Articles Posted in Policy Manual

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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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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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couple-g86465ecab_1920USCIS Updates Policy Guidance Highlighting Discretionary Power to Waive In-Person Interviews for I-751 Applicants


On April 7, 2022, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its Policy Manual on the interview waiver criteria for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove the conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions.

Under the law, those who attained their permanent resident status (green card) based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card, also known as “conditional permanent residency.”

This conditional green card is issued for a 2-year period. Prior to the expiration of the 2-year green card, the applicant must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions on permanent residence within the 90-day window before it expires.

The Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that a conditional permanent resident must appear for an in-person interview as part of the I-751 Removal of Conditions adjudication process, so that the immigration officer can verify the accuracy of the information included in the petition and determine whether the conditions on permanent residence should be removed.

The Act also carves out discretionary powers that allow USCIS officers to authorize waiver of the in-person interview.

The April 2022 updated Policy Guidance clarifies that USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require an interview.

The Guidance also eliminates automatic referrals in cases where a conditional permanent resident obtained status by way of Consular processing.

The language of the pertinent section indicates the following:

Volume 6: Immigrants, Part I, Family-Based Conditional Permanent Residents, Chapter 3, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence [6 USCIS-PM I.3]


CPRs who file a Form I-751 must appear for an interview at a USCIS field office, unless USCIS waives the interview requirement. USCIS officers may consider waiving the interview in cases where:

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In this blog post, we share great news for E and L dependent spouses!

As we previously reported on our blog, pursuant to a new USCIS policy, E and L nonimmigrant dependent spouses are now considered employment authorized “incident to their status.”

This means that upon admission and issuance of a valid I-94 arrival/departure document showing E or L-2 spousal status, E and L nonimmigrant spouses will automatically be authorized to work without the need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Previously, E or L dependent spouses were required to apply for an EAD by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS.


How does this system work?


Effective January 31, 2022, CBP Office of Field Operations (OFO), in coordination with both USCIS and Department of State, began issuing new classes of admission on the I-94 arrival/departure record for E and L dependent spouses entering the U.S. at a Port of Entry. The new I-94 admission records indicate an “S” designation after the E or L class of admission to indicate that the spouse is authorized to work in the United States. The “S” designation is meant to indicate that the E or L nonimmigrant is a dependent “spouse” of a principal E or L visa holder. Please note that the new designation will not explicitly state that the spouse is “work authorized,” however the “S” designation signals to U.S. employers that the spouse is authorized to work for I-9 employment verification purposes.

Spouses who applied for an extension of their E or L visa status with USCIS, will receive I-94s that carry the new “S” designation at the bottom of their approval notices.


How can I prove that I am authorized to work as an E or L dependent spouse?


If you are an L or E dependent spouse who wishes to work in the United States without having to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you must present an I-94 admission document with the “S” spousal annotation.

CBP has confirmed that the agency has been issuing new I-94’s with the “S” spousal annotation to E and L spouses who gained admission to the United States on or after January 31, 2022.


How does the annotation look?


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E/L Spousal Annotation

The I-94 will be annotated with an “S” next to the E or L-2 status designation, signaling to prospective employers that the individual is authorized to work during the validity period of the I-94. Spouses admitted in E or L-2 status should review their I-94 document immediately upon admission to ensure that it contains the appropriate annotation.


What if I gained admission to the United States prior to January 31, 2022 and I do not have the spousal designation on my I-94?


If you are an E or L dependent spouse who gained admission to the U.S. prior to January 31, 2022, and you do not have the “S” spousal annotation on your I-94, you must contact your closest CBP Deferred Inspection Office to determine whether they may, in their discretion, amend your I-94 arrival/departure record to include the “S” spousal annotation without requiring international travel. CBP may or may not agree to amend your I-94.

In cases where CBP will not amend your I-94 to include the spousal annotation, you may consider discussing with your immigration attorney whether you should depart the United States and re-enter at a U.S. port of entry to secure the new spousal annotated I-94. You must exercise caution before making any international travel plans. An immigration attorney will need to evaluate whether you have the proper documentation to gain re-admission after temporary foreign travel and determine whether your planned travel would result in the issuance of a new annotated I-94. Certain brief international trips may not result in a new I-94 issued by CBP.

Please note that if you are an E or L spouse admitted prior to January 31, 2022, and you have filed an application to extend your L or E status while in the U.S., USCIS is expected to issue the “S” spousal annotation on I-94’s printed at the bottom of USCIS-issued approval notices.

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Exciting news for adjustment of status applicants filing their green card applications! On August 12, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency will be temporarily extending the validity period of medical examination (known as Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record), from two years to now four years due to COVID-19 related delays in processing applications. For those who are unaware, a sealed medical examination signed by a USCIS authorized civil surgeon on Form I-693 is a required component to receive lawful permanent resident status.


Who Will Benefit from this New Policy?


Effective immediately, USCIS will extend your Form I-693 medical examination if all of the following is true:

  • The civil surgeon’s signature on the medical examination (Form I-693) is dated no more than 60 days before the applicant filed Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;
  • No more than four years have passed since the date of the civil surgeon’s signature on Form I-693; and
  • A decision on the applicant’s Form I-485 is issued on or before Sept. 30, 2021.

Why is the validity of the medical exam being extended?


According to USCIS, this change is being made temporarily due to COVID-19 related processing delay that have affected the ability of many applicants to complete the required immigration medical examination. Previously, USCIS considered a completed Form I-693 to retain its validity for two years after the date the civil surgeon signed, as long as the date of the civil surgeon’s signature was no more than 60 days before the applicant filed for adjustment of status. Now the validity of the medical examination Form I-693 is being extended to four years (see the criteria above).

USCIS also revealed that it will be approving a record number of employment-based adjustment of status applications, with more approvals than it has issued since FY 2005.  The agency has prioritized the processing and adjudication of employment-based adjustment of status applications during this fiscal year. The agency vows to continue to make processing and resource allocation decisions to increase the pace of adjudications and limit the potential for employment-based visa numbers to go unused.

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Welcome back to the start of a brand-new week! We are excited to announce brand new developments in the world of immigration specifically for U visa victims of crimes.

On June 14, 2021, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy alert, informing U visa applicants that the agency will now be exercising its discretion to issue four year Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) (also known as work permits),  as well as four-year “deferred action” status to certain U visa applicants, including those who have filed new U visa petitions, and those whose U visa petitions remain pending with USCIS, based on a new discretionary process called a “bona fide determination.”

This is a groundbreaking new development for U visa applicants because victims of crime will now be eligible to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), as well as “deferred action” status, while their U visa applications remain pending with USCIS. With this new policy change, U visa applicants will no longer need to wait 5+ years for their U visa approval, in order to become eligible for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and be protected from deportation.

Previously, only principal U visa applicants whose petitions were approved by USCIS, were authorized to work based on their approved status with immigration. Only those with an approved Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918) would automatically be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). All other applicants with pending petitions were forced to wait in the visa queue for a visa to become available due to the mandatory U visa cap. This process on average has taken up to 5 years.

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In this blog post we discuss the highlights of the newly updated Policy Manual guidance released by USCIS which addresses the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule. The Final Rule and guidance is effective as of February 24, 2020 and applies to all applications and petitions postmarked on or after February 24, 2020 (except for in the State of Illinois where the Final Rule remains enjoined by court order).

These highlights are broken down by volume. Volume 2 addresses public charge grounds of inadmissibility for non-immigrants, Volume 8 discusses the public charge ground of inadmissibility in great detail, and Volume 12 discusses how the public charge rule may apply to citizenship and naturalization applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

Highlights:

Non-Immigrants Seeking Extension of Stay or Change of Status (Volume 2 Chapter 4)

This section of the policy guidance clarifies that although the public charge ground of inadmissibility does not apply to nonimmigrants seeking either an extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS) on Forms I-129 or Form I-539, these applicants are generally subject to the “public benefits condition,” unless specifically exempted by law.

What is the public benefits condition?

According to the policy manual, “the public benefits condition requires an applicant seeking EOS or COS on or after February 24, 2020 (postmarked or if applicable, submitted electronically on or after that date) to demonstrate that he or she has not received, since obtaining the nonimmigrant status he or she is seeking to extend or from which he or she seeks to change, one or more public benefits, or more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (where, for instance, receipt of two public benefits in 1 month counts as 2 months).

USCIS only considers public benefits received on or after February 24, 2020 for petitions or applications postmarked (or, if applicable, submitted electronically) on or after that date.”

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In this post, we would like to provide our readers with an important update released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with respect to the public charge rule.

Given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of the government, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that they will begin implementing the “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule on February 24, 2020, EXCEPT for in the State of Illinois, where the rule remains enjoined for the time being by a federal court.

That means that EXCEPT for in the State of Illinois, USCIS will begin to apply the Final Rule to applications and petitions postmarked (or submitted electronically) on or after February 24, 2020.

The postmark date for all applications and petitions sent by commercial courier (UPS/FedEx/DHL) is the date reflected on the courier receipt.

The public charge rule will NOT apply to applications or petitions postmarked before February 24, 2020 and petitions that remain pending with USCIS.

Prepare for Changes: USCIS to update all Adjustment of Status Forms

USCIS has announced that the agency will be updating all forms associated with the filing of adjustment of status, its policy manual, and will be providing updated submission instructions on its website this week to give applicants and their legal representatives enough time to review filing procedures and changes that will apply to all applications for adjustment of status postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

Failure to submit forms with the correct edition dates and/or abide by the new filing procedures will result in the rejection of an application or petition.

The Final Rule provides that adjustment of status applicants subject to the public charge grounds of inadmissibility will be required to file Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency along with Form I-485, as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination to demonstrate they are not likely to become a public charge. Therefore, we expect USCIS to provide instructions regarding the submission of Form I-944 with adjustment of status applications.

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Last week, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy manual to clarify acts that may prevent a naturalization applicant from meeting the good moral character requirement.

A successful naturalization applicant must show that they have been, and continue to be a person of good moral character during the statutory period prior to filing the application for naturalization and up until taking the Oath of Allegiance. The statutory period is generally give years for permanent residents of the United States, three years for applicants married to U.S. citizens, and one year for certain applicants applying on the basis of qualifying U.S. military service.

Two or more DUI Convictions

Firstly, the policy manual clarifies that two or more DUI convictions during the statutory period could affect an applicant’s good moral character determination (Matter of Castillo-Perez). However, applicants with two or more DUI convictions may be able to overcome this presumption by presenting evidence that they had good moral character even during the period within which they committed the DUI offenses.

DUI refers to all state and federal impaired-driving offenses, including driving while intoxicated, operating under the influence, and other offenses that make it unlawful for an individual to operate a motor vehicle while impaired.

Post-Sentencing Orders

Secondly, the policy manual clarifies the definition of “term of imprisonment or a sentence” to mean, an alien’s original criminal sentence, without regard to post-sentencing changes. Post-sentencing orders that change a criminal alien’s original sentence are only relevant for immigration purposes if they are based on a procedural or substantive defect in the underlying criminal proceeding.

Furthermore, the policy guidance provides the following as examples of unlawful acts recognized by case law as barring good mood character (this list is not exhaustive):

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The Trump administration’s controversial rule making certain foreign nationals inadmissible to receive permanent residence on public charge grounds, will become effective beginning October 15, 2019.

First, and foremost let’s recap what this rule is about and who it will apply to:

Under immigration law, an individual who, in the opinion of DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge is (1) ineligible for a visa (2) ineligible for admission to the United States and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status (permanent residence).

This means that the rule applies to foreign nationals applying for a U.S. visa, foreign nationals seeking admission through a port of entry, and individuals applying for adjustment of status.

When an individual applies for any immigration benefit with the government, (whether a U.S. visa or green card application), the official adjudicating the petition must determine whether that individual is or will likely become a public charge. This determination is referred to as a “public charge determination.”

What makes someone a public charge in the eyes of immigration?

A person is a “public charge” if they are primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense.

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