News from the USCIS:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that it will reuse previously submitted biometrics in order to process valid Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, extension requests due to the temporary closure of Application Support Centers (ASC) to the public in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This announcement is consistent with existing USCIS authorities regarding the agency’s ability to reuse previously submitted biometrics.

Applicants who had an appointment scheduled with an ASC on or after the March 18 closure or has filed an I-765 extension will have their application processed using previously submitted biometrics.  This will remain in effect until ASCs are open for appointments to the public.

Over the years, I have suggested USCIS use fingerprints already in the system instead of having the same applicants come back to the ASC office.  Most applicants visit a ASC center THREE times!  When only one visit would serve the purpose.

In addition to being more convenient for the Applicant, think of the savings on the USCIS side!  They would be able to cut 2/3rds of the biometric appointments, 2/3rds of the notices sent by snail mail and 2/3rds of the headaches to overworked and under paid USCIS staff.

Speaking of USCIS staff, the ASC office in Revere, Massachusetts is managed by Mr. A.  As any immigration lawyer in New England can tell you, Mr. A. is a problem solver.  He answers when called and he helps when he can.  One of the many people working to make our immigration system work from the inside.

Wash your hands!  Be safe!

USCIS will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond

I hope many of you have seen this, but thanks to AILA’s continued advocacy, CIS has agreed to accept original signatures.  More to come, we hope, regarding other requests, such as 90 day extensions on RFE, NOID, etc.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 National Emergency announced by President Trump on March 13, 2020, we will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures, including the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond.

USCIS already accepts various petitions, applications and other documents bearing an electronically reproduced original signature. This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified. For forms that require an original “wet” signature, per form instructions, USCIS will accept electronically reproduced original signatures for the duration of the National Emergency. This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form.

Individuals or entities that submit documents bearing an electronically reproduced original signature must also retain copies of the original documents containing the “wet” signature.  USCIS may, at any time, request the original documents, which if not produced, could negatively impact the adjudication of the immigration benefit.

 See Volume 1, General Policies and Procedures, Part B, Submission of Benefit Requests, Chapter 2, Signatures [1 USCIS-PM B.2].

USCIS Offices Temporarily Closed to the Public

As of March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. However, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. To schedule an emergency appointment contact the USCIS Contact Center.

USCIS domestic field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by this closure.

When USCIS again resumes normal operations, USCIS will automatically reschedule Application Support Center appointments due to the office closure. You will receive a new appointment letter in the mail.

Education of an Idealist

I had the good fortune of spending a little time recently with the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.  She was the guest of the Irish American Partnership at its annual women’s Christmas breakfast.

Ambassador Power was born in Ireland and her Irish heritage is very much a part of who she is today.  Before she became President Obama’s U.N. ambassador, she was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.  She is now teaching at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Ambassador Power was at the Partnership breakfast to talk about her latest book, The Education of an Idealist.

Her book (and the late night comedy of Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel) has helped me survive the daily atrocities of the Trump Administration.  When you read about the forethought, diligence and planning that went into U.S. foreign policy during the Obama Administration as compared to the shoot from the hip, attention deflection policy now on display, you should be embarrassed as a U.S. citizen.  I know I am.

The Education of an Idealist is going to be a fantastic movie.  It will open in an Irish pub with a little girl kicking a soccer ball off a wall and end with that same little girl, now a woman, walking out of the United Nations building in New York with a son holding one hand and a daughter the other.  It is simply a great and uplifting read and I couldn’t recommend it higher.

The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen was at the same Partnership breakfast and Ambassador Power and her book was the subject of a recent column:  https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2020/01/09/the-education-empathetic-policy-maker/YvtlB4VvPNQIznqEcicRpN/story.html?event=event12


USCIS Changes Extension Process

There is news from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) concerning the processing time for an I-751 to remove the conditions on conditional Legal Permanent Residents.

As of today, petitioners who file an I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence will receive a receipt notice that can be presented with their Permanent Resident/Green Card, as evidence of continued status for 18 months past the expiration date on their Permanent Resident/Green Card.

USCIS is making the change from 12 to 18 months because current processing times for the I-751 have increased over the past year.

Attorney John Foley said “this makes sense.  USCIS isn’t adjudicating I-751 petitions within the one year extension so this gives them more time.”

An I-751 petition is required in marriage cases where the couple has been married for less than two years when the immigrants status is adjusted.  Foley says “it’s still strange because the immigrant is going to prove his or her legal resident status by showing a soon to be or expired Legal Resident/Green card and an 18-month extension that is in the form of a letter.”

Foley says “even if the I-751 petition is not adjudicated during the extension period, the immigrant is still a Legal Resident and, if necessary, they can obtain an additional passport stamp as evidence of their legal status.”

Foley Law Offices also provides letters to clients traveling internationally during the extension period as well as letters to employers concerned about an employee’s legal status.

If you have questions concerning your I-751 petition or any immigration matter, call Foley Law Offices at (617) 973-6448 for a free telephone consultation with an immigration attorney.

TPS Designation for Haiti to End in 2019

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on November 20, 2017, the termination of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti,  effective on July 22, 2019.  This announcement follows then-Secretary Kelly’s announcement in May that the designation would not likely be extended past six months.

The effective date of the termination of TPS for Haiti will be delayed 18 months. This will provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible. The delay will also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients.

Approximately 60,000 Haitians are affected by the termination of this designation. The decision to terminate TPS was made after DHS determined the conditions in Haiti have improved significantly. Advocates for Haitians disagree arguing conditions in the island nation haven’t improved nearly enough for Haitians to return home.

Like all other delayed-TPS designation terminations, Haitians with TPS will be required to reapply for Employment Authorization Documents in order to legally work in the United States until the end of the respective termination or extension periods.

An immigration attorney in our office can help you today if you have TPS or any questions regarding any changes to the policy. Please call our office to set up a consultation at (617) 973-6448.

 

 

Temporary Protected Status Updates for Nicaragua and Honduras

Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, announced on November 6, 2017, changes to the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for Nicaragua and Honduras.

What is TPS?

TPS is a temporary status designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security that can be granted to eligible nationals of certain countries, who are already in the United States. It serves to prevent the country’s nationals from returning to conditions in their country that will be unsafe, or in certain circumstances where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua was originally designated as part of the program in 1999. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reviewed the conditions upon which the country’s designation were based and whether those substantial but temporary conditions prevented Nicaragua from adequately handling the return of their nationals.. There was also no request made by the Nicaraguan government to extend the current TPS status. Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, Acting Secretary Duke determined that those substantial but temporary conditions caused in Nicaragua by Hurricane Mitch no longer exist, and the current TPS designation must be terminated.

The termination of Nicaragua to the TPS program is not immediate. DHS delayed the termination date by twelve months in order to allow a transition for and TPS holders to determine other avenues of relief and alternative lawful immigration status. It will also provide time for Nicaragua to prepare for the return and reintegration of their citizens. TPS for Nicaragua will terminate on January 5, 2019.

Honduras

Regarding Honduras, Acting Secretary Duke concluded that despite receiving input from various sources, additional time is necessary to obtain and properly assess supplemental information pertaining to country conditions in Honduras in order to make a TPS designation determination.  Based on the lack of definitive information regarding conditions on the ground, the Acting Secretary has not made a determination at this time, thereby automatically extending the current TPS designation for Honduras for six months – through July 5, 2018

 Nicaraguans and Hondurans with TPS will be required to reapply for Employment Authorization Documents in order to legally work in the United States until the end of the respective termination or extension periods.

Let an immigration lawyer in our office help you today if you have TPS or any questions regarding any changes to the policy. Please call our office to set up a consultation at (617) 973-6448.

Temporary Protected Status Changes for Sudan & South Sudan

On September 18, 2017, Elaine Duke, acting Secretary of Homeland Security enacted the following changes for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Sudan and South Sudan.

Sudan

Beginning November 2, 2018, TPS for Sudanese nationals will be terminated. All Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) will be only renewed until TPS for Sudan is terminated on November 2, 2018. TPS termination for Sudan does not affect any other immigration status that an individual received during their time on TPS. USCIS suggests that individuals who are unable to apply for other immigration benefits to prepare and arrange for departure or apply for other eligible immigration benefits before the termination date.

South Sudan

TPS for South Sudan has been extended for 18 months. South Sudanese nationals currently receiving TPS may re-register and renew their EADs before the new expiration date. Currently, EADs will be renewed automatically for 180 days and upon renewal, new EADs for South Sudanese nationals with TPS will have a May 2, 2019 expiration date on their EADs. The status of South Sudan will be re-evaluated at least 60 days before May 2, 2019. After re-evaluation the Secretary of Homeland Security will determine whether or not to renew TPS for South Sudanese individuals.

Let an immigration lawyer in our office help you today if you have TPS or any questions regarding any changes to the policy. Please call our office to set up a consultation at (617) 973-6448.

DHS expansion of social media policy beginning October 18th!

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expanded its social media policy and as of October 18, 2018 will be collecting “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” for all immigrants. It is currently unclear as to how DHS will obtain the “search results.”

Furthermore, the Federal Register states that DHS will “update record source categories to include publicly available information obtained from the internet, public records, public institutions, interviewees, commercial data providers, and information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements.”

It is important to note that this new policy could impact anyone who interacts with immigrants on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Any conversation or interaction with an immigrant could be subject to surveillance.

We will continue to monitor the above as more information becomes available.

For any questions on how to fill out the DS-160 and DS-260, or any questions regarding the change in policy, please contact one of the immigration lawyers in our office today.

Premium processing to resume for FY 2018 cap H-1B petitions

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on September 18, 2017 that they have resumed premium processing for all H-1B petitions subject to the cap filed this past April in the lottery.

Premium processing is service offered by USCIS at an additional fee of $1,225 for certain business nonimmigrant visas. Premium processing guarantees a fifteen (15) -day processing time. Note, it does not always result in an approval during the allotted time period. Premium processing just guarantees processing. If USCIS does not process the petition in 15 days, it will refund the premium processing fee.

USCIS will resume premium processing for all H-1B petitions as their work load lightens. Our office will continue to monitor premium processing updates and provide them to you as they become available. For any further questions about premium processing or if you would like to upgrade your H-1B cap petition to premium processing, contact one of the immigration lawyers in our office today!