In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares some very exciting news for nonimmigrant visa applicants. The State Department recently announced that they are dramatically speeding up visa wait times for interview appointments starting with nonimmigrant visas for students, temporary workers, and tourists.
If you want to know more about this important update just keep on watching!
Did You Know? U.S. Consulates and Embassies consider requests for expedited visa interview appointments on a case-by-case basis for those who meet the expedite criteria, including those with urgent travel needs, emergencies, urgent humanitarian needs, those working for nonprofits who are furthering cultural or social interests for the U.S., those whose work is in the U.S. government or national interest, etc. To understand the expedite process, please visit the website of your closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
On December 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs held a live broadcast on YouTube, where Julie M. Stufft, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, discussed the status of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa processing at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.
In the broadcast, she highlighted some important revelations, indicating that not only are visa wait times improving at U.S. Consulates and Embassies overseas, but nonimmigrant visa interview appointments are being made available much faster than ever before for tourists, students, and certain temporary workers.
Some of the Key Points she raised are as follows:
The State Department has successfully reduced visa interview wait times with a median global wait time of just 7 weeks for a B1/B2 tourist visa appointment at most U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide.
Similarly, the Statement Department has reduced wait times to only 7 days for F-1 students and certain temporary workers at most U.S. Consulates and Embassies Worldwide.
Visa processing capacity is recovering much faster than initially projected thanks to policy and processing innovations implemented in 2022.
In many countries, the State Department issued more tourist visas in 2022 than before the pandemic, including at some of the busiest Consulates in the world such as Mexico and Brazil.
The State Department issued more student visas in 2022 than in any recent year.
Visas for airline and shipping crewmembers were prioritized to support global supply chains, with the State Department issuing more than 250,000 crewmember visas in 2022.
Pre-pandemic processing times were exceeded for crewmembers since June of 2022.
State Department posts overseas adjudicated about 40 percent more visas for seasonal workers in 2022 when compared to 2019, before the pandemic.
Do you have a case waiting to be processed by the National Visa Center? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the latest updates on visa processing and interview scheduling in the new year.
This includes information regarding current visa backlogs and what you can expect from the National Visa Center.
If you would like to learn more about this important topic, just keep on watching.
Did you know? For immigrant visa petitions, the National Visa Center (NVC) functions as an intermediary between USCIS and the Embassy or Consulate that will eventually schedule your immigrant visa interview.
After the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved your I-130 or I-140 immigrant visa petition, USCIS will forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The NVC will complete immigrant visa pre-processing once your priority date becomes current pursuant to the Visa Bulletin.
Immediate relative categories do not have yearly numerical limits and pre-processing can begin once your case has reached the NVC. However, other family preference and employment-based immigrant categories have annual numerical limits, preventing pre-processing from taking place until the priority date is current.
Welcome to the start of a brand-new week. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares with you some brand-new updates including the status of immigrant visa processing, NVC insider tips, information regarding the transfer of cases from USCIS to the NVC, NVC timeframes, expedite requests, and much more.
If you have an immigrant visa application waiting for interview scheduling at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide or if your case is stuck at the National Visa Center, then this video is right for you.
Did you know? The Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) is your one-stop shop to pay your immigrant visa fees and upload any necessary documentation to complete the processing of your application before it is deemed “documentarily complete.”
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
The Role of the National Visa Center
As you may know, the National Visa Center (NVC) is operated by the Department of State. Its main role is to administer the processing of immigrant visas after their approval by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but before the case is actually sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a final interview. Essentially, the National Visa Center functions as a middleman between USCIS and Consulates overseas.
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 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.
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%)
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.
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*
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.
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).
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides his latest immigration update on the operational status of U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas processing immigrant visa applications.
Want to know what you can expect regarding the COVID-19 related visa backlogs? Just keep on watching for more information.
The Department of State guidelines on the processing of immigrant visas during the COVID-19 health crisis remains a great obstacle for family reunification. The agency has said that while it is prioritizing the scheduling of immediate relative visas, fiancé(e) visas, and returning resident visa interviews, local country conditions continue to pose challenges. Social distancing protocols, restrictions on movement, and gathering imposed by host country governments has limited the ability of Consulates and Embassies to schedule sufficient visa appointments to meet the ongoing demand. Separately, the Biden administration has continued to enforce the geographic COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamations that prevent foreign nationals physically residing in the Schengen countries, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, India, and China from entering unless they have applied for and received a National Interest Exception.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares his immigration tips for resolving issues with cases that are currently pending at Consular posts overseas, and shares what you can expect if your case is placed in administrative processing following your interview.
Want to know how you can contact your Consular post and what to say?
Keep on watching to find out more.
Do you have an immigration case that is stuck in the backlogs caused by COVID-19? In this video we share with you how you can contact your Consular post when you have a problem with your case, and what you should expect when you have been placed in administrative processing. We hope that these tips will help you gain more insight to help you understand what you can do during these difficult processing delays. If you would like further assistance with the processing of your case, or if you have any other immigration questions, do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation by texting 619-483-4549 or calling 619-819-9204. We look forward to working with you.
Contacting your Consular post
If your case is sitting at a U.S. Embassy or Consular post overseas, or if is about to be shipped to a Consular post overseas by the National Visa Center (NVC), you should first contact your Consular post directly to confirm whether your case has been received and the status of appointment scheduling for your particular visa type. Most Consular posts have dedicated staff who are responsible for managing and answering inquiries made by e-mail. It is important to note however that response times vary widely due to the overwhelming number of inquiries that are being made by e-mail on a day-to-day basis. It is very important to have patience throughout this process and be proactive about your case.
You should only contact the Consular post directly if your case has been received by the post directly from the NVC or if it is in the process of being transferred. If your case is still at the NVC, the Consulate will not be able to help you.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick hosts a live immigration broadcast on our YouTube channel, discussing brand new developments in the world of immigration, including new updates recently discussed at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference that took place last week, and brand new policy changes at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Keep on watching to find out more.
Updates from the AILA Conference
Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that effective today, applicants with pending U visa applications, or those who are getting ready to file new U visa applications, are eligible to apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and can receive “deferred action” status meaning that they will not be prioritized for removal from the United States.
For those who are not familiar with the U visa program, the U visa is a special immigrant status given to 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. Among those eligible are certain victims of abduction, domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of noncitizens, rape, prostitution, and other crimes, who are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U visa eventually allows the victim to attain lawful permanent residence in the United States (also known as the green card).
Previously U visa beneficiaries were not entitled to employment authorization, making their lives extremely difficult considering that it is currently taking over 5 years to process the U visa application.
With this new policy change, those who have filed a U visa application that has been pending with USCIS, will be eligible to apply for employment authorization as of today, as well as new applicants.