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Articles Posted in USCIS

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Welcome to the start of a new week! In this blog post we discuss an exciting new announcement and a quick reminder regarding upcoming increases in filing fees.

USCIS Announces Extension of Flexibility for RFE, NOID, and Similar Responses

On September 11, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) extended its previous policy granting applicants additional time to respond to requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny, and such similar notices.

Specifically, USCIS has stated that an applicant who has received a request, notice or decision dated between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021, may respond to such request or notice within 60 calendar days after the due date/deadline provided in the notice or request.

This flexibility is granted for the following types of notices, so long as the notice or request is dated between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021:

  • 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;
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant;
  • 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.

This flexibility has been provided to allow applicants the opportunity to gather important documentation needed to respond to the request or notice, given the extraordinary delays applicants have been facing in obtaining documents during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This policy ensures that USCIS will not take any adverse action on a case without first considering a response to the request or notice issued to the applicant.

USCIS will also consider a Form N-336 and Form I-290B “received” up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision, before taking any action.

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We would like to wish our readers a very great start of the week. In this blog post, we will be covering recent and exciting developments in immigration law.


K-1 Visa Applicants

We have great news for K-1 fiancé visa applicants. Today, August 31, 2020, the Department of State issued an important announcement for K visa applicants. Effective August 28, 2020, the Department of State has given Consular sections the authority to grant K visa cases “high priority.” This directive applies to Consulates and Embassies worldwide and gives Consular posts the discretion to prioritize the scheduling of K visa interviews, as country conditions allow during the Coronavirus pandemic.

DOS has encouraged applicants to check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on what services that post is currently able to offer.

Revalidating the I-129F Petition

DOS has also stated that while the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is valid for a period of four months, consular officials have the authority to revalidate the I-129F petition in four-month increments.

In addition, the announcement states that for most cases impacted by the suspension of routine visa services or COVID-19 travel restrictions, it will not be necessary to file a new I-129F petition.


Interview Waiver Eligibility for Certain Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants

The Department of State announced on August 25, 2020, that Consular officials at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad can temporarily waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification.

Previously, interview waiver eligibility was limited to applicants whose nonimmigrant visa expired within 12 months. The new announcement temporarily extends the expiration period to 24 months.

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We would like to inform our readers of very important information relating to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Recently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new memorandum that explains how the agency will handle new requests for DACA and advance parole requests in light of recent court rulings.


New DACA Requests Will Be Rejected

As clarified by the new memorandum, USCIS has confirmed that it will reject all initial DACA requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents, and return all associated fees to applicants without prejudice. “Without prejudice” means that applicants may reapply for DACA in the future should USCIS choose to accept initial DACA requests at a later time.


DACA Renewal Requests Continue to Be Accepted for those Granted DACA in the past

As before, USCIS will continue to accept DACA renewal requests from aliens who were granted DACA at any time in the past.

In addition, USCIS will continue to accept requests for advance parole that are properly submitted for individuals who can demonstrate that their travel is for any of the following purposes: to support the national security interests of the United States, to support U.S. federal law enforcement interests, to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment not otherwise available to the alien in the U.S., or where travel is needed to support the immediate safety, wellbeing or care of an immediate relative, particularly minor children of the alien  (see below).

Please note that even with a valid advance parole document re-entry to the United States is not guaranteed.


DACA Renewals Limited to One-Year Duration

DACA renewal requests that are approved will receive a grant of deferred action and employment authorization for a period of no more than one year. For those that were previously issued a two-year employment authorization card that remains valid, USCIS will not be rescinding these two-year benefits. USCIS may only terminate an alien’s validly issued DACA for failure to continue to meet DACA criteria, including failure to warrant a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

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Congress is moving quickly to avert the financial crisis currently plaguing the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On Saturday August 22nd the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill aiming to provide much needed emergency funding to help USCIS meet its operational needs.

Earlier this year, USCIS made clear that without additional funding the agency would need to furlough two-thirds of its workforce by the end of August, even after announcing an increase in fees set to go into effect on October 2nd. The agency has been struggling to stay afloat in the wake of the Coronavirus.

While the bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President, this is very promising news and a step in the right direction for applicants waiting in line for their applications to be processed on a timely basis.

Should the bill be successful it will stop the agency’s planned furloughs and inject much needed capital to help USCIS deal with the significant backlogs across the board. The Senate is expected to return to chambers in September and will likely take up the issue as soon as possible.

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We have great news for our readers. On August 19, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an important announcement for applicants whose Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization has been approved, but who have not yet received their employment authorization document (EAD card) by mail.


What’s this all about

Since the emergence of the Coronavirus outbreak, there has been significant delays affecting the production of certain Employment Authorization Documents also known as EAD cards, which permit an applicant to obtain lawful employment in the United States, a driver’s license, and other important documentation such as a Social Security number.

These delays have caused hardships for applicants and created additional obstacles to finding employment during an already difficult economic time.

The good news is that USCIS is providing temporary relief for applicants who have received an approval notice, but have not yet received an employment authorization document (EAD card) in the mail.

Due to the unprecedented and extraordinary circumstances caused by COVID-19, USCIS will allow foreign nationals to temporarily use their Form I-797 Notice of Action, with a notice date on or after December 1, 2019 through August 20, 2020, informing the applicant of the approval of their I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, as evidence of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

In other words, individuals can now provide employers with the I-797 Notice of Action, receipt of approval of the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, in order to qualify for lawful employment.

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Welcome to a start of a brand-new week. In this post we provide the latest updates in the world of immigration.

New Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization

We would like to inform our readers that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will publish a new edition of Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with edition date 8/25/20. Beginning August 25, 2020, USCIS will only accept the new edition of Form I-765 (8/25/20).

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We have very unfortunate news regarding the implementation of the “public charge” rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on adjustment of status applicants.

In an unexpected turn of events, yesterday three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, issued a ruling in the case, 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., stating that while they agreed with a lower court’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent the government from enforcing the “public charge,” rule during the Coronavirus pandemic, the judges held that the injunction was warranted only with respect to the states that filed the lawsuit and that were able to demonstrate standing, which included the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Accordingly, the Second Circuit Court’s opinion modifies the scope of the “public charge” injunction, and only prevents DHS and USCIS from enforcing the “public charge” rule with respect to those residing in the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. The Court’s decision modifies the previous lower court decision issued by Federal Judge George Daniels on July 29th.

As you may recall that decision was made out of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and applied nationwide.

Shortly after that decision was made, DHS immediately appealed the Daniels decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which ultimately modified the scope of the injunction, preventing DHS from enforcing the public charge rule only with respect to New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, but allowing DHS and USCIS to enforce the “public charge,” rule elsewhere.

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We have great news for visa applicants regarding the public charge rule. On August 7, 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued an important update explaining that the agency will be complying with the July 29th injunction issued by a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York which temporarily blocks the government from “enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective,” the public charge rule known as “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which was implemented on February 20, 2020.

As a result, effective June 29th (the date of the Judge’s order) neither Consular officials nor the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can enforce any part of the public charge rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and for as long as the injunction remains in place.

In other words, visa applicants applying for both immigrant and non-immigrant visas at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad, can rest assured that Consular officials will not enforce the public charge rule known as “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” in any way pursuant to the Court’s ruling on June 29th.

In their statement the Department of State made clear, “the Department is complying with the court’s order and is in the process of updating its guidance to consular officers on how to proceed under the preliminary injunction. In the interim, visa applications that appear to be ineligible under INA 212(a)(4) will be refused for administrative processing to allow for consultation with the Department, including legal review to ensure compliance with applicable court orders.  Visa applicants are not requested to take any additional steps at this time and should attend their visa interviews as scheduled.  Applicants are not required to complete, nor should they present the DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire.”

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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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