State Department to Eliminate Addition of Pages to US Passports

Due to security concerns and international passport standards, as of January 1, 2016, US passport holders running out of blank pages in their passports will no longer be able to apply to the State Department to add blank pages.  Individuals will need to apply for new passports by mail.  In addition to the standard 28-page passport, the State Department now offers a 52-page passport.  Frequent international travelers may wish to opt for the 52-page passport to avoid any delays that may occur during the passport renewal process.

UPDATED: CPB Now Offers Email Addresses for “I-94 Correction Requests” at Some Deferred Inspection Sites

This information updates our original post of April 9, 2015.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), which controls admission of travelers to the United States, maintains more than 70 “Deferred Inspection” offices where travelers may request correction of  I-94 Arrival Records they believe were issued incorrectly.

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State Department Diversity Visa Lottery Begins October 1, 2015

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.

No Consular Services Will Be Available at Any U.S. Embassy or Consulate Worldwide on Friday, October 9, 2015

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.

UPDATE: New Adjustment of Status Filing Procedures

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 Designates Yemen for TPS

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 Extends TPS for Haiti

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.

USCIS Extends TPS Registration Period for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone

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.

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Global US Visa Issuance Delays Continue

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.