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The month of September has come and is nearly gone. That means that it is time to discuss next month’s Visa Bulletin for October 2022. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares with you the trends and movement you can expect to see during the month of October for both employment based, and family sponsored preference visa categories, and our predictions for interview appointment availability. October’s Visa Bulletin is also important because it marks the end of the fiscal year.

Did you know? Every month the Department of State releases the Visa Bulletin, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants can assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center (for those residing overseas), or USCIS (for those residing in the United States).

The primary purpose of the Visa bulletin is to provide an updated waiting list for immigrants that are subject to the numerical visa quota system.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Charts for the October Visa Bulletin (for those residing in the USA)


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for October 2022 to determine when you can apply for adjustment of status.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for October 2022 to determine when you can apply for adjustment of status.

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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.


Overview


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.

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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.


Overview


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.”

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In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick addresses a very important question: I want to apply for a U.S. visa, but my country does not have a U.S. Embassy or Consulate (or it is closed at this time), how can I apply for a visa in this situation?

Did You Know? The United States has a diplomatic presence in more than 190 countries around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates have temporarily suspended certain U.S. visa services or have been operated at a very limited capacity due to local country conditions and regulations. In countries where the United States does not have a diplomatic presence, other U.S. Embassies or Consulates have been responsible for the processing of visas from those country nationals.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in my home country (or the post nearest me is closed) what can I do to get a U.S. visa? What are my options?

Options for Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Applicants


In countries where the United States has no diplomatic presence, or where the U.S. diplomatic mission has limited or suspended its activities, often times the U.S. Department of States will accommodate visa seekers by processing their applications at U.S. Embassies or Consulates in nearby countries.

However, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a nearby country must be willing to accept applications from third-country nationals for the visa type sought. Please note that certain U.S. Embassies or Consulate may not be able to accommodate applicants if the officer is not trained to speak the third-country language or is not familiar with the process for third-country nationals. Third country nationals should also be aware that they bear the responsibility for paying their own costs of transportation and hotel stay in a nearby country, during the visa interview and visa issuance process. Medical examinations for immigrant visas may also need to be conducted by a civil surgeon in the nearby country, therefore applicants should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they wish to apply to understand the requirements and procedures for third-country nationals.

Due to the recent closure of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, for instance, the Department of State designated U.S. Embassy Warsaw in Poland as the processing post for Russian immigrant visa applications.

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We are delighted to announce the Department of State has published the Visa Bulletin for August 2022. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares with you the trends and movement that has occurred in the most recent visa bulletin for both employment based, and family sponsored preference categories, as well as what you can expect in the coming months.

Did you know? Every month the Department of State releases the Visa Bulletin, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.

The primary purpose of this bulletin is to provide an updated waiting list for immigrants that are subject to the numerical visa quota system.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Charts for the August Visa Bulletin (for those residing in the USA)


Every month, the US Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) releases information regarding which filing chart applicants must use in order to apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence, while in the United States. This information can be found on the USCIS webpage. In general, if there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will indicate that AOS applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart.

Otherwise, applicants will be asked to use the Final Action Dates chart.

If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.


Which chart should I refer to for the month of August 2022?


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, for all family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the  Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2022.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2022.

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Have you ever wondered how you can work in the United States as the founder of your very own startup? If so, you may be interested in learning more about the O-1A visa. In this video attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the criteria for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in business and are seeking to open a venture-backed startup in the United States.

Did you know? An approved O-1A visa applicant can remain in the United States for an initial period of 3 years working for the petitioning entity and bring their family members to live with them in the United States. The O-1A visa also opens a pathway for applicants to apply for permanent residency by filing for the EB-1A employment-based immigrant visa category.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


What is the O-1A visa?


First let’s discuss the O-1A nonimmigrant visa. The O-1A visa is designed for individuals who possess extraordinary abilities in the field of business, science, education, or athletics, and who can meet a specified set of criteria that must be demonstrated in the application package to ensure the applicant’s success.

Those who successfully attain the O-1A visa can live and work in the United States for an initial 3-year period, and pitch ideas to venture capitalists interested in supporting their company.


How can you demonstrate extraordinary ability in business?


To demonstrate extraordinary ability, applicants must be prepared to show evidence of a major internationally recognized award (such as a Nobel Peace Prize), or if the applicant does not have such an award, they must meet at least three of the following criteria which we discuss in turn below:

  1. AWARDS—Documentation of the beneficiary’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor

The first criterion is providing documentation showing that you have received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.

How does this translate to the startup world? There are several ways that one can qualify for this criteria as a startup founder. For instance, if you have received a grant from the government recognizing your proposed endeavor as one that is exceptional, you may be able to use the grant as evidence to meet this criteria. Alternatively, if you were a participant in a prestigious or distinguished event or competition, and you were one of the winners or finalists in the competition, you may also use documentary evidence of your participation to meet this criteria.

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Do you have a case currently pending review at the National Visa Center? In this video, we discuss the growing backlogs at the National Visa Center and explain the reason it is taking so long for the NVC to process immigrant visa cases and prepare them for a visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.

Did you know? Every month the National Visa Center releases their Immigrant Visa Backlog Report, which provides important information including the number of immigrant visa applicants being scheduled for interview appointments, the number of applicants whose cases are documentarily complete and ready for interviews, and the number of eligible applicants still pending the scheduling of an interview.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


First, let’s discuss: What is the National Visa Center?

Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved your immigrant visa petition, USCIS will forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where your application will undergo immigrant visa pre-processing once your priority date has become current according to the Visa Bulletin.

Essentially, the National Visa Center serves as an intermediary between USCIS, where the immigrant visa petition was first approved, and the U.S. Consulate, where the foreign national will eventually undergo their immigrant visa interview.

Once your case is received by the National Visa Center (if your priority date is current and a visa number is available) you will be instructed to submit the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application, submit civil documents in support of your immigrant visa application, and pay the necessary visa fees. Once you have completed this process, your case will be considered “documentarily complete,” and your application will be placed in line for interview scheduling, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest your place of residence.


What are the current visa backlogs at the NVC?


As our readers will know, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on the processing of cases at the NVC and Consular level. The majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates continue to operate on a limited basis, due to local country conditions and restrictions, local and national lockdowns, travel restrictions, local regulations, and measures taken by Consular posts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This has caused challenges to interview scheduling, given that the volume of interviews that can be scheduled has been drastically decreased, to prevent the spread of the virus, and ensure public health and safety for applicants and Consular officers.

While Embassies and Consular posts have tried to return processing to pre-pandemic levels, they simply have been confronted with an overwhelming demand of cases waiting to be scheduled for in-person visa interviews.

Due to the operational crisis at Embassies and Consulates worldwide, the National Visa Center has been unable to forward immigrant visa cases to posts overseas, because posts have not had the capacity to accommodate all those waiting for an interview.

The data shows that things have not gotten better. In fact, they have gotten worse.

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In this video attorney Jacob Sapochnick addresses a somber but important topic: What happens when a U.S. Citizen dies, can a LPR spouse still apply for naturalization after 3 years?

To know more about this topic, just keep on watching.


Overview


Applying for Naturalization After the Death of an Immediate Relative

In this post we answer one of your frequently asked questions:

Q: I became a green card holder through my husband, who was born in the U.S. and was a U.S. citizen. Sadly, my husband died last year. I would like to apply to become a U.S. citizen as soon as possible. Can I still apply for naturalization after 3 years of having my green card?

A: This question comes up more often than we would like to admit.

As you may know as a general rule, a legal permanent resident (LPR) is eligible to apply for naturalization after being a green card holder for at least 5 years.

However, there is an exception to the rule. Spouses of U.S. Citizens are eligible to apply for naturalization after 3 years of being a permanent resident, so long as they are still married and living in the same household as their U.S. Citizen spouse. Couples that are no longer living together (such as where a separation occurs) do not qualify for the 3-year exception.

But what happens when the spouse dies?

This situation recently happened to one of our clients. She was able to prove that she was living with her U.S. Citizen spouse up until the time of his death and wanted to know if she could still take advantage of the 3-year rule to apply for naturalization.

Sadly, under section 319(a) of the INA, “A person is ineligible for naturalization as the spouse of a United States citizen, if, before or after the filing of the application, the marital union ceases to exist due to death or divorce….”

That means that where a marital union ended due to the U.S. Citizen spouse’s death, the legal permanent resident cannot take advantage of the 3-year rule and must wait to reach their five-year anniversary as a legal permanent resident (LPR) before they can apply for naturalization. It is permissible to file your application 90 days before reaching your fifth anniversary as a permanent resident.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick teaches you how you can reschedule a biometrics appointment for fingerprints if you were unable to attend a previously scheduled appointment.

As you may know, for certain types of immigration applications filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), such as applications for a work permit on Form I-765, travel permit on Form I-131, changes of status on Form I-539, citizenship on Form N-400, green card on Form I-485, etc. a biometrics appointment is required.

Several weeks after filing the application in question, the applicant receives a biometrics appointment notice in the mail requesting that the applicant appear in-person on the day and time stated, for capture of their biometrics. Biometrics refers to the process of taking a person’s photograph, fingerprints, and signature to establish a person’s identity and perform the necessary criminal background checks required by the government. A biometrics appointment is not an interview. It is a quick 15-minute appearance where fingerprinting and taking of the applicant’s photograph takes place.


So, how can you reschedule your biometrics appointment?


In general, USCIS recommends that the applicant appear in-person on the stated day and time of the scheduled biometrics appointment. However, there are times when the applicant is unable to attend the appointment and rescheduling becomes necessary, for instance due to illness. It is important to note that if an applicant misses his or her biometrics appointment, it is their duty to reschedule in a timely matter, otherwise the applicant will risk delay and, in some circumstances, even administrative closure of their case.

USCIS no longer accepts written requests to reschedule the appointment. Instead, applicants must call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833) preferably before the date and time of the original biometrics appointment and follow the prompts to reschedule the biometrics appointment. Applicants must demonstrate that there is “good cause” for rescheduling the appointment such as illness, travel conflicts, emergencies, etc. If applicants fail to establish “good cause,” USCIS may not reschedule the biometrics appointment.

Those who can establish “good cause” will receive a telephone call from a USCIS officer with the new date, time, and location of their biometrics appointment. With the current backlog, it may take several days or several weeks to receive a callback. Those who do not receive a call back within a reasonable period of time, should call USCIS again to request a new biometrics appointment. It is the applicant’s responsibility to be diligent and make sure a new biometrics appointment is scheduled.

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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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