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 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 gives you the most recent updates in the world of immigration including important information about the continuation of the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, the Department of Homeland Security’s recent decision to withdraw a biometrics rule that would have required biometrics to be taken for every applicant, the current status of interview waivers being granted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally new policy guidance issued by USCIS that provides deference to previous decisions for those filing extension requests with the agency.
Want to know more? Keep on watching.
The Continuation of the International Entrepreneur Parole Program
Today, May 10, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be withdrawing a notice of proposed rulemaking first initiated under the Trump administration, which sought to terminate the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, a program first proposed by President Obama to facilitate the immigration of foreign entrepreneurs to the United States.
The proposed rule, “Removal of International Entrepreneur Parole Program,” was first issued by the Trump administration on May 29, 2018, shortly after President Trump signed Executive Order 13767 “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” into law. The proposed rule was masterminded by the Trump administration to ultimately delay the planned implementation of the program on July 17, 2017, with the goal of eventually dismantling it altogether.
To hinder the implementation of the program, with the passage of Executive Order 13767, former President Trump narrowed the pool of applicants who could become eligible for “parole,” and directed federal agencies to “ensure that parole authority under section 212(d)(5) of the INA is exercised only on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the plain language of the statute, and in all circumstances when an individual demonstrates urgent humanitarian reasons, or a significant public benefit derived from such parole.”
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a new pilot program that will improve the accuracy and reporting of current USCIS processing times. As our readers will be aware, USCIS processing times have increased significantly during the past few years, especially for certain types of petitions, due to severe backlogs and personnel shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, this has made it more and more difficult for applicants to ascertain exactly where they stand in the processing pipeline. To help resolve these issues, USCIS is testing new ways to better calculate processing times for immigration benefit requests with the unveiling of a new pilot program. This new system will help certain applicants determine whether their case is outside of the normal processing time, and when they can inquire about the status of their case. The pilot program will begin with posted processing times for Forms I-90, I-102, I-485, I-526, I-751, I-765, I-817, I-824, I-829, I-914, I-924, N-400, N-600 and N-600K.
Unfortunately, thousands of applicants have been negatively impacted by the lengthy processing times, currently affecting a broad range of applications and petitions filed at USCIS service centers nationwide. Many have been waiting months on end for interview scheduling, while others have yet to receive a Notice of Action, informing them that their case was properly filed and received by USCIS.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers your frequently asked questions on a variety of different topics in the world of immigration including: the resumption of visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, NVC procedures, the public charge rule, and other immigration updates.
Want to know if we answered your question? Watch this video to find out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: When will the National Visa Center start scheduling interviews? I am already Documentarily Qualified by the NVC and I am awaiting an appointment date. It has been three months since I received Documentary Qualification.
A: This is a very common question we receive on a daily basis. To help our viewers with this question, we have made a dedicated video explaining how the NVC is working with U.S. Embassies abroad to send cases and schedule interviews based on cases that have been documentarily qualified by the NVC. NVC has stated that all cases that have been documentarily qualified will be sent to the U.S. Embassy abroad in the order that they have been documentarily qualified by the NVC.
However, please remember that even if your case has been Documentarily Qualified by the NVC, an interview is not necessarily guaranteed. The NVC must rely on the U.S. Embassy to determine whether the Embassy is accepting interview appointments. Their availability to take appointments will largely depend on the country conditions of each post. If your Embassy is not accepting cases for interviews, your case will remain warehoused at the NVC until the Embassy is ready to schedule interviews.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a breaking news update: the government has officially ended the public charge rule.
How did this happen? What does this mean for you?
Keep on watching to find out more.
On March 9, 2021 the government announced that effective immediately it would be rescinding the Trump administration’s public charge rule, which was first put in place by former President Donald Trump in 2019. That rule is no longer in effect due to the Biden administration’s decision to no longer oppose the rule.
The government revealed its decision by way of a final rule published in the Federal Register that removes the 2019 public charge regulations as of March 9, 2021.
The Department of Homeland Security will now return to its previous policy of following the 1999 Interim Field Guidance to determine whether a person would be likely to become a public charge on the U.S. government. As before, petitioners are still required to submit Form I-864 Affidavit of Support and demonstrate that they meet the income requirement to sponsor their relative in the United States.
For its part, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also said that it has stopped the immediate enforcement of the rule as a result of the government’s actions.
What does this decision mean for you?
The decision to rescind the public charge rule means that the government is no longer applying the public charge rule to adjustment of status applicants, immigrant visa petitions at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, and applications for extension or change of nonimmigrant status.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a few new immigration updates regarding flexibility for request for evidence responses, adjustment of status interview waivers, and biometrics appointment waivers.
Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.
Extended Flexibility for Responses to Request for Evidence
USCIS recently extended its flexibility policy for applicants who need more time to respond to a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, and other such related notices.
Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and January 31, 2020 are given 60 additional days (after the response deadline indicated) to respond to the request or notice:
Requests for Evidence;
Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
Notices of Intent to Deny;
Notices of Intent to Revoke;
Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or
Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers a hot topic that has been frequently asked by our followers: what are the top reasons for CR/IR-1 immigrant visa denials and what can you do about it.
Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.
What is a CR-1/IR-1 visa?
A CR-1 or IR-1 visa is an immigrant visa for a spouse of a United States Citizen who is residing abroad. The term “CR” in CR-1 stands for “conditional resident” and is issued to foreign spouses who have been married for less than 2 years. By contrast the term “IR” in IR-1 stands for “immediate relative” and is issued to foreign spouses who have been married for more than 2 years. Those who receive a CR-1 visa will eventually receive a 2-year conditional green card after entering the United States, while those who receive an IR-1 visa will receive a 10-year green card (without condition).
The first step to apply for a CR-1/IR-1 visa is for the U.S. Citizen spouse to file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the foreign spouse. This petition initiates the immigration process to the United States. Once Form I-130 is approved by USCIS, the petition is transferred to the National Visa Center for pre-processing. At the National Visa Center stage, the applicant must complete the immigrant visa application and provide civil documentation. After sending all required documents to the National Visa Center, the NVC will forward the case to the U.S. Embassy near the foreign spouse and the applicant will wait to be scheduled for an Embassy interview. The Embassy interview is often a make it or break moment for couples who must prove that they have a “bona fide” marriage to be approved for their visa.
What are the top reasons for CR/IR-1 denials?
#1 Not meeting the income requirement for the affidavit of support
The number one reason for spousal visa denials is failing to meet the income requirement for the affidavit of support. As part of the spousal visa application process, the U.S. Citizen spouse must sign the I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is a legally enforceable contract between the U.S. Citizen and the government wherein the U.S. Citizen must sign under penalty of perjury that they have the adequate means to financial support the alien and the alien will not rely on the U.S. government for financial support.
What is the income requirement?
The minimum amount that the U.S. Citizen must make depends on his or her household size. In general, petitioners must make at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. However, exceptions exist for petitioners who are on active duty in the U.S. armed forces. Petitioners who do not satisfy the income requirement must apply with a joint sponsor, who must also sign a separate I-864 Affidavit of Support and provide evidence of financial ability. If the petitioner and joint sponsor do not qualify, the spousal visa application will be denied.
To prevent this situation from happening petitioners must make sure well in advance of filing the I-130 application, that they either meet the income requirement, or that they can obtain a joint sponsor who is willing and able to sign the affidavit of support and provide the necessary documentation.
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 employment and family-based interview waivers during the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition, he discusses a recent trend being followed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.
While no official policy or memorandum has been issued by USCIS regarding interview waivers, since at least May of this year, we have seen the agency use their broad discretionary power to waive the interview requirement for at least certain employment and family-based petitions, approving these cases without first scheduling an interview.
What does it mean for USCIS to “waive” the interview requirement?
In general, all adjustment of status applicants must attend an in-person interview at a USCIS field office where an immigration officer will verify whether the applicant understood the questions being asked on the green card application and evaluate whether the applicant qualifies for the immigration benefit requested. The interview is a good opportunity to correct any mistakes on the application form and resolve any issues in the underlying case.
In some instances, USCIS officers may “waive” this interview requirement if they find that it is unnecessary to interview the applicant. In situations where the officer “waives” the in-person interview, he or she relies only on the written evidence provided on the application to approve the applicant for U.S. residence (the green card).
Normally, USCIS uses its discretion to waive interviews for parents of U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21 years of age of U.S. Citizens, unmarried children under 14 years of age of lawful permanent residents, asylees and refugees who were previously interviewed by a USCIS officer, and applicants who are clearly ineligible for the benefit they seek.