Articles Posted in Policies

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Have you ever wondered: is there an exception to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement mandated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for those undergoing the green card process?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to obtain successful waivers of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement, information about what exceptions exist to the vaccine requirement, the criteria that must be proven to obtain a vaccine waiver, and the resulting victories we gained on behalf of our clients.

We also describe how we were able to accomplish vaccine waiver approvals, by presenting an abundance of documentary evidence to help these individuals prove their case.


An Overview: What is the COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement


In response to the rapid rise in Coronavirus cases, the U.S. government announced that starting October 1, 2021, those applying for permanent residency (a green card) within the United States, or an immigrant visa abroad, would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (one or two doses depending on the vaccine taken).


The Medical Examination Form I-693

As part of the green card process, applicants are required to complete a medical examination conducted by a civil surgeon on Form I-693, to establish that they are not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds. The government made it a matter of policy as of October 1, 2021, to require all those subject to the medical examination requirement to complete the COVID-19 vaccination to prove their admissibility (and therefore) receive approval of their green cards.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced that this policy would apply “prospectively to all Forms I-693 [medical examinations] signed by the civil surgeons” on or after October 1, 2021. The agency also took steps to revise Form I-693 and its instructions to include the new vaccination requirement.

Its policy guidance followed the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) August 17, 2021, update to the Technical Instructions for Civil Surgeons. The CDC update requires applicants subject to the immigration medical examination to “complete the COVID-19 vaccine series [in addition to the other routinely required vaccines] and provide documentation of vaccination to the civil surgeon or panel physician in person before completion of the medical examination.”


Does the COVID-19 vaccination requirement also apply to those seeking immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad?


Yes. The government made clear that the COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to those seeking to adjust their immigration status within the United States, as well as applicants applying for immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. That is because complete vaccination is necessary for a medical examination conducted by a civil surgeon or physician abroad, as part of the green card admissibility process.

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Welcome to the start of a brand-new week. In this blog, we cover new reports from the U.S./Mexico border addressing the growing number of asylum seekers entering the United States from Tijuana into San Diego, through a process known as “humanitarian parole.”

According to a recent report published by the National Institute for Migration in Baja California, in April of 2022, just under 400 migrants were granted permission to cross through Ped West, one of two pedestrian crossings at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

When compared to crossings in August, that number has skyrocketed to 4,075 migrants entering using their humanitarian parole document.


What is humanitarian parole?

  • Humanitarian parole is a process by which a foreign national (who may be inadmissible or otherwise ineligible for admission into the United States) may enter for a temporary period of time for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit by filing Form I-131 Application for Travel Document and Form I-134 Affidavit of Support including their supporting documentation.

In addition to those entering with humanitarian parole, the Institute reports that more than 2,500 Haitian refugees have been granted permission to cross into the United States, as well as 440 migrants from Honduras fleeing organized crime.

At the same time, the Institute reports that many migrants in Tijuana are being falsely misled to believe that migrant shelters can help them bypass detention upon requesting asylum at the U.S. border.

Sadly, the Biden administration has not done little to address the growing number of asylum seekers. In fact, the Biden administration has been silently asking the Mexican government to allow for the expulsion of thousands of asylum-seeking migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela through a little-known policy known as “Title 42.” This expulsion policy began under the Trump administration in March 2020 and has continued under President Biden. Since that time, the Mexican government agreed to accept expulsions of its citizens, along with those of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras totaling more than 2 million migrants.

According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) the expulsion of migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras is near the highest-level seen in over 15 years, but has declined from 2021 (154,000 in July 2021, 104,000 in July 2022). It is estimated that the U.S. government has used Title 42 to expel 78 percent of these migrants.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful weekend.

In this blog post, we share with you some exciting news for Venezuelan nationals receiving benefits under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.

The Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan nationals currently receiving protections under the program until March 10, 2024. In addition, the re-designation means that certain eligible Venezuelan nationals will be able to apply for TPS protections for the first time.

The main benefit of applying for this program is that those who are approved for Temporary Protected Status can remain in the country on a lawful basis, will receive protection against deportation (deferred status), and are eligible to apply for employment authorization and travel permission by filing, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


How did this all happen?


Extension of Designation of Venezuela for TPS

On July 11, 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced an 18-month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country of Venezuela. This extension and re-designation will be in effect from September 10, 2022, through March 10, 2024 (an 18-month period).

Secretary Mayorkas made this decision after consulting with government officials and taking into consideration the ongoing conflict in Venezuela, lack of access to food, water, healthcare, and other conditions.

Mayorkas found that these circumstances ultimately prevented Venezuelan nationals from safely returning to their home country stating, “After careful consideration, and in consultation with the Secretary of State, today I am extending that designation. This action is one of many ways the Biden administration is providing humanitarian support to Venezuelans at home and abroad, together with our regional partners. We will continue to work with our international partners to address the challenges of regional migration while ensuring our borders remain secure.”

Currently, there are an estimated 343,000 individuals potentially eligible for TPS under the existing designation of Venezuela. The program’s extension will mean that these beneficiaries can re-register for benefits and retain TPS status through March 10, 2024, so long as they can demonstrate that they continue to meet the TPS eligibility requirements.

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This week in immigration news, we share new developments for Afghan nationals. The Biden administration recently announced its plan to launch a new portal that would facilitate the reunification of Afghans immigrants with their family members.


What is it all about?


The U.S. Department of State run portal would provide a place for Afghans in the United States to search for family members who were separated from them following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.

Previously, Afghans needed the help of nonprofit groups such as the United National Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and U.S. Department of State liaisons to help them locate family members left behind. Individuals were required to complete lengthy questionnaires, provide information, and submit documentation that would be independently verified by state department liaisons.

Now, the state-run portal will provide a central location where users can upload information to help locate their family members. Users will be able to enter their own status on the website, and complete forms to enable their relative to gain entry to the United States.

Additionally, the Biden administration is said to be considering waiving the $535 government filing fee associated the filing of Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, which allows a U.S. citizen to petition the entry of their relative to the United States.

According to a Department of State spokesperson, through the resettlement effort known as Operation Allies Welcome, immediate family members of Afghans who relocated to the United States are strongly being considered for parole. Immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens, lawful permanent residents, formerly locally employed staff members of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and certain Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants are also being prioritized to receive parole.

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In this blog post, we share with you new developments related to immigration law.


Uniting for Ukraine: USCIS Extends Completion of Medical Screening & Attestation Within 90 Days of Arrival to the United States 


Effective immediately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will extend the amount of time that beneficiaries paroled into the United States under the “Uniting for Ukraine” program must comply with the medical screening and attestation requirements for required vaccinations such as tuberculosis and COVID-19. Previously, parolees were required to complete the medical screening and attestation requirements within 14 days of their arrival to the United States.

Now, Uniting for Ukraine parolees will be given 90 days from the date of their arrival to the United States to fulfill the attestation requirement, which is one of the conditions of being granted parole. The attestation can be completed in the beneficiary’s USCIS online account. USCIS notes that beneficiaries are responsible for arranging to have their vaccinations and medical screening for tuberculosis, including an Interferon-Gamma Release Assay (IGRA) blood test.

Those who test positive for tuberculosis, may be subject to additional procedures such as undergoing additional screening (a chest radiograph, isolation, and treatment if applicable).

Beneficiaries will also be required to complete the tuberculosis screening attestation for their minor children within 90 days of arrival to the United States, even if the child is under the age of 2 years old and qualifies for an exception to the tuberculosis test screening.

For more information and resources, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Uniting for Ukraine: Information for TB Programs page.

For more information about the Uniting for Ukraine program please click here.

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In this blog post, we close out the week with some important information for Afghani nationals seeking to apply for Temporary Protected Status under the TPS designation for Afghanistan. On Thursday, June 16, 2022, from 2 to 3 pm (ET) USCIS will be hosting a public engagement session discussing the TPS requirements for Afghanistan and answering your questions.


What will be discussed?


On March 16, 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced the designation of TPS for Afghanistan for 18 months. This designation of TPS for Afghanistan allows nationals of Afghanistan and individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Afghanistan, who have continuously resided in the U.S. since March 15, 2022, to file initial applications for TPS.

The USCIS public engagement session will provide a general overview of the designation of TPS for Afghanistan and following the information session a question-and-answer session will take place.

While USCIS cannot answer case-specific questions, general questions about eligibility can be asked during the information session.


When will the session take place?


Thursday June 16, 2022, from 2-3 pm ET.


How can you register?


To register visit the registration page here.

  • You will be asked to sign up for updates or to access subscriber preferences, please enter your email address and select “Submit”
  • Select “Subscriber Preferences”
  • Select the “Questions” tab
  • Complete the questions and select “Submit.”

Once your registration is processed, you will receive a confirmation email with the details.

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Did you file an EB-2 National Interest Waiver petition on or before June 1, 2021, and still haven’t received a decision? What about an EB-1 petition as a multinational executive or manager filed on or before January 1, 2021? If so, be prepared for some exciting news!

USCIS recently announced the news we have all been waiting for. The agency will soon allow such applicants to upgrade their petition to Premium Processing Service by filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, and paying the required filing fee.


What is this next update all about?


On May 24, 2022, USCIS released a news alert notifying the public that it will expand premium processing service for certain petitioners who have filed a pending Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker under the EB-1 multinational executive/managers and EB-2 NIW immigrant classifications.


Who does this update apply to?


To qualify for premium processing service, you must have applied for your I-140 either under the E13 multinational executive, E13 manager classification, or E21 classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver (NIW).

Those who fall under the above categories will be eligible to upgrade their petitions by requesting premium processing service and filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service provided they filed their petitions with USCIS within a certain time period as discussed below.


When can I apply?


  • USCIS will accept premium processing service requests for E13 multinational executive and manager petitions starting June 1, 2022, but only for those E13 executive and manager petitions that were received by USCIS on or before January 1, 2021.
  • Additionally, USCIS will accept premium processing service requests for E21 National interest Waiver petitions, starting July 1, 2022, but only for those E21 NIW petitions that were received by USCIS on or before March 1, 2021.
  • Starting July 1, 2021, USCIS will also accept premium processing service requests, but only for those E13 multinational executive and manager petitions that were received by USCIS on or before March 1, 2021. 

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USCIS is about to make it a lot easier for certain noncitizens to remain employment authorized. On May 3, 2022, the agency announced a new Temporary Final Rule (TPR) that automatically extends the period of employment authorization on Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) from 180 days up to 540 total days.

The automatic extension time is counted from the expiration date of the employment authorization and/or EAD. This new regulation became effective as of yesterday, May 4, 2022, and will be in effect until October 15, 2025. Once the regulation reaches its time limit, the automatic extension will revert to 180 days.

USCIS decided to issue this new policy to prevent employment interruptions for noncitizens that have pending EAD renewal applications with the agency (Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization).


Who qualifies for the automatic extension?


The additional extension of up to 540 total days will be available only to renewal applicants who timely file a Form I-765 renewal application with USCIS from the period of May 4, 2022, to October 26, 2023, and who were previously eligible to receive the 180-day automatic extension.

For those who file their Form I-765 renewal application after October 26, 2023, the normal 180-day automatic extension period will apply.


You are eligible for the automatic extension if you:

  • Properly filed Form I-765 for a renewal of their employment authorization and/or EAD before their current EAD expired, and
  • Were otherwise eligible for a renewal, meaning that:
    • Their renewal application is under a category that is eligible for an automatic extension (see the list of categories below); and
    • The Category on their current EAD matches the “Class Requested” listed on their Form I-797C Notice of Action, Receipt Notice. (Note: If you are a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiary or pending applicant, your EAD and this Notice must contain either the A12 or C19 category, but the categories do not need to match each other. In addition, for H-4, E, and L-2 dependent spouses, an unexpired Form I-94 indicating H-4, E, or L-2 nonimmigrant status (including E-1S, E-2S, E-3S, and L-2S class of admission codes) must accompany Form I-797C when presenting proof of employment authorization to an employer for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, purposes).

Which categories are eligible?


You must be in one of the following employment eligible categories to be eligible to receive an automatic extension of up to 540 days and your renewal application must be timely filed by October 26, 2023:

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some interesting revelations. On April 28, 2022, President Biden issued a letter proposing a new immigration measure that, if passed, could offer highly educated Russian nationals a pathway to permanent residency.

What is it all about?


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has left scientists and engineers seeking stable ground, with many young STEM talent looking to its European neighbors for employment opportunities.

In a letter to the House of Representatives, the Biden administration called for a measure to be approved as part of requested legislation for emergency supplemental funding to Ukraine.

Biden’s proposals seek amendment of Section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(2)) effectively welcoming Russian STEM talent to the United States.


What does the measure propose?


By amending Section 203(b)(2), the U.S. government would essentially eliminate the need for Russian nationals, with a master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field, to obtain an employment sponsor (job offer from a U.S. employer) and eliminate placement in the green card backlogs.

Under Biden’s proposal, adjudication of visas for such individuals would occur within just 90 days if possible, taking into account the need for security assessments. The proposed measure would end after four years (unless extended by Congress).

The measure has been proposed to ensure retention of talented Russian scientists and engineers. Interestingly, the letter highlights that the prospects of obtaining H-1B visa status for this group are lowered considering the numerical limits, and record H-1B registrations that far outweigh the number of available visas. In fiscal year 2023, USCIS announced that it received 483,927 H-1B registrations, a 57% increase over the last year. Only 127,600 registrations were selected to meet the H-1B quota (or 26% of total registrations).


Legislative Text


The legislative text of the provision reads as follows:

“IN GENERAL.— Section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(2)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

“(D) Notwithstanding subparagraph (B), the requirements of subparagraph (A) that an alien’s services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business be sought by an employer in the United States shall not apply to aliens (and the parents, spouses, and children of such aliens if accompanying or following to join) who—

“(i) are citizens of Russia;

(ii) have earned a masters or doctoral degree in the United States or an equivalent foreign degree in a field involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, including but not limited to degrees relevant to the following fields: Advanced Computing, Advanced Engineering Materials, Advanced Gas Turbine Engine Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced and Networked Sensing and Signature Management, Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies, Advanced Particle Detector Instrumentation Technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems and Robotics, Biotechnologies, Communication and Networking Technologies, Cybersecurity, Directed Energy, Financial Technologies, Human-Machine Interfaces, Hypersonics, Advanced Missile Propulsion Technologies, Networked Sensors and Sensing, Quantum Information Technologies, Renewable Energy Generation and Storage, Semiconductors and Microelectronics, Space Technologies and Systems; and “(iii) are seeking admission to engage in work in the United States in an endeavor related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.”

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In this blog post, we breakdown the Biden administration’s new Humanitarian Parole program, known as “Uniting for Ukraine,” a new initiative that will allow up to 100,000 Ukrainian nationals displaced by the Russian invasion to live and work in the United States for a period of up to 2 years.


Who is eligible for Uniting for Ukraine?


Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States may remain temporarily for a two-year period of parole.

You are not eligible for humanitarian parole under the Uniting for Ukraine program if you are currently physically present in the United States, however you may be eligible to receive Temporary Protected Status instead.

Additionally, children traveling without their parent or legal guardian are not eligible for humanitarian parole under Uniting for Ukraine.

Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a “supporter,” in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay in the United States. U.S. Supporters are required to file a Form I-134 Declaration of Financial Support with USCIS online, which states that they agree to financial support the Ukrainian national in the United States, also known as the “beneficiary.” There is no fee to file Form I-134 online.


Beneficiaries are eligible for humanitarian parole if they:


  • Resided in Ukraine immediately prior to the Russian invasion (through Feb. 11, 2022) and were displaced as a result of the invasion;
  • Are a Ukrainian citizen and possess a valid Ukrainian passport (or are a child included on a parent’s passport);
    • If not a Ukrainian citizen, are an immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen beneficiary of Uniting for Ukraine with a valid passport;
  • Have a supporter who filed a Form I-134 on their behalf that has been vetted and confirmed as sufficient by USCIS; and
  • Clear biographic and biometric security checks;
  • Note: To be eligible for this process, children under the age of 18 must be traveling to the United States in the care and custody of their parent or legal guardian.

The supporter must complete and file Form I-134 online with USCIS and be vetted by the U.S. government to protect against exploitation and abuse, and ensure that they are able to financially support the Ukrainians they are agreeing to support.


Who is eligible to be a supporter under Uniting for Ukraine?


Individuals who file Form I-134 on behalf of a beneficiary under Uniting for Ukraine must be:

  • in lawful status in the United States or
  • a parolee or
  • beneficiary of deferred action or
  • Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)

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