Articles Posted in U.S. Citizens

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In this blog post, we share with our readers some exciting new updates and information on travel to the United States for Americans who have found themselves stranded abroad with expired U.S. passports.

On May 24, 2021, the Department of State issued a press release informing members of the public that U.S. Citizens currently overseas whose passports expired on or after January 1, 2020, may be able to use their expired U.S. passports to make direct return travel to the United States, provided they meet a certain set of criteria. This policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.


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 be able to use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until December 31, 2021.

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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In its continued efforts to improve communications with the public regarding the status of visa operations worldwide, the Department of State recently provided new insights regarding Immigrant Visa Prioritization at Consular posts overseas.

To reduce the immigrant visa backlog, the Department has announced the adoption of a new four-tiered approach that is designed to triage the processing of immigrant visa applications according to prioritization standards set by U.S. Congress. Such standards will ensure prioritized visa processing for certain categories of immigrant visa applicants, while posts prepare to resume and expand visa processing as local conditions improve.

Prioritization of immigrant visas will begin with a first tier including prioritization of immigrant visas for immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), and certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government).

The second tier will include prioritization of immigrant visas for immediate relatives, fiancé(e) visas, and returning resident visas.

While the third tier will prioritize immigrant visas for family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad.

Finally, the fourth tier will prioritize immigrant visa processing for all other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are excited to bring you a newly released update from the Department of State regarding the operational status of visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world forcing the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates to scale down operations due to reduced staff, limited resources, and constraints having to do with local conditions and restrictions, including local and national lockdowns, travel restrictions, and other measures that have been taken by U.S. Embassies and Consulates to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Due to these restrictions, the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have dramatically reduced their appointment capacity. This has in turn created substantial backlogs of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications awaiting a visa interview. Many have already been documentarily qualified by the NVC and have not been able to proceed with visa processing due to the Embassy’s inability to open new appointments for applicants.

As a result, Consular posts and Embassies have been following a “phased resumption” of visa services framework, meaning that each post will carefully assess its country conditions and its resources, to gradually determine when it can resume visa service operations to normal levels. However, this process will take time and will depend on each Embassy’s ability to open more appointments for visa applicants.

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we bring you a recent success story and share with you how our office was able to expedite our client’s fiancé visa to help him reunite with his U.S. Citizen fiancé, despite the suspension of routine visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.

As you may recall, during March of last year, in an unprecedented move, the Department of State made the decision to suspend all routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, in response to significant worldwide challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thereafter in July of 2020, U.S. Embassies and Consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services, but only on a post-by-post basis as resources and local conditions would allow.

In reality routine visa services at the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have remained suspended with posts granting appointments only for emergency and mission-critical services.

Due to these visa suspensions, K visa applicants have been unable to proceed with visa issuance, with many applications sitting idle at the National Visa Center (NVC) waiting to be forwarded to the local Consulate for interview scheduling.

Most recently K visa applicants expressed their frustrations by filing a class action lawsuit known as Milligan v. Pompeo in an effort to force visa interview scheduling.

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On November 13, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced important revisions to the civics examination component of the naturalization test.

Unfortunately, these changes will make it more difficult for at least some immigrants to successfully become U.S. Citizens.

As you may be aware the naturalization test consists of two components. The first is English proficiency – applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency as determined by their ability to read, write, speak and understand English. The second requirement is the civics examination – an oral examination requiring applicants to demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government.

As part of the civics examination a USCIS Officer asks the applicant up to 10 of 100 possible civics questions. To successfully pass the examination applicants are required to answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly.

With the new revisions applying to applications filed on or after December 1, 2020, USCIS will increase the number of civics test questions that will be asked from 10 to 20 and applicants will be required to answer 12 questions (instead of 6) correctly in order to pass.


What exactly do the new changes include?

The USCIS policy alert published on November 13, 2020 entitled “Civics Educational Requirement for Purposes of Naturalization,” outlines the changes that will be made to the naturalization civics examination beginning December 1, 2020.

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With the 2020 elections quickly approaching and much at stake in the world of immigration, we remind you of the upcoming events relating to the presidential election, where you can register to vote and secure a mail in ballot, and of who is eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

Who Can Vote in the U.S. Presidential Election?

You are eligible to vote in U.S. Federal Elections if you are a United States Citizen, regardless of the manner in which you obtained citizenship. U.S. Citizen’s must meet their state’s residency requirements, be 18 years of age on or before election day and register to vote by your state’s deadline. If you are not yet registered to vote, please do so as soon as possible. Voting is one of the most important ways that Americans can participate in our democracy and protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

As a reminder, lawful permanent residents cannot vote in federal elections. Only United States citizens may do so.

For information on your state’s registration requirements please click here.


Criminal Issues May Impact Your Right to Vote

In some states, you may not be able to vote if you have certain felony convictions. If you have questions about whether you may vote in your state, contact your state county election officials where you wish to register to vote.


How Can You Vote?

You may vote either (1) in person at your designated polling place on election day (2) you may vote early in person at your designated early polling place, or (3) you may request a mail-in/absentee ballot if available and vote by mail.

To find your polling place click here.

For information on how to request a mail-in absentee ballot click here.

For information on how to check your registration status click here.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we celebrate a client’s recent success story and share with you how our office was able to expedite our client’s fiancé visa to help him reunite with his U.S. Citizen fiancé despite being subject to Presidential Proclamation 9993 also known as the “Schengen” visa ban.

We recognize that these are truly challenging times in the world of immigration and would like our readers to know that they are not alone. For many, there are alternatives and solutions that can be explored by our knowledgeable immigration attorneys to help them reunite with their family members. From our staff members to our attorneys, we are with you every step of the way on your immigration journey.

For a comprehensive consultation to discuss solutions to your immigration issues, you may contact us at 619-569-1768.

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We are just 60 days away from Election day in the United States which falls on Tuesday, November 3rd. Do you know where your candidate stands on immigration? In this post, we cover Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s stance on important immigration issues, and everything you need to know about his vision for America.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind those of our readers who are American citizens to exercise their right to vote. It is your civic duty and will help shape the nation’s immigration policy for the next four years. For voter registration information please click here.


Immigration under Joe Biden

If elected President of the United States, Joe Biden has stated that he will enact a number of policies during his four-year term. Among these policies, he promises to take urgent action to undo destructive policies implemented by the Trump administration, modernize the immigration system, reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees, and implement effective border screening.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform

First and foremost, Joe Biden supports working with Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration solution that would offer nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. As vice president, Joe Biden worked alongside former President Obama to push forward a bill that would do just that. Unfortunately, the Republican-led Congress refused to approve the bill, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants in limbo including Dreamers.

Joe Biden advocates for the creation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program,  the Central American Minors program, which allows parents with legal status in the U.S. to apply to bring their children from Central America to live with them, and the creation of a White House task force to support new Americans to integrate into American life and their communities.

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As of today, lawmakers in Congress have 115 days to pass legislation allowing more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as children, the opportunity to remain in the United States lawfully.

If Congress does not act by the March 5th deadline terminating the DACA program, it is likely that the President will give Congress more time to pass such legislation. The President has reiterated that he wants the solution to come from Congress, and will not act unilaterally to shield Dreamers from deportation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled to Congress that the future of DACA remains in their hands, recognizing that they have an “opportunity to do something historic.” Republican politicians have thus far shown their willingness to work with Democrats to pass legislation that would grant Dreamers not only protection from deportation and the ability to reside in the United States lawfully, but an opportunity to obtain citizenship. Notoriously conservative Republican Senator, Roy Blunt, along with others has said that he would be willing to support legislation granting Dreamers a path to citizenship, and said as early as Tuesday that deporting Dreamers to a country they did not grow up in would be “totally unreasonable.”

President Trump of course has said that he does not support legislation that would give Dreamers a path to citizenship, however a majority of Congress could override a Presidential veto should such a piece of legislation come to pass. Legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation would however come with certain conditions. The President, as well as Republicans, are pushing for provisions that would secure funding for the wall to be constructed along the U.S./Mexico border and enhance border security. Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse has said that the consensus among Congress is that “it is the responsibility of Congress, and not the administration to make immigration law.”

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For persons who have entered the United States illegally or who have accrued unlawful presence after having overstayed their visa, the possibility of obtaining lawful permanent residence (a green card) is very limited. In the United States there are generally two ways to adjust status to permanent residence. With few exceptions, a green card may generally be obtained through employment-based sponsorship, or family sponsorship based on a qualifying family relationship, such as a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident relative. Unlawful presence is a very serious immigration offense that is subject to punishment depending on the amount of time a person has accrued unlawful presence in the United States.

Undocumented immigrants who accrue unlawful presence in the United States, and subsequently leave the country, and attempt to re-enter the United States lawfully, may be subject to either a 3- or 10-year bar, based on the amount of time they have accrued unlawful presence in the United States. Specifically, under the Immigration and Nationality Action Section §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) a person who has accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence in the United States, is subject to a 3-year bar automatically triggered once the person departs the United States. The bar would thereby prevent a person from being re-admitted into the United States, depending on the amount of time they were previously unlawfully present in the country. Similarly, under the Immigration and Nationality Act §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II), a person who has accrued one year or more of unlawful presence in the United States, is subject to a 10-year bar preventing a person from being re-admitted to the United States, once they have departed from the United States.

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