Articles Posted in Policy

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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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DACA Renewal E-Filing is here!

Exciting news is on the horizon for those filing a renewal of their deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)!

This week, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that applicants will now be able to file their applications online on Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Additionally, renewal applicants may also file applications to renew their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) online by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and the Form I-765 Worksheet.

This move will now make it easier for applicants to obtain a renewal of their status faster and more efficiently.

While the agency hopes to expand the possibility of electronic filing to a broader pool of applicants in the future, the e-file option is currently only available for individuals who have been previously granted DACA.

The e-filing option is expected to help reduce the substantial backlogs at the USCIS level. Currently, USCIS receives nearly half a million Form I-821D DACA requests every fiscal year, and processes more than 8.8 million requests for immigration benefits. As time has gone on, the agency has allowed online filings to streamline the application process.

How can you file online?


DACA renewal applicants who wish to file Form I-821D and Form I-765 online, must first create a USCIS online account, to submit their forms, pay fees and track the status of any pending USCIS immigration request throughout the adjudication process. There is no cost to set up an account, and one of the added benefits is that applicants have the ability to communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox and respond online to Requests for Evidence received.

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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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USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS recently announced that it will continue its flexibility policy giving applicants and petitioners more time to respond to Requests for Evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who have received a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or such a related document, will be given 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 July 25, 2022. This is great news because it will allow applicants and petitioners more time to gather documents that are hard to obtain during the COVID-10 pandemic.


What documents qualify for this flexibility in responding?


Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and July 25, 2022, can take advantage of the additional 60 days to respond to the request or notice:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind;
  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

In addition, USCIS will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion or Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, if:

  • The form was filed up to 60 calendar days from the issuance of a decision made by USCIS: and
  • USCIS made that decision anytime from November 1, 2021, through July 25, 2022 inclusive.

For more information about this guidance please click here.

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In this blog post, we share exciting news in the world of immigration law. On March 29, 2022, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a much-anticipated announcement explaining the actions it will take to reduce the substantial backlog, and new policy changes that will be implemented to cut down processing times significantly.

The agency has outlined 3 main initiatives that will drastically improve processing times at the USCIS level across the board.

  1. USCIS has announced that it will be setting agency-wide backlog reduction goals
  2. Expansion of Premium Processing Service to other types of immigration petitions and
  3. Improving timely access to Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)

Backlog Reduction Initiatives


USCIS will be establishing a new system of “internal cycle time goals,” which are internal metrics that the agency will now be using to help guide the reduction of the current backlog and will determine how long it will take USCIS to process immigration benefits going forward.

The agency will be making certain efforts such as increasing its capacity, implementing technological improvements, and expanding staffing to improve these “cycle times,” so that processing times will be much quicker. USCIS expects these goals to be accomplished by the end of fiscal year 2023.


Cycle times explained


USCIS has stated that publicly, it releases processing times showing the average amount of time it takes the agency to process a particular form – from when the agency received the application until a decision was made on the case.

However, USCIS has said that it also utilizes internal mechanisms to monitor the number of pending cases in the agency’s workload through a metric called “cycle times.” A cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision.

According to USCIS, cycle times are generally comparable to the agency’s publicly posted median processing times. Cycle times are what the operational divisions of USCIS use to gauge how much progress the agency is, or is not, making on reducing the backlog and overall case processing times.

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The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia has prompted the U.S. Department of State to issue new guidance regarding the possibility of filing a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas for Afghan, Ethiopian, and Ukrainian immediate relatives fleeing conflict zones.

DOS has clarified that U.S. Citizens who are physically present with their Afghan, Ethiopian, or Ukrainian, immediate family members overseas, who have not yet filed the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), may do so by filing the application locally at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that processes immigrant visas.

Only U.S. Citizens impacted by the large-scale disruptive events in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Ukraine, are allowed to locally file Form I-130 at U.S. Embassies or Consulates overseas. It is required that the U.S. Citizen be physically present in the country where they wish to file their petition.


Who can you petition for with Local Filing?


DOS has stated that U.S. Citizens may locally file Form I-130 on behalf of their spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents, provided their relative fled:

  • Afghanistan after August 2, 2021
  • Ethiopia after November 1, 2020 or
  • Ukraine after February 1, 2022

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We are happy to start this week with interesting new developments in the world of immigration law.

As some of our readers may be aware, all green card applicants filing Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, are given the opportunity to file the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, along with their green card application (or separately at a later time), in order to receive what has been commonly referred to as an employment authorization document (EAD) and advance parole (AP) “combo” card.

With this “combo” card, green card applicants have engaged in lawful employment inside of the United States, and cards with the notation ‘Serves as I-512 Advance Parole’ have been used to re-enter the U.S. after temporary foreign travel.

That is all about to change. USCIS has announced that in an effort to drastically reduce the processing times associated with EAD and AP documents, the agency will now be discontinuing its policy of issuing the “combo” card.

Going forward, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be separating the issuance of the employment authorization document (EAD card) and advance parole (AP) document. This means that green card applicants that file the Forms I-765 and I-131 together with their green card (or at a later time) can expect to receive two separate documents in the mail, instead of one single combo card.

EADs that do not have the notation ‘Serves as I-512 Advance Parole,’ can only be used for employment purposes. Green card applicants wishing to return to the U.S. after temporary foreign travel must have a valid Advance Parole document. Applicants should not engage in international travel without such document.


Substantial Backlogs


USCIS has made this change to help alleviate the substantial processing times of EAD and AP documents during the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, these delays have caused employment interruptions for thousands of applicants who have had to wait many months for these applications to be approved.

Presently, the Nebraska Service Center is currently reporting processing times of between 11.5 to 13.5 months for an EAD to be issued based on a pending adjustment of status application. While the California Service Center is currently reporting a wait period of between 20 months to 21.5 months.

This lengthy waiting period has prompted USCIS to take action to separate issuance of the EAD and AP, in what will hopefully result in faster processing times.

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Today, Americans woke up to the tragic news of Russia’s targeted attack on Ukraine, adding to increased anxieties surrounding the already uncertain global climate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To provide some relief in these unprecedented circumstances, the U.S. government and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have amended their regulations to determine that it is in the national interest to permit the entry of Ukrainian noncitizen nonimmigrants who (1) are traveling with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; (2) were physically present in Ukraine as of February 10, 2022; and (3) possess valid travel documents allowing them to travel to the United States.

For their part, the CDC has announced that, based on a request from the U.S. Department of State and consistent with the determination made by the Secretary of Homeland Security, it will exercise its enforcement discretion regarding certain aspects of its “Amended Order: Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test Result or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Airline Passengers Arriving into the United States,” and its Amended Order Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic pdf icon[PDF – 52 pages],” effective immediately.


What does this mean?


The CDC will exercise enforcement discretion effectively immediately for the following groups of individuals, to the extent they were physically present in Ukraine as of February 10, 2022:

U.S. citizens; lawful permanent residents; noncitizens in possession of a valid U.S. immigrant visa; as well as noncitizen nonimmigrants who are traveling with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and possess valid travel documents allowing them to travel to the United States, known as “covered persons.”

Pursuant to this exercise of enforcement discretion, covered persons will not be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding a flight to the United States or to complete the attestation at Section 1 of the Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation to the United States of America pdf icon[PDF – 7 pages] form.

CDC is requesting that all air carriers cooperate in this exercise of enforcement discretion. Noncitizen nonimmigrants must continue to complete Section 2 of the Combined Passenger Disclosure and Attestation to the United States of America pdf icon[PDF – 7 pages] form attesting to either being fully vaccinated and providing proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or, if traveling pursuant to an exception, including a national interest exception, that they have made arrangements to receive a COVID-19 test within three to five days of arrival in the United States, to self-quarantine for seven days, to self-isolate in the event of a positive COVID-19 test or the development of COVID-19 symptoms, and to become fully vaccinated for COVID-19 within 60 days of arrival in the United States if intending to stay in the United States for more than 60 days.

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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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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog!

In this blog post we share some great news for Russian nationals seeking F, M, and J nonimmigrant visa interviews. On January 21, 2022, the Department of State announced that the agency has now designated several posts overseas to process these nonimmigrant visa applications for persons who are residents of Russia. This change was made to provide relief to such applicants that have not been able to obtain visa interviews due to the severely limited operations currently available at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Under this designation, Russia-based student visa applicants (F and M categories) as well as academic exchange visitors (student, professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, and specialist J visa categories) and participants in U.S. government-funded exchange visitor programs may now apply for their visas and be interviewed at the following posts:


Where do I find more information about the application process?


The Department of State has said that applicants should review the Embassy’s webpage for the latest information on services and appointment availability at that specific post.


What if I am physically present in another country? Can I apply for my F, M, J visa at the Embassy where I reside?


The Department of State has made clear that this designation does not prevent Russia-based F, M, and J applicants from applying at another post where they are physically present.  It also  does not exempt travelers from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) requirement that all air travelers to the United States be vaccinated against COVID-19 with a WHO emergency use listed vaccine.

Information about accepted COVID-19 vaccines and the CDC’s requirements, is available here.

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