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/

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Pre-Election Immigration Policy Updates - Vote to Make a Difference!

As the Election Day is just around the corner, let's summarize the changes in immigration policy that we have experienced in recent months.  Generally, case processing both inside and outside of the US has slowed down tremendously.   Additionally, we've seen some tough measures that were pushed out recently by the Trump Administration before the election.

National Visa Center Processing

National Visa Center (NVC) in New Hampshire is responsible for processing most overseas immigrant visa petitions.  Right after the breakout of COVID-19, we were thrilled to experience very prompt and helpful responses from NVC.  Our inquiries were responded to within a day or two.  Unfortunately, our  excitement was short-lived.  We have seen a gradual slow down in both processing time and response time, probably on account of the pandemic.

For example, for cases that we have submitted the required civil and financial documents as well as the immigration visa petition, there has been no updates yet after two months. With another case, we responded to a request for additional documents two months ago and we just received notice that the case is documentarily qualified. We used to be able to communicate with NVC through designed email addresses but that has also changed; now we must submit inquiries through their public inquiry form.  

USCIS Processing Slowing Down

Similarly, suffering from a budget crisis and political turmoil, USCIS processing time has also slowed down in recent months.  For instance, it is now taking about 4 to 6 weeks to produce filing receipt notices (I-797) for a typical green card application (I-485 adjustment of status). For N-400 naturalization application filed within New York City, the current processing time is between 17 to 33.5 months.  In an attempt to generate revenues, USCIS pushed out a new fee schedule increasing filing fees for many applications including the N-400 Naturalization Application about a month ago.  However, a federal court issued a temporary injunction at the last minute to stop the enforcement of the new fees.

Tough Measures Were Rolled Out

Although the comprehensive fee increases were stopped by court, USCIS has increased individual filing fees. For instance, the I-907 premium processing fee was increased recently from $1,440 to $2,500 for most employment based petitions.  Other tough measures were rolled out rapidly.  

Just about two weeks ago, without prior notices, employers were shocked to find that the prevailing wages that they must pay foreign workers in H-1B status or permanent employment have  been increased at least 20 to 30% in most cases.  

At the same time, the Trump Administration also issued a new rule, to be effective in 60 days, to require specific fields of study for H-1B positions as well as impose new restrictions on the employment of H-1B workers at client site. 

Perhaps the most far-reaching measure that was implemented by DHS has been the implementation of the Public Charge Rule.  This rule requires visa and green card applications to provide personal financial information such as their assets, debts, credit scores, public benefits received, etc., greatly increasing the complexity of many green card applications.  

While the upcoming election is expected to be a political turmoil in and of itself, it is hoped that we will get some better guidance regarding US immigration policies after the dust has settled. 

Cast your vote today to make a difference!

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