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Articles Posted in Permanent Residents

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In this post we discuss a new proposed rule published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that seeks to amend regulations governing Form, I-864 Affidavit of Support. The I-864 Affidavit of Support is a required form that must be completed by the person petitioning the foreign national, in order for their relative to immigrate to the United States. The petitioner must attest that they meet the income requirement based on their household size to sponsor the foreign national. Petitioners who are unable to meet the income requirement, must obtain a joint sponsor who does meet this requirement.

Essentially, when the petitioner or joint sponsor signs the affidavit of support, he or she is entering into an enforceable contract with the U.S. government, in which they agree to use their financial resources to support the beneficiary named in the affidavit of support. Where the beneficiary seeks public benefits from a government agency, the petitioner or sponsor can be held legally responsible for repaying those costs to the government agency.

The rules and regulations governing the affidavit of support have recently come under fire during the Trump administration. The President has consistently pushed for stricter enforcement of a sponsor’s obligations, requiring government agencies to hold sponsors liable for any benefits paid out to beneficiaries of an affidavit of support.


What is the New Rule About?

On October 2, 2020 DHS announced a proposed rule that (1) clarifies how a sponsor must demonstrate that he or she has the means to maintain income (2) revises documentation that sponsors and household members must meet as evidence of their income (3) modifies when an applicant is required to submit an Affidavit from a joint sponsor and (4) updates reporting and information sharing between government agencies.

Changes to Documentation Required of Sponsors

The proposed rule updates the evidentiary requirements for sponsors submitting an Affidavit, to “better enable immigration officers and immigration judges to determine whether the sponsor has the means to maintain an annual income at or above the applicable threshold, and whether the sponsor can, in fact, provide such support to the intending immigrant and meet all support obligations during the period the Affidavit is in effect.”

Specifically, this proposed rule would require sponsors and household members who execute an Affidavit or Contract to provide Federal income tax returns for 3 years, credit reports, credit scores, and bank account information.

Receipt of Means-Tested Benefits May Disqualify Sponsor

The proposed rule also seeks to change the regulations to specify that a sponsor’s prior receipt of any means-tested public benefits and a sponsor’s failure to meet support obligations on another executed Affidavit, or household member obligations on a previously executed Affidavit of Support, will impact the determination as to whether the sponsor has the means to maintain the required income threshold to support the immigrant.

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The public charge rule is back. On September 11, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision that allows the Department of Homeland Security to resume enforcement of the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility final rule on a nationwide basis, including in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

The court “stayed” or suspended the grant of a preliminary injunction issued on July 29, 2020 by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, meaning that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can now require Form I-944 in all jurisdictions, and continue to enforce the public charge rule nationwide.


Why the ruling?

The appellate court ruling comes after the Department of Homeland Security appealed the July 29th preliminary injunction preventing the enforcement of the public charge rule to residents of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. The government asked the court to “stay” or suspend the preliminary injunction, pending resolution of the appeal before the courts.

A three judge panel ruled in favor of the government finding that they were likely to succeed on the merits of the case and in any event the judges said that it was doubtful that the district court had jurisdiction to issue the preliminary injunction in the first place, given that the court of appeals was considering the issues raised by the public charge rule.

What does this mean for applicants?

Pursuant to the appellate court’s order, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume enforcement and implementation of the Public Charge Grounds Final Rule nationwide. The government is no longer prevented from enforcing the rule during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

USCIS has stated on their webpage that they will apply the public charge final rule to all applications and petitions postmarked or submitted electronically on or after Feb. 24, 2020, including pending applications and petitions. For applications or petitions sent by commercial courier (for example, UPS, FedEx, or DHL), USCIS will use the date on the courier receipt as the postmark date.

USCIS will not re-adjudicate any applications and petitions that were approved following the issuance of the July 29, 2020, injunction continuing until the date of the notice (September 22, 2020).

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We are happy to report that the Department of State has released an important announcement that describes the agency’s compliance with the recent court ruling, Gomez v. Trump, which orders the government to make good-faith efforts to expeditiously schedule, process, and adjudicate DV-2020 diversity visa applications by September 30, 2020, despite issuance of Proclamation 10014.

In accordance with the court’s ruling, DV-2020 applications are being processed at embassies and consulates as local health conditions and resources will allow during this pandemic.

To proceed with visa processing, applicants must be documentarily qualified (meaning the applicant has obtained all documents specified by consular officials sufficient to meet the formal visa application requirements), have paid all requisite application fees, have the ability to obtain the required medical examination conducted by a panel physician, and demonstrate eligible for a visa prior to issuance.

If a post is unable to process cases due to local health conditions and resource constraints, an applicant may request a transfer to another post

The Department expects that, due to resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and country conditions, it will be unable to accommodate all DV applicants before September 30, 2020.

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We have great news for our readers regarding a recent court’s decision to temporarily halt the “public charge” rule during the Coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, July 29, a federal judge in the state of New York issued a ruling that blocks the government’s enforcement of the “public charge” rule on non-citizens seeking permanent residency in the United States, and nonimmigrant visa applicants alike, for as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains a public health emergency. The ruling was made in response to a federal lawsuit filed by several states against the government entitled, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in State of New York, et al. v. DHS, et al. and Make the Road NY et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al.


What does this mean for visa and adjustment of status applicants?

Federal Judge George Daniels has approved a nationwide injunction, immediately stopping the government from “enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating,” as effective the “public charge” rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This means that effective June 29th both consular officers and USCIS immigration officials cannot enforce any part of the “public charge” rule for as long as the injunction remains and place, and a national public health emergency exists.


Why did the judge make this ruling?

The judge agreed with the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont that the “public charge” rule would cause irreparable harm on non-citizens seeking entry to the United States because the rule discourages such individuals from obtaining the necessary treatment and care needed during the Coronavirus pandemic. The judge considered the “substantial harm” the public would suffer if the government continued to enforce the “public charge” rule and found that the temporarily injunction was necessary to allow non-citizens to obtain much needed public benefits for preservation of the public’s health and safety.

In defense of his opinion, the judge stated, “no person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact.”

The judge further stated in his ruling that the continued application of the “public charge” rule during the global pandemic, “would only contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

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Interviews at the San Diego Field Office

We have great news for our local readers. The USCIS San Diego Field Office is scheduled to resume interviews on July 6, 2020, with priority given to adjustment of status applications filed by doctors and front-line workers fighting to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. Under certain circumstances, USCIS will exercise its discretion to waive adjustment of status interviews on a case-by-case basis.


What will be the approach for rescheduling?

The USCIS San Diego Field Office will begin rescheduling all other interviews on a “first-in, first-out,” basis based on receipt date of filing. This will occur as soon as possible.


When will biometrics offices reopen to the public?

Application Support Centers in San Marcos in Chula Vista are scheduled to reopen to the public on July 27, we ask our readers to please be patient while they wait to be rescheduled. Those with cancelled biometrics will be automatically rescheduled and will receive a notice in the mail with a new biometrics appointment.


What about Parole in Place cases?

Parole in place applications continue to be adjudicated, however applicants should expect delays.


What about citizenship applications?

USCIS will continue to prioritize the scheduling of oath ceremonies for naturalization applicants. Those who did not appear at a scheduled oath ceremony will receive a letter by mail. As we previously reported, oath ceremonies in San Diego are being held at the Cabrillo National Monument and the City of El Cajon parking lot adjacent to the police department.

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Our readers and clients have eagerly been asking why the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reported extremely long processing times on their webpage. Others are concerned about when their field offices will reopen and reschedule their interviews. In this post we hope to provide some clarification regarding these very important issues.


Long Processing Times


As some of you may know as a result of the pandemic, USCIS has experienced a significant loss of revenue that has left the agency with no choice but to begin the process of furloughing much needed employees. The agency is no longer able to meet current workloads and has been taking drastic measures to try to cope with the current situation. CIS has requested $1.2 billion in aid from Congress to help keep the agency afloat. Among other things, CIS plans to increase filing fees this summer, and implement additional surcharges on all applications. The agency’s funding crisis has unfortunately resulted in very long processing times for those with pending applications. As many of you have noticed, the processing times listed on the CIS website vary widely depending on the service center processing the application or petition, and the relationship between the applicant and petitioner (for family-based petitions).


What accounts for the different processing times?


First, processing times vary depending on the service center that is processing your application or petition. Each service center has been specifically designated to handle specific types of immigration benefits. The type of center that will process your case depends on a number of different factors including: the type of immigration benefit you are requesting, your immigration category, and also your state of residency.

Since some types of immigration benefits are in great demand, such as permanent residency, service centers handling these types of applications generally have a heavier workload than others. Unfortunately, this means that processing times for service centers with heavier workloads will be longer than others. USCIS has tried to balance the workload by transferring some petitions to other service centers that do not have such a heavy workload. These efforts have been made to try to speed up the adjudication process.

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The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for July 2020 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts July 2020

For Family-Sponsored Filings:In the F2A category, there is a cutoff date on the Dates for Filing chart.  However, the category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart.  This means that applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for July 2020.

For all the other family-sponsored preference categories, you must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2020.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:For all employment-based preference categories, you must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2020.


July Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


Employment Based Categories

According to the Department of State’s July Visa Bulletin, the following cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries remain current during the month of July except for China and India. EB-1 China will advance by one week to August 22, 2017, while EB-1 India will advance by 11 months to May 8, 2017.
  • EB-2: All countries except EB-2 China and India remain current. EB-2 China will advance by one week to November 8, 2015, and EB-2 India will advance by just under four weeks to July 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries except EB-3 India and China will advance by almost five months to April 15, 2018. Cutoff dates for EB-3 China will advance by one week to June 22, 2016, and for India by two months to June 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: EB-5 India will become current, joining all other countries except for EB-5 China and Vietnam.  China’s cutoff date will advance by one week to July 22, 2015, while Vietnam’s cutoff date will advance by three weeks to May 15, 2017.

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elijah-o-donnell-t8T_yUgCKSM-unsplash-scaledA new media report has provided information revealing that the Trump administration is planning to put a temporary “hold” on green card applications filed from the United States.


What is this all about?


As you know earlier this year, the President signed “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” limiting the immigration of aliens outside of the U.S., without an immigrant visa, or official travel document as of April 23rd.

Recent information has surfaced suggesting that the Trump administration seeks to temporarily suspend adjustment of status requests to permanent residence from those living in the United States.

According to a source speaking on condition of anonymity, USCIS has internally told employees that the agency will be temporarily suspending the processing of adjustment of status petitions filed for individuals in the United States, with some exceptions.


What are the exceptions?


Those who fall within the following exceptions will not be impacted by this temporary suspension:

  • Cases already given to the adjudicator (the immigration officer in charging of issuing a decision in your case)
  1. Example: If you had an interview scheduled in April or March and that interview was cancelled because of COVID-19, the suspension does not apply to you
  • Continuations – people who have had their cases continued
  1. Example: Cases that were paused because of COVID, interview rescheduling, etc.
  • Applications filed by medical workers and/or providers
  1. Example: If you are an essential worker fighting COVID-19 you are exempted from the order
  • Cases at the National Benefits Center will not be impacted
  • Very old cases that are currently pending a decision
  • Adjustment of status applications filed on the basis of the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF)
  • Identified National Security Concerns

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Great news for our loyal followers! The time has come – today the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that premium processing services will resume.

Beginning June 1, 2020, premium processing services for all Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers will be resumed.

What about other types of petitions?

Premium processing service will be resume for other types of petitions in phases as follows:

-Beginning June 8th USCIS will accept premium processing requests for:

  • H-1B petitions filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication and are cap-exempt (for example, petitions filed by petitioners that are cap-exempt and petitions filed for beneficiaries previously counted toward the numerical allocations).
  • All other Form I-129 petitions (non H-1B petitions) for nonimmigrant classifications eligible for premium processing filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication.

-Beginning June 15th USCIS will resume premium processing for:

  • H-1B petitions requesting premium processing where Form I-907 was filed concurrently with Form I-129 (or request for a petition filed on or after June 8) and the beneficiary is exempt from the cap because:
    • The employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity or organization (such as an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization); or
    • The beneficiary is cap-exempt based on a Conrad/IGA waiver under INA section 214(l).

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The House of Representatives has introduced a new bill called the HEROES Act, (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act), that provides short term financial relief during this health crisis. In this post, we discuss who would be covered under the HEROES Act and what type of relief would be provided by the Act.

To become law, the HEROES Act will need to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President. The President has openly voiced his opposition for the bill because the bill authorizes federal funds for undocumented immigrants. The bill will likely receive push back in the Republican controlled Senate or at the very least be subject to significant changes. Nonetheless if the bill fails, it will at least provide a foundation upon which Congress can reach a compromise.


What is it?


The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion bill that would provide stimulus checks to individuals who did not previously qualify for stimulus checks under the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), such as undocumented immigrants.


Relief for Undocumented Individuals


The HEROES Act would provide temporary relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants working in essential fields such as health care workers and allow them to apply for employment authorization throughout the period of the pandemic. In addition, unlike the CARES Act, undocumented immigrants and their families would be eligible to receive stimulus checks. The HEROES Act would allow direct payments to be issued in the amount of – $1,200 for an individual, $2,400 for joint filers, and $1,200 for up to three dependents. The HEROES Act would also authorize undocumented immigrants to be eligible for the first round of stimulus checks sent out in April. The Act also proposes additional health care benefits for immigrants who are eligible for Medicaid and would require immigration authorities to release people from immigration detention where possible.


Low-Risk Detainees


The HEROES Act would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to evaluate the files of detained immigrants and release those who are not subject to mandatory detention, and those who do not pose a risk to national security. In the alternative the HEROES Act would encourage ICE to pursue low-cost alternatives to detention for low-risk immigrants such as requiring detainees to wear ankle bracelet monitors.

The bill would also require detention facilities to provide detainees with free and unlimited soap, as well as phone and video call accessibility to communicate with family and legal representatives.


Expedited Processing for Foreign Medical Workers


The HEROES Act would require expedited visa and green card processing for foreign medical workers seeking to practice medicine, conduct medical research, or pursue education or training to combat COVID-19. Consulates and Embassies worldwide would also be required to prioritize visa interviews for these workers, granting emergency appointments in person or teleconference appointments. Foreign doctors who have completed residency programs in the United States would be eligible to receive permanent residence on an expedited basis. Medical professionals in H-1B status would be eligible to transfer between hospital systems without having to apply for a new visa. In addition, medical students would be eligible to transfer rotations within their host institution and would be compensated for their work throughout the pandemic. In addition, such students could work outside of their approved program so long as their work relates to fighting COVID-19.

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