In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick delivers some good news to immigrant visa applicants—as of March 2023 the National Visa Center has reported a decrease in the backlogs of about 6,000 cases.
If you would like to know more about this important update, please keep on watching.
Did you Know? Every month the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) publishes an Immigrant Visa Backlog report, which provides data and statistics relating to the current status of worldwide visa operations, including the number of documentarily complete immigrant visa cases currently at the National Visa Center waiting for interviews, the number of cases that were scheduled for interviews at the end of each month, and the number of immigrant visa cases still waiting to be scheduled for a visa interview after interview appointment scheduling was completed at the end of each month.
What is the National Visa Center?
The National Visa Center (NVC) is an agency that forms part of the U.S. Department of State, located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The main responsibility of the Nationality Visa Center (NVC) is to act as an intermediary between the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. The NVC receives approved cases from USCIS and collects further documentation from applicants and petitioners to prepare cases for immigrant visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas. Part of this process includes making sure cases are documentarily complete to request immigrant visa interview scheduling from U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad.
Do you have a case waiting to be processed by the National Visa Center? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the latest updates on visa processing and interview scheduling in the new year.
This includes information regarding current visa backlogs and what you can expect from the National Visa Center.
If you would like to learn more about this important topic, just keep on watching.
Did you know? For immigrant visa petitions, the National Visa Center (NVC) functions as an intermediary between USCIS and the Embassy or Consulate that will eventually schedule your immigrant visa interview.
After the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved your I-130 or I-140 immigrant visa petition, USCIS will forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The NVC will complete immigrant visa pre-processing once your priority date becomes current pursuant to the Visa Bulletin.
Immediate relative categories do not have yearly numerical limits and pre-processing can begin once your case has reached the NVC. However, other family preference and employment-based immigrant categories have annual numerical limits, preventing pre-processing from taking place until the priority date is current.
In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the final rule, “Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility” announced by the Biden administration on December 19, 2022.
The final rule applies to adjustment of status applications postmarked on or after December 23, 2022.
The new public charge rule was issued in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14012, entitled, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.”
As you might recall, in 2018 former President Trump expanded the public charge rule making it more difficult for green card applicants to immigrate to the United States. Later in 2021, the Biden administration rescinded the Trump administration’s public charge rule and restored the original public charge of inadmissibility guidance that was in place before Donald Trump became President.
To help green card applicants prepare for the change, the Biden administration released a new edition of Form I-485 to better implement the regulations.
Want to know more about this topic? Just keep on watching.
How can the public charge rule impact me?
Biden’s public charge rule will impact all those who are filing Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status on or after December 23, 2022, with few exceptions.
Although new policy updates are being implemented by the Biden administration, it is important to understand that the “public charge” concept has been around since 1999 when Congress made it a matter of law for a noncitizen’s application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status to be denied if the applicant is “likely at any time to become a public charge,” on the United States government.
We would like to highlight that in our practice, we have rarely seen an applicant denied solely on public charge grounds, however it is still important to understand what the public charge rule is about and what factors USCIS considers when analyzing whether a green card applicant is currently or likely to become a public charge.
In this blog post, we provide you with the latest details regarding upcoming changes to the N-400 Application for Naturalization in the new year. USCIS recently announced that it is planning to conduct trial testing of a newly redesigned naturalization examination that seeks to update the civics component of the N-400 examination, and potentially introduce a new English-speaking element to the examination. Trial testing is expected to begin in January 2023 and last for a period of 5 months.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
Did you know? During your naturalization interview, you will be asked to undergo a naturalization examination which is made up of two components, an English, and civics test. During the English examination, you must demonstrate an understanding of the English language and the ability to read, write, and speak basic English. During the civics test, you will be asked to answer questions about American government and history.
As you might be aware, this year the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revealed that it received the highest number of naturalization applications since fiscal year 2008. According to statistics, approximately 1,047,000 permanent residents became U.S. Citizens in 2022, with naturalization applications rebounding to pre-pandemic levels.
What are the proposed changes to the N-400 Application for Naturalization?
Starting in January 2023, USCIS will conduct trial testing to introduce a new standardized English-speaking test as part of the requirement to demonstrate an understanding of the English language.
Additionally, the trial testing will include an updated civics examination with new content and a new multiple-choice format. The reading and writing portions of the English examination will remain unchanged.
USCIS will conduct the trial testing with volunteer community-based organizations (CBOs) that work with immigrant English language learners and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) preparing for naturalization.
Are you an international student in the United States or planning to apply for an F-1 visa? Then this video may interest you. Here, we discuss a recent announcement made by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the loss of accreditation of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency, and how it will impact certain F-1 students in the United States. The ACICS agency accredited close to 30 schools in the United States attended by more than 5,000 students.
Did You know? The U.S. Department of Education has announced it will no longer recognize the ACICS as an accredited agency. Accordingly, students in an English language program or those seeking an extension of their STEM OPT may be impacted.
If you want to know more just keep on watching.
On August 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This determination immediately affects two immigration-related student programs:
Welcome back to our blog! In this video, we are excited to cover new updates from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with respect to missing and/or delayed Requests for Evidence also known as “RFEs.”
Did You Know? Where an application or petition is deficient, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may issue a Request for Evidence asking for additional information or documentation to be provided before the adjudicating officer can make a final decision for your case. Requests for Evidence are sent to the applicant’s mailing address and specifically identify the information or documentation needed, as well as the deadline for responding to the Request for Evidence.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
More and more individuals have been reporting their case status change to “Request for Evidence” issued but have not received the request in the mail. In this post, we talk about what you should do in this situation and the latest recommendations from USCIS.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have seen many operational delays at the USCIS level. From interview scheduling delays to the slow issuance of receipt notices, the agency has been struggling to keep up with its workload. In the last year alone, the biggest obstacle has been the slow issuance of Requests for Evidence especially for cases pending at the Texas Service Center (TSC) and the Vermont Service Center (VSC). The agency has said that eventually all Requests for Evidence will be sent by mail. The issue has been that the agency has been experiencing severe mailroom backlogs leading to such delays.
So, what should you do if you have not yet received your Request for Evidence in the mail?
USCIS has acknowledged these delays and has advised applicants to contact USCIS to speak to a customer service representative about the issue by calling 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833) Monday to Friday 8 am to 8 pm Eastern Standard Time. Applicants should continue to inquire until they have received their Request for Evidence by mail.
Once your Request for Evidence has arrived, if the stated deadline is not sufficient time to respond to the Request, you may still respond to the RFE, and include evidence proving that you received the Request for Evidence very late. This is very easy to prove because your envelope will include a stamp showing the date the Request for Evidence was mailed to you.
Applicants should also note that USCIS has extended its flexibility policy and will accept a response to a Request for Evidence received within 60 calendar days after the due date, so long as the RFE was issued between March 1, 2020, and October 23, 2022. This policy will also apply to late and missing RFEs that are re-issued by USCIS.
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an important new update to the USCIS Policy Manual clarifying the circumstances under which a USCIS officer may waive the in-person interview requirement for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove their conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions. Conditional permanent residents are those who have received a 2-year conditional green card from USCIS and are seeking to remove those conditions to obtain the 10-year permanent resident card.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching!
As you may be aware, foreign nationals who apply for a green card based on a marriage to a U.S. Citizen that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card valid for a 2-year period. This is done as a fraud prevention mechanism to ensure that the foreign national married the U.S. Citizen for the right reasons, and not solely to obtain an immigrant benefit. Foreign nationals who receive a 2-year conditional green card must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions, within the 90-day window before their conditional green card expires.
To ensure that the foreign national has a bona fide marriage, USCIS requires the conditional green card holder to appear for an in-person interview so that the officer has the opportunity to evaluate whether the marriage was entered on a genuine basis, and not to circumvent U.S. immigration laws.
The policy manual now clarifies that USCIS officers have the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for I-751 Removal of Conditions applicants, under certain circumstances.
According to the new guidance, USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require the in-person interview to take place.
In practice this means that the conditional permanent resident must have provided sufficient documentary evidence to establish their eligibility for removal of conditions, including proof of cohabitation, joint ownership and responsibility for assets and liabilities such as joint federal income tax returns and joint checking and savings accounts, photographs of the couple throughout their relationship, children born to the marriage, and any other relevant documentation. The information stated on the I-751 Removal of Conditions application must also be free of any inconsistencies when compared to information provided in the applicant’s initial green card filing. For instance, inconsistencies in residential history or inconsistencies in facts stated can lead to an interview being required. Recent criminal offenses since the filing of the initial green card can also be a reason for an in-person interview to be required.
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick talks about an exciting new announcement released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding new initiatives the agency is taking to reduce the application backlogs, expand premium processing to broader categories of applications, and provide much needed relief to those waiting for their work permits to be processed.
As of March 29, 2022, USCIS is unveiling a trio of actions that will help improve the processing of applications and petitions currently awaiting adjudication by the agency. As you may know at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS along with other government agencies suspended in-person services at its field offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs) nationwide to help slow the spread of the virus. The agency also took precautions to slow its spread by limiting the number of people that could enter federal buildings for immigration interviews. The consequence of these closures has been a backlog of cases across the board that the agency has been working to reduce.
To help ease the number of pending cases at USCIS, the agency has introduced 3 new actions.
What are these new actions all about?
(1) Cycle Time Goals
First, the agency has said that it will be implementing agency-wide goals to reduce the substantial backlogs.
USCIS has established a new system known as “internal cycle time goals,” to process applications that remain pending with USCIS. According to USCIS, these “internal cycle time goals,” are internal metrics that the agency will now be using to help guide the reduction of the current backlog. These cycle times will determine how long it will take USCIS to process immigration benefits going forward.
To accomplish the stated “cycle time goals,” the agency has said that it plans to increase its capacity, adopt technological improvements (such as e-filing systems), train, and hire more staff to ensure that applications are processed within the stated “cycle time goals.” USCIS estimates that these new actions will help the agency reach its stated cycle time goals by the end of fiscal year 2023.
For easy reference, the new USCIS cycle time goals are listed down below.
The new cycle time goals provided by USCIS are as follows:
Processing of I-129 premium processing cases – 2 weeks
Processing of I-140 premium processing cases –2 weeks
Processing of I-129 non-premium processing cases –2 months
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an exciting new procedure for individuals arriving at the United States border to apply for asylum, specifically with respect to those asylum seekers who are subject to expedited removal.
Want to know more? Keep on watching for all the details.
What is Asylum?
Asylum is a form of protection which allows an individual to remain in the United States instead of being removed to a country of feared persecution. To apply for asylum in the U.S., individuals must file the required application, form I-589, and submit it with the appropriate documentation within one year of arriving to the United States. To be successful, individuals must establish that they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Under current immigration law, individuals applying for defensive asylum at the border (meaning that they do not have a valid visa at the time of entry) are detained by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and become subject to removal proceedings. Once an immigration hearing is scheduled, the asylum seeker is given the opportunity to make his or her case for asylum before an immigration judge.
Currently, the defensive asylum process is taking over 7 years to complete in the United States, including the required scheduling of a hearing before an immigration judge.
Under the new interim final rule, released on March 29, 2022, the Biden administration seeks to overhaul the current defensive asylum system to drastically reduce backlogs in the immigration courts and improve filing procedures.
The final rule proposes sweeping changes to current asylum law including allowing asylum claims to be heard and evaluated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officers instead of immigration judges.
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick goes over a brand new and unexpected change in policy being followed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with respect to Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for green card applicants.
Want to know more about this important change? Just keep on watching!
This month has brought unexpected news for green card applicants. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will be discontinuing its policy of issuing employment authorization documents (EADs) and advance parole travel authorization as a joint “combo” card. Up until recently, green card applicants could send Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, along with their I-485 green card applications to apply for a “combo” work/travel authorization card. This “combo” card enabled green card applicants to work and travel while their applications were in process with USCIS.
The agency has now confirmed that it will be separating the issuance of the employment authorization document (EAD card) and advance parole (AP) document and will no longer be issuing these “combo cards.” USCIS has said that this new policy change has been implemented to reduce EAD processing times. Effective immediately, the agency will now be issuing EAD and AP documents separately.
Applicants with EAD cards that do not have the notation “Serves as I-512 Advance Parole” will only be able to use their EAD card for employment purposes, and not for travel. A separate Advance Parole document must be issued by USCIS in order for the applicant to engage in international travel. Traveling without a valid Advance Parole document will result in the abandonment of the applicant’s green card.
Why the change?
USCIS has been experiencing abnormally high processing times for I-765 Applications for Employment Authorization, causing serious delays during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the Nebraska Service Center is currently reporting processing times of between 11.5 to 13.5 months for an EAD to be issued based on a pending adjustment of status application. While the California Service Center is currently reporting a wait period of between 20 months to 21.5 months.
While USCIS has been doing its best to reduce the EAD backlogs, many applicants have faced employment interruptions during what is already a difficult economic climate.
USCIS has said that it is working through the EAD backlog and is prioritizing EAD adjudication as it seeks to avoid applicants experiencing a lapse or prolonged lapse in employment authorization. At present, there is no additional information available on the scope or duration of this procedural change
Can I Expedite an EAD Card?
The answer is it depends. USCIS has established clear guidelines explaining when an EAD card may be expedited. In general, USCIS considers an expedite request if it meets one or more of the following criteria or circumstances:
Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure to:
Timely file the benefit request, or
Timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
Job loss may be sufficient to establish severe financial loss for a person, depending on the individual circumstances. For example, the inability to travel for work that would result in job loss might warrant expedited treatment. The need to obtain employment authorization by itself, without evidence of other compelling factors, does not warrant expedited treatment. In addition, severe financial loss may also be established where failure to expedite would result in a loss of critical public benefits or services.
Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
In the context of an expedite request, humanitarian reasons are those related to human welfare. Examples may include, but are not limited to, illness, disability, extreme living conditions, death in the family, or a critical need to travel to obtain medical treatment in a limited amount of time. An emergency may include an urgent need to expedite employment authorization for healthcare workers during a national emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, an expedite request may be considered under this criterion in instances where a vulnerable person’s safety may be compromised due to a breach of confidentiality if there is a delay in processing the benefit application. A benefit requestor’s desire to travel for vacation does not, in general, meet the definition of an emergency.
Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural or social interests of the United States;
A nonprofit organization seeking to expedite a beneficiary’s benefit request must demonstrate an urgent need to expedite the case based on the beneficiary’s specific role within the nonprofit in furthering cultural or social interests (as opposed to the organization’s role in furthering social or cultural interests). Examples may include a medical professional urgently needed for medical research related to a specific social U.S. interest (such as the COVID-19 pandemic or other socially impactful research or project) or a university professor urgently needed to participate in a specific and imminent cultural program. Another example is a religious organization that urgently needs a beneficiary’s specific services and skill set to continue a vital social outreach program. In such instances, the religious organization must articulate why the respective beneficiary is specifically needed, as opposed to pointing to a general shortage alone.
U.S. government interests (such cases identified as urgent by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, Equal Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or other public safety or national security interests); or
U.S. government interests may include, but are not limited to, cases identified as urgent by other government agencies, including labor and employment agencies, and public safety or national security interests.
For expedite requests made by a federal agency, involving other public safety or national security interests, the national interest need must be immediate and substantive. If the need for the action is not immediate, expedited processing is not warranted. A substantive need does not mean that a delay would pose existential or irreversible consequences to the national interests but rather that the case at hand is of a scale or a uniqueness that requires immediate action to prevent real and serious harm to U.S. interests.
Expedite requests from government agencies (federal, state, or local) must be made by a senior-level official of that agency. If the request relates to employment authorization, the request must demonstrate that the need for a person to be employment-authorized is mission-critical and goes beyond a general need to retain a particular worker or person. Examples include, but are not limited to, a noncitizen victim or witness cooperating with a federal, state, or local agency who is in need of employment authorization because the respective agency is seeking back pay or reinstatement in court proceedings.
Clear USCIS error.
Not every circumstance that fits in one of these categories will result in expedited processing.
What You Can Expect Going Forward
It is too early to say how effective this new policy will be at reducing the backlogs. Therefore, it is important for applicants to file their applications well in advance of their anticipated employment and planned travel to avoid facing any dilemmas.
Applicants should continue to monitor their pending EAD applications closely and avoid making any travel plans while the applications are pending. We are hopeful that this new policy change will be a welcome improvement, however no estimates can be made with respect to how long it might take USCIS to issue these stand-alone employment authorization and advance parole documents going forward.
The Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick will continue to monitor these new developments and will report on any new updates right here on our blog.
Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.