A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Contact: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Return of Premium Processing Services

Good news -- Premium Processing services will return for Forms I-129 and I-140 in increments over the next month. The premium processing service for Form I-140 Immigration Petition for Alien Workers will return first on June 1st, 2020.

On June 8th, UCIS will accept requests to upgrade, through Form I-907, cap-exempt H-1B petitions to premium processing services, provided the pending petition was filed before June 8th. These include change or extension of status petitions, change of employer petitions and "recapture" of previously-approved H-1B status.  All other non-H1B petitions that are eligible for premium processing can also upgrade if filed before June 8th, 2020.

On June 15th, H-1B petitions that are cap-exempt (counted before) or because employment will be at a qualifying institution or because a J visa Conrad waiver has been granted can be filed concurrently with form I-907.

The rest of the I-129 petition categories will resume premium processing on June 22nd. This includes filing to upgrade pending cap-subject (H-1B visa lottery) petitions, such as those filed for FY2021. Concurrent I-907 and I-129 filing will also return on this date.

A note for those that filed using premium processing before it was suspended on March 20th: if your petition was not processed and you received a refund, you can refile according to the instructions above.


How "Telehealth" and Missing Work Will Affect J Visa Healthcare Workers

If you are a J visa medical trainee/student completing your program during these rough times, you may be thinking of transitioning straight to working through a J-visa waiver. This waiver, through the Conrad 30 Waiver program, allows foreign medical graduates to forgo the J visa's 2 year residence requirement and gain H-1B status.

Qualifying medical graduates will have to work full-time, or 40 hours per week, to maintain their status. The ongoing Public Health Emergency, however, has made it difficult to travel to and carry out work. Thankfully, those that miss work due to the pandemic and the resulting "Public Health Emergency" will not lose their waiver and status. USCIS announced that workers that cannot work due to pandemic-related issues such as illness, quarantine, or travel restrictions, will not be charged with violating their contract.

USCIS and DoS (Dept. of State) also explained their stance on telehealth services. Telehealth refers to using electronic telecommunication means to render long-distance health services to patients. It is deemed an acceptable form of service, provided that the worker serve patients in a designated shortage area through their contracting facility (per their contract).

These provisions on full-time work and telehealth services will apply to periods between January 27, 2020 and the end of the Public Health Emergency.

Friday, May 22, 2020

June 2020 Visa Bulletin - EB-1 India and Philippines Family Advance







There are nice advances in the June Visa Bulletin. 

Family Preferences
F-1 and F-3 Philippines move forward by 5 months. 
F-4 Philippines advances 4 months to 02/01/2001. 
F-1 and F-2B for all countries advance 2 months except for Mexico. 
F-2A remains "current" for all countries. 

Employment Peferences
EB-1 China advances a month while EB-1 India moves forward by 10 months to 06/08/2016.
EB-3 Other Countries also advances 10 months.
EB-2 and EB-3 China advance one month.
EB-5 India advances 3 months. 

*Note - President Trump issued an Executive Order to bar overseas immigrants from entering the U.S. for 60 days (started 4/23/2020), with exceptions. 

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

      Family
Other Countries
      China
India
Mexico
Philippines
F1
AD
05/22/2014
05/22/2014
05/22/2014
11/15/1997
02/01/2011
FD
02/15/2015
02/15/2015
02/15/2015
12/22/1999
09/01/2011
F2A
AD
      C
      C
      C
      C
      C
FD
05/01/2020
05/01/2020
05/01/2020
05/01/2020
05/01/2020
F2B
AD
03/15/2015
03/15/2015
03/15/2015
02/15/1999
09/01/2010
FD
12/01/2015
12/01/2015
12/01/2015
09/22/1999
05/01/2011
F3
AD
04/15/2008
04/15/2008
04/15/2008
06/22/1996
04/15/2001
FD
03/15/2008
03/15/2008
03/15/2008
07/15/2000
11/15/2001
F4
AD
08/08/2006
08/08/2006
01/22/2005
05/08/1998
02/01/2001
FD
07/31/2007
07/31/2007
10/01/2005
02/08/1999
09/01/2001

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
C
08/15/2017
C
06/08/2016
C
C
C
FD
C
10/01/2017
C
03/15/2017
C
C
C
EB2
AD
C
11/01/2015
C
06/12/2009
C
C
C
FD
C
08/01/2016
C
07/01/2009
C
C
C
EB3
AD
11/08/2017
06/15/2016
11/08/2017
04/01/2009
11/08/2017
11/08/2017
11/08/2017
FD
04/01/2019
03/01/2017
04/01/2019
02/01/2010
04/01/2019
04/01/2019
04/01/2019
Other Workers
AD
11/08/2017
07/15/2008
11/08/2017
04/01/2009
11/08/2017
11/08/2017
11/08/2017
FD
04/01/2019
08/01/2008
01/01/2019
02/01/2010
04/01/2019
04/01/2019
04/01/2019
EB4
AD
C
C
12/15/2016
C
06/08/2018
C
C
FD
C
C
09/15/2016
C
C
C
C
EB5
AD
C
07/15/2015
C
01/01/2020
C
C
04/22/2017
FD
C
12/15/2015
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)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Intent Disregarded When Punishing False Citizenship Claims


Do not check the wrong box next time when you are filling out application forms.  It could ruin your chances of getting a green card.  When applying for a job or a government benefit in America, oftentimes the applicant has to check a box in the application form regarding his or her immigration status in the US.  If you are not a citizen but mistakenly check that option, you could be in some serious trouble.

Immigration law states that falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen to gain government benefits is a grounds for inadmissibility. Any claim from September 30, 1996 onward are subject to this law.  The consequences are heavy: those found guilty are deported from the country and are permanently unable to re-enter.

But what if the false claim was made unknowingly? The foreign national could have had no idea they were doing something illegal. Some may have been scammed or misled, and others could have misunderstood a question or made a mistake on a document.

An EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review) court decision determined that intent does not matter -- false claims of citizenship will be punished regardless. The case involved a foreign national who purchased a false certificate of naturalization from an actual officer of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service). He argued that he believed that he was a citizen all along and did not pursue benefits. The court confirmed that a false claim is a false claim regardless, and must be punished accordingly.

This decision is now incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. There are no waivers for inadmissibility for false claim of citizenship. One exception still exists, however, for a permanent resident under 16 years-old with citizen parents (adoptive parents included). If the minor lived in the U.S. all their life and believed they were a citizen, they are exempt from the rule.

For this ground of inadmissibility to apply, the false claim to U.S. citizenship must be used to gain a government benefits such as public or immigration benefits.  It does not apply to, for example, an application for a job at a private company.   

Persons who are not a U.S. citizen (including green card holders) should take extra steps to protect themselves. Pay close attention to questions when filling out forms for work or applications at the DMV, social security office, etc. If you want to become a citizen, familiarize yourself with the proper steps by consulting with a legitimate immigration attorney.

Monday, May 11, 2020

File your H-1B Extensions Now


Foreign workers who are currently in a non-immigrant visa status are advised to file their extension applications as soon as possible based on Trump Administration's recent policy direction in immigration.

President Trump has not been subtle about his intention to restrict immigration ever since he took office three and a half years ago.  Through a serious of executive actions and policy changes, the administration has effectively reduced both legal and illegal immigration into the US.

In a recent letter sent to President Trump, four Republic Senators urge President Trump to suspend employment-based immigration into the US as follows:

- Suspend all new guest worker visas (H-2B) for 60 days, and follow by suspension of non-essential guest workers for at least one year.
- Suspend H-1B and other non-immigrant visas for at least one year, except certain healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses.
- Suspend the F-1 students Optional Practical Training (OPT) program indefinitely.
- Suspend the EB-5 investment visa program.

According to these Senators, suspension of these visa programs is important to address the current historically-high unemployment rates of the US.  The EB-5 program, according to the Senators, has long been "plagued by scandal and fraud."

Importantly, the letter states that - "at a minimum" - these programs should be suspended, implying that other non-immigrant visa programs such as L-1A, L-1B, TN, R, O, etc., should also be included for suspension as well.

In his recent "Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak," President Trump already ordered the suspension of legal immigration from overseas countries for 60 days starting 04/23/2020.  Further extension is possible.

The same order specifically directed the Secretaries of DOL, DOS and DHS to review all non-immigrant visa programs within 30 days.  It shows that the Trump Administration was already planning to make policy changes regarding the non-immigrant visa programs.  After review, it is very possible that the White House will issue additional executive orders to restrict non-immigrant visa applications such as H-1B, L-1, etc.

Hence, it is strongly recommended that foreign students and workers should submit their applications immediately before any policy changes take effect.  This includes the H-1B CAP cases for Fiscal Year 2021, H-1B extension petitions, change-of-employment petitions, change-of-status petitions, OPT and STEM OPT applications.  In the past month, our firm has been working extra-hard to help our clients to submit their non-immigration applications to ensure that they can remain to work legally in the US. 



Friday, May 1, 2020

USCIS Offices Set to Open June 4th

Since offices closed to the public on March 18th, many applicants have been unable to go to their USCIS appointments.

USCIS has announced that its local offices will reopen on June 4th. This means field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASC) will resume in-person services.

Any appointments that were canceled because of the closures will be automatically rescheduled. This includes naturalization ceremonies. Notices will be mailed out to petitioners and applicants with details of the rescheduled appointments. Asylum offices will undergo a similar process to reschedule asylum interviews.

ASC appointments will be rescheduled by mail after offices reopen for in-person services. 

Overall, anyone whose appointment was to be at a field office, asylum office, or ASC will just need to wait to receive a new appointment time. 

Others that had InfoPass and other appointments must contact USCIS (contact center) themselves to reschedule. They also need to wait until the respective office is reopened. 

Visa Bulletin Predictions - May 2020 and Beyond

Every month after the release of the monthly visa bulletin, DOS Visa Office Chief Mr. Charlie Oppenheim provides his insights to AILA on the trends, movements, predictions, etc. regarding the usage of immigrant visa numbers. The following are his most important insights following up on the publication of the May 2020 visa bulletin.

The bulletin published late, likely owing to office closures in response to COVID-19. Another factor was also recently introduced: President Trump's recent order to freeze immigration for 60 days.

Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has left Charlie with limited resources to make projections with. He does note that family-based categories will advance in May as they did in March and April despite current conditions. The reason is partly because the State Department wants to encourage document submission to the NVC (National Visa Center) and maximize visa usage toward the fiscal year's limit.  Our firm's experience is that the NVC has been especially more efficient and helpful lately. 

Notable advancements for May 2020 family categories include F2A remaining current worldwide. Also, F2B Philippines moved four months to June 1, 2020. F1, F3, and F4 moved forward six months to September 1, 2010, November 15, 2000 and October 1, 2000, respectively.

These recent delays in processing could result in unused visa numbers for other category use. Charlie explains that how many depends on when USCIS offices and consulates reopen.

The June 2020 visa bulletin is expected to publish as normal. Charlie ends his check-in by recommending everyone monitor state and USCIS websites. Staying updated is very important for immigrant visa applicants during this unpredictable time.

Visa Lottery (DV-2021) Entrant Status Check Delayed

The opening of the 2021 Diversity Visa Lottery's (DV-2021) online Entrant Status Check system (ESC) has been delayed.

ESC is an online system that allows a Diversity Visa Lottery applicant to check the status of their submission online. This year, the system will open on June 6th instead of May 5th.

According to USCIS, the reason for this delay is because resources are being redirected to dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews for DV-2021 are still on track to begin on October 1st, 2020.

Basically, applicants will have to wait one month longer before they can check their DV-2021 status but the rest of the process has not been delayed.

The Diversity Visa Program is designed for applicants who do not have close family ties and job offers to apply for US permanent resident status. 

USCIS is Using Fingerprints in File for EAD and Travel Document Applications

Due to COVID-19, USCIS advised the public in meetings that existing fingerprints and biometrics in file are being used in I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications. Separately, our law office has also received notices from USCIS that it is applying existing fingerprints of applicants in I-131 travel document (e.g., advance parole) applications. 

Hence, applicants  of these applications do not have to attend another biometrics appointment at an Application Support Center (ASC). 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

May 2020 Visa Bulletin - Worldwide EB-1 Current / Philippines Family Advances


May's Visa Bulletin arrives a bit later than usual. But there are some positive movements. 

Family Based:
F-1 Worldwide advances 82 days while Philippines moves forward with 7 months. Mexico only advances 7 days. 
F2A remains current, which means spouse and children applicants of permanent residents can continue filing for adjustment of status in the U.S. 
F2B Philippines advances 4 months. The rest of the countries advance 83 days except for Mexico. 
F4 Philippines moves forward with 5 months. 


Employment Based:
EB-1 Worldwide becomes current. China advances 28 days and India advances 3 months. 
EB-2 and EB-3 China advance 1 month. EB-2 and EB-3 India move forward by 8 days and 38 days respectively. 
EB-5 China advances with 2 months, and EB-5 India advances with 9 months to 10/1/2019. EB-5 Vietnam advances with 52 days. 

*Note - President Trump issued an Executive Order to bar overseas immigrants from entering the U.S. for 60 days, with exceptions. Please visit here for more information.

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

      Family
Other Countries
      China
India
Mexico
Philippines
F1
AD
03/22/2014
03/22/2014
03/22/2014
10/22/1997
09/01/2010
FD
11/22/2014
11/22/2014
11/22/2014
12/08/1999
06/01/2011
F2A
AD
      C
      C
      C
      C
      C
FD
03/01/2020
03/01/2020
03/01/2020
03/01/2020
03/01/2020
F2B
AD
01/15/2015
01/15/2015
01/15/2015
01/15/1999
06/01/2010
FD
09/22/2015
09/22/2015
09/22/2015
09/08/1999
02/01/2011
F3
AD
03/15/2008
03/15/2008
03/15/2008
06/08/1996
11/15/2000
FD
12/15/2008
12/15/2008
12/15/2008
07/15/2000
08/22/2001
F4
AD
07/22/2006
07/22/2006
01/08/2005
04/15/1998
10/01/2000
FD
07/28/2007
07/28/2007
09/08/2005
01/22/1999
06/01/2001

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
C
07/15/2017
C
08/01/2015
C
C
C
FD
C
10/01/2017
C
03/15/2017
C
C
C
EB2
AD
C
10/01/2015
C
06/02/2009
C
C
C
FD
C
08/01/2016
C
07/01/2009
C
C
C
EB3
AD
01/01/2017
05/15/2016
01/01/2017
03/01/2009
01/01/2017
01/01/2017
01/01/2017
FD
04/01/2019
03/01/2017
04/01/2019
02/01/2010
04/01/2019
04/01/2019
04/01/2019
Other Workers
AD
01/01/2017
07/15/2008
01/01/2017
03/01/2009
01/01/2017
01/01/2017
01/01/2017
FD
04/01/2019
08/01/2008
01/01/2019
02/01/2010
04/01/2019
04/01/2019
04/01/2019
EB4
AD
C
C
08/15/2016
C
05/01/2018
C
C
FD
C
C
09/15/2016
C
C
C
C
EB5
AD
C
07/15/2015
C
10/01/2019
C
C
04/01/2017
FD
C
12/15/2015
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)