Immigration News

November Visa Bulletin is here!

Visa Bulletin For November 2015

Number 86
Volume IX
Washington, D.C

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A. STATUTORY NUMBERS

This bulletin summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers duringNovember for: “Application Final Action Dates” (consistent with prior Visa Bulletins) and “Dates for Filing Applications,” indicating when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit required documentation to the National Visa Center.

Unless otherwise indicated on the USCIS website atwww.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo, individuals seeking to file applications for adjustment of status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security must use the “Application Final Action Dates” charts below for determining when they can file such applications. When USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will state on its website that applicants may instead use the “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” charts in this Bulletin. Applicants for adjustment of status may refer to USCIS for additional information by visitingwww.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo.

1.  Procedures for determining dates. Consular officers are required to report to the Department of State documentarily qualified applicants for numerically limited visas; USCIS reports applicants for adjustment of status. Allocations in the charts below were made, to the extent possible, in chronological order of reported priority dates, for demand received by October 9th. If not all demand could be satisfied, the category or foreign state in which demand was excessive was deemed oversubscribed. The cut-off date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who could not be reached within the numerical limits. If it becomes necessary during the monthly allocation process to retrogress a cut-off date, supplemental requests for numbers will be honored only if the priority date falls within the new […]

Will the Guidance on Extreme Hardship Waivers Allow More Individuals to Become Permanent Residents?

Will the Guidance on Extreme Hardship Waivers Allow More Individuals to Become Permanent Residents?
Written by Beth Werlin October 8, 2015 in Department of Homeland Security, Executive Action, USCIS with 0 Comments

This week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued draft guidance on what constitutes “extreme hardship” for purposes of an immigration waiver. The much anticipated guidance is a component of the Administration’s executive actions on immigration announced in November 2014. Many had hoped that the guidance, and its potential to make waivers available to more people, could help remove obstacles to obtaining legal permanent status in the United States. The guidance is in draft form only and has not gone into effect. USCIS now is seeking the public’s feedback, with comments due by November 23, 2015. Following review of the comments, USCIS will issue a final version.

The immigration laws contain several waivers that allow noncitizens to overcome certain bars to admission (such as having unlawful presence in the United States) where certain family members (called “qualifying relatives”) would suffer “extreme hardship.” The immigration statute, however, does not define the term “extreme hardship.” Over the years, the agency has failed to apply the hardship standard consistently. In a November 20, 2014 memo, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson directed USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez to “clarify the factors that are considered by adjudicators in determining whether the ‘extreme hardship’ standard has been met.” In issuing such a directive, his intent was clear: “It is my assessment that additional guidance about the meaning of the phrase ‘extreme hardship’ would provide broader use of this legally permitted waiver.”

Whether the final guidance will achieve the goal of “broader use” of the waiver remains to be seen. The draft guidance, in […]

Changes to the Visa Bulletin for October 2015

Visa Bulletin For October 2015

Number 85
Volume IX
Washington, D.C

View as Printer Friendly PDF

A. STATUTORY NUMBERS

This bulletin summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers duringOctober for: “Application Final Action Dates” (consistent with prior Visa Bulletins) and “Dates for Filing Applications,” indicating when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit required documentation to the National Visa Center.

Unless otherwise indicated in this bulletin, individuals seeking to file applications for adjustment of status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security must use the “Application Final Action Dates” charts below for determining when they can file such applications. This bulletin may indicate the ability for such individuals to instead use the “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” charts, when USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas. Applicants for adjustment of status may refer to USCIS for additional information by visiting www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo.

1.  Procedures for determining dates. Consular officers are required to report to the Department of State documentarily qualified applicants for numerically limited visas; USCIS reports applicants for adjustment of status. Allocations in the charts below were made, to the extent possible, in chronological order of reported priority dates, for demand received by September 9th. If not all demand could be satisfied, the category or foreign state in which demand was excessive was deemed oversubscribed. The cut-off date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who could not be reached within the numerical limits. If it becomes necessary during the monthly allocation process to retrogress a cut-off date, supplemental requests for numbers will be honored only if the priority date falls within the new cut-off date announced […]

USCIS Announces Revised Procedures for Determining Visa Availability for Applicants Waiting to File for Adjustment of Status

USCIS, in coordination with Department of State (DOS), is revising the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status. The revised process will better align with procedures DOS uses for foreign nationals who seek to become U.S. permanent residents by applying for immigrant visas at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.

This revised process will enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. This will help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.

The Visa Bulletin revisions implement November 2014 executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, as detailed in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued in July 2015.
What is Changing
Two charts per visa preference category will be posted in the DOS Visa Bulletin:

Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).

Each month, in coordination with DOS, USCIS will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart. Applicants can use the charts to determine when to file their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

To determine whether additional visas are available, USCIS will compare the number of visas available for the remainder of the fiscal year with:

Documentarily qualified visa applicants reported by DOS;
Pending adjustment of status applications reported by USCIS; and
Historical drop off rate (for example, denials, withdrawals, abandonments).

About the Visa Bulletin
DOS publishes current immigrant visa […]

DHS Announces Temporary Protected Status for Yemen

DHS Announces Temporary Protected Status Designation for Yemen
Release Date: September 03, 2015

WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced his decision to designate Yemen for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months due to the ongoing armed conflict within the country. Yemen is experiencing widespread conflict and a resulting severe humanitarian emergency, and requiring Yemeni nationals in the United States to return to Yemen would pose a serious threat to their personal safety. As a result of Yemen’s designation for TPS, eligible nationals of Yemen residing in the United States may apply for TPS with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Federal Register notice posted today provides details and procedures for applying for TPS.

The TPS designation for Yemen is effective September 3, 2015, and will be in effect through March 3, 2017. The designation means that, during the designated period, eligible nationals of Yemen (and people without nationality who last habitually resided in Yemen) who are approved for TPS will not be removed from the United States and may receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The 180-day TPS registration period begins today and runs through March 1, 2016.

To be eligible for TPS, applicants must demonstrate that they satisfy all eligibility criteria, including that they have been both “continuously physically present” and “continuously residing” in the United States since September 3, 2015. Applicants also undergo thorough security checks. Individuals with certain criminal records or who pose a threat to national security are not eligible for TPS. The eligibility requirements are fully described in the Federal Register notices and on the TPS Web page at www.uscis.gov/tps.

Applicants may request that USCIS waive any or all TPS-related fees based on inability to pay by filing Form I-912, Request for […]

TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS FOR HAITI EXTENDED

Release Date: August 25, 2015

WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has extended Haiti’s designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an additional 18 months. The extended designation is effective Jan. 23, 2016, through July 22, 2017.

Current TPS Haiti beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during a 60-day period that runs from Aug. 25, 2015, through Oct. 26, 2015. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible once the 60-day re-registration period begins. USCIS will not accept applications before Aug. 25, 2015.

The 18-month extension also allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible TPS Haiti beneficiaries who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of July 22, 2017. USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current EADs expire. Therefore, USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Haiti EADs bearing a Jan. 22, 2016, expiration date for an additional six months. These existing EADs are now valid through July 22, 2016.

Haiti was initially designated for TPS on Jan. 21, 2010, after a major earthquake devastated the country. Following consultations with other federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security has determined that current conditions in Haiti support extending the designation period for current TPS beneficiaries.

To re-register, current TPS beneficiaries must submit:

Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status (Re-registrants do not need to pay the Form I-821 application fee).
The biometric services fee (or a fee waiver request) if they are 14 years old or older.
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether they want an EAD.
The Form I-765 application fee, or a fee waiver request, but only if […]

New DAPA and Expanded DACA Programs Placed on Hold by Court Order

On February 16, 2015, just two days before the new expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Expanded DACA) program was to begin, a U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas, issued a preliminary injunction temporarily halting Expanded DACA, as well as the planned Deferred Action for Parents of American citizens and permanent residents (DAPA) program.  Announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014, the new DAPA program will permit qualified non-citizens who have been in the United States for at least 5 years, who do not have a serious criminal record, and who are parents of US citizens or permanent residents, to obtain employment authorization.  Similarly, the expanded DACA program will permit non-citizens who were brought to the United States prior to their 16th birthday, who have been in the United States since at least January 1, 2010, and who have graduated from high school, earned a GED, or are otherwise attending school, to obtain temporary employment authorization.  These programs will assist millions of hardworking people in the United States.

In opposition to these programs, 26 states, including Texas, sued the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to stop implementation of DAPA and Expanded DACA.  The preliminary injunction entered by the Court in Texas is NOT a final decision on whether the new programs are legal or within the President’s authority to initiate.  Rather, the Court decided that because of the importance of the issue and the potential cost to the State of Texas to issue driver’s licenses to beneficiaries of the program, DAPA and expanded DACA should not begin until after the Court decides the lawsuit.  In response, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will appeal the Court’s ruling.  So, for the moment, the […]

Why are Women and Children Detained after Fleeing Brutal Violence in Central America?

The rise of Transnational Criminal Organizations and powerful gangs across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, coupled with weak, corrupt and ineffective governments in those three countries, has led to a nightmare scenario for women and children who are being murdered, raped and victimized on an unimaginable scale.  Desperate to find safety and refuge, women and children began fleeing in large numbers in the Spring of 2014, and many have come to the United States to seek protection – or in legal terms, Asylum.  In response, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is attempting to discourage victims from leaving Central America by detaining women and children in large detention centers in the Southwest United States and then quickly deporting them back to Central America.

Throughout the summer and fall of last year volunteer immigration lawyers from across the country flocked to a remote makeshift detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, to wage a legal battle against DHS to stop the mass deportation of refugees and help the women and children apply for asylum.  NELSON | SMITH, LLP sent one of its attorneys, partner, Philip Smith, to Artesia to help with the volunteer work. By December 2014, the volunteer lawyers had successfully helped hundreds of women and children escape deportation and gain their release from detention, and DHS quickly decided to close the detention camp in Artesia, New Mexico.  Sadly, the detention of women and children continues, and two giant detention facilities are being erected outside of San Antonio, Texas.

On February 4, 2015, the New York Times magazine decided to tell the story.  To learn more about this humanitarian crisis, please read:      The Shame of America’s Detention Camps

 

Expanded DACA Starts February 18, 2015

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been expanded by President Obama to allow Individuals with no lawful immigration status to receive deferred action and employment authorization for three years (up from two years), and allows qualifying individuals to be considered for DACA if they:

Entered the United States before the age of 16;
Have lived in the United States continuously since at least January 1, 2010, rather than the prior requirement of June 15, 2007;
Are of any age (removes the requirement to have been under 31 on June 15, 2012); and
Meet all of the other DACA guidelines.

USCIS will begin accepting applications for Expanded DACA on February 18, 2015 (Remember, USCIS will not accept requests for expanded DACA before that date.)

Expanded DACA is great news for those individuals who came to the country as children (under the age of 16) and were left out of the initial program merely because they were over the age of 31 on June 15, 2012.  The age limit has now been lifted!  Anyone, no matter their age, who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 — and meet all of the other requirements for DACA — may now qualify for deferred action for childhood arrivals.  Please keep in mind, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) has no affirmative start date – stay tuned!

Always speak to an experienced immigration attorney before applying for any immigration benefit.  At NELSON | SMITH, LLP, we often have clients who learn during their first consultation that they qualify for something even better than deferred action!

To learn more about the new Expanded DACA program, please click:  Expanded DACA

How Long Does it Take? USCIS Processing Times – as of January 2015

As immigration attorneys, one of the most common questions that we are asked is, “how long will it take?”  Apart from responding, “too long,” it is often exceedingly difficult for an attorney to predict how long it will take USCIS to adjudicate a particular application.  USCIS processing times vary widely based on a number of factors, including agency staffing and resource allocation, the aggregate numbers of applications received for processing, changing government priorities, and the legal and factual complexities of an individual application or petition. In order to provide some predictability to the process, USCIS periodically releases average processing times.

On January 20, 2015, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published information concerning average processing times for the most common types of immigrant and non-immigrant petitions and applications,which are adjudicated at the agency’s large regional service centers.  For the convenience of our readers, we are posting the most recent USCIS processing times reports here.  Please keep in mind — these are average processing times, and, in our experience, some petitions will be processed faster than these published times and others, unfortunately, will be slower.

EB-5 Processing Report

National Benefits Center Report

Vermont Service Center Report

Texas Service Center Report

Nebraska Service Center Report

California Service Center Report