Articles Posted in CR 1 visa

Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with even more immigration news.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the following new immigration updates: new vaccination policies and procedures being followed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following the release of the Proclamation, Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, new updates for certain B1/B2 tourists visa applicants, tips for U.S. permanent residents stuck overseas, and solutions for those traveling under the Visa Waiver Program that have not been able to leave the United States due to flight cancellations.


Overview


CBP Customs and Border Protection Operations in 2022


In a recent meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provided further clarification regarding admission of non-U.S. Citizens to the United States following the issuance of Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This new Proclamation requires non-citizens to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to gain admission.

CBP has made clear that the agency is not responsible for enforcing the vaccine requirement stipulated in the Presidential Proclamation.

Instead, CBP is merely responsible for enforcing all guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) such as ensuring that all air travelers, 2 years of age or older, present a negative COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before planned travel to the United States and proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 as mandated by the CDC. Travelers must show their negative result to the airline before boarding their flight.

Pursuant to CDC regulations, you are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart*

* CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the of purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog! It’s the start of a brand-new year and as always, we at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, are committed to bringing you the latest in immigration news. We are happy for you to join us.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares his top predictions for U.S. immigration in the new year. In this blog post we cover the following topics: What will happen to visa processing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Will there be immigration reform in the new year? Will any new changes be made to the H-1B visa program? What about fee increases? Stay tuned to find out more.


Overview


What are some of our key immigration law predictions for the upcoming year?


Increase in Filing Fees for USCIS petitions and DOS Non-Immigrant Visa Fees


Our first prediction for the new year is an increase in filing fees at both the USCIS and Department of State levels, to help increase government resources during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As you might recall, back in October of 2020, USCIS attempted to increase its filing fees to meet its operational costs. Among the petitions that were to be the most impacted were N-400 applications for naturalization, L visa petitions, O visa petitions, and petitions for qualifying family members of U-1 nonimmigrants.

Fortunately, in September of 2020, a federal court struck down the planned USCIS increase in fees arguing that the new fee increases would adversely impact vulnerable and low-income applicants, especially those seeking humanitarian protections.

We believe that early in the new year USCIS will again publish a rule in the Federal Register seeking to increase its fees to help keep the agency afloat. USCIS previously insisted that the additional fees were necessary to increase the number of personnel at its facilities to meet the increasing demand for adjudication of certain types of petitions. It is no secret that USCIS has experienced severe revenue shortfalls since the start of the pandemic as more and more families found it difficult to afford filing fees. Once those details have been made public we will provide more information right here on our blog and on our YouTube channel.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, and Happy New Year! We are excited to have you back. We hope you had a wonderful holiday break with your family and are ready to jump back into the latest in immigration news in the new year. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the latest update regarding the operational status of U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


First let’s start with some good news. In October of last year, the Biden administration took some major steps toward opening the United States to international travelers, lifting many of the COVID-19 related geographic travel bans that were put in place by the Trump administration to reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19. To provide relief to visa holders, President Biden later signed a Proclamation allowing fully vaccinated international travelers to enter the United States beginning November 8, 2021, regardless of their country of origin. At the same time the Proclamation, revoked the previous geographic travel bans including Proclamation 9984, Proclamation 9992, Proclamation 10143, and Proclamation 10199 for those fully vaccinated.

Unfortunately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have been slow to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with many posts still limiting operational capacity based on country conditions and local regulations. Services have not returned to pre-pandemic levels and there is simply no semblance of normalcy at the Consular level. This has been extremely frustrating for visa applicants who have been waiting in the massive visa backlogs for an interview.  According to Department of State statistics, approximately 90% of Consular posts continue to be subject to pandemic related restrictions with some partially open and others providing very limited services.

Because most Embassies and Consulates are not fully operational, many applicants currently in the United States that have filed and received approvals for work visa related petitions with USCIS such as H-1B, O-1, E-2 petition-related approvals, etc. have not been able to leave the United States to return to their home country for visa stamping. This has caused even greater frustration among applicants who are essentially “trapped” in the United States due to their inability to obtain an appointment for visa stamping. That is because applicants encounter greater risks when they choose to leave the United States, due to the uncertain and indefinite amount of time they could be waiting for a visa stamping appointment to become available while overseas. An even greater fear is the risk that the applicant may lose his or her job while waiting for an appointment that may not come for a very long time.

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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 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 shares the most up to date information about the current status of U.S. visa services at Consulates and Embassies worldwide. In this post we cover U.S. Embassies and Consular posts that we have not yet touched on and provide an analysis of their operating capacity during the worldwide COVID-19 health crisis. Want to know which Embassies and Consulates are scheduling visa interviews?

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


As a preliminary matter, it is important to consider that the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas continue to have very limited operational capacity due to constraints relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some posts have temporarily suspended all routine visa services and have not provided an estimated time frame as to when they will resume at least partial visa services and appointments. The bulk of Consular posts have entered a phased resumption of visa services and are providing visa services as their resources and local country conditions will allow. The health and safety of employees and the public remains a top concern. Emergency and mission critical visa services continue to be prioritized for those facing life and death emergencies, age-out cases where the applicant will no longer qualify due to their age, immediate relative intercountry adoption, and other special cases. Furthermore, expedite requests and National Interest exceptions continue to be considered by Consular posts and Embassies including for health care professionals working to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


How are Consular posts and Embassies prioritizing appointments?


The Department of State announced that Consular missions and Embassies are following a four-tier system of prioritization to triage documentarily qualified immigrant visa applications based on the category of immigrant visa as they resume and expand processing. Consular sections are scheduling some appointments within all four priority tiers every month where possible, however the following are the main categories of immigrant visas in priority order:

  • Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government), and emergency cases as determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Tier Two:  Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
  • Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
  • Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas*

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick talks about which U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas are scheduling visa interviews during the limited operational capacity resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a bonus, in this video, we will also help you understand the role of the National Visa Center in preparing your case for transfer to a Consular post abroad and interview scheduling.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


What is the role of the National Visa Center in your immigration journey?

The National Visa Center is an extremely important agency that acts as a middleman between USCIS and the Consular post or Embassy where your visa interview will eventually be scheduled.

After U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your immigrant visa petition, USCIS forwards your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to prepare the case for immigrant visa pre-processing. Once your case is received by the National Visa Center, the agency will contact you to collect your visa application, visa fees, and additional supporting documentation known as civil documents. All visa fees and supporting documentation is submitted online via the Consular Electronic Application Center webpage (CEAC). 

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides an overview of the State Department’s September 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State. In this monthly YouTube broadcast, Mr. Charles Oppenheim answers many of the public’s questions regarding the upcoming Visa Bulletin and discusses what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of the family sponsored and employment-based preference categories in the coming months.

Want to know more about the highlights of the Q&A session? Just keep on watching!


Overview


In this blog post, we summarize some of the most interesting questions that were asked during this live Q&A session with Charlie Oppenheim, including frequently asked questions regarding unused employment-based visa numbers for fiscal year 2021 and the future of family-sponsored categories in the coming months.

Q: Are you concerned with the anticipated large amount of unused fiscal year 2021 employment-based numbers which you mentioned last month?

Charlie Oppenheim responded during the live session that the State Department is very concerned about the potential for unused employment-based numbers under the fiscal year 2021 annual limits. According to Oppenheim, this concern was one of the reasons he made the China and India employment first preference categories current back in April and engaged in very aggressive forward movement of the final action dates since that time to prevent the loss of visa numbers in the employment-based categories. Furthermore, Mr. Oppenheim pointed out that both the State and USCIS offices are doing everything in their power to maximize number use before the end of FY 2021 to avoid drastic losses.

Based on recent discussions with USCIS, Charlie Oppenheim said that the agency is on track to approve more adjustment of status applications than at any time since fiscal year 2005. He also reminded listeners to keep in mind that since March of 2020, both the State Department and USCIS offices, have been dealing with a variety of COVID-19 issues which have had a tremendous negative impact on operational status, staffing, and ability to process large amounts of immigrant visa cases. According to Mr. Oppenheim, overseas posts only began returning to some sense of normal processing in April of 2021.

Q: When I look at the chart listing the final action dates, how do I know if my case is eligible to be scheduled for an interview at the overseas post responsible for processing my case?

This is a very common question that our law office is frequently asked as well. Charlie Oppenheim pointed out that applicants must first ensure that they have submitted all the required civil documents to the National Visa Center to become “documentarily qualified,” meaning that all necessary documents and fees have been submitted to proceed with interview scheduling. Submission of all necessary documents would also need to be done in time for the case to be reported to the Visa Office as documentarily completed by the first of each month. In this case, if you are documentarily qualified and your priority date is earlier than the applicable final action date listed in the Visa Bulletin, then you would be eligible to be scheduled for an appointment for final action on your case. However, even while waiting in line to be scheduled for a visa interview after being “documentarily qualified,” applicants must still take into consideration overseas post processing capacity issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of posts overseas continue to have limited operational capacity; therefore, applicants should expect delays to be scheduled for a visa interview. Overseas posts must first notify the National Visa Center that they have an available slot for an interview before the National Visa Center can forward the case to the post overseas.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares information about the current status of U.S. visa services at Consulates and Embassies worldwide by country for the month of August 2021. We would also like to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Afghanistan who are facing extremely difficult circumstances in their country. Our office represents several immigrant visa applicants in Afghanistan and are doing everything we can to help reunite visa applicants with their loved ones in the United States.

In this blog post we will run through what we know regarding the operating status of Consulates and Embassies all over the world starting with Kabul, Afghanistan.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


U.S. Consulate Kabul, Afghanistan

Due to ongoing political unrest and security threats in Kabul, Afghanistan, the U.S. Consulate in Kabul, Afghanistan is closed to the public and operations to assist U.S. Citizens are extremely limited due to reduced staffing.

At this moment we have received information that all immigrant visa applicants who had visa interview appointments at the Consulate in Kabul or were waiting to be scheduled for an interview in Kabul, will be receiving an email with instructions on how your case will proceed. Your case may be moved to a different overseas post, or you may receive instructions to complete the repatriation assistance form (details below).

As we all know, the security situation in Kabul is evolving on a daily basis. The Consulate has advised U.S. citizens seeking assistance to depart the country to complete the Repatriation Assistance Request for each traveler in their group. Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas are encouraged to complete this form as soon as possible if they wish to depart. The Repatriation Request form should only be used once to avoid delays. You must complete this form even if you’ve previously submitted your information to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by another means. This form is the only way to communicate interest in flight options. The Consulate will notify you directly by email based on your registration as soon as departure options become available.

Eligibility Requirements:

  1. U.S. Citizenship:  The U.S. Embassy will prioritize U.S. citizens for any charter flights.   U.S. citizens with a non-citizen spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may include their family members in their repatriation assistance requests but should indicate each family member’s citizenship and whether each has a valid passport and/or a U.S. visa.

If you are a non-U.S. citizen parent of a U.S. citizen minor, indicate whether you have appropriate travel documentation to enter the United States (i.e. valid U.S. visa). If you do not have appropriate travel documentation, please identify an individual who currently has valid travel documentation who could accompany your U.S. citizen minor.

U.S. lawful permanent residents may submit a repatriation assistance request, and their request will be considered depending on availability.

  1. Flight Costs: Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid.  The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person.
  2. Travel Documents:  All passengers should have valid travel documents required for entry into the United States (e.g. U.S. passports or visas)

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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 breaking news update: The Department of State recently announced that the entry of immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants is in the National Interest, despite the COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations, which have prevented those physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran from obtaining visas. In addition, the Secretary has carved out exceptions for other special types of nonimmigrants who have been physically presented in the affected countries.

What exactly does this mean for you? Keep on watching for all the details.


Overview


Immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants who were previously subject to Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041, may now breathe a sigh of relief. That is because on April 8, 2021, the Department of State, announced via its website that such Regional Presidential Proclamations will no longer restrict immigrant visa and fiancé(e) visa applicants from obtaining a visa to enter the United States.

The Secretary of State has now determined that the travel of immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants is in the National Interest and will approve exceptions for anyone wishing to travel to the United States, from countries which were previously banned from entering the United States due to the COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations.

Prior to this announcement, all immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants, 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, were restricted from entering the United States to contain the prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Such restrictions are no more.

DOS has stated that, Immigrant Visa processing posts may now grant immigrant and fiancé(e) visas to applicants otherwise eligible, notwithstanding these proclamations.

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