Articles Posted in DHS

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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It’s that time of the week again. A brand-new video, addressing a very important topic. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick breaks down all the visa options available to individuals who wish to work in the United States for a short-term period of 3 to 6 months.

Did You Know? In order to work in the United States, you must apply for the required visa type that allows your temporary employment. You cannot seek employment while on a visitor visa such as a B1/B2 or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) under the Visa Waiver Program.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


First, it is important to understand that to work in the United States on a temporary basis, you must apply for the required visa. Foreign nationals cannot enter the United States as visitors with the intention to work in the United States, whether that is on a B1/B2 tourist visa or the Visa Waiver Program. If immigration suspects that you are working without authorization on a visitor visa, you may be barred from re-entering in the future.

Due to the serious consequences that can result from unauthorized employment, it is important to understand which visa types will allow you to work in the United States.

Many nonimmigrant visas allow you to work in the United States for a long duration. One such visa is the H-1B visa program for individuals who will work in a specialty occupation. If selected in the annual lottery, the H-1B visa is valid for 3 years and can be renewed one additional time for a total work period of 6 years. Thereafter H-1B visa applicants can apply for permanent residence based on employment-sponsorship.

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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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What is Temporary Protected Status and who can qualify for the program? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides information about the Temporary Protected Status program including which countries have received a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation, how to register, and much more.

Did you know? Individuals who qualify for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are allowed to lawfully live and work in the United States without fear of deportation, during the period of their country’s TPS designation (typically this is anywhere between 6 to 18 months depending on the country). To qualify for work authorization, individuals must file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization to request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). With the EAD, applicants can lawfully work in the United States. Additionally, TPS eligible nationals may qualify for travel authorization.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


What is Temporary Protected Status

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a special program made possible by the United States Congress that allows foreign nationals of certain countries that are considered unsafe, the right to live and work in the United States temporarily. TPS does not provide a pathway to citizenship, and instead is utilized by individuals from participating countries as a humanitarian solution because they cannot safely return to their home countries.

Under the program, the Secretary of Homeland Security is authorized to designate a specific foreign country for TPS if they determine that conditions exist in that country that prevent its nationals from safely returning to their countries of origin.

The Secretary may designate a country for TPS if any of the following temporary conditions exist in the foreign country:


  • Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)
  • An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic
  • Other extraordinary and temporary conditions

In order to participate in the TPS program, you must:


  • Be a national of a country designated for TPS, or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in the designated country;
  • File during the open initial registration or re-registration period for your country, or meet the requirements for late initial filing during any extension of your country’s TPS designation;
  • Have been continuously physically present (CPP) in the United States since the effective date of the most recent designation date of your country announced by the Department of Homeland Security; and
  • Have been continuously residing (CR) in the United States since the date specified for your country.
  • Pass the necessary security and background checks.

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What’s happening with the status of green card processing with USCIS? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick, discusses an exciting new update for green card applicants recently handed down by the Presidential Advisory Commission.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Things are looking up in the world of immigration. We have recently learned that a U.S. Presidential Advisory Commission has voted to reduce the processing time of green card applications to a period of 6 months. The Advisory Commission has recommended these recommendations be enacted by President Biden, to provide relief to applicants waiting in the enormous backlogs to attain permanent resident status.


What is this all about?


The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (PACAANHPI) has recommended that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) establish a new internal cycle time goal by eliminating inefficiencies such as redundancies, facilitating automation of approvals, and improving internal systems. The Advisory Commission hopes that the new cycle time for processing forms will drastically reduce green card processing times to just 6 months for all forms related to all green card applications, family-based green card applications and DACA renewals. The Commission has also recommended for the National Visa Center (NVC) to hire additional officers to support additional capabilities to schedule immigrant visa (IV) interviews.

The objective is to increase processing capacity by 100% by August 2022 and reach 150% capacity by April of 2023.

Once the National Visa Center is able to catch up with pent up demand, U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide should also increase capacity by hiring more officers and become more efficient to meet the 6-month time cycle proposed by the Presidential Advisory Commission.

If this recommendation is adopted, it will speed up the processing of thousands of green card applications currently stuck in the backlogs and result in faster approvals.

The Advisory Commission reviewed I-485 green card applications pending in the United States and requested USCIS to try to process associated I-765 work permits and I-131 travel permits also within 90 days.

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Have you ever wondered whether you can obtain a green card once you have overstayed your visa? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick, answers precisely this question, along with related topics that might interest you. For instance, what should a person do once they have overstayed? What are the options to cure an overstay to obtain lawful status in the United States?

To understand more about this complicated topic, please keep on watching.


Overview


In most cases, a foreign national will come to the United States lawfully, meaning that they arrived on a valid visa type such as a student, visitor, or work visa and were inspected and admitted to the United States. Unfortunately, in some situations individuals fall out of status and overstay their period of authorized stay. Whether it is because they lost their job, failed to attend school, or could not leave the United States in time before the expiration of their I-94 arrival/departure record, there are many situations that can cause an overstay to happen.

By contrast, some individuals enter the United States unlawfully, meaning that they entered the United States without being inspected and without a valid visa. The issue of whether the foreign national entered lawfully or unlawfully is crucial when it comes to the options that may be available once an overstay has occurred.


How do I know if I overstayed my U.S. visa?


First, let’s discuss the threshold question of how one can know whether they have overstayed their visa.

This may seem like a complicated question, but in fact is very easy to resolve. A person overstays their visa if they have remained in the United States past the authorized period of stay stamped in their passport. When a person is admitted to the United States, they receive a stamp issued by a Customs and Border Protection official which provides the exact date when the individual’s period of stay expires, and consequently when they must leave the United States.

In addition to the passport stamp, foreign nationals can retrieve their I-94 arrival/departure record on the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website which includes their most recent date of entry, and the date their period of authorized stay expires. The date of expiration is the date at which the foreign national must depart the United States. Failure to depart by the date indicated means that the applicant has overstayed their period of authorized stay.

In some cases, the I-94 stamp, or I-94 record will include the notation “D/S” most commonly for individuals on student visas. This notation means that the applicant is expected to leave the United States, when their program of study has ended. The end date of the program of study can be found on the Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Students should contact their Designated School Official for this information.

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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 talks about an exciting new announcement released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding new initiatives the agency is taking to reduce the application backlogs, expand premium processing to broader categories of applications, and provide much needed relief to those waiting for their work permits to be processed.


Overview


As of March 29, 2022, USCIS is unveiling a trio of actions that will help improve the processing of applications and petitions currently awaiting adjudication by the agency. As you may know at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS along with other government agencies suspended in-person services at its field offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs) nationwide to help slow the spread of the virus. The agency also took precautions to slow its spread by limiting the number of people that could enter federal buildings for immigration interviews. The consequence of these closures has been a backlog of cases across the board that the agency has been working to reduce.

To help ease the number of pending cases at USCIS, the agency has introduced 3 new actions.


What are these new actions all about?


(1) Cycle Time Goals


First, the agency has said that it will be implementing agency-wide goals to reduce the substantial backlogs.

USCIS has established a new system known as “internal cycle time goals,” to process applications that remain pending with USCIS. According to USCIS, these “internal cycle time goals,” are internal metrics that the agency will now be using to help guide the reduction of the current backlog. These cycle times will determine how long it will take USCIS to process immigration benefits going forward.

To accomplish the stated “cycle time goals,” the agency has said that it plans to increase its capacity, adopt technological improvements (such as e-filing systems), train, and hire more staff to ensure that applications are processed within the stated “cycle time goals.” USCIS estimates that these new actions will help the agency reach its stated cycle time goals by the end of fiscal year 2023.

For easy reference, the new USCIS cycle time goals are listed down below.

The new cycle time goals provided by USCIS are as follows:


  • Processing of I-129 premium processing cases – 2 weeks
  • Processing of I-140 premium processing cases –2 weeks
  • Processing of I-129 non-premium processing cases –2 months
  • Processing of I-765, I-131 advance parole, I-539, I-824 applications – 3 months

Other types of applications – 6 months including

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an exciting new procedure for individuals arriving at the United States border to apply for asylum, specifically with respect to those asylum seekers who are subject to expedited removal.

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


Overview


What is Asylum?

Asylum is a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed to a country of feared persecution. To apply for asylum in the U.S., individuals must file the required application, form I-589, and submit it with the appropriate documentation within one year of arriving to the United States. To be successful, individuals must establish that they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Under current immigration law, individuals applying for defensive asylum at the border (meaning that they do not have a valid visa at the time of entry) are detained by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and become subject to removal proceedings. Once an immigration hearing is scheduled, the asylum seeker is given the opportunity to make his or her case for asylum before an immigration judge.

Currently, the defensive asylum process is taking over 7 years to complete in the United States, including the required scheduling of a hearing before an immigration judge.


New Interim Final Rule


To streamline the defensive asylum application process at the border, the Biden administration recently published a new interim final rule in the federal register entitled, “Procedures for Credible Fear Screening and Consideration of Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and CAT Protection Claims by Asylum Officers.”

Under the new interim final rule, released on March 29, 2022, the Biden administration seeks to overhaul the current defensive asylum system to drastically reduce backlogs in the immigration courts and improve filing procedures.

The final rule proposes sweeping changes to current asylum law including allowing asylum claims to be heard and evaluated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officers instead of immigration judges.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with new White House initiatives expanding the post-completion Optional Practical Training program for STEM international students, as well as other government initiatives to attract entrepreneurs and highly skilled professionals to the United States seeking O-1 visas and National Interest Waivers.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching!


Overview


White House Releases Initiative Expanding STEM OPT


We are excited to share that just last week, the White House announced a series of policy changes designed to attract and retain the knowledge and training of international students working toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields in the United States. Among these new initiatives, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has announced the expansion of the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, with the addition of 22 new fields of study to the STEM Degree Program List, including economics, computer science, mathematical economics, data science, business and financial analytics.

Currently, the F-1 STEM optional practical training (OPT) extension program grants F-1 students with a qualifying STEM degree, the ability to work in the United States with OPT work authorization for a period of up to 36 months. This expansion of the program will now increase the pool of candidates eligible to receive employment authorization.

Some of the newly added fields of study include: Bioenergy; Forestry, General; Forest Resources Production and Management; Human Centered Technology Design; Cloud Computing; Anthrozoology; Climate Science; Earth Systems Science; Economics and Computer Science; Environmental Geosciences; Geobiology; Geography and Environmental Studies; Mathematical Economics; Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science; Data Science, General; Data Analytics, General; Business Analytics; Data Visualization; Financial Analytics; Data Analytics, Other; Industrial and Organizational Psychology; Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods. To view a complete list of qualifying fields, please click here to view the Federal Register notice. Continue reading