Did you know that if you are going through the green card process based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen in the United States, sometimes an immigration official from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may show up at your home unannounced. How often does this happen and how can you prepare?
We invite you to learn more about this important topic.
The USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) was established to combat and investigate immigration-related fraud including marriage fraud. The FDNS also operates the Fraud Detection and National Security data system which tracks and manages cases which are under review for potential immigration fraud. Reports are generated by the FDNS data system and distributed to other government agencies for further investigation depending on the severity of the case, such as the Department of State (DOS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Surprise Home Visits: When do they happen and how do they happen?
Part of the responsibilities of the FDNS are to conduct site visits for both employment-based and family-sponsored immigration petitions. Most commonly, site visits are conducted at places of worship as part of the process to petition an R-1 nonimmigrant religious worker. Site visits are also frequently conducted at places of employment for H-1B workers. With respect to family-sponsored cases, the FDNS may conduct home visits in adjustment of status filings where marriage fraud is suspected.
This can happen in several different ways. In the most common scenario, the married couple has already been questioned at their in-person interview before a USCIS officer. In such instance, the immigration officer is not convinced by the responses provided by the couple during the interview and believes the marriage to be fraudulent. In some cases where marriage fraud is suspected, the couple is separated and questioned separately regarding facts about their relationship. At the conclusion of the interview, the officer may call upon FDNS to conduct an unannounced site visit at the couple’s home to confirm whether the information provided at the interview is authentic.
Would you like to know how you can renew your U.S. visa in 2023? If so, then this video is right for you.
Your U.S. visa has expired and now it’s renewal time. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the general process of applying to renew your U.S. visa in 2023 at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas.
Please note that there are hundreds of different U.S. visa categories that have their own eligibility criteria and renewal requirements. The information provided here does not, and is not intended, to constitute legal advice. To obtain legal advice on your particular facts, case, or circumstances, please consult with a licensed immigration attorney.
For visa specific information and documentary requirements, applicants may contact their closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Visa Renewal Steps
Here are the main steps that any applicant must take when renewing their visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad.
Step One: Make sure that you qualify for your U.S. Visa Renewal
First and foremost, regardless of your visa type you must be prepared to provide documentary evidence to the Consular official to prove that you remain eligible for the renewal of your visa.
For example, if you are renewing a student visa you must provide your updated Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status to show that you remain eligible to study in the United States. If you are applying to renew your tourist visa, you must continue to demonstrate your eligibility such as proof of temporary stay, strong ties to your home country, proof of sufficient finances to cover your temporary stay, etc.
In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a brand-new update regarding the current Immigrant Visa backlogs for those currently going through Consular processing (waiting for an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas), as well as those with cases at the National Visa Center.
What you need to know is that from the period of June to July 2023, there has been nearly no movement in the Immigrant Visa backlog. At the same time, there has been a decrease in the number of people who were actually scheduled for Immigrant Visa interviews at U.S. Consulates and Embassies overseas from June to July as indicated in the figures below.
Therefore, while the backlog remains the same, more and more people are being scheduled for visa interviews.
If you want to know what you can expect moving forward, please keep on watching.
Did you Know? Every month the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) publishes an Immigrant Visa Backlog report, which provides data and statistics relating to the current status of worldwide visa operations, including the number of documentarily complete immigrant visa cases currently at the National Visa Center waiting for interviews, the number of cases that were scheduled for interviews at the end of each month, and the number of immigrant visa cases still waiting to be scheduled for a visa interview after interview appointment scheduling was completed at the end of each month
Many of our followers have been asking a very important question, what does a visa “refusal” mean and what is 221(g) Administrative Processing?
The situation unfolds something like this. You’ve applied for a non-immigrant visa and have attended your Consular visa interview. After attending your interview, you check the status of your visa on the State Department’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) webpage, and you see the dreaded words “Refused.”
What does this all mean and what can you expect if you find yourself in this predicament? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick walks you through the meaning of a “refusal” and how you can still be successful in obtaining a visa despite this obstacle.
Applicants for nonimmigrant visas can check the status of their visa cases by visiting the State Department’s Consular Electronics Application Center CEAC launch page .
To check your status, you must enter your DS-160 confirmation number and the Consular location (Country and City) where you were interviewed.
The DS-160 confirmation number can be found on the DS-160 confirmation page and starts with AA followed by 8 digits.
Once you have successfully entered the online CEAC visa check system, you will receive one of the following results:
(1) Application receipt pending
If you have submitted your online non-immigrant visa application (DS-160), it has not yet been processed into the visa system. At some locations, your application will remain in this status until you appear for an interview or until your application is ready for review. Please see the Embassy or Consulate website for information on the next steps required for visa processing.
The application data has not been entered into the Embassy system.
For interview cases, the application will remain in this status until the applicant appears for an interview.
For mail-in cases, this means the Embassy has not received the application.
(2) Application Received
Your case is open and ready for your interview, fingerprints, and required documents. If you have already had your interview, please check your status after two business days. If no interview was required, please check back in two business days for the updated status of your application.
For mail-in cases: The visa application has been received by the Embassy and is undergoing review.
This also includes cases that are pending for additional documents
(3) Administrative Processing
Your visa case is currently undergoing administrative processing. This processing can take several weeks. Please follow any instructions provided by the consular officer at the time of your interview. If further information is needed, you will be contacted. If your visa application is approved, it will be processed and mailed back within two business days.
This status includes:
The visa issuance process (visa has been approved but not yet printed)
Pending for additional documents/information
Your visa is in final processing. If you have not received after 10 working days, please see the webpage for contact information of the Embassy or Consulate where you submitted your application.
The visa has been issued
A U.S. consular officer has adjudicated and refused your visa application. Please follow any instructions provided by the consular officer. If you were informed by the consular officer that your case was refused for administrative processing, your case will remain refused while undergoing such processing. You will receive another adjudication once such processing is complete. Please be advised that the processing time varies and that you will be contacted if additional information is needed.
This includes cases that are:
Pending for additional documents/information
* Administrative Processing (See below for details)
Cases with a waiver request pending.
Denied under Section 214(b) of the INA.
For E-visa new company registration cases: The visa application has been received by the Embassy and is ready for review. Please wait for further instructions from the Embassy or Consulate. Processing time for new company registration typically takes at least 3 weeks.
For the purposes of this video, we will focus on what the visa status “refused” really means.
Applicants can receive a visa “refusal” for a number of different reasons.
In many cases, applicants are left confused upon seeing a visa “refusal,” especially where the Consular officer has told the applicant that their visa has been approved following their visa interview. In other situations, applicants have received a “refusal” after following the Consulate’s instructions to submit documents via dropbox (for instance for applicants seeking H-1B visa stamping). Applicants who have been told their cases have been placed in 221(g) administrative processing also receive a visa “refusal.”
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.
In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a brand-new update from the U.S. Department of State, specifically for applicants who are going through the process of applying for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement, also known as the “Virtual Waiting Queue.” If you would like to know what this is all about and how the Virtual Waiting Queue can help you just keep on watching.
Did You Know? Under the law, all nonimmigrant visa applicants must be interviewed by an officer unless the interview is specifically waived by the U.S. Department of State. Decisions to waive the in-person interview requirement are made on a case-by-case basis. In normal circumstances, an interview is necessary to verify important information about the applicant to determine their eligibility for permanent residence or an immigrant visa.
During the interview, the officer verifies that the applicant understood the questions on their application and grants the applicant an opportunity to revise any answers completed incorrectly or that have changed since filing the application.
Recently, our office received information from the U.S. Embassy in London regarding this brand-new visa interview waiver procedure for non-immigrant visa applicants. From what we know, while this procedure is first being implemented in London, more Embassies and Consulates worldwide are expected to adopt the waiver procedure in the coming months. Please note that while some applicants may be eligible for interview waiver under this new program, important considerations must be made along with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that the applicant can adequately succeed in passing the virtual interview.
Quite a few of our nonimmigrant visa clients who were eligible to have their visa interview waived, have been receiving a specific email notification from the Embassy stating that their applications have been placed in the “Virtual Waiting Queue.”
Want to know how to change your address with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick walks you through the process with a step-by-step guide and answers some of your frequently asked questions.
Did you know? By law, most temporary U.S. visa holders and even lawful permanent residents are required to inform USCIS every time they change their residential address. The address change notification must be sent to USCIS within 10 days of moving.
Failing to notify USCIS of an address change can have serious consequences, including making a foreign national subject to deportation. In addition, it could lead to non-delivery of very important correspondence from USCIS such as delivery of a green card, requests for evidence, and/or denial notices associated with a pending application or petition.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
While you are going through your immigration process with USCIS, there may come a time where you must move to a new residence. Whether it’s moving to a different city or state, you are required to notify USCIS of your move within 10 days by filing a change of address form on the USCIS webpage or by mail.
It is very important to file your change of address for two reasons. First, by failing to change your address you might miss out on receiving critical correspondence from USCIS such as Notices of Action on your case, requests for additional evidence needed from you (RFEs), interview appointment notices, biometrics appointment notices, notices of intent to deny, and such related documents. Many of these notices are subject to time limits, requiring applicants to respond or appear by specific dates. Failure to respond by the stated deadline on a notice, or failure appear for an appointment could not only result in the closure and denial of your case, but also potential removal from the United States.
Secondly, you must change your address with USCIS because it is the law. As stated, under the law, you are required to notify USCIS every time that you move. In fact, failure to notify USCIS of a change of address can be a misdemeanor offense, could lead to fines, jail time, and in some instances even deportation for those who have never ever reported an address change.
The reality is that often times people are not penalized for failing to report a change of address with USCIS, because the vast majority of people who go through the immigration process do in fact submit a change of address online.
What if I am a green card holder, do I need to notify USCIS of my change of address?
Absolutely. Even legal permanent residents (LPRs) must notify USCIS every time that they move within 10 days of the move. The rules are the same regardless of whether you are a conditional permanent resident (2-year green card holder) or legal permanent resident (10-year green card holder). It does not matter that you do not have a pending case with immigration. You must still notify USCIS every time that you move.
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an important new update to the USCIS Policy Manual clarifying the circumstances under which a USCIS officer may waive the in-person interview requirement for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove their conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions. Conditional permanent residents are those who have received a 2-year conditional green card from USCIS and are seeking to remove those conditions to obtain the 10-year permanent resident card.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching!
As you may be aware, foreign nationals who apply for a green card based on a marriage to a U.S. Citizen that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card valid for a 2-year period. This is done as a fraud prevention mechanism to ensure that the foreign national married the U.S. Citizen for the right reasons, and not solely to obtain an immigrant benefit. Foreign nationals who receive a 2-year conditional green card must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions, within the 90-day window before their conditional green card expires.
To ensure that the foreign national has a bona fide marriage, USCIS requires the conditional green card holder to appear for an in-person interview so that the officer has the opportunity to evaluate whether the marriage was entered on a genuine basis, and not to circumvent U.S. immigration laws.
The policy manual now clarifies that USCIS officers have the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for I-751 Removal of Conditions applicants, under certain circumstances.
According to the new guidance, USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require the in-person interview to take place.
In practice this means that the conditional permanent resident must have provided sufficient documentary evidence to establish their eligibility for removal of conditions, including proof of cohabitation, joint ownership and responsibility for assets and liabilities such as joint federal income tax returns and joint checking and savings accounts, photographs of the couple throughout their relationship, children born to the marriage, and any other relevant documentation. The information stated on the I-751 Removal of Conditions application must also be free of any inconsistencies when compared to information provided in the applicant’s initial green card filing. For instance, inconsistencies in residential history or inconsistencies in facts stated can lead to an interview being required. Recent criminal offenses since the filing of the initial green card can also be a reason for an in-person interview to be required.
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 top five reasons K-1 visas are denied and what you can do to avoid these common pitfalls.
Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information
Imagine this, you have just finished your K-1 visa interview and the Consular officer hands you a letter stating your K-1 visa has been refused. You leave the interview asking yourself, what do I do now?
The good news is you’re not alone. In the majority of cases, applicants may cure any defects in their applications and continue with visa processing. However, it is important to know the application process ahead of time to avoid finding yourself in this situation.
Top Reasons for K-1 Visa Denial
#1: Not having enough evidence of bona fide relationship
The most common reason for K-1 visa denial is where the couple does not provide enough evidence of a bona fide relationship.
A bona fide relationship is one that was entered in good faith and not with an intention to deceive. A fiancé visa applicant does not have a bona fide marriage if he or she entered the marriage solely to receive an immigration benefit from USCIS. Immigration officers are trained to identify fraudulent or “sham” marriages where either party or both parties have entered the marriage simply for the green card applicant to obtain his or her permanent residence in the United States, without any sincere intention to live together in the same household or form a marital bond. Immigration officers search for inconsistencies in any answers provided by either party to the marriage, and carefully scrutinize supporting documentation provided by the couple with the initial I-129F filing.