I-765 filings
  • Establish separate fees for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, by nonimmigrant classification.
  • Revise the premium processing timeframe interpretation from 15 calendar days to 15 business days
  • Create lower fees for certain immigration forms filed online.

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If you are considering applying for U.S. Citizenship in the new year, you may be interested to learn that yesterday December 15, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to conduct trial testing of a newly redesigned naturalization examination for N-400 naturalization applicants in the year 2023.

The main purpose of the trial is to test an updated format of the civics component that evaluates an applicant’s knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history, as well as introduce a brand-new English-speaking component that may become the new standard of the N-400 examination.


Why the change?


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented this change in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, which includes a directive to review the naturalization process. To align with the goals of this Executive Order, USCIS has called for a review of the naturalization examination and recommended redesigning the speaking and civics test to improve testing standards.


How will the trial testing occur?


USCIS has said that the trial will be rolled out with the assistance of nationwide volunteer community-based organizations known as CBOs working with immigrant English language learners and lawful permanent residents preparing for naturalization. USCIS will seek approximately 1,500 individuals enrolled in adult education classes to take the trial test. The agency may use the results of the trial to support its proposed changes to the naturalization test.

The trial will test both the standardized English-speaking test as part of the requirement to demonstrate an understanding of the English language, and the civics examination with updated content and format. The trial testing will not include the reading or writing portions of the naturalization examination.

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We start off the week with some exciting news for naturalization applicants filing N-400, Application for Naturalization.

On December 9, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new updates to its policy guidance including a new procedure that will allow USCIS to automatically extend the validity of a Permanent Resident Card for a period of 24-months, through the issuance of an N-400 Application for Naturalization, receipt notice. This means that generally Permanent Residents with a pending N-400 Application, will no longer need to file Form I-90 to renew their green cards.

This policy is effective as of today, Monday, December 12, 2022, and applies to all applications filed on or after December 12, 2022.

Lawful permanent residents who filed for N-400 naturalization PRIOR to December 12, 2022, will NOT receive an N-400 receipt notice with the 24-month extension, and will be required to file Form I-90 if their green card expires, or request an appointment to receive an ADIT stamp in their passport to maintain valid evidence of their status as required under the law.


What You Need to Know


Previously, naturalization applicants who did not apply for naturalization at least six months before the expiration date on their green cards needed to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, (green card) to maintain proper documentation of their lawful status.

Applicants who applied for naturalization at least six months prior to their green card expiration were eligible to request an appointment to receive an Alien Documentation, Identification, and Telecommunications (ADIT) stamp in their passport, which served as temporary evidence of their LPR status.

This policy is no more.

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USCIS backlogs have become a nightmare for many during the last few years. But now the government is holding the agency accountable for its inadequacies. As part of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2022, USCIS was required to inform the government regarding how exactly it is planning to ramp up processing of applications in Fiscal Year 2022.

In the Continuing Appropriations Act, Congress has pledged to provide $250 million to USCIS to support application processing. Part of this money must be utilized by the agency to help reduce application processing backlogs at USCIS field offices and service centers nationwide.

For its part, USCIS informed the government that the total number of cases backlogged at the agency as of September 2021 was a whopping 4.4 million cases.

The agency has said that it hopes to focus on backlog reduction for the following types of forms that account for more than half (61%) of its total backlog. These include I-485 adjustment of status applications, I-765 applications for employment authorization, and N-400 applications for citizenship.

USCIS did not provide information regarding reduction of possible backlogs for I-539 change/extension of status applications, which is a big dilemma for those trying to extend their H-4, L-2, and E-2 Dependents visas. These individuals are a high-risk group experiencing employment interruptions as they await the renewal of their nonimmigrant status.

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