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Articles Posted in USCIS

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We have great news for our readers regarding a recent court’s decision to temporarily halt the “public charge” rule during the Coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, July 29, a federal judge in the state of New York issued a ruling that blocks the government’s enforcement of the “public charge” rule on non-citizens seeking permanent residency in the United States, and nonimmigrant visa applicants alike, for as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains a public health emergency. The ruling was made in response to a federal lawsuit filed by several states against the government entitled, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in State of New York, et al. v. DHS, et al. and Make the Road NY et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al.


What does this mean for visa and adjustment of status applicants?

Federal Judge George Daniels has approved a nationwide injunction, immediately stopping the government from “enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating,” as effective the “public charge” rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This means that effective June 29th both consular officers and USCIS immigration officials cannot enforce any part of the “public charge” rule for as long as the injunction remains and place, and a national public health emergency exists.


Why did the judge make this ruling?

The judge agreed with the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont that the “public charge” rule would cause irreparable harm on non-citizens seeking entry to the United States because the rule discourages such individuals from obtaining the necessary treatment and care needed during the Coronavirus pandemic. The judge considered the “substantial harm” the public would suffer if the government continued to enforce the “public charge” rule and found that the temporarily injunction was necessary to allow non-citizens to obtain much needed public benefits for preservation of the public’s health and safety.

In defense of his opinion, the judge stated, “no person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact.”

The judge further stated in his ruling that the continued application of the “public charge” rule during the global pandemic, “would only contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

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During the past year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been facing a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As early as May of this year, a USCIS spokesperson informed the United States government that it needed a cash bailout of $1.2 billion by summertime in order to meet its operational costs. The agency found that fewer and fewer applicants were filing applications and petitions with USCIS which created a massive revenue shortfall for the agency.

To keep itself afloat, the agency said it would be preparing to increase filing fees for certain types of applications and petitions.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security officially announced a final rule that will be posted in the Federal Register on August 3rd that will increase filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits.

The final rule will become effective 60 days from August 3rd – the date of publication which falls on October 2, 2020.

That means that applications postmarked on or after October 2, 2020 with incorrect fees will be rejected by USCIS.


MOST IMPACTED APPLICATIONS AND PETITIONS

The following types of immigration requests are the most impacted with significant price increases:

  • I-929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant

Current Fee: $230

Final Fee: $1,485 (Increase of 546%)

  • I-881 Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal

Current Fee: $285

Final Fee: $1,810 (Increase of 535%)

  • I-193 Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa

Current Fee: $585

Final Fee: $2,790 (Increase of 377%)

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In complete defiance of a recent federal court order, mandating acceptance of initial requests for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Department of Homeland Security today issued a memorandum that states that effective immediately, the agency will reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA including all associated employment authorization applications, and reject all pending and future I-131 advance parole requests for beneficiaries of DACA. The agency has stated that it will refund all associated fees, without prejudice should DHS decide to accept initial requests for DACA in the future.

The memorandum orders, “DHS personnel to take all appropriate actions to reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA, to reject all pending and future applications for advance parole absent exceptional circumstances, and to shorten DACA renewals [to one year] consistent with the parameters established in this memorandum.”

Most shocking of all is that the memorandum limits the period of deferred action pursuant to the DACA program and associated employment authorization to just one year for DACA renewals filed after July 28th, when previously deferred action and employment authorization was issued for two years.

These actions are appalling and reflect judicial defiance that has never before been seen. These actions will surely set off a string of new lawsuits in the coming weeks. We must all stay tuned for new developments during this uncertain time for DACA.


Actions to be Taken by DHS as of July 28, 2020

The memorandum provides a list of actions DHS plans to take effective immediately which further detail the actions that will be taken by DHS as of today:

  • Reject all initial DACA requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents, and refund all associated fees, without prejudice to re-filing such requests should DHS determine to begin accepting initial requests again in the future.
  • Adjudicate all pending and future properly submitted DACA renewal requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents from current beneficiaries.
  • Limit the period of any deferred action granted pursuant to the DACA policy after the issuance of this memorandum (and thereby limit the period of any associated work authorization) to one year.
  • Refrain from terminating any grants of previously issued deferred action or revoking any Employment Authorization Documents based solely on the directives in this memorandum for the remaining duration of their validity periods.
  • Reject all pending and future Form I-131 applications for advance parole from beneficiaries of the DACA policy and refund all associated fees, absent exceptional circumstances.

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Great news! The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for August 2020 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts August 2020

For Family-Sponsored Filings:
In the F2A category, there is a cutoff date on the Dates for Filing chart.  However, the category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart.  This means that applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for August 2020.

For all the other family-sponsored preference categories, you must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2020.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
For all employment-based preference categories, you must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2020.

August Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


Employment Based Categories

According to the Department of State’s August Visa Bulletin, the following cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries remain current during the month of August except for China and India. EB-1 China will advance by almost six months to February 8, 2018, while EB-1 India will advance by nine months to February 8, 2018.
  • EB-2: All countries except EB-2 China and India remain current. EB-2 China will advance by more than two months to January 15, 2016, and EB-2 India will remain at July 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries except EB-3 India and China will advance by almost a full year to April 1, 2019. Cutoff dates for EB-3 China will advance by almost 8 months to February 15, 2017, and for India by four months to October 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: EB-5 India will remain current, joining all other countries except for EB-5 China and Vietnam.  China’s cutoff date will advance by two weeks to August 8, 2015, while Vietnam’s cutoff date will advance by more than two months to July 22, 2017

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In response to a high number of questions regarding the recent Maryland court decision ordering the government to reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for first time applicants, we have prepared this helpful guide.

First, let’s briefly discuss the Maryland decision. As our readers will know on July 17th a federal judge in Maryland presiding over the case, Casa de Maryland v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ordered the government to restore the DACA program to its pre-September 2017 status. This means that first-time applicants are now able to apply for DACA benefits.


What does the Maryland decision mean for DACA holders?

For now, USCIS must continue the DACA program as it was before it was rescinded on September 5, 2017, when applications for DACA were being accepted by first-time applicants.

In order to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision, as well as the Maryland district court’s order, USCIS must also accept the following applications that were suspended under prior court orders and should publish guidance immediately on its processing of these applications:

  • People Who Have Not Previously Been Granted DACA: The Court’s June 18, 2020 decision requires DHS to maintain the DACA program unless and until DHS follows correct procedure to terminate it. As a result, USCIS should immediately publish guidance on processing new, initial DACA applications.
  • Advance Parole Requests: The Court’s June 18, 2020 decision requires DHS to maintain the DACA program unless and until DHS follows correct procedure to terminate it. Because advance parole based on DACA was a part of the 2012 DACA program, USCIS should immediately publish guidance on processing advance parole applications filed by DACA recipients.

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This afternoon, a federal judge in Maryland quietly handed down a victory for new DACA applicants. The judge in the case, Casa de Maryland v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has ordered the government to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to its pre-September 2017 status, meaning that first-time applicants can now apply for Deferred Action and an employment authorization document from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.


What was this lawsuit about?

The Casa de Maryland v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security lawsuit was brought on October 5, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, to challenge the Trump administration’s revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The plaintiffs were a group of nonprofit organizations and DACA recipients who sought to enjoin (stop) the federal government from terminating the DACA program. The plaintiffs argued that the Trump administration’s 2017 rescission of the program was motivated by discriminatory animus toward individuals from Mexico and Central America. They also argued that revoking DACA violated Fifth Amendment due process and equal protection, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

In response to the lawsuit, the government filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. On March 5, 2018, the judge ordered the government to stop using or sharing information provided by DACA applicants for enforcement or deportation purposes, but declared that the Trump administration’s rescission of the DACA program was valid and constitutional.

On April 27, 2018, the plaintiff’s appealed the case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court reversed the district court’s decision finding that the rescission of DACA was invalid and unconstitutional. The court decided that the government’s rescission of DACA was arbitrary and capricious and remanded the case back to the lower courts.

Today, on remand in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 18, 2020 decision holding that rescission of DACA was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the APA, the judge’s decision “restores DACA to its pre-September 5, 2017, status…”

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Today, Monday, July 6, 2020, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release introducing new modifications taken by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that will apply to all international students in F-1 and M-1 status taking courses during this upcoming Fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be publishing new procedures and responsibilities for F-1 and M-1 students during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester in the Federal Register including changes to current policies for F-1 international students.

Monday’s modifications introduce surprising requirements for F-1 and M-1 students taking online classes due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the fall 2020 semester.


What are these new requirements?

There are three sets of new requirements.

F-1 and M-1 Students Attending Schools with Full Online Instruction During the Upcoming Fall 2020 Semester Must Transfer to In-Person Instruction or Depart the United States

Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students who are attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall 2020 semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.

Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

If the student fails to transfer to a school with in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester, the student may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.

F-1 Students Attending Schools With In-Person Instruction Bound to Existing Regulations – Can Take 3 Credits Online

F-1 students who will attend schools operating under “normal” in-person instruction during the Fall 2020 semester (as opposed to online classes) will be bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students are permitted to take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

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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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We have great news for applicants who are issued a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or a related document, between March 1st and September 11th.

On July 1, 2020, USCIS announced that it will extend its flexibility policy and will continue to grant applicants an additional 60 calendar days after the response deadline indicated on the notice or request, to submit a response to the request or notice, provided the request or notice was issued by USCIS between March 1 and September 11.


What documents qualify for this flexibility in responding?

Applicants who received any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1 and September 11th 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 and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
  • Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or
  • Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

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Interviews at the San Diego Field Office

We have great news for our local readers. The USCIS San Diego Field Office is scheduled to resume interviews on July 6, 2020, with priority given to adjustment of status applications filed by doctors and front-line workers fighting to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. Under certain circumstances, USCIS will exercise its discretion to waive adjustment of status interviews on a case-by-case basis.


What will be the approach for rescheduling?

The USCIS San Diego Field Office will begin rescheduling all other interviews on a “first-in, first-out,” basis based on receipt date of filing. This will occur as soon as possible.


When will biometrics offices reopen to the public?

Application Support Centers in San Marcos in Chula Vista are scheduled to reopen to the public on July 27, we ask our readers to please be patient while they wait to be rescheduled. Those with cancelled biometrics will be automatically rescheduled and will receive a notice in the mail with a new biometrics appointment.


What about Parole in Place cases?

Parole in place applications continue to be adjudicated, however applicants should expect delays.


What about citizenship applications?

USCIS will continue to prioritize the scheduling of oath ceremonies for naturalization applicants. Those who did not appear at a scheduled oath ceremony will receive a letter by mail. As we previously reported, oath ceremonies in San Diego are being held at the Cabrillo National Monument and the City of El Cajon parking lot adjacent to the police department.

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