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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post we bring you the latest immigration updates.


Naturalization Ceremonies

Great news for naturalization applicants waiting for an oath ceremony. On July 1, 2020, USCIS issued an announcement notifying the public that it anticipates that it will complete nearly all postponed administrative naturalization ceremonies by the end of July of 2020.

USCIS has been prioritizing the scheduling of oath ceremonies for all naturalization applicants who were approved following their interviews. As we previously reported, USCIS is also exploring options to bypass the formal oath ceremony process in the future, and administer the oath immediately following a successful naturalization applicant’s interview. This will help move cases along quickly during the pandemic and limit further exposure.

USCIS remains committed to being as flexible as possible to welcome new citizens to the United States as fast as possible. We are glad that in the very least, naturalization applicants are being accommodated by the agency during this difficult time.

If you have not yet received your naturalization oath ceremony notice, you should be receiving one very soon. As always, we recommend calling USCIS to expedite the process.


Calls to Extend TPS for Yemen and Somalia due to COVID-19

Dozens of organizations are calling on the government to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for at least 180 days to all current Yemen and Somalia TPS holders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A letter was issued in early April by interested organizations urging USCIS and DHS to automatically extend work authorization and TPS for all current Yemen and Somalia TPS holders, or at the very least extend the re-registration period for TPS holders from Somalia and Yemen for a total of 180 days.

The letter emphasizes the importance of granting relief for Yemeni and Somalia TPS holders stating, “While states across the country are rightfully taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, these measures and the subsequent loss of income and freedom of movement establish insurmountable barriers for TPS holders to renew their status before the rapidly approaching re-registration deadline. TPS holders should not have to choose between missing a deadline and violating health directives that keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.”

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest immigration news for the week.

USCIS Temporarily Closing Offices to the Public March 18-April 1 to Reduce Spread of COVID 19 

In response to the widespread COVID 19 pandemic, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that effective March 18, 2020 the agency will suspend in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers (ASC) nationwide in an effort to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

USCIS plans to suspend in-person services until at least April 1st.

What if I have a scheduled appointment or naturalization ceremony?

USCIS has stated that all applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure will receive notices in the mail.

In addition, USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When an interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location of the interview.

When USCIS resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule ASC appointments impacted by the office closure. Impacted applicants and petitioners will receive a new appointment letter in the mail.

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I-751 Change to Filing Location

Today, Monday September 10, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a change to the filing location for Form I-751 Removal of Conditions. The agency is now directing petitioners to send Form I-751 to a USCIS Lockbox facility instead of directly to the California and Vermont service centers. California, Nebraska, Vermont, and Texas will distribute the load of removal of conditions applications and adjudicate these petitions accordingly. When filing at a Lockbox facility, the petitioner may pay the filing fee with a credit card using Form G-1450.

TPS Somalia

USCIS has automatically extended the validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) issued under the TPS designation of Somalia with an original expiration date of Sept. 17, 2018, for 180 days, through March 16, 2019.

Somalian nationals whose EADs expired on March 17, 2017, and who have applied for a new EAD during the last re-registration period, but have not yet received their new EAD card, are covered by the automatic extension.

If your EAD is covered by this automatic extension, you may continue to use your existing EAD through March 16, 2019, as evidence that you are authorized to work.

To prove that you are authorized to continue working legally, you may show the following documentation to your employer:

  • Your TPS-related EAD with a Sept. 17, 2018 expiration date; or
  • Your TPS-related EAD with a March 17, 2017 expiration date and your EAD application receipt (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) that notes your application was received on or after January 17, 2017

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TPS Extended for Somalian Nationals

Today, July 19, 2018 the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, announced that the TPS designation for Somalia will be automatically extended for 18 additional months. Somalian nationals with TPS benefits will have the opportunity to re-register for an extension of their TPS benefits for a period of 18 months through March 17, 2020.

This automatic extension has been granted because the Secretary has determined that conditions continue to exist to support Somalia’s TPS designation. It is estimated that approximately 500 Somalian nationals have TPS benefits. This group of individuals may continue to remain in the United States on a lawful basis with work authorization benefits through March 17, 2020, so long as they re-register when the re-registration period opens.

Sanctuary states sue the federal government over withholding of government funding

Several states including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, and Virginia, are suing the federal government, challenging the Trump administration’s decision to withhold government funding for sanctuary cities who refuse to cooperate with federal agents in the detention of undocumented immigrants. According to these states, the federal government is seeking to coerce “sanctuary cities” by forcing local law enforcement officials to act as federal immigration agents.

Last year, the President signed the controversial executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” requiring local law enforcement to notify federal agents regarding the release of undocumented immigrants from state detention centers, or risk losing federal government funding.

Section 9 of the Executive Order states:

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Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision upholding the President’s latest travel ban in the case Trump, President of the United States, Et Al. v. Hawaii Et Al. The 5-4 decision reflected a deeply divided court, but ultimately the conservative justices on the court banded together ruling in favor of the Trump administration.

Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, ruled that the latest travel ban was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority.” Justices Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg dissented. Despite concurring with the majority opinion Justice Kennedy added, “An anxious world must know that our Government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward, and lasts.”

As you may recall in September of 2017 the President issued Executive Order No. 9645, entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats.” The purpose of this executive order was to identify any deficiencies from several foreign countries needed to adequately assess whether nationals from particular countries seeking to enter the United States presented security or safety threats to the United States. The order specifically called for global requirements for information sharing among these countries, and increased immigration screening and vetting of individuals from particular countries of concern. The President exercised his broad authority under the constitution to place entry restrictions on nationals of eight foreign countries whose information systems for managing and sharing information about their nationals was deemed inadequate by the current administration. These countries included—Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia.

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11176275396_fdf69cfd1e_zOn Monday, December 4, 2017, the United States Supreme Court issued an order allowing enforcement of the President’s latest travel ban in its entirety, pending legal challenges in lower courts. In its brief order, the Court signaled its desire for the appellate court to address any challenges to the travel ban, swiftly. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sotomayor were the only justices who would have blocked the latest travel ban from going into effect.

The court’s order means that the Trump administration may enforce all of the provisions of the President’s latest travel ban, until the federal courts hand down rulings on the constitutionality of the ban. As you may recall, non-US citizens affected by travel ban 3.0 include nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia.

The travel ban DOES NOT affect lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders), foreign nationals granted asylum, refugees admitted to the United States, or dual nationals traveling on a passport from a non-designated country.

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On October 17, 2017, federal judge Derrick Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, issued a temporary restraining order preventing the government from enforcing Sections 2(a), (b), (c), (e), (g), and (h) of the Presidential Proclamation 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public-Safety Threats” signed by the President on September 24, 2017. These sections of the Presidential Proclamation were to be enforced at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on October 18, 2017.

As a result, foreign nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia will NOT be affected by the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation and may continue to travel freely to the United States. Visa applications for these countries will continue to be adjudicated in accordance with existing immigration law, and visa processing standards, irrespective of the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation.

However, the court order does not prevent the government from implementing restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela. In addition, the order does not prevent the government from scrutinizing the adjudication of visas for Iraqi nationals and their admittance to the United States. Sections (d) and (f) of the Proclamation, outline the provisions that remain in force. Restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq began on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 and will continue until further notice. The restrictions on Venezuela as you will see below are the most lenient of the restrictions. 

Restrictions on North Korean nationals: Entry of foreign nationals from North Korea has been suspended for all immigrants and non-immigrants (including diversity visa holders).

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Just one day before Presidential Proclamation No. 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” was set to go into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a ruling blocking portions of the Presidential Proclamation from being enforced on a majority, but not ALL, of the countries, listed in the Proclamation.

The Presidential Proclamation, commonly referred to in the media as ‘travel ban 3.0’ set out to suspend the entry of foreign nationals from eight “countries of identified concern,” and the admission of foreign nationals from those countries was to remain limited until further notice.

The countries to be affected by travel ban 3.0 included: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. A federal judge from the state of Hawaii by the name of Derrick Watson has granted a temporary restraining order preventing the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from the following countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, but DOES NOT prevent the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela, and from imposing stricter screening standards on Iraqi nationals. The restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq will continue to be enforced according to the Proclamation, beginning today, Thursday, October 19, 2017. Restrictions on North Koreans and Venezuelans will likely remain indefinitely, given that the U.S. government has no formal diplomatic avenues for communication with those countries.

Judge Derrick Watson wrote in his opinion that the latest revision of the ban, “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor,” and “lacks the sufficient finds that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from [the] specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,” and “plainly discriminates based on nationality.”

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On September 24, 2017, the President issued a Presidential Proclamation expanding the list of countries subject to the travel ban outlined in Executive Order 13780 entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” As you may recall, as part of that executive order, in March 2017, the President had asked the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General to conduct a worldwide review to assess the dangers that foreign nationals from designated countries of concern pose to the national security of the United States. Under Executive Order 13780, DHS was directed to implement additional security mechanisms and vetting procedures for countries identified as potential threats to national security.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, and Attorney General identified 16 additional countries which “remain deficient . . . with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilities, protocols, and practices,” and as a result pose a potential threat to our country’s national security.  By proclamation, the entry of foreign nationals from eight of these countries will remain suspended and limited for the time being.

The President has determined that the immigrant and non-immigrant entry of foreign nationals from the following countries would be detrimental to the national interests of the United States, at least until increased security mechanisms can be implemented, and identity and information-sharing capabilities can be improved.

Per Section 2 of the Proclamation

Suspension of Entry for Nationals of Countries of Identified Concern

“The following countries continue to have “inadequate” identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices, and risk factors . . . such that entry restrictions and limitations are recommended:”

The entry of foreign nationals from the designated countries listed below will be suspended and limited to a few exceptions and case-by-case waivers beginning October 18, 2017.

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On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court responded to the Trump administration’s motion seeking clarification regarding the Supreme Court’s June 26th preliminary ruling, which held that the President could enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, who lack a credible “bona fide” relationship to a person residing in the United States, or entity such as an employer, religious, or academic institution.

The government sought clarification from the United States Supreme Court after the state of Hawaii challenged the government’s interpretation of a “close familial relationship,” and convinced a federal court judge that the Supreme Court intended close family members to include extended family members such as “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.” Federal judge Watson was also convinced that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency were exempt from the travel ban.

In a brief order, the Supreme Court denied the government’s motion seeking clarification of the court’s June 26, 2017 preliminary order, and reversed judge Watson’s decision regarding the admission of refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency. The Supreme Court has ruled that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency will not be granted admission to the United States pending the resolution of the government’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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