Tag Archives: green card

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.

Contact Challa Law Group

Immigration & Travel Challenges Leave Green Card Holders Considering U.S. Citizenship

NOTE: USCIS filing fees for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization increase 83%, from $640 to $1,170 on October 2, 2020.

Even prior to the pandemic, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services made the news for processing delays across visa categories. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to additional delays, including green card printing backlogs. The agency blamed declining requests for immigration services when it requested $1.2 billion in funding from Congress earlier this year. When the negotiations fell through, USCIS contacted approximately two-thirds of the workforce to warn of furloughs starting August 30, 2020. Amid the budget woes, DHS also published a final rule increasing prices for many immigration benefits, including increasing the cost to apply for citizenship from $640 to $1,170 starting on October 2, 2020.

Recently, an independent government watchdog determined that the appointment of top officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were invalid due to the agency’s disregard for the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Federal judges have already struck down some H-1B requirements, but we could see increased legal challenges for policies enacted during the past two years.

Even green card holders have been subject to restrictions during the President’s travel bans. Many permanent residents are considering naturalization to not only avoid the uncertainties of shifting immigration regulations, but to participate fully in the U.S. democratic process.

When should I file for U.S. citizenship?

Naturalization, or the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, is largely a personal choice based on your circumstances and goals. We will provide information on the requirements and eligibility for citizenship, as well as an overview of the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens.

Eligibility Overview

Typically, you must be a green card holder for 5 years before applying for naturalization. Some spouses of U.S. citizens are eligible if they have been a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years and have been living in marital union with the same U.S. citizen during that period.

Residency Requirements

You must maintain continuous residence for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen as described above). You must also establish that you have resided in the state or service district for 3 months prior to filing. If you travel outside the U.S. for more than six months but less than a year or you are absent for more than 1 year, you may break the continuity of residence. Even multiple absences of less than 6 months may concern an immigration officer: you need to provide additional evidence that your actual dwelling place and residence is in the United States. You must show that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the five years preceding your filing (or 18 months out of 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen).

If you are considering naturalization, you should consult with an attorney when planning extended travel to ensure you are maintaining your permanent residence.

Citizenship Qualifications

USCIS will evaluate whether you are a person of “good moral character” and requires that you demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. constitution. You must also have an understanding of U.S. history and government and be able to read, write, and speak basic English to pass the required civics and English test. The interview will be conducted in English and you are expected to be able to answer in English. When you pass the interview and test portions, you will be scheduled for an oath ceremony. Last fall, USCIS started piloting changes to the tests, with changes set to go into effect later this year or early 2021.

What happens if I don’t pass?

You can take the English and civics tests between 60 and 90 days after the date of your initial interview. If you fail once again, you must apply for naturalization again. If there was wrongdoing or bias on the part of the interviewing officer, there may be an opportunity to appeal the decision, but this is a rare occurrence. There is no limit to the number of times you can apply for naturalization.

Becoming a Citizen

At the ceremony, you will be required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States. The oath is as follows:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

At the ceremony, you are required to return your green card. It will no longer be needed as you will receive a Certificate of Naturalization after taking the oath. You should review the certificate and notify USCIS of any errors before leaving the ceremony.

Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities

As a green card holder, you are probably already familiar with tax reporting requirements and other responsibilities that come with living and working in the United States. After you become a U.S. citizen, you are afforded additional rights and responsibilities. You should update your Social Security record, apply for a U.S. passport if you intend to travel abroad, and you can register to vote. USCIS states that U.S. citizens are eligible to:

  • Vote.
    Only citizens can vote in federal elections. Most states also restrict the right to vote, in most elections, to U.S. citizens.
  • Serve on a jury. 
    Only U.S. citizens can serve on a federal jury. Most states also restrict jury service to U.S. citizens. Serving on a jury is an important responsibility for U.S. citizens.
  • Travel with a U.S. passport. 
    A U.S. passport enables you to get assistance from the U.S. government when overseas, if necessary.
  • Bring family members to the U.S. 
    S. citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family memberspermanently to this country.
  • Obtain citizenship for children under 18 years of age. 
    In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizenis automatically a U.S. citizen.
  • Apply for federal jobs. 
    Certain jobs with government agencies require U.S. citizenship.
  • Become an elected official. 
    Only citizens can run for federal office (U.S. Senate or House of Representatives) and for most state and local offices.
  • Keep your residency. 
    A U.S. citizen’s right to remain in the United States cannot be taken away.
  • Become eligible for federal grants and scholarships. 
    Many financial aid grants, including college scholarships and funds given by the government for specific purposes, are available only to U.S. citizens.
  • Obtain government benefits. 
    Some government benefits are available only to U.S. citizens.

Explore additional rights and responsibilities on the USCIS website.

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Citizenship & Immigration Services to Furlough Majority of Workers

Citizenship & Immigration Services to Furlough Majority of Workforce

UPDATE 8/25/2020: USCIS Postpones Administrative Furlough

USCIS requested $1.2 billion from Congress as part of a coronavirus relief package, but when negotiations seemed to fall through, the President signed a series of executive orders instead. The orders did not address the agency’s funding requests. Earlier this month USCIS notified approximately 13,400 of 20,000 employees that they would be furloughed starting August 30, 2020.

USCIS is primarily funded by fees collected from providing immigration services. Previously this year, the agency announced fees would be increasing by an average of 20% to recover operational costs. Those changes go into effect on October 2, 2020. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claimed that the current fee structure would leave the agency underfunded by $1 billion per year. In the earlier request to Congress, USCIS proposed a 10% service fee surcharge in addition to $1.2 billion in funding.

With a furlough of two-thirds of the USCIS workforce, individuals and businesses applying for immigration benefits may see additional delays in processing. Some categories are already suffering from delays and the earlier shutdown of a printing facility led to backlogs for green cards and EADs.

Don’t wait until the last minute to file for new visas or extensions! Contact us to get started before the delays affect your immigration status!

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USCIS Fees Increase on October 2, 2020

USCIS Fees Increase on October 2, 2020

On July 31, 2020 the Department of Homeland Security announced an increase to fees for immigration and naturalization benefit requests. Although most fees are increasing, a $10 discount is offered for online submission where available.

Employment Visa Updates

Employers are understandably concerned about the potential effect the rule has on H-1B, L-1, and other immigrant employees. For employers with more than 50 employees and more than 50% of those employees in H-1B or L-1 status, a $4,000 fee applies. The rule expands the Public Law 114-113 fee of $4,000 to both H-1B and L-1 new employment as well as extensions of stay for employers that meet the 50 employee, 50% dependability test. The Public Law fee will apply regardless of whether the fraud fee applies. Extension requests for H-1B, L-1A, and L-1B visas filed by the same petitioner for the same employee or H-1B, L-1A, and L-1B amended petitions were previously exempt from the additional fee.

DHS will now separate the I-129 into forms based on case type and eliminate the current supplements to the I-129 form. This also allows DHS to charge separate fees for each form depending on the classification. DHS states that the current base filing fee of $460 doesn’t accurately capture the costs associated with adjudication since the fee is paid regardless of how many nonimmigrant workers will benefit from the petition or application, the type of worker evaluated, whether an employee is identified, or how long it takes to adjudicate the different nonimmigrant classifications.

The rule updates the filing fees as follows:

Case Type Current Fee Final Fee Change Percent Change
E-1

E-2

TN

$460 $695 $235 51 percent
H-1B $460 $555 $95 21 percent
H-2A
(named beneficiaries)
$460 $850 $390 85 percent
H-2B
(named beneficiaries)
$460 $715 $255 55 percent
L-1A

L-1B

$460 $805 $345 75 percent
O-1 $460 $705 $245 53 percent
H-2A
(unnamed beneficiaries)
$460 $415 -$45 -10 percent
H-2B
(unnamed beneficiaries)
$460 $385 -$75 -16 percent


Green Card Fee Changes

Children under the age of 14 filing for a green card with their parents were previously able to pay a reduced fee of $750 instead of the $1,140 (plus $85 biometrics fee) currently charged to older applicants. All applicants will pay $1,130 under the new rule.

DHS also chose to separate the filing fees for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, when either filed concurrently with Form I-485 or after the Form I-485 has been accepted and is still pending. Current regulations allow individuals to pay the I-485 fee, but also file the I-765 and I-131 without additional fees if filed concurrently.

The rule claims: “Debundling allows individuals to pay for only the services actually requested. Thus, many individuals may not pay the full combined price for Forms I-485, I-131, and I-765.” The newly established fees are as follows:

  • Form I-131, Application for Travel Document: $590
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization: $550
  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or adjust Status: $1,130

Individuals applying for work and travel documents along with their permanent residence application will now pay a total of $2,270.

Citizenship Fees

DHS will remove the N-400 fee waiver (Form I-942) and the reduced fee option “in order to recover full cost for naturalization services.” The rule also removes the fee waiver for the N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship. However, the removal of fee waivers will reduce the cost of Forms N-600 and N-600K because the increased fee would no longer need to cover the cost of the fee-waived form adjudication.

However, the N-400 would not be afforded the same price decrease as the N-600: DHS raised the naturalization fee an astounding 83% from $640 to $1,170 for the paper-based filing. With the removal of the reduced fee option, naturalization may be financially out of reach for many families.

Premium Processing

Currently, petitioners or applicants can pay $1,440 for certain employment-based petitions to be adjudicated within 15 calendar days. The new rule will change the 15-day calculation from calendar days to business days, while also excluding federal holidays and regional or national office closures due to weather or other causes.

The rule also states that the 15-day period be paused when USCIS issues a notification of an approval, denial, RFE, or NOID. The rule would also clarify that a new 15 business day period will begin upon receipt of an RFE or NOID response. If an investigation is opened for fraud or misrepresentation, USCIS can retain the fee and not reach a conclusion to the request within 15 days.

The agency claims that the shift to calculating by business days will allow USCIS additional time to complete processing on a premium processing petition and could reduce the need for USCIS to suspend premium processing when request filing volumes are high.

Payment Updates

USCIS will eliminate the $30 returned check fee because the fees associated with collecting the charge were higher than the returned check fees actually collected. However, petitioners and applicants should still ensure that adequate funds are available to avoid processing delays.

Another shift that has the potential to trip up applicants and petitioners is the planned updates to certain form instructions to only allow certain payment types for certain forms. For example, USCIS may determine that it only wants to accept credit or debit card payments for naturalization. USCIS could also decide that only a check or money order is acceptable payment for a certain form. The rule does not modify the instructions at this time, but states:

“In this final rule, DHS does not restrict the method of payment for any particular immigration benefit request. This final rule clarifies the authority for DHS to prescribe certain types of payments for specific immigration benefits or methods of submission.”

Extra precautions must be taken to review form instructions every time a case is filed to avoid a processing delay due to an incorrect payment type.

Biometrics Fees

The new rule incorporates biometrics fees into the underlying immigration benefit request to “simplify the fee structure, reduce rejections of benefit requests for failure to include a separate biometric services fee, and better reflect how USCIS uses biometric information.” The fee includes FBI name checks, FBI fingerprints, Application Support Center (ASC) contractual support, and biometric service management (including federal employees at ASC locations). The rule outlines that a separate biometric services fee will be retained for Temporary Protected Status in the amount of $30, but requests for other immigration benefits will include the biometric fee.

Secure Mail Initiative

We have seen many clients suffer when the United States Postal Service (USPS) loses important immigration notifications. The rule announced that USCIS will implement Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery (SCRD) as the sole method of delivery of secure USCIS documents. USPS states that Signature Confirmation requires that the recipient or another responsible person at the residence be present to sign for the item and then the sender will receive the signature and name of the recipient and the date, time, and location of the delivery. The rule outlines states

“USCIS and applicants can track their document using the USPS website up to when the document is delivered. Recipients will also have the ability to change their delivery location by going to the USPS website and selecting “hold for pickup” to arrange for pickup at a post office at a date and time that suits them.”

Applicants and petitioners should ensure that accurate addresses are submitted prior to the case filing.

Timeline for Rule Implementation

This final rule is effective Oct. 2, 2020. Any application, petition, or request postmarked on or after this date must include payment of the new, correct fees established by this final rule and utilize the updated forms.

Are you ready to start your case prior to the fee and process shifts? Contact us at info@challalaw.com or 804-360-8482 to get started today.

USCIS Grants Extensions for RFE and NOID Responses

Responses Accepted Within 60 Days of Deadlines

UPDATE on 3/30/2020: USCIS Clarifies & Expands Flexibility for RFE, NOID, NOIR, NOIT Responses

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that due to the ongoing effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency was “adopting measures to minimize the immigration consequences associated with responding to requests for evidence (RFEs) and notices of intent to deny (NOIDs) dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020.

Any responses to RFEs or NOIDs with deadlines between March 1 and May 1, 2020 that are submitted within 60 calendar days after the deadline, will be accepted for consideration by USCIS. The agency stated additional updates will be provided as the situation develops.

Over 200 organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s New York Chapter, have written to the the U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to request “policies and protocols to fully and effectively respond to the crisis currently being caused by COVID-19.” The letter states that “immigrants and the providers and advocates who help them to navigate these systems will suffer serious hardships that raise due process concerns.”

The letter has requested that courts be closed and deadlines extended. Some of the additional requests are below:

  • Address “age-outs” caused by COVID-19
  • Issue automatic work authorizations and renewals during the length of the pandemic
  • Suspend the issuance of new RFEs and NOIDs until offices resume normal operations
  • Waive requirements for original signatures and original photographs

USCIS recently announced that reproduced original signatures are acceptable for forms that typically require original “wet ink” signatures. We will keep you posted on additional updates to these requests to the respective agencies.

Visit our COVID-19 Resource Page for Employers & Foreign Workers to read about other critical immigration updates.