VAWA Reauthorized: What are the implications for immigration matters?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was originally passed in 1994. It was created to improve the criminal justice response to victims of domestic and sexual violence. VAWA created the first U.S. federal legislation to acknowledge domestic violence and sexual assault crimes and provide federal resources to combat them. VAWA expired in December of 2018.

On March 10, 2022, the reauthorization of VAWA was passed by Congress as a part of the Omnibus Fiscal 2022 spending package. This bill will reauthorize the program through 2027. You can check out the major provisions of the reauthorization here.

 

Getting a Green Card under VAWA

According to USCIS, under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), you may be eligible to become a lawful permanent resident if you are the victim of battery or extreme cruelty committed by:

  1. A U.S. citizen spouse or former spouse;
  2. A U.S. citizen parent;
  3. A U.S. citizen son or daughter;
  4. A lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or former spouse; or
  5. An LPR parent.

You may self-petition under VAWA by filing a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360) without your abusive family member’s knowledge or consent. A person who files a VAWA self-petition is generally known as a VAWA self-petitioner. If your self-petition is approved and you meet other eligibility requirements, you may be able to become a lawful permanent resident.

 


The renewal of VAWA authorizes appropriations of $60 million per fiscal year through 2027 to cover legal assistance for victims of domestic violence; including legal assistance services provided by a licensed attorney, an accredited Board of Immigration Appeals representative, an accredited representative for Veterans’ Administration claims, an attorney or lay advocate in Tribal court, or a person with a demonstrated expertise in providing legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

 


Please note that Challa Law Group offers immigration legal assistance to survivors of domestic abuse pro bono, meaning without charge.

Please contact us at info@challalaw.com with any questions or inquiries on how we can help.

 


USCIS Urges Eligible EB-2 Individuals from India to File Adjustment of Status in April

The April Visa Bulletin brought a big jump forward in the employment-based, second preference (EB-2) category from India; from September 1, 2013, to September 1, 2014.

On March 17, 2022, USCIS released an alert encouraging individuals in the EB-2 category from India that have a priority date earlier than September 1, 2014, to file their adjustment of status in April and include their medical examinations (I-693) in the original filing.

USCIS mentions that they continue to encourage eligible applicants in EB-3 category to interfile to the EB-1 or EB-2 category if they meet these criteria:

  1. A visa is unavailable to them in the EB-3 category
  2. They have a pending or approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
  3. A visa is available in the EB-1 or EB-2 category

Please reach us at info@challalaw.com with any questions.


AILA Doc. No. 22031704.


The Golden Visa: Alternative Avenues to a Green Card for Entrepreneurs

If you are an entrepreneur looking to establish permanent residency in the United States, odds are you have heard of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. This type of program is not unique to the United States as 23 countries around the world (VisaPlace) have some type of ‘citizen-by-investment’ policy, commonly referred to as the “Golden Visa.”

With EB-5 processing times averaging at a whopping 47 to 71 months (four to six years), the situation begs some entrepreneurs to wonder, “Is there a faster way?” We would like to propose using the “Golden Visa” option in a third country to leverage an E-2 treaty investor visa.

 

The E-2 Visa

According to USCIS, an E-2 treaty investor must be a citizen of United States treaty country and “invest a substantial amount of money and direct the operations of an enterprise they have invested in, or are actively investing in.” If applying from within the United States, an E-2 treaty investor petition is processed in 2 to 4 months or can be filed with premium processing, meaning a decision would be issued within 15 days of filing. If applying outside the US, you can apply with the consulate.

An E-2 visa permits “dual intent,” meaning that you must maintain the intention to depart the United States when the E-2 visa expires yet can simultaneously intend to apply for permanent residence. Once in the United States, an E-2 visa holder can apply for an adjustment of status, granted they are willing to waive some of the rights that are associated with an E-2 visa.

 

An Alternative to EB-5

So, if you are an entrepreneur looking to come to the United States, but perhaps don’t want to wait for an EB-5 application to process, consider investing in one of the 12 countries that have a “Golden Visa” program and are also treaty countries with the United States, including:

  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Grenada
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom

 

Questions? Contact info@challalaw.com.

 

 


BREAKING NEWS: Congress Passed $1.5 Trillion Spending Bill, EB-5 Regional Center Program Reauthorized

With the passage of a $1.5 trillion spending bill in the House on Wednesday (March 9) and the Senate last night (March 10), the EB-5 Regional Center Program was reauthorized.

The EB-5 Regional Centers have been reauthorized through September 30, 2027. All pending investor visa applications that have been stuck in a holding period since the lapse of regional center authorization will now continue to be adjudicated by USCIS. The bill also included a provision that if Congress fails to reauthorize the program again before expiration in 2027, investors will be “grandfathered” in and USCIS will continue to adjudicate investor visa petitions that were submitted before expiration.

Investment amounts have increased to $800,000 in Targeted Employment Areas (TEA) and $1,050,000 for non-TEA. The amounts will increase every 5 years to reflect inflation.

Questions? Email us at info@challalaw.com

 


 

Sources:

https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/BILLS-117HR2471SA-RCP-117-35.pdf

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanponciano/2022/03/10/senate-passes-15-trillion-spending-bill-with-14-billion-for-ukraine-aid-heres-whats-in-it/?sh=78d4c680b713

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/analysis-of-new-eb-5-reform-bill-4941323/

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/congress-set-to-pass-eb-5-reform-and-reauthorize-eb-5-regional-center-program


Legalized Marijuana and Immigration: What do non-citizens need to avoid?

The cannabis industry has exploded over the last ten years since Colorado and Washington state first legalized the adult use of marijuana (“adult use” used to be referred to as “recreational use,” but the verbiage has since changed). Now, 18 states permit adult use, and 37 states permit medicinal use. But what does that mean for non-citizens of the United States?

It is important to note that marijuana continues to be illegal on the federal level, and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operate under federal law. Having cannabis on your person at Customs could result in a Customs fine, or in some cases, a statement can be taken from you during the inspection process which could be used to establish inadmissibility. There have even been reports of non-citizens being denied entry at the border for having any sort of cannabis-related product, including CBD sleeping pills.

There are movements for marijuana reform on a federal level, with members of Congress urging the federal government to align themselves with changing state and local policies. Until reform is enacted, however, it is important to be extremely careful with marijuana use, purchase, and possession as a non-citizen.

While true for everyone (US citizens, permanent residents, and non-residents alike), this is a special reminder for non-residents and permanent residents to never drive or operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or any controlled substance. A DUI can greatly affect immigration proceedings for non-citizens.

If you have any questions, please contact us at info@challalaw.com.

 


 

This post is an informal summary of information that was gathered from an article by W Scott Railton on Think Immigration, a blog hosted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

 

 


Congress Pushes on DHS to Improve the USCIS Contact Center

On February 28, 2022, 47 members of Congress wrote a letter to Secretary Mayorkas (Department of Homeland Security) and Director Jaddou (Citizenship and Immigration Services) urging them to make improvements to the USCIS Contact Center. The letter specifically mentions the barriers posed by the shift from InfoPass to InfoMod in conjunction with scheduling in-person appointments at field offices. They state that navigating the new three-tiered system has caused extensive wait times, unreasonable callback windows, and significant customer dissatisfaction.

Another grievance the letter refers to is the fact that members of an attorney’s legal staff are not allowed to receive updates through the new contact center; if not the beneficiary, only the attorney of record can raise an inquiry or speak to USCIS officers. The letter goes on to mention that as USCIS’ pending caseload has increased 85% from 2015 to 2020, improvements to the contact center will reduce the burden on the agency itself and improve overall customer satisfaction.

In summary, the letter asks for:

  1. Reinstating InfoPass or another online appointment self-scheduling system
  2. Providing accurate and accommodating callback windows
  3. Allowing law firm staff other than the attorney on record to make requests
  4. Making public the criteria for granting appointments through InfoMod
  5. Offering walk-in availability for urgent requests at local USCIS offices

Questions? Email info@challalaw.com

Information from AILA Doc. No. 22030300.

 


H-1B Strategies for Employers

At Challa Law, it is our mission to arm and equip our clients with knowledge. We know that when an employer is confident about immigration processes, their employees are confident about immigration processes. Decreased worry and stress about the legal implications of bringing in international resources leads to greater productivity and success. That’s what we want to provide for all the businesses that trust the Challa Law name.

With H-1B season fully upon us, we want to briefly review the H-1B lottery process, as well as cover some tips and suggestions for providing strong evidence for your employee’s petition. You can also find all of this information and more in our webinar from March 2, 2022.

H-1B Lottery

Registration for the lottery began on March 1 at noon EST and will run till March 18 at noon EST. Registration is conducted on my.uscis.gov. Here are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about registering an employee for the H-1B lottery:

  • The petitioner (employer) must pay $10 for each beneficiary (employee) they register
  • The petitioner needs to provide basic demographic information about the beneficiary, as well as basic information about their company to register
  • A petitioner can only register the beneficiary for one position
  • A beneficiary can be registered by multiple companies

There are 85,000 H-1B visas allotted per fiscal year. The first 25,000 are selected from a pool of master’s degree holders only. Anyone who is not selected in that initial drawing is then put into the pool of all H-1B lottery registrants and names are drawn again for the remaining visa slots.

Last year, 308,613 people registered for the H-1B lottery (a 12% increase than the previous year) and USCIS initially selected 87,500 names. This was significantly lower than the amount the had chosen the year prior. This caused USCIS to conduct a second-round lottery in July 2021 and a third-round lottery in November 2021.

USCIS states that they will notify petitioners (and attorneys) electronically whether the beneficiary was selected or not by March 31. The notice will include a service center filing location and a designated filing window. Employees may begin work on the first day of the fiscal year, October 1, 2022.

Cap Gap for F-1 students: if the H-1B petition is filed before the F-1 OPT work authorization expires, then the employee is allowed to keep working for the employer with the H-1B receipt notice should their OPT expire before October 1.

Tips on Strong Evidence for a Successful Petition

Proving Education Levels Meets H-1B Requirements

  • We suggest requesting a degree evaluations if degrees are from a foreign instituation to determine equivalency to US degrees

Proving the Position is a Specialty Occupation

  • We suggest providing a very detailed job description with duties outlined clearly, but not so complex that someone outside your field could not understand it

 

“Imagine you are explaining this job to a ten-year-old”

– Lakshmi Challa

 

We hope you find this information helpful. Please email us at info@challalaw.com with any additional questions.


Green Card Backlog: Could choosing consular processing be your solution?

The journey to obtaining your green card can be a long process. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused backlogs for all USCIS petitions but significantly affected those who wish to adjust to permanent residency within the United States. Some adjustments are taking up to two years to process in certain service centers.

In recent months, as the pandemic is seemingly winding down and other countries are beginning to soften their COVID-19 regulations, we have seen a decrease in interview wait times at some foreign consulates. Now the question is: is consular processing going to be the quickest pathway to obtaining your green card?

By analyzing the projected wait times on the USCIS website, it is easy to compare them to the processing times listed on the Department of State’s website, specific to each consulate. Below we have provided two charts that can be used to compare processing times for our clients from the United Kingdom who are filing under the “US citizen filing for spouse, parent, or child category”:

 

Family Based Adjustment of Status within the United States

FORM NAME

DISCRIPTION OF BENEFIT SOUGHT ESTIMATED PROCESSING TIME

Form I-130

Application Alien Relative

13 – 18.5 months

Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status to a Permanent Resident of the United States 12 – 28.5 months
Form I-131 Application for Travel abroad while I-485 is pending with USCIS 11 – 15 months
Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization while I-485 is pending

11.5 – 15 months

 

Consular Processing Green Card Process

PROCESS NAME DISCRIPTION OF BENEFIT SOUGHT ESTIMATED PROCESSING TIME
Form I-130 Application Alien Relative 13 – 18.5 months
Transfer from USCIS to the NVC If a visa is available to you USCIS will send your petition to the National Visa Center 4 – 8 weeks
NVC Case Creation and payment of fees Once the NVC receives your petition they will open up a case for you. This will prompt you to pay the necessary NVC fees. 2 – 6 weeks
Submit DS-260 application and supporting civil documents Once you have submitted all the necessary documents the NVC will again review the application and documents 3 – 4 months

If you have questions about whether choosing consular processing could be a better option for you than filing an I-485 adjustment, reach out to us at info@challalaw.com.


Is Congress going to reauthorize EB-5 Regional Centers?

The authorization for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program ended at midnight on June 30, 2021. This has left hundreds of EB-5 petitions that were submitted under the Regional Center Program pending, as USCIS decided not to act on these petitions until new legislation for Regional Centers was enacted. There was buzz towards the end of the 2021 about Regional Centers being reauthorized, but nothing came about.

Once again Challa Law has heard that there is a draft EB-5 Regional Center reauthorization bill floating around as part of the omnibus package for February 18, 2022. The buzz is that the minimum investment for targeted employment areas (TEA) will be upped from $500,000 to $700,000; Non-TEA minimum investment will be $850,000. If the new legislation is enacted, the program would be reauthorized through the year 2027; however, the changes will likely go into effect immediately.

For more information on the EB-5 Investment Program, email us at info@challalaw.com or check out our YouTube channel.


USCIS Announces H-1B Cap Registration Period

USCIS Announces H-1B Cap Registration Period

USCIS announced that the H-1B cap registration period will open on March 1, 2022 and will close on March 18, 2022. USCIS will make the selections by March 31, 2022. Selected registrations may apply for the H-1B, which allows the beneficiary to begin working on October 1, 2022, the start of the new fiscal year.

Challa Law Group will continue to offer a tiered approach to registration. Read more about which option is right for your company: Planning for the H-1B Cap Registration System.

From USCIS (January 29, 2022): 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2023 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern on March 1 and run through noon Eastern on March 18, 2022. During this period, prospective petitioners and representatives will be able to complete and submit their registrations using our online H-1B registration system.

USCIS will assign a confirmation number to each registration submitted for the FY 2023 H-1B cap. This number is used solely to track registrations; you cannot use this number to track your case status in Case Status Online.

Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary. Prospective petitioners submitting their own registrations (U.S. employers and U.S. agents, collectively known as “registrants”) will use a “registrant” account. Registrants will be able to create new accounts beginning at noon Eastern on Feb. 21.

Representatives may add clients to their accounts at any time, but both representatives and registrants must wait until March 1 to enter beneficiary information and submit the registration with the $10 fee. Prospective petitioners or their representatives will be able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit, and store draft registrations prior to final payment and submission of each registration.

If we receive enough registrations by March 18, we will randomly select registrations and send selection notifications via users’ myUSCIS online accounts. We intend to notify account holders by March 31.

An H-1B cap-subject petition, including a petition for a beneficiary who is eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may only be filed by a petitioner whose registration for the beneficiary named in the H-1B petition was selected in the H-1B registration process.

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