Articles Posted in Interviews

Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses what you can expect after filing Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, used by U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) to lawfully immigrate a qualifying relative to the United States, and how long it is taking for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process these applications.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


The first step of the process to immigrate a foreign national involves the filing of Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This application forms the basis of the foreign national’s eligibility to apply for a green card, based upon what is known as a qualifying family relationship. Not all family members may qualify.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may file Form I-130 only for your eligible relatives. This includes your spouse, your children, your siblings, and your parents. If you are a permanent resident, you can petition for your spouse and any child under the age of 21.


What happens after filing Form I-130?


Once you have filed Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative either by mail or online, you will receive a receipt notice in the mail known as Form I-797C Notice of Action. This notice will serve as proof that your application was received and properly filed with USCIS. The Notice will also include your Form I-130 receipt number where you can track the progress of your case online, and the date the case was received by USCIS also known as the priority date.

If you have filed Form I-130 by mail, you will receive the Notice of Action approximately 1-2 weeks after mailing the application. If you filed Form I-130 online, the Notice of Action will appear in your USCIS online account portal approximately 1 week after submission.

If you fail to include the correct filing fees with your application or your application is deficient in any other way, your case may be rejected and sent back to you. In such case, you would not receive a Notice of Action, and instead would receive a rejection notice along with your package being returned to you. Therefore, it is very important for applicants to review the Form I-130 instructions very carefully and provide all necessary fees and documentation with the filing. Failure to do so can result in the rejection of your case. If your case has been rejected, you are allowed to re-file your application with USCIS having corrected the mistake.

Thereafter, if any additional documentation is missing from your application, or if USCIS needs further information to process your Form I-130, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) outlining the documentation and/or information they need from you to continue processing your case. Requests for Evidence (RFE) are sent by mail and include the deadline for responding to the Request for Evidence in the Notice. When an RFE is issued, the case is halted until you respond to the request. For this reason, it is important to respond in a timely manner and no later than the deadline indicated in the notice. Remember, the longer you delay in responding to an RFE, the more time it will take for your case to be adjudicated.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the current status of the immigrant visa backlog at the National Visa Center and Department of State, as of April 2022. In this video you will learn more about what you can expect over the next few months if you have a pending immigrant visa case waiting to be scheduled for an interview at a Consulate overseas.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Every month when the National Visa Center releases its Immigrant Visa Backlog report, we take notice and breakdown exactly what the backlog report means for immigrant visa applicants.

In its latest release for the month of April 2022, the National Visa Center has provided information that highlights the dramatic backlogs caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, causing delays in the processing of immigrant visa applications.

Since the emergence of the Coronavirus, U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide have struggled to accommodate the growing demand for visa interviews with a very limited number of personnel and resources. Posts have also faced severe limitations including the inability to process a large number of cases due to local country conditions and lockdowns. The reality is that things have not gotten back to normal in many countries, and unfortunately this is causing applicants more headaches.

In an effort to be as transparent as possible, the National Visa Center has provided the total number of immigrant visa applicants still waiting for interview appointments.

These numbers are extremely concerning. Of 453,797 immigrant visa cases that were documentarily complete and ready to be scheduled for interviews as of March 31st, only 32,439 were actually scheduled for interviews in the month of April, leaving a backlog of 421,358 immigrant visa applicants still waiting for an interview.


Number of IV applicants whose cases are documentarily complete at NVC and ready for interview as of March 31 453,797
Number of documentarily complete IV applicants scheduled for April 2022 interview appointments 32,439
Number of eligible IV applicants still pending the scheduling of an interview after April 2022 appointment scheduling was completed 421,358

Sadly, this means that the State Department has not increased the volume of monthly interviews that can be scheduled at posts overseas, leaving the issue of the immigrant visa backlog unresolved.

Unfortunately, the future ahead does not look very promising. When looking at the March and April backlog reports, we see that the immigrant visa backlog decreased by only 3.5%.

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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.

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Overview


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.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a brand-new update from the U.S. Department of State regarding the status of E-2 Treaty Investor Visa processing at Consulates and Embassies worldwide. Please note that this information is being provided as of March of 2022.

Want to know more? Keep on watching for all the details.


Overview


In the past few months, E-2 visa processing times have varied significantly due to the suspension of routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates, a move that was announced by the Department of State in July of 2020. This suspension occurred in response to significant worldwide challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Since then, operational capacity has continued to be limited for non-immigrant visas at most U.S. Embassies and Consulates resulting in delays in providing visa interview appointments, including for E-2 visa investors. To make matters worse, the Department of State put the processing of non-immigrant visas on the back-burner, giving priority to immigrant visa petitions including family-based petitions and fiancé(e) visas. In this post, we provide you with the most up to date information regarding current processing times as of March 2022 for E-2 investors to receive an appointment at Consular posts abroad.

Not only has there been a sharp decline in E-2 visa processing at most Consulates and Embassies worldwide, but some posts have refused to accept E-2 visa applications altogether. Such Embassies that have refused to accept E-2 visa applications include U.S. Embassy Ankara, Turkey; U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia; and U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia for instance has not adjudicated any E-2 visa applications for more than 1 year, according to recent information provided by the U.S. Department of State.

In a recent meeting between the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the U.S. Department of State, the government provided more information regarding E-2 visa processing delays. Here is what they had to say.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a brand-new update from the Department of State granting immigrant visa fee exemptions for certain visa applicants who were previously denied visas under Presidential Proclamations 9645 and 9983.

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Overview


As you may be aware, on January 20, 2021, President Biden issued Presidential Proclamation 10141, “Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States,” which immediately rescinded Proclamations 9645 and 9983. These Proclamations had temporarily banned the entry of immigrants from Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen.

The Department of State has now made changes to its regulations calling for the exemption of immigrant visa (IV) fees for certain applicants who were previously denied an immigrant visa solely based on the temporary travel ban outlined in Proclamations 9645 and 9983.


What changes has the government made?


Effective immediately, all immigrant visa applicants who were previously denied an immigrant visa on or between December 8, 2017, and January 19, 2020, with the sole ground of ineligibility based on Proclamations 9645 or 9983, will be exempted from paying a new immigrant visa application fee or affidavit of support fee if they are reapplying for an immigrant visa.

Applicants will not need to pay a second fee if the following conditions are met:

  1. The immigrant visa applicant was previously denied an immigrant visa on or between December 8, 2017, and January 19, 2020; and
  2. The sole ground of ineligibility was based on Presidential Proclamation. 9645 or P.P. 9983; and
  3. The applicant is reapplying for an immigrant visa.

The Department of State has made clear that this new change in regulation is not retroactive and no refunds will be distributed based on this change.  This new provision will allow for a one-time exemption of the applicable fees per applicant.

Separate from this form of relief, the Department of State regulation 22 C.F.R. 42.81(e) states that an immigrant visa applicant is not required to pay a new application fee when seeking reconsideration of a visa refusal, so long as they (1) apply within one year of the refusal date, and (2) provide additional evidence that overcomes the ineligibility on which the visa was denied.

The Department of State has said that individuals who were refused on or after January 20, 2020, may benefit under that regulation and fee exemption, because they are presumed to have sought reconsideration of their prior refusals on January 20, 2021, when the President issued Proclamation 10141.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.


Overview


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*

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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.


Overview


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). 

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