Articles Posted in Top Immigration Stories

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick walks you through the top 5 most common mistakes and misconceptions made by EB-2 National Interest Waiver applicants and how you can avoid them.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


First, let’s discuss, what exactly is the National Interest Waiver?

The National Interest Waiver is part of the employment-based, second preference visa category for individuals who can demonstrate that they hold either an advanced degree or have exceptional ability in their proposed field or endeavor. Essentially, a National Interest Waiver allows an applicant to seek an exemption from the labor certification process, and bypass the job offer requirement typically required for individuals seeking an employment-based green card.  National Interest Waivers are granted to those who can demonstrate that their employment in the United States would greatly benefit the nation. The main advantage of the National Interest Waiver is that applicants can self-petition and do not need an employer to sponsor them. This is enormously beneficial when considering that the labor certification and recruitment process on its own can take a considerable amount of time to complete.

Furthermore, the 2016 ruling in Matter of Dhanasar introduced a brand-new framework for adjudicating National Interest Waiver petitions which broadened the pool of eligible applicants who could receive a National Interest Waiver.  Under the new standard, an NIW may be approved if it can be proved that (1) the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; (2) the foreign national is well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and (3) on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification. The Dhanasar court clarified that to meet the third prong, the applicant must show that in light of the nature of the foreign national’s qualifications or proposed endeavor, it would be impractical either for the foreign national to secure a job offer or for the petitioner to obtain a labor certification.

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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 Biden administration’s recent plan to rescind the COVID-19 travel bans by November of this year.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Since January 2020, at least 6 different travel bans have been enacted by Presidential Proclamation to prevent the rapid spread of Coronavirus infections in the United States. These travel bans have temporarily suspended the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who have been physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period prior to their entry or attempted entry into the United States.


The COVID-19 travel bans


  • China Visa Ban – Proclamation 9984 issued January 21, 2020 – No termination date
  • Iran Visa Ban –Proclamation 9992 issued February 29, 2020 –No termination date
  • European Schengen Area Visa Ban—Proclamation 9993 issued March 11, 2020—No termination date
    • Applies to immigrants and nonimmigrants from 26 European countries including: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
  • Ireland and UK Visa Ban –Proclamation 9996 issued March 14, 2020 –No termination date
  • South Africa Visa Ban—Proclamation 10143 issued January 25, 2021
  • India Visa Ban –Proclamation 10199 issued April 30, 2021—No termination date
  • Brazil Visa Ban—Proclamation 10041 issued May 25, 2020 –No termination date

For a complete list and description of the travel bans 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 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 shares a recent update from USCIS regarding a new policy that will extend evidence of status for green card holders who are applying to remove the conditions on their green card with the filing of either Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. Jacob also provides some cautionary information for conditional permanent residents who have divorced and are returning to the U.S. after temporary foreign travel, as well as added scrutiny for those applying for naturalization who initially gained their green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


2 Year Extension of Status for Conditional Permanent Residents with Pending Form I-751 or Form I-829

USCIS has recently shared important information for conditional permanent residents who have been issued a two-year green card by USCIS and are now seeking to remove the conditions on their residence. Starting September 4, 2021, USCIS is extending the time that receipt notices can be used to show evidence of lawful status from 18 months to 24 months for those who have properly filed Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence or Form I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.

Previously, after filing Form I-751 or Form I-829, USCIS was issuing receipt notices which included an automatic 18-month extension of lawful status, allowing applicants to lawfully remain in the United States 18-months past the expiration of their green cards while their applications were under review with the agency. These extensions were issued for 18-months because that was the estimated processing time for removal of conditions applications prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

USCIS will now be issuing 24-month extensions to reflect the current processing times more accurately for these applications, which has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the most up to date information about the current status of U.S. visa services at Consulates and Embassies worldwide. In this post we cover U.S. Embassies and Consular posts that we have not yet touched on and provide an analysis of their operating capacity during the worldwide COVID-19 health crisis. Want to know which Embassies and Consulates are scheduling visa interviews?

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


As a preliminary matter, it is important to consider that the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas continue to have very limited operational capacity due to constraints relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some posts have temporarily suspended all routine visa services and have not provided an estimated time frame as to when they will resume at least partial visa services and appointments. The bulk of Consular posts have entered a phased resumption of visa services and are providing visa services as their resources and local country conditions will allow. The health and safety of employees and the public remains a top concern. Emergency and mission critical visa services continue to be prioritized for those facing life and death emergencies, age-out cases where the applicant will no longer qualify due to their age, immediate relative intercountry adoption, and other special cases. Furthermore, expedite requests and National Interest exceptions continue to be considered by Consular posts and Embassies including for health care professionals working to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


How are Consular posts and Embassies prioritizing appointments?


The Department of State announced that Consular missions and Embassies are following a four-tier system of prioritization to triage documentarily qualified immigrant visa applications based on the category of immigrant visa as they resume and expand processing. Consular sections are scheduling some appointments within all four priority tiers every month where possible, however the following are the main categories of immigrant visas in priority order:

  • Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government), and emergency cases as determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Tier Two:  Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
  • Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
  • Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas*

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides his latest immigration update on the operational status of U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas processing immigrant visa applications.

Want to know what you can expect regarding the COVID-19 related visa backlogs? Just keep on watching for more information.


Overview


The Department of State guidelines on the processing of immigrant visas during the COVID-19 health crisis remains a great obstacle for family reunification. The agency has said that while it is prioritizing the scheduling of immediate relative visas, fiancé(e) visas, and returning resident visa interviews, local country conditions continue to pose challenges. Social distancing protocols, restrictions on movement, and gathering  imposed by host country governments has limited the ability of Consulates and Embassies to schedule sufficient visa appointments to meet the ongoing demand. Separately, the Biden administration has continued to enforce the geographic COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamations that prevent foreign nationals physically residing in the Schengen countries, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, India, and China from entering unless they have applied for and received a National Interest Exception.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides an overview of the State Department’s September 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State. In this monthly YouTube broadcast, Mr. Charles Oppenheim answers many of the public’s questions regarding the upcoming Visa Bulletin and discusses what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of the family sponsored and employment-based preference categories in the coming months.

Want to know more about the highlights of the Q&A session? Just keep on watching!


Overview


In this blog post, we summarize some of the most interesting questions that were asked during this live Q&A session with Charlie Oppenheim, including frequently asked questions regarding unused employment-based visa numbers for fiscal year 2021 and the future of family-sponsored categories in the coming months.

Q: Are you concerned with the anticipated large amount of unused fiscal year 2021 employment-based numbers which you mentioned last month?

Charlie Oppenheim responded during the live session that the State Department is very concerned about the potential for unused employment-based numbers under the fiscal year 2021 annual limits. According to Oppenheim, this concern was one of the reasons he made the China and India employment first preference categories current back in April and engaged in very aggressive forward movement of the final action dates since that time to prevent the loss of visa numbers in the employment-based categories. Furthermore, Mr. Oppenheim pointed out that both the State and USCIS offices are doing everything in their power to maximize number use before the end of FY 2021 to avoid drastic losses.

Based on recent discussions with USCIS, Charlie Oppenheim said that the agency is on track to approve more adjustment of status applications than at any time since fiscal year 2005. He also reminded listeners to keep in mind that since March of 2020, both the State Department and USCIS offices, have been dealing with a variety of COVID-19 issues which have had a tremendous negative impact on operational status, staffing, and ability to process large amounts of immigrant visa cases. According to Mr. Oppenheim, overseas posts only began returning to some sense of normal processing in April of 2021.

Q: When I look at the chart listing the final action dates, how do I know if my case is eligible to be scheduled for an interview at the overseas post responsible for processing my case?

This is a very common question that our law office is frequently asked as well. Charlie Oppenheim pointed out that applicants must first ensure that they have submitted all the required civil documents to the National Visa Center to become “documentarily qualified,” meaning that all necessary documents and fees have been submitted to proceed with interview scheduling. Submission of all necessary documents would also need to be done in time for the case to be reported to the Visa Office as documentarily completed by the first of each month. In this case, if you are documentarily qualified and your priority date is earlier than the applicable final action date listed in the Visa Bulletin, then you would be eligible to be scheduled for an appointment for final action on your case. However, even while waiting in line to be scheduled for a visa interview after being “documentarily qualified,” applicants must still take into consideration overseas post processing capacity issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of posts overseas continue to have limited operational capacity; therefore, applicants should expect delays to be scheduled for a visa interview. Overseas posts must first notify the National Visa Center that they have an available slot for an interview before the National Visa Center can forward the case to the post overseas.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares information about the current status of U.S. visa services at Consulates and Embassies worldwide by country for the month of August 2021. We would also like to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Afghanistan who are facing extremely difficult circumstances in their country. Our office represents several immigrant visa applicants in Afghanistan and are doing everything we can to help reunite visa applicants with their loved ones in the United States.

In this blog post we will run through what we know regarding the operating status of Consulates and Embassies all over the world starting with Kabul, Afghanistan.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


U.S. Consulate Kabul, Afghanistan

Due to ongoing political unrest and security threats in Kabul, Afghanistan, the U.S. Consulate in Kabul, Afghanistan is closed to the public and operations to assist U.S. Citizens are extremely limited due to reduced staffing.

At this moment we have received information that all immigrant visa applicants who had visa interview appointments at the Consulate in Kabul or were waiting to be scheduled for an interview in Kabul, will be receiving an email with instructions on how your case will proceed. Your case may be moved to a different overseas post, or you may receive instructions to complete the repatriation assistance form (details below).

As we all know, the security situation in Kabul is evolving on a daily basis. The Consulate has advised U.S. citizens seeking assistance to depart the country to complete the Repatriation Assistance Request for each traveler in their group. Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas are encouraged to complete this form as soon as possible if they wish to depart. The Repatriation Request form should only be used once to avoid delays. You must complete this form even if you’ve previously submitted your information to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by another means. This form is the only way to communicate interest in flight options. The Consulate will notify you directly by email based on your registration as soon as departure options become available.

Eligibility Requirements:

  1. U.S. Citizenship:  The U.S. Embassy will prioritize U.S. citizens for any charter flights.   U.S. citizens with a non-citizen spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may include their family members in their repatriation assistance requests but should indicate each family member’s citizenship and whether each has a valid passport and/or a U.S. visa.

If you are a non-U.S. citizen parent of a U.S. citizen minor, indicate whether you have appropriate travel documentation to enter the United States (i.e. valid U.S. visa). If you do not have appropriate travel documentation, please identify an individual who currently has valid travel documentation who could accompany your U.S. citizen minor.

U.S. lawful permanent residents may submit a repatriation assistance request, and their request will be considered depending on availability.

  1. Flight Costs: Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid.  The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person.
  2. Travel Documents:  All passengers should have valid travel documents required for entry into the United States (e.g. U.S. passports or visas)

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares his immigration tips for resolving issues with cases that are currently pending at Consular posts overseas, and shares what you can expect if your case is placed in administrative processing following your interview.

Want to know how you can contact your Consular post and what to say?

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


Do you have an immigration case that is stuck in the backlogs caused by COVID-19? In this video we share with you how you can contact your Consular post when you have a problem with your case, and what you should expect when you have been placed in administrative processing. We hope that these tips will help you gain more insight to help you understand what you can do during these difficult processing delays. If you would like further assistance with the processing of your case, or if you have any other immigration questions, do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation by texting 619-483-4549 or calling 619-819-9204. We look forward to working with you. 


Contacting your Consular post 


If your case is sitting at a U.S. Embassy or Consular post overseas, or if is about to be shipped to a Consular post overseas by the National Visa Center (NVC), you should first contact your Consular post directly to confirm whether your case has been received and the status of appointment scheduling for your particular visa type. Most Consular posts have dedicated staff who are responsible for managing and answering inquiries made by e-mail. It is important to note however that response times vary widely due to the overwhelming number of inquiries that are being made by e-mail on a day-to-day basis. It is very important to have patience throughout this process and be proactive about your case.

You should only contact the Consular post directly if your case has been received by the post directly from the NVC or if it is in the process of being transferred. If your case is still at the NVC, the Consulate will not be able to help you.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares his top 5 tips for making a smooth transition from F-1 student visa to H-1B worker visa.

Keep on watching to find out more!


Top Tips: How to Transition From F-1 Student to H-1B Worker


This post is dedicated to F-1 students who are graduating from U.S. universities and are ready to become part of the American workforce.

Many F-1 visa students are fortunate enough to secure a job in the United States and H-1B visa sponsorship from a U.S. employer. If that sounds like you, this video will help you navigate the process and explain how you can make a smooth transition from F-1 student to H-1B worker in a specialty occupation.

What does this process look like and how can you make the transition?

USCIS statistics have proven that many beneficiaries of cap-subject H-1B visa petitions are actually F-1 students currently inside the United States. One of the most important factors in making a smooth transition from F-1 student to H-1B worker is to ensure that you are properly maintaining your F-1 visa status while studying in the United States.

How to Properly Maintain Your F-1 Student Visa Status

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