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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we provide you with the most recent immigration updates from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


New Process to Extend Validity of Green Cards (Pending I-90’s)


On January 12, 2021 USCIS announced a new policy that will discontinue the agency’s prior practice of placing a sticker on currently issued permanent resident cards to extend their validity (also known as Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card or “Green Card.”)

Starting in January, USCIS will replace the sticker with a revised Form I-797, Notice of Action, that will automatically extend the resident’s green card validity, as part of the I-90 green card renewal application process

When presented together with the Green Card, the revised Form I-797 will extend the Green Card’s validity for 12 months from the date on the front of the Green Card, and also serve as temporary proof of the LPR’s status in the country.

This change was made to ensure that LPRs with a recently expired Green Card will have documentation of identity, employment authorization, and authorization to return to the United States following any temporary foreign travel.

Biometrics Appointments

Form I-90 applicants who have not been issued a notice for a biometrics appointment and are in possession of their Green Card, will no longer have to visit an application support center (ASC) to obtain temporary evidence of LPR status.

Applicants who have already been scheduled for a biometrics appointment will not receive a revised notice and will be issued an extension sticker at their biometrics appointment.

January I-90 Applicants

Starting in January, applicants who file Form I-90 to replace an expiring Green Card will receive the revised receipt notice in the mail approximately 7-10 days after USCIS accepts their application.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of the week with some important updates.

For the past few months, our followers have raised concerns regarding substantial delays they have been experiencing waiting for their receipt notices to arrive in the mail for applications and petitions filed at USCIS lockboxes.

On January 8, 2021, USCIS announced that the agency has indeed been overcome with delays caused by the pandemic and other factors, that has resulted in the delayed issuance of receipt notices for at least some applications and petitions filed at USCIS lockbox facilities.

USCIS lockbox facilities are located in Chicago, Phoenix, Lewisville, and Dallas.

For a list of forms processed at USCIS Lockbox Facilities click here.


What is happening?

Several factors including COVID-19 related restrictions, increases in filings, current postal service volume, and other factors, have caused applicants and petitioners to wait 4-6 weeks on average (after properly filing an application or petition with a USCIS lockbox) to receive a receipt notice in the mail.

USCIS has announced that these delays do not affect the date of receipt of your application. Applicants should be aware that delays vary depending on the type of form submitted and the lockbox location. Cases which are most affected by the delays include non-family based Form I-485 Applications to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and Form I-765 Applications for Employment Authorization based on eligibility categories relating to F-1 students.


How is USCIS working to improve these delays?

The agency continues to take all necessary COVID-19 related precautions including social distancing and frequent cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To help alleviate the workload, USCIS lockbox personnel are working extra hours and redistributing their workload to reduce these delays.

As soon as an application is opened and processed, the agency is printing and mailing receipt notices to the mailing address on file.

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We are very happy to bring you this late breaking news.

Today December 04, 2020, a federal judge from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, issued a ruling that requires the Trump administration to post a public notice within 3 calendar days that it will accept new initial requests for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applications effective immediately.


Overview of DACA Litigation 

This order builds on the judge’s previous ruling which declared the actions of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf unlawful, given the court’s finding that Wolf was not lawfully serving as acting DHS secretary when he signed rules limiting applications and renewals for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

As you may recall back in 2017 the Trump administration engaged in aggressive tactics to eliminate the DACA program, however the U.S. Supreme Court successfully blocked such attempts, ultimately allowing DACA renewals to continue to be accepted.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court stated that the government did not follow the law – namely the Administrative Procedure Act – when it sought to eliminate DACA. Thus, the court found that because the government did not go through the appropriate process to dismantle DACA it would remain in place. Interestingly, the Supreme Court made clear that while the government did not go through the appropriate process to eliminate DACA, that it had the power to do so provided the government followed the appropriate procedures. The justices also stopped short of requiring the government to accept initial requests for DACA.

The following year on July 28, 2020, the Trump administration continued to stand its ground in blocking acceptance of initial DACA applications with the release of a scathing memorandum authored by Wolf. In it Wolf directed DHS personnel to (1) reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA (2) reject all pending and future applications for advance parole absent exceptional circumstances, and (3) to shorten DACA renewals to a two-year period.

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. We kick off the start of a brand new week with very exciting news.

We are happy to report that on October 1, 2020, Congress passed H.R. 8337, an appropriations bill that will expand the availability of premium processing service provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to a larger pool of applicants for immigration benefits.

The legislation calls for expansion of premium processing to most employment-based immigration applications and potentially all USCIS benefits. This move could prove enormously beneficial especially during the Coronavirus pandemic to help move cases along more quickly than ever before. Applicants who request an employment authorization document (EAD) for example can seek premium processing service along with their applications, allowing for EADs to be issued within 15 calendar days.

During this pandemic, the processing of EAD applications has slowed significantly with most taking at least 7 months or longer to be issued. This new legislation will dramatically improve processing times for those that are willing to pay for premium processing service.

Before H.R. 8337, USCIS allowed certain employment-based petitioners to request premium processing service for E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ (blanket L-1), O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, P-3, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2 applications for a fee of $1,440 with guaranteed processing of applications within 15 calendar days. For immigrant petitions, premium processing was available, with certain exceptions, for the employment-based first, second and third preferences (EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3).


What types of petitions will benefit from the expansion of premium processing service?

The new legislation will now allow premium processing service for:

(A) employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents of the beneficiaries of such petitions;

(B) employment-based immigrant petitions filed by or on behalf of aliens described in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of section 203(b); [the first three employment-based preferences]

(C) applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status;

(D) applications for employment authorization; and

(E) any other immigration benefit type that the Secretary deems appropriate for premium processing.


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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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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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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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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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We continue to have good news for international students. As you already know, on July 8th Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit to stop the government from enforcing new guidelines on international students that would prohibit them from taking online classes during the Fall semester, despite increasing coronavirus cases nationwide. The new guidelines announced by the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) would refuse visas to students in schools that plan to teach classes fully online this fall and would bar these students from entering the country. Students already in the United States enrolled in schools teaching online classes would need to leave the country or transfer to a school with in-person instruction to keep their visas.

Since the Harvard-MIT lawsuit was filed, Northeastern university has joined the fight. In addition, many other universities across the United States have rallied together in support of their students, including the University of California school system, Princeton, Cornell, John Hopkins University, and the University of Pennsylvania. These institutions have filed amicus briefs supporting the Harvard-MIT lawsuit and/or filed lawsuits of their own in district court.

On July 9th Attorney General Xavier Becerra also filed a lawsuit on behalf of the State of California against the Trump administration to stop the government’s new policies from going into effect.

Like the state of California, many more states are expected to file their own lawsuits in the coming week.

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