In this blog post, attorney Jacob Sapochnick talks about a brand-new proposal to increase the government filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Following the announcement, on January 4, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register outlining the proposed fee schedule which seeks to increase the filing fees of certain nonimmigrant visa classifications, as well as adjustment of status (green card) applications.
The government will be accepting public comments for the proposed rule until March 6, 2023. After the comment period has closed, the agency will review the public comments and issue a final version of the rule.
TIP:If you know that you will be applying for an immigration benefit that is subject to the proposed fee increase, you should apply as soon as possible to avoid incurring the higher fee.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick teaches you how you can reschedule a biometrics appointment for fingerprints if you were unable to attend a previously scheduled appointment.
As you may know, for certain types of immigration applications filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), such as applications for a work permit on Form I-765, travel permit on Form I-131, changes of status on Form I-539, citizenship on Form N-400, green card on Form I-485, etc. a biometrics appointment is required.
Several weeks after filing the application in question, the applicant receives a biometrics appointment notice in the mail requesting that the applicant appear in-person on the day and time stated, for capture of their biometrics. Biometrics refers to the process of taking a person’s photograph, fingerprints, and signature to establish a person’s identity and perform the necessary criminal background checks required by the government. A biometrics appointment is not an interview. It is a quick 15-minute appearance where fingerprinting and taking of the applicant’s photograph takes place.
So, how can you reschedule your biometrics appointment?
In general, USCIS recommends that the applicant appear in-person on the stated day and time of the scheduled biometrics appointment. However, there are times when the applicant is unable to attend the appointment and rescheduling becomes necessary, for instance due to illness. It is important to note that if an applicant misses his or her biometrics appointment, it is their duty to reschedule in a timely matter, otherwise the applicant will risk delay and, in some circumstances, even administrative closure of their case.
USCIS no longer accepts written requests to reschedule the appointment. Instead, applicants must call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833) preferably before the date and time of the original biometrics appointment and follow the prompts to reschedule the biometrics appointment. Applicants must demonstrate that there is “good cause” for rescheduling the appointment such as illness, travel conflicts, emergencies, etc. If applicants fail to establish “good cause,” USCIS may not reschedule the biometrics appointment.
Those who can establish “good cause” will receive a telephone call from a USCIS officer with the new date, time, and location of their biometrics appointment. With the current backlog, it may take several days or several weeks to receive a callback. Those who do not receive a call back within a reasonable period of time, should call USCIS again to request a new biometrics appointment. It is the applicant’s responsibility to be diligent and make sure a new biometrics appointment is scheduled.
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.
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
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick goes over a brand new and unexpected change in policy being followed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with respect to Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for green card applicants.
Want to know more about this important change? Just keep on watching!
This month has brought unexpected news for green card applicants. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will be discontinuing its policy of issuing employment authorization documents (EADs) and advance parole travel authorization as a joint “combo” card. Up until recently, green card applicants could send Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, along with their I-485 green card applications to apply for a “combo” work/travel authorization card. This “combo” card enabled green card applicants to work and travel while their applications were in process with USCIS.
The agency has now confirmed that it will be separating the issuance of the employment authorization document (EAD card) and advance parole (AP) document and will no longer be issuing these “combo cards.” USCIS has said that this new policy change has been implemented to reduce EAD processing times. Effective immediately, the agency will now be issuing EAD and AP documents separately.
Applicants with EAD cards that do not have the notation “Serves as I-512 Advance Parole” will only be able to use their EAD card for employment purposes, and not for travel. A separate Advance Parole document must be issued by USCIS in order for the applicant to engage in international travel. Traveling without a valid Advance Parole document will result in the abandonment of the applicant’s green card.
Why the change?
USCIS has been experiencing abnormally high processing times for I-765 Applications for Employment Authorization, causing serious delays during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the Nebraska Service Center is currently reporting processing times of between 11.5 to 13.5 months for an EAD to be issued based on a pending adjustment of status application. While the California Service Center is currently reporting a wait period of between 20 months to 21.5 months.
While USCIS has been doing its best to reduce the EAD backlogs, many applicants have faced employment interruptions during what is already a difficult economic climate.
USCIS has said that it is working through the EAD backlog and is prioritizing EAD adjudication as it seeks to avoid applicants experiencing a lapse or prolonged lapse in employment authorization. At present, there is no additional information available on the scope or duration of this procedural change
Can I Expedite an EAD Card?
The answer is it depends. USCIS has established clear guidelines explaining when an EAD card may be expedited. In general, USCIS considers an expedite request if it meets one or more of the following criteria or circumstances:
Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure to:
Timely file the benefit request, or
Timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
Job loss may be sufficient to establish severe financial loss for a person, depending on the individual circumstances. For example, the inability to travel for work that would result in job loss might warrant expedited treatment. The need to obtain employment authorization by itself, without evidence of other compelling factors, does not warrant expedited treatment. In addition, severe financial loss may also be established where failure to expedite would result in a loss of critical public benefits or services.
Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
In the context of an expedite request, humanitarian reasons are those related to human welfare. Examples may include, but are not limited to, illness, disability, extreme living conditions, death in the family, or a critical need to travel to obtain medical treatment in a limited amount of time. An emergency may include an urgent need to expedite employment authorization for healthcare workers during a national emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, an expedite request may be considered under this criterion in instances where a vulnerable person’s safety may be compromised due to a breach of confidentiality if there is a delay in processing the benefit application. A benefit requestor’s desire to travel for vacation does not, in general, meet the definition of an emergency.
Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural or social interests of the United States;
A nonprofit organization seeking to expedite a beneficiary’s benefit request must demonstrate an urgent need to expedite the case based on the beneficiary’s specific role within the nonprofit in furthering cultural or social interests (as opposed to the organization’s role in furthering social or cultural interests). Examples may include a medical professional urgently needed for medical research related to a specific social U.S. interest (such as the COVID-19 pandemic or other socially impactful research or project) or a university professor urgently needed to participate in a specific and imminent cultural program. Another example is a religious organization that urgently needs a beneficiary’s specific services and skill set to continue a vital social outreach program. In such instances, the religious organization must articulate why the respective beneficiary is specifically needed, as opposed to pointing to a general shortage alone.
U.S. government interests (such cases identified as urgent by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, Equal Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or other public safety or national security interests); or
U.S. government interests may include, but are not limited to, cases identified as urgent by other government agencies, including labor and employment agencies, and public safety or national security interests.
For expedite requests made by a federal agency, involving other public safety or national security interests, the national interest need must be immediate and substantive. If the need for the action is not immediate, expedited processing is not warranted. A substantive need does not mean that a delay would pose existential or irreversible consequences to the national interests but rather that the case at hand is of a scale or a uniqueness that requires immediate action to prevent real and serious harm to U.S. interests.
Expedite requests from government agencies (federal, state, or local) must be made by a senior-level official of that agency. If the request relates to employment authorization, the request must demonstrate that the need for a person to be employment-authorized is mission-critical and goes beyond a general need to retain a particular worker or person. Examples include, but are not limited to, a noncitizen victim or witness cooperating with a federal, state, or local agency who is in need of employment authorization because the respective agency is seeking back pay or reinstatement in court proceedings.
Clear USCIS error.
Not every circumstance that fits in one of these categories will result in expedited processing.
What You Can Expect Going Forward
It is too early to say how effective this new policy will be at reducing the backlogs. Therefore, it is important for applicants to file their applications well in advance of their anticipated employment and planned travel to avoid facing any dilemmas.
Applicants should continue to monitor their pending EAD applications closely and avoid making any travel plans while the applications are pending. We are hopeful that this new policy change will be a welcome improvement, however no estimates can be made with respect to how long it might take USCIS to issue these stand-alone employment authorization and advance parole documents going forward.
The Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick will continue to monitor these new developments and will report on any new updates right here on our blog.
Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
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!
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
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick brings you a brand-new update available on our YouTube channel, discussing a new policy that will allow U visa victims of criminal activity to apply for employment authorization with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and receive deferred action protecting them from removal from the United States while their applications are pending with USCIS.
Keep on watching for all the details.
What is the U visa?
The U visa is a special nonimmigrant visa classification specifically created by U.S. Congress for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The purpose of the U visa is to protect certain victims of crimes while at the same time ensuring that perpetrators of certain crimes are brought to justice.
In general, to qualify for a U visa, you must:
Have been the victim of a qualifying criminal activity (such as extortion, felonious assault, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, stalking, torture, and other types of crimes.)
Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
Have information about the criminal activity. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf
Have been helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf.
The crime must have occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses what’s ahead for U.S. immigration law in 2021.
Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.
As we enter the Biden administration, many of our readers want to know what’s possible in the world of immigration law. What might President Biden do within his first 100 days in office and how might his decisions impact immigration?
We anticipate that U.S. immigration policies will experience an overhaul under the Biden administration beginning on January 20th when he takes office. His administration will likely focus on undoing many of the harmful and restrictive policies passed during the last four years by President Donald Trump. We believe that litigation will slowly die down as the need to challenge President Trump’s policies disappears.
Biden’s policies in general will favor the expansion of temporary work visas for highly skilled professionals which we believe will benefit U.S. companies seeking to hire more foreign talent.
Biden’s transition to the presidency will also have the likely effect of encouraging many families to begin working on their immigration processes to legalize their status in the United States.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick informs our readers about a recent update announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) concerning employment authorization cards also known as EADs. Employees may now present their I-765 Notice of Approval as temporary proof of lawful employment in the United States.
A recent delay in the production of employment authorization cards (EADs) caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has led USCIS to enact a new policy providing relief to those who have an approved I-765 Application for Employment Authorization but have not yet received their employment authorization cards in the mail.
The new policy, announced on August 19, 2020, permits employees to use Form I-797 Notice of Action, with a Notice date on or after December 1, 2019 including through August 20, 2020, that shows the approval of Form I-765 for purposes of satisfying Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, even though the Notice of Action approval states that it is not evidence of employment authorization.
Pursuant to the announcement, I-797 Notice of Action of approval, will now qualify as a List C document that establishes employment authorization issued by the Department of Homeland Security. The employee may present the notice of approval to their employer to remain in compliance with Form I-9 until December 1, 2020.
In addition to presenting the notice of approval, the employee must also provide an acceptable List B document that establishes their identity. The list of acceptable documents to establish identity is on Form I-9.