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USCIS Temporarily Suspends Biometrics Requirement for Certain Form I-539 Applicants
May 14, 2021

USCIS recently announced that starting on May 17, 2021, biometrics will not be necessary for certain applicants who file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. This new rule applies to applicants requesting a change of status to H-4, L-2 or E-1, E-2 or E-3 nonimmigrant status. The suspension of biometrics for these applications will apply through May 17, 2023. This rule will apply to Forms I-539 in the above-mentioned categories that are pending as of May 17, 2021, and have not yet received a biometric service appointment notice or new applications submitted on or after May 17, 2021. Read full article here.

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President Biden Reverses Healthcare Insurance Proclamation
May 14, 2021

On May 14, 2021 President Biden revoked a proclamation that was signed by then-President Trump in 2019 that “prevented immigrants from obtaining visas unless they proved they could obtain health insurance or pay for health care.” In his proclamation, President Biden noted that the Healthcare Insurance Order “does not advance the interests of the United States.” President Biden stated that his administration “is committed to expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare” and that they could “achieve that objective, however, without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country but who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.” Read full article here.

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President Biden Meets with DACA recipients to highlight immigration priorities
May 13, 2021

President Biden welcomed six recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Friday to the Oval Office. This is just the second known gathering of DACA recipients in the Oval Office. The Biden administration continues to signal that his immigration reform plan remains a legislative priority. Along with a plan to extend citizenship to more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, President Biden has also encouraged Congress to act to secure protections for DACA beneficiaries. Read full article here.

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New Supreme Court case, Niz-Chavez v. Garland, is a victory for Immigrant Communities
April 30, 2021

On April 29, 2021, the Supreme Court issued an important decision that could allow many individuals to seek relief from removal proceedings that was previously unavailable to them. “The justices decided that federal immigration law requires authorities to include all relevant details for a notice to appear for a hearing in one document rather than sending the information across multiple documents. While a technical issue, the ruling could affect hundreds of thousands of immigration cases.” The Department of Homeland Security, for years, has issued notices to appear for individuals in removal proceedings that leave out certain information, such as the date and location of the immigration hearing. Many forms of relief require that the individual show that they have been in the United States for a certain number of years. Previously, any notice to appear issued by the government would stop the counting of that time. The Court’s decision, however, […]

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Biden Vows to Overhaul Immigration System
April 28, 2021

President Biden called on Congress to pass his proposal to reform the U.S. immigration system during his address to a joint-session of Congress. The president plans to push a bill his administration passed earlier this year that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “As part of his address Wednesday, Biden will also call for lawmakers to pass targeted, smaller portions of his immigration agenda if possible, according to the Post, which reported that he will urge the Senate to move on House-passed bills expanding a path to citizenship for ‘Dreamers,’ or those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, as well as one that would extend legal status to undocumented farmworkers.” Read full article here.

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New York Times Magazine Article Provides Important Historical Context for TPS
April 19, 2021

On April 7, 2021, New York Times Magazine published an article that places the current Central American human rights disaster in a historical framework of decades of U.S. military intervention. It also links the civil wars in Central American countries and the U.S. sanctuary movement and ABC lawsuit in the 1980s with current ongoing lawsuits about the more recent administrations’ handling of TPS and asylum. Throughout the article, two lawsuits are discussed at length. First, in the 1980s, asylum applications from Central American countries were being almost entirely denied while asylum applications from other countries were being granted at much higher rates. Because of this “perversion of the asylum process” some churches and synagogues “decided to help Salvadorans and Guatemalans enter and remain in the United States illegally.” However, many supporters of this sanctuary movement started being criminally prosecuted for their work. “The lawsuit American Baptist Churches et al. v. […]

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USCIS Announces New Process for Green Card Extension While I-90 Is Pending
March 4, 2021

USCIS has implemented a new process extending green cards during the pendency of an I-90 application. Instead of issuing extension stickers at USCIS field offices, USCIS will issue a revised receipt notice for Form I-90 that extends the validity of green card for 12 months (12 months from the expiration date on the front of the green card). This change in policy eliminates the need for permanent residents to request and appear at an InfoPass appointment to obtain an extension sticker. More importantly, the change provides permanent residents who have pending applications with documentary evidence of employment authorization, authorization to travel, and identity. The extension sticker will still be required for those who already filed their I-90 applications and who have already been scheduled for biometrics notices; these individuals will be given the sticker when they appear for their appointments. Those few permanent residents who already attended biometrics appointments before […]

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9-Year-Old Boy Released from Government Custody and Returned to Family After Separation
January 28, 2021

In January 2021, a 9-year-old boy was held in government custody for about nine days after being separated from his older brother while trying to enter the U.S. The 9-year-old, Vladimir Fardin, landed with his 19-year-old brother at San Francisco International Airport on January 17, 2021. After taking away their visas, U.S. immigration officers deported the 19-year-old to Haiti and put Vladimir into the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Attorneys from Van Der Hout, LLP fought for Vladimir’s release and return to his family. The government claimed that they had to hold him in custody for 14 days to quarantine before he could be released. Attorneys Marc Van Der Hout and Johnny Sinodis considered this an absurd policy, since Vladimir was not intending to stay in the United States. As Marc Van Der Hout stated, “This is a 9-year-old […]

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Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Immigration Agency’s Unlawful Rejection of Thousands of Humanitarian Applications
November 19, 2020

Today, immigration advocates filed a national class action lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) challenging a new agency policy, which has resulted in the rejection of thousands of applications filed by vulnerable immigrants. The lawsuit alleges that the agency rolled out the new rule by specifically targeting humanitarian benefits provided by Congress, including those for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking; asylum seekers; and children who have been abandoned, abused, or neglected. Under the new policy, USCIS rejects applications that have any blank response field, even where the question is not applicable—for example where the applicant fails to include a response for middle name because they have no middle name. In many cases, USCIS’ implementation of the new rule has led to rejections even where the applicant did include responses in all of fields, as in one of the named Plaintiffs’ cases. Additionally, the rule is so […]

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USCIS Issues Final Regulation on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds
September 14, 2019

DHS published a new public charge rule that dramatically changes the standard of whether an applicant for admission to the U.S. or for adjustment of status is likely to become a “public charge.” “Public charge” is not defined in the immigration law, but since 1999, the term has meant a person who is or is likely to become “primarily dependent” on “public cash assistance for income maintenance” or “institutionaliz[ed] for long-term care at government expense.” The rule takes effect on October 15, 2019 (see below), unless lawsuits already filed enjoin its implementation. The rule is significant and is expected to result in an increase of denials for both immigrants and nonimmigrants. It is expected to deter persons from seeking benefits for which they are eligible, even if they are exempt from this public charge rule, because of the fear it could disqualify them for permanent residency or a visa. Specifically, the rule affects persons […]

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More on Government’s Attempts to Restrict Asylum Protection
June 17, 2019

It seems like every month the Administration comes up with yet another way to restrict the ability of asylum seekers to obtain protection from persecution in order to deter the flow of refugees. On April 29, President Trump issued a memorandum ordering changes to U.S. asylum policies. The memo orders the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to propose regulations within 90 days that would: Require asylum seekers to pay a fee to apply for protection. Require applicants to pay a fee to apply for work authorization for the first time. (Right now, asylum applicants — who must wait 180 days before qualifying for work authorization — can apply for their initial period of work authorization without paying a fee but are required to pay for subsequent renewals.) Place people who have shown a credible or reasonable fear of being persecuted or tortured into limited removal proceedings that […]

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Newly Proposed Public Benefits Rule Would Hinder Admissibility to U.S.
October 10, 2018

On October 10, USCIS published a proposed rule that would expand the definition of “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which is intended to determine whether a foreign national is inadmissible because he or she is likely at any time to become a public charge. Having received cash benefits from the United State is currently a consideration in this equation. However, under the proposed rule, an individual having received noncash benefits, including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing vouchers, or rent subsidies could potentially be considered a “public charge.” The proposed rule cites that individuals, not their family members, who receive one or more of these benefits with a combined value of at least 15 percent of federal poverty guidelines (i.e., roughly $1,800 a year, or $150 a month) could be deemed a “public charge.” These are benefits for which foreign nationals are eligible, but now it appears they will be penalized […]

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F-1 “Cap-Gap” Status and Work Authorization Extension Only Valid through September 30
September 28, 2018

USCIS has reminded F-1 students whose cap-subject H-1B petition remains pending that they risk accruing unlawful presence if they continued to work on or after October 1 (unless otherwise authorized to continue employment), as their “cap-gap” work authorization was only valid through September 30. While USCIS regulations allow an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status to H-1B on October 1 to have his or her F-1 status and any current employment authorization extended through September 30, the regulations do not provide for “cap-gap” work authorization beyond September 30. Clearly, the regulations contemplated that USCIS would adjudicate all affected cases before October 1 to avoid a gap in employment. But, because USCIS has not yet adjudicated all cap-subject H-1B change-of-status petitions for all F-1 students, some beneficiaries will have to stop working. Such F-1 students generally may remain in […]

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USCIS Implements New Notice to Appear (NTA) Policy
September 26, 2018

Effective October 1, USCIS began implementing its policy of referring cases to the immigration court through the issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) on denied status-impacting applications, thus increasing its enforcement actions to a whole host of cases that normally are not automatically referred for proceedings. Service of the NTA provides a foreign national with notice that deportation proceedings are being initiated and that they are now under the jurisdiction of the immigration courts. Although USCIS had had longstanding authority to issue “referral NTAs” to ICE, USCIS exercised this authority sparingly and only in specific situations. Not any more. In announcing the implementation of its new policy, USCIS makes clear that it will be taking an incremental approach; in other words, it will not be referring all cases to ICE. Here is a summary of how USCIS expects to implement the new policy and some procedural considerations: This initial […]

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USCIS Not Obligated to Issue RFEs and NOIDs in the Case of a Deficient Filing
September 12, 2018

At the same time that immigration judges are having their discretion restricted, USCIS adjudicators are having their discretion expanded. The governing regulations explicitly provide an adjudicator the discretion to deny a case outright if the record does not establish eligibility for the immigration benefit, or issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) to further develop the record. However, the previous policy directed that an adjudicator should issue an RFE unless there was “no possibility” that the deficiency could be cured by the submission of additional evidence, thereby limiting the discretion of adjudicators to an extent. Read More Immigrant Rights Organizations File Complaint With DHS Over Coercive and Illegal Tactics

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Immigrant Rights Organizations File Complaint With DHS Over Coercive and Illegal Tactics
August 23, 2018

Of the more than 2,500 children who were separated from their parents due to the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on border crossers, close to 550 children have yet to be reunified and an estimated 463 of their parents are no longer in the United States. In the wake of this disastrous policy, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The lawsuit details coercive tactics used by government officials, including case examples and original testimony from separated parents that document a pervasive and illegal practice by DHS officials of strong-arming mothers and fathers into signing documents they may not have understood, ostensibly waiving their legal rights, including their right to be reunified with their children. These tactics, according to AILA and the Council, impeded these parents’ […]

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Travel Ban Upheld by Supreme Court
June 27, 2018

On June 26, the Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision, upholding President Trump’s September 24, 2017 Proclamation (“Travel Ban 3.0”), which currently excludes nationals from seven countries, stating that the proclamation was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority under the INA.” (Trump v. Hawaii, 6/26/18). The travel ban includes restrictions against five majority-Muslim nations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. North Korea and Venezuela are also on the list. Three other majority-Muslim nations (Chad, Iraq, and Sudan) were removed since the policy was first implemented through Executive Order in January 2017.   The Court rejected the constitutional challenge to the ban. Applying deference to the President despite the evidence presented, the Court explained that it would “uphold the policy so long as it can reasonably be understood to result from a justification independent of unconstitutional grounds.” The court then concluded, based on the record in the case, that the ban […]

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Uscis Extends I-829 & I-751 Receipt Notice Validity Due to Increased Processing Times
June 26, 2018

USCIS announced that EB-5 investors filing I-829 applications and marriage-based petitioners who file I-751 applications to remove the conditions on their green cards will be able to use the receipt notice as evidence of continued status for 18 months past the expiration date on their conditional green card. This increased validity period (up from 12 months) is the result of increased processing times for these petitions.

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USCIS Processing Times: What Do They Mean?
June 26, 2018

June 26, 2018 The processing times listed on the USCIS website now show a range of expected completion dates as opposed to a concrete date. For example, change-of-status applications (I-539) filed at the Vermont Service Center for the H-4 category show processing times of 10.5 to 13.5 months. This “cycle time” indicates that 50 percent of these cases are adjudicated within 9.5 months, and 93 percent are adjudicated within 13.5 months. Other types of applications and petitions have greater ranges, sometimes because these cases are handled by one of the numerous field offices, which vary considerably in efficiency and speed. Cycle times for naturalization applications are 10 to 19 months; employment-based green card applications have a cycle times of 8.5 to 22 months.   USCIS is currently proceeding with naturalization applications in the order that they were filed, but about 10 percent of cases (likely selected at random) are being […]

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Overstay Report Prompts Changes to Policies Regarding Foreign Students & Unlawful Presence
June 26, 2018

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is required to present an annual report of the number of foreign nationals who are admitted but overstay. Overstays are defined as (1) individuals for whom no departure has been recorded and are likely still in the U.S., and (2) individuals who have a recorded departure after their lawful period of admission expired. DHS is currently able to track overstays from all air and sea entries (excluding C and D visa holders) but does not have data for land entries from Canada and Mexico. The report for FY2016 indicated that over 98 percent of the 50,437,278 nonimmigrants admitted via air and sea ports in FY2016 departed the United States on time and abided by the terms of their admission.   However, some visa categories are more prone to overstaying than others. For example, the report notes that of the 1,457,556 foreign students expected to depart in […]

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Immigration Enforcement Measures Dominate Immigration Policy and Practice
June 26, 2018

Changes and enhancements to immigration enforcement measures continue to develop at a breathtakingly rapid pace. Currently front and center is the Administration’s separation of family members on the southern border, which has finally pushed the border wall from the spotlight. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings resulted in directing his attorneys to pursue criminal prosecutions for any individual caught crossing illegally, sparked a national uproar. The President was forced to issue a new Executive Order on June 20, which continues to produce confusion, uncertainty, and widespread criticism, never mind abhorrent conditions for those affected. The fate of some 2,300 children separated from their parents after crossing the southern border remains uncertain and bogged down in tremendous bureaucratic red tape, and 17 states have now sued the government over its family separation policy. Simply stated, the situation is a mess.   The Attorney General has also issued two precedential […]

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Supreme Court Upholds Due Process Rights for Certain Immigrants IN Removal Proceedings
June 26, 2018

Due process is an essential tenant of the rule of law. In the immigration context, there are certain standards that must be met to ensure a full and fair hearing for the immigrant. The immigration laws require that “Notices to Appear” (NTAs), which are essentially the immigration version of a charging document, must contain specific things. These include: nature of proceedings, legal authority for proceedings, the charges against the immigrant, the time and place of the hearing, and a notice that the alien may be represented and that they must provide the court with their contact information. On June 21st, the Supreme Court ruled in Pereira v. Sessions that failing to meet the requirement to list the time and place of the hearing when serving an NTA invalidates it. The case has potentially far-reaching implications for removal cases.   Routinely, both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) […]

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