Articles Posted in COVID 19

Welcome back to our blog! In this video, we are excited to cover new updates from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with respect to missing and/or delayed Requests for Evidence also known as “RFEs.”

Did You Know? Where an application or petition is deficient, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may issue a Request for Evidence asking for additional information or documentation to be provided before the adjudicating officer can make a final decision for your case. Requests for Evidence are sent to the applicant’s mailing address and specifically identify the information or documentation needed, as well as the deadline for responding to the Request for Evidence.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


More and more individuals have been reporting their case status change to “Request for Evidence” issued but have not received the request in the mail. In this post, we talk about what you should do in this situation and the latest recommendations from USCIS.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have seen many operational delays at the USCIS level. From interview scheduling delays to the slow issuance of receipt notices, the agency has been struggling to keep up with its workload. In the last year alone, the biggest obstacle has been the slow issuance of Requests for Evidence especially for cases pending at the Texas Service Center (TSC) and the Vermont Service Center (VSC). The agency has said that eventually all Requests for Evidence will be sent by mail. The issue has been that the agency has been experiencing severe mailroom backlogs leading to such delays.

So, what should you do if you have not yet received your Request for Evidence in the mail?

USCIS has acknowledged these delays and has advised applicants to contact USCIS to speak to a customer service representative about the issue by calling 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833) Monday to Friday 8 am to 8 pm Eastern Standard Time. Applicants should continue to inquire until they have received their Request for Evidence by mail.

Once your Request for Evidence has arrived, if the stated deadline is not sufficient time to respond to the Request, you may still respond to the RFE, and include evidence proving that you received the Request for Evidence very late. This is very easy to prove because your envelope will include a stamp showing the date the Request for Evidence was mailed to you.

Applicants should also note that USCIS has extended its flexibility policy and will accept a response to a Request for Evidence received within 60 calendar days after the due date, so long as the RFE was issued between March 1, 2020, and October 23, 2022. This policy will also apply to late and missing RFEs that are re-issued by USCIS.

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Welcome to the start of a brand-new week. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares with you some brand-new updates including the status of immigrant visa processing, NVC insider tips, information regarding the transfer of cases from USCIS to the NVC, NVC timeframes, expedite requests, and much more.

If you have an immigrant visa application waiting for interview scheduling at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide or if your case is stuck at the National Visa Center, then this video is right for you.

Did you know? The Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) is your one-stop shop to pay your immigrant visa fees and upload any necessary documentation to complete the processing of your application before it is deemed “documentarily complete.”

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


The Role of the National Visa Center

As you may know, the National Visa Center (NVC) is operated by the Department of State. Its main role is to administer the processing of immigrant visas after their approval by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but before the case is actually sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a final interview. Essentially, the National Visa Center functions as a middleman between USCIS and Consulates overseas.

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In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a brand-new update from the U.S. Department of State, specifically for applicants who are going through the process of applying for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement, also known as the “Virtual Waiting Queue.” If you would like to know what this is all about and how the Virtual Waiting Queue can help you just keep on watching.

Did You Know? Under the law, all nonimmigrant visa applicants must be interviewed by an officer unless the interview is specifically waived by the U.S. Department of State. Decisions to waive the in-person interview requirement are made on a case-by-case basis.  In normal circumstances, an interview is necessary to verify important information about the applicant to determine their eligibility for permanent residence or an immigrant visa.

During the interview, the officer verifies that the applicant understood the questions on their application and grants the applicant an opportunity to revise any answers completed incorrectly or that have changed since filing the application.


Overview


Recently, our office received information from the U.S. Embassy in London regarding this brand-new visa interview waiver procedure for non-immigrant visa applicants. From what we know, while this procedure is first being implemented in London, more Embassies and Consulates worldwide are expected to adopt the waiver procedure in the coming months. Please note that while some applicants may be eligible for interview waiver under this new program, important considerations must be made along with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that the applicant can adequately succeed in passing the virtual interview.

Quite a few of our nonimmigrant visa clients who were eligible to have their visa interview waived, have been receiving a specific email notification from the Embassy stating that their applications have been placed in the “Virtual Waiting Queue.”

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In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick addresses a very important question: I want to apply for a U.S. visa, but my country does not have a U.S. Embassy or Consulate (or it is closed at this time), how can I apply for a visa in this situation?

Did You Know? The United States has a diplomatic presence in more than 190 countries around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates have temporarily suspended certain U.S. visa services or have been operated at a very limited capacity due to local country conditions and regulations. In countries where the United States does not have a diplomatic presence, other U.S. Embassies or Consulates have been responsible for the processing of visas from those country nationals.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in my home country (or the post nearest me is closed) what can I do to get a U.S. visa? What are my options?

Options for Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Applicants


In countries where the United States has no diplomatic presence, or where the U.S. diplomatic mission has limited or suspended its activities, often times the U.S. Department of States will accommodate visa seekers by processing their applications at U.S. Embassies or Consulates in nearby countries.

However, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a nearby country must be willing to accept applications from third-country nationals for the visa type sought. Please note that certain U.S. Embassies or Consulate may not be able to accommodate applicants if the officer is not trained to speak the third-country language or is not familiar with the process for third-country nationals. Third country nationals should also be aware that they bear the responsibility for paying their own costs of transportation and hotel stay in a nearby country, during the visa interview and visa issuance process. Medical examinations for immigrant visas may also need to be conducted by a civil surgeon in the nearby country, therefore applicants should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they wish to apply to understand the requirements and procedures for third-country nationals.

Due to the recent closure of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, for instance, the Department of State designated U.S. Embassy Warsaw in Poland as the processing post for Russian immigrant visa applications.

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We are delighted to announce the Department of State has published the Visa Bulletin for August 2022. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares with you the trends and movement that has occurred in the most recent visa bulletin for both employment based, and family sponsored preference categories, as well as what you can expect in the coming months.

Did you know? Every month the Department of State releases the Visa Bulletin, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.

The primary purpose of this bulletin is to provide an updated waiting list for immigrants that are subject to the numerical visa quota system.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Charts for the August Visa Bulletin (for those residing in the USA)


Every month, the US Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) releases information regarding which filing chart applicants must use in order to apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence, while in the United States. This information can be found on the USCIS webpage. In general, if there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will indicate that AOS applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart.

Otherwise, applicants will be asked to use the Final Action Dates chart.

If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.


Which chart should I refer to for the month of August 2022?


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the  Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2022.

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Do you have a case currently pending review at the National Visa Center? In this video, we discuss the growing backlogs at the National Visa Center and explain the reason it is taking so long for the NVC to process immigrant visa cases and prepare them for a visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.

Did you know? Every month the National Visa Center releases their Immigrant Visa Backlog Report, which provides important information including the number of immigrant visa applicants being scheduled for interview appointments, the number of applicants whose cases are documentarily complete and ready for interviews, and the number of eligible applicants still pending the scheduling of an interview.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


First, let’s discuss: What is the National Visa Center?

Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved your immigrant visa petition, USCIS will forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where your application will undergo immigrant visa pre-processing once your priority date has become current according to the Visa Bulletin.

Essentially, the National Visa Center serves as an intermediary between USCIS, where the immigrant visa petition was first approved, and the U.S. Consulate, where the foreign national will eventually undergo their immigrant visa interview.

Once your case is received by the National Visa Center (if your priority date is current and a visa number is available) you will be instructed to submit the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application, submit civil documents in support of your immigrant visa application, and pay the necessary visa fees. Once you have completed this process, your case will be considered “documentarily complete,” and your application will be placed in line for interview scheduling, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest your place of residence.


What are the current visa backlogs at the NVC?


As our readers will know, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on the processing of cases at the NVC and Consular level. The majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates continue to operate on a limited basis, due to local country conditions and restrictions, local and national lockdowns, travel restrictions, local regulations, and measures taken by Consular posts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This has caused challenges to interview scheduling, given that the volume of interviews that can be scheduled has been drastically decreased, to prevent the spread of the virus, and ensure public health and safety for applicants and Consular officers.

While Embassies and Consular posts have tried to return processing to pre-pandemic levels, they simply have been confronted with an overwhelming demand of cases waiting to be scheduled for in-person visa interviews.

Due to the operational crisis at Embassies and Consulates worldwide, the National Visa Center has been unable to forward immigrant visa cases to posts overseas, because posts have not had the capacity to accommodate all those waiting for an interview.

The data shows that things have not gotten better. In fact, they have gotten worse.

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Are you a green card applicant filing Form I-485 Adjustment of Status? Have you ever wondered when you should complete your medical examination? If so, this is the right video for you. This has been a point of contention for many years. Many applicants have been left wondering, is it better to file the medical exam with the adjustment of status application, or should the medical exam be brought to the interview? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick tells you all you need to know about this important topic.

Did you know? Due to COVID-19 related processing delays, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services extended the validity period of Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination, from 2 years to now 4 years for those who meet certain requirements. As of August 12, 2021, USCIS will consider a Form I-693 valid if: (1) the civil surgeon’s signature is dated no more than 60 days before the applicant files Form I-693 (2) no more than four years have passed since the date of the civil surgeon’s signature; and (3) a decision on the applicant’s Form I-485 is issued on or before September 30, 2021. Otherwise, the medical exam is valid for 2 years.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


The green card medical examination is a fundamental step in the immigration process for all applicants seeking permanent residency in the United States. The medical exam, must be completed by a U.S. civil surgeon, meaning a doctor who is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to perform medical examinations for green card applicants. Not all physicians will be eligible to complete the medical exam. You can find an authorized doctor by visiting the USCIS webpage here.


During your exam


The medical examination consists of a review of your medical history and a physical examination. As part of the exam, the doctor will test for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, and gonorrhea, test for drugs and alcohol, and other diseases and illnesses.

Once the exam is complete, the doctor will sign and complete the Form I-693 and seal the form in an envelope for you to submit to USCIS. You must ensure that the doctor provides you a sealed envelope containing their report. The envelope cannot be opened or altered.


What is the purpose of the medical exam?


The medical examination is required for any applicant filing for adjustment of status to establish that the applicant is not inadmissible to the United States on public health-related grounds. This means that applicants must be screened to ensure that they do not have any health conditions that could make them ineligible for the green card. Failure to provide an adequate medical examination could result in processing delays, and in some cases a denial of the green card application.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides new insight into the status of green card processing within the United States (adjustment of status) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A new article published by the Pew Research Center takes note of positive changes that are developing, as the number of new green cards issued by USCIS bounces back to pre-pandemic levels.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


A new research study conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that the issuance of new green cards for those adjusting their status to permanent residence within the United States (using Form I-485) has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, signaling a return to normalcy at least at the USCIS level.

This signals improvement in the social climate, as well as productivity among USCIS to push cases through the pipeline.


What is this new study about?


The Pew Research Center’s report makes comparisons between green card issuance prior, during, and after the pandemic, with results that are extremely positive.

The Center highlights that during the period of July to September 2021, USCIS issued approximately 282,000 new green cards to those seeking adjustment of status within the United States. This figure has been the highest recorded, since the pre-pandemic period of April through June of 2017, and was slightly higher than the quarterly average dating back to October 2015 through March 2020.

In comparison, at the height of the pandemic in mid-2020, only 79,000 new green cards were issued, with the lowest recorded from April to June 2020 at 19,000 new green cards.

As you can see from the graph below, the issuance of green cards was at an all-time low during 2020, and gradually made a rebound each quarter eventually matching average figures at pre-pandemic levels.

This shift is extremely impressive considering that USCIS faced severe backlogs when its offices closed during the pandemic and interviews were not able to be conducted. Over the last year, however, USCIS has tackled the backlog by hiring additional personnel, distributing workloads, and leaning on discretionary policies such as waivers of in-person interviews to better manage caseloads.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the current status of the immigrant visa backlog at the National Visa Center and Department of State, as of April 2022. In this video you will learn more about what you can expect over the next few months if you have a pending immigrant visa case waiting to be scheduled for an interview at a Consulate overseas.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Every month when the National Visa Center releases its Immigrant Visa Backlog report, we take notice and breakdown exactly what the backlog report means for immigrant visa applicants.

In its latest release for the month of April 2022, the National Visa Center has provided information that highlights the dramatic backlogs caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, causing delays in the processing of immigrant visa applications.

Since the emergence of the Coronavirus, U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide have struggled to accommodate the growing demand for visa interviews with a very limited number of personnel and resources. Posts have also faced severe limitations including the inability to process a large number of cases due to local country conditions and lockdowns. The reality is that things have not gotten back to normal in many countries, and unfortunately this is causing applicants more headaches.

In an effort to be as transparent as possible, the National Visa Center has provided the total number of immigrant visa applicants still waiting for interview appointments.

These numbers are extremely concerning. Of 453,797 immigrant visa cases that were documentarily complete and ready to be scheduled for interviews as of March 31st, only 32,439 were actually scheduled for interviews in the month of April, leaving a backlog of 421,358 immigrant visa applicants still waiting for an interview.


Number of IV applicants whose cases are documentarily complete at NVC and ready for interview as of March 31 453,797
Number of documentarily complete IV applicants scheduled for April 2022 interview appointments 32,439
Number of eligible IV applicants still pending the scheduling of an interview after April 2022 appointment scheduling was completed 421,358

Sadly, this means that the State Department has not increased the volume of monthly interviews that can be scheduled at posts overseas, leaving the issue of the immigrant visa backlog unresolved.

Unfortunately, the future ahead does not look very promising. When looking at the March and April backlog reports, we see that the immigrant visa backlog decreased by only 3.5%.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an important new update to the USCIS Policy Manual clarifying the circumstances under which a USCIS officer may waive the in-person interview requirement for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove their conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions. Conditional permanent residents are those who have received a 2-year conditional green card from USCIS and are seeking to remove those conditions to obtain the 10-year permanent resident card.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching!


Overview


As you may be aware, foreign nationals who apply for a green card based on a marriage to a U.S. Citizen that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card valid for a 2-year period. This is done as a fraud prevention mechanism to ensure that the foreign national married the U.S. Citizen for the right reasons, and not solely to obtain an immigrant benefit. Foreign nationals who receive a 2-year conditional green card must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions, within the 90-day window before their conditional green card expires.

To ensure that the foreign national has a bona fide marriage, USCIS requires the conditional green card holder to appear for an in-person interview so that the officer has the opportunity to evaluate whether the marriage was entered on a genuine basis, and not to circumvent U.S. immigration laws.

The policy manual now clarifies that USCIS officers have the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for I-751 Removal of Conditions applicants, under certain circumstances.

According to the new guidance, USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require the in-person interview to take place.

In practice this means that the conditional permanent resident must have provided sufficient documentary evidence to establish their eligibility for removal of conditions, including proof of cohabitation, joint ownership and responsibility for assets and liabilities such as joint federal income tax returns and joint checking and savings accounts, photographs of the couple throughout their relationship, children born to the marriage, and any other relevant documentation. The information stated on the I-751 Removal of Conditions application must also be free of any inconsistencies when compared to information provided in the applicant’s initial green card filing. For instance, inconsistencies in residential history or inconsistencies in facts stated can lead to an interview being required. Recent criminal offenses since the filing of the initial green card can also be a reason for an in-person interview to be required.

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