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Articles Posted in Visa Backlogs

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Welcome back to Visalawerblog! We hope you had a relaxing thanksgiving weekend. In this blog post we share an important update for K visa applicants impacted by the Coronavirus proclamations.

The Department of State recently issued a statement explaining how the agency will comply with a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in the case Daniel Milligan, et al., v. Michael Pompeo et al.

In that case a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Department of States from relying on the Coronavirus proclamations to suspend K visa adjudications for those residing in the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Iran, and Brazil.

Unfortunately, the judge stopped short of issuing a broad injunction to lift the ban on entry to the United States for K visa applicants impacted by these proclamations.

This means that while the government must proceed with K visa processing, once a K visa has been issued, applicants residing within an impacted area remain barred from entering the United States unless they meet a national interest exception.

To put it simply – the injunction simply stops the government from refusing to process K visas based on the Coronavirus proclamations. It does not allow K visa applicants from impacted areas to enter the United States once K visas have been issued unless the applicant meets a national interest exception. According to the judge, the government may still prevent entry to such applicants as deemed necessary during the pandemic.


What are the Coronavirus proclamations?

Back in January the President began issuing a series of Coronavirus proclamations that restrict and suspend the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

These Coronavirus proclamations are as follows:

  • China Visa Ban – Proclamation 9984 issued January 21, 2020 – No termination date
  • Iran Visa Ban –Proclamation 9992 issued February 29, 2020 –No termination date
  • European Schengen Area Visa Ban—Proclamation 9993 issued March 11, 2020—No termination date
  • Ireland and UK Visa Ban –Proclamation 9996 issued March 14, 2020 –No termination date
  • Brazil Visa Ban—Proclamation 10041 issued May 25, 2020 –No termination date

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of the weekend with some exciting news for K-1 visa petitioners and their foreign fiancés. Yesterday, November 19, 2020, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision finding that the government acted unlawfully in suspending visa issuance for K visa beneficiaries subject to the Coronavirus Presidential Proclamations. See Daniel Milligan, et al., v. Michael Pompeo et al.

The plaintiffs in this case – 153 U.S. Citizens and their foreign fiancés – brought suit against the United States government challenging a series of Coronavirus proclamations passed by President Trump that prohibit certain foreign fiancés from receiving their K-1 visas and entering the United States. Such K visa applicants who have been impacted by these Coronavirus Proclamations include those who have been physically present in the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Brazil, and Iran, within the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States. As you may be aware, U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide have refused to process visas for this class of immigrants because of these Coronavirus proclamations. The issue has now been settled – the government may not stop visa processing simply because these individuals are subject to these proclamations.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit also include couples who have been kept apart during the Coronavirus pandemic due to the State Department’s protracted delays in visa processing and Consular refusal to schedule visa interviews worldwide due to the pandemic.


Plaintiffs Arguments 

In their suit, the plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction to immediately stop the State Department’s visa processing suspension based on two arguments (1) the State Department has unreasonably delayed visa processing for K visa applicants not subject to the COVID proclamations and (2) the State Department has unlawfully stopped visa processing for K visa applicants subject to the COVID proclamations.

Since the start of the pandemic, the majority of K visa applications have been stuck at the National Visa Center awaiting transfer to the Embassy or Consulate for visa scheduling. Still others have completed the interview process and have been awaiting K visa issuance for months on end with no reassurance from the Consulate regarding visa issuance in the near future.

The central issue for the court to resolve was whether the plaintiffs in the case met their burden of proof to demonstrate a likelihood of success with respect to their arguments.

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Welcome back to Visalawerblog! In this post, we discuss the newly released visa bulletin for November 2020 which outlines the availability of immigrant visa numbers for family-sponsored and employment-based preference categories.

Impact of April 22nd Presidential Proclamation

As a preliminary matter, we would like to remind our readers that presidential proclamation 10014 signed into law on April 22, 2020, temporarily suspends the entry and issuance of immigrant visas at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide for the following types of immigrants until December 31, 2020.

*Note: Applicants residing in the United States are unaffected by P.P. 10014 and may apply for adjustment of status with USCIS provided their priority date is current on the visa bulletin.

  • Spouses and children of green card holders (US citizens are not affected) applying at the consulate
  • Parents of US citizens applying at the consulate
  • Brothers and sisters of US citizens applying at the consulate
  • Sons and daughters (over 21 years of age) of US citizens applying at the consulate (children under 21 years of age of US citizens are not affected)
  • Sons and daughters (over 21 years of age) of green card holders applying at the consulate
  • EB1A extraordinary abilities and their family applying at the consulate
  • PERM EB2 employment based (NIW is not affected) and their family applying at the consulate
  • PERM EB3 employment based and their family applying at the consulate
  • EB4 religious workers immigrants applying at the consulate

Unfortunately, this proclamation applies to the majority of family-sponsored preference categories which means that U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide will not issue visas to these individuals until the visa ban is lifted after December 31, 2020.

It is possible that President Trump may choose to extend the proclamation beyond December 31, 2020 if he finds it necessary. However it is unlikely to remain in effect after Joe Biden becomes President on January 20, 2021.


Suspension of Routine Visa Services Continues

As an additional note, although spouses and minor children of U.S. Citizens applying for immigrant visas at the Consulate are not impacted by P.P. 10014, the majority of Consulates and Embassies nationwide have suspended routine visa services until further notice. Applicants with emergencies or urgent travel needs may request expedited visa processing with the National Visa Center. We strongly encourage applicants to obtain legal assistance to help expedite visa interviews where the applicant can demonstrate extreme hardship to the U.S. Citizen relative.


Other Visa Bans May Apply 

Certain immigrant visa applicants who are not impacted by P.P. 10014, may still be impacted by other presidential proclamations restricting visa issuance and travel to the United States.

For instance, beginning January 2020 the President issues a series of Coronavirus proclamations, which similarly restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

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The Coronavirus pandemic has created new obstacles and challenges for immigrants applying for visas at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide. Since the Department of State first announced the phased resumption of routine visa services on July 14, 2020, applicants were thrown into a state of chaos and confusion.

Global conditions have only moderately improved in some regions, while in others they have worsened. This has caused the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates to remain shuttered to the general public. As it stands, very few Consular posts and Embassies have resumed scheduling of visa interviews. In the vast majority of cases, posts are only scheduling interviews and issuing visas for those with emergencies and those who qualify for expedited visa issuance.

Unfortunately, there is no specific date for when each mission will resume routine visa services, nor when there will be a sense of normalcy in the operations of U.S. Consulates and Embassies.

Our office has determined that one of the few ways to break through this state of limbo is to submit an expedite request with the National Visa Center. However not everyone will qualify to submit an expedited visa request.

Why aren’t spousal visas cases moving forward?

In normal circumstances once the spouse of a U.S. Citizen is documentarily qualified by the National Visa Center, the file is forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near the foreign spouse and prepared for interview scheduling. The NVC is an important agency because it acts as an intermediary to prepare a case for the eventual interview stage.

Since March of this year, files have not been able to move past the NVC stage and have remained with the agency in a sort of “limbo,” given that the majority of U.S. Consulates and Embassies are not opening visa interview slots for applicants until further notice.

As a result, NVC has accumulated a large number of spousal visa cases that are unable to proceed until more Consular posts begin to open their calendars.

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On October 1, 2020, federal judge Jeffrey White of the U.S. Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the government from enforcing Presidential Proclamation 10052 issued on June 22, 2020, but only against the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit which include the National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Technet, and Intrax, Inc. See National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Homeland Security.

The plaintiffs brought the lawsuit before the court to challenge the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 10052, which suspends visa issuance for certain nonimmigrant workers until December 13, 2020, with discretion to be continued “as necessary.” Those impacted by this Proclamation include applicants who were not in the United States on June 24th or in possession of a valid visa as of that date, who seek visas in any of the following categories:

(1) H-1B or H-2B visa nonimmigrant visa applicants, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;

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We are just 60 days away from Election day in the United States which falls on Tuesday, November 3rd. Do you know where your candidate stands on immigration? In this post, we cover Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s stance on important immigration issues, and everything you need to know about his vision for America.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind those of our readers who are American citizens to exercise their right to vote. It is your civic duty and will help shape the nation’s immigration policy for the next four years. For voter registration information please click here.


Immigration under Joe Biden

If elected President of the United States, Joe Biden has stated that he will enact a number of policies during his four-year term. Among these policies, he promises to take urgent action to undo destructive policies implemented by the Trump administration, modernize the immigration system, reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees, and implement effective border screening.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform

First and foremost, Joe Biden supports working with Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration solution that would offer nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. As vice president, Joe Biden worked alongside former President Obama to push forward a bill that would do just that. Unfortunately, the Republican-led Congress refused to approve the bill, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants in limbo including Dreamers.

Joe Biden advocates for the creation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program,  the Central American Minors program, which allows parents with legal status in the U.S. to apply to bring their children from Central America to live with them, and the creation of a White House task force to support new Americans to integrate into American life and their communities.

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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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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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The U.S. Department of State recently released the December 2019 Visa Bulletin. In this post, we will discuss the current state of the visa bulletin, potential for advancement, retrogression, and predictions.

Family-based Preference Categories

The Final Action Date for F2A has been current and remains current since July 2018 across all countries through December. Low demand in this category has made it “current” and is expected to remain current for the foreseeable future.

Movement for all other family-preference categories remains as before.

F-4 visa demand is increasing which may result in slow movement in this category in the foreseeable future, but not nearly enough to cause a retrogression.

Employment-based preference categories

Overview

For the month of December 2019, EB-2 Worldwide, as well as EB-2 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam remain current.

Similarly, EB-3 Worldwide, as well as EB-3 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Vietnam remain current.

The Visa Bulletin notes that visa availability is likely to slow down for employment-based visa categories due to the steady increase in the level of employment-based demand for adjustment of status cases filed with USCIS. If the current pace of demand continues, a final action date will be implemented for EB-2, EB-3, and EB-3 Other Worker preference categories as early as January.

Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State has reported that if the level of demand subsides, it is possible that these categories will remain current, however there is no evidence that demand will slow down for these categories, therefore visa applicants should be prepared for the implementation of Final Action Dates as early as January 2020.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the month of October. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories.

Below are the highlights of those trends and projections for the month of October.

EB-1 Worldwide: It is expected that heavy demand in this category will prevent this category from becoming current in October. Previously, it was believed that EB-1 Worldwide would become current on October 1st, but this will no longer be the case according to current projections. EB-1 China and EB-1 India will have earlier final action dates than the EB-1 Worldwide category, which are expected to fall in the month of October. It is projected that the EB-1 categories will not move forward until about December or 2019.