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Articles Posted in Consular Processing

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick updates you regarding the operational status of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. As our readers are aware on March 20, 2020, the Department of State announcement the suspension of routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consular posts worldwide in order to deal with the challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. While U.S. Embassies and Consular posts suspended routine visa services, posts continued to remain open to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. These included the processing of applications for “national interest” waivers.

Since then, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have begun a phased resumption of visa services as local country conditions and resources have allowed.

Want to know more? Stay tuned for more information about this important topic.


Overview

In this video, we discuss the status of immigrant visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consular posts worldwide. The information provided is based on what our office is currently experiencing, official government sources, and information we have received from other attorneys and members of our private Facebook group.

We are now ending fiscal year 2020 and are approaching the start of a new fiscal year that begins on October 2020. The Department of State predicts an overflow of immigrant visas. More than 100,000 additional employment-based visas will become available in the new fiscal year, while nearly 300,000 additional family-based visas will become available in the new fiscal year.


What is responsible for this overflow in visas?

This overflow in visas is the result of a combination of various factors. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and the numerous Presidential Proclamations that followed, many immigrant visas were not allowed to be issued. This has left many visas up for grabs in the new fiscal year.


What has the Department of State said about resumption of visa services?

The Department of State previously announced that routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consular posts would resume after July 15th however things have not gone as planned. The majority of U.S. Embassies and Consular posts did not resume routine visa services to the public on or after this date.

As months passed, some U.S. Embassies and Consular posts reopened interview scheduling on a limited basis. These actions signal that there is some movement in the scheduling of visa interview appointments, however the situation remains fluid. At any time, even the U.S. Embassies and Consular posts that have reopened their calendars for interview scheduling, can cancel these scheduled interviews based on their continued observance of local health conditions.


Which U.S. Embassies and Consular posts have resumed immigrant visa interviews?

Based on what we are seeing, the following Embassies/Consular posts have resumed immigrant visa interviews:

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind the situation continues to remain fluid and Embassy/Consular posts may choose to cancel scheduled interviews at any time based on country conditions.

  • U.S. Embassy in Kenya – open for immigrant visa interviews as of September 2020
  • U.S. Consulate in Mumbai, India – open for biometrics, was open for immigrant visa interviews, but it appears the Consulate has stopped scheduling interviews until further notice. Please continue monitoring the calendar
  • U.S. Consulate Frankfurt, Germany – was open for immigrant visa interviews, but it appears the Consulate has stopped scheduling interviews until further notice. Please continue monitoring the calendar
  • U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Japan- open for immigrant visa interviews as of mid-August 2020
  • U.S. Embassy Seoul, Korea – open for immigrant visa interviews
  • U.S. Consulate Guangzhou, China – only post in China open for immigrant visa interviews
  • U.S. Consulate Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – open for immigrant visa interviews
  • U.S. Embassy Pakistan – not open for immigrant visa interviews, but emergency interview requests are still being considered
  • U.S. Embassy Paris, France – open for immigrant visa interviews
  • U.S. Embassy Sofia, Bulgaria – open for immigrant visa interviews as of September
  • U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium – open for immigrant and non-immigrant visa interviews as of August

Emergency Appointments

Even if your Embassy or Consular post has not resumed routine visa services and interview scheduling, you may request an emergency expedited appointment if your U.S. Citizen spouse or relative is experiencing extreme hardships in your absence, or where there is a medical or other type of emergency. Applicants are encouraged to contact their local Consular post for instructions on how to apply for an emergency appointment.

Our office has been successful in obtaining emergency appointments based on extreme hardship as well as the “national interest” exception for those subject to a Presidential Proclamation. If you would like to know whether you qualify for an emergency appointment or national interest exception, please call us to schedule a consultation.


Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text or call 619-569-1768.


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Need more immigration updates? We have created a brand new facebook group to address the impact of the new executive order and other changing developments in immigration related to COVID-19. Follow us there.

For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here. 

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides some exciting news regarding a recent federal court order. The new order grants relief to diversity visa applicants selected in the DV lottery for fiscal year 2020 against Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052. As many of you are aware, on April 22nd the President issued Proclamation 10014, which temporarily suspended the entry of all immigrants into the U.S. for a period of two months, including that of diversity visa lottery winners. Two months later, the President issued Proclamation 10052, which extended the suspension until December 31, 2020, with limited exceptions that did not apply to diversity visa winners. In response to these Proclamations, a class action lawsuit was brought in federal court challenging its application. For purposes of this post, we discuss what this lawsuit means for DV-2020 selected applicants.

For more information on this important ruling please keep on watching.


Overview

Proclamations 10014 and 10052 imposed an unfortunate ban on the adjudication and issuance of immigrant visas for certain classes of immigrants, including winners of the DV-2020 lottery.

Following the issuance of Proclamations 10014 and 10052 – which did not exempt DV-2020 lottery winners from the ban – diversity visa lottery winners were left in limbo. The issuance of the Proclamation created a dilemma for winners because following their selection in the DV lottery, winners must apply for and receive a diversity visa by the deadline imposed for that fiscal year. For DV-2020 the deadline to receive a permanent visa was September 30, 2020. The ban on visa issuance for DV-lottery winners meant that applicants would not be able to meet the deadline to apply for a permanent visa, and as a result would forfeit their opportunity to immigrate to the United States.

Seeking relief from the ban, over one thousand plaintiffs joined together to file the lawsuit Gomez, et al. v. Trump, et al. in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The judge presiding over the case, Amit Mehta, concluded that DV-2020 lottery winners qualified for relief, but that non-DV applicants failed to demonstrate that they were entitled to relief.

Accordingly, federal judge Mehta issued the following orders:

  1. As a preliminary matter, the court “stayed” (halted) the No-Visa Policy as applied to DV-2020 selectees and derivative beneficiaries, meaning that the government is prohibited from interpreting or applying the Proclamation in any way that forecloses or prohibits embassy personnel, consular officers, or any administrative processing center (such as the Kentucky Consular Center) from processing, reviewing, or adjudicating a 2020 diversity visa or derivative beneficiary application, or issuing or reissuing a 2020 diversity or beneficiary visa based on the entry restrictions contained in the Proclamations. Except as provided in 2 and 3 below, the order does not prevent any embassy personnel, consular officer, or administrative processing center from prioritizing the processing, adjudication, or issuance of visas based on resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic or country conditions;
  2. The government as defendants are ordered to undertake good-faith efforts, to expeditiously process and adjudicate DV-2020 diversity visa and derivative beneficiary applications, and issue or reissue diversity and derivative beneficiary visas to eligible applicants by September 30, 2020, giving priority to the named diversity visa plaintiffs in the lawsuit and their derivative beneficiaries;
  3. The court enjoins (stops) the government from interpreting and applying the COVID Guidance to DV-2020 selectees and derivative beneficiaries in any way that requires embassy personnel, consular officers, or administrative processing centers (such as the Kentucky Consular Center) to refuse processing, reviewing, adjudicating 2020 diversity visa applications, or issuing or reissuing diversity visas on the ground that the DV-2020 selectee or derivative beneficiary does not qualify under the “emergency” or “mission critical” exceptions to the COVID Guidance;
  4. The court declines the requests of DV-2020 plaintiffs to order the government to reserve unprocessed DV-2020 visas past the September 30 deadline or until a final adjudication on the merits, however the court will revisit the issue closer to the deadline. The court ordered the State Department to report, no later than September 25, 2020, which of the named DV-2020 Plaintiffs in the lawsuit have received diversity visas, the status of processing of the named DV-2020 plaintiffs’ applications who have not yet received visas, and the number of unprocessed DV-2020 visa applications and unused diversity visas remaining for FY 2020;
  5. Class recertification was denied for non-DV plaintiffs since they failed to demonstrate that they were entitled to preliminary injunctive relief; and
  6. Finally, the court denied the request of non-DV plaintiffs to preliminary enjoin (stop) the government from implementing or enforcing Proclamations 10014 and 10052.

What happens next?

The court has required the parties to the lawsuit to meet and confer by September 25, 2020 for a Joint Status Report. At that time, the court will set the schedule to hear arguments from the parties and come to a final resolution of the lawsuit on the merits.

We hope that this information will help DV-2020 lottery winners breathe a sigh of relief. If you were selected in the DV-2020 lottery it is very important to proceed with your immigrant visa process as soon as possible. Applicants should consider applying with the assistance of an attorney to ensure the application process goes smoothly.


Where can I read more about this court order?

To read judge Mehta’s complete decision please click here.


Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text or call 619-569-1768.


JOIN OUR NEW FACEBOOK GROUP


Need more immigration updates? We have created a brand new facebook group to address the impact of the new executive order and other changing developments in immigration related to COVID-19. Follow us there.

For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here. 

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides new updates regarding previously planned furloughs by the United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) as well as the expansion of interview waiver eligibility for certain visa applications at United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide.

For more information on these important topics please keep on watching.


Overview


USCIS Cancels Planned Furloughs

We have great news for our readers. Recently, USCIS announced that it will cancel the agency’s planned furlough of more than 13,000 employees, which was scheduled to take place on August 30, 2020, to help the agency meet its budget quotas and ensure operational capacity.

On August 25th USCIS made the announcement stating that as of now the agency is able to maintain its operations through the end of fiscal year 2020.

What does this mean for applicants?

While the cancellation of these planned furloughs is certainly good news for the American workforce, USCIS has made clear that delays will continue for the foreseeable future, including an increase in backlogs and wait times across the board. USCIS has specifically stated that there is no guarantee that the agency can avoid future furloughs. The only mechanism that will safeguard operations is additional funding from Congress to help the agency meet its operational costs through fiscal year 2021

According to USCIS, the agency has cut costs by reducing the need to work with outside contractors who have in the past assisted USCIS adjudicators to process and prepare case files, and provide support to the agency. Of course, without this additional assistance, delays will continue to be expected.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an important announcement made by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on July 31, 2020 regarding new increases in immigration filing fees for certain applications and petitions.

Stay tuned for more information.


Overview


What is the new announcement about?

USCIS recently announced that the agency will be increasing filing fees for certain applications and petitions in order to meet its operational costs. As many of you are aware, USCIS has been facing a serious financial crisis as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. The substantial loss of revenue the agency has experienced has forced the agency to resort to a hike in filing fees that will be enforced beginning October 2nd.

Shortly after its announcement regarding the fee increases, USCIS published a final rule in the Federal Register explaining that the price increases are “ intended to ensure that USCIS has the resources it needs to provide adequate service to applicants and petitioners.”

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a very important new update regarding the “public charge,” rule. On July 29, a federal judge in the state of New York issued a ruling temporarily blocking the Trump administration from enforcing the public charge rule on noncitizens seeking permanent residency in the United States, as well as nonimmigrant visa applicants abroad, for as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains a public health emergency. The ruling was made in response to a federal lawsuit filed by several states against the government, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in State of New York, et al. v. DHS, et al. and Make the Road NY et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al.

Stay tuned for more information on this topic.


Overview

In response to a lawsuit filed by the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, challenging the “public charge” rule, federal judge George Daniels approved a nationwide injunction, which temporarily blocks the government from “enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating,” as effective the “public charge” rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The judge in this case ultimately sided with the states recognizing that the public charge rule ultimately discourages non-citizens nationwide from obtaining the necessary treatment and care they would need during the Coronavirus pandemic. In his opinion, the judge stated that in consideration of the “substantial harm” that the public would suffer from application and enforcement of the public charge rule, it was necessary to issue a temporary injunction to preserve the status quo and allow non-citizens to seek public benefits necessary for their health and well-being. The judge stated, “no person should hesitate to seek medical care, nor should they endure punishment or penalty if they seek temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic’s impact.”

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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: When will US Embassies and Consulates re-open? Stay tuned to find out more.


Overview

First things first, as many of you know on March 20, 2020 the Department of State announced the temporary suspension of routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide in response to the global pandemic. Since then, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have cancelled all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments, and only provided emergency and mission critical visa services. The DOS did not provide an estimated timeframe of when routine visa services would resume stating “we are unable to provide a specific date at this time.”

In addition, beginning January 31, 2020, the President began issuing several presidential proclamations suspending the entry into the United States of certain foreign nationals to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. The entry of foreign nationals who were physically present in the People’s Republic of China, Iran, Brazil, Ireland, or the Schengen countries within the 14 days preceding entry or attempted entry into the United States is suspended until further notice. The Schengen countries include 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.

That means that these individuals will not be issued a U.S. visa or allowed to enter the United States for as long as the presidential proclamations remain in place, even when U.S. Embassies and Consulates resume visa services for the public.

For a complete list of these presidential proclamations restricting travel 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 dilemma that Diversity Visa applicants are currently facing. What will happen to those who won the diversity visa lottery but are unable to apply for an immigrant visa because of the new proclamation? We answer your questions here and provide other helpful immigration tips. Stay tuned for more information on this topic.


Overview


As many of you know the executive order, “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak,” signed by the President on June 22nd suspends the entry of certain H, J, and L non-immigrants until December 31, 2020 and also extends the previous presidential proclamation signed on April 22nd which barred DV lottery winners from applying for an immigrant visa. Those affected by the April order include diversity visa applicants selected in the DV lottery, who are outside the United States as of the date of the proclamation, and otherwise have no immigrant visa or official travel document allowing them to enter the United States.


Q: What is the impact of this proclamation on DV lottery winners outside the country?

Unfortunately, this proclamation has devastating consequences on DV lottery winners currently residing outside the country. The order could potentially eliminate the possibility of applying for a visa based on diversity visa lottery selection, because DV applicants must be approved for a visa before the September 30, 2020 deadline.


Q. Is there any relief for DV lottery winners?

Lawsuits

Potentially. On April 27th a class action lawsuit by multiple plaintiffs was filed President Donald Trump, DHS, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, DOS, and DOS Secretary Michael Pompeo, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the April 22nd  Presidential Proclamation arguing that the proclamation interferes with family reunification, violates the INA, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit asked for a preliminary and permanent injunction (a court order) to block the government from implementing or enforcing the Proclamation on those impacted the April 22nd proclamation including FY 2020 diversity visa lottery winners.

Unfortunately, on May 18, 2020, the district court denied the Temporary Restraining order, which means the government can continue to enforce the April 22nd proclamation until further notice.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the latest update regarding a new executive order that is soon to be released, that will temporarily suspend the entry of L-1, H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 non-immigrants for at least several months.

Keep on watching for more information.


Overview


Please note that the information we can provide is only preliminary in nature based on reports and rumors that have been circulating recently.


What will the order do?


The new executive order is rumored to propose a temporary suspension on the entry of individuals residing abroad who have an L-1, H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 petition approved, but don’t have a visa yet in their passports. The new executive order anticipates suspending the issuance of visas for these individuals for at least several months.

In addition, the executive order proposes a temporary suspension on the entry of those who already have an L-1, H-1B, H-2B, or J-1 visas in their passports, but have not yet traveled to the United States on their visa.


Will there be exceptions on who is impacted?


Yes. Like with previous executive orders there will likely be exceptions that will protect some categories of individuals from being impacted such as health care professionals, those working to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, and essential workers in food-related industries. Other exceptions may also be made but it is not yet clear what those exceptions could be.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a new and exciting bill proposed by the House of Representatives known as the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) that would provide financial relief for undocumented immigrants, employment authorization for undocumented essential workers, and expedited visa processing for doctors, nurses, and other essential workers.

Please keep in mind that to become law, the HEROES Act still needs to be passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by the President.

Keep on watching for more information.


HEROES Act Overview


The new HEROES Act addresses some of the shortcomings of the previous CARES Act, which excluded undocumented immigrants from receiving stimulus checks from the federal government. The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion federal relief package that authorizes a second round of stimulus checks for those who qualify.

Here are the five takeaways of the HEROES Act:

  1. The HEROES Act would provide cash payments to immigrants and their families previously excluded under the CARES Act
  2. The HEROES Act would shield essential workers from deportation and create opportunities for some undocumented immigrants to obtain employment authorization (much like DACA)
  3. THE HEROES Act calls on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release low-risk immigrants from detention facilities where detention is not mandatory and where the detainee is not a national security risk
  4. The HEROES Act would allow expedited visa and green card processing for foreign medical professionals fighting Coronavirus and grant flexibility for medical professionals as to where they can work and how they can work
  5. THE HEROES Act would grant health care benefits for undocumented immigrants who do not have health insurance, including free testing, vaccines, and treatment relating to Coronavirus

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a new and exciting bill called “the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act” that would speed up the process for nurses and doctors to obtain their green cards.

Keep on watching for more information.


Overview


The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act was introduced by Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Chris Coons (D-DE) to increase the number of doctors and nurses available to meet the demand of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While this bill is only a proposal for the time being, it is a great step in the right direction for the future of highly skilled foreign medical professionals. To become law, the bill must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. The bill is exciting because it is likely to have bipartisan support and has great potential to become law.


Why was the bill passed?


Currently, significant backlogs exist for nurses applying for a green card under the employment-based third preference category (EB-3). As you know Congress has imposed numerical limitations on the number of green cards that can be issued for immigrant workers. For EB-3 there is a waiting period of several years for green cards to become for EB-3 workers, even those with approved I-140 who are prevented from entering the United States because of these numerical limitations. At the moment, the priority date for nurses under EB-3 is stuck around January 2017 which for many nurses means a very long waiting period.

The Health Care Workforce Resilience Act was proposed to alleviate the strain on the U.S. healthcare system. The United States is currently at the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic and has an urgent need for doctors and nurses to help flatten the curve.


What does the proposal say?


The bill would authorize USCIS to “recapture” up to 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 immigrant visas for doctors. Additional immigrant visas would also be recaptured for the families of these medical professionals so that principal applicants and their family members can obtain their green cards at the same time.

This recapturing of unused visas in other preference categories would eliminate the backlog for nurses and doctors with approved I-140’s who are seeking an employment-based green card.

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