Articles Posted in Work Visas

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In this blog post, we share with you some new biometrics updates recently announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


Biometrics Submissions Waived for Certain I-539 Applicants


Beginning May 17, 2021, USCIS will be temporarily suspending the biometrics submission requirement for applicants filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, who are requesting an extension of stay in or change of status to H-4, L-2, and E nonimmigrant status.

Starting on Monday next week, for these applicants only, USCIS will rely on biographical information and related background checks, without requiring applicants to provide fingerprints and a photograph. This new discretionary policy will be in effect until May 17, 2023, until it is extended or revoked by the USCIS director.

Who will not be required to submit to biometrics submission?

Pursuant to this new announcement, the temporary biometrics suspension will apply to applicants filing Form I-539 requesting the following:

  • Extension of stay in or change of status to H-4 nonimmigrant status;
  • Extension of stay in or change of status to L-2 nonimmigrant status;
  • Extension of stay in or change of status to E-1 nonimmigrant status;
  • Extension of stay in or change of status to E-2 nonimmigrant status (including E-2C (E-2 CNMI Investor)); or
  • Extension of stay in or change of status to E-3 nonimmigrant status (including those selecting E-3D).

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In today’s blog post, we are happy to bring our readers some very exciting news.

On April 26, 2021, the Department of State formally announced a new National Interest Determination for certain categories of nonimmigrant visa applicants currently unable to enter the United States due to COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations issued earlier this year. This new determination will allow certain travelers to obtain their visas and enter the United States, despite the issuance of COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations, known as Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 10143.

These Proclamations were issued early last year to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 to the United States, specifically from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Such Proclamations had the effect of restricting and suspending the entry into the United States, of both immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Few categories of individuals were exempted from these Presidential Proclamations, including lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders), spouses of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents, and others who were similarly exempted.

Individuals who have not been specifically exempted from the Regional Proclamations and have remained physically present in the impacted regions, have been unable to proceed with visa processing. Consulates worldwide have refused to grant visas to these individuals due to the enforcement of the Proclamations.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! Happy end of the week to all of our readers.

In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the upcoming month of May 2021 and beyond.

The Department of State’s Consular Affairs Unit has launched an exciting new monthly series on its YouTube channel, discussing current visa trends and future projections for immigrant visa preference categories with Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are excited to bring you a newly released update from the Department of State regarding the operational status of visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world forcing the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates to scale down operations due to reduced staff, limited resources, and constraints having to do with local conditions and restrictions, including local and national lockdowns, travel restrictions, and other measures that have been taken by U.S. Embassies and Consulates to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Due to these restrictions, the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have dramatically reduced their appointment capacity. This has in turn created substantial backlogs of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications awaiting a visa interview. Many have already been documentarily qualified by the NVC and have not been able to proceed with visa processing due to the Embassy’s inability to open new appointments for applicants.

As a result, Consular posts and Embassies have been following a “phased resumption” of visa services framework, meaning that each post will carefully assess its country conditions and its resources, to gradually determine when it can resume visa service operations to normal levels. However, this process will take time and will depend on each Embassy’s ability to open more appointments for visa applicants.

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We are extremely excited to report that USCIS has received enough electronic registrations during the H-1B initial registration period to reach the mandated numerical cap for fiscal year 2022, including for the advanced degree exemption (also known as the master’s cap), and has now selected all registrations eligible to participate in the H-1B visa program.

The H-1B initial electronic registration period came to an end on March 25, 2021, at which time USCIS began the process of randomly selecting from eligible registrations to fill the H-1B cap, including for the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS has now selected those registrations that will move forward and file a paper application with USCIS.

All those who were selected have received a notification of their selection in their myUSCIS online account. Selections in the myUSCIS portal will indicate that the petitioner is eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary that was named in the applicable selected registration.

On behalf of our law office, we extend our congratulations to all those who were selected to move forward with the filing of their petitions.


What happens next?


Now that you have overcome this obstacle, you may be asking yourself, what’s next? Sadly, getting selected in the H-1B visa lottery is just the first step in obtaining an H-1B visa. The second step requires the petitioner to demonstrate the beneficiary’s eligibility for the H-1B visa by filing Form I-129 with USCIS and obtaining approval.

USCIS has announced that all petitioners who have been properly selected in the visa lottery for fiscal year 2022, may file an H-1B cap-subject petition with USCIS, including petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, starting today April 1, 2021. Only filings that are based on a valid, selected registration will be accepted by USCIS for FY 2022, and only for beneficiaries named in the selected registration notice.

Those who were not selected must wait to apply again next year.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand-new week and we are excited to bring you more updates in the world of immigration.

We are happy to report that the Department of State has released important information for nonimmigrant visa applicants who may qualify for an interview waiver. That’s right. Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain a renewal of their visas without being required to attend a Consulate interview.

Who may take advantage of Non-Immigrant Visa Interview Waivers?

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, and temporarily expanded the ability of Consular officials to waive the in-person interview requirement, which is normally required of all individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas in the same visa classification – in other words renewal applicants.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, interview waivers were only available to those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa was set to expire within 24 months.

The Secretary has now temporarily extended the Interview Waiver eligibility to those whose visas are set to expire within 48 months. This new policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.

According to the Department of State, “This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications, while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.”

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Happy Friday! In this blog post, we bring you the latest immigration updates including exciting information about the H-1B cap season for FY 2022 now in full swing, USCIS Flexibility to RFEs/NOIDs and other agency requests, and the Department of State’s update regarding the 2018 Public Charge rule.


H-1B Cap FY 2022 News


The H-1B cap season is now upon us. On March 9, 2021, USCIS opened the mandatory H-1B electronic registration system, in preparation for selection of visas under the H-1B cap for fiscal year 2022. Last year, USCIS introduced a brand-new electronic registration process for the H-1B cap, including the advanced degree exemption. The electronic registration system has been implemented to streamline the application process. Gone are the days when all petitioners were required to submit a paper application by mail for a chance of being selected.

Now the electronic registration process requires prospective H-1B petitioners, seeking authorization to employ H-1B workers subject to the cap, to complete an electronic registration on the USCIS website that asks for basic information about the prospective petitioner and each requested worker.

Only those who submit an electronic registration have a chance of being selected to participate in the H-1B visa lottery. Additionally, only those with a selected registration are invited to submit a paper application by mail to establish eligibility for an H-1B visa.

Yesterday, March 25, 2021, the electronic registration period officially closed. USCIS will now go through the process of randomly selecting from eligible registrations to fill the H-1B cap.

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The Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick is proud to honor our managing attorney Marie Puertollano’s most recent accomplishment in the field of immigration law, becoming a board-certified immigration specialist with the State Bar of California.

Originally from France, Marie Puertollano joined our law office in 2012 and quickly became a rising star handling complex immigration matters in our private practice. Throughout the years, Attorney Marie Puertollano has been at the forefront of many of our firm’s successes touching on all areas of immigration law, including family immigration, employment immigration, investment visas, nonimmigrant visas, and representing clients before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She provides direction for all divisions within our practice and is the go-to attorney of our firm.

With this new honor, Marie becomes one of a very limited number of attorneys in the state of California who have been designated as Certified Specialists in the field of immigration law by the State Bar of California. Marie is now one of only 24 immigration attorneys in San Diego to accomplish this feat and joins a small circle of 233 attorneys who have received this honor in the entire state.

Marie’s accomplishment comes as a product of her hard work and dedication. After taking an extensive written examination offered only once every two years, she was able to successfully pass and meet other stringent criteria to gain this honor. Specifically, Marie had to prove her substantial involvement in the area of immigration and nationality law having participated as a principal attorney in 150 cases involving immigrant and nonimmigrant cases, and hearings before immigration judges. Marie was also required to demonstrate participation as a principal attorney in six broad immigration categories including court and bond hearings, appeals, immigrant visas, nonimmigrant visas, consular cases, and PERM petitions.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important immigration updates.


USCIS Expands Premium Processing Service to E-3 Petitioners


We are happy to report that beginning February 24, 2021, petitioners filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, who are requesting a change or extension of status to E-3 classification, will be able to take advantage of premium processing service to expedite processing of their petition. The filing fee for premium processing service for E-3 petitions is $2,500.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing provides expedited processing for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. The main benefit of this service is a guaranteed 15-calendar day processing time for all those who take advantage of it.

When does the 15-calendar period begin?

The 15-calendar day period begins when USCIS properly receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.

Once the I-907 is received, USCIS either issues an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence within the 15-calendar day period.

Is premium processing available for other petitions?

At the moment premium processing service is only available for I-129 and I-140 petitions. However, H.R. 8337 proposed expanding premium processing service to other types of applications in the future including applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status, applications for employment authorization, and other types of benefit requests.


USCIS Introduces Flexibilities for Certain Students Filing Form I-765 for OPT


We are happy to report that on February 26, 2021, USCIS announced new flexibility policies for certain foreign students who have not received receipt notices for Form I-765 petitions for OPT as a result of USCIS delays.

USCIS has stated that the agency has been experiencing delays at certain lockboxes and has not been able to issue receipt notices for certain Form I-765 applications for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students in a timely manner.

As a result, USCIS will provide the following flexibilities to assist certain applicants for OPT who have been impacted by the delays.

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Source: Flickr Creative Commons License, Gage Skidmore

In this blog post, we bring you some long-awaited news. In a much-anticipated move, the Biden administration decided on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, to immediately revoke Presidential Proclamation 10014, a controversial order passed under former President Donald Trump that halted the issuance of most U.S. visas at Consulates and Embassies worldwide.

Our office has known since early January that the Biden administration was planning to revoke this Proclamation, and yesterday the rumors were finally put to rest.

Presidential Proclamation 10014 is no more.


What was Presidential Proclamation 10014 about?


P.P. 10014 essentially imposed a 60-day ban on the issuance of visas for most immigrant and nonimmigrant visa categories. The Proclamation began on April 23, 2020 and was set to continue by President Trump until March 31, 2020.

P.P. 10014 proved to be exceedingly harmful given the wide variety of immigrants to which it applied.

Specifically, the order halted the issuance of U.S. visas for the following classes of immigrants at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide as of the date of the proclamation (April 23, 2020):

  • Spouses and children of green card holders (US citizens were 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 (meaning over 21 years old) of US citizens applying at the consulate (children under 21 years old of US citizens were not affected)
  • Sons and daughters (meaning over 21 years old) of green card holders applying at the consulate
  • EB1A extraordinary abilities and their family applying at the consulate
  • PERM EB3, PERM EB2, NIW employment based and their family applying at the consulate
  • EB4 religious workers immigrants applying at the consulate
  • H1B and H4 dependents applying at the consulate
  • L1 and L2 applying at the consulate
  • J1 applying at the consulate  

Individuals residing in the United States and those who had a valid visa or travel document to enter the United States, on or before the date of the proclamation, were not impacted.

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