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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, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses some exciting news. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has submitted for federal review, a final regulation that if passed would expand premium processing services to additional categories of immigrants. The rule is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While the rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, it has the potential to substantially improve processing times for more categories of immigrants that have been waiting extended periods of time for their applications to be approved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this post, we break down exactly who may benefit from this new regulation and what fees might apply once the rule becomes final.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Many have been eagerly awaiting news regarding the expansion of premium processing services and it seems the time has almost come. For those who may be wondering, premium processing service is a special type of fee-based service offered by USCIS that allows for expedited processing of certain Form I-129, Petitions for Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker. With this service, applicants can pay an additional fee and submit Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to guarantee the adjudication of their applications within 15 calendar days.

The current categories of applicants who can request premium processing service and the required filing fees are as follows:

  • $2,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L (including blanket L-1), O, P, Q, or TN nonimmigrant classification.
  • $1,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R nonimmigrant classification.
  • $2,500 if you are filing Form I-140 requesting EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant visa classification.

Outside of the above categories of visa applicants, premium processing service has not been made available to other applicants. But this may all be about to change.

While we are still awaiting the rule’s official publication in the Federal Register to study its complete details, we know that the rule will identify additional categories of applicants who can request premium processing service and will provide in detail the processing times, and associated fees for each type of applicant.

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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 discusses a new court ruling blocking the issuance of initial DACA applications and what this ruling could mean for the future of comprehensive immigration reform. What can we expect to see from Congress regarding the legalization of undocumented young Americans moving forward?

Stay tuned to find out more.


Overview


On Friday, July 16, 2021, a federal judge from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted a permanent injunction against the DACA program, which essentially halts the processing of new first-time applications under the program. The permanent injunction however does not prevent the filing of DACA renewals by those who are already receiving benefits under the DACA program. It also does not have any negative impact on DACA benefits already issued under the program such as deferred status, employment authorization, and advance parole.

Why is this ruling significant?

The judge’s recent decision is significant because it may lead to the beginning of a long battle toward achieving comprehensive immigration reform.

As you may recall, the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program came about by Executive Order during the Obama administration in 2012. Since then, the DACA program has allowed nearly a million young immigrants to remain in the United States, to live, study, and work as productive members of our society. It has been 9 years since the start of this program, and Congress still has not acted to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

The uncertainty surrounding the program and its constant upheaval in courts across the country has led many young immigrants to question whether they can continue to call America, home.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick informs you of an exciting new court decision handed down by a federal judge from the Northern District of California. This new court decision immediately vacates the 2019 Modernization Rules passed under the Trump administration. As our readers will be aware, the 2019 Rules sought to raise the minimum investment amount for EB-5 investors from $500,000 to $900,000, narrowing the pool of applicants able to apply for a green card. The good news is that this new ruling reinstates the original rules governing the EB-5 visa program and reverts the minimum investment amount back to $500,000.

In addition to this exciting news, Jacob discusses further updates regarding immigration reform bills before Congress, pending litigation against the State Department, and more!

Want to know more? Keep on watching for all the details.


Overview


New Court Ruling Reinstates $500,000 Minimum Investment Amount for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

We are happy to announce that thanks to a new landmark court decision, known as matter of Behring Regional Center LLC V. Chad Wolf et al. EB-5 Immigrant Investors will now have the opportunity to invest a minimum amount of $500,000 in an EB-5 project within a geographic area, considered a Targeted Employment Area. On June 22nd Federal Judge Corley announced in a court ruling that the 2019 Modernization Rule passed under the Trump administration would be vacated immediately, considering that the former acting DHS Secretary, Kevin McAleenan was not properly appointed to his position under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when he implemented the 2019 Modernization Rule. As a result, Mc Aleenan did not have the authority to issue the rule, and it has now been declared invalid under the eyes of the law.

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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: How long does it take to get U.S. Citizenship after sending your application to USCIS? What are the actual steps involved in applying for citizenship?

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


How long does it take to get U.S. Citizenship these days?

The current processing time from start to finish to obtain U.S. Citizenship is over 12 months. The process begins with the filing of the N-400 Application for Naturalization with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with all of the necessary supporting documentation and ends with the mailing of the Oath Ceremony notice that contains the date, time, and location where the applicant must appear for his or her naturalization ceremony, following approval of the application at the in-person interview which takes place at a USCIS field office.


Why the delays?


As our readers will know, the Coronavirus pandemic and ongoing USCIS backlogs have greatly increased the processing times for nearly all types of applications filed with the agency, and the N-400 Application for Naturalization is no exception. The lengthy processing time also largely depends on the number of applications being scheduled for interviews at your local USCIS office. Certain local offices are experiencing much higher workloads than others, which can result in longer processing times in comparison to field offices in smaller cities. Unfortunately, these backlogs are set to continue through at least 2023.


What are the steps to apply for U.S. Citizenship?


STEP ONE: Filing and preparing the Form N-400 Application for Naturalization

The first step involved in the naturalization process is filing and preparing Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization, and including all the necessary supporting documentation with the application. This form is taking about 1 year to be processed by USCIS.

TIP: If you are a self-filer, be sure to carefully read the N-400 form instructions and ensure that you have provided accurate responses and completed the form correctly. Failure to ensure the proper completion of the form can result in delays, or serious immigration consequences. In addition, self-filers must ensure that they have sent the appropriate filing fees and have mailed the application to the proper address.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick gives you the most recent updates in the world of immigration including important information about the continuation of the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, the Department of Homeland Security’s recent decision to withdraw a biometrics rule that would have required biometrics to be taken for every applicant, the current status of interview waivers being granted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally new policy guidance issued by USCIS that provides deference to previous decisions for those filing extension requests with the agency.

Want to know more? Keep on watching.


Overview


The Continuation of the International Entrepreneur Parole Program

Today, May 10, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be withdrawing a notice of proposed rulemaking first initiated under the Trump administration, which sought to terminate the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, a program first proposed by President Obama to facilitate the immigration of foreign entrepreneurs to the United States.

The proposed rule, “Removal of International Entrepreneur Parole Program,” was first issued by the Trump administration on May 29, 2018, shortly after President Trump signed Executive Order 13767 “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” into law. The proposed rule was masterminded by the Trump administration to ultimately delay the planned implementation of the program on July 17, 2017, with the goal of eventually dismantling it altogether.

To hinder the implementation of the program, with the passage of Executive Order 13767, former President Trump narrowed the pool of applicants who could become eligible for “parole,” and directed federal agencies to “ensure that parole authority under section 212(d)(5) of the INA is exercised only on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the plain language of the statute, and in all circumstances when an individual demonstrates urgent humanitarian reasons, or a significant public benefit derived from such parole.”

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