Articles Posted in USCIS

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As a reminder to our readers, today Monday, February 26, 2024, a new premium processing fee will go into effect for Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing, for those filing premium processing service for the following applications:

  • Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
  • Certain applicants filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and
  • I-539 Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS.

Highlights


In December of last year, USCIS published a final rule in the Federal Register announcing the filing fee increase for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to account for inflation.

Effective February 26, 2024, the final rule increases the premium processing fees as follows:

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Ahead of the U.S. presidential election, President Biden is considering the rollout of a set of new executive actions aimed at curbing illegal migration at the U.S. southern border and measures that would create new obstacles for asylum applicants. Individuals speaking on condition of anonymity have said these policies could come as soon as March 7th as part of President Biden’s State of the Union speech.

According to reports by insiders of the Biden administration, the proposals under discussion would use a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to stop migrants from requesting asylum at U.S. ports of entry once a certain number of illegal crossings has been reached.

While the exact details of the executive order are still unclear, the proposal would likely carve out several exceptions for unaccompanied minors and those who meet the requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. A similar proposal was previously discussed in the U.S. Senate as part of a border deal earlier this month.

To further appease conservative voters, the Biden administration is also considering implementing policies that would make it harder for migrants to pass the initial screening of the asylum interview process. Under these proposals, the administration would elevate the “credible fear standard” of the asylum process, thereby narrowing the pool of applicants eligible to seek asylum. Those who cannot meet the elevated standard, would be swiftly deported.

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Recently, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) requested an update from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the delayed adjudication of Form I-829 petitions filed by EB-5 investors seeking to remove their conditions on permanent residence.

AILA suggested two alternatives for providing evidence of continued lawful permanent residence which consisted of making simple adjustments to the language of Form I-829 receipt notices.

On January 19, 2024, USCIS responded to these concerns indicating their awareness of the issue and ongoing efforts to reduce the burden on investors.

USCIS pointed out that beginning on January 11, 2023, the agency extended the validity of Permanent Resident Cards (also known as Green Cards) for petitioners who properly filed Form I-829, for 48 months beyond the green card’s expiration date.

This extension was made in consideration of the long processing times USCIS has been experiencing to adjudicate Form I-829, which have increased over the past year.

They also note that USCIS field offices also recently began issuing and mailing the Form I-94 (arrival/departure record) with ADIT (temporary 1-551) stamps as temporary evidence of Legal Permanent Resident status without requiring an in-person appearance at field offices, for investors who have requested evidence of their LPR immigration status from USCIS.

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Yesterday, February 14, 2024, the Biden administration released a memorandum designating Palestinians present in the United States for Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), based on the danger to civilians and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza.

The President’s order halts the removal of certain Palestinians from the United States for a period of 18 months and instructs the Department of Homeland Security to provide employment authorization to eligible beneficiaries, who have been continuously present in the United States since February 14, 2024.

The memorandum would allow DHS to provide employment authorization to such individuals for the duration of the DED period, and further directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to consider expanding employment eligibility for Palestinian F-1 nonimmigrant students.

The President’ s memorandum will soon be published in the Federal Register with further instructions for eligible Palestinian nationals to request Deferred Enforced Departure and employment authorization.

Please note that Palestinians who return to the Palestinian territories after February 14, have committed certain crimes, or present a national security threat, among others, may not be eligible for Deferred Enforced Departure.

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The March 2024 Visa Bulletin is finally here, and with it we have big advancements in the family sponsored preference categories, and minor advancements in the employment-based categories.


Highlights of the March 2024 Visa Bulletin


Dates for Filing Chart

The Dates for Filing Chart remains unchanged from the previous month, for both the family sponsored and employment-based categories, with the exception of the employment-based fourth preference category, EB-4 which will advance by 4 months to January 1, 2020.


Employment-based categories


Movement in the Final Action Dates

The Final Action Dates Chart shows some modest advancements in some of the employment-based preference categories, specifically:

  • EB-1 China will advance by two weeks to July 15, 2022
  • EB-1 India will advance by 1 month to October 1, 2020
  • EB-2 Worldwide, Mexico, and the Philippines will advance by 1 week to November 22, 2022
  • EB-3 Worldwide, Mexico, and the Philippines will advance by 1 week to September 8, 2022
  • EB-3 Other Workers, Worldwide and Mexico will advance by 1 week to September 8, 2020
  • EB-4 will advance by more than 6.5 months to December 1, 2019

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In this blog post, we share with you some new updates for the H-1B cap season for fiscal year 2025 and beyond.


 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period FY 2025


USCIS has announced that the initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap season will open at noon Eastern time on March 6, 2024, and run through noon Eastern time on March 22, 2024.

During the registration period, prospective petitioners and their representatives, must use a USCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated registration fee for each beneficiary.

For more information on the H-1B Cap Season, visit H-1B Cap Season webpage.


Organizational Accounts and Online Filing for Forms I-129 and I-907


On February 28, 2024, USCIS will launch new organizational accounts in the USCIS online account webpage that will allow multiple people within an organization and their legal representatives to collaborate on and prepare H-1B registrations, H-1B petitions, and any associated Form I-907, online.

Also on February 28, USCIS will launch online filing of Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions.


Online Filing of H-1B Cap Petitions and I-907 Starting April 1, 2024


On April 1, 2024, USCIS will begin accepting online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated Forms I-907 for petitioners whose registrations have been selected.

Petitioners will continue to have the option of filing a paper Form I-129 H-1B petition and any associated Form I-907 if they prefer. However, during the initial launch of organizational accounts, users will not be able to link paper-filed Forms I-129 and I-907 to their online accounts.

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On January 30, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule in the Federal Register making significant fee increases for various immigration applications and benefit requests. This fee increase will be the first major adjustment in the filing fees since 2016. The increase is meant to address the agency’s operational and financial challenges to support the timely processing of new applications.

The fee increase will take effect starting April 1, 2024. All applications postmarked after this date will be subject to the fee increases in the final rule.

TIP: To avoid paying the higher fees, USCIS must receive applications before April 1, 2024.


Highlights


  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), used to petition for family members, including marriage green cards, will increase by 26% to $675 for paper filing, and $625 for online filers.
  • Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)), used by U.S. Citizens to petition for their fiancé(e) to enter the U.S., will increase by 26 percent from $535 to $675
  • Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), used by immigrants seeking a green card for permanent residency, will increase by 18% from $1,225 to $1,440. Employment authorization, and advance parole, will now cost an additional $260 and $630, respectively. Previously these applications carried no additional cost when filing them alongside adjustment of status applications

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Exciting news! On January 24, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new update to its Policy Manual, which clarifies that officers have the discretionary power to excuse a nonimmigrant’s failure to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request, if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner.

In general, USCIS does not approve an extension of stay or change of status for a person who failed to maintain their status or where such status expired before the filing date of the application or petition. If certain conditions are met, however, USCIS, in its discretion, may excuse the failure to file before the period of authorized stay expired.

The new update appears in Chapter 4. Section A. Extension of Stay or Change of Status, which includes a new subsection entitled “Requirements to Timely File a Request to Extend Stay or Change Status.”

It clarifies that USCIS may excuse a failure to file before the period of authorized status expires, where the requestor demonstrates in their request that:

  • The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the person’s control;
  • The length of the delay was commensurate with the circumstances;
  • The person has not otherwise violated their nonimmigrant status;
  • The person remains a bona fide nonimmigrant; and
  • The person is not the subject of removal proceedings and, in the case of extensions of stay, is also not the subject of deportation proceedings.

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In this blog post, we provide new insights recently shared by Charlie Oppenheim, the former Chief of Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting at the U.S. Department of State, who oversaw the monthly publication of the Visa Bulletin until his retirement in 2022.

In a recent Chatting with Charlie webinar, he provided his expertise regarding the future movement of the employment based and family preference categories on the Visa Bulletin.

The Dates for Filing for the employment based and family sponsored preference categories have remained the same since the publication of the October Visa Bulletin with no forward movement to be seen.

In the month of February, the Final Action Dates progressed only slightly as follows:

Employment-based

  • EB-2 Worldwide advanced by two weeks to November 15, 2022
  • EB-3 India advanced by one month to July 1, 2012
  • EB-3 all other countries advanced by one month to September 1, 2022 (except China)
  • EB-5 China (Unreserved) advanced by one week to December 15, 2015.

Family-sponsored

  • F2A all categories (except Mexico) advanced by more than 3 months to February 8, 2020
  • F2A Mexico advanced by more than 3 months to February 1, 2020

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According to recent data released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), applications for U.S. Citizenship surpassed pre-pandemic levels in fiscal year 2023, welcoming 878,500 new citizens from all over the world.

To be eligible for naturalization, applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The requirements generally include being a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for at least five years or at least three years for spouses of U.S. Citizens. Applicants must establish that they have good moral character, have continuously and physically resided in the United States as a green card holder, be proficient in basic spoken and written English, pass the required civics and English examination, among other requirements. Please note that there are other special naturalization provisions that exempt certain applicants, including certain spouses of U.S. citizens and applicants with military service, from one or more of the general requirements for naturalization.

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