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 provides an overview of the State Department’s September 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State. In this monthly YouTube broadcast, Mr. Charles Oppenheim answers many of the public’s questions regarding the upcoming Visa Bulletin and discusses what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of the family sponsored and employment-based preference categories in the coming months.
Want to know more about the highlights of the Q&A session? Just keep on watching!
In this blog post, we summarize some of the most interesting questions that were asked during this live Q&A session with Charlie Oppenheim, including frequently asked questions regarding unused employment-based visa numbers for fiscal year 2021 and the future of family-sponsored categories in the coming months.
Q: Are you concerned with the anticipated large amount of unused fiscal year 2021 employment-based numbers which you mentioned last month?
Charlie Oppenheim responded during the live session that the State Department is very concerned about the potential for unused employment-based numbers under the fiscal year 2021 annual limits. According to Oppenheim, this concern was one of the reasons he made the China and India employment first preference categories current back in April and engaged in very aggressive forward movement of the final action dates since that time to prevent the loss of visa numbers in the employment-based categories. Furthermore, Mr. Oppenheim pointed out that both the State and USCIS offices are doing everything in their power to maximize number use before the end of FY 2021 to avoid drastic losses.
Based on recent discussions with USCIS, Charlie Oppenheim said that the agency is on track to approve more adjustment of status applications than at any time since fiscal year 2005. He also reminded listeners to keep in mind that since March of 2020, both the State Department and USCIS offices, have been dealing with a variety of COVID-19 issues which have had a tremendous negative impact on operational status, staffing, and ability to process large amounts of immigrant visa cases. According to Mr. Oppenheim, overseas posts only began returning to some sense of normal processing in April of 2021.
Q: When I look at the chart listing the final action dates, how do I know if my case is eligible to be scheduled for an interview at the overseas post responsible for processing my case?
This is a very common question that our law office is frequently asked as well. Charlie Oppenheim pointed out that applicants must first ensure that they have submitted all the required civil documents to the National Visa Center to become “documentarily qualified,” meaning that all necessary documents and fees have been submitted to proceed with interview scheduling. Submission of all necessary documents would also need to be done in time for the case to be reported to the Visa Office as documentarily completed by the first of each month. In this case, if you are documentarily qualified and your priority date is earlier than the applicable final action date listed in the Visa Bulletin, then you would be eligible to be scheduled for an appointment for final action on your case. However, even while waiting in line to be scheduled for a visa interview after being “documentarily qualified,” applicants must still take into consideration overseas post processing capacity issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of posts overseas continue to have limited operational capacity; therefore, applicants should expect delays to be scheduled for a visa interview. Overseas posts must first notify the National Visa Center that they have an available slot for an interview before the National Visa Center can forward the case to the post overseas.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares information about the current status of U.S. visa services at Consulates and Embassies worldwide by country for the month of August 2021. We would also like to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Afghanistan who are facing extremely difficult circumstances in their country. Our office represents several immigrant visa applicants in Afghanistan and are doing everything we can to help reunite visa applicants with their loved ones in the United States.
In this blog post we will run through what we know regarding the operating status of Consulates and Embassies all over the world starting with Kabul, Afghanistan.
Keep on watching to find out more.
U.S. Consulate Kabul, Afghanistan
Due to ongoing political unrest and security threats in Kabul, Afghanistan, the U.S. Consulate in Kabul, Afghanistan is closed to the public and operations to assist U.S. Citizens are extremely limited due to reduced staffing.
At this moment we have received information that all immigrant visa applicants who had visa interview appointments at the Consulate in Kabul or were waiting to be scheduled for an interview in Kabul, will be receiving an email with instructions on how your case will proceed. Your case may be moved to a different overseas post, or you may receive instructions to complete the repatriation assistance form (details below).
As we all know, the security situation in Kabul is evolving on a daily basis. The Consulate has advised U.S. citizens seeking assistance to depart the country to complete theRepatriation Assistance Requestfor each traveler in their group.Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas are encouraged to complete this form as soon as possible if they wish to depart. The Repatriation Request form should only be used once to avoid delays. You must complete this form even if you’ve previously submitted your information to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by another means. This form is the only way to communicate interest in flight options. The Consulate will notify you directly by email based on your registration as soon as departure options become available.
U.S. Citizenship: The U.S. Embassy will prioritize U.S. citizens for any charter flights. U.S. citizens with a non-citizen spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may include their family members in their repatriation assistance requests but should indicate each family member’s citizenship and whether each has a valid passport and/or a U.S. visa.
If you are a non-U.S. citizen parent of a U.S. citizen minor, indicate whether you have appropriate travel documentation to enter the United States (i.e. valid U.S. visa). If you do not have appropriate travel documentation, please identify an individual who currently has valid travel documentation who could accompany your U.S. citizen minor.
U.S. lawful permanent residents may submit a repatriation assistance request, and their request will be considered depending on availability.
Flight Costs: Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid. The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person.
Travel Documents: All passengers should have valid travel documents required for entry into the United States (e.g. U.S. passports or visas)
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 discusses the August 2021 Visa Bulletin and goes over Charlie Oppenheim’s predictions for movement and retrogression in the family based and employment sponsored categories for August and September 2021.
Keep on watching to find out more!
What is the Visa Bulletin?
Every month, the Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin which contains important information regarding immigrant visa availability for family based and employment sponsored preference categories. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available for issuance to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date and preference category.
Essentially, the Visa Bulletin governs the availability of visas and outlines limitations. By statute, the government imposes an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000 immigrant visas (visa quota). The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000 immigrant visas.
In what order are visas issued?
Family-sponsored and employment-based preference immigrant visas are issued to eligible immigrants in the order in which a petition on behalf of each has been filed (priority date).
Spouses and children of preference immigrants are entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration, if accompanying or following to join the principal.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the National Visa Center (NVC) immigrant visa backlog and current NVC processing times in the month of June. Stay tuned for updates on the Department of State’s plan to reopen Embassies and Consulates worldwide, and information on how Consular posts will be prioritizing visa issuance in the next few months for F-1 students, H-1B workers, H-4 spouses, and J-1 Workers.
Want to know more? Keep on watching for all the details.
The National Visa Center’s Backlog
As many of you know, last year the Department of State made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consular posts worldwide to prevent the rapid spread of the Coronavirus. The suspension was necessary to adhere to local regulations such as the mandatory quarantines and social distancing required to contain the virus. Although Embassies and Consulates are now following a phased resumption of visa services framework, limited resources and local country conditions in some regions have prevented Consular posts from providing routine visa services as before. Most Consular sections are not operating at normal capacity, and are prioritizing visa appointments for emergencies, mission critical visa services, and immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens including K fiancé(e)s.
Despite the issuance of this Executive Order, Embassies and Consulates have not been able to return to normalcy and routine visa services have remained suspended. Consular officials are still refusing to issue visas for individuals that remain in the lower tier of immigrant visa prioritization, including family preference, employment preference, and diversity immigrant visa applicants. This has prompted hundreds of individuals to join numerous class action lawsuits to force the government to intervene.
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.
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.
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 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.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a brand-new update regarding the current backlogs faced by the National Visa Center for cases that are documentarily qualified. As a separate update, Jacob discusses the status of nonimmigrant visa services, specifically for E-2 Treaty Trader Investor Visa applicants at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas. What is happening with these visa types and when can you expect to proceed with your case? What options do you have to speed up your case?
To find out more just keep on watching.
As you know the COVID-19 pandemic has had disastrous effects on the U.S. immigration system, and especially on visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. Safety and health concerns have prompted Consular sections worldwide to dramatically scale back visa operations, causing significant visa backlogs for both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants. The magnitude of these backlogs has become so severe that the State Department has said that it does not believe these backlogs will be cleared even by the end of 2022.
As you may recall in March of 2020, U.S. Embassies and Consulates made the difficult decision to suspend routine visa services worldwide and began limiting their capacity to schedule visa interview appointments for the vast majority of applicants.
This has caused applicants to become increasingly concerned about when they will be able to reunite with family members in the United States and return to a life of normalcy.