Tag Archives: COVID-19

U.S. Announces Travel Restrictions to Be Lifted

U.S. Announces Travel Restrictions To Be Lifted

White House pandemic coordinator, Jeff Zients, announced a new international air travel system that will allow travelers abroad to enter the U.S. once again. Zients stated that the new system “enhances the safety of international air travel” and would allow COVID-19-based travel bans to end in early November for those who are fully vaccinated against the virus. The existing requirements for COVID-19 tests will remain, even for fully vaccinated travelers. Individuals wishing to travel to the U.S. need to show proof of a negative test within three days of their planned entry to the U.S. Masks will still be required, but quarantine mandates are not expected.

Americans who are abroad will have stricter testing requirements if they remain unvaccinated. The individuals may also be contacted by officials after arrival to see if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce a process for airlines to help implement a contact-tracing system by collecting phone numbers and email addresses of travelers. Zients stated: “This will enable CDC and state and local public health officials to follow up with inbound travelers and those around them as someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19 or other pathogens.” The CDC will also release the list of vaccinations that will be acceptable before the new policy goes into effect.

Are you currently in a country subject to travel bans? 

If you have an urgent need to travel in the next few weeks, the existing travel restrictions will still be in place. You can request an emergency appointment and National Interest Exception if you qualify. However, the timeline for getting these approvals may be longer than a few weeks and therefore moot after the restrictions are lifted in November.

Check with your medical provider to determine if international travel and the current requirements are recommended for you. Note that some of the most popular vaccines require two doses, several weeks apart. If you wish to travel in November, consider scheduling your vaccination appointments early so that all required doses can be completed. If the vaccines available to you abroad are not currently approved for use in the U.S., you should check the CDC list of approved vaccines after it it is released (expected soon).

The consular posts are still subject to significant backlogs for visa appointments as posts are subject to country-specific operating conditions. Although you may be allowed to enter the U.S., obtaining visa stamping in a timely manner is expected to remain challenging in the coming months.


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What to Expect at Your USCIS Biometrics Appointment

Many applications, petitions, or other requests for immigration benefits require USCIS to collect biometrics to verify your identity. If you miss your scheduled biometrics services appointment, your case could be denied by USCIS so it is important to be prepared for the appointment or to reschedule if you are unable to make the scheduled time on your Form I-797C, Notice of Action.

Your appointment notice will include the date, time, and location for the biometrics services appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC). You will be required to provide your fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature. This is not an interview for any immigration benefit; just a verification of your identity.

What should I bring to my ASC appointment?

You should bring your original appointment notice, as well as your valid photo identification (such as driver’s license, passport, and/or green card). USCIS also suggests saving or printing a copy of your completed application, petition, or request for your records.

Note: Current COVID-19 protocols require that you also bring a blue or black ink pen to your appointment.

What will happen at my ASC appointment?

USCIS will collect your biometrics, or fingerprints, on specialized machines. The process is fast and does not require any ink and paper (unless the machine malfunctions). The office will also take a photo and may ask you to sign affirming your information is correct. USCIS uses your biometrics information to verify your identity and search the FBI database in order to check for criminal records or other violations.

USCIS will not collect blood samples, DNA information, or subject you to any medical tests at a biometrics appointment.

Why does USCIS require a signature again?

For some forms, a digital signature is required to reaffirm the contents of your application, petition, or request, even if you already signed on paper or electronically. By signing, you reaffirm that all submitted materials of yourself (and dependents, if applicable), are complete, true, and correct at the time of filing.

If you are over the age of 14, you must provide a signature. Children under the age of 14 are not required to sign, but they may choose to sign their name if they are capable. A parent or legal guardian may also sign the application, petition, or request on the child’s behalf.

I can’t make my appointment. How do I reschedule?

USCIS requires that you have “good cause” to reschedule your appointment. Be prepared with your explanation when you call USCIS to reschedule.

  • To reschedule your appointment, call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833). To reschedule your appointment with an asylum office, please follow the instructions in your interview notice.

USCIS states that if you fail to call before your scheduled appointment or fail to establish good cause for the request, USCIS may not reschedule your ASC appointment. If you do not appear for your original appointment, USCIS will “consider your application, petition, or request abandoned and, as a result, it may be denied.”

USCIS does offer mobile biometrics or homebound appointments in limited circumstances if you have a serious ongoing medical condition and cannot leave your home or hospital. Check your biometrics appointment notice for more details on these services.

I’m feeling a little under the weather, but I’ve been waiting for a long time for my biometrics appointment. Is it okay if I still attend?

While routine services have been resumed at USCIS, the agency still has COVID-19 safety protocols in place. USCIS states that you should not visit a USCIS office if you are sick or start to feel symptoms of being sick. This includes a cold or the flu, fever or nausea, headaches or body aches, muscle pain, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, active tuberculosis, mumps, measles, chickenpox, or any other contagious disease.

Additionally, USCIS will not allow entry to facilities if:

  • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including but not limited to a recently developed cough, fever, difficulty breathing, changes in smell or taste, or fatigue;
  • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days;
  • Have been instructed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider, public health authority or government agency within the last 14 days; or
  • Are awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.

Please consider the health and safety of those around you and reschedule your appointment if you are feeling ill or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you or someone you are with appears ill or meets the conditions listed above, the USCIS officer may cancel your appointment or interview.

What type of COVID-19 safety protocols are in place at USCIS facilities?

Local conditions may vary, but currently, USCIS states that the following policies are in place:

  • In all areas of the country, all USCIS employees, on-site contractors, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status or level of COVID-19 transmission in your local area, are required to wear a mask inside all DHS and USCIS workspaces and federal buildings. 
  • If your temperature is 38 degrees Celcius or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you must immediately leave the office building.
  • You may not enter more than 15 minutes before your appointment, or 30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided at entry points.
  • Face coverings that cover the mouth and nose are required inside all USCIS facilities.
    • Neck gaiters, bandanas, and masks with exhaust valves are not considered acceptable face coverings.
  • Markings and physical barriers in the facility will encourage social distancing.
  • You may have to answer health screening questions before entering.
  • You are encouraged to bring your own blue or black ink pens.

Review Your Appointment Notice

Always check your Form I-797C appointment notice for any updated details or requirements from USCIS.

Connecting with Challa Law Group

Join us on Wednesdays for a live webinar at 12 PM ET on critical immigration updates

Don’t miss out on the immigration news! You can sign up for our mailing list or follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, or LinkedIn. You can also join our Telegram community.

Contact us at info@challalaw.com or 804-360-8482 to get your case started today.


EB-5 Processing Issues During COVID-19

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has a monthly check-in with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the Department of State. During the August exchange, Oppenheim addressed EB-5 processing issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have already seen long processing times, even as the Visa Bulletin advances for previously backlogged countries like India.

Documentarily Qualified Cases Held at NVC

Oppenheim mentioned that a large number of Mainland China-born EB-5 investors were “not documentarily qualified.” This means that EB-5 cases never left the National Visa Center (NVC) and forwarded to the Consulate because NVC checklists or fee payments are outstanding. It was also noted that as a result of the pandemic and the temporary suspension of routine visa services at embassies and consulates, NVC paused shipments of cases. NVC will resume shipments at the request of the embassies and consulates as they assess local conditions and capabilities.

Some EB-5 investors are asked to provide civil documents that were previously uploaded to ASK NVC. You may avoid duplicate requests by uploading all documentation to NVC Electronic at one time. New applications or document requests may occur if a case goes into termination, such as when filing dates retrogress. Documentarily complete cases should restore to that state when the date becomes current again.

NVC Questions

Documents are to be submitted only through the NVC electronic portal. The Ask NVC electronic form is still available to accept questions, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic a statement cautions that NVC is working with reduced staff and requests that only urgent medical or humanitarian inquiries or necessary case updates for pending cases be submitted. Individuals with general questions such as case status and document lists are directed to log in to the Consular Electronic Application Center.

NVC Timelines

Many EB-5 applicants have waited 4-5 months for fee bills to be issued. Please note that a fee bill will not be issued until the case is current. After the visa bulletin is updated each month, the fee bills will be sent within a few days to those with current priority dates. If you receive a notice that NVC has received your case, you should notify the office of any dependents using the NVC Public Inquiry Form. While the current Form I-526 has a place to list derivatives, many EB-5 applicants filed using an older version of the form, requiring those individuals to add on dependents at a later stage.

Do you have questions about the EB-5 program? Contact us at info@challalaw.com to explore how your investment could earn you and your family green cards in the U.S.!

RESUMING SEPTEMBER 16, 2020: Join us on Wednesdays for a live webinar at 12 PM ET on critical immigration updates

Visit our COVID-19 resource page for the latest updates or follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or LinkedIn. You can also sign up for our mailing list.

August 2020 EB-5 Investor Updates

EB-5 Investor Updates

Processing Delays: 56%-67% Increase in Estimated Timelines, but the Visa Bulletin for India is CURRENT!

In May 2020, the estimated processing time frame for Form I-526 was 29.5-44.5 months but we saw an increase in the upper limit in June: the estimated time was 29.5 to 61 months for adjudication. In July there was another huge jump, showing processing times to be between 46 to 74.5 months, only allowing for case inquiries for cases filed before June 9, 2014.

The lower limit estimated processing time increased 56%, while the upper limit increased over 67% between June and August.

It is unclear whether this delay is due to the shift away from the FIFO or first-in, first out processing approach taken in March of this year. The agency switched to a visa availability approach to consider I-526 petitions where visas are immediately available or will be available soon. Currently the per-country cap established by Congress limits individuals from a single country to receiving no more than 7 percent of an employment-based visa allocation (unless the numbers would otherwise go unused).

Recent Regional Center EB-5 Approval Received in 28 Months

Some have predicted that USCIS was receiving many case inquiries and decided to move the receipt date for a case inquiry backward to “catch up” on processing. We recently had an EB-5 approval in June for a case that was filed in February of 2018 for an Indian citizen. It is unlikely USCIS is actually processing cases from 2014.

Children Nearing the Age of 21?

The Child Status Protection Act went into effect in 2002, allowing certain applicants to maintain their age for immigration purposes. If a parent files in the EB-5 category, the child may be able to take advantage of the permanent residence application. For the EB-5 category, a child’s age “freezes” on the date that the I-526 is filed and then begins counting again after the approval.

Email us at info@challalaw.com to get started on your family’s immigration journey!

Checking Case Processing Times

To check current processing times, go to https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/

Click on the Form dropdown box to select I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. On the Field Office or Service Center dropdown menu, select Immigrant Investor Program Office, then click the Get processing time button.

Scroll down to see the estimated time range, as well as the receipt date for a case inquiry.

Your receipt number and receipt and priority dates can be found on your I-797 receipt notice.

Checking Your Case Status

To check on the status of your case, go to: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do and enter your receipt number. Click on the Check Status button.

Visa Bulletin Progress: India is Current

Despite the processing delays, we have seen significant progress in the EB-5 category. Applicants from China are still subject to a long wait, with the priority date stuck in August of 2015. Similarly, Vietnam shows a priority date of July 22, 2017. We are finally seeing the EB-5 priority date for India as current.

Contact us at info@challalaw.com to discuss how to start your EB-5 green card process today!

Presidential Proclamation Update

The president’s recent proclamation suspending immigration for 60 days applies to individuals outside of the U.S. who receive green card approvals after the effective date of April 23, 2020. However, due to the importance of continued investment and job creation, the EB-5 program is specifically excluded from this order. The order also does not apply to individuals adjusting status from within the U.S. For complete details and exemptions, read our recent post on the Challa Law Group website.

Additional COVID-19 UpdatesU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). USCIS offices are open, but some consulates and embassies are operating on limited basis as conditions necessitate. Emergency services can still be requested.

Review some of the recent COVID-19 updates for employers and foreign workers:

RESUMING SEPTEMBER 16, 2020: Join us on Wednesdays for a live webinar at 12 PM ET for critical immigration updates

Visit our COVID-19 resource page for the latest updates or follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or LinkedIn. You can also sign up for our mailing list.

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