Category Archives: adjustment of status

COVID-19 Update: Certain USCIS Field Offices Plan to Reopen to the Public

As of June 4, some USCIS Field Offices are planning to reopen for in-person services to the public. The Application Support Centers plan to reopen later. The Field Offices and Application Support Centers have been closed to the public since March 18, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reopening of certain USCIS Field Offices will allow the scheduling and rescheduling of interviews for green cards, naturalization, and other U.S. immigration benefits. Biometrics appointment scheduling and rescheduling will also resume when the Application Support Centers reopen.

USCIS is following the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to protects its employees and the public. USCIS intends to limit the number of appointments and interviews per day, regularly clean and sanitize its facilities, and restrict the number of persons in waiting rooms.

USCIS’ Health & Safety Guidelines

USCIS provided the following guidelines when visiting their offices.

  • You may not enter a USCIS facility if you:
    • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
    • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
    • Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
  • You may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to your appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
  • You are encouraged to use hand sanitizer provided at entry points. 
  • You must wear facial covering (face mask) that covers both the mouth and nose when entering facilities. If you do not have one, USCIS may provide one or you will be asked to reschedule your appointment.
  • You should pay close attention to markings and physical barriers in the facility and follow social distancing guidelines.
  • You may have to answer health screening questions before entering a facility. 
  • You are encouraged to bring your own black or blue ink pens.
  • Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

USCIS will send you an appointment notice when your interview or biometrics appointment is scheduled or rescheduled. The notice will provide more details for visiting USCIS offices. If you feel sick, you are urged to request a cancellation or rescheduling of your appointment.

While USCIS is readying certain offices to reopen on or after June 4, its employees are continuing to perform mission-critical services that do not involve face-to-face contact with the public. Most likely, the earliest date for reopening of some offices will be in July.

The reopening will not only provide relief to applicants, but may help bring much-needed revenue to USCIS. In Mid-May, the agency announced it will run out of money by the summer because the coronavirus pandemic led to a steep drop in applications and filing fees since March. Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS operates almost entirely on revenue from application fees. It requested $1.2 billion from Congress to help it stay afloat, and proposed a 10% surcharge to application fees in the coming months.

Not every application or petition for a U.S. immigration benefit requires a face-to-face interview with a USCIS officer. The USCIS Service Centers are also continuing to accept applications and petitions and issue Receipt Notices and other correspondences, even while Field Offices remain closed to the public.

For the latest information on individual offices, check the USCIS Office Closing page.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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COVID-19 Update: Impact of Executive Order Temporarily Suspending Some U.S. Immigration for 60 Days, As of April 23

On April 22, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak. The Order becomes effective on April 23 at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time and is set to expire within 60 days, with a possibility of an extension.

[UPDATE, June 22, 2020: The Trump Administration issued a new Executive Order extending the suspension up to December 31, 2020. See COVID-19 Update: Executive Order Extends Suspension of Entry of Certain Immigrants AND Suspends Entry of H-1B, H-2B, J and L Visa Applicants and Derivative Beneficiaries, Up to December 31.]

Who Does the Executive Order Affect?

For a 60-day period, the Executive Order suspends and limits the entry of persons as intended immigrants (Immigrant Visa applicants) who are:

(a) outside the United States on the effective date;

(b) do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date; and

(c) do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, a boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date or any date thereafter that permits a request for admission at a U.S. port of entry.

If you have an Immigrant Visa dated April 23, 2020 or later — and need to land in the United States to become a permanent resident — you will not be admitted into the country during the 60-day period (i.e. up to June 22, 2020). The exception is if you fall into one of the categories that are exempted from the Order.

Who is Exempted from the Executive Order?

The Order does not prevent the entry of lawful permanent residents who already hold green cards for admission to the United States.

The Order also exempts certain intended immigrants, such as:

(1) Physicians, nurses and other health care professionals seeking to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19, or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak – as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designess – plus their accompanying or following to join spouse and unmarried minor children

(2) Immigrant Investors in the EB5 immigrant visa category

(3) Spouses of U.S. citizens

(4) Minor children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens, or prospective adoptees seeking to enter the United States with an IR-4 or IH-4 visa

(5) Persons whose entry would further U.S. law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee

(6) Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children

(7) Special Immigrant Visas in the SI or SQ classification (i.e. Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters and their spouses and unmarried minor children)

(8) Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees

What is the Stated Purpose of the Executive Order?

Trump said the Executive Order was necessary to protect American workers in an economy severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Between March 1 and April 11, more than that 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment as a result of the global pandemic and related restrictions with behavioral shifts, including closures of “non-essential” businesses and “social distancing” (physical distancing).

The Executive Order states, “We must be mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in an environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor.  We must also conserve critical State Department resources so that consular officers may continue to provide services to United States citizens abroad.”

The Order adds, “lawful permanent residents, once admitted, are granted ‘open-market’ employment authorization documents, allowing them immediate eligibility to compete for almost any job, in any sector of the economy.  There is no way to protect already disadvantaged and unemployed Americans from the threat of competition for scarce jobs from new lawful permanent residents by directing those new residents to particular economic sectors with a demonstrated need not met by the existing labor supply. ” 

What is the Impact of the Executive Order?

While the Executive Order temporarily suspends the entry of some persons who seek to enter the U.S. as immigrants, it exempts certain immigrant visa categories. It does not apply to the K-1 fiancee(e) category, which is a quasi-immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. It also does not prevent the filing of I-130 and I-140 petitions or the processing of such immigrant petitions by USCIS.

Furthermore, delays are already occurring due to global travel restrictions as well as cancellations and unavailability of visa interviews at U.S. Embassies and Consulates related to COVID-19.

The Executive Order will have little immediate impact on intended immigrants — unless U.S. Embassies and Consulates were to restart normal operations, such as scheduling visa interviews and issuing visas, within the next 60 days, or the Order is extended even further or indefinitely.

The text of the Order states: “Whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend whether I should continue or modify this proclamation.”

The Order also notes that additional measures may be taken. It reads, “Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.”

If the suspension is extended beyond the 60-day period or widened to include nonimmigrant visa categories, this could slow down the restarting of routine in-person services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates. In the meantime, Trump has issued guidelines for Opening Up America Again to state and local officials when “reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives.”

The situation remains fluid. Whether the Trump Administration will extend the suspension on U.S. immigration or begin a suspension in nonimmigrant visa cases is uncertain at this point.

Persons who are eligible for adjustment to permanent residence (green card) within the United States are not affected by the Executive Order. USCIS is performing mission critical duties that do not involve contact with the public.

For example, it continues to issue receipt notices, requests for evidence, decisions and other notices for petitions and applications. Although USCIS has suspended in-person services through at least May 3, it is still accepting petitions (e.g. I-130 and I-140 petitions) and applications for processing. The scheduling of interviews and biometrics appointments with applicants will restart after normal operations resume.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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COVID-19 Update: USCIS Offices Temporarily Closed to the Public, March 18 to April 1

As of March 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 19). There will be no USCIS Field Office interviews, USCIS Application Support Center biometrics appointments, asylum interviews, or naturalization oath ceremonies during this period.

Field Office Appointments

USCIS Field Offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview appointments. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule the interviews and issue new notices.

Persons who had InfoPass appointments with a Field Office must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center, after the Field Office is reopened.

Check the USCIS Field Offices page to see if your field office has reopened before reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center.

Application Support Center (ASC) Appointments

All biometrics appointments at USCIS Application Support Centers are suspended. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule the biometrics appointments and issue new notices. If you do not receive a new appointment notice by mail within 90 days, call 800-375-5283.

USCIS is unable to automatically reschedule appointments for Canadian and United Kingdom visa applicants.

Asylum Appointments

USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date, and location.

Naturalization Oath Ceremonies

Naturalization oath ceremonies are cancelled. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule naturalization oath ceremonies. If you do not receive a new naturalization oath ceremony notice by mail within 90 days, you may contact the USCIS Contact Center.

During the temporary closure, USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. USCIS Service Centers and the National Benefits Center will receive and process applications and petitions; the National Records Center will receive and process FOIA requests; and the Administrative Appeals Office will receive and adjudicate appeals of denied benefits.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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U.S. Consulate Lifts INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) Bar and Grants Immigrant Visa: A True Success Story

Within 21 days of receiving our Request for Supervisory Review of Immigrant Visa Refusal and Renewed Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i), the U.S. Consulate removed the lifetime bar and instructed our client to continue the immigrant visa process. Ultimately, he received his Immigrant Visa after the new police certificate and updated proof of his U.S. citizen petitioner’s U.S. domicile and financial support were provided. Because the U.S. Consulate agreed to lift the fraud charge, no Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Inadmissibility, was required.

Born stateless, the applicant used to hold a refugee travel document that contained a visitor visa when he was a child. After he acquired citizenship in a country where he was not born, the applicant used the new passport to obtain a second visitor visa and traveled to the United States for a temporary recreational stay.

Despite being married to a U.S. citizen, he complied with the terms of his visitor visa and did not overstay the authorized period or apply for a marriage-based green card within the United States. Based on the approved Form I-130 immigrant petition filed by his U.S. citizen wife, he sought to become a permanent resident through an Immigrant Visa application at the U.S. Consulate overseas.

At the initial Immigrant Visa interview, the applicant presented his passport for visa stamping. About two months later, the U.S. Consulate conducted a re-interview in which it asked about the process he used to acquire the citizenship and obtain the passport. He explained the legal channels he used to get both. Nonetheless, the U.S. Consulate charged him with section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud/willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain a U.S. immigration benefit), upon noting it was unable to verify his acquired citizenship or the authenticity of the passport when it contacted the government authorities.

The U.S. Consulate instructed him to file a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Inadmissibility, to be excused from the inadmissibility charge. A section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) finding prohibits applicants from receiving an Immigrant Visa without first getting an I-601 approval from USCIS.

Two months after the visa refusal, the applicant contacted me for the first time to discuss his options. In our Skype (video) consultation, I explained that one solution was to file a Form I-601 application, as the U.S. Consulate instructed. To receive the waiver, he would need to prove the extreme hardships his U.S. citizen wife would suffer if he is denied entry to the United States as a permanent resident. I noted there is never any guarantee the waiver will be granted due to the high standard of proof and the discretion involved in the decision-making.

I further pointed out that if he did not commit fraud or willfully misrepresent material facts to gain the prior B1/B2 visitor visa, the Immigrant Visa, or any other U.S. immigration benefit, he could file a Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding with the U.S. Consulate. If such a motion is granted and the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) bar is lifted, the I-601 waiver is not required for the visa to be issued.

The client opted to go with the request to reconsider the inadmissibility charge. After we entered into a representation agreement, I counseled him on the information and documents he needed to present to show he did not engage in fraud or willfully misrepresent material facts to receive any U.S. immigration benefit.

To support the Motion to Reconsider, I prepared a legal memorandum describing how the applicant used proper channels to obtain the passport and why the submission of this passport to the U.S. Consulate was actually immaterial to his eligibility for the Immigrant Visa, as well as the prior visitor visas he received.

Five days after receiving the Motion to Reconsider, the U.S. Consulate issued a response stating the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) bar would remain and the applicant needed to file for an I-601 waiver. The Consulate noted the applicant had no concrete evidence to support his explanation on how he acquired the citizenship. The Consulate added that during its checks with the government authorities, it was determined beyond reasonable doubt the applicant misrepresented his case and deliberately provided false information and documents to receive an immigration benefit. They added he did not rescind his false statements when given the opportunity to do so.

In the Request for Supervisory Review and Renewed Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding, I stressed the important points the U.S. Consulate missed when it issued the response affirming the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) charge.

In reply to this Request and Renewed Motion, the U.S. Consulate sent a response 21 days later stating the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) charge had been lifted. Five months later — following the completion of administrative processing — my client received the Immigrant Visa to join his wife in the United States, without needing to file for and obtain an I-601 waiver.

This is a true success story.

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900
info@dyanwilliamslaw.com

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Well-Documented Form I-751 Petition (After Divorce) + Full Preparation for Interview = A True Success Story

A USCIS Field Office in Ohio approved our client’s Form I-751 petition with request for waiver of joint filing requirement, despite her not living with the U.S. citizen (who had petitioned for her CR1 spousal immigrant visa) after she arrived in the United States as a conditional resident.

Her detailed affidavit describing the premarital courtship, married life abroad, and reasons the relationship ended in divorce was key to getting a timely approval. Her being fully prepared for the I-751 interview was another driving factor. 

Divorce and No Joint Residence with U.S. Citizen Petitioner After CR1 Spousal Immigrant Visa was Granted

The couple met in the United States while the client was in lawful, nonimmigrant status. At the end of her stay, they departed to her home country, where they married and lived together for a few months. The U.S. citizen filed an I-130 petition for her, but moved back to the United States before the immigrant visa process was completed.

Their relationship was rocky from the start. Marriage counseling and other good-faith efforts to resolve their marital problems did not help. The U.S. citizen petitioner, however, did not withdraw the I-130 or his I-864 affidavit of financial support.

At the CR1 spousal immigrant visa interview, the U.S. consular officer asked very few questions and granted the application. The client became a conditional resident upon her arrival in the United States. She received a conditional green card set to expire within 2 years because her immigrant status was based on a marriage that was less than two years old.

A few weeks after she landed in the United States, she contacted the U.S. citizen petitioner to let him know she was in the country. He was not interested in maintaining their marriage and asked for a divorce. They went their separate ways when he made it clear the relationship was over.

After three years of being legally married to the U.S. citizen and one year following the grant of her conditional residence, she received the court order terminating the marriage.

Individual Form I-751 Petition with Request for Waiver of Joint Filing Requirement

The client contacted me for the first time after she arrived in the United States as a conditional resident and before the divorce occurred. In the consultation, I explained that to get the conditions removed and maintain lawful permanent residence, she normally needed to file a joint I-751 petition with the spouse before the two-year card expires, and no earlier than 90 days before the expiration.

I noted there are only three types of waivers (exceptions) to the joint filing requirement. We determined the most appropriate option was to file for the waiver based on divorce (good faith/divorce waiver), after the divorce proceeding was completed.

I counseled her to start gathering evidence of their married life, including documents showing joint residence abroad, photographs of the two of them together, text messages and emails they exchanged with each other, third-party declarations attesting to the good faith nature of their marriage, a supporting affidavit from the U.S. citizen petitioner, and her own affidavit describing in detail their relationship history and the reasons for the divorce.

Following the divorce, the client contacted me again for full representation in her Form I-751 petition with request for waiver of joint filing requirement. We submitted the petition with the documentary evidence she had collected based on my advice. I included a legal memorandum explaining how she qualified for the I-751 waiver, including the concrete steps she took to salvage a marriage that was beyond repair.

Removal of Conditions on Permanent Residence Following Attorney Appearance at Out-of-State I-751 Interview

Although Dyan Williams Law PLLC is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I represent clients from all across the United States and around the world in U.S. immigration matters, which is governed by federal laws, regulations and policies.  I-751 interviews are scheduled at the USCIS Field Office with jurisdiction over the residence of the applicant who, in this case, is in Ohio. 

The day before the I-751 interview, I flew out to Ohio to prepare the client for possible questions from the USCIS officer and address concerns she had about the pending petition. 

When we appeared for the I-751 interview, the USCIS officer asked questions about when and how the couple met, their life together abroad, and the circumstances that led to the divorce.

Because the officer had reviewed the client’s detailed affidavit prior to the interview, she already had a good understanding of the relationship history. The officer also took note of the U.S. citizen petitioner’s affidavit confirming the marriage was based on love and intent to build a life together, but ultimately he no longer wanted to be in the relationship. 

At the end of the interview, the USCIS officer informed us she had no issues with the I-751 petition. In essence, she determined the marriage was entered into in good faith, even though it did not last and  there was no joint residence after the CR1 immigrant visa was granted.

The USCIS officer handed us a Notice of Interview Results stating, “Your case is being held for review. At this time, USCIS does not require any further information or documents from you…” She added that we would receive, in the mail, a decision or a request for evidence if more information or documents was needed. 

Within a week, we received the USCIS Field Office’s Notice of Removal of Conditional Basis of Lawful Permanent Resident stating the (10-year) green card would be mailed and the request for removal of conditions on permanent residence has been approved. The USCIS National Benefits Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri also issued the official Form I-797C, Notice of Action approving the I-751 petition. The applicant received her 10-year green card directly from USCIS. 

Divorce from the U.S. Citizen Petitioner and Lack of Joint Residence During Marriage Make it More Difficult to Get an I-751 Approval

A combination of factors made it possible for the applicant to get an I-751 approval even though she divorced the U.S. citizen petitioner and did not live with him after she arrived in the United States on the CR1 visa. Without proper counselling, an I-751 applicant in this type of situation is highly likely to get a denial and end up in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court.  

The I-751 applicant made a wise decision to discuss her options with skilled counsel prior to getting divorced and before her conditional residence expired. My guidance helped her to know when to initiate divorce proceedings, what documentary evidence to gather, and how to file for removal of conditions on residence after divorce. 

The legal memorandum submitted with the I-751 petition and counsel’s preparation for and appearance at the interview were also significant. If the applicant had not submitted her detailed affidavit with an explanation letter from counsel in support of the I-751 petition, and had no counsel present at the interview, the questions from the USCIS officer would have likely been a lot tougher. 

The applicant had the backup option of filing for a green card based on her second marriage to another U.S. citizen. This current marriage is solid and includes joint residence throughout the entire marital relationship. But I explained that a new I-130 petition and green card or immigrant visa application only had to be filed if her I-751 petition was denied and her permanent residence was terminated. 

Instead of needing to start from scratch, she received an I-751 approval and had the conditions on her permanent residence removed. She remains a lawful permanent resident who will meet the continuous residence requirement for naturalization (U.S. citizenship) within 5 years of when she was initially granted the (2-year) green card. 

This is a true success story. 

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900
info@dyanwilliamslaw.com

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

 

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