A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Changes of Status Will Take a New I-539 Form and Fees

Pay close attention if you are thinking about changing your nonimmigrant status to F-1, B-1/B-2, etc. 

USCIS has announced an updated form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The edition date is 02/04/2019 and will replace the current 12/23/16 edition. USCIS will begin to accept only the new edition on the same day that it is published -- March 11, 2019.

On the same day, USCIS will publish the new supplemental Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. This addition serves to replace the Supplement A section of the old I-539 form and can only be filed with Form I-539. Form I-539A will be mandatory for all co-applicants(dependents) of the related I-539 form.

What is Form I-539? 
It is used by foreigners to request a change in status or to extend their current one. It covers a range of nonimmigrant visa types and has many uses. The application is used most commonly to extend a visitor (B-1, B-2) visa or to change to F-1 student status. It does not cover changes to certain other visas that have specific requirements and procedures, such as H-1B specialty occupation worker. It is a relatively complicated application form.  Anyone thinking of changing or extending their status should first consult a qualified immigration attorney. Depending on what is being requested, there are specific instructions to follow and evidence to submit. 

New Dependent Form and Biometrics Fee
The most significant changes to the I-539 application are the biometrics procedures. Currently, most applicants do not have to pay the $85 biometrics service fee. As of March 11, every applicant and co-applicant will have to complete and sign Form I-539A. Parents can sign for children under 14. The applicant and each co-applicant must each pay a $85 biometrics service fee. Certain categories of A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants, which will be listed on the new form instructions, are exempt from this rule. Each person(applicant and every co-applicant) will receive their own biometrics appointment, regardless of age, at their closest Application Support Center.

It is extremely important that these new guidelines are followed. USCIS will reject applications with inexact fee amounts and improperly filled forms. Filing the wrong edition form will also result in rejection.  Applicants must use the newest edition of the form on March 11, 2019, the same date that it is released. Rejection will cause delays or permanent ineligibility if the deadline has passed.  

Monday, February 18, 2019

USCIS to Resume Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018

USCIS announced recently that, effective 02/19/2019, it will resume premium processing on for all H-1B petitions filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018.   

Petitioners may submit the premium processing request to USCIS now or with any response to Requests for Evidence (RFE) responses.  

Requests for premium processing should be filed with the most current Service Center that is handling the case.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

March 2019 Visa Bulletin


In March's Visa Bulletin, there are no major movements. Employment categories remain sluggish in most categories with some minor advancement.  Small advancement can also be seen in certain family categories.

EB-1 advances 1 month for most countries; EB-1 China and India advance 14 days only.
EB-2 China moves forward by 3 months; EB-2 India advances only 3 days.
EB-3 China moves forward by 7 days; EB-2 India advances 1 month.
EB-3 Philippines advances 4 months.

F-2B advances 3 months in Other Countries.
F-3 and F-4 Philippines advances 4 months and months respectively.
F-2 China Filing Date advances 6 months to May 1, 2016.


AD: Dates for Final Action (Green Card Approval)              FD: Dates for Filing Applications Only

      Family
Other Countries
      China
India
Mexico
Philippines
F1
AD
10/22/2011
10/22/2011
10/22/2011
08/01/1997
04/01/2007
FD
04/22/201204/22/201204/22/201209/22/1999
04/01/2008
F2A
AD
01/08/2017
01/08/2017
01/08/2017
12/15/2016
01/08/2017
FD
12/08/2017
12/08/2017
12/08/2017
12/08/2017
12/08/2017
F2B
AD
08/01/2012
08/01/2012
08/01/2012
09/22/1997
07/22/2007
FD
06/22/2014
06/22/2014
06/22/2014
02/08/1998
01/22/2008
F3
AD
09/08/2006
09/08/2006
09/08/2006
01/15/1996
01/01/1996
FD
03/01/2007
03/01/2007
03/01/2007
06/08/2000
09/01/1997
F4
AD
09/22/2005
09/22/2005
07/08/2004
02/08/1998
01/01/1996
FD
06/22/2006
06/22/2006
02/08/2005
11/08/1998
01/08/1998

1st: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens (about 23,400 per year).
2A: The 2 "A" preference is for Spouses and Children (under 21 & unmarried) of LPR's.
2B: The 2 "B" Preference is for Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 or older) of LPR's.
3rd: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens (about 23,400 per year)
4th: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens. (about 65,000 per year)
   
Employment
Other Countries
China
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
India
Mexico
Philippines

Vietnam
EB1
AD
      01/01/2018
   02/22/2017
01/01/2018
  02/22/2017
01/01/2018
01/01/2018
01/01/2018
FD
06/01/2018
10/01/2017
06/01/2018
10/01/2017
06/01/2018
06/01/2018
C
EB2
AD
 C
01/01/2016
C
  04/09/2009
C
C
        C
FD
C
05/01/2016
C
05/22/2009
C
C
C
EB3
AD
C
07/08/2015
C
05/22/2009
C
12/01/2017
C
FD
C
01/01/2016
C
04/01/2010
C
03/01/2018
C
Other Workers
  AD
C
08/15/2007
          C
05/22/2009
C
12/01/2017
C
FD
C
06/01/2008
C
04/01/2010
C
03/01/2018
C
EB4
AD
C
C
03/01/2016
C
01/01/2018
C
C
FD
C
C
05/01/2016
C
C
C
C
EB5
AD
C
09/08/2014
C
C
C
C
07/15/2016
FD
C
10/01/2014
C
C
C
C
C









1st: Priority Workers (Extraordinary ability aliens, multinational companies executives/managers, outstanding prof./researchers)
2nd: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.
3rd: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers (Unskilled.)
4th: "Special Immigrants" (Religious & others)    
5th: Employment Creation (Investors)


Notes:  The following two categories (not listed above) have become "unavailable" in March 2019:
- Certain Religious Workers for all countries.
- 5th Regional Center (I5 and R5)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

2019 Poverty Guidelines for Affidavit of Support (I-864)

Every year, USCIS publishes the most current income requirements for completing the I-864 Affidavit of Support for immigrant petitions. These guidelines are based on the current poverty guidelines published by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  

To support an intending immigrant and his/her family members, the sponsor(s) must generally show that their income level is above 125% of the U.S. poverty line for the family unit.  For example, as shown by the 2019 guidelines below, for an immigrant family of 2, the sponsor's income must be at least $21,138 in most states and U.S. territories except Alaska and Hawaii, which have higher income requirements.

Size of Household
48 Contiguous States,D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands,Guam & CNMI
Alaska
Hawaii
125% of Poverty Line (U.S. dollars)
2
21,138
26,413
      24,325
3
26,663
33,325
      30,675
4
32,188
40,238
      37,025
5
37,713
47,150
      43,375
6
43,238
54,063
      49,725
7
48,763
60,975
      56,075
8
54,288
67,888
      62,425
Add $4,420 for each additional person
Add $5,530 for each additional person
Add $5,080 for each additional person


If the financial sponsors' income level is below the guidelines, the intending immigrant may be found to be inadmissible to the United States as a "public charge."  Section 212(a)(4) of Immigration Act requires that family-based immigrants and the dependents of an employment-based immigrant must prove that they will not likely become a financial burden (public charge) to the U.S. society.

Normally, the petitioner must act as the sponsor in the I-864 form.  If the petitioner's income level is insufficient, a joint sponsor may provide additional financial support.  Both petitioner and the beneficiary may also use their assets such as real estate, stocks, bonds, cash, etc., to meet the I-864 requirements. 

The requirements regarding financial support have been tightened recently. A rule proposed in October 2018 wants to subject the beneficiary to a comprehensive review, which judges if the person will likely be a public charge. DHS would examine age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, employment history and skills. In addition, DHS will also look into the beneficiary's history regarding use of public assistance programs (e.g. Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid) in the past three years as well as in the present.  The proposal has not been finalized yet but the more restrictive policy may still be applied in individual cases. Intending immigrants must pay attention to make sure that they are not considered a "public charge."