Articles Posted in Spouses of US Citizens

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Happy Veterans Day! On behalf of our law office, we would like to thank the servicemen and women who have dedicated their lives to protect our country. We are grateful to you for the sacrifices you have made and your service.

We close off the week with a recent update from the U.S. Department of State regarding immigrant visa processing in Havana, Cuba.

According to a new announcement made yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, will fully resume immigrant visa processing beginning January 4, 2023.

This will include processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives, other family preference categories, diversity visas, and K fiancé(e) visas.

For its part, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, will continue processing of Cuban immigrant visa applications for those individuals who were scheduled to attend in-person interviews there through the end of December of this year.

Immigrant visa applicants whose appointments were originally scheduled in Georgetown will complete case processing in Georgetown.

Sadly, case transfers from Georgetown to U.S. Embassy, Havana are not available for applicants who have already been scheduled to attend interviews in Georgetown.

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Our readers will be happy to know that the Department of State has released a new update in the month of October on the status of worldwide consular visa operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a period of uncertainty and created tremendous backlogs at the Consular level. As most of you will remember, Consular missions around the world suspended routine visa services in March of 2020 to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. Later, the Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services, however some Consulates and Embassies resumed services faster than others. Since then, things have slowly but surely started to turn around.

To help improve visa processing, the State Department has said that worldwide visa operations are now recovering faster than expected. More U.S. foreign service personnel have been hired to reduce visa interview wait times at Consular posts worldwide. It is expected that this year, the Department of State will reach pre-pandemic processing levels. This is amazing news for immigrants that have been waiting for visa interview appointments for months, or even years.


How did COVID-19 impact Worldwide Visa Operations?


The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the agency’s ability to process visa applications in two major ways.

First, restrictions on travel to the United States, social distancing, and local quarantine restrictions made it difficult to accommodate large groups of people inside Consular facilities, such as waiting rooms. This of course reduced the number of people that could be scheduled for in-person visa appointments dramatically, causing a reduction in the number of visa applications that could be processed.

Secondly, due to the suspension of visa services worldwide, the State Department experienced a substantial decrease in funding which led to a declining workforce in 2020 and 2021. This dramatically impacted the number of applications that could be processed.

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We start off the week with the latest news regarding COVID-19-related flexibilities for responses to Requests for Evidence, NOIDs, and such related notices issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


What do I need to know about these new updates?


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS has 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.

Today, Monday, October 24, 2022, USCIS made the announcement that it will continue to 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 January 24, 2023. 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.

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In this blog post, we cover the release of the November Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the upcoming month of November.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. 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.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart November 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the  Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2022.


November 2022 Visa Bulletin Dates for Filing Cutoff Dates


Employment-Based Categories


DATES FOR FILING FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES


According to the Department of State’s November 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following Dates for Filing cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries, including India and China, will remain current.
  • EB-2: EB-2 China will remain at July 8, 2019 and EB-2 India at May 1, 2012. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India will remain at July 1, 2012, and EB-3 China will remain at July 15, 2018. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB3 Other Workers: EB-3 China will remain at November 1, 2015, and EB-3 India will remain at July 1, 2012. A Date for Filing cut-off date of September 8, 2022, applies to all other countries.
  • EB-4: EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras will remain at April 15, 2018, and EB-4 Mexico at October 15, 2020. All other countries remain current
  • EB-5: For the EB-5 Unreserved categories (C5, T5, I5, and R5), the Date for Filing for China will remain at January 1, 2016, India will have a Date for Filing cut-off imposed of December 8, 2019, and all other countries will remain current. For the EB-5 “Set-Aside” categories (Rural, High Unemployment, and Infrastructure), the Date for Filing will remain current for all countries.

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Happy Columbus Day! We start the week with great news for green card applications.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it is extending a policy that previously waived the requirement for civil surgeons to sign the Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, no more than 60 days before filing the green card application.

USCIS previously issued its waiver policy until September 30, 2022 but has decided to extend the waiver until March 31, 2023.


Why the extension?


Due to processing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has decided that extending this policy is necessary to provide relief to applicants for the delays and difficulties that it takes to complete the green card medical examination.

Moving forward, the waiver will apply to all Form I-693 medical examinations for green card applications that have not been adjudicated, regardless of when the application was submitted to USCIS or when a civil surgeon signed the Form I-693.

USCIS expects this extension to provide much needed relief to Afghan nationals evacuated under Operation Allies Welcome, who completed immigration medical examinations but could not apply for adjustment of status within 60 days of a civil surgeon signing their Form I-693.

For more information about this important update, please click here.

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Are you a Cuban national with a pending immigrant visa application? If so, we have some great news for you.

The Department of State today announced that the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba will now be responsible for scheduling all immediate relative immigrant visa appointments, including those of spouses and children under 21 of U.S. citizens (IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2), with interviews beginning in July 2022.

Previously, the Department of State announced that Havana would be scheduling interviews for applicants in the IR-5 category (parent of a U.S. Citizen) that began their processing there in May 2022.  While the government is working to expand services to reduce the ongoing backlogs, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana will continue to remain the primary processing location for all other Cuban immigrant visa applicants (IR/CR-1, IR/CR-2 and IR-5).


Documentarily Qualified Notifications on or after June 8th – U.S. Embassy Havana


IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2 applicants who were notified on or after June 8, 2022 that their case is ready to be processed will have their interview scheduled at the U.S. Embassy Havana, not the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, beginning in July.


Documentarily Qualified Notifications before June 8th – U.S. Embassy Georgetown


IR/CR-1 and IR/CR-2 applicants who were notified prior to June 8, 2022 that their case was ready to be processed will be interviewed at the U.S. Embassy Georgetown, also beginning in July.

The Department of State has said that neither the U.S. Embassy in Havana nor the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown will be able to assist with requests to transfer cases due to resource constraints.

The government will continue to evaluate, further expansion of visa processing in Havana depending on resources and country conditions.

Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Havana will continue to offer services for American Citizens and limited emergency nonimmigrant visa processing. For further information please review the embassy’s website for updates at https://cu.usembassy.gov/consular-services-available-at-u-s-embassy-havana/.

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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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It is that time of the month again! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the April Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of April 2022.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. 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.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart April 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for April 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, except EB-5 Regional Center, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for April 2022.


April 2022 Visa Bulletin Final Action Cutoff Dates


Employment-Based Categories


FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES

According to the Department of State’s April 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following final cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries, including India and China, will remain current.
  • EB-2: India will advance by more than 2 months to July 8, 2013, and China will remain at March 1, 2019. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India and China will remain unchanged from the previous month, at January 15, 2012, and March 22, 2018, respectively. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-5: The Non-Regional Center program will be current for all countries, including China. The Regional Center program has been reauthorized by recent legislation but is still listed as Unavailable in the April Visa Bulletin Final Action Date chart, given that certain provisions of the reauthorizing legislation have not yet taken effect.

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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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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we share with you an exciting new update from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that will provide relief to those who have received a Request for Evidence, Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), or such similar request.


USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS has 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 and such related requests.

Today, Thursday December 30, 2021, USCIS made the announcement stating it will continue to give 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 March 26, 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 March 26, 2022 can take advantage of the additional 60 calendar 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:

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