Articles Posted in USCIS

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DACA recipients can now breathe a sigh of relief. We are happy to report that the Department of Homeland Security recently published a final rule in the Federal Register, taking a major step to safeguard the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, while the fight to uphold DACA is in litigation.


What does this mean?


The final rule officially took effect on October 31, 2022, to codify existing policy, preserve, and fortify DACA.

This means that effective October 31, 2022, pursuant to the final rule, the U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) will accept and process renewal DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization (EAD), consistent with court orders and an ongoing partial stay. Currently, valid grants of DACA, related employment authorization, and advance parole will continue to be recognized as valid under the final rule. Those with pending DACA renewal applications, do not need to reapply.

USCIS will also continue to accept and process applications for advance parole for current DACA recipients and will continue to accept but will not process initial (new) DACA requests.

Pursuant to an injunction and partial stay, handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, DHS is prohibited from granting initial (new) DACA requests and related employment authorization under the final rule.

While this is a temporary measure to protect existing DACA benefits, Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas stated, “Ultimately, we need Congress to urgently pass legislation that provides Dreamers with the permanent protection they need and deserve.”

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In this blog post, we bring you some unfortunate news. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it will no longer recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency.

Sadly, this means that certain F-1 student visa applicants will be impacted by this change, including those undertaking an English language study program. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has said that such programs are required to be accredited under the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act.

Additionally, this change will impact F-1 students applying for a 24-month science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension, because government regulations now require use of a degree from an accredited, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school to receive a STEM OPT extension.

The regulations make clear that the school must be accredited at the time of the application (the date of the designated school official’s (DSO) recommendation on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).


What happens next?


Students who have been impacted by this change will receive notification letters from SEVP informing them that their schools’ certification has been withdrawn.

USCIS has said that students who are enrolled at an ACICS-accredited school should contact their DSOs immediately to understand how this loss of accreditation will impact their status and/or immigration benefits.

To make matters worse, schools accredited by ACICS will not be able to issue program extensions, and students will only be allowed to finish their current session if the ACICS-accredited school chooses to voluntarily withdraw its certification or if is withdrawn by SEVP.

If a student’s ACICS-accredited school can provide evidence of a Department of Education recognized accrediting agency or evidence in lieu of accreditation within the allotted timeframe, the student may remain at the school to complete their program of study.


Requests for Evidence Imminent for I-539 Extend/Change of Status


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be issuing requests for evidence (RFEs) to individuals who filed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on or after August 19, 2022, requesting a change of status or reinstatement to attend an ACICS-accredited English language study program.

Once the individual receives the RFE, they will be given the opportunity to provide evidence in response, such as documentation showing that the English language study program they are seeking to enroll in meets the accreditation requirements.

If the student does not submit a new Form I-20 from a school accredited by an entity recognized by the Department of Education, USCIS will deny a change of status or reinstatement request.

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Happy Halloween! In this blog post, we bring you a brand-new immigration update.

On October 21, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the designation of Ethiopia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months. This decision marks Ethiopia’s first designation for TPS.

This designation was made based on ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Ethiopia that prevent its nationals from safely returning to their country. Concerns relating to conflict-related violence including killings, rape, and gender-based violence prompted the Secretary of Homeland Security to make this decision. Other temporary conditions further complicate the return of Ethiopian nationals including flooding, drought, and disease outbreaks.

In response to the DHS announcement, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas explained, “Ethiopian nationals currently residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return due to conflict-related violence and a humanitarian crisis involving severe food shortages, flooding, drought, and displacement, will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve.”

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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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In this blog post, we cover the release of the November Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the upcoming month of November.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart November 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the  Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2022.


November 2022 Visa Bulletin Dates for Filing Cutoff Dates


Employment-Based Categories


DATES FOR FILING FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES


According to the Department of State’s November 2022 Visa Bulletin, the following Dates for Filing cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries, including India and China, will remain current.
  • EB-2: EB-2 China will remain at July 8, 2019 and EB-2 India at May 1, 2012. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: EB-3 India will remain at July 1, 2012, and EB-3 China will remain at July 15, 2018. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB3 Other Workers: EB-3 China will remain at November 1, 2015, and EB-3 India will remain at July 1, 2012. A Date for Filing cut-off date of September 8, 2022, applies to all other countries.
  • EB-4: EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras will remain at April 15, 2018, and EB-4 Mexico at October 15, 2020. All other countries remain current
  • EB-5: For the EB-5 Unreserved categories (C5, T5, I5, and R5), the Date for Filing for China will remain at January 1, 2016, India will have a Date for Filing cut-off imposed of December 8, 2019, and all other countries will remain current. For the EB-5 “Set-Aside” categories (Rural, High Unemployment, and Infrastructure), the Date for Filing will remain current for all countries.

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In this blog post, we follow up on our previous reporting relating to a brand-new program launched by the Biden administration that will allow for the admission of up to 24,000 Venezuelans, closely following in the footsteps of the Uniting for Ukraine program.

Today, October 18, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services updated its “Venezuela” webpage including all the details regarding this new program. Applications are currently being accepted by USCIS.

We break down the details for you down below.


What is this program all about?


USCIS has launched a new process that allows Venezuelan nationals and their immediate family members to come to the United States in a safe and orderly manner.

Like the Uniting for Ukraine program, nationals of Venezuela who are outside the United States and who lack U.S. entry documents will be considered for admission to the United States on a case-by-case basis.

Those who are found eligible, will receive advance authorization to travel to the United States and a temporary period of parole for up to 2 years for urgent humanitarian reasons and significant public benefit.

After being paroled into the United States, beneficiaries are eligible to apply for discretionary employment authorization from USCIS. To apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), applicants must submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, using the (c)(11) category code with the required fee or apply for a fee waiver.

Using the same Form I-765 form, applicants can also apply for a Social Security number (SSN) by following the form instructions.

If you request an SSN in Part 2 (Items 13a-17.b) of your Form I-765, and your application is approved, USCIS will electronically transmit that data to the Social Security Administration (SSA), and SSA will assign you an SSN and issue you a Social Security card. SSA will mail your Social Security card directly to the address you provide on Form I-765.

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The Biden administration is ramping up efforts to secure the Southwest border to curb illegal immigration stemming from the humanitarian and economic crisis in Venezuela.

In a press release issued October 12, 2022, the Biden administration announced that effective immediately, Venezuelans who enter the United States between ports of entry, without authorization, will be returned to Mexico, pursuant to its agreement with the Mexican government.

The U.S. government also announced a new process to efficiently grant admission of up to 24,000 Venezuelans into the country, that mirrors the Uniting for Ukraine program. This effort is designed to encourage lawful and orderly admission to the United States for Venezuelans.

To be eligible for this new program, Venezuelans must:

  • have a supporter in the United States who will provide financial and other support;
  • pass rigorous biometric and biographic national security and public safety screening and vetting; and
  • complete vaccinations and other public health requirements.

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Happy Columbus Day! We start the week with great news for green card applications.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it is extending a policy that previously waived the requirement for civil surgeons to sign the Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, no more than 60 days before filing the green card application.

USCIS previously issued its waiver policy until September 30, 2022 but has decided to extend the waiver until March 31, 2023.


Why the extension?


Due to processing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has decided that extending this policy is necessary to provide relief to applicants for the delays and difficulties that it takes to complete the green card medical examination.

Moving forward, the waiver will apply to all Form I-693 medical examinations for green card applications that have not been adjudicated, regardless of when the application was submitted to USCIS or when a civil surgeon signed the Form I-693.

USCIS expects this extension to provide much needed relief to Afghan nationals evacuated under Operation Allies Welcome, who completed immigration medical examinations but could not apply for adjustment of status within 60 days of a civil surgeon signing their Form I-693.

For more information about this important update, please click here.

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In the latest legal saga concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a federal appeals court has declared the DACA program illegal, causing uncertainty for the future of the program.

Yesterday, the three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling in which it found that the Obama administration did not have the legal authority to create the DACA program in 2012. The Circuit Court ruling affirms a previous ruling handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas which halted the Biden administration’s plans to revive the program last year.

While the panel declared the DACA program illegal, it stopped short of ordering the Biden administration to completely invalidate the program for those with existing DACA benefits, or those seeking to renew those benefits. For the time being, DACA policy remains intact for current beneficiaries, allowing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to continue to accept and adjudicate renewal requests. However, USCIS is prohibited from approving initial applications for DACA, and accompanying requests for employment authorization.


What happens next?


The appeals court has sent the lawsuit back to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, the same judge that previously ordered a nationwide injunction preventing the approval of new DACA applications. Judge Hanen will review the legality of the program under the Biden administration’s policy memorandum which includes revisions to the program.

Sadly, it is unlikely that Judge Hanen will rule in favor of the Biden administration which will likely result in a formal appeal sent to the United States Supreme Court, where chances of its survival hinge on a conservative leaning court. Judge Hanen previously found the program illegal because the government failed to follow the notice and comment periods required by the federal Administrative Procedures Act. In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 decision over expanding DACA to parents of DACA recipients, keeping in place a lower court decision preventing its expansion.

The appellate court’s decision will have long-lasting repercussions, as it forces members of Congress to safeguard the future of the program by passing legislation to settle the matter once and for all. While the topic has been argued for the past decade on Capitol Hill, no meaningful steps have been taken to preserve the program and create a path to residency for Dreamers.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some exciting news.

In this blog post, we would like to notify our readers that the Department of State will soon open the online green card lottery registration system for the Diversity Visa Lottery Program for fiscal year 2024 (DV-2024)


What you need to know


The State Department will be accepting online registrations for the Diversity Visa Lottery program for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 beginning Wednesday, October 5, 2022, at 12 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) with online registration closing on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-5). 

It is completely free to submit an online registration.

Foreign nationals who want to have a chance of being selected must register for the lottery by Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at noon EST online.

Submission of more than one entry for a person will disqualify all entries for that person.

The Fiscal Year 2024 DV lottery program will have up to 55,000 green cards up for grabs that will be selected through a randomized computer-generated process. Winners for FY 2024 are expected to be announced starting May 6, 2023 through September 30, 2024 on the E-DV Website.


Why should I apply?


Foreign nationals selected in the FY 2024 lottery are eligible to file their green card applications starting October 2023.


Am I eligible to enter?


You are eligible to participate if you meet the following requirements.

Requirement #1: You must be a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States to enter

Click here for the complete list of countries eligible (p. 16 to 20).

If you are not a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States, there are two other ways you might be able to qualify.

  • Is your spouse a native of a country with historically low rates of immigration to the United States? If yes, you can claim your spouse’s country of birth – provided that you and your spouse are named on the selected entry, are found eligible and issued diversity visas, and enter the United States at the same time.
  • Are you a native of a country that does not have historically low rates of immigration to the United States, but in which neither of your parents was born or legally resident at the time of your birth? If yes, you may claim the country of birth of one of your parents if it is a country whose natives are eligible for the DV-2023 program.

Requirement #2: Each DV applicant must meet the education/work experience requirement of the DV program by having either:

  • at least a high school education or its equivalent, defined as successful completion of a 12-year course of formal elementary and secondary education;

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