Have you ever wondered how you can work in the United States as the founder of your very own startup? If so, you may be interested in learning more about the O-1A visa. In this video attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the criteria for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in business and are seeking to open a venture-backed startup in the United States.

Did you know? An approved O-1A visa applicant can remain in the United States for an initial period of 3 years working for the petitioning entity and bring their family members to live with them in the United States. The O-1A visa also opens a pathway for applicants to apply for permanent residency by filing for the EB-1A employment-based immigrant visa category.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


What is the O-1A visa?


First let’s discuss the O-1A nonimmigrant visa. The O-1A visa is designed for individuals who possess extraordinary abilities in the field of business, science, education, or athletics, and who can meet a specified set of criteria that must be demonstrated in the application package to ensure the applicant’s success.

Those who successfully attain the O-1A visa can live and work in the United States for an initial 3-year period, and pitch ideas to venture capitalists interested in supporting their company.


How can you demonstrate extraordinary ability in business?


To demonstrate extraordinary ability, applicants must be prepared to show evidence of a major internationally recognized award (such as a Nobel Peace Prize), or if the applicant does not have such an award, they must meet at least three of the following criteria which we discuss in turn below:

  1. AWARDS—Documentation of the beneficiary’s receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor

The first criterion is providing documentation showing that you have received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence.

How does this translate to the startup world? There are several ways that one can qualify for this criteria as a startup founder. For instance, if you have received a grant from the government recognizing your proposed endeavor as one that is exceptional, you may be able to use the grant as evidence to meet this criteria. Alternatively, if you were a participant in a prestigious or distinguished event or competition, and you were one of the winners or finalists in the competition, you may also use documentary evidence of your participation to meet this criteria.

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It’s that time of the month again, the July Visa Bulletin is here. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the movement you can expect to see for employment based and family sponsored preference categories in the month of July. Also covered are the trends and projections as we move forward the next few months.

Did you know? Every month the Department of State releases the Visa Bulletin, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.

The primary purpose of this bulletin is to provide an updated waiting list for immigrants that are subject to the numerical visa quota system.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Charts for the July Visa Bulletin (for those residing in the USA)


Every month, the US Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates the appropriate filing chart that must be used by applicants residing inside the United States, who wish to apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence. This information can be found on the USCIS webpage. In general, if there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will indicate that AOS applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart.

Otherwise, applicants will be asked to use the Final Action Dates chart.

If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.

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Do you have a case currently pending review at the National Visa Center? In this video, we discuss the growing backlogs at the National Visa Center and explain the reason it is taking so long for the NVC to process immigrant visa cases and prepare them for a visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.

Did you know? Every month the National Visa Center releases their Immigrant Visa Backlog Report, which provides important information including the number of immigrant visa applicants being scheduled for interview appointments, the number of applicants whose cases are documentarily complete and ready for interviews, and the number of eligible applicants still pending the scheduling of an interview.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


First, let’s discuss: What is the National Visa Center?

Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved your immigrant visa petition, USCIS will forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where your application will undergo immigrant visa pre-processing once your priority date has become current according to the Visa Bulletin.

Essentially, the National Visa Center serves as an intermediary between USCIS, where the immigrant visa petition was first approved, and the U.S. Consulate, where the foreign national will eventually undergo their immigrant visa interview.

Once your case is received by the National Visa Center (if your priority date is current and a visa number is available) you will be instructed to submit the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application, submit civil documents in support of your immigrant visa application, and pay the necessary visa fees. Once you have completed this process, your case will be considered “documentarily complete,” and your application will be placed in line for interview scheduling, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest your place of residence.


What are the current visa backlogs at the NVC?


As our readers will know, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on the processing of cases at the NVC and Consular level. The majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates continue to operate on a limited basis, due to local country conditions and restrictions, local and national lockdowns, travel restrictions, local regulations, and measures taken by Consular posts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This has caused challenges to interview scheduling, given that the volume of interviews that can be scheduled has been drastically decreased, to prevent the spread of the virus, and ensure public health and safety for applicants and Consular officers.

While Embassies and Consular posts have tried to return processing to pre-pandemic levels, they simply have been confronted with an overwhelming demand of cases waiting to be scheduled for in-person visa interviews.

Due to the operational crisis at Embassies and Consulates worldwide, the National Visa Center has been unable to forward immigrant visa cases to posts overseas, because posts have not had the capacity to accommodate all those waiting for an interview.

The data shows that things have not gotten better. In fact, they have gotten worse.

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In this video attorney Jacob Sapochnick addresses a somber but important topic: What happens when a U.S. Citizen dies, can a LPR spouse still apply for naturalization after 3 years?

To know more about this topic, just keep on watching.


Overview


Applying for Naturalization After the Death of an Immediate Relative

In this post we answer one of your frequently asked questions:

Q: I became a green card holder through my husband, who was born in the U.S. and was a U.S. citizen. Sadly, my husband died last year. I would like to apply to become a U.S. citizen as soon as possible. Can I still apply for naturalization after 3 years of having my green card?

A: This question comes up more often than we would like to admit.

As you may know as a general rule, a legal permanent resident (LPR) is eligible to apply for naturalization after being a green card holder for at least 5 years.

However, there is an exception to the rule. Spouses of U.S. Citizens are eligible to apply for naturalization after 3 years of being a permanent resident, so long as they are still married and living in the same household as their U.S. Citizen spouse. Couples that are no longer living together (such as where a separation occurs) do not qualify for the 3-year exception.

But what happens when the spouse dies?

This situation recently happened to one of our clients. She was able to prove that she was living with her U.S. Citizen spouse up until the time of his death and wanted to know if she could still take advantage of the 3-year rule to apply for naturalization.

Sadly, under section 319(a) of the INA, “A person is ineligible for naturalization as the spouse of a United States citizen, if, before or after the filing of the application, the marital union ceases to exist due to death or divorce….”

That means that where a marital union ended due to the U.S. Citizen spouse’s death, the legal permanent resident cannot take advantage of the 3-year rule and must wait to reach their five-year anniversary as a legal permanent resident (LPR) before they can apply for naturalization. It is permissible to file your application 90 days before reaching your fifth anniversary as a permanent resident.

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Are you a green card applicant filing Form I-485 Adjustment of Status? Have you ever wondered when you should complete your medical examination? If so, this is the right video for you. This has been a point of contention for many years. Many applicants have been left wondering, is it better to file the medical exam with the adjustment of status application, or should the medical exam be brought to the interview? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick tells you all you need to know about this important topic.

Did you know? Due to COVID-19 related processing delays, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services extended the validity period of Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination, from 2 years to now 4 years for those who meet certain requirements. As of August 12, 2021, USCIS will consider a Form I-693 valid if: (1) the civil surgeon’s signature is dated no more than 60 days before the applicant files Form I-693 (2) no more than four years have passed since the date of the civil surgeon’s signature; and (3) a decision on the applicant’s Form I-485 is issued on or before September 30, 2021. Otherwise, the medical exam is valid for 2 years.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


The green card medical examination is a fundamental step in the immigration process for all applicants seeking permanent residency in the United States. The medical exam, must be completed by a U.S. civil surgeon, meaning a doctor who is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to perform medical examinations for green card applicants. Not all physicians will be eligible to complete the medical exam. You can find an authorized doctor by visiting the USCIS webpage here.


During your exam


The medical examination consists of a review of your medical history and a physical examination. As part of the exam, the doctor will test for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, and gonorrhea, test for drugs and alcohol, and other diseases and illnesses.

Once the exam is complete, the doctor will sign and complete the Form I-693 and seal the form in an envelope for you to submit to USCIS. You must ensure that the doctor provides you a sealed envelope containing their report. The envelope cannot be opened or altered.


What is the purpose of the medical exam?


The medical examination is required for any applicant filing for adjustment of status to establish that the applicant is not inadmissible to the United States on public health-related grounds. This means that applicants must be screened to ensure that they do not have any health conditions that could make them ineligible for the green card. Failure to provide an adequate medical examination could result in processing delays, and in some cases a denial of the green card application.

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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.


Overview


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.

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Want to know how to change your address with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick walks you through the process with a step-by-step guide and answers some of your frequently asked questions.

Did you know? By law, most temporary U.S. visa holders and even lawful permanent residents are required to inform USCIS every time they change their residential address. The address change notification must be sent to USCIS within 10 days of moving.

Failing to notify USCIS of an address change can have serious consequences, including making a foreign national subject to deportation. In addition, it could lead to non-delivery of very important correspondence from USCIS such as delivery of a green card, requests for evidence, and/or denial notices associated with a pending application or petition.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


home-gbb57f5a14_1920While you are going through your immigration process with USCIS, there may come a time where you must move to a new residence. Whether it’s moving to a different city or state, you are required to notify USCIS of your move within 10 days by filing a change of address form on the USCIS webpage or by mail.

It is very important to file your change of address for two reasons. First, by failing to change your address you might miss out on receiving critical correspondence from USCIS such as Notices of Action on your case, requests for additional evidence needed from you (RFEs), interview appointment notices, biometrics appointment notices, notices of intent to deny, and such related documents. Many of these notices are subject to time limits, requiring applicants to respond or appear by specific dates. Failure to respond by the stated deadline on a notice, or failure appear for an appointment could not only result in the closure and denial of your case, but also potential removal from the United States.

Secondly, you must change your address with USCIS because it is the law. As stated, under the law, you are required to notify USCIS every time that you move. In fact, failure to notify USCIS of a change of address can be a misdemeanor offense, could lead to fines, jail time, and in some instances even deportation for those who have never ever reported an address change.

The reality is that often times people are not penalized for failing to report a change of address with USCIS, because the vast majority of people who go through the immigration process do in fact submit a change of address online.


What if I am a green card holder, do I need to notify USCIS of my change of address?


Absolutely. Even legal permanent residents (LPRs) must notify USCIS every time that they move within 10 days of the move. The rules are the same regardless of whether you are a conditional permanent resident (2-year green card holder) or legal permanent resident (10-year green card holder). It does not matter that you do not have a pending case with immigration. You must still notify USCIS every time that you move.

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What’s happening with the status of green card processing with USCIS? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick, discusses an exciting new update for green card applicants recently handed down by the Presidential Advisory Commission.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Things are looking up in the world of immigration. We have recently learned that a U.S. Presidential Advisory Commission has voted to reduce the processing time of green card applications to a period of 6 months. The Advisory Commission has recommended these recommendations be enacted by President Biden, to provide relief to applicants waiting in the enormous backlogs to attain permanent resident status.


What is this all about?


The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (PACAANHPI) has recommended that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) establish a new internal cycle time goal by eliminating inefficiencies such as redundancies, facilitating automation of approvals, and improving internal systems. The Advisory Commission hopes that the new cycle time for processing forms will drastically reduce green card processing times to just 6 months for all forms related to all green card applications, family-based green card applications and DACA renewals. The Commission has also recommended for the National Visa Center (NVC) to hire additional officers to support additional capabilities to schedule immigrant visa (IV) interviews.

The objective is to increase processing capacity by 100% by August 2022 and reach 150% capacity by April of 2023.

Once the National Visa Center is able to catch up with pent up demand, U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide should also increase capacity by hiring more officers and become more efficient to meet the 6-month time cycle proposed by the Presidential Advisory Commission.

If this recommendation is adopted, it will speed up the processing of thousands of green card applications currently stuck in the backlogs and result in faster approvals.

The Advisory Commission reviewed I-485 green card applications pending in the United States and requested USCIS to try to process associated I-765 work permits and I-131 travel permits also within 90 days.

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Have you ever wondered whether you can obtain a green card once you have overstayed your visa? In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick, answers precisely this question, along with related topics that might interest you. For instance, what should a person do once they have overstayed? What are the options to cure an overstay to obtain lawful status in the United States?

To understand more about this complicated topic, please keep on watching.


Overview


In most cases, a foreign national will come to the United States lawfully, meaning that they arrived on a valid visa type such as a student, visitor, or work visa and were inspected and admitted to the United States. Unfortunately, in some situations individuals fall out of status and overstay their period of authorized stay. Whether it is because they lost their job, failed to attend school, or could not leave the United States in time before the expiration of their I-94 arrival/departure record, there are many situations that can cause an overstay to happen.

By contrast, some individuals enter the United States unlawfully, meaning that they entered the United States without being inspected and without a valid visa. The issue of whether the foreign national entered lawfully or unlawfully is crucial when it comes to the options that may be available once an overstay has occurred.


How do I know if I overstayed my U.S. visa?


First, let’s discuss the threshold question of how one can know whether they have overstayed their visa.

This may seem like a complicated question, but in fact is very easy to resolve. A person overstays their visa if they have remained in the United States past the authorized period of stay stamped in their passport. When a person is admitted to the United States, they receive a stamp issued by a Customs and Border Protection official which provides the exact date when the individual’s period of stay expires, and consequently when they must leave the United States.

In addition to the passport stamp, foreign nationals can retrieve their I-94 arrival/departure record on the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website which includes their most recent date of entry, and the date their period of authorized stay expires. The date of expiration is the date at which the foreign national must depart the United States. Failure to depart by the date indicated means that the applicant has overstayed their period of authorized stay.

In some cases, the I-94 stamp, or I-94 record will include the notation “D/S” most commonly for individuals on student visas. This notation means that the applicant is expected to leave the United States, when their program of study has ended. The end date of the program of study can be found on the Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Students should contact their Designated School Official for this information.

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Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses what you can expect after filing Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, used by U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) to lawfully immigrate a qualifying relative to the United States, and how long it is taking for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process these applications.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


The first step of the process to immigrate a foreign national involves the filing of Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This application forms the basis of the foreign national’s eligibility to apply for a green card, based upon what is known as a qualifying family relationship. Not all family members may qualify.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you may file Form I-130 only for your eligible relatives. This includes your spouse, your children, your siblings, and your parents. If you are a permanent resident, you can petition for your spouse and any child under the age of 21.


What happens after filing Form I-130?


Once you have filed Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative either by mail or online, you will receive a receipt notice in the mail known as Form I-797C Notice of Action. This notice will serve as proof that your application was received and properly filed with USCIS. The Notice will also include your Form I-130 receipt number where you can track the progress of your case online, and the date the case was received by USCIS also known as the priority date.

If you have filed Form I-130 by mail, you will receive the Notice of Action approximately 1-2 weeks after mailing the application. If you filed Form I-130 online, the Notice of Action will appear in your USCIS online account portal approximately 1 week after submission.

If you fail to include the correct filing fees with your application or your application is deficient in any other way, your case may be rejected and sent back to you. In such case, you would not receive a Notice of Action, and instead would receive a rejection notice along with your package being returned to you. Therefore, it is very important for applicants to review the Form I-130 instructions very carefully and provide all necessary fees and documentation with the filing. Failure to do so can result in the rejection of your case. If your case has been rejected, you are allowed to re-file your application with USCIS having corrected the mistake.

Thereafter, if any additional documentation is missing from your application, or if USCIS needs further information to process your Form I-130, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) outlining the documentation and/or information they need from you to continue processing your case. Requests for Evidence (RFE) are sent by mail and include the deadline for responding to the Request for Evidence in the Notice. When an RFE is issued, the case is halted until you respond to the request. For this reason, it is important to respond in a timely manner and no later than the deadline indicated in the notice. Remember, the longer you delay in responding to an RFE, the more time it will take for your case to be adjudicated.

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