Articles Posted in Nonimmigrant 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’s a brand-new week and we are excited to share with you a recent update that will benefit F-1 students applying for employment authorization under the Optional Practical Training program (OPT).

Today, April 12, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students requesting OPT may now file their Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, online by creating an online account at myaccount.uscis.gov, instead of having to submit a paper application by mail to USCIS, if they fall under one of the following categories:

  • (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
  • (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
  • (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?


Optional Practical Training (OPT) refers to a temporary period of employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.

Eligible F-1 students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).

Eligible F-1 students who receive STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT.


How Can You Qualify for OPT?


All OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. If you are an F-1 student, you may be eligible to participate in OPT in two different ways:

  • Pre-completion OPT:  You may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after you have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll F-1 students. You do not need to have had F-1 status for the one full academic year; you can satisfy the “one full academic year” requirement even if you had another nonimmigrant status during that time.

If you are authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT, you may work part time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session. You may work full time when school is not in session.

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We are excited to report some happy news for immigrant visa applicants and fiancé(e)’s of U.S. Citizens, who were previously subject to the COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations, known as Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041.

Together, these Proclamations restricted and suspended the entry into the United States, of 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. The COVID-19 Regional Proclamations were issued by the Trump administration beginning in January of 2020 to combat the rise of Coronavirus cases throughout the world.

Today, April 8, 2021, the Department of State published an announcement informing the public that the Secretary of State has now determined that travel to the United States, on an immigrant visa or fiancé(e) visa, is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations known as P.P. 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041.

Pursuant to this new announcement, immigrant visa processing posts may now grant immigrant visas and fiancé(e) visas to applicants otherwise eligible, notwithstanding these proclamations. This means that the travel restrictions previously in force under Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041, will no longer apply to immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants physically residing in the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran. As a result, such immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain their visas without the added hurdle of overcoming the COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are excited to bring you a newly released update from the Department of State regarding the operational status of visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world forcing the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates to scale down operations due to reduced staff, limited resources, and constraints having to do with local conditions and restrictions, including local and national lockdowns, travel restrictions, and other measures that have been taken by U.S. Embassies and Consulates to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Due to these restrictions, the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have dramatically reduced their appointment capacity. This has in turn created substantial backlogs of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications awaiting a visa interview. Many have already been documentarily qualified by the NVC and have not been able to proceed with visa processing due to the Embassy’s inability to open new appointments for applicants.

As a result, Consular posts and Embassies have been following a “phased resumption” of visa services framework, meaning that each post will carefully assess its country conditions and its resources, to gradually determine when it can resume visa service operations to normal levels. However, this process will take time and will depend on each Embassy’s ability to open more appointments for visa applicants.

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We are extremely excited to report that USCIS has received enough electronic registrations during the H-1B initial registration period to reach the mandated numerical cap for fiscal year 2022, including for the advanced degree exemption (also known as the master’s cap), and has now selected all registrations eligible to participate in the H-1B visa program.

The H-1B initial electronic registration period came to an end on March 25, 2021, at which time USCIS began the process of randomly selecting from eligible registrations to fill the H-1B cap, including for the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS has now selected those registrations that will move forward and file a paper application with USCIS.

All those who were selected have received a notification of their selection in their myUSCIS online account. Selections in the myUSCIS portal will indicate that the petitioner is eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary that was named in the applicable selected registration.

On behalf of our law office, we extend our congratulations to all those who were selected to move forward with the filing of their petitions.


What happens next?


Now that you have overcome this obstacle, you may be asking yourself, what’s next? Sadly, getting selected in the H-1B visa lottery is just the first step in obtaining an H-1B visa. The second step requires the petitioner to demonstrate the beneficiary’s eligibility for the H-1B visa by filing Form I-129 with USCIS and obtaining approval.

USCIS has announced that all petitioners who have been properly selected in the visa lottery for fiscal year 2022, may file an H-1B cap-subject petition with USCIS, including petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, starting today April 1, 2021. Only filings that are based on a valid, selected registration will be accepted by USCIS for FY 2022, and only for beneficiaries named in the selected registration notice.

Those who were not selected must wait to apply again next year.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand-new week and we are excited to bring you more updates in the world of immigration.

We are happy to report that the Department of State has released important information for nonimmigrant visa applicants who may qualify for an interview waiver. That’s right. Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain a renewal of their visas without being required to attend a Consulate interview.

Who may take advantage of Non-Immigrant Visa Interview Waivers?

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, and temporarily expanded the ability of Consular officials to waive the in-person interview requirement, which is normally required of all individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas in the same visa classification – in other words renewal applicants.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, interview waivers were only available to those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa was set to expire within 24 months.

The Secretary has now temporarily extended the Interview Waiver eligibility to those whose visas are set to expire within 48 months. This new policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.

According to the Department of State, “This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications, while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.”

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Happy Friday! We bring you an exciting new update about the public charge rule. On Thursday, March 11, 2021, the Biden administration formally rescinded the Trump era “public charge rule,” which has been responsible for causing great headaches among adjustment of status and immigrant visa applicants.

The public charge rule was first announced by the Department of Homeland Security on October 10, 2018, bringing with it a new set of regulations that made it more difficult for certain adjustment of status applicants to gain permanent residence in the United States.

Specifically, it was announced that the public charge rule would apply to all adjustment of status (green card) applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020. In addition, the public charge rule of inadmissibility was applied to:

  • Applicants for an immigrant visa abroad
  • Applicants for a nonimmigrant visa abroad
  • Applicants for admission at the U.S. border who have been granted an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, and
  • Nonimmigrants applying for an extension or change of status within the United States

Individuals applying for a green card or immigrant visa based on family sponsorship were most affected by this rule.

Further, a slew of special types of immigrants were allowed to be excluded from the rule including asylees, refugees, VAWA, TPS, DACA, Special Immigrant Juveniles, T nonimmigrants, U nonimmigrants, and such special types of immigrant classifications.

As a result of this rule, USCIS introduced a mandatory form to be submitted with all green card applications, known as Form, I-944 Declaration of Self Sufficiency, to determine whether a green card applicant would likely become a public charge on the United States government.

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we bring you a recent success story and share with you how our office was able to expedite our client’s fiancé visa to help him reunite with his U.S. Citizen fiancé, despite the suspension of routine visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.

As you may recall, during March of last year, in an unprecedented move, the Department of State made the decision to suspend all routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, in response to significant worldwide challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thereafter in July of 2020, U.S. Embassies and Consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services, but only on a post-by-post basis as resources and local conditions would allow.

In reality routine visa services at the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have remained suspended with posts granting appointments only for emergency and mission-critical services.

Due to these visa suspensions, K visa applicants have been unable to proceed with visa issuance, with many applications sitting idle at the National Visa Center (NVC) waiting to be forwarded to the local Consulate for interview scheduling.

Most recently K visa applicants expressed their frustrations by filing a class action lawsuit known as Milligan v. Pompeo in an effort to force visa interview scheduling.

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We are pleased to report that the Department of State has issued new guidance following President Biden’s rescission of Presidential Proclamation 10014, entitled “Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Present a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.”

As you may recall, President Biden issued an executive order rescinding Proclamation 10014 on February 24, 2021.

The Department of State is now providing instructions for immigrant visa applicants who were previously impacted by the Proclamation.

Instructions for Immigrant Visa Applicants

Those Not Yet Interviewed:  Immigrant visa applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications processed according to the existing phased resumption of visa services framework being followed by the Department of State.

How will the resumption of visa services be prioritized?

According to DOS, the resumption of routine visa services, prioritized after services to U.S. citizens, will occur on a post-by-post basis, consistent with the Department’s guidance for safely returning personnel to Department facilities.

At the moment, U.S. Embassies and Consulates are providing emergency and mission-critical visa services and will continue to do so. As post-specific conditions improve, each mission will decide when it can begin to provide additional services. Eventually each mission will gradually restore a complete resumption of routine visa services. However, Consular posts have not provided any specific date as to when they will resume normal operations.

Those Previously Refused:  Immigrant visa applicants whose petitions remain valid and who were previously interviewed but refused visas due to P.P. 10014 should wait for instructions from the U.S. embassy or consulate where they were interviewed.  According to DOS guidance, Consulates will reconsider cases that were previously refused because of P.P. 10014 and will inform applicants if additional information is needed from them.

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