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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 President Biden’s newly signed executive orders on immigration and his administration’s new legislative bill.

Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.


Overview


On January 20, 2021, in his first day in office, President Biden signed a series of executive orders relating to immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses what these executive orders will mean for you and what we may expect to see from the Biden administration in the months ahead with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.


Fact Sheet on Immigration


The Biden administration unveiled a brand new immigration reform bill entitled, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which proposes to overhaul the United States immigration system.

The bill includes a number of new reforms designed to streamline the immigration system and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. To become law, the bill must still pass both houses of Congress including the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

These reforms are as follows:

  • Offers an 8-year path to citizenship for millions of people who were living in the United States unlawfully on Jan. 1, 2021. They would be eligible to apply for a green card after 5 years in a temporary status if they pass background checks and pay their taxes and could then apply for citizenship 3 years later.
  • Allows people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection, a group known as “Dreamers”, who were brought to the United States illegally as children, farmworkers and people with Temporary Protected Status to immediately apply for a green card if they meet specific requirements. They would have a 3-year path to citizenship.
  • Permits certain immigrants who were deported during the Trump administration and had previously lived in the United States for three years to return to reunite with family or for other humanitarian reasons.
  • Raises annual per-country limits on family-based immigration and eliminates them for employment visas.
  • Introduces changes to ease the U.S. citizenship application process.
  • Increases the diversity visa lottery program visa quota from 55,000 to 80,000.
  • Exempts spouses and children of green card holders from employment-based immigration quotas, expanding the number of green cards available to employment-based immigrants.
  • Scraps multi-year bars to re-entry for certain people who lived in the United States illegally and then left.
  • Clears family-based and employment-based visa backlogs.
  • Provides work permits to dependents of H-1B visa holders.
  • Authorizes regional processing centers in Central America to register and process people for refugee resettlement and other legal migration programs.
  • Authorizes funding for legal counsel for vulnerable populations of migrants, such as children.
  • Increases the number of immigration judges working in the court system.
  • Eliminates the 1-year filing deadline for asylum applications.
  • Changes the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in U.S. immigration laws.
  • Immigrants with approved family-sponsored petitions (I-130) can join family members on a temporary basis while they wait for their green cards to become available.
  • New immigration protections for widows and children of second World War veterans.

For more detailed information about the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 please click here.

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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 few new immigration updates regarding flexibility for request for evidence responses, adjustment of status interview waivers, and biometrics appointment waivers.

Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.


Overview


Extended Flexibility for Responses to Request for Evidence

USCIS recently extended its flexibility policy for applicants who need more time to respond to a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, and other such related notices.

Applicants who receive any of the below mentioned documents dated between March 1, 2020 and January 31, 2020 are given 60 additional days (after the response deadline indicated) to respond to the request or notice:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
  • Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or
  • Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers a hot topic that has been frequently asked by our followers: what are the top reasons for CR/IR-1 immigrant visa denials and what can you do about it.

Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.


Overview


What is a CR-1/IR-1 visa?

A CR-1 or IR-1 visa is an immigrant visa for a spouse of a United States Citizen who is residing abroad. The term “CR” in CR-1 stands for “conditional resident” and is issued to foreign spouses who have been married for less than 2 years. By contrast the term “IR” in IR-1 stands for “immediate relative” and is issued to foreign spouses who have been married for more than 2 years. Those who receive a CR-1 visa will eventually receive a 2-year conditional green card after entering the United States, while those who receive an IR-1 visa will receive a 10-year green card (without condition).

The first step to apply for a CR-1/IR-1 visa is for the U.S. Citizen spouse to file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the foreign spouse. This petition initiates the immigration process to the United States. Once Form I-130 is approved by USCIS, the petition is transferred to the National Visa Center for pre-processing. At the National Visa Center stage, the applicant must complete the immigrant visa application and provide civil documentation. After sending all required documents to the National Visa Center, the NVC will forward the case to the U.S. Embassy near the foreign spouse and the applicant will wait to be scheduled for an Embassy interview. The Embassy interview is often a make it or break moment for couples who must prove that they have a “bona fide” marriage to be approved for their visa.


What are the top reasons for CR/IR-1 denials?


#1 Not meeting the income requirement for the affidavit of support

The number one reason for spousal visa denials is failing to meet the income requirement for the affidavit of support. As part of the spousal visa application process, the U.S. Citizen spouse must sign the I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is a legally enforceable contract between the U.S. Citizen and the government wherein the U.S. Citizen must sign under penalty of perjury that they have the adequate means to financial support the alien and the alien will not rely on the U.S. government for financial support.

What is the income requirement?

The minimum amount that the U.S. Citizen must make depends on his or her household size. In general, petitioners must make at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. However, exceptions exist for petitioners who are on active duty in the U.S. armed forces. Petitioners who do not satisfy the income requirement must apply with a joint sponsor, who must also sign a separate I-864 Affidavit of Support and provide evidence of financial ability. If the petitioner and joint sponsor do not qualify, the spousal visa application will be denied.

To prevent this situation from happening petitioners must make sure well in advance of filing the I-130 application, that they either meet the income requirement, or that they can obtain a joint sponsor who is willing and able to sign the affidavit of support and provide the necessary documentation.

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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 very important topic: what are the top 5 mistakes applicant’s make when applying for citizenship and how can you avoid them?

Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.


Overview

New changes to the naturalization examination are coming. Beginning December 1, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will introduce new changes that will make it more difficult for applicants to pass the civics examination. These new changes will apply to citizenship applications filed on or after December 1, 2020.


What type of changes will be introduced?

In order to obtain U.S. citizenship, applicants must successfully pass two components of the naturalization examination: The first is English proficiency – applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency as determined by their ability to read, write, speak and understand English. The second requirement is the civics examination – applicants must pass an oral examination by demonstrating adequate knowledge of U.S. history and government.

Beginning December 1, 2020 USCIS will:

  • Increase the general bank of civics test questions from 100 to 128 (the possible questions that may be asked)
  • Increase the number of test questions that will be asked for the civics exam to 20 (from 10)
  • Increase the number of correct answers needed to pass the civics test to 12 (from 6)
  • The test score required to pass (60 percent correct) the civics test however will not change

In order to pass the civics examination applicants must correctly answer at least 12 of the 20 questions asked.

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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 regarding employment and family-based interview waivers during the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition, he discusses a recent trend being followed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.

Overview

While no official policy or memorandum has been issued by USCIS regarding interview waivers, since at least May of this year, we have seen the agency use their broad discretionary power to waive the interview requirement for at least certain employment and family-based petitions, approving these cases without first scheduling an interview.

What does it mean for USCIS to “waive” the interview requirement?

In general, all adjustment of status applicants must attend an in-person interview at a USCIS field office where an immigration officer will verify whether the applicant understood the questions being asked on the green card application and evaluate whether the applicant qualifies for the immigration benefit requested. The interview is a good opportunity to correct any mistakes on the application form and resolve any issues in the underlying case.

In some instances, USCIS officers may “waive” this interview requirement if they find that it is unnecessary to interview the applicant. In situations where the officer “waives” the in-person interview, he or she relies only on the written evidence provided on the application to approve the applicant for U.S. residence (the green card).

Normally, USCIS uses its discretion to waive interviews for parents of U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21 years of age of U.S. Citizens, unmarried children under 14 years of age of lawful permanent residents, asylees and refugees who were previously interviewed by a USCIS officer, and applicants who are clearly ineligible for the benefit they seek.

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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 proposed rule published in the federal register that will soon change the regulations governing Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.

Want to know more? Keep on watching for more information.


Overview

On October 2, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security published a new proposed rule in the federal register that seeks to (1) strictly enforce the obligations of sponsors of the affidavit of support (2) tighten the types of documentation required by sponsors to demonstrate sufficient income (3) modify regulations regarding when an applicant is required to submit an affidavit of support from a joint sponsor and (4) enhance interagency reporting and information sharing among various government agencies.


What is the Affidavit of Support?

The affidavit of support is required for most family-based immigrants and some employment-based intending immigrants to show that the foreign national has adequate means of financial support and is not likely to become a public charge while in the United States.

The affidavit of support is essentially a contract between a sponsor and the U.S. government in which a sponsor must demonstrate that he or she has enough income and/or assets to support the intending immigrant. In most circumstances, the sponsor’s income must be at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines according to the size of the household.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick updates you regarding the operational status of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. As our readers are aware on March 20, 2020, the Department of State announcement the suspension of routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consular posts worldwide in order to deal with the challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. While U.S. Embassies and Consular posts suspended routine visa services, posts continued to remain open to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. These included the processing of applications for “national interest” waivers.

Since then, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have begun a phased resumption of visa services as local country conditions and resources have allowed.

Want to know more? Stay tuned for more information about this important topic.


Overview

In this video, we discuss the status of immigrant visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consular posts worldwide. The information provided is based on what our office is currently experiencing, official government sources, and information we have received from other attorneys and members of our private Facebook group.

We are now ending fiscal year 2020 and are approaching the start of a new fiscal year that begins on October 2020. The Department of State predicts an overflow of immigrant visas. More than 100,000 additional employment-based visas will become available in the new fiscal year, while nearly 300,000 additional family-based visas will become available in the new fiscal year.


What is responsible for this overflow in visas?

This overflow in visas is the result of a combination of various factors. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and the numerous Presidential Proclamations that followed, many immigrant visas were not allowed to be issued. This has left many visas up for grabs in the new fiscal year.


What has the Department of State said about resumption of visa services?

The Department of State previously announced that routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consular posts would resume after July 15th however things have not gone as planned. The majority of U.S. Embassies and Consular posts did not resume routine visa services to the public on or after this date.

As months passed, some U.S. Embassies and Consular posts reopened interview scheduling on a limited basis. These actions signal that there is some movement in the scheduling of visa interview appointments, however the situation remains fluid. At any time, even the U.S. Embassies and Consular posts that have reopened their calendars for interview scheduling, can cancel these scheduled interviews based on their continued observance of local health conditions.


Which U.S. Embassies and Consular posts have resumed immigrant visa interviews?

Based on what we are seeing, the following Embassies/Consular posts have resumed immigrant visa interviews:

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind the situation continues to remain fluid and Embassy/Consular posts may choose to cancel scheduled interviews at any time based on country conditions.

  • U.S. Embassy in Kenya – open for immigrant visa interviews as of September 2020
  • U.S. Consulate in Mumbai, India – open for biometrics, was open for immigrant visa interviews, but it appears the Consulate has stopped scheduling interviews until further notice. Please continue monitoring the calendar
  • U.S. Consulate Frankfurt, Germany – was open for immigrant visa interviews, but it appears the Consulate has stopped scheduling interviews until further notice. Please continue monitoring the calendar
  • U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Japan- open for immigrant visa interviews as of mid-August 2020
  • U.S. Embassy Seoul, Korea – open for immigrant visa interviews
  • U.S. Consulate Guangzhou, China – only post in China open for immigrant visa interviews
  • U.S. Consulate Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – open for immigrant visa interviews
  • U.S. Embassy Pakistan – not open for immigrant visa interviews, but emergency interview requests are still being considered
  • U.S. Embassy Paris, France – open for immigrant visa interviews
  • U.S. Embassy Sofia, Bulgaria – open for immigrant visa interviews as of September
  • U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium – open for immigrant and non-immigrant visa interviews as of August

Emergency Appointments

Even if your Embassy or Consular post has not resumed routine visa services and interview scheduling, you may request an emergency expedited appointment if your U.S. Citizen spouse or relative is experiencing extreme hardships in your absence, or where there is a medical or other type of emergency. Applicants are encouraged to contact their local Consular post for instructions on how to apply for an emergency appointment.

Our office has been successful in obtaining emergency appointments based on extreme hardship as well as the “national interest” exception for those subject to a Presidential Proclamation. If you would like to know whether you qualify for an emergency appointment or national interest exception, please call us to schedule a consultation.


Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text or call 619-569-1768.


JOIN OUR NEW FACEBOOK GROUP


Need more immigration updates? We have created a brand new facebook group to address the impact of the new executive order and other changing developments in immigration related to COVID-19. Follow us there.

For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here. 

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick updates you regarding a recent practice followed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – the waiver of marriage based green card interviews during the Coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, our office has observed that the agency is processing certain types of applications much more quickly than others.

Want to know more? Stay tuned for more information about this important topic.


Overview


Green Card Interview Waivers for Employment Based Applicants

Beginning in April of this year, our office began to receive approval notices for employment-based adjustment of status applications, without the need for the applicant to attend the in-person face-to-face interview as is typically required by USCIS.

As you may recall on March 18th USCIS announced the suspension of in-person services at field offices nationwide, which meant the cancellation of face-to-face interviews. It was not until June 4th that USCIS announced that it would begin resumption of services at field offices nationwide.

Presumably to avoid a growing backlog of cases needing to be scheduled for an interview, USCIS began to grant employment-based green card petitions without requiring the applicant to attend the in-person interview due to the suspension of in-person services.

USCIS never officially announced a policy change allowing for these interview waivers, and instead these changes were occurring as a matter of practice based upon the agency’s discretion.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides some exciting news regarding a recent federal court order. The new order grants relief to diversity visa applicants selected in the DV lottery for fiscal year 2020 against Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052. As many of you are aware, on April 22nd the President issued Proclamation 10014, which temporarily suspended the entry of all immigrants into the U.S. for a period of two months, including that of diversity visa lottery winners. Two months later, the President issued Proclamation 10052, which extended the suspension until December 31, 2020, with limited exceptions that did not apply to diversity visa winners. In response to these Proclamations, a class action lawsuit was brought in federal court challenging its application. For purposes of this post, we discuss what this lawsuit means for DV-2020 selected applicants.

For more information on this important ruling please keep on watching.


Overview

Proclamations 10014 and 10052 imposed an unfortunate ban on the adjudication and issuance of immigrant visas for certain classes of immigrants, including winners of the DV-2020 lottery.

Following the issuance of Proclamations 10014 and 10052 – which did not exempt DV-2020 lottery winners from the ban – diversity visa lottery winners were left in limbo. The issuance of the Proclamation created a dilemma for winners because following their selection in the DV lottery, winners must apply for and receive a diversity visa by the deadline imposed for that fiscal year. For DV-2020 the deadline to receive a permanent visa was September 30, 2020. The ban on visa issuance for DV-lottery winners meant that applicants would not be able to meet the deadline to apply for a permanent visa, and as a result would forfeit their opportunity to immigrate to the United States.

Seeking relief from the ban, over one thousand plaintiffs joined together to file the lawsuit Gomez, et al. v. Trump, et al. in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The judge presiding over the case, Amit Mehta, concluded that DV-2020 lottery winners qualified for relief, but that non-DV applicants failed to demonstrate that they were entitled to relief.

Accordingly, federal judge Mehta issued the following orders:

  1. As a preliminary matter, the court “stayed” (halted) the No-Visa Policy as applied to DV-2020 selectees and derivative beneficiaries, meaning that the government is prohibited from interpreting or applying the Proclamation in any way that forecloses or prohibits embassy personnel, consular officers, or any administrative processing center (such as the Kentucky Consular Center) from processing, reviewing, or adjudicating a 2020 diversity visa or derivative beneficiary application, or issuing or reissuing a 2020 diversity or beneficiary visa based on the entry restrictions contained in the Proclamations. Except as provided in 2 and 3 below, the order does not prevent any embassy personnel, consular officer, or administrative processing center from prioritizing the processing, adjudication, or issuance of visas based on resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic or country conditions;
  2. The government as defendants are ordered to undertake good-faith efforts, to expeditiously process and adjudicate DV-2020 diversity visa and derivative beneficiary applications, and issue or reissue diversity and derivative beneficiary visas to eligible applicants by September 30, 2020, giving priority to the named diversity visa plaintiffs in the lawsuit and their derivative beneficiaries;
  3. The court enjoins (stops) the government from interpreting and applying the COVID Guidance to DV-2020 selectees and derivative beneficiaries in any way that requires embassy personnel, consular officers, or administrative processing centers (such as the Kentucky Consular Center) to refuse processing, reviewing, adjudicating 2020 diversity visa applications, or issuing or reissuing diversity visas on the ground that the DV-2020 selectee or derivative beneficiary does not qualify under the “emergency” or “mission critical” exceptions to the COVID Guidance;
  4. The court declines the requests of DV-2020 plaintiffs to order the government to reserve unprocessed DV-2020 visas past the September 30 deadline or until a final adjudication on the merits, however the court will revisit the issue closer to the deadline. The court ordered the State Department to report, no later than September 25, 2020, which of the named DV-2020 Plaintiffs in the lawsuit have received diversity visas, the status of processing of the named DV-2020 plaintiffs’ applications who have not yet received visas, and the number of unprocessed DV-2020 visa applications and unused diversity visas remaining for FY 2020;
  5. Class recertification was denied for non-DV plaintiffs since they failed to demonstrate that they were entitled to preliminary injunctive relief; and
  6. Finally, the court denied the request of non-DV plaintiffs to preliminary enjoin (stop) the government from implementing or enforcing Proclamations 10014 and 10052.

What happens next?

The court has required the parties to the lawsuit to meet and confer by September 25, 2020 for a Joint Status Report. At that time, the court will set the schedule to hear arguments from the parties and come to a final resolution of the lawsuit on the merits.

We hope that this information will help DV-2020 lottery winners breathe a sigh of relief. If you were selected in the DV-2020 lottery it is very important to proceed with your immigrant visa process as soon as possible. Applicants should consider applying with the assistance of an attorney to ensure the application process goes smoothly.


Where can I read more about this court order?

To read judge Mehta’s complete decision please click here.


Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text or call 619-569-1768.


JOIN OUR NEW FACEBOOK GROUP


Need more immigration updates? We have created a brand new facebook group to address the impact of the new executive order and other changing developments in immigration related to COVID-19. Follow us there.

For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here. 

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides new updates regarding previously planned furloughs by the United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) as well as the expansion of interview waiver eligibility for certain visa applications at United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide.

For more information on these important topics please keep on watching.


Overview


USCIS Cancels Planned Furloughs

We have great news for our readers. Recently, USCIS announced that it will cancel the agency’s planned furlough of more than 13,000 employees, which was scheduled to take place on August 30, 2020, to help the agency meet its budget quotas and ensure operational capacity.

On August 25th USCIS made the announcement stating that as of now the agency is able to maintain its operations through the end of fiscal year 2020.

What does this mean for applicants?

While the cancellation of these planned furloughs is certainly good news for the American workforce, USCIS has made clear that delays will continue for the foreseeable future, including an increase in backlogs and wait times across the board. USCIS has specifically stated that there is no guarantee that the agency can avoid future furloughs. The only mechanism that will safeguard operations is additional funding from Congress to help the agency meet its operational costs through fiscal year 2021

According to USCIS, the agency has cut costs by reducing the need to work with outside contractors who have in the past assisted USCIS adjudicators to process and prepare case files, and provide support to the agency. Of course, without this additional assistance, delays will continue to be expected.

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