Articles Posted in Visa Backlogs

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick tells you everything you need to know about the new Congressional reconciliation bill known as H.R. 5376 “the Build Back Better Act.” How might this piece of legislation impact you in your immigration journey? Want to know what you can expect in terms of potential upcoming changes in the law?

Keep on watching to find out more!


Overview


The Biden administration has released a new bill, the Build Back Better Act, that includes a new immigration framework that if passed would positively benefit employment-based green card applicants. The bill also sets aside $100 billion dollars for immigration purposes to reduce the immigrant visa backlogs and to recapture unused immigrant visas.


New Framework for Immigration Reform


Over the past few months, Congressional Democrats have been working on passing comprehensive immigration reform to modernize the current immigration system and open a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” and other groups of individuals including highly skilled immigrants. The Democrats have presented several immigration reform proposals to the Senate Parliamentarian to increase the chances of passing immigration reform without having to receive majority support from the Republican party. Passing reform through a reconciliation bill has been the most effective means of bringing about much needed changes because of opposition for reform in our current immigration climate.

The proposals in this new bill are interestingly much different from other proposals we have seen so far from Democrats. If passed, the bill would prioritize recapturing immigrant visas in family and employment-based categories for immigrant visa numbers that went unused between Fiscal year 1992 and fiscal year 2021. Such a provision would have the potential of adding more than 220,000 employment-based green cards to the current pool of immigrant visas currently available according to researchers. This would be a groundbreaking new policy because it would have the potential to drastically reduce the current visa backlogs, in both the family and employment-based categories. In some family-based categories, applicants must wait over 20 years for their priority date to become current and a visa to become available. Recapturing new visa numbers and putting them back into the system will be very advantageous for those waiting for a visa.

While the final outcome of this proposal is still uncertain, it is a good preview of what is to come and of its potential for approval in the House and the Senate.

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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 November Visa Bulletin and what you can expect in terms of movement or retrogression in the employment based and family sponsored preference categories.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


What’s happening in the family-sponsored categories?

Due to the ongoing pandemic and unprecedented backlogs at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, with the exception of the F2A category which remains current, there has been no movement in the worldwide family-sponsored preference categories. Charles Oppenheim, the Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, has said that he does not expect any movement whatsoever in the family sponsored worldwide dates before January and possibly even longer.

Consular posts and Embassies are doing their best to normalize operating capacity, however the majority of posts continue to work on a limited basis according to a four-tier prioritization schedule. Delays in visa processing continue to be expected for the foreseeable future based on the extraordinary demand for interview appointments and the lack of resources at Consular posts overseas to accommodate interviews for all applicants.

With respect to the F2A category, spouses and children of permanent residents lawfully residing in the United States can proceed with filing their adjustment of status applications with USCIS given that the F2A category remains current.

What’s happening in the employment-based categories?

According to the Department of State’s November 2021 Visa Bulletin, the following final cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

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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 new update from the Department of State that was recently provided to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Liaison Committee regarding the movement of family sponsored categories on the Visa Bulletin. This information was not previously shared on the “Chats with Charlie,” monthly broadcast with Charlie Oppenheim, the Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division at the Department of State. Additionally, we share new updates regarding employment-based sponsorship, the current retrogressions in the EB-3 category, as well as Diversity Visa lottery updates following recent developments in the judicial system.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching!


Overview


What’s the latest news with respect to immigrant visa numbers?

U.S. immigration laws limit the number of immigrants that can be admitted to the United States each year. The annual numerical immigrant visa limits are based on complex formulas and are subdivided among several preference categories and country “caps.” To illustrate, the annual limit for family-sponsored petitions is 480,000, which includes visas for immediate relatives, while 140,000 visas are allocated for employment-based immigrants. Unused family preference visas from the preceding years are added to employment-based visa numbers to maximize number use.

We have learned that employment-based visa numbers for fiscal year 2022 are expected to be 290,000 – an all-time high. As of today, the pending demand experienced by both the State Department and USCIS in the employment third preference category, for applicants born in India and China, will already exceed the amount of numbers that are available to applicants from those countries throughout fiscal year 2022 in the third preference category. In comparison, in fiscal year 2021, only 9,000 employment-based visas in the third preference category went unused. In fiscal year 2022, there may be close to 85,000 unused employment-based immigrant visas.

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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 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 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 discusses the August 2021 Visa Bulletin and goes over Charlie Oppenheim’s predictions for movement and retrogression in the family based and employment sponsored categories for August and September 2021.

Keep on watching to find out more!


Overview


What is the Visa Bulletin?


Every month, the Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin which contains important information regarding immigrant visa availability for family based and employment sponsored preference categories. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available for issuance to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date and preference category.

Essentially, the Visa Bulletin governs the availability of visas and outlines limitations. By statute, the government imposes an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000 immigrant visas (visa quota).  The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000 immigrant visas.


In what order are visas issued?


Family-sponsored and employment-based preference immigrant visas are issued to eligible immigrants in the order in which a petition on behalf of each has been filed (priority date).

Spouses and children of preference immigrants are entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration, if accompanying or following to join the principal.

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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 National Visa Center (NVC) immigrant visa backlog and current NVC processing times in the month of June. Stay tuned for updates on the Department of State’s plan to reopen Embassies and Consulates worldwide, and information on how Consular posts will be prioritizing visa issuance in the next few months for F-1 students, H-1B workers, H-4 spouses, and J-1 Workers.

Want to know more? Keep on watching for all the details.


Overview


The National Visa Center’s Backlog

As many of you know, last year the Department of State made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consular posts worldwide to prevent the rapid spread of the Coronavirus. The suspension was necessary to adhere to local regulations such as the mandatory quarantines and social distancing required to contain the virus. Although Embassies and Consulates are now following a phased resumption of visa services framework, limited resources and local country conditions in some regions have prevented Consular posts from providing routine visa services as before. Most Consular sections are not operating at normal capacity, and are prioritizing visa appointments for emergencies, mission critical visa services, and immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens including K fiancé(e)s.

On February 2, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” which was designed to promote integration and inclusion for foreign born immigrants, including the dismantling of harmful anti-immigrant policies.

Despite the issuance of this Executive Order, Embassies and Consulates have not been able to return to normalcy and routine visa services have remained suspended. Consular officials are still refusing to issue visas for individuals that remain in the lower tier of immigrant visa prioritization, including family preference, employment preference, and diversity immigrant visa applicants. This has prompted hundreds of individuals to join numerous class action lawsuits to force the government to intervene.

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