Articles Posted in Policy Updates

Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with even more immigration news.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the following new immigration updates: new vaccination policies and procedures being followed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following the release of the Proclamation, Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, new updates for certain B1/B2 tourists visa applicants, tips for U.S. permanent residents stuck overseas, and solutions for those traveling under the Visa Waiver Program that have not been able to leave the United States due to flight cancellations.


Overview


CBP Customs and Border Protection Operations in 2022


In a recent meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provided further clarification regarding admission of non-U.S. Citizens to the United States following the issuance of Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This new Proclamation requires non-citizens to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to gain admission.

CBP has made clear that the agency is not responsible for enforcing the vaccine requirement stipulated in the Presidential Proclamation.

Instead, CBP is merely responsible for enforcing all guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) such as ensuring that all air travelers, 2 years of age or older, present a negative COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before planned travel to the United States and proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 as mandated by the CDC. Travelers must show their negative result to the airline before boarding their flight.

Pursuant to CDC regulations, you are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart*

* CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the of purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.

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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 some exciting news. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has submitted for federal review, a final regulation that if passed would expand premium processing services to additional categories of immigrants. The rule is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While the rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, it has the potential to substantially improve processing times for more categories of immigrants that have been waiting extended periods of time for their applications to be approved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this post, we break down exactly who may benefit from this new regulation and what fees might apply once the rule becomes final.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Many have been eagerly awaiting news regarding the expansion of premium processing services and it seems the time has almost come. For those who may be wondering, premium processing service is a special type of fee-based service offered by USCIS that allows for expedited processing of certain Form I-129, Petitions for Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker. With this service, applicants can pay an additional fee and submit Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to guarantee the adjudication of their applications within 15 calendar days.

The current categories of applicants who can request premium processing service and the required filing fees are as follows:

  • $2,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L (including blanket L-1), O, P, Q, or TN nonimmigrant classification.
  • $1,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R nonimmigrant classification.
  • $2,500 if you are filing Form I-140 requesting EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant visa classification.

Outside of the above categories of visa applicants, premium processing service has not been made available to other applicants. But this may all be about to change.

While we are still awaiting the rule’s official publication in the Federal Register to study its complete details, we know that the rule will identify additional categories of applicants who can request premium processing service and will provide in detail the processing times, and associated fees for each type of applicant.

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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 long processing times to adjudicate applications and petitions filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The backlog of cases has been especially significant for certain types of applications and petitions where demand is greatest, such as I-539 applications to extend/change nonimmigrant status, I-360 petitions for Amerasians, Widow(er), or Special Immigrants, I-765 Applications for Employment Authorization, I-751 Removal of Conditions applications, and many others. According to previous data, in 2014 an average green card case took about 5 months to be processed by USCIS, while in 2020 it has taken over 10 months to process the same type of application.

The reason behind these high processing times leads back to the crippling effects caused by COVID-19. Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, USCIS has been experiencing a financial crisis as more and more people have found it difficult to afford paying costly fees for their immigration processes. To make matters worse, USCIS has also been experiencing a shortage in personnel and resources, making it difficult for the agency to efficiently adjudicate immigration benefits.

Many of these limitations have been caused by conditions in various states around the country, as well as local government mandates. States with high rates of coronavirus for example have been especially hard hit, making it difficult for USCIS to continue to operate at previous levels. The Biden administration has taken steps to try to improve conditions and reduce the backlogs by reinstating deferential immigration policies mandating immigration officers to defer to prior approvals where immigration benefits involve the same parties and facts. The agency has also lengthened the status of removal of conditions applicants from 18 to 24 months while their applications remain pending with the USCIS and implemented flexibility policies to respond to requests for evidence. Despite these changes there is much more that needs to be done.

Want to know more about these important updates? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Massive Delays at USCIS Reach Crisis Levels

  • According to USCIS data, from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2021, processing times for all I-539 applications to change or extend status rose from about 2.8 months in 2017 to 9.8 months in 2021 (an increase of more than 250%)
  • In the same period, processing times for family-based adjustment of status (I-485) applications rose from 7.9 months in fiscal year 2017 to 13.2 months in fiscal year 2021 (an increase of more than 67%)
  • Also during the same period, processing times for naturalization applications (N-400) increased from 7.9 months in 2017 to 11.6 months in fiscal year 2021 (an increase of nearly 47%)

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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 brings you a brand-new update available on our YouTube channel, discussing a new policy that will allow U visa victims of criminal activity to apply for employment authorization with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and receive deferred action protecting them from removal from the United States while their applications are pending with USCIS.

Keep on watching for all the details.


Overview


What is the U visa?

The U visa is a special nonimmigrant visa classification specifically created by U.S. Congress for 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. The purpose of the U visa is to protect certain victims of crimes while at the same time ensuring that perpetrators of certain crimes are brought to justice.

In general, to qualify for a U visa, you must:

  • Have been the victim of a qualifying criminal activity (such as extortion, felonious assault, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, stalking, torture, and other types of crimes.)
  • Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
  • Have information about the criminal activity. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf
  • Have been helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf.
  • The crime must have occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
  • Be admissible to the United States. Those who are not admissible, may be eligible to apply for a waiver on a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.

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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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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick gives you the most recent updates in the world of immigration including important information about the continuation of the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, the Department of Homeland Security’s recent decision to withdraw a biometrics rule that would have required biometrics to be taken for every applicant, the current status of interview waivers being granted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally new policy guidance issued by USCIS that provides deference to previous decisions for those filing extension requests with the agency.

Want to know more? Keep on watching.


Overview


The Continuation of the International Entrepreneur Parole Program

Today, May 10, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be withdrawing a notice of proposed rulemaking first initiated under the Trump administration, which sought to terminate the International Entrepreneur Parole Program, a program first proposed by President Obama to facilitate the immigration of foreign entrepreneurs to the United States.

The proposed rule, “Removal of International Entrepreneur Parole Program,” was first issued by the Trump administration on May 29, 2018, shortly after President Trump signed Executive Order 13767 “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” into law. The proposed rule was masterminded by the Trump administration to ultimately delay the planned implementation of the program on July 17, 2017, with the goal of eventually dismantling it altogether.

To hinder the implementation of the program, with the passage of Executive Order 13767, former President Trump narrowed the pool of applicants who could become eligible for “parole,” and directed federal agencies to “ensure that parole authority under section 212(d)(5) of the INA is exercised only on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the plain language of the statute, and in all circumstances when an individual demonstrates urgent humanitarian reasons, or a significant public benefit derived from such parole.”

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, we cover a new policy update handed down by USCIS that affects children of U.S. service members and government employees stationed abroad.

The new policy update states that certain children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members, employed or stationed outside the United States, will not be considered to be “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320 beginning October 29, 2019.

In other words, some children of U.S. government workers and members of the U.S. armed forces stationed abroad will no longer be granted automatic citizenship. Instead, their parents will need to apply for their citizenship by filing Form N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 before the child’s 18th birthday.

Who does the Policy affect?

This policy applies to the following categories of children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members:

  • children of non-U.S. citizens adopted by U.S. citizen employees or service members;
  • children of non-U.S. citizen parents who become citizens after the child’s birth; and
  • children of U.S. citizens who do not meet residency requirements to transmit citizenship to their children at birth.

While these children will no longer obtain citizenship automatically, U.S. citizen parents residing outside the United States, with children who are not U.S. citizens, can still apply for their citizenship, by filing Form N-600K before the child’s 18th birthday.

Who does the Policy not affect?

The policy DOES NOT affect children who are citizens at birth or who have already acquired citizenship prior to October 29, 2019.

The Takeaway

This new policy does not take away the citizenship rights of children of U.S. service members and government employees stationed abroad, but rather makes it harder for these children to acquire citizenship by requiring parents to submit Form N-600K with supporting documentation. Previously, children who regularly resided outside the United States could acquire citizenship automatically.

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