Articles Posted in Policy

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are happy to bring you the latest immigration updates recently announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


USCIS Guidance Following DACA Permanent Injunction in State of Texas, et al., v. United States of America, et al., 1:18-CV-00068, (S.D. Texas July 16, 2021)


USCIS has announced on its official webpage that consistent with the permanent injunction granted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on July 16, 2021, declaring DACA policy illegal, USCIS is prohibited from granting initial requests for first time DACA applicants, and accompanying requests for employment authorization.

However, USCIS will continue to accept both initial and renewal DACA requests but will not be able to adjudicate requests for first time DACA applicant’s pursuant to the court order.

Renewal filings for those who have received DACA benefits in the past, will continue unaffected by the court order, and USCIS will continue to adjudicate renewal requests, and accompanying renewal requests for employment authorization as before.

What’s next? The Department of Justice will be appealing the District Court’s decision and the Biden administration is urging Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021.

Read Biden’s Statement responding to the Court’s injunction here.


Applicants Filing Change of Status Applications to F-1 No Longer Need to Submit Subsequent Applications to ‘Bridge the Gap’


We are happy to report that USCIS recently ended the “Bridge the Gap” policy. Previously, prospective students with a current nonimmigrant status in the United States, that was set to expire more than 30 days before their F-1 program start date, were required to “Bridge the Gap,” by filing Form I-539 with USCIS to request an extension of their current status, or a change to another status ensuring that they would not have a “gap” in status.

Effective July 20, 2021, USCIS announced that individuals who have applied for a change of status to F-1 student, will no longer need to “Bridge the Gap,” while their initial F-1 change of status application is pending with USCIS.

To prevent a “gap” in status, USCIS has said that it will now grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day the applicant’s Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status is approved. If USCIS approves an application more than 30 days before the student’s program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time (such as engaging in unauthorized employment, more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on the Form I-20.)

These changes have been introduced to decrease current backlogs and USCIS workloads. A revision of the Form I-539 instructions will soon be published to reflect these new policy changes.

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


Biden Administration Launches Nationwide Initiative to Promote Citizenship


On July 2, 2021, the Biden administration and the Department of Homeland Security announced a joint nationwide initiative to encourage long time permanent residents to take the plunge and become U.S. Citizens. The President’s campaign known as the Interagency Strategy for Promoting Naturalization, aims to promote naturalization to all who are eligible, consistent with President Biden’s February 2nd Executive Order 14012 “Restoring Faith in our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.”

Through joint efforts, USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Biden administration will work together to empower permanent residents to pursue their citizenship opportunities, by leading community outreach efforts to the more than 9 million estimated green card holders living in the United States.

The Naturalization Working Group (NWG) is the agency that will be primarily responsible for implementing this initiative. The NWG will be tasked with developing strategies to promote naturalization through citizenship education and awareness by establishing partnerships with the local community. The Group maintains the following goals and outcomes to bring the President’s agenda to fruition:

  • Raising awareness of the importance of citizenship
  • Promoting civic integration and inclusion
  • Providing immigrants with opportunities and tools to become fully engaged citizens
  • Building community capacity to prepare immigrants for citizenship
  • Eliminating sources of fear and other barriers that prevent individuals from accessing available naturalization service and
  • Advancing and ensuring equity through the citizenship and naturalization processes, including on the basis of race, disability, language access, national origin, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, providing support to traditionally underserved communities

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Welcome to the start of a new week! In this blog post we share with you some good news regarding the continuing flexibility policy being followed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for applicants who have received a Request for Evidence, or Notice of Intent to Deny between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021, as well as new guidance for FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitioners, whose petitions were rejected or administratively closed solely because the requested start date was after Oct. 1, 2020.

 


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


On June 24, 2021, USCIS announced that it will continue its flexibility policy and grant applicants who have received a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or such a related document, an additional 60 calendar days after the response deadline indicated on the notice or request, to submit a response to a request or notice, provided the request or notice was issued by USCIS between March 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021.

What documents qualify for this flexibility in responding?

Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 can take advantage of the additional 60 days to respond to the request or notice:

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Federal District Judge Rules to Reinstate $500,000 Minimum Investment For the EB-5 Visa Program

In this blog post, we share with you a new landmark court decision affecting the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, known as matter of Behring Regional Center LLC V. Chad Wolf et al.

In this case, decided on June 22, 2021, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California vacated the controversial 2019 ‘EB-5 Modernization Rule’ that sought to ‘modernize’ the EB-5 visa program, by increasing the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $900,000.  In her ruling, Judge Corley concluded that the 2019 Modernization Rule should be vacated because the former acting DHS Security, Kevin McAleenan was not properly appointed in his position under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when he implemented the Regulations.  Therefore, the officials had no legal authority to make and to announce the changes.

The judge’s new ruling means that the district court’s decision will restore the original rules for the EB-5 program, initially established by the Immigration Act of 1990 as a legal pathway to provide qualified foreign/immigrant investors the opportunity to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. (commonly known as the “green card”). The now-defunct EB-5 Modernization Regulations of 2019 had increased the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $900,000, but with this new ruling the minimum investment amount has again reverted to $500,000.

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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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On June 4th, 2021, the interim guidance memorandum (“The Memo”) was publicly released. The reason the memo sent many, like me, into a frenzy was because of the million people currently in immigration court limbo who have just had their lives transformed by these thirteen pages.

This memo is proof the Biden Administration has set a new tone towards immigration. The memo beautifully states, “the government wins when justice is done,” reminding OPLA attorneys they should remain mindful that “immigration enforcement obligations do not consist only initiating and conduction prompt proceedings that lead to removals at any cost.” The memo provides internal direction to OPLA attorney’s regarding the following: 1. Removal Priority Cases, 2. Prosecutorial Discretion, 3. Ability to cancel NTAs, 4. Authority to Administrative closure or Continuance of Proceedings, and 5. Authority to Terminate  Proceedings.

(It is important to note this memorandum was released For Official Use Only by the Department of Homeland Security. You should seek the advice and counsel of an attorney to review your case specifically.)

  1. REMOVAL PRIORITY CASES

It is directed that OPLA attorneys prioritize agency resources in the following priority categories:

A. Noncitizens who engaged in or suspect to engage in terrorism or whose apprehension is otherwise necessary to protect the national security of the United States.

B. Noncitizens who were apprehended at the border or port of entry, while attempting to enter unlawfully into the United States after November 1, 2020.

C. Noncitizens convicted of an “aggravated felony” or convicted of an offense related to a criminal street gang and determined to pose a threat to public safety.

The memo also provides a non-exclusive list of civil immigration enforcement and removal decisions where the agency should identify any opportunities of a non-citizens process to ensure just fair and legally appropriate outcomes.

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Welcome back to Visalawerblog! It is another exciting week in the world of immigration. In this blog post, we talk about a new Presidential Proclamation signed on May 14, 2021, by President Biden entitled, “A Proclamation on Revoking Proclamation 9945,” designed to revoke a previously issued Trump era proclamation.


Proclamation 9945


As our readers may recall, back on October 4, 2019, then President Donald Trump passed Proclamation 9945, with the goal of suspending the entry of immigrants found to be a financial burden on the United States health care system. Proclamation 9945 went into effect on November 3, 2019, and required immigrant visa applicants to show to the satisfaction of a Consular officer, that either:

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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 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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