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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we bring you a new update from the U.S. Department of State regarding the status of immigrant visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas. Today, the Department of State released an update reminding immigrant visa applicants that consular interview appointments are being scheduled using a four-tiered system that generally triages immigrant visa applications based on a system of priority.

The update adds that where possible, Consular posts and Embassies will attempt to schedule some appointments within all four priority tiers every month. These attempts will be made to help reduce the massive backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and operational constraints. The new update also carves out priority exceptions for certain healthcare workers seeking immigrant visas.

Applicants should keep in mind that public health and safety remain a paramount concern amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Consular posts and Embassies are continuing to do the best they can depending on local conditions to schedule interview appointments according to the priority schedule, taking into account restrictions on movement and gathering imposed by host country government.

It is also important to consider that posts overseas must abide by U.S. government guidance on safety in the workplace and are following social distancing protocols and safety measures which have reduced the number of applicants consular sections are able to see in a single day.  Consular sections will only resume routine visa services when it is safe to do so based on the particular geographic location.


The Department of State’s Four-Tiered Prioritization Schedule


The Department of State has said that while all immigrant visa categories are important, during the pandemic, it has been forced to make difficult decisions regarding how it will prioritize immigrant visa applications as they operate at limited capacity and work through the substantial backlogs of immigrant visa cases.

Having considered the difficult circumstances all applicants face, the Department of State has followed a guiding principle for immigrant visa prioritization, with family reunification being a top priority for the U.S. Government. The State Department’s prioritization schedule highlights Congressional objectives calling upon the agency to adopt policies that prioritize immediate relative visa applicants and K-1 fiancées of U.S. citizens, followed by family preference immigrant visa applicants.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand-new week filled with new immigration updates. In this blog post, we share with you the very latest news from USCIS.


USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants Filing Form I-765 for OPT


We are happy to report that thanks to a new court order issued by the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, USCIS has extended flexibilities for certain foreign students filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization for Optional Practical Training (OPT), who have been negatively impacted by USCIS delays in issuing receipt notices.

For applicants who timely filed Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT and whose applications were later rejected, USCIS will accept a refiled Form I-765 as filed on the original filing date if the following is true:

  • The original, timely filed application was received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 31, 2021, inclusive; and
  • USCIS subsequently rejected it.

To take advantage of this flexibility, refiled applications must be received by November 30, 3021, for USCIS to treat the application as though filed on the original received date.

Additionally, for applications received through October 31, 2021, applicants can file Form I-765 up to 120 days before the program end date.


Why have these flexibilities been extended?


USCIS has been experiencing delays at certain lockboxes in issuing receipt notices for Form I-765 for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students. These delays are a result of COVID-19 restrictions, a dramatic increase in filings of certain benefit requests, postal service volume and delays, and other external factors. To provide some relief, USCIS is extending the above-mentioned flexibilities to assist certain applicants for OPT impacted by the delays.

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Welcome back to the Visalawyerblog! We have a very exciting announcement for you this afternoon. The International Entrepreneur Parole Program is back and in full force!

Today, May 10, 2021, USCIS announced that it will no longer pursue Trump era efforts to terminate the International Entrepreneur Parole Program and will instead remain committed to the continuance and implementation of the program to benefit immigrant entrepreneurs.

This decision is all part of the Biden administration’s efforts to restore faith in our legal immigration system, as outlined in Executive Order 14012, requiring DHS to identify and remove agency actions that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system.


What’s been happening with the International Entrepreneur Parole Program?


The International Entrepreneur Parole program was first established during the final days of the Obama administration with a planned implementation date of July 17, 2017. The program was designed to expand the admission of certain entrepreneurs into the United States by granting them temporary permission to enter the United States, (also known as “parole”) for a period of up to five years in order for the entrepreneur to begin a start-up business in the United States. Qualifying businesses include those with a high potential for growth and expansion.

The program did not establish a permanent immigration option, nor did it qualify an entrepreneur for permanent residence. Instead, the program was implemented as an option for eligible entrepreneurs wishing to remain in the United States on a temporary basis. One of the main advantages of the program was that entrepreneurs could take advantage of a much simpler immigration process known as requesting “parole” instead of having to apply for an investor visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Sadly, shortly after Donald Trump assumed the Presidency in early 2017, his administration quickly went to work to dismantle and undo the International Entrepreneur Rule before its planned implementation date.

The Trump administration set the stage for the undoing of the program by first issuing a rule in the federal register to delay the program’s implementation date to March 14, 2018, giving the agency more time to terminate the program.

On May 29, 2018, the administration formally moved to terminate the program by publishing a proposed rule to terminate the program altogether. Since then, the program has remained in a state of limbo, with the Trump era proposed rule still sitting idle in the Federal Register.

Today, the Biden administration made clear that the International Entrepreneur Parole Program is here to stay.

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You’ve filed your petition with USCIS and have received your receipt notice in the mail, now what?

A receipt notice also known as a “Notice of Action” is sent by USCIS to an applicant/petitioner of an immigrant or non-immigrant benefit, to communicate information relating to receipt of the benefit requested, or to notify the applicant of a rejection, extension, transfer, re-opening, or of an appointment (for biometrics or interview).

Why is this notice important?

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Have you ever wondered what visa options are available to social media influencers?

Social media influencers have quickly become of the biggest assets for brands seeking to reach millennial audiences by way of influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing refers to a business collaboration with an influential person on social media to promote a product, service, or a campaign. Social media influencers are those who have amassed a large following on social media and have established credibility among their followers within their specific industry.

An influencer can come to the United States and work with brands to promote their goods or services by applying for the O-1B visa for aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the social media influencer must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim via social media, and seek to come to the United States to work with companies using their social media platform.

What is extraordinary ability?

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction.  Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in their field.

For social media influencers this means a large following within their field of business such as fashion, gaming, travel, lifestyle, etc.

Evidentiary Criteria:

There are 6 evidentiary criteria that must be met to obtain the O-1B visa:

Evidence that the applicant has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

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This evening the President of the United States delivered his first primetime address from the Oval Office to gain support from the American people to build a border wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

The President’s speech comes 17 days into a partial government shutdown that has left thousands of federal government employees without a paycheck.

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Several weeks ago, the President signed an executive order preventing undocumented immigrants from applying for asylum.

On Monday, a federal judge from San Francisco issued a nationwide injunction, forcing the government to continue to accept asylum claims by undocumented immigrants, regardless of where or how they entered the United States. As a result, the President’s executive order will be suspended until a decision is reached by the court in the lawsuit East Bay Sanctuary Covenant et al., v. Donald J. Trump, et al.,

The President hoped that his executive order would curb illegal immigration at the Southern border, ahead of the arrival of a large immigrant caravan from Central America.

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As the days lead up to April 3, 2017, (the first day that USCIS will begin to accept H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2018) our office will be very busy putting the final touches on all cap-subject H-1B petitions. In this post, we will discuss what you should be doing now to tie up any loose ends and increase your chances of selection this H-1B season. In addition, this post will outline what you can expect to receive from USCIS after filing.

First, create a preliminary checklist to ensure that you have met all the requirements to properly file your H-1B cap-subject petition:

Note: Premium processing is suspended for all petitions filed for H-1B fiscal year 2018 for both the H-1B regular cap and master’s cap. Do not file a Form I-907 request for premium processing because the form will be rejected. If you include the I-907 fee in combination with any other filing fees associated with the H-1B visa, USCIS will reject the entire H-1B petition.

Checklist:

  1. Did you include the correct version of all forms with revision date on/after Oct. 23, 2014? See uscis.gov/forms to download current form versions.
  2. Did you properly sign and complete Form I-129 including the correct H Classification Supplement?
  3. Did you properly sign and complete the I-129 and H Supplement?
  4. Did you properly sign and complete the I-129 Data Collection Supplement and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement?
  5. Did you include a properly signed and certified Form ETA-9035 Labor Condition Attestation (LCA) from the Department of Labor for the position for which the beneficiary is applying for?
  6. Did you ensure all forms have an original signature in black or blue ink?
  7. Did you include separate signed checks or money orders for each filing fee with the correct fee amounts?

REMEMBER that USCIS recently changed its fee schedule for certain petitions effective December 23, 2016. See https://www.uscis.gov/fees for a complete list of current fees.

  1. Did you include all required documentation and evidence in support of your petition? See below for a running list.
  2. Did you ensure that you have included only one H-1B position for the beneficiary of each H-1B petition you have prepared?
  3. Do you know the service center where you must file the petition? If not, ensure that you submit your petition to the correct USCIS service center. The service center where your petition must be filed depends on the work location of the H-1B beneficiary as you have specified in the petition. To determine the correct service center see https://www.uscis.gov/i-129-addresses. Failure to submit your petition to the correct service center will result in a rejection of your H-1B petition.

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Last week, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a series of immigration enforcement operations nationwide, otherwise known as “raids” to crack down on illegal immigration. The operations took place over a five-day period in the metropolitan cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City, and resulted in the arrest of more than 680 individuals. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these raids were targeted at convicted criminals unlawfully present in the United States, persons who are a threat to our public safety, including gang members, and “individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws” by illegally re-entering the country after having been removed, including fugitives who could not be found after having been ordered removed by federal immigration judges. Additionally, DHS reported that of those who were arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including “homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.”

Communities across the United States went into uproar, after reports began pouring in that hundreds of non-threatening individuals including mothers and children were being taken into custody and removed from the United States during these operations. One of the first such individuals to be arrested was Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a Mexican mother of two U.S. Citizen children, who was detained by ICE at a routine check point in Phoenix, after having lived 20 years in that state. Garcia de Rayos had come to the United States illegally as a child. She was arrested during a 2008 raid on her Arizona workplace on suspicion that the business was hiring undocumented immigrants using fraudulent IDs. Garcia de Rayos was taken into custody six months later, when investigators discovered discrepancies in her employment documents. She pled guilty in 2009 to criminal impersonation and was sentenced to 2 year’s probation. Despite these offenses, Guadalupe was considered to be a “low priority” of enforcement and was required to check in with immigration officials.

After news broke of her arrest, the Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Mexican nationals to contact the Mexican consulate for immigration assistance, information relating to their immigration rights, and protections offered to them by the Center for Information and Assistance to Mexicans (CIAM). According to the Foreign Ministry, Mexican consulates in the United States have allocated additional resources to protect the rights of Mexican nationals. The Foreign Ministry added that they anticipate these immigration raids will increase in severity and are likely to violate the due process of rights of Mexican nationals.

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