In this blog post, attorney Jacob Sapochnick talks about a brand-new proposal to increase the government filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Following the announcement, on January 4, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register outlining the proposed fee schedule which seeks to increase the filing fees of certain nonimmigrant visa classifications, as well as adjustment of status (green card) applications.
The government will be accepting public comments for the proposed rule until March 6, 2023. After the comment period has closed, the agency will review the public comments and issue a final version of the rule.
TIP:If you know that you will be applying for an immigration benefit that is subject to the proposed fee increase, you should apply as soon as possible to avoid incurring the higher fee.
It’s that time of the week again. A brand-new video, addressing a very important topic. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick breaks down all the visa options available to individuals who wish to work in the United States for a short-term period of 3 to 6 months.
Did You Know? In order to work in the United States, you must apply for the required visa type that allows your temporary employment. You cannot seek employment while on a visitor visa such as a B1/B2 or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) under the Visa Waiver Program.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
First, it is important to understand that to work in the United States on a temporary basis, you must apply for the required visa. Foreign nationals cannot enter the United States as visitors with the intention to work in the United States, whether that is on a B1/B2 tourist visa or the Visa Waiver Program. If immigration suspects that you are working without authorization on a visitor visa, you may be barred from re-entering in the future.
Due to the serious consequences that can result from unauthorized employment, it is important to understand which visa types will allow you to work in the United States.
Many nonimmigrant visas allow you to work in the United States for a long duration. One such visa is the H-1B visa program for individuals who will work in a specialty occupation. If selected in the annual lottery, the H-1B visa is valid for 3 years and can be renewed one additional time for a total work period of 6 years. Thereafter H-1B visa applicants can apply for permanent residence based on employment-sponsorship.
What is Temporary Protected Status and who can qualify for the program? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides information about the Temporary Protected Status program including which countries have received a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation, how to register, and much more.
Did you know? Individuals who qualify for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are allowed to lawfully live and work in the United States without fear of deportation, during the period of their country’s TPS designation (typically this is anywhere between 6 to 18 months depending on the country). To qualify for work authorization, individuals must file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization to request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). With the EAD, applicants can lawfully work in the United States. Additionally, TPS eligible nationals may qualify for travel authorization.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
What is Temporary Protected Status
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a special program made possible by the United States Congress that allows foreign nationals of certain countries that are considered unsafe, the right to live and work in the United States temporarily. TPS does not provide a pathway to citizenship, and instead is utilized by individuals from participating countries as a humanitarian solution because they cannot safely return to their home countries.
Under the program, the Secretary of Homeland Security is authorized to designate a specific foreign country for TPS if they determine that conditions exist in that country that prevent its nationals from safely returning to their countries of origin.
The Secretary may designate a country for TPS if any of the following temporary conditions exist in the foreign country:
Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)
An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic
Other extraordinary and temporary conditions
In order to participate in the TPS program, you must:
Be a national of a country designated for TPS, or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in the designated country;
File during the open initial registration or re-registration period for your country, or meet the requirements for late initial filing during any extension of your country’s TPS designation;
Have been continuously physically present (CPP) in the United States since the effective date of the most recent designation date of your country announced by the Department of Homeland Security; and
Have been continuously residing (CR) in the United States since the date specified for your country.
Pass the necessary security and background checks.
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick teaches you how you can reschedule a biometrics appointment for fingerprints if you were unable to attend a previously scheduled appointment.
As you may know, for certain types of immigration applications filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), such as applications for a work permit on Form I-765, travel permit on Form I-131, changes of status on Form I-539, citizenship on Form N-400, green card on Form I-485, etc. a biometrics appointment is required.
Several weeks after filing the application in question, the applicant receives a biometrics appointment notice in the mail requesting that the applicant appear in-person on the day and time stated, for capture of their biometrics. Biometrics refers to the process of taking a person’s photograph, fingerprints, and signature to establish a person’s identity and perform the necessary criminal background checks required by the government. A biometrics appointment is not an interview. It is a quick 15-minute appearance where fingerprinting and taking of the applicant’s photograph takes place.
So, how can you reschedule your biometrics appointment?
In general, USCIS recommends that the applicant appear in-person on the stated day and time of the scheduled biometrics appointment. However, there are times when the applicant is unable to attend the appointment and rescheduling becomes necessary, for instance due to illness. It is important to note that if an applicant misses his or her biometrics appointment, it is their duty to reschedule in a timely matter, otherwise the applicant will risk delay and, in some circumstances, even administrative closure of their case.
USCIS no longer accepts written requests to reschedule the appointment. Instead, applicants must call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833) preferably before the date and time of the original biometrics appointment and follow the prompts to reschedule the biometrics appointment. Applicants must demonstrate that there is “good cause” for rescheduling the appointment such as illness, travel conflicts, emergencies, etc. If applicants fail to establish “good cause,” USCIS may not reschedule the biometrics appointment.
Those who can establish “good cause” will receive a telephone call from a USCIS officer with the new date, time, and location of their biometrics appointment. With the current backlog, it may take several days or several weeks to receive a callback. Those who do not receive a call back within a reasonable period of time, should call USCIS again to request a new biometrics appointment. It is the applicant’s responsibility to be diligent and make sure a new biometrics appointment is scheduled.
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 the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the USCIS backlogs and current USCIS processing times in the year 2022. You can expect information about the specific increase in processing times for I-130 family petitions, N-400 applications for citizenship, I-485 adjustment of status applications, and I-140 applications for employment based green cards.
Want to know more? Keep on watching for all the details.
The USCIS Backlogs
In this video we talk about the latest statistics with respect to USCIS backlogs and case delays impacting many of the people watching our videos. As you know, the Coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted the processing times of USCIS petitions with many service centers facing unprecedented delays. As time goes on, we expect the USCIS backlogs to continue to grow. It is estimated that the agency will take at least a year to catch up to current demand.
According to an August 2021 government accountability report, it is estimated that the number of cases pending adjudication at USCIS grew by over 81% since fiscal year 2015.
Looking at the second quarter of fiscal year 2020, USCIS had a backlog of approximately 3 million cases which swelled to 5.8 million cases by fiscal year 2021.
Essentially, the report indicates that USCIS processing delays have continued to grow since fiscal year 2017, increasing by approximately 50% in fiscal year 2021. This has happened despite only a slight 3.6% increase in cases received annually by USCIS. Over the last fiscal year alone (FY 2020 to 2021), there was about an 11% increase in USCIS processing times.
This information is crucial to understand the reasons behind the current USCIS backlogs caused partially by the COVID-19 pandemic, the inefficiencies on the part of USCIS, budgeting issues, and other contributing factors. The fact is, USCIS is facing a crisis.
So, what are the main types of applications being impacted by the backlogs?
According to the report, certain “high volume” forms filed with USCIS have been disproportionately impacted.
These include Form I-730 Refugee/Asylee petitions, that are now facing processing time increases of 20 months when compared to 12.4 months in fiscal year 2019.
Form I-485 green card applications also increased to 12.9 months when compared to 10.9 months in fiscal year 2019.
Similarly, N-400 application processing times increased to 11.5 months when compared to 10 months in fiscal year 2019.
Form I-130 petitions for alien relative increased to 10.2 months when compared to 8.6 months in fiscal year 2019.
Finally, processing times for Form I-140 immigrant petitions for alien workers increased to 8.2 months when compared to 5.8 months in fiscal year 2019.
Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with new White House initiatives expanding the post-completion Optional Practical Training program for STEM international students, as well as other government initiatives to attract entrepreneurs and highly skilled professionals to the United States seeking O-1 visas and National Interest Waivers.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching!
White House Releases Initiative Expanding STEM OPT
We are excited to share that just last week, the White House announced a series of policy changes designed to attract and retain the knowledge and training of international students working toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields in the United States. Among these new initiatives, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has announced the expansion of the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, with the addition of 22 new fields of study to the STEM Degree Program List, including economics, computer science, mathematical economics, data science, business and financial analytics.
Currently, the F-1 STEM optional practical training (OPT) extension program grants F-1 students with a qualifying STEM degree, the ability to work in the United States with OPT work authorization for a period of up to 36 months. This expansion of the program will now increase the pool of candidates eligible to receive employment authorization.
Some of the newly added fields of study include: Bioenergy; Forestry, General; Forest Resources Production and Management; Human Centered Technology Design; Cloud Computing; Anthrozoology; Climate Science; Earth Systems Science; Economics and Computer Science; Environmental Geosciences; Geobiology; Geography and Environmental Studies; Mathematical Economics; Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science; Data Science, General; Data Analytics, General; Business Analytics; Data Visualization; Financial Analytics; Data Analytics, Other; Industrial and Organizational Psychology; Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods. To view a complete list of qualifying fields, please click here to view the Federal Register notice. Continue reading
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the latest in immigration reform. Over the past few months, Democrats have been scrambling to pass immigration reform through a series of social spending proposals included in President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, a piece of legislation that would shield Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and essential workers from deportation.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
For a third time the Democrats have tried and failed to introduce comprehensive immigration reform proposals in the reconciliation bill known as H.R. 5376 “the Build Back Better Act.”
On December 16, 2021, the Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, rejected the most recent proposal by Democrats in Congress to introduce important protections for undocumented immigrants including Dreamers, TPS visa holders, farm workers, and essential workers. H.R. 5376 also included provisions that would extend work permits, provide temporary relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before January 2011, and other provisions that would exempt certain employment-based and family-based immigrants from the numerical limitations prescribed by the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The Senate Parliamentarian quickly shot down the new proposals, stating that Congressional Democrats could not include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in a social spending bill. Further, MacDonough indicated that if passed, the proposal would create a new class of about 6.5 million eligible individuals for permanent residency which was already prohibited in the previous two rejected proposals. She added that the most recent proposal by Democrats was deficient in the same way as the previous proposals stating, “there are substantial policy changes with lasting effects just like those we previously considered and outweigh the budgetary impact.”
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.
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.
Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a very exciting new update for E, L, and H-4 dependent spouses. USCIS has issued a new policy memorandum stating that the agency will automatically allow employment authorization for dependent E, L, and certain H-4 spouses of principal visa holders, without requiring spouses to file I-765 application for employment authorization to be eligible to work in the United States.
Keep on watching to find out more!
USCIS has now changed its policy to allow dependent E, L, and certain H-4 spouses to automatically qualify for employment authorization. The change came about after settlement of a lawsuit known as Shergill v. Mayorkas, No. 21-1296 (W.D. Wash.) filed against the government.
Pursuant to the settlement agreement reached with USCIS, E, L, and certain H-4 spouses will be eligible to work just by having their valid visas, and they will not need to file any separate applications nor need to apply for a separate employment authorization card (work permit) to seek employment in the United States.
Previously, USCIS required spouses of E, L, and H principal visa holders to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) to lawfully work in the United States. Spouses were not granted employment authorization simply by having a valid visa in E, L, or H visa classification and were required to pay an additional filing fee of $410 to file the I-765 application for work authorization and wait for its approval.
Following the onset of the pandemic, USCIS began experiencing extreme delays and could no longer process I-765 applications for employment authorization in a timely fashion, taking in some cases 14 months or longer to issue EAD documents. Sadly, this resulted in job losses for many dependent spouses who were stuck waiting many many months to receive their EAD document to prove to their employers their eligibility to work in the United States.