Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. We hope you spent a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones. We are grateful for all our viewers and the support you give us on this platform. We thank you for your trust and support.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers one of your frequently asked questions: I have a green card, why should I become a U.S. Citizen? In this blog post, you will find out what your rights are as a permanent resident versus a U.S. Citizen, and some of the key advantages you have as a U.S. Citizen.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


What is the difference between having a green card and U.S. Citizenship?

First, let’s discuss the basics. When a person wants to immigrate to the United States permanently, the first step is to apply for a green card (also known as permanent residence). There are various different ways a person can qualify for a green card. The most common avenues to obtain a green card are family sponsorship through a qualifying relative (U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse, child, parent, or sibling) or employment-based sponsorship, where an individual will first obtain a work visa based on a job offer and then become eligible to apply for permanent residence through their employer. There are also other special categories of immigrants such as asylum seekers, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) victims of domestic violence, diversity visa lottery winners, and many others who also qualify for a green card. There also green card avenues for individuals of exceptional ability (EB-1), those whose employment is in the national interest (EB-2), and EB-5 immigrant investors who invest at least half a million dollars in a new business enterprise or Regional Center project. While there are many ways to obtain a green card, the ultimate goal is to obtain permanent residency.

Once a person has obtained a green card, typically that person must wait a number of years before being eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship. For instance, those who obtained their green card based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen and continue to remain married, must wait 3 years from the date they became a permanent residence to apply for citizenship. All others must wait 5 years from the date they became a permanent resident to become eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a very exciting new update for E, L, and H-4 dependent spouses. USCIS has issued a new policy memorandum stating that the agency will automatically allow employment authorization for dependent E, L, and certain H-4 spouses of principal visa holders, without requiring spouses to file I-765 application for employment authorization to be eligible to work in the United States.

Keep on watching to find out more!


Overview


USCIS has now changed its policy to allow dependent E, L, and certain H-4 spouses to automatically qualify for employment authorization. The change came about after settlement of a lawsuit known as Shergill v. Mayorkas, No. 21-1296 (W.D. Wash.) filed against the government.

Pursuant to the settlement agreement reached with USCIS, E, L, and certain H-4 spouses will be eligible to work just by having their valid visas, and they will not need to file any separate applications nor need to apply for a separate employment authorization card (work permit) to seek employment in the United States.

Previously, USCIS required spouses of E, L, and H principal visa holders to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) to lawfully work in the United States. Spouses were not granted employment authorization simply by having a valid visa in E, L, or H visa classification and were required to pay an additional filing fee of $410 to file the I-765 application for work authorization and wait for its approval.

Following the onset of the pandemic, USCIS began experiencing extreme delays and could no longer process I-765 applications for employment authorization in a timely fashion, taking in some cases 14 months or longer to issue EAD documents. Sadly, this resulted in job losses for many dependent spouses who were stuck waiting many many months to receive their EAD document to prove to their employers their eligibility to work in the United States.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers one of your frequently asked questions: What happens to a family immigration petition if the petitioner (also known as the sponsor of the application) suddenly dies? Sadly, this situation comes up more often than we would like to admit. In this circumstance it is important to know what you can expect if the sponsor of your petition has died, and your options to legalize your status.

Keep on watching to find out more!


Overview


In the past, when a petitioner died while a petition remained pending, the petition could not be approved. Thankfully in 2009, Congress passed legislation known as the Family Sponsor Immigration Act to help applicants in this exact scenario creating a new statutory provision under the Immigration and Nationality Act known as 204(l). This provision in the law gives noncitizens the ability to seek an immigration benefit through a deceased qualifying relative under certain circumstances.

Specifically, the Family Sponsor Immigration Act, provides relief for spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, unmarried sons and daughters of citizens, spouses and unmarried sons and daughter of green card holders, married sons and daughters of citizens, and brothers and sisters of citizens, in cases where the original petitioner has died. Such individuals may seek reinstatement of their immigrant petition based on humanitarian grounds if they meet the below mentioned conditions:

  • your Form I-130 has already been approved by USCIS
  • you were living in the United States at the time the petitioner died and continue to reside there on the date USCIS makes a decision on your application, and
  • you find someone eligible and willing to act as your financial sponsor in place of your original petitioner (a substitute sponsor, as described below).

What if I lived overseas when my petitioner died?

If you lived overseas when your petitioner died you will not be able to continue with your application, however you can apply for humanitarian reinstatement with USCIS. You must seek the guidance of an experienced attorney in this area of the law as these matters can become complicated quickly.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick tells you everything you need to know about the new Congressional reconciliation bill known as H.R. 5376 “the Build Back Better Act.” How might this piece of legislation impact you in your immigration journey? Want to know what you can expect in terms of potential upcoming changes in the law?

Keep on watching to find out more!


Overview


The Biden administration has released a new bill, the Build Back Better Act, that includes a new immigration framework that if passed would positively benefit employment-based green card applicants. The bill also sets aside $100 billion dollars for immigration purposes to reduce the immigrant visa backlogs and to recapture unused immigrant visas.


New Framework for Immigration Reform


Over the past few months, Congressional Democrats have been working on passing comprehensive immigration reform to modernize the current immigration system and open a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” and other groups of individuals including highly skilled immigrants. The Democrats have presented several immigration reform proposals to the Senate Parliamentarian to increase the chances of passing immigration reform without having to receive majority support from the Republican party. Passing reform through a reconciliation bill has been the most effective means of bringing about much needed changes because of opposition for reform in our current immigration climate.

The proposals in this new bill are interestingly much different from other proposals we have seen so far from Democrats. If passed, the bill would prioritize recapturing immigrant visas in family and employment-based categories for immigrant visa numbers that went unused between Fiscal year 1992 and fiscal year 2021. Such a provision would have the potential of adding more than 220,000 employment-based green cards to the current pool of immigrant visas currently available according to researchers. This would be a groundbreaking new policy because it would have the potential to drastically reduce the current visa backlogs, in both the family and employment-based categories. In some family-based categories, applicants must wait over 20 years for their priority date to become current and a visa to become available. Recapturing new visa numbers and putting them back into the system will be very advantageous for those waiting for a visa.

While the final outcome of this proposal is still uncertain, it is a good preview of what is to come and of its potential for approval in the House and the Senate.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the November Visa Bulletin and what you can expect in terms of movement or retrogression in the employment based and family sponsored preference categories.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


What’s happening in the family-sponsored categories?

Due to the ongoing pandemic and unprecedented backlogs at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, with the exception of the F2A category which remains current, there has been no movement in the worldwide family-sponsored preference categories. Charles Oppenheim, the Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, has said that he does not expect any movement whatsoever in the family sponsored worldwide dates before January and possibly even longer.

Consular posts and Embassies are doing their best to normalize operating capacity, however the majority of posts continue to work on a limited basis according to a four-tier prioritization schedule. Delays in visa processing continue to be expected for the foreseeable future based on the extraordinary demand for interview appointments and the lack of resources at Consular posts overseas to accommodate interviews for all applicants.

With respect to the F2A category, spouses and children of permanent residents lawfully residing in the United States can proceed with filing their adjustment of status applications with USCIS given that the F2A category remains current.

What’s happening in the employment-based categories?

According to the Department of State’s November 2021 Visa Bulletin, the following final cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares a new update from the Department of State that was recently provided to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Liaison Committee regarding the movement of family sponsored categories on the Visa Bulletin. This information was not previously shared on the “Chats with Charlie,” monthly broadcast with Charlie Oppenheim, the Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division at the Department of State. Additionally, we share new updates regarding employment-based sponsorship, the current retrogressions in the EB-3 category, as well as Diversity Visa lottery updates following recent developments in the judicial system.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching!


Overview


What’s the latest news with respect to immigrant visa numbers?

U.S. immigration laws limit the number of immigrants that can be admitted to the United States each year. The annual numerical immigrant visa limits are based on complex formulas and are subdivided among several preference categories and country “caps.” To illustrate, the annual limit for family-sponsored petitions is 480,000, which includes visas for immediate relatives, while 140,000 visas are allocated for employment-based immigrants. Unused family preference visas from the preceding years are added to employment-based visa numbers to maximize number use.

We have learned that employment-based visa numbers for fiscal year 2022 are expected to be 290,000 – an all-time high. As of today, the pending demand experienced by both the State Department and USCIS in the employment third preference category, for applicants born in India and China, will already exceed the amount of numbers that are available to applicants from those countries throughout fiscal year 2022 in the third preference category. In comparison, in fiscal year 2021, only 9,000 employment-based visas in the third preference category went unused. In fiscal year 2022, there may be close to 85,000 unused employment-based immigrant visas.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick walks you through the top 5 most common mistakes and misconceptions made by EB-2 National Interest Waiver applicants and how you can avoid them.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


First, let’s discuss, what exactly is the National Interest Waiver?

The National Interest Waiver is part of the employment-based, second preference visa category for individuals who can demonstrate that they hold either an advanced degree or have exceptional ability in their proposed field or endeavor. Essentially, a National Interest Waiver allows an applicant to seek an exemption from the labor certification process, and bypass the job offer requirement typically required for individuals seeking an employment-based green card.  National Interest Waivers are granted to those who can demonstrate that their employment in the United States would greatly benefit the nation. The main advantage of the National Interest Waiver is that applicants can self-petition and do not need an employer to sponsor them. This is enormously beneficial when considering that the labor certification and recruitment process on its own can take a considerable amount of time to complete.

Furthermore, the 2016 ruling in Matter of Dhanasar introduced a brand-new framework for adjudicating National Interest Waiver petitions which broadened the pool of eligible applicants who could receive a National Interest Waiver.  Under the new standard, an NIW may be approved if it can be proved that (1) the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; (2) the foreign national is well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and (3) on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification. The Dhanasar court clarified that to meet the third prong, the applicant must show that in light of the nature of the foreign national’s qualifications or proposed endeavor, it would be impractical either for the foreign national to secure a job offer or for the petitioner to obtain a labor certification.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the Biden administration’s recent plan to rescind the COVID-19 travel bans by November of this year.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Since January 2020, at least 6 different travel bans have been enacted by Presidential Proclamation to prevent the rapid spread of Coronavirus infections in the United States. These travel bans have temporarily suspended the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who have been physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period prior to their entry or attempted entry into the United States.


The COVID-19 travel bans


  • 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
    • Applies to immigrants and nonimmigrants from 26 European countries including: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
  • Ireland and UK Visa Ban –Proclamation 9996 issued March 14, 2020 –No termination date
  • South Africa Visa Ban—Proclamation 10143 issued January 25, 2021
  • India Visa Ban –Proclamation 10199 issued April 30, 2021—No termination date
  • Brazil Visa Ban—Proclamation 10041 issued May 25, 2020 –No termination date

For a complete list and description of the travel bans please click here.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the long processing times to adjudicate applications and petitions filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The backlog of cases has been especially significant for certain types of applications and petitions where demand is greatest, such as I-539 applications to extend/change nonimmigrant status, I-360 petitions for Amerasians, Widow(er), or Special Immigrants, I-765 Applications for Employment Authorization, I-751 Removal of Conditions applications, and many others. According to previous data, in 2014 an average green card case took about 5 months to be processed by USCIS, while in 2020 it has taken over 10 months to process the same type of application.

The reason behind these high processing times leads back to the crippling effects caused by COVID-19. Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, USCIS has been experiencing a financial crisis as more and more people have found it difficult to afford paying costly fees for their immigration processes. To make matters worse, USCIS has also been experiencing a shortage in personnel and resources, making it difficult for the agency to efficiently adjudicate immigration benefits.

Many of these limitations have been caused by conditions in various states around the country, as well as local government mandates. States with high rates of coronavirus for example have been especially hard hit, making it difficult for USCIS to continue to operate at previous levels. The Biden administration has taken steps to try to improve conditions and reduce the backlogs by reinstating deferential immigration policies mandating immigration officers to defer to prior approvals where immigration benefits involve the same parties and facts. The agency has also lengthened the status of removal of conditions applicants from 18 to 24 months while their applications remain pending with the USCIS and implemented flexibility policies to respond to requests for evidence. Despite these changes there is much more that needs to be done.

Want to know more about these important updates? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Massive Delays at USCIS Reach Crisis Levels

  • According to USCIS data, from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2021, processing times for all I-539 applications to change or extend status rose from about 2.8 months in 2017 to 9.8 months in 2021 (an increase of more than 250%)
  • In the same period, processing times for family-based adjustment of status (I-485) applications rose from 7.9 months in fiscal year 2017 to 13.2 months in fiscal year 2021 (an increase of more than 67%)
  • Also during the same period, processing times for naturalization applications (N-400) increased from 7.9 months in 2017 to 11.6 months in fiscal year 2021 (an increase of nearly 47%)

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares a recent update from USCIS regarding a new policy that will extend evidence of status for green card holders who are applying to remove the conditions on their green card with the filing of either Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. Jacob also provides some cautionary information for conditional permanent residents who have divorced and are returning to the U.S. after temporary foreign travel, as well as added scrutiny for those applying for naturalization who initially gained their green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


2 Year Extension of Status for Conditional Permanent Residents with Pending Form I-751 or Form I-829

USCIS has recently shared important information for conditional permanent residents who have been issued a two-year green card by USCIS and are now seeking to remove the conditions on their residence. Starting September 4, 2021, USCIS is extending the time that receipt notices can be used to show evidence of lawful status from 18 months to 24 months for those who have properly filed Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.

Previously, after filing Form I-751 or Form I-829, USCIS was issuing receipt notices which included an automatic 18-month extension of lawful status, allowing applicants to lawfully remain in the United States 18-months past the expiration of their green cards while their applications were under review with the agency. These extensions were issued for 18-months because that was the estimated processing time for removal of conditions applications prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

USCIS will now be issuing 24-month extensions to reflect the current processing times more accurately for these applications, which has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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