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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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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!


Overview


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.

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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.


Overview


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 the Repatriation Assistance Request for 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.

Eligibility Requirements:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Travel Documents:  All passengers should have valid travel documents required for entry into the United States (e.g. U.S. passports or visas)

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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.


Overview


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.

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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 August 2021 Visa Bulletin and goes over Charlie Oppenheim’s predictions for movement and retrogression in the family based and employment sponsored categories for August and September 2021.

Keep on watching to find out more!


Overview


What is the Visa Bulletin?


Every month, the Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin which contains important information regarding immigrant visa availability for family based and employment sponsored preference categories. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available for issuance to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date and preference category.

Essentially, the Visa Bulletin governs the availability of visas and outlines limitations. By statute, the government imposes an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000 immigrant visas (visa quota).  The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000 immigrant visas.


In what order are visas issued?


Family-sponsored and employment-based preference immigrant visas are issued to eligible immigrants in the order in which a petition on behalf of each has been filed (priority date).

Spouses and children of preference immigrants are entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration, if accompanying or following to join the principal.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a new court ruling blocking the issuance of initial DACA applications and what this ruling could mean for the future of comprehensive immigration reform. What can we expect to see from Congress regarding the legalization of undocumented young Americans moving forward?

Stay tuned to find out more.


Overview


On Friday, July 16, 2021, a federal judge from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted a permanent injunction against the DACA program, which essentially halts the processing of new first-time applications under the program. The permanent injunction however does not prevent the filing of DACA renewals by those who are already receiving benefits under the DACA program. It also does not have any negative impact on DACA benefits already issued under the program such as deferred status, employment authorization, and advance parole.

Why is this ruling significant?

The judge’s recent decision is significant because it may lead to the beginning of a long battle toward achieving comprehensive immigration reform.

As you may recall, the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program came about by Executive Order during the Obama administration in 2012. Since then, the DACA program has allowed nearly a million young immigrants to remain in the United States, to live, study, and work as productive members of our society. It has been 9 years since the start of this program, and Congress still has not acted to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

The uncertainty surrounding the program and its constant upheaval in courts across the country has led many young immigrants to question whether they can continue to call America, home.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses President Biden’s new plan to make the citizenship application process more accessible and available to more people: what’s happened so far and what plans does the Biden administration have for the future?

Keep on watching for all the details. In addition, please stay tuned for information about big changes coming soon to the United States passport application process, including a new gender option for applicants who are gender non-conforming, and information about a new bill introduced last week called, America’s CHILDREN Act that would open a pathway for permanent residence for certain individuals who came to the United States as children but overstayed their length of authorized stay.


Overview


Biden’s Interagency Strategy for Promoting Naturalization

The Biden administration is launching a nationwide campaign initiative to encourage long time lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to become U.S. Citizens. These efforts stem from President Biden’s February 2nd Executive Order “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.” A hallmark of this executive order is to “welcome strategies that promote integration, inclusion, and citizenship.” As part of these efforts, the Biden administration is now working closely with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to unveil a new strategy that will encourage an estimated 9 million green card holders living in the United States to apply for U.S. Citizenship. These unprecedented efforts will target those permanent residents who have the ability to naturalize.

How will this be done?

The Biden administration will be strategizing with USCIS to determine the best ways to reach this massive pool of permanent residents by holding naturalization ceremonies at national parks to raise awareness, partnering with the US Postal Service to display promotional posters at Postal Service facilities about becoming a US citizen, and engaging with the Department of Veterans Affairs and veteran service organizations to find ways to educate service members and veterans on citizenship.

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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 National Visa Center (NVC) immigrant visa backlog and current NVC processing times in the month of June. Stay tuned for updates on the Department of State’s plan to reopen Embassies and Consulates worldwide, and information on how Consular posts will be prioritizing visa issuance in the next few months for F-1 students, H-1B workers, H-4 spouses, and J-1 Workers.

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


Overview


The National Visa Center’s Backlog

As many of you know, last year the Department of State made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consular posts worldwide to prevent the rapid spread of the Coronavirus. The suspension was necessary to adhere to local regulations such as the mandatory quarantines and social distancing required to contain the virus. Although Embassies and Consulates are now following a phased resumption of visa services framework, limited resources and local country conditions in some regions have prevented Consular posts from providing routine visa services as before. Most Consular sections are not operating at normal capacity, and are prioritizing visa appointments for emergencies, mission critical visa services, and immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens including K fiancé(e)s.

On February 2, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” which was designed to promote integration and inclusion for foreign born immigrants, including the dismantling of harmful anti-immigrant policies.

Despite the issuance of this Executive Order, Embassies and Consulates have not been able to return to normalcy and routine visa services have remained suspended. Consular officials are still refusing to issue visas for individuals that remain in the lower tier of immigrant visa prioritization, including family preference, employment preference, and diversity immigrant visa applicants. This has prompted hundreds of individuals to join numerous class action lawsuits to force the government to intervene.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick hosts a live immigration broadcast on our YouTube channel, discussing brand new developments in the world of immigration, including new updates recently discussed at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference that took place last week, and brand new policy changes at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


Updates from the AILA Conference

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that effective today, applicants with pending U visa applications, or those who are getting ready to file new U visa applications, are eligible to apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and can receive “deferred action” status meaning that they will not be prioritized for removal from the United States.

For those who are not familiar with the U visa program, the U visa is a special immigrant status given to victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Among those eligible are certain victims of abduction, domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of noncitizens, rape, prostitution, and other crimes, who are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U visa eventually allows the victim to attain lawful permanent residence in the United States (also known as the green card).

Previously U visa beneficiaries were not entitled to employment authorization, making their lives extremely difficult considering that it is currently taking over 5 years to process the U visa application.

With this new policy change, those who have filed a U visa application that has been pending with USCIS, will be eligible to apply for employment authorization as of today, as well as new applicants.

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