Articles Posted in USCIS Field Offices

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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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We hope you are having a wonderful end to your week. In this blog post, we bring you some of the most highly anticipated news from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Yesterday, September 15, 2022, USCIS announced the third phase of the expansion of premium processing service for petitioners who have a pending Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, under the EB-1 and EB-2 employment-based classifications.

As with the first and second phase of the premium processing expansion, the third phase of expansion only applies to certain previously filed Form I-140 petitions under the EB-1 multinational executive and manager classification, and EB-2 classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver (NIW) that were filed on certain dates. Only such petitions will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing using Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.


Who will benefit?


Beginning September 15, 2022, USCIS will accept Form I-907 Premium Processing requests for:

  • EB-1 multinational executive and manager petitions received on or before January 1, 2022; and
  • EB-2 NIW petitions for advanced degree or exceptional ability received on or before February 1, 2022.

USCIS has explicitly made clear that it will reject premium processing requests for these Form I-140 classifications if the receipt date is after the dates listed above. For cases eligible to upgrade to premium processing, USCIS will guarantee 45 calendar days to take adjudicative action for these requests for premium processing service. USCIS will not accept new (initial) Forms I-140 with a premium processing request at this time for petitions that do not explicitly fall under the above categories.

USCIS also cautions members of the public that on May 24, 2022, the agency published a new version of Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing, dated 05/31/22. As of July 1, 2022, USCIS no longer accepts the older 09/30/20 edition of form I-907.

This move is part of USCIS’ commitment to expand premium processing service to additional form types in order to improve processing times and increase efficiency across the agency.

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In this blog post, we share with you some new updates regarding the employment-based numerical limits for immigrant visas in fiscal year 2022.

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of visa services at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide, approximately 140,000 family-sponsored visa numbers went unused during fiscal year 2021.

This was due to the pent-up demand for in-person visa interviews that could not be accommodated. Fortunately, these visa numbers have trickled down to the employment-based categories, expanding the number of visa numbers available in fiscal year 2022 to nearly double the usual amount.

Sadly, fiscal year 2022 is nearly coming to a close. To provide the public with more transparency regarding the usage of employment-based visa numbers, the U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its frequently asked questions for employment-based adjustment of status. We breakdown the questions and answers down below.

How many employment-based visas did USCIS and DOS use in FY 2021? How many employment-based visas went unused in FY 2021?


A: The annual limit for employment-based visa use in FY 2021 was 262,288, nearly double the typical annual total. The Department of State (DOS) publishes the official figures for visa use in their Report of the Visa Office.

Overall, the two agencies combined to use 195,507 employment-based immigrant visas in FY 2021.

  • DOS issued 19,779 employment-based immigrant visas, and USCIS used 175,728 employment-based immigrant visas through adjustment of status, more than 52% higher than the average before the pandemic.
  • Despite our best efforts, 66,781 visas went unused at the end of FY 2021.

UPDATED: Can you estimate how many family-sponsored or employment-based immigrant visas USCIS and DOS will use during FY 2022?


A:  DOS has determined that the FY 2022 employment-based annual limit is 281,507 – (slightly more than double the typical annual total) – due to unused family-based visa numbers from FY 2021 being allocated to the current fiscal year’s available employment-based visas.

  • Through July 31, 2022, the two agencies have combined to use 210,593 employment-based immigrant visas (FY2022 data is preliminary and subject to change).
  • USCIS alone approved more than 10,000 employment-based adjustment of status applications in the week ending August 14, 2022, and DOS continues its high rate of visa issuance, as well. USCIS states that it will maximize our use of all available visas by the end of the fiscal year and are well-positioned to use the remaining visas.

NEW: Will my case be processed faster if I file a second Form I-485?


A: Submitting a new adjustment of status application typically does not result in faster adjudication and may have the opposite effect by adding extra burden to the USCIS workload.

  • USCIS is identifying and prioritizing all employment-based adjustment of status applications with available visas and approved underlying petitions, including those received prior to this fiscal year. This includes applications where noncitizens have submitted a transfer of underlying basis requests.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest H-1B lottery news.

Today, August 23, 2022, USCIS announced that the computer-generated H-1B lottery has been fully completed to select enough petitions to meet the H-1B regular cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption for fiscal year 2023.

With this announcement, USCIS brings the 2023 fiscal year H-1B lottery to a close. Those wishing to participate in the program must wait until March 2023 to submit new applications for the fiscal year 2024 H-1B visa lottery.

For fiscal year 2023, USCIS previously announced that the agency received 483,927 H-1B registrations and initially selected 127,600 registrations as needed to reach the fiscal year 2023 numerical allocations. No second lottery was conducted. Those with selected registrations received notification of selection through their myUSCIS accounts including a selection notice, with details about when and where to file.

In comparison to fiscal year 2022, USCIS received 308,613 H-1B registrations and initially selected 87,500 registrations to meet the fiscal year 2022 numerical allocations. A second lottery took place which selected an additional 27,717 registrations, and a third lottery selected an additional 16,753 registrations, for a total of 131,970 selected registrations in fiscal year 2022.

What happens next?

At this point, USCIS has completed its selection process and sent out non-selection notifications via the myUSCIS online accounts to those petitioners and their attorneys who were not selected for FY 2023.

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Have you ever wondered: can I apply for a visa to the U.S., as a musician from a foreign country, a major social media influencer, or a serious business entrepreneur with recognition in the major media, with features in Vogue Magazine, YouTube, and Oprah Winfrey’s Supersoul Class?

In this blog post, we share with you how our office was able to prove how these different types of extraordinary individuals qualified for the O1 Visa category, resulting in victories for these clients. We also describe how we were able to accomplish these objectives, by presenting an abundance of documentary evidence to help these individuals prove their extraordinary abilities in arts and business.


An Overview: What are the O1-A and O1B Visa Requirements?


Commonly referred to as the “artist” visa or “athlete” visa, we must first discuss the general requirements to qualify for the O1 visa.

An O1-A visa petition must demonstrate the applicant is an individual of extraordinary ability in the areas of business, science, education, and athletics, with supporting documentation showing receipt of a major internationally recognized award, like a Nobel Prize. However, if the applicant has not received such an award, the applicant must prove they meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field.
  • Membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievements of their members, as judged by recognized experts in the field.
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in the field, in professional journals, or other major media.
  • Published material in professional or major trade publications or major media about applicant’s work.
  • Evidence of participation on a panel, or individually, as the judge of the work of others in the field.
  • Evidence in the form of five or six letters and affidavits from prominent colleagues who can confirm applicant’s original scientific or scholarly contributions of major significance to the field. Certain regulations require a “peer group” must attest to the applicant’s outstanding qualifications. We have found that this requirement may be fulfilled by letters of recommendation in which the referees outline their own standing in the field.
  • Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation.
  • Evidence of commanding a high salary or other compensation for services (this category does not usually apply to academic positions).

Similarly, an O1-B visa petition must demonstrate the applicant is an individual who can prove extraordinary achievement in the areas of art, television, and film. If the applicant has received an internationally recognized award like an Oscar or Grammy, then the applicant will qualify for the O1-B visa. However, if the applicant has not received such award, then the applicant must prove they have at least three of the following:

  • Evidence that the beneficiary has performed, and will perform, services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events that have a distinguished reputation, as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements.
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as evidenced by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has 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;
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has a record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as evidenced by such indicators as title, rating, standing in the field, box office receipts, motion pictures or television ratings, and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers, or other publications;
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies, or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged. Such testimonials must be in a form which clearly indicates the author’s authority, expertise, and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements; or
  • Evidence that the beneficiary has either commanded a high salary or will command a high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as evidenced by contracts or other reliable evidence

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We kickoff the start of a brand new week with some new developments in the world of immigration.


USCIS Transfers Certain H-1B Petitions to the California Service Center


On June 16, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that certain H-1B petitions, including fiscal year (FY 2023) cap subject H-1B petitions, going through the intake process at the Vermont Service Center (VSC) will be transferred to the California Service Center (CSC) where they will go through data intake and adjudication.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! New developments are underway by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to improve the way the agency is communicating case processing times to members of the public.

The agency recently announced new efforts to streamline information provided on its processing times webpage. For each type of immigration benefit, USCIS releases information regarding how much time it is taking the agency to process that particular application, petition, or request. Previously, processing times were estimated based on how long the agency took to approve or deny a certain percentile of forms or petitions over the prior 6-month period.

Now, USCIS has updated their webpage so that users can find the processing time information for their particular type of case, rather than seeing an aggregate of all related case types. This provides applicants with a more accurate picture of how long their particular type of case is taking to be processed.

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DACA Renewal E-Filing is here!

Exciting news is on the horizon for those filing a renewal of their deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)!

This week, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that applicants will now be able to file their applications online on Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Additionally, renewal applicants may also file applications to renew their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) online by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and the Form I-765 Worksheet.

This move will now make it easier for applicants to obtain a renewal of their status faster and more efficiently.

While the agency hopes to expand the possibility of electronic filing to a broader pool of applicants in the future, the e-file option is currently only available for individuals who have been previously granted DACA.

The e-filing option is expected to help reduce the substantial backlogs at the USCIS level. Currently, USCIS receives nearly half a million Form I-821D DACA requests every fiscal year, and processes more than 8.8 million requests for immigration benefits. As time has gone on, the agency has allowed online filings to streamline the application process.

How can you file online?


DACA renewal applicants who wish to file Form I-821D and Form I-765 online, must first create a USCIS online account, to submit their forms, pay fees and track the status of any pending USCIS immigration request throughout the adjudication process. There is no cost to set up an account, and one of the added benefits is that applicants have the ability to communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox and respond online to Requests for Evidence received.

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USCIS RFE/NOID Flexibility Continued for Responses to Agency Requests


USCIS recently 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. Those who have received a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or such a related document, will be given 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 July 25, 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 July 25, 2022, can take advantage of the additional 60 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:

  • The form was filed up to 60 calendar days from the issuance of a decision made by USCIS: and
  • USCIS made that decision anytime from November 1, 2021, through July 25, 2022 inclusive.

For more information about this guidance please click here.

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USCIS backlogs have become a nightmare for many during the last few years. But now the government is holding the agency accountable for its inadequacies. As part of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2022, USCIS was required to inform the government regarding how exactly it is planning to ramp up processing of applications in Fiscal Year 2022.

In the Continuing Appropriations Act, Congress has pledged to provide $250 million to USCIS to support application processing. Part of this money must be utilized by the agency to help reduce application processing backlogs at USCIS field offices and service centers nationwide.

For its part, USCIS informed the government that the total number of cases backlogged at the agency as of September 2021 was a whopping 4.4 million cases.

The agency has said that it hopes to focus on backlog reduction for the following types of forms that account for more than half (61%) of its total backlog. These include I-485 adjustment of status applications, I-765 applications for employment authorization, and N-400 applications for citizenship.

USCIS did not provide information regarding reduction of possible backlogs for I-539 change/extension of status applications, which is a big dilemma for those trying to extend their H-4, L-2, and E-2 Dependents visas. These individuals are a high-risk group experiencing employment interruptions as they await the renewal of their nonimmigrant status.

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