Tag Archives: immigration

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.

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.

 

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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Send your resume to info@challalaw.com to determine whether you may be a good candidate for a waiver of the labor market test!

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

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

USCIS Announces Green Card Goals and Interfiling Guidelines

USCIS Announces Green Card Goals and Interfiling Guidelines

USCIS updated the Green Card for Employment-Based Immigrants page with an alert about green card processing, noting the “exceptionally high number” of visas available and the Department’s goal for using all visa numbers prior to the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, 2022. On the same page, USCIS also noted updated guidelines for requesting a transfer of underlying basis, also commonly known as “interfiling” for Form I-485. USCIS notes the requirements for requesting a transfer of basis and establishes an address to where the requests should be directed.

From USCIS:

ALERT: There are an exceptionally high number of employment-based visas available this fiscal year (October 2021 through September 2022).

There are an exceptionally high number of employment-based visas available this fiscal year (October 2021 through September 2022). In partnership with the U.S. Department of State, we are committed to attempting to use all these visa numbers. There are many more visas available in the first (priority workers) and second (workers with advanced degrees or of exceptional ability) employment-based categories than pending adjustment of status applications pending with USCIS.

If you are eligible, please consider applying in the first or second employment-based preference categories. If you have a pending adjustment of status application based in the third employment-based preference category but also have a pending or approved petition and an available visa in the second employment-based preference category, we strongly encourage you to request that USCIS “transfer the underlying basis” of your pending application to the second employment-based preference category.

For more information, please see the section called “Transfer of Underlying Basis” below.

Transfer of Underlying Basis

You may be eligible to request to transfer the underlying basis of your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to a different employment-based immigrant category based on another Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. USCIS may, in its discretion, grant a transfer request, if:

  • You have continuously maintained eligibility for adjustment of status;
  • Your adjustment of status application based on the original Form I-140 is still pending;
  • You are eligible for the new immigrant category; and
  • You have a visa immediately available in the new immigrant category.

You must request in writing that USCIS transfer your pending Form I-485 from one basis to another category. For Fiscal Year 2022, USCIS has created a new point of contact that should be used to request a transfer of the underlying basis of employment-based Form I-485s. Through September 30, 2022, you may submit your written request, with a completed I-485 Supplement J, Confirmation of Bona Fide Job Offer or Request for Job Portability Under INA Section 204(j)(if required), to the following address:

U. S. Department of Homeland Security
USCIS Western Forms Center
10 Application Way
Montclair, CA 91763-1350

USCIS strongly encourages applicants to send their transfer requests to the above address.  If you have already submitted a transfer of underlying basis request to a USCIS office, you should not submit a new request to this address. All requests to transfer the underlying basis already received or that will be received this fiscal year at a USCIS office will be processed as usual by the USCIS office with jurisdiction over your pending Form I-485.

The purpose of the Supplement J is to confirm the validity of the job offered to you in the petition you want to use as the basis for your transfer request.

  • If you are requesting to transfer your underlying basis to a previously filed and approved Form I-140, you must submit I-485 Supplement J with your transfer request.
  • If you are requesting to transfer your underlying basis to a Form I-140 that remains pending, you do not need to submit I-485 Supplement J.

USCIS does not provide a written response to transfer requests.  However, USCIS will issue receipt notices for the Supplement J.

You do not have to submit a new adjustment of status application or filing fee with a request to transfer the underlying basis of your Form I-485 from one petition to another. For more information on transferring the underlying basis of your Form I-485, see theUSCIS Policy Manual.

NOTE: If you are requesting a transfer of underlying basis that is not a transfer from one employment-based petition to another employment-based petition, you should continue to submit your transfer request, in writing, to the USCIS office with jurisdiction over your pending application.

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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.

Market Analyst H-1B Denied? You May Be Able to Appeal 

Market Analyst H-1B Denied? You May Be Able to Appeal 

From USCIS, 10/28/2021

USCIS reached a settlement agreement (PDF, 268.06 KB) [PDF] in the case of MadKudu Inc., et al. v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, et al., No. 20-cv-2653 (N.D. Cal.). On Oct. 19, 2021, the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division, granted final approval of the settlement agreement. This agreement outlines new, overarching guidance for adjudicating pending or future H-1B petitions for market research analysts.

Additionally, the agreement allows class members to submit a Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, to request that certain denied Forms I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, seeking H-1B classification for a market research analyst be reopened and adjudicated per the terms of the settlement agreement. No fee will be charged for such a request. Class members have until April 26, 2022 to submit a Form I-290B.

Class members eligible to submit a Form I-290B are those that:

  • Filed a Form I-129 H-1B petition between Jan. 1, 2019 and Oct. 19, 2021, for a market research analyst.
  • USCIS denied the petition based on a finding that the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) entry for a market research analyst did not establish that the occupation is a specialty occupation, and thus did not satisfy 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(A)(1).
  • If not for this finding, the petition would have been approved.
  • There is any amount of time remaining on the period specified in the certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) originally submitted with the underlying Form I-129 at the time that the Form I-290B is filed.

Class members whose eligible Form I-129 was denied may submit their Form I-290B (without fee) on or before April 26, 2022, to have their reopening request and, if eligibility is established, their underlying I-129 H-1B petition adjudicated per the terms of the settlement agreement.

USCIS will make a decision on all eligible, timely-filed reopening requests within 90 days of receipt of the physical file at the adjudicating office. USCIS will attempt to prioritize reopening requests for petitions with LCAs expiring less than 90 days after the Form I-290B is properly filed with USCIS.

If USCIS determines that the underlying petition is not eligible for this reopening process, in accordance with the bullets above (for example, you are not a class member eligible to submit a Form I-290B under the settlement agreement), we will reject the Form I-290B.

Filing Instructions 

All Forms I-290B must be submitted to the Nebraska Service Center, on or before April 26, 2022, at the addresses below.

USPS FedEx, UPS, and DHL Deliveries
USCIS Nebraska Service Center
Attn: Madkudu Project
P.O. Box 87129
Lincoln, NE 68701
USCIS Nebraska Service Center
Attn: Madkudu Project
850 ‘S’ Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

When submitting Form I-290B, you should:

  1. Include a cover sheet to clearly identify that the Form I-290B is filed by a claimed member of the class.
  2. Indicate on the cover sheet and Form I-290B the name of the office (name of the Service Center or Administrative Appeals Office (AAO)) that made the last adverse decision.
  3. Demonstrate class membership by submitting a copy of USCIS’ denial of the underlying H-1B petition (if you appealed to, and had your appeal dismissed by the AAO, you should submit a copy of the AAO decision instead of, or in addition to, the service center denial). The denial of the original H-1B petition should show that:
    • The petition was filed on or after Jan. 1, 2019, through Oct. 19, 2021, (for cases in which the denial does not include the filing date of the petition, you should submit a copy of USCIS’ receipt notice for the petition).
    • USCIS found that the job fell within the market research analyst occupation;
    • USCIS considered the OOH entry for market research analysts;
    • USCIS found that the market research analyst occupation was not a specialty occupation under the first regulatory criterion at 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(A)(1); and
    • The sole basis for the denial was that the position was not within a specialty occupation.
  4. Demonstrate (for example, by submitting a copy of the LCA filed with the denied petition) that there is any amount of time remaining on the period specified in the certified LCA at the time that the I-290B is filed.
  5. State in the reopening request that you request reopening.
  6. Provide a receipt number for the underlying Form I-129 petition.
  7. Confirm that the offer of employment as stated in the underlying Form I-129 petition remains valid.
  8. Indicate if you want a new start and/or end date for the validity period (as long as the new date(s) falls within the period in the certified LCA previously submitted with the petition).

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

USCIS Notice: Updated Guidance for T Visas

From USCIS (10/20/2021):

USCIS announced that it is issuing updated policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual regarding applications for T nonimmigrant status (or T visas) for victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons.

Policy Highlights
This updated and comprehensive guidance:

  • Provides updated and consolidated information on eligibility requirements, admissibility determinations, evidentiary standards, burdens of proof, travel considerations, and confidentiality protections for T visa applicants.
  • Clarifies that the age-based exemption from the requirement to comply with reasonable requests for assistance from law enforcement applies based on the victim’s age at the time of victimization.
  • Explains how USCIS evaluates the connection between the original victimization and the applicant’s continuing presence in the United States when evaluating the physical presence eligibility requirement
  • Clarifies how USCIS evaluates involuntary servitude claims, including conditions of servitude induced by domestic violence, as well as victimization that may occur during a voluntary smuggling arrangement.
  • Defines the concept of harboring.
  • Explains that USCIS is adopting the decision issued by the Ninth Circuit in Medina Tovar v. Zuchowski, a case involving adjudication of petitions for U nonimmigrant status, for nationwide application in T visa adjudication. Therefore, when evaluating a spousal or stepparent and stepchild relationship between the principal applicant and the qualifying family member, USCIS evaluates whether the relationship existed at the time the principal application was favorably adjudicated, rather than when the principal application was filed.
  • Clarifies that principal T-1 nonimmigrants seeking to adjust status may present their Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) reflecting their most recent validity period of T-1 nonimmigrant status, along with the Form I-797 receipt notice, as evidence of employment authorization for 24 months from the expiration date on the Form I-94, unless the Form I-485 is denied or withdrawn.

Background
Congress enacted the Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 to protect victims of trafficking. T nonimmigrant status serves the dual intent of protecting noncitizen victims of trafficking and strengthening the ability of law enforcement to detect, investigate, and prosecute acts of trafficking.

More Information
The guidance contained in the Policy Manual is controlling and supersedes any related prior guidance on the topic. Find the updated guidance at USCIS Policy Manual – Volume 3: Humanitarian Protection and Parole, Part B, Victims of Trafficking and Volume 9: Waivers and Other Forms of Relief, Part O, Victims of Trafficking.

Visit our Victims of Human Trafficking: T Nonimmigrant Status page for more information.

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Proposed Immigration Language for Green Card Fees & Issuance

UPDATE: Senate Parliamentarian Rejects Option for Including Immigration Proposals in Reconciliation Bill

The House Judiciary Committee approved some immigration language to include with the upcoming budget reconciliation bill, which would allow some applicants the ability to pay an extra fee to be issued their green card. On September 20, 2021, the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian determined that Democrats could not include the language in the bill, calling the language “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy.” She noted that these provisions would not be allowed in the bills if the budget effect is “merely incidental” to the overall policy impact.

Although a House committee approved the language, there are still several steps before the bill is brought to the House and Senate for a vote. If passed by both branches of Congress, the bill would be sent to the President for signature before implementation. Below is a summary of the proposed language, but please note this language could change significantly before potential approval.

Summary of Immigration Language

  • House Judiciary Committee approves immigration language for the reconciliation bill
    • New section in INA that would allow anyone in 4 categories to adjust status if they pay a supplemental fee of $1,500 and pass security/law enforcement checks and medical exam
      • Categories are Dreamers, essential workers, TPS, DED
      • Essential workers:
        • continuously physically present in the US since 1/1/2021
        • Demonstrated a consistent record of earned income in the US in an occupation listed in DHS’ Advisory Memorandum on Ensuring Ability to Work During the COVID from 1/31/2020 to 8/24/2021 Essential Critical Infrastructure  Workers
      • Recapture of unused immigrant visa numbers
        • Recapture of family and employment visas that went unused between 1992 and 2021 and automatically recapture unused numbers going forward
        • DV visas remain available from 2017 to 2021 if visa refusal was due to Trump visa ban or COVID slowdowns
      • DHS may accept AOS if the beneficiary of an approved I-130, pays a supplemental fee of $1,500 plus $250 for each derivative beneficiary and is otherwise eligible to adjust
        • DHS may exempt applicants from family numerical limits if they have a priority date more than 2 years old and
          • Applying in FA-1, FA-3, FA-4 and pay $2,500
          • EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3, and pay $5,000
          • EB-4 and pay fee of $50,000
        • Would take effect 180 days after the date of enactment or May 1, 2022, whichever is earlier
        • Additional supplemental fees
          • Family 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th green card petitions shall have a new $100 supplemental fee. EB-1, 2, and 3 petitions shall be accompanied by a new $800 supplemental fee. EB-5 petitions shall be accompanied by a new $15,000 supplemental fee.
        • USCIS shall be appropriated $2.8 billion to increase their capacity to handle the new programs under 60001 and 60003.

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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.