The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the October Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China: EB-1 jumps forward more than four years to June 1, 2016, EB-2 rebounds to April 1, 2015, and EB-3 continues to speed past EB-2 and moves to June 1, 2015
  • India: EB-1 jumps forward more than four years to June 1, 2016, EB-2 moves ahead two years to March 26, 2009, and EB-3 returns to the July 2018 date, advancing six years to January 1, 2009
  • Philippines: EB-1 moves ahead ten months to April 1, 2017, EB-2 returns to current, and EB-3 creeps forward seven months to June 1, 2017
  • All Other Countries: EB-1 remains backlogged, but advances ten months to April 1, 2017, EB-2 and EB-3-both return to current

NOTE: USCIS has not yet announced if it will accept I-485 applications in October based on the Department of State’s Dates for Filing chart. However, the trend over the last several months has been to NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart, and instead only accept I-485 applications based on the Final Action Dates as listed above.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will terminate the temporary protected status (TPS) program for nationals of El Salvador on September 9, 2019.  Employment authorization documents (EADs) held by qualifying individuals that expired on March 9, 2018, were automatically extended through September 5, 2018, providing applicants time to apply for new EADs valid through the termination date.

Because the USCIS has been unable to process EAD extension applications in a timely manner, DHS has further extended the expired EADs through March 4, 2019, provided that:

  • The EAD has a marked expiration date of March 9, 2018, and the individual applied for a new EAD after January 18, 2018; or
  • The EAD has a marked expiration date of September 9, 2016, and the individual applied for a new EAD on or after July 8, 2016.

USCIS states that it will mail a Notice of Continued Evidence of Work Authorization to eligible individuals to present to their employers for I-9 verification purposes.  Those who have not received their notices by September 4, 2018, must contact USCIS at (202) 272-8377.  In the interim, nationals of El Salvador can show employers the USCIS web page to continue working lawfully while awaiting their letters.  The web page can be found at this link.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has announced that the suspension of premium processing for FY2019 H‑1B cap cases, announced on March 21, 2018, has been extended until possibly February 2019.

USCIS also announced that effective September 11, 2018, premium processing will be suspended for H‑1B cases filed at the Vermont and California Service Centers, except for:

  1. H-1B petitions filed by cap-exempt petitioners or by petitioners who will be employing beneficiaries at qualifying cap-exempt institutions, entities, or organizations; or
  2. H-1B petitions filed at the Nebraska Service Center by petitioners requesting either an extension of a beneficiary’s H-1B status or requesting consular notification based on the continuation of the beneficiary’s previously approved employment without change with the same petitioner

In its announcement, USCIS explained that because of the recent increase in H-1B petitions filed requesting premium processing, USCIS has been unable to process long-pending H-1B petitions. Therefore, the expanded suspension of premium processing was required to allow USCIS personnel to focus on reducing the current backlog of pending H-1B petitions.

USCIS will continue to accept premium processing requests for H-1B cases until September 10, 2018. However, if a case is not adjudicated within the required fifteen calendar day timeframe, USCIS will refund the fee for premium processing and the case will be processed under regular processing.

We will update this post as soon as the suspension is lifted.

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the September Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

China: EB-1 remains stalled at January 1, 2012, EB-2 retrogresses to January 1, 2013, and EB-3 continues to move forward – advancing four months to November 1, 2014

India: EB-1 remains at January 1, 2012, EB-2 falls behind nearly two years to January 1, 2007, and EB-3 moves back six years to January 1, 2003

Philippines: EB-1 moves ahead one month to June 1, 2016, EB-2 retrogresses to January 1, 2013, and EB-3 moves to November 1, 2016

All Other Countries: EB-1 moves forward one month to June 1, 2016, EB-2 retrogresses to January 1, 2013 and EB-3 falls to November 1, 2016

The September Visa Bulletin includes the following important projections for future movement:

China:  

  • EB-1 backlogs are expected to remain until December, with “limited, if any forward movement” in October and November
  • EB-2 is expected to return to March 1, 2015 in October and move ahead slowly each month after that,
  • EB-3 is expected to return to July 1, 2014 in October and move forward approximately three weeks each month starting in November

India:   

  • EB-1 backlogs are expected to remain until December, with “limited, if any forward movement” in October and November
  • EB-2 is expected to return to March 15, 2009 in October and move forward “up to two weeks” per month beginning in November
  • EB-3 is expected to return to January 1, 2009 in October and may move ahead slowly each month after that

Philippines:       

  • EB-1 backlogs are expected to remain until December, with “limited, if any forward movement” in October and November
  • EB-2 is expected to become current in October and remain current for subsequent months
  • EB-3 is expected to return to June 1, 2017 in October, with “minimal” forward movement after October

All Other Countries:      

  • EB-1 backlogs are expected to remain until December, with “limited, if any forward movement” in October and November
  • EB-2 and EB-3 are expected to become current in October and remain current for subsequent months

NOTE: USCIS has not yet announced if it will accept I-485 applications in September based on the Department of State’s Dates for Filing chart. However, the trend over the last several months has been to NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart, and instead only accept I-485 applications based on the Final Action Dates as listed above.

The New York Times features Suzan Kern in an interview with María, a woman who was sexually assaulted by a Corrections Corporation of America guard while under the custody of ICE, following her release on bond from the Hutto detention center in Texas. CCA violated the terms of its contract with ICE, which mandated that female detainees be transferred with at least one female guard. Instead, CCA’s male guard, Donald Dunn, who assaulted María, transported women alone 77 times in less than a year. “When he let her out of the van at the Austin airport, she ran,” Suzan, María’s pro bono immigration attorney, says in the video. “The guard there at the airport asked her what was wrong and she immediately told him what had happened.” María courageously explains, “I think this happened not only to me but to several people.” Eight women came forward to testify against Dunn, who was convicted and served prison time. Suzan, who also represents another of Dunn’s victims pro bono, believes there were even more, “because these were the women who could be tracked down and who were willing to speak.”

The full article can be found here (for the best viewing experience, please copy and paste the article link into Google Chrome).

On June 28, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a policy memo telling adjudicators when they are required to issue Notices To Appear after denying or while processing a petition or application for benefits.  The NTA is the charging document that, once filed with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice), puts an individual into formal removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

Except in certain, very limited circumstances where USCIS is required by statute to issue NTAs, the agency has discretion whether to refer an applicant or petitioner to immigration court or to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).  USCIS issued its last formal policy on the exercise of this discretion in November 2011, almost seven years ago.

Under the earlier guidance, adjudicators were told they must issue non-statutory NTAs or refer to ICE only if the person posed a serious threat to national security or public safety or if USCIS could formally substantiate that fraud had occurred.  If people were being investigated or had already been arrested or detained for an egregious crime – murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, a serious crime of violence, alien smuggling, child pornography, or felony reentry after removal – they should be issued NTAs or referred.  For citizenship applicants, adjudicators were told to consider the “totality of the circumstances” before issuing an NTA, including how long it had been since a crime was committed, whether people had reformed their lives, how long they had been in the country, and what social contributions they had made, such as pursuing an education or serving in the military.

The new policy keeps all of the prior guidance, but expands on the prior grounds and lists completely new grounds, vastly increasing the numbers of people who must be issued NTAs or referred to ICE.  These new categories include Temporary Protected Status applicants whose countries’ TPS designations have been terminated; cases in which not only fraud, but also misrepresentation and public benefits abuse, have been substantiated; aliens who have been convicted of or charged with any criminal offense, or who have simply committed acts that could be charged; and all citizenship applicants who are denied due to a criminal offense, regardless of mitigating circumstances.

Perhaps the most radical departure from prior policy is that the new memo targets for removal simply anyone whose petition or application of any kind is denied, leaving them with no underlying status.  In virtually all cases, these are people who held valid status at the time of filing because those without status are ineligible to file for any but humanitarian benefits, and there are special exceptions for them.  Thousands of those who will be most affected by the new NTA guidance are people whose underlying status – including work-authorized status for US employers – will have expired while they were waiting for a decision from USCIS.  Although the law confers ongoing lawful presence of up to 120 days past an expiration date while awaiting a decision, USCIS now takes far longer than that to process even the most routine requests.  Waits of 6, 10, even 24 months are common.

Previously, USCIS’s practice was to warn failed applicants or petitioners that if they no longer held valid status when their requests were denied, they should leave the country as soon as possible, allowing for orderly and generally reliable departures among those who were here only temporarily in the first place and who maintained strong ties to their home countries and could easily return to pick up the thread of their former lives.  If those same people now leave the United States after an NTA is filed with EOIR, resulting in their not appearing at a court hearing, they will be issued removal orders in absentia and face 5-year bars to returning to the United States in any status.  In addition, those who are in removal proceedings cannot work legally, and many could be detained for weeks pending their bond hearings.

The new NTA memo has been hugely controversial, with many believing it converts USCIS, which was established by Congress as an immigration benefits agency, into largely an enforcement arm of the executive branch, without congressional authority to do so.  On July 30, 2018, USCIS postponed implementation of the policy memo, citing a delay in “operational guidance” from USCIS components.  No specific new implementation date has been provided.  Please subscribe to our blog for updates.

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced today that it has now completed returning all petitions that were not selected in the Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B lottery.  Employers who filed petitions should now have received either a Form I-797 receipt notice with assigned receipt number, or the original rejected petition including filing fees.  USCIS will take inquiries if employers believe they filed during the required period – April 2 to April 6, 2018 – and have not received a receipt notice or rejected petition by August 13, 2018.

 

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the August Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China: EB-1 remains backlogged to January 1, 2012, EB-2 moves forward – advancing two months to March 1, 2015 – and EB-3 leaps ahead eighteen months to July 1, 2014
  • India: EB-1 remains stuck at January 1, 2012, EB-2 freezes at March 15, 2009, and EB-3 advances two months to January 1, 2009
  • Philippines: EB-1 retrogresses to May 1, 2016, EB-2 remains current, and EB-3 springs ahead six months to June 1, 2017
  • All Other Countries: EB-1 retrogresses to May 1, 2016, while EB-2 and EB-3 remain current

NOTE: USCIS has not yet announced if it will accept I-485 applications in August based on the Department of State’s Dates for Filing chart. However, the trend over the last several months has been to NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart, and instead only accept I-485 applications based on the Final Action Dates as listed above.

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the July Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China: EB-1 remains backlogged to January 1, 2012, EB-2 jumps ahead four months to January 1, 2015, while EB-3 reverses course and retrogresses to January 1, 2013
  • India: EB-1 remains stalled at January 1, 2012, EB-2 continues to creep forward, moving to March 15, 2009, and EB-3 leaps ahead six months to November 1, 2018
  • Philippines: EB-1 and EB-2 remain current, while EB-3 remains backlogged to January 1, 2017
  • All Other Countries: All EB categories are current

NOTE: USCIS has not yet announced if it will accept I-485 applications in July based on the Department of State’s Dates for Filing chart. However, the trend over the last several months has been to NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart, and instead only accept I-485 applications based on the Final Action Dates as listed above.

In a closely watched asylum appeal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a decision that will adversely affect the ability of victims of domestic and gang violence to find protection in the United States.

Matter of A-B- was originally decided, in December 2016, in favor of the asylum seeker by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  The BIA is an administrative branch of the US Department of Justice.  It accepts appeals, filed by either government attorneys or immigrants, of decisions made by civil immigration courts throughout the country.

In late 2016, the BIA overturned the 2015 denial of A-B-‘s asylum claim by a judge in Charlotte, North Carolina, where asylum was denied at a rate of 72 to 84.5 per cent between 2011 and 2016.  Finding the denial was “clearly erreoneous,” the BIA said A-B- had proven she was persecuted based on membership in a “particular social group”; specifically, “El Salvadoran women who are unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children in common.”

In March 2018, Sessions referred the BIA’s decision to himself – a controversial practice that gives a political appointee, and the head of a law enforcement agency, absolute power to overturn the decision of an independent and neutral tribunal of administrative judges.  Sessions’s decision yesterday, which comes as a surprise to no one, vacates the BIA’s grant of asylum as “wrongly decided” and says:  “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes—such as domestic violence or gang violence—or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”

Calling it “an affront to the rule of law,” a group of 15 former immigration and BIA judges said Sessions’s finding erased “a 15-year process through the immigration courts and BIA” to develop nuanced and reliable legal standards on the “particular social group” basis for asylum.