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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are happy to bring you the latest immigration updates recently announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


USCIS Guidance Following DACA Permanent Injunction in State of Texas, et al., v. United States of America, et al., 1:18-CV-00068, (S.D. Texas July 16, 2021)


USCIS has announced on its official webpage that consistent with the permanent injunction granted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on July 16, 2021, declaring DACA policy illegal, USCIS is prohibited from granting initial requests for first time DACA applicants, and accompanying requests for employment authorization.

However, USCIS will continue to accept both initial and renewal DACA requests but will not be able to adjudicate requests for first time DACA applicant’s pursuant to the court order.

Renewal filings for those who have received DACA benefits in the past, will continue unaffected by the court order, and USCIS will continue to adjudicate renewal requests, and accompanying renewal requests for employment authorization as before.

What’s next? The Department of Justice will be appealing the District Court’s decision and the Biden administration is urging Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021.

Read Biden’s Statement responding to the Court’s injunction here.


Applicants Filing Change of Status Applications to F-1 No Longer Need to Submit Subsequent Applications to ‘Bridge the Gap’


We are happy to report that USCIS recently ended the “Bridge the Gap” policy. Previously, prospective students with a current nonimmigrant status in the United States, that was set to expire more than 30 days before their F-1 program start date, were required to “Bridge the Gap,” by filing Form I-539 with USCIS to request an extension of their current status, or a change to another status ensuring that they would not have a “gap” in status.

Effective July 20, 2021, USCIS announced that individuals who have applied for a change of status to F-1 student, will no longer need to “Bridge the Gap,” while their initial F-1 change of status application is pending with USCIS.

To prevent a “gap” in status, USCIS has said that it will now grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day the applicant’s Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status is approved. If USCIS approves an application more than 30 days before the student’s program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time (such as engaging in unauthorized employment, more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on the Form I-20.)

These changes have been introduced to decrease current backlogs and USCIS workloads. A revision of the Form I-539 instructions will soon be published to reflect these new policy changes.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you the latest immigration news from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


New USCIS Policies to Improve the Immigration System


We bring you some exciting news regarding new policies adopted by USCIS that have been designed to remove the barriers to immigration and help improve the current immigration system. The following are among the new changes being implemented by USCIS:

Expedited Processing

Under a newly updated expedite criteria policy, USCIS has now expanded the types of expedite criteria or circumstances under which the adjudication of a benefit request can be expedited, including where a request is made by a nonprofit organization whose request is in the furtherance of cultural and social interests of the United States.

According to the new change:

USCIS may consider an expedite request if it meets one or more of the following criteria or circumstance:

  • Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure to:
    1. Timely file the benefit request , or
    2. Timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
  • Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
  • Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
  • U.S. government interests (such as urgent cases for federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, DHS, or other public safety or national security interests); or
  • Clear USCIS error.

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The news we have all been waiting for is finally here. The Democratic controlled House of Representatives has taken a colossal step toward making comprehensive immigration reform a reality. On Thursday evening, members of the House voted along party lines to approve two legislative proposals that would create a pathway to citizenship for an estimated eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including Dreamers and farmworkers. These proposals are known as (1) the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 and (2) the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021.


What is the American Dream and Promise Act – H.R. 6?


The American Dream and Promise Act, also known as H.R. 6, creates an earned path to citizenship for more than two million Dreamers who were brought to the United States as children, as well as beneficiaries of certain temporary humanitarian programs including recipients of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This proposal consists of


Title I: Dream Act of 2021


Title I of the Act would allow certain long-term residents who entered the United States as children to apply for conditional permanent resident status. Those who would obtain conditional permanent resident status would be considered lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the law.

Requirements

The American Dream and Promise Act would grant Dreamers conditional permanent resident status for 10 years, and cancel removal proceedings if they:

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Welcome back to Visalawerblog! We hope you are having a wonderful start to your week.

In this blog post, we discuss a new update for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for the country of Venezuela.

As luck would have it, on March 8, 2021, the newly sworn Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced the designation of Venezuela, as a foreign country qualifying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the safe return of Venezuelan nationals to their country of origin.

The designation will allow Venezuelan nationals (and those without nationality who last resided in Venezuela) to file initial applications for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), provided they meet the eligibility requirements.


What is TPS?


Temporary Protected Status is a temporary immigration status given to certain foreign nationals from certain countries that are experiencing ongoing armed conflict, environment disaster, humanitarian crisis, and other such conditions. TPS allows qualifying applicants to remain in the United States on a temporary lawful basis without fear of deportation, and also allows applicants to apply for a temporary work permit. Only nationals from countries who have been designated as eligible for Temporary Protected Status by the Secretary of Homeland Security are eligible to participate. Countries with such designation include El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.


What are the eligibility requirements?


  • To be eligible, applicants must be a national of Venezuela, or be a person without nationality who last habitually resided in Venezuela.
  • Venezuelan nationals must file for TPS during the open initial registration or re-registration period, which falls on March 9, 2021 to September 5, 2021. That means all initial applications must be received within this time frame.
  • Venezuelan nationals must prove they have been continuously physically present in the United States since March 9, 2021, the effective date of Venezuela’s designation date; and
  • Venezuelan nationals must prove that they have been continuously residing in the United States since March 8, 2021.
  • Those who meet the requirements outlined above may obtain TPS benefits for a period of 18 months lasting until September 9, 2022.

How to file


All applicants must submit the necessary forms, supporting documentation, and filing fees with USCIS by filing Form I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status, as well as Form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization. For information about the forms and supporting documentation required click here.

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Happy Wednesday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. In this post, we share some exciting news for beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), who initially entered the country without inspection or admission, but later received TPS, and are now seeking to apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence.

Yesterday, October 27, 2020, a three-judge panel of circuit judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, handed down a ruling in the case, Leymis Velasquez, et al v. William P. Barr, et al. This lawsuit was brought by plaintiffs Leymis Carolina Velasquez and Sandra Ortiz – two beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status who were denied adjustment of status due to their initial unlawful entry into the United States.

The plaintiffs initially filed lawsuits against the United States government in federal district court and lost their cases, because the lower courts held that TPS recipients must be “inspected and admitted” in order to adjust their status to permanent residence. Because these plaintiffs initially entered the country without lawful inspection, they were deemed ineligible for adjustment of status, and their green card applications were subsequently denied by USCIS.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) quickly mobilized and filed an appeal before the three-judge panel to settle once and for all the central issue in the case – whether a noncitizen who entered the country without inspection or admission, but later received TPS may adjust his or her status to lawful permanent residence, when the I-485 application requires the noncitizen to have been “inspected and admitted” into the United States.

The three-judge panel ultimately handed a victory to the plaintiffs finding that TPS beneficiaries may adjust their status to lawful permanent residence, despite having initially entered the country without inspection or admission, based on the applicant’s subsequent TPS status.

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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 blog post we cover the latest immigration news of the week.

USCIS Launches Online Form to Report Fraud

On March 3rd USCIS announced the launch of a new online form available on the USCIS website that can be used to report suspected immigration fraud and abuse including asylum/refugee fraud, religious worker visa fraud, employment-based visa fraud, investor visa fraud (EB-5 program), student visa fraud, marriage or fiancé visa fraud, unauthorized practice of law (notarios), and other types of immigration fraud.

This “USCIS tip form” provides space for the form user to describe alleged fraud or abuse in detail. According to USCIS, the tip form was created to make the tip process more effective and efficient, so that the agency can better collect information and make an assessment regarding the credibility of tips sent to the agency.

Previously fraud reporting was done by email, making it difficult for USCIS to respond and investigate tips.

This new online system for reporting fraud represents the Trump administration’s commitment to crack down and prevent various forms of visa fraud.

Over the years, the Trump administration has signed various directives and executive orders such as “Buy American, Hire American” aimed at rooting out fraudulent H1B, asylum/refugee, and EB-5 investor visas. The Trump administration has also worked to limit or slow down the issuance of these visas by issuing aggressive requests for evidence in the case of H1B visas and increasing the minimum investment amount for EB-5 investors.

Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain Immigrants and Nonimmigrants who Pose a Risk of Transmitting the Coronavirus

On February 3rd the Department of State issued an important announcement reminding travelers of a Presidential proclamation signed on January 31st barring entry to the United States of immigrants or nonimmigrants who traveled to China within the 14 days immediately prior to arrival in the United States.

The proclamation went into effect on Sunday, February 2.

Travelers should note that the proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States.  Foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas are excepted from this proclamation.  Other exceptions include certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, including spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21).  There is also an exception for crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas.

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As we approach the end of the year, in this blog post, we look back at the major policy changes implemented by the Trump administration in the year 2019 that have had a profound impact on the way our immigration system functions today.

JANUARY 

Government Shutdown Woes

The start of 2019 began on a very somber note. From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 Americans experienced the longest government shutdown in American history (lasting a period fo 35 days) largely due to political differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of government funding to build a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

The government shutdown created a massive backlog for non-detained persons expecting to attend hearings in immigration court. Because of limited availability of federal workers, non-detained persons experienced postponements and were required to wait an indeterminate amount of time for those hearings to be re-scheduled.

To sway public opinion, 17 days into the government shutdown, the President delivered his first primetime address from the Oval office where he called on Democrats to pass a spending bill that would provide $5.7 billion in funding for border security, including the President’s border wall.

With no agreement in sight, on January 19, 2019, the President sought to appease Democrats by offering them a compromise solution. In exchange for funding his border wall and border security, the President announced a plan that would extend temporary protected status of TPS recipients for a three-year period and provide legislative relief to DACA recipients for a three-year period. The President’s proposal however did not provide a pathway to residency for Dreamers, and was quickly rejected by Democrats.

On January 25, 2019, with still no solution and pressure mounting, the President relented and passed a temporary bill reopening the government until February 15, 2019.

Meanwhile, immigration courts across the country were forced to postpone hundreds of immigration hearings, with Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky being the most deeply affected by the shutdown.

Changes to the H1B Visa Program

On January 30, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed changes to the H-1B visa program including a mandatory electronic registration requirement for H1B petitioners filing cap-subject petitions beginning fiscal year 2020, and a reversal in the selection process for cap-subject petitions. The government outlined that it would first select H-1B registrations submitted on behalf of all H-1B beneficiaries (including regular cap and advanced degree exemption) and then if necessary select the remaining number of petitions from registrations filed for the advanced degree exemption. Moreover, only those registrations selected during fiscal year 2020 and on, would be eligible to file a paper H1B cap petition.

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In this post, we discuss the latest developments in U.S. immigration news.

As you may recall, back in September USCIS issued a proposed rule requiring petitioners filing H-1B cap-subject petitions to pay a $10 registration fee for each petition submitted to USCIS for the H-1B cap selection process, beginning with the H-1B fiscal year 2021 cap season.

Today, November 7, 2019 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published the final version of this rule which will become effective beginning December 9, 2019, although the $10 fee will not be required until registrations are submitted beginning with the fiscal year 2021 H-1B cap selection process.

The final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow November 8th. An unpublished version of the rule is available here.

Extension of Temporary Protected Status

On November 4, 2019, USCIS published a notice in the federal register announcing the automatic extension of TPS-related documentation for beneficiaries under the TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

TPS-related documentation for individuals from these countries will remain valid through January 4, 2021.

This automatic extension will apply to all TPS-related documentation (including Employment Authorization Cards) set to expire on the following dates:

  • Beneficiaries under TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, and Sudan—January 2, 2020
  • Beneficiaries under TPS designations for Honduras—January 5, 2020
  • Beneficiaries under TPS designation for Nepal—March 20, 2020

A beneficiary under the TPS designation for any of these countries who has applied for a new EAD but who has not yet received his or her new EAD is covered by this automatic extension, provided that the EAD he or she possesses contains one of the expiration dates indicated above.

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On September 23, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that current beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under Syria’s designation, who want to maintain their status through March 31, 2021, must re-register between Sept. 23 and Nov. 22, 2019.

All applicants must submit Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status and request an EAD by submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, when they file Form I-821 or separately at a later date.

USCIS will issue new EADs with a March 31, 2021 expiration date to eligible beneficiaries under Syria’s TPS designation who timely re-register and apply for EADs.