Articles Posted in Policy

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Recently, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) requested an update from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the delayed adjudication of Form I-829 petitions filed by EB-5 investors seeking to remove their conditions on permanent residence.

AILA suggested two alternatives for providing evidence of continued lawful permanent residence which consisted of making simple adjustments to the language of Form I-829 receipt notices.

On January 19, 2024, USCIS responded to these concerns indicating their awareness of the issue and ongoing efforts to reduce the burden on investors.

USCIS pointed out that beginning on January 11, 2023, the agency extended the validity of Permanent Resident Cards (also known as Green Cards) for petitioners who properly filed Form I-829, for 48 months beyond the green card’s expiration date.

This extension was made in consideration of the long processing times USCIS has been experiencing to adjudicate Form I-829, which have increased over the past year.

They also note that USCIS field offices also recently began issuing and mailing the Form I-94 (arrival/departure record) with ADIT (temporary 1-551) stamps as temporary evidence of Legal Permanent Resident status without requiring an in-person appearance at field offices, for investors who have requested evidence of their LPR immigration status from USCIS.

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Exciting news! On January 24, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new update to its Policy Manual, which clarifies that officers have the discretionary power to excuse a nonimmigrant’s failure to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request, if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner.

In general, USCIS does not approve an extension of stay or change of status for a person who failed to maintain their status or where such status expired before the filing date of the application or petition. If certain conditions are met, however, USCIS, in its discretion, may excuse the failure to file before the period of authorized stay expired.

The new update appears in Chapter 4. Section A. Extension of Stay or Change of Status, which includes a new subsection entitled “Requirements to Timely File a Request to Extend Stay or Change Status.”

It clarifies that USCIS may excuse a failure to file before the period of authorized status expires, where the requestor demonstrates in their request that:

  • The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the person’s control;
  • The length of the delay was commensurate with the circumstances;
  • The person has not otherwise violated their nonimmigrant status;
  • The person remains a bona fide nonimmigrant; and
  • The person is not the subject of removal proceedings and, in the case of extensions of stay, is also not the subject of deportation proceedings.

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On January 5, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released updated policy guidance describing how the agency analyzes an employer’s ability to pay the offered wage to prospective employees with employment-based immigrant petitions requiring a job offer, filed with USCIS under the first, second, and third preference categories, also known as EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3.

Specifically, the policy guidance clarifies how an employer’s ability to pay will be demonstrated where a beneficiary of a pending Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, decides to change to a new employer under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC-21).

As a general matter, employers must be able to demonstrate their continuing ability to pay the offered wage to employees with petitions filed under the employment first, second, and third preference categories (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3) starting from the priority date of the underlying I-140 petition, until the beneficiary receives lawful permanent resident status (a green card).

Under the updated guidance, when an employee moves to a new employer under AC-21 while the underlying I-140 petition is still pending, USCIS will determine whether the petitioner meets its ability to pay requirement by only reviewing the facts in existence at the time of filing. This means that, USCIS will only consider initial evidence submitted with the petition (and any responses to Requests for Evidence) to determine if the petitioner has established its ability to pay from the priority date to the date of filing the I-140 petition.

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In the nick of time, on December 21, 2023, the Department of State announced that it will continue its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants. The agency’s interview waiver policy was previously set to expire on December 31, 2023. However, its implementation will continue starting on January 1, 2024, and remain in place until further notice.

Following consultations with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Secretary of State has determined that the following categories of interview waivers are in the national interest.  Based on this directive, Consular Officers now have the authority and discretion to waive the in-person interview for:

  • First time H-2 visa applicants (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers); and
  • Other nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for any nonimmigrant visa classification who:
      • Were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification, unless the only prior issued visa was a B visa; and
      • Are applying within 48 months of their most recent nonimmigrant visa’s expiration date.

The Department of State reminds applicants who are renewing a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration date, that they will continue to be eligible for an interview waiver until further notice.

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If you are a family-based conditional permanent resident who was issued a two-year green card based on your marriage to a U.S. Citizen, then you may be interested to know that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently updated its policy guidance for Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence.

The new policy guidance provides new updates for the following individuals:

  • Conditional permanent residents who filed an I-751 petition jointly with their spouse, but are no longer married since their filing (either because of divorce or abuse)
  • Cases where the I-751 petition is being terminated for failure to file the application on time with USCIS or lack of evidence.

Overview


By law, your permanent resident status is conditional if you were married to a U.S. Citizen for less than 2 years on the day you obtained permanent resident status.

This means that at the end of your I-485 adjustment of status (green card) application process, you will receive conditional permanent residence (a 2-year green card) if you were married for less than 2 years at the time of the adjudication of your I-485 adjustment of status application. On the other hand, those who have been married for more than 2 years receive a 10-year green card that is not subject to conditions.

To remove the conditions on permanent resident status, conditional permanent residents must file Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence within the 90-day period before the expiration of their green card status. The I-751 petition must be filed jointly with your U.S. citizen spouse, or you must qualify for a waiver of the joint filing requirement if you are no longer married.

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The long-awaited news is finally here. The Department of State has announced the designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) effective November 30, 2023.

Beginning on that date, citizens and nationals of Israel will be able to apply to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days, without first obtaining a U.S. visa by applying on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (known as ESTA). ESTA travel authorizations are generally valid for two years upon issuance.

Israeli citizens with valid B1/B2 visas may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the United States.

The move will also benefit U.S. Citizens, considering that Israel has updated its travel policies to allow all U.S. citizens to request entry to Israel for up to 90 days for business, tourism, or transit without obtaining a visa. Israel has also granted Palestinian-Americans both living in the West Bank and the United States, the ability to enter Israel visa free, and fly in and out of Ben Gurion airport without restrictions.

Israel will join 40 other countries in becoming part of the Visa Waiver Program.

In the announcement, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas remarked, “This designation, which represents over a decade of work and coordination between the United States and Israel, will enhance our two nations’ collaboration on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and our other common priorities. Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, and the stringent requirements it entails, will make both of our nations more secure.”

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It’s official. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that it will be increasing the validity period of work permits also known as Employment Authorization Documents (EADS) to 5 years, for certain categories of noncitizens who are employment authorized incident to their immigration status and those who must apply for employment authorization including:

  • Refugees
  • Asylees
  • Noncitizens paroled as Refugees
  • Noncitizens granted Withholding of Removal
  • Noncitizens with pending applications for Asylum or Withholding of Removal
  • Noncitizens with pending applications for Adjustment of Status (green cards) under INA 245
  • Noncitizens seeking Suspension of Deportation or Cancellation of Removal

Additionally, USCIS has released policy guidance clarifying that the Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) may be used as evidence of an alien’s status and employment authorization for certain EAD categories that are employment authorized incident to their immigration status or parole.

These changes can be found in the USCIS Policy Manual, and are also described in USCIS Policy Alert 2023-27 dated September 27, 2023.


What’s changed?


Previously, USCIS policy allowed for a maximum 2-year validity period of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for most categories of immigrants indicated above, and a maximum 1-year validity period for noncitizens paroled as refugees and those seeking suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal.

USCIS is now revising its guidelines to increase the maximum EAD validity period for these categories up to 5 years.

The purpose of increasing the validity period is to reduce the frequency in which noncitizens must file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization to renew their work permits (EADs).

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We kick off the week with a brand-new update from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for those applying to extend or change their nonimmigrant status using Form I-539.

The agency has announced that it will be exempting all I-539 applicants from paying the biometrics service fee of $85 beginning October 1, 2023 (applications postmarked October 1st or later will no longer need to include this fee), including those applicants filing Form I-539 requesting an extension of stay in or change of status to H-4, L-2, or E nonimmigrant status.


Will I still be scheduled for a biometrics (fingerprint) appointment?


USCIS has said that if you have filed Form I-539 before October 1st, certain filers will still be scheduled for an ASC appointment and should still attend that appointment as scheduled.

In most cases, however after October 1st applicants will not be scheduled to attend a biometric services appointment.

In some cases, USCIS may determine that biometrics are required and send the applicant a notice with information about appearing for their biometric services appointment.


What happens if I submit the biometrics fee by mistake?


If you mistakenly submit the $85 biometric services fee and the payment is submitted separately from the Form I-539 fee, USCIS will return the biometric services fee and accept the Form I-539.

If you mistakenly submit the biometric services fee and the payment is combined with a paper-based Form I-539 filing fee, USCIS will consider this an incorrect filing and reject your Form I-539.

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Source: Flickr: Molly Adams, LA March for Immigrant Rights 

In a stunning turn of events, a federal judge on Wednesday declared the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program illegal in a new court ruling.

The decision comes after a five-year long court battle which has left the future of Dreamers hanging in the balance.

Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the District Court of Houston rejected the Biden administration’s efforts to save the DACA program, arguing that former President Barack Obama did not have the authority to create the program in 2012 by executive authority.

In his ruling, Judge Hanen stopped short of terminating the program which will mean that current DACA recipients can retain their DACA benefits and apply for renewals with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, initial first-time applications for DACA will remain prohibited.

In 2021, the Biden administration sought to defend the legality of DACA by issuing a Proposed Rule in the Federal Register to preserve and fortify the program. This came after Judge Hanen issued a prior ruling arguing that the government failed to abide by the public notice and comment procedure required by the Administrative Procedures Act before. This prompted Texas along with eight other states (Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, Mississippi) to sue the federal government bringing the case before Judge Hanen yet again.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s efforts to appease the Judge did not work. Ultimately the Judge indicated that only Congress could enact legislation to protect Dreamers, and passing such a program was not under the authority of the President.

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 “If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.”

Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 United Airlines Captain Jason Dahl

In remembrance of the lives lost on September 11, 2001 welcome-905562_1280

In this post, we would like to share with our readers that starting September 13th the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require affirmative asylum applicants to bring interpreters to asylum interviews, if they are not fluent in the English language, or would like to have their interview conducted in a language other than English.

USCIS has said that affirmative asylum applicants who need an interpreter, but fail to bring one, or who bring an interpreter that is not fluent in English or a language they speak, in such case the immigration official may consider this a failure to appear if the applicant does not establish good cause.

Additionally, USCIS may dismiss the asylum application or refer the asylum application to an immigration judge.


Interpreter Requirements


The following requirements apply to interpreters present at USCIS interviews:

The interpreter must be fluent in English and a language you speak fluently and must be at least 18 years old. The interpreter cannot be:

  • Your attorney or accredited representative;
  • A witness testifying on your behalf;
  • A representative or employee of the government of your country of nationality (or, if you are stateless, your country of last habitual residence); or
  • An individual with a pending asylum application who has not yet been interviewed.

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