Articles Posted in U.S. 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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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with very good news for Cuban nationals.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will be resuming operations under the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program also known as CFRP starting with pending CFRP applications.

CFRP processing was suspended due to the significant decrease in U.S. government personnel at the U.S. Embassy Havana in 2017 and the closure of the USCIS field office in Havana in 2018.


What is the Cuban Family Reunification Parole?


Cuban Family Reunification Parole is a program that was created in 2007 to allow certain eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to apply for parole for their family members in Cuba. If granted parole, family members can come to the United States without waiting for their immigrant visas to become available. Once in the United States, CFRP Program beneficiaries may apply for work authorization while they wait to apply for lawful permanent resident status.


Who is eligible?


You may be eligible to apply for parole for your relatives in Cuba under the CFRP program if:

  • You are either a U.S. citizen or LPR;
  • You have an approved Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for a Cuban family member;
  • An immigrant visa is not yet available for your relative; and
  • You received an invitation from the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) to participate in the CFRP Program. 

To be eligible, the principal beneficiary must:

  • Be a Cuban national living in Cuba; and
  • Have a petitioner who has been invited to participate in the CFRP Program.

You cannot apply for CFRP until you are invited to do so by the National Visa Center. Additionally, you cannot self-petition for the program.

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We end the week with some new developments for United States Citizens with expired passports.

On June 29, 2022, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Carrier Liaison Program announced the end of a policy that previously allowed U.S. Citizens to re-enter the United States from abroad with expired passports.

You may recall that back in May of 2021, the State Department made the decision to allow stranded U.S. Citizens stuck overseas, to temporarily use their expired passports to make a direct return to the United States, provided their passports expired on or after January 1, 2020. The policy was to be in effect until June 30, 2022.

This temporary form of relief was granted in response to the extensive waiting period to renew a U.S. passport from abroad. Unlike Americans inside the United States, those waiting abroad have faced long waiting periods, due to the limited availability of appointments at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, caused by the global pandemic.

CBP has announced that as of Thursday, June 30, 2022,U.S. citizens will no longer be allowed to use their expired U.S. passport for direct return to the U. S. after June 30, 2022.

In a press release dated June 29, 2022, CBP advises officials that if a U.S. citizen overseas presents an expired U.S. passport to board a flight into the U.S., they must turn the traveler away and direct them to contact their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for a renewal.

Furthermore, CBP has stated that the Regional Carrier Liaison Group will now be responsible for implementing the scope of these new procedures.

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We are excited to share some very important news for Afghan nationals. On June 14, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new discretionary powers providing relief to certain Afghan nationals, who do not pose national or public safety risks to the United States.

The Secretary of Homeland Security and Secretary of State, have carved out 3 new exemptions which can be applied for on a case-by-case basis, to ensure individuals who would otherwise be eligible for the benefit or protection they are seeking are not automatically denied.

According to the announcement, Afghan nationals will be eligible only if they have undergone rigorous screening and vetting and are individually determined to not pose a risk to national security or public safety. The announcement further states that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, have exercised their exemption authority over 30 times previously, thus ensuring deserving individuals are not inadvertently subject to terrorism-related bars to admission and are eligible for protection in the United States. These new exemptions are expected to welcome thousands more Afghan nationals in the coming months.


Who may apply under these new exemptions?


There are three categories of applicants who may qualify for immigration benefits under these new exemptions. They are as follows:

  1. Afghans who supported U.S. military interests, specifically Afghan allies who fought or otherwise supported those who fought in the resistance movement against the Taliban and Afghans who took part in the conflict against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
    • This could include individuals who fought alongside, or with assistance from, U.S. government entities, the United Nations, or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or successor Force. It also includes individuals who supported U.S. interests and participated in the resistance movement to the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan between December 24, 1979 and April 28, 1992.
    • This exemption specifically does not include individuals who targeted non-combatants or U.S. interests, committed certain types of human rights abuses or violations, or acted on behalf of a designated terrorist organization.
  2. Individuals employed as civil servants in Afghanistan at any time from September 27, 1996 to December 22, 2001 or after August 15, 2021.
    • This could include teachers, professors, postal workers, doctors, and engineers, among others. Some civil servants held these positions prior to the Taliban announcing their so-called “interim government” and continued in their roles due to pressure, intimidation, or other hardship. In other instances, individuals used their positions to mitigate the repressive actions of the Taliban, often at great personal risk.

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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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couple-g86465ecab_1920USCIS Updates Policy Guidance Highlighting Discretionary Power to Waive In-Person Interviews for I-751 Applicants


On April 7, 2022, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its Policy Manual on the interview waiver criteria for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove the conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions.

Under the law, those who attained their permanent resident status (green card) based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card, also known as “conditional permanent residency.”

This conditional green card is issued for a 2-year period. Prior to the expiration of the 2-year green card, the applicant must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions on permanent residence within the 90-day window before it expires.

The Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that a conditional permanent resident must appear for an in-person interview as part of the I-751 Removal of Conditions adjudication process, so that the immigration officer can verify the accuracy of the information included in the petition and determine whether the conditions on permanent residence should be removed.

The Act also carves out discretionary powers that allow USCIS officers to authorize waiver of the in-person interview.

The April 2022 updated Policy Guidance clarifies that USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require an interview.

The Guidance also eliminates automatic referrals in cases where a conditional permanent resident obtained status by way of Consular processing.

The language of the pertinent section indicates the following:

Volume 6: Immigrants, Part I, Family-Based Conditional Permanent Residents, Chapter 3, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence [6 USCIS-PM I.3]


CPRs who file a Form I-751 must appear for an interview at a USCIS field office, unless USCIS waives the interview requirement. USCIS officers may consider waiving the interview in cases where:

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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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With a new year comes new travel restrictions. In this blog post, we share with you a recent announcement published in the Federal Register by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

CBP has just released a notice of action informing the public of a brand-new temporary travel restriction that will apply to certain unvaccinated travelers seeking to enter into the United States along U.S. land ports of entry, including ferry terminals (‘‘land POEs’’) with Mexico and Canada.


What is this new travel restriction all about?


According to the new directive announced on January 24th, land ports of entry along the United States-Mexico border and United States-Canada border will continue to suspend normal operations and will allow processing for entry into the United States of only those noncitizen non-LPRs who are ‘‘fully vaccinated against COVID–19’’ and can provide ‘‘proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID–19’’ upon request, as those terms are defined under Presidential Proclamation and the CDC’s Order.


Who will the restriction apply to?


These restrictions will apply to non-citizens who are neither U.S. nationals nor lawful permanent residents (‘‘noncitizen non-LPRs’’) with limited exceptions.

Under the temporary restrictions, DHS will allow processing for entry into the United States of only those noncitizen non-LPRs who are fully vaccinated against COVID–19 and can provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID–19 upon request.


When do these travel restrictions go into effect?


These restrictions went into effect at 12 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on January 22, 2022 and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on April 21, 2022, unless amended or rescinded prior to that time.


Are there any exceptions for unvaccinated travelers?


This travel restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents of the United States, or American Indians who have a right by statute to pass the borders of, or enter into, the United States.

In addition, the following exceptions to these restrictions have been authorized for the following categories of noncitizen non-LPRs:

  • Certain categories of persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel as specified in the CDC Order;
  • persons under 18 years of age;
  • certain participants in certain COVID–19 vaccine trials as specified in the CDC Order;
  • persons with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID– 19 vaccine as specified in the CDC Order;
  • persons issued a humanitarian or emergency exception by the Secretary of Homeland Security;
  • persons with valid nonimmigrant visas (excluding B–1 [business] or B–2 [tourism] visas) who are citizens of a country with limited COVID–19 vaccine availability, as specified in the CDC Order;
  • members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age) as specified in the CDC Order; and,
  • persons whose entry would be in the U.S. national interest, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we continue to share with our readers some important new updates regarding travel to the United States for Americans with expired passports currently overseas.

Our readers may remember in May of 2021, the State Department announced a policy that would enable stranded U.S. Citizens stuck overseas, to use their expired passports to make a direct return to the United States, provided their passports expired on or after January 1, 2020. The policy was to be in effect until December 31, 2021.

This temporary form of relief was granted in response to the extensive waiting period to renew a U.S. passport from outside the United States. Unlike Americans inside the United States, those abroad are required to apply for passport renewal in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Due to the limited operational capacity of U.S. Embassies and Consulates during the global pandemic, many Americans were finding themselves stranded abroad.

On December 21, 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Carrier Liaison Program issued a press release informing U.S. Citizens that the State Department is extending this policy through March 31, 2022.


What criteria do I need to meet to use my expired passport for direct travel to the United States from overseas?


If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may now use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until March 31, 2022.

You qualify for this exception if all the following are true:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
  • You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit (“connecting flights”) through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
  • Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
  • Your expired passport is undamaged.
  • Your expired passport is unaltered.
  • Your expired passport is in your possession.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We have very exciting news regarding the Biden administration’s plans to rescind the Covid-19 related travel bans that have suspended and restricted entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, India, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran since 2020.

On October 15, 2021, the White House announced that the United States will allow international travelers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the United States by land or air starting November 8, 2021.

This decision will lift the ban for vaccinated visitors from the affected regions.

On Friday October 15, 2021, a White House Official stated that the “CDC has already informed airlines that all FDA approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted for air travel. We anticipate the same will be true at the land border. These travelers are required to be prepared to attest to vaccination status and to present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request. By January, foreign nationals traveling across the land border for both essential and non-essential reasons will be required to be fully vaccinated.”

While the White House is still ironing out the complete details of the new policy including what exemptions the Biden administrations will grant to the vaccine requirements, we know that only generally applicants who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to enter.

The CDC considers an individual to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, while COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use by the World Health Organization include AstraZeneca/Oxford, Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

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