Articles Posted in Immigration News

Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with even more immigration news.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the following new immigration updates: new vaccination policies and procedures being followed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following the release of the Proclamation, Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, new updates for certain B1/B2 tourists visa applicants, tips for U.S. permanent residents stuck overseas, and solutions for those traveling under the Visa Waiver Program that have not been able to leave the United States due to flight cancellations.


Overview


CBP Customs and Border Protection Operations in 2022


In a recent meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provided further clarification regarding admission of non-U.S. Citizens to the United States following the issuance of Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This new Proclamation requires non-citizens to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to gain admission.

CBP has made clear that the agency is not responsible for enforcing the vaccine requirement stipulated in the Presidential Proclamation.

Instead, CBP is merely responsible for enforcing all guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) such as ensuring that all air travelers, 2 years of age or older, present a negative COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before planned travel to the United States and proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 as mandated by the CDC. Travelers must show their negative result to the airline before boarding their flight.

Pursuant to CDC regulations, you are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart*

* CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the of purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.

Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog! It’s the start of a brand-new year and as always, we at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, are committed to bringing you the latest in immigration news. We are happy for you to join us.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares his top predictions for U.S. immigration in the new year. In this blog post we cover the following topics: What will happen to visa processing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Will there be immigration reform in the new year? Will any new changes be made to the H-1B visa program? What about fee increases? Stay tuned to find out more.


Overview


What are some of our key immigration law predictions for the upcoming year?


Increase in Filing Fees for USCIS petitions and DOS Non-Immigrant Visa Fees


Our first prediction for the new year is an increase in filing fees at both the USCIS and Department of State levels, to help increase government resources during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As you might recall, back in October of 2020, USCIS attempted to increase its filing fees to meet its operational costs. Among the petitions that were to be the most impacted were N-400 applications for naturalization, L visa petitions, O visa petitions, and petitions for qualifying family members of U-1 nonimmigrants.

Fortunately, in September of 2020, a federal court struck down the planned USCIS increase in fees arguing that the new fee increases would adversely impact vulnerable and low-income applicants, especially those seeking humanitarian protections.

We believe that early in the new year USCIS will again publish a rule in the Federal Register seeking to increase its fees to help keep the agency afloat. USCIS previously insisted that the additional fees were necessary to increase the number of personnel at its facilities to meet the increasing demand for adjudication of certain types of petitions. It is no secret that USCIS has experienced severe revenue shortfalls since the start of the pandemic as more and more families found it difficult to afford filing fees. Once those details have been made public we will provide more information right here on our blog and on our YouTube channel.

Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, and Happy New Year! We are excited to have you back. We hope you had a wonderful holiday break with your family and are ready to jump back into the latest in immigration news in the new year. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the latest update regarding the operational status of U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


First let’s start with some good news. In October of last year, the Biden administration took some major steps toward opening the United States to international travelers, lifting many of the COVID-19 related geographic travel bans that were put in place by the Trump administration to reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19. To provide relief to visa holders, President Biden later signed a Proclamation allowing fully vaccinated international travelers to enter the United States beginning November 8, 2021, regardless of their country of origin. At the same time the Proclamation, revoked the previous geographic travel bans including Proclamation 9984, Proclamation 9992, Proclamation 10143, and Proclamation 10199 for those fully vaccinated.

Unfortunately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have been slow to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with many posts still limiting operational capacity based on country conditions and local regulations. Services have not returned to pre-pandemic levels and there is simply no semblance of normalcy at the Consular level. This has been extremely frustrating for visa applicants who have been waiting in the massive visa backlogs for an interview.  According to Department of State statistics, approximately 90% of Consular posts continue to be subject to pandemic related restrictions with some partially open and others providing very limited services.

Because most Embassies and Consulates are not fully operational, many applicants currently in the United States that have filed and received approvals for work visa related petitions with USCIS such as H-1B, O-1, E-2 petition-related approvals, etc. have not been able to leave the United States to return to their home country for visa stamping. This has caused even greater frustration among applicants who are essentially “trapped” in the United States due to their inability to obtain an appointment for visa stamping. That is because applicants encounter greater risks when they choose to leave the United States, due to the uncertain and indefinite amount of time they could be waiting for a visa stamping appointment to become available while overseas. An even greater fear is the risk that the applicant may lose his or her job while waiting for an appointment that may not come for a very long time.

Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the latest in immigration reform. Over the past few months, Democrats have been scrambling to pass immigration reform through a series of social spending proposals included in President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, a piece of legislation that would shield Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and essential workers from deportation.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


For a third time the Democrats have tried and failed to introduce comprehensive immigration reform proposals in the reconciliation bill known as H.R. 5376 “the Build Back Better Act.”


What happened?


On December 16, 2021, the Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, rejected the most recent proposal by Democrats in Congress to introduce important protections for undocumented immigrants including Dreamers, TPS visa holders, farm workers, and essential workers. H.R. 5376 also included provisions that would extend work permits, provide temporary relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before January 2011, and other provisions that would exempt certain employment-based and family-based immigrants from the numerical limitations prescribed by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Senate Parliamentarian quickly shot down the new proposals, stating that Congressional Democrats could not include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in a social spending bill. Further, MacDonough indicated that if passed, the proposal would create a new class of about 6.5 million eligible individuals for permanent residency which was already prohibited in the previous two rejected proposals. She added that the most recent proposal by Democrats was deficient in the same way as the previous proposals stating, “there are substantial policy changes with lasting effects just like those we previously considered and outweigh the budgetary impact.”

Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a major new development in immigration law: H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on November 19, 2021 and will now move to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

In this blog post, we break down all the major immigration provisions of the Build Back Better Act, including the introduction of new fees that will apply to certain categories of immigrants to request a waiver of the numerical limitations under the law.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


What are the major immigration provisions of the Build Back Better Act?


If passed section 60001 of the House bill would amend certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act and open a path to permanent residency for four classes of immigrants allowing them to adjust their status to permanent residence (a green card). To be eligible, applicants would be required to pay a supplemental fee of $1,500, have no criminal background, and have no inadmissibility issues.

Under the bill, the following individuals would be eligible to apply for permanent residency:

  1. Dreamers: young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children before 2007, who have continuously resided in the United States, gone to school, and who otherwise have no criminal record
  2. Essential Workers: The Act would also extend an opportunity to individuals in our workforce who have played an essential role in our society, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, such as health care workers, energy and transportation workers, public works employees, and manufacturing workers, among others.
  3. Temporary Protected Status recipients: recipients of Temporary Protected Status would also be eligible to apply for permanent residency. Temporary Protected Status is a temporary designation given to eligible nationals of designated countries affected by armed conflict or natural disaster. The TPS designation allows recipients to live and work in the United States on a lawful temporary basis
  4. Deferred Enforcement Departure applicants: those who have received a grant of Deferred Enforced Departure would also be eligible to apply for permanent residency. Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) (formerly Extended Voluntary Departure) is a form of relief from removal that allows certain individuals from designated countries and regions facing political or civic conflict or natural disaster to live and work in the United States on a lawful basis.

Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. We hope you spent a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones. We are grateful for all our viewers and the support you give us on this platform. We thank you for your trust and support.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers one of your frequently asked questions: I have a green card, why should I become a U.S. Citizen? In this blog post, you will find out what your rights are as a permanent resident versus a U.S. Citizen, and some of the key advantages you have as a U.S. Citizen.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


What is the difference between having a green card and U.S. Citizenship?

First, let’s discuss the basics. When a person wants to immigrate to the United States permanently, the first step is to apply for a green card (also known as permanent residence). There are various different ways a person can qualify for a green card. The most common avenues to obtain a green card are family sponsorship through a qualifying relative (U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse, child, parent, or sibling) or employment-based sponsorship, where an individual will first obtain a work visa based on a job offer and then become eligible to apply for permanent residence through their employer. There are also other special categories of immigrants such as asylum seekers, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) victims of domestic violence, diversity visa lottery winners, and many others who also qualify for a green card. There also green card avenues for individuals of exceptional ability (EB-1), those whose employment is in the national interest (EB-2), and EB-5 immigrant investors who invest at least half a million dollars in a new business enterprise or Regional Center project. While there are many ways to obtain a green card, the ultimate goal is to obtain permanent residency.

Once a person has obtained a green card, typically that person must wait a number of years before being eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship. For instance, those who obtained their green card based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen and continue to remain married, must wait 3 years from the date they became a permanent residence to apply for citizenship. All others must wait 5 years from the date they became a permanent resident to become eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship.

Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick tells you everything you need to know about the new Congressional reconciliation bill known as H.R. 5376 “the Build Back Better Act.” How might this piece of legislation impact you in your immigration journey? Want to know what you can expect in terms of potential upcoming changes in the law?

Keep on watching to find out more!


Overview


The Biden administration has released a new bill, the Build Back Better Act, that includes a new immigration framework that if passed would positively benefit employment-based green card applicants. The bill also sets aside $100 billion dollars for immigration purposes to reduce the immigrant visa backlogs and to recapture unused immigrant visas.


New Framework for Immigration Reform


Over the past few months, Congressional Democrats have been working on passing comprehensive immigration reform to modernize the current immigration system and open a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” and other groups of individuals including highly skilled immigrants. The Democrats have presented several immigration reform proposals to the Senate Parliamentarian to increase the chances of passing immigration reform without having to receive majority support from the Republican party. Passing reform through a reconciliation bill has been the most effective means of bringing about much needed changes because of opposition for reform in our current immigration climate.

The proposals in this new bill are interestingly much different from other proposals we have seen so far from Democrats. If passed, the bill would prioritize recapturing immigrant visas in family and employment-based categories for immigrant visa numbers that went unused between Fiscal year 1992 and fiscal year 2021. Such a provision would have the potential of adding more than 220,000 employment-based green cards to the current pool of immigrant visas currently available according to researchers. This would be a groundbreaking new policy because it would have the potential to drastically reduce the current visa backlogs, in both the family and employment-based categories. In some family-based categories, applicants must wait over 20 years for their priority date to become current and a visa to become available. Recapturing new visa numbers and putting them back into the system will be very advantageous for those waiting for a visa.

While the final outcome of this proposal is still uncertain, it is a good preview of what is to come and of its potential for approval in the House and the Senate.

Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the November Visa Bulletin and what you can expect in terms of movement or retrogression in the employment based and family sponsored preference categories.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


What’s happening in the family-sponsored categories?

Due to the ongoing pandemic and unprecedented backlogs at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, with the exception of the F2A category which remains current, there has been no movement in the worldwide family-sponsored preference categories. Charles Oppenheim, the Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, has said that he does not expect any movement whatsoever in the family sponsored worldwide dates before January and possibly even longer.

Consular posts and Embassies are doing their best to normalize operating capacity, however the majority of posts continue to work on a limited basis according to a four-tier prioritization schedule. Delays in visa processing continue to be expected for the foreseeable future based on the extraordinary demand for interview appointments and the lack of resources at Consular posts overseas to accommodate interviews for all applicants.

With respect to the F2A category, spouses and children of permanent residents lawfully residing in the United States can proceed with filing their adjustment of status applications with USCIS given that the F2A category remains current.

What’s happening in the employment-based categories?

According to the Department of State’s November 2021 Visa Bulletin, the following final cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares a new update from the Department of State that was recently provided to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Liaison Committee regarding the movement of family sponsored categories on the Visa Bulletin. This information was not previously shared on the “Chats with Charlie,” monthly broadcast with Charlie Oppenheim, the Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division at the Department of State. Additionally, we share new updates regarding employment-based sponsorship, the current retrogressions in the EB-3 category, as well as Diversity Visa lottery updates following recent developments in the judicial system.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching!


Overview


What’s the latest news with respect to immigrant visa numbers?

U.S. immigration laws limit the number of immigrants that can be admitted to the United States each year. The annual numerical immigrant visa limits are based on complex formulas and are subdivided among several preference categories and country “caps.” To illustrate, the annual limit for family-sponsored petitions is 480,000, which includes visas for immediate relatives, while 140,000 visas are allocated for employment-based immigrants. Unused family preference visas from the preceding years are added to employment-based visa numbers to maximize number use.

We have learned that employment-based visa numbers for fiscal year 2022 are expected to be 290,000 – an all-time high. As of today, the pending demand experienced by both the State Department and USCIS in the employment third preference category, for applicants born in India and China, will already exceed the amount of numbers that are available to applicants from those countries throughout fiscal year 2022 in the third preference category. In comparison, in fiscal year 2021, only 9,000 employment-based visas in the third preference category went unused. In fiscal year 2022, there may be close to 85,000 unused employment-based immigrant visas.

Continue reading

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.


Overview


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%)

Continue reading