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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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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s August 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, also known as “Chats with Charlie,” broadcasted every month on the State Department’s YouTube channel.

This new series features a monthly Question-and-Answer session with Mr. Charles Oppnheim and a Consular officer, where they answer many of the public’s frequently asked questions and provide a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin. This discussion will provide details regarding what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of both family and employment-based preference categories on each month’s Visa Bulletin.

Questions for Charlie can be emailed in advance to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of each monthly session with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.

Be sure to subscribe to the State Department’s YouTube Channel and turn on your notifications so you do not miss any of these important updates.

Below are the highlights of the trends and visa projections for August 2021 and beyond.


DOS Q&A Session with Charlie Oppenheim: August 2021 Visa Bulletin Projections & Beyond


 

Charlie Oppenheim advises against sending “mass like” chain emails to the Charlie Chats email address

Before we get into the questions for this session, I wanted to add that I have seen a significant number of questions being received that maybe online chat groups have provided in a suggested “copy this text” approach that were sent to the Charlie Chat email address. I want to say that this is a very unproductive approach to asking questions, since we must open a significant number of messages with the same question, and that diminishes our ability to review the hundreds and hundreds of questions which are coming in each month. Therefore, it’s likely that we may miss important questions which listeners would like addressed. I am happy to see questions come in but this massive number of duplicates is unproductive to the listener group.


The Top 8 Advance Questions Sent in By Listeners


Q: I submitted all my documentation to NVC a long time ago and I confirmed on their website that everything is completed correctly. My priority date became eligible in March, but I have not yet been scheduled for my final visa interview. Why haven’t I been scheduled despite the eligibility and when can I expect to be scheduled?

A: This is a question we have been getting a lot. It’s important to say that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the NVC has continued to schedule appointments and is warehousing cases for Consular sections that have not been able to resume the routine Immigrant Visa processing. Depending on the country’s local restrictions and resources, the Consular sections abroad provide their projected capacity for scheduling to the NVC about 30-60 days in advance.

This allows NVC to begin scheduling those appointments and getting the information out to the applicants early. Other than age-out cases, inter-country adoption cases, and expedite requests, based on certain FAM regulations upon visa availability, the NVC schedules their Immigrant Visa appointments for visa categories in chronological order, based on the date in which the case was deemed “documentarily qualified,” meaning they have been asked to submit certain required documents, all those documents have been received, and have been verified. Then the NVC fills the available appointment slots in a first come, first out manner within each visa class, in accordance with each Consular section’s capacity.

I would advise listeners to refer to the guidance on the NVC Immigrant Visa backlog report website to view the worldwide data count of applicants which have been processed by NVC. Then that will determine how many have become documentarily complete. NVC and the overseas posts are trying to get to all the appointments and applicants as quickly as possible. It’s being done in chronological order and basically, they’re having to catch up on cases that could have been scheduled as far back as March 2020.

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Exciting news for Filipino nurses. The EB-3 employment-based category will become current in July 2019 through the summer.

This means that if you have an approved PERM application that was filed by your employer, your employer may file Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker on your behalf. Please note that registered nurses and physical therapists are not required to go through the PERM process and may proceed straight to the I-140.

Since there will be no waiting period in July 2019 through the summer, EB-3 Filipino nurses will be able to apply for the I-140 straight away, and for their adjustment of status. Applicants who are outside of the United States, may apply for their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate/Embassy in their country of residence.

Important Steps

If your employer has not filed a PERM application for you, they should do so as soon as possible. The PERM requirement does not apply to registered nurses or physical therapists.

After the PERM application is approved, your employer must file Form I-140 Petition for Alien Worker on your behalf. Registered nurses and physical therapists do not need to file a PERM application, and their employers may proceed with the immigrant visa petition (I-140).

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