The State Department registration period for the Congressionally mandated 2017 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery is underway. The DV lottery allows nationals from certain countries to apply for immigrant visas (“green cards”) outside of the normal immigrant visa process. Individuals already being sponsored for immigrant visas by family members or employers may participate as well. Requirements include being a national of an eligible country (although an applicant may qualify based on his or her spouse’s nationality) and high school education or work experience. The online registration period begins Thursday, October 1, 2015, at noon EST, and ends on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, at noon EST. Complete eligibility requirements and filing instructions can be found here.
The U.S. Department of State has announced it will suspend all consular services, worldwide, on Friday, October 9, 2015, due to a consular systems upgrade. Application Service Centers (ASCs) that provide biometrics and fingerprinting services to U.S. consulates will also close that day. Appointments that have already been scheduled for that day will be rescheduled. Each individual consular post will provide instructions for expedited or emergency rescheduling on its website.
In response to the Obama Administration’s recommendations to speed-up the backlogged permanent residence process, the State Department issued a revamped monthly Visa Bulletin. The new Bulletin contains charts for employment- and family-based cases that can be approved (similar to the previous charts), and new charts showing when applicants can file their adjustment of status applications. Those filing based on the latter charts will reap the benefits of filing adjustment of status applications (interim work and travel permission, as well as immigrant visa petition (I-140) portability), even though their applications will be held until the backlog clears and their applications can be adjudicated.
This development is welcome news to those waiting many years to file their adjustment of status applications.
UPDATE: On September 25, 2015, the State Department announced that following conversations with the USCIS, the adjustment of status filing dates issued on September 9, 2015, have been revised. The employment-based categories that are affected are: EB-2 China (changed from 05/01/2014, to 01/01/2013); EB-2 India (changed from 07/01/2011, to 07/01/2009); and EB-3 Philippines (changed from 01/01/2015, to 01/01/2010). These changes mean that some who planned to file their adjustment of status applications on October 1, 2015, will not be able to do so until their priority dates are current for filing purposes.
DHS announced that it has designated Yemen for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months. TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve. The new designation allows qualifying individuals from Yemen to apply for TPS and work authorization as of September 3, 2015. The 180-day registration period is open through March 1, 2016. The effective period of Yemen TPS expires on March 3, 2017. Prior to the expiration, DHS will decide whether to extend it for another 18 months, and will provide instructions for re-registering and renewing employment authorization documents at that time.
DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Haiti who already hold TPS. TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve. The new extension allows qualifying individuals from Haiti to reapply for TPS and work authorization that will be valid until July 22, 2017. The re-registration period is now open and ends on October 26, 2015. Employment authorization documents held by qualifying individuals already set to expire on January 22, 2016 (and endorsed “A-12″ or “C-19″ under “category”), are automatically extended for an additional six months, through July 22, 2016. Employers can rely on the DHS announcement or Federal Register Notice for I-9 employment verification and reverification purposes.
The Department of Homeland Security designates a country for Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) when conditions – such as ongoing armed conflicts or environmental disasters – make it unsafe for those citizens who are in the United States to return home. Because of the recent Ebola outbreaks in western Africa, DHS designated Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone for TPS in November 2014.
The Department of Homeland Security today announced that Nepal has been designated for “Temporary Protected Status” due to the 7.8 earthquake that struck the country on April 25 and its aftermath.
The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs continues to experience technical problems related to visa issuance at all of the US embassies and consulates. The problem was caused by a hardware failure on June 9, which prevents the embassies and consulates from processing and transmitting biometric data checks required for visa issuance. While most posts are still scheduling and honoring previously reserved visa interviews, applicants must wait for the system to be repaired before their passports will be returned containing their new visas. Those in the United States planning to apply for new visas in the near-term may want to reschedule their appointments to avoid delays abroad.
The Department of Homeland Security today announced it will negotiate with ten airports in Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom to open preflight inspection offices, where U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents will inspect travelers for immigration, customs and agriculture requirements before they board U.S.-bound flights. After a year-long analysis by DHS, the Department of State, and the Transportation Security Administration, these ten airports were selected, from more than twenty that submitted letters of interest, as the most likely to facilitate both U.S. security and U.S. travel. Preclearance locations currently exist only in Canada, the Caribbean, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates, at a total of 15 foreign airports. With successful preflight screening, a foreign traveler normally avoids all screening at his or her U.S. destination airport.
DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Somalia who already hold TPS. TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve. The new extension allows qualifying individuals from Somalia to reapply for TPS and work authorization that will be valid until March 17, 2017. The re-registration period is now open and ends on July 31, 2015. Unlike other TPS extensions, interim work permission is not automatically extended at this time. Applicants are encouraged to submit their employment authorization renewal applications as soon as possible since their current employment authorization documents expire in September.