Articles Posted in Special Situations

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If your case remains pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) beyond the posted processing times for your immigration benefit request, you may consider requesting assistance from the Ombudsman’s Office.


What is the USCIS Ombudsman?


The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) helps individuals and employers resolve difficulties they are experiencing with USCIS. The Ombudsman functions independently and is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Before an applicant can request for help from the Ombudsman, they must have contacted USCIS within the last 90 days and given the agency at least 60 days to resolve their problem. If a Congressional representative is already assisting you, the Ombudsman’s office cannot help you.

If USCIS does not resolve the issue (via submission of an e-request, or other communication method) the applicant can prepare and submit a case assistance request with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The most common issues the Ombudsman can assist with are:

  • Cases involving an emergency or a hardship that falls under the USCIS expedite criteria
  • Expedite requests approved by USCIS more than 2 months ago
  • Typographical errors
  • Improper rejections
  • Cases involving U.S. military personnel and their families
  • Aging out of eligibility
  • Undelivered USCIS notices or decisions
  • Transfers to the Department of State for approved petitions

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In this blog post, we share recent guidance released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for supporters and beneficiaries of Uniting for Ukraine and nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, requesting humanitarian parole to the United States.

Individuals participating in these programs must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide financial support for the duration of their parole in the United States. The first step in the process is for the U.S.-based supporter to file a Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support, with USCIS for each beneficiary they seek to support, including minor children. The U.S. government will then review the supporter information provided in the Form I-134A to ensure that they are able to financially support the beneficiaries they are agreeing to support.

USCIS has cautioned applicants that they have been receiving many duplicate filings of Form I-134A, as well as multiple inquiries submitted to the USCIS Contact Center regarding these filings.

To avoid any errors and ensure the proper submission of the form, USCIS has provided the following important tips.


Duplicate Filings of Form I-134A


Some potential supporters have been filing multiple Forms I-134A for the same beneficiary. These duplicate filings add to USCIS workload, which delays processing.

The agency encourages applicants to refrain from filing more than one Form I-134A for the same beneficiary because this could delay the processing of the application for the beneficiary you are agreeing to support.

Those who have not received a decision on a Form I-134A they have filed on behalf of a beneficiary, are advised to check their case status through their USCIS online account.

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In this post, we share with you some great news for Somalian nationals under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States.

The Biden administration has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Somalian nationals currently receiving protections under the program for 18 months from March 18, 2023 through September 17, 2024.

A notice has been published in the Federal Register with information about how to register for TPS under Somalia’s designation.

The main benefit of applying for TPS protections is that those who are approved can remain in the country on a lawful basis, will receive protection against deportation (deferred status), and are eligible to apply for employment authorization and travel permission by filing, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The registration process for Somalia began on Monday, March 13, 2023 and will end on May 9, 2023.


Extension of Designation of Somalia for TPS


On January 12, 2023, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced an 18-month extension and re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country of Somalia. This extension and re-designation will be in effect from March 18, 2023, through September 17, 2024 (an 18-month period).

Secretary Mayorkas made this decision after consulting with government officials and taking into consideration the ongoing armed conflict in Somalia, along with natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and worsening humanitarian crisis. Somalia continues to be impacted by terrorism, violent crime, civil unrest, and fighting amongst clan militias making it necessary to extend the designation of Somalia for TPS.

The extension of TPS for Somalia will allow approximately 430 current beneficiaries to retain TPS through September 17, 2024, if they re-register and continue to meet TPS eligibility requirements.

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Happy Holidays from the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick!

In this blog post, we share with you the release of the January Visa Bulletin for the year 2023, what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories, including visa availability, movement, and projections for each category in the months ahead.


What is the Visa Bulletin?


The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month in the employment and family preference categories. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.

To be eligible to file an employment-based adjustment application in January, foreign nationals must have a priority date that is earlier than the date listed below for their preference category and country.

Those currently residing in the United States, may file for adjustment of status once their priority dates become current, following the adjustment of status filing chart guidance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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We kick off the Thanksgiving week with some exciting news.

Recently, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) met with representatives from the Department of State to address some issues of concern relating to several different immigration topics.

We provide a summary of the questions asked and responses from the Department of State down below that was part of a recent roundtable with representatives from Consular Affairs.


Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Applications from Third Country Nationals


Representatives reminded nonimmigrant visa applicants, including students, that they can apply for their visas at any embassy or consulate where they are physically present and obtain a visa appointment.

Additionally, immigrant visa applicants can request to transfer their case to another embassy or consulate if they are unable to travel to the post where their case is assigned.

As to the possibility for virtual visa interviews, the State Department has said immigrant visa applicants are required to appear in person before a consular officer to provide fingerprints, therefore video interviews would be of limited utility.


Interview Waivers


AILA informed the State Department that it appears that some appointment scheduling systems incorrectly identify applicants that are clearly not eligible for interview waivers as eligible and invite them to send in their passports for visa issuance.

In these instances, once the passport is submitted to the post, it is determined that the applicant is not eligible for an interview waiver, the applicant has to be contacted, their passport has to be returned, and they have to then schedule an in-person interview appointment.

The State Department has said it is not aware of this issue happening at posts and recommended that those experiencing issues with applications submitted via interview waiver processes should contact the relevant post for information.


E-2 Treaty Investor Visas  


Question: 9 FAM 402.9-6(A)(a)(4) informs officers that one of the determinations in evaluating E-2 Treaty Investor applications is that the: “Enterprise is a real and operating commercial enterprise,” and is then referred to 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) for further discussion.

The first sentence of 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) states: “The enterprise must be a real and active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking, producing some service or commodity.” The third sentence of 9 FAM 402.9-6(C) continues the description of the enterprise to state, “It cannot be a paper organization or an idle speculative investment…”Especially in the context of start-up businesses, defining these terms will provide greater clarity and guidance to E-2 visa applicants.

Please confirm: Are the words “operating” at 402.9-6(A)(a)(4) and “active” at 402.9-6(C) used interchangeably?

Answer: Almost. The term “active” at 402.9-6(C) was used to ensure that new enterprises that had not yet begun producing services or commodities, but which were actively taking steps to become operational, could also provide a basis for E visa issuance.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We kick off the start of a brand-new week with unfortunate news for asylum-based applicants for I-765 employment authorization.

New data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates that the agency has been woefully inadequate at processing work permits, failing to meet the 30-day required processing time for employment authorization cards, also known as EADs, filed by asylum seekers.

By law, USCIS must process work permits (EADs) within 30 days of receipt of an asylum seekers I-765 application for employment authorization. However new data shows that USCIS has not been meeting this required timeline throughout 2022, and processing has been declining to a record low.

Data released by USCIS, as part of ongoing litigation, shows that during the last three weeks of February 2022, 93 percent of I-765 applications had been pending for at least 30 days. In March 2022, this figure plummeted to just 68 percent of I-765’s being processed within the 30 days.  Sadly, in recent months, the data shows that processing of EADs has been getting worse and worse on a monthly basis. For instance, in April of this year, this figure dropped to 41 percent of I-765 applications being processed within 30 days. In May the drop continued to just 21 percent, and in June to just 6 percent. Finally, this past month of July, the agency processed less than 5 percent of EAD applications within the required 30-day window. This trend puts on full display the asylum visa processing crisis with no end in sight.

The drop in EAD processing coincides directly with a court ruling handed down in February. USCIS appears to be clearing out the backlog by first processing work permit applications pending the longest, creating substantial delays for more recent applications for employment authorization.

The data indicates that the vast majority of applications USCIS processed over the past three months had been pending for more than 120 days (nearly 4 months).

Due to the EAD processing crisis, USCIS now faces a backlog of more than 77,000 pending work permit requests received by the agency within the past three months alone.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a restful and memorable Memorial Day weekend with your loved ones. In this blog post, we provide some interesting new updates from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In light of recent mass shootings taking place across the nation, USCIS has provided important information for the public including immigration assistance that can provide relief to individuals affected by these unfortunate tragedies, and related special situations.

On May 27, 2022, the agency issued a news alert notifying members of the public that the following measures are available to provide relief to those facing special situations and are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Special situation requests involving:

  • Changing a nonimmigrant status or extending a nonimmigrant stay for an individual currently in the United States.
    • Individuals who failed to apply for an extension or change of status on Form I-539, before expiration of their authorized period of admission in the U.S., may request for USCIS to excuse the filing delay, if it can be demonstrated that the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control (i.e. a special circumstance);
  • Re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
  • Expedited processing of advance parole requests;
  • Expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • Expedited adjudication of petitions or applications, including employment authorization applications, when appropriate;
  • Consideration of fee waiver requests due to an inability to pay;
  • Flexibility for those who received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to submit evidence or otherwise respond in a timely manner;
  • Flexibility for were unable to appear for a scheduled interview with USCIS;
  • Expedited replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), Employment Authorization Document, or Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record; and
  • Rescheduling a biometric services appointment.

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