USCIS is Denying Advance Parole Applications Due to International Travel

On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, we sent this travel advisory, which affects individuals with pending I-485 adjustment of status application.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has received numerous reports that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been denying Form I-131 advance parole applications (the travel portion of the combo card) for abandonment in instances where the applicant has traveled abroad while the application is pending. The pending Form I-131 application is being denied even if the applicant has a separate valid advance parole document or a valid H, K, L, or V visa to return to the United States. In the denial notification, USCIS points to the Form I-131 instructions at page 6 where it states that “[i]f you depart the United States before the Advance Parole Document is issued, your application for an Advance Parole Document will be considered abandoned.” This is a significant departure from previous USCIS policy (for at least the last 15 years) where it has approved advance parole applications for individuals who travel abroad with a valid Advance Parole Document or a valid H, K, L, or V visa, while the I-485 application is pending.

AILA contacted the USCIS Service Center Operations Directorate (SCOPS) to determine if this change of policy was intentional. SCOPS recently responded that the denials were proper; the policy is that traveling internationally while an application for advance parole is pending will result in the denial of that application notwithstanding prior practice to the contrary. AILA is continuing to pursue this issue in liaison discussions with USCIS. In the meantime, it appears that advance parole applications will continue to be denied if an individual travels abroad while the application is pending with USCIS.

Based on these reports, it is not advisable for anyone with a pending I-485 application to travel internationally while an advance parole application is pending. If an I-131 application is denied, it is possible to submit a new application. Applicants with valid combo cards (combined work permit and travel document) may continue to travel using their combo cards.

Posted in Updates

U.S. to Suspend All Nonimmigrant Visa Operations Across Russia

U.S. Mission to Russia Statement:

Russia’s decision to reduce the United States’ diplomatic presence here calls into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations. We will maintain sufficient staff to carry out essential elements of our mission.

Due to the Russian government-imposed cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia will be suspended on August 23. Operations will resume in Moscow on September 1; visa operations at the U.S. consulates will remain suspended indefinitely. Currently scheduled appointments will be cancelled and applicants will be provided instructions on how to reschedule.


Fact Sheet

Posted in Updates

Supreme Court Reinstates Parts of President Trump’s “Travel Ban”

On Monday, June 26th, the Supreme Court allowed limited parts of President Trump’s “travel ban” to go into effect. The provision banning travelers from six countries – Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – will take effect with an exception for those who have a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Examples of those with a “bona fide” relationship include students at US universities or employees of US companies or those visiting or living with a family member. The 120 day ban on admission of refugees will also take effect.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the case in October. However, even the court indicated that circumstances may change dramatically by October. “Travel Ban 2.0” is supposed to be temporary for 90 days while the government reviews its vetting procedures – as such, the issue may be moot by October.

The Department of Homeland Security is currently consulting with the Departments of Justice and State and will provide additional details on implementation shortly. According to DHS, the implementation of the Executive Order “will be done professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers, and in coordination with partners in the travel industry.”

As a practical matter, the interpretation of a “bona fide relationship with a US person or entity will be incredibly subjective and is likely to result in inconsistent interpretations and unpredictability for impacted individuals.
 


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June 2017 Visa Bulletin: Cut-Off Dates & Retrogression

EB-1 China & EB-1 India Cut-Off Dates

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) released the visa bulletin for June 2017, which imposes a final action date of January 1, 2012 for both EB-1 China and EB-1 India, which together have already used almost half of the entire EB-1 Worldwide limit for this fiscal year. The purpose of imposing of final action dates for these categories is to control number use under the EB-1 Worldwide annual limit, and to allow numbers to remain available for all other countries. A similar action was taken last fiscal year, where the August 2016 visa bulletin imposed a final action date of January 1, 2010 for both EB-1 China and EB-1 India. Both EB-1 China and EB-1 become “current” once again in October 2016 under the FY 2017 annual limits. Similarly, it is hoped that the final action date for EB-1 China and EB-1 India will return to current on October 1, 2017.
 

Upcoming EB-2 Worldwide Retrogression

Due to sustained high demand for the EB-2 category, it is also anticipated that a final action cut-off date will be imposed on EB-2 worldwide in the next coming months. The cut-off date is not yet predicted at this point. It will be determined based upon the remaining numbers and the monthly demand trend. We are hopeful that this period of retrogression will be brief, and that the category will become current again on October 1, 2017.

Posted in Updates

H-1B Lottery Completed After H-1B Cap Reached

On April 17, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it received approximately 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period that ended on April 7, 2017. This includes the advanced degree cap. USCIS conducted the computer-generated lottery on April 11, 2017, selecting enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. This is a significant drop (15.7% decrease) from FY 2017 (April 2016) when USCIS received 236,000 H-1B applications.

Cases that are selected as part of the H-1B lottery will receive receipt notices within the next 2-3 weeks. For petitions not selected as part of the H-1B cap, USCIS will reject and return the petition with filing fees. Based on our experience in the last few years, rejections were a low priority for USCIS and were received between May and July.

Applicants will not know whether their cases have been selected until they either get a receipt notice or the rejected package. Checking to see if the government filing fee checks have been cashed is one way to get an “early” indication that a case has been selected as part of the H-1B lottery.

Please feel free to contact the Loke Walsh Immigration Law team if you have any questions.
 


Posted in Updates

Trump Administration’s Revised Travel Ban — What You Need to Know

On Monday, March 6, the Trump Administration issued its revised “travel ban,” formally known as the “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry To The United States” Executive Order. It is effective on March 16, 2017.
 

What Are Some of the Key Provisions from the Revised Executive Order?

Some of its key provisions include:

  • The suspension of immigrant and nonimmigrant entry for a minimum of 90 days for people from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen who are outside of the United States on the effective date of this order and who did not have a valid visa at 5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on January 27, 2017.
    • Iraq is exempted from this new ban.
    • In the first 20 days, DHS will perform a global, country-by-country review of the identity and security information that each country provides to the U.S. Government to support U.S. visa and other immigration benefit determinations. Countries will then have 50 days to comply with the requests from the U.S. Government to update or improve the quality of the information they provide. If the U.S. Government is not satisfied with the efforts, the 90 day suspension could be extended indefinitely.
  • Requires in-person interviews for all nonimmigrant visa applicants, except for diplomatic visas, UN and NATO visas and specific statutory exceptions for children under the age of 14 and elderly applicants over the age of 80.
    • In the past, most nonimmigrant (e.g. F-1, H-1B, J-1, L-1, O-1) visa applicants applying for renewals could apply by mail – this option is no longer available as an in-person interview is now required. For example, an H-1B applying for their 2nd H-1B is no longer eligible to apply for the visa by mail, s/he must attend an in-person interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Similarly, an F-1 graduate student applying for another F-1 during the same program must now apply in-person at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • The suspension of the refugee program for 120 days although refugees already vetted and in transit could continue their journey to safety.

 

Who is Exempt From the Revised Executive Order?

The following are exempt (i.e. not impacted) from the revised travel ban:

  • Foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic, NATO, C-2 for United Nationals, G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visas and individuals already granted asylum or refugee status in the United States before the effective date of this order.
  • Permanent residents or Green Card holders from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
  • Foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen (and their dependents) who have valid nonimmigrant (e.g. E-1, E-2, F-1, H-1B, H-3, I, J-1, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-3, etc.) or immigrant visas.
    • Nonimmigrant visa holders (and their dependents) such as Es, F-1s, J-1s, H-1Bs, L-1s, O-1s may continue to travel to the United States on those visas if they are otherwise valid. However, if the visa is a single-entry visa or has expired, we do not recommend any international travel.
    • Individuals from these 6 countries with advance parole travel documents or combo cards may continue to travel to the United States as long as the parole or combo card is valid.
  • Dual nationals (e.g. born in Iran with a Swedish passport) presenting passports from unrestricted countries.
  • Canadian landed immigrants who hold passports from one of the 6 countries are eligible to apply for a visa in Canada and coordinate a waiver (where the foreign national must show that his or her entry into the United States is in the national interest, will not pose a threat to national security, and that denying entry during the suspension period will cause undue hardship).
  • Foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen who are already physically present in the United States.
  • USCIS will continue to adjudicate all nonimmigrant (e.g. E-1, E-2, F-1, H-1B, H-3, I, J-1, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-3, etc.) and immigrant (green card/I-485 Adjustment of Status applications) visa and citizenship applications from nationals of these 6 countries. USCIS will also continue to adjudicate EAD and OPT applications from nationals of the 6 countries.

It is important to note that the Executive Order does not apply to the foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen who are already physically present in the United States on the effective date of the Executive Order. This includes those holding valid nonimmigrant status such as an E-1, E-2, F-1, H-1B, H-3, I, J-1, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-3, etc.
 

What About International Travel For Foreign Nationals From Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen Who are Already in the United States?

Based on these new developments, we do not recommend any international travel for foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen who have to renew nonimmigrant visas while abroad. Nationals of these 6 countries should remain in the United States for now.
 

What About International Travel For Foreign Nationals From Unrestricted Countries?

The revised travel ban does not impact foreign nationals from unrestricted countries who have valid nonimmigrant visas. While these are troubling times, we believe that you should continue to make international travel plans – vacations, business trips, visit friends and family, take your dream vacation or check off a destination from your bucket list (unless that destination is one of the 6 countries). Having said that, foreign nationals should be diligent and ensure that all of their documents are in order to ensure a smooth re-entry at CBP on return to the United States. This means that:

  • If you have a nonimmigrant visa (e.g. E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-3), you must have a valid visa “stamp” in your passport and should carry your I-797 Approval Notice, along with a business card or employment verification letter.
  • If you are dual national with a passport from an unrestricted country, you must have a valid visa “stamp” in your passport and you should carry your I-797 Approval Notice, along with a business card or employment verification letter.
  • If you are a Canadian dual national (e.g. Canadian passport holder born in Sudan), you are visa exempt, but you should carry your I-797 Approval Notice (except for TNs who applied at the border/airport who do not have an I-797 Approval Notice) along with a business card or employment verification letter.
  • If you are an E-1 or E-2 visa holder and applied for your E visa directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, you will not have an I-797 Approval Notice, but you must have a valid E visa “stamp” in your passport and you should carry a business card or employment verification letter.
  • If you are an F-1 student, you must have a valid F-1 visa “stamp” in your passport and an I-20 that has been endorsed for travel within the last six months.
  • If you are an F-1 student on OPT or STEM OPT, you should have your EAD (or receipt notice if pending), a valid F-1 visa “stamp” in your passport and an I-20 that has been endorsed for travel within the last six months.
  • If you are a J-1 student, you must have a valid J-1 visa “stamp” in your passport and a DS-2019 that has been endorsed for travel.
  • If you are travelling with a combo card or Advance Parole travel document, you will be sent to secondary inspection as part of the routine process.
  • NOTE: If you are a Canadian landed immigrant from one of the 6 countries, you must have a valid visa “stamp” in your passport and you should carry your I-797 Approval Notice along with a business card or employment verification letter. Canadian landed immigrants will have to obtain a waiver at the port-of-entry.

 

What About Travel For Foreign Nationals From Unrestricted Countries to Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen?

Travelers from unrestricted countries visiting Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and even Iraq are likely to be sent to secondary inspection and questioned upon return to the United States. We recommend avoiding travel to these countries unless absolutely necessary.
 


Posted in Updates

USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that beginning April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for ALL H-1B petitions, including FY 2018 H-1B cap cases, H-1B cap-exempt cases and H-1B extensions. USCIS will reject any Form I-907 filed with an H-1B petition during the suspension period, which may last up to 6 months.

Posted in Updates

USCIS Issues Updated M-274 Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9

REMINDER!

Since January 22, 2017, employers must use the new Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification (11/14/2016 N version). The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also just released an updated M-274, Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (PDF, 5.36 MB), providing employers with detailed guidance for completing Form I-9. USCIS also released a Table of Changes for Revised M-274 (PDF, 495 KB) for highlights of the changes.

Posted in Updates

DENIED! — Appeals Court Rules Against Reinstating Trump’s Travel Ban

After a tumultuous few weeks of chaos, global condemnation and law suits, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its highly anticipated decision on Thursday, refusing to reinstate Trump’s travel ban. The case will likely continue to make its way through the court system and possibly the Supreme Court, but for now this means that there is no travel ban for nationals of any countries. CBP will continue to admit travelers from all over the world including nationals from the 7 designated countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. US embassies and consulates around the world will continue to issue nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to applicants of these 7 countries.

Here’s a recap of the last two weeks:

  • On Friday, January 27th, 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order, titled “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry To The United States.” The EO went into effect immediately creating chaos around the world as travelers from the 7 designated countries were prohibited from boarding flights to the United States and travelers in mid-flight were put on a plane back home after arriving in the United States. For more on the specifics of the EO, see our previous post on January 30, 2017.
  • As of February 2, 2017, CBP had recommended “Denial of Boarding” to 1,222 people, granted 87 waivers and processed 1,610 green card waivers. It took a few days, but the government eventually confirmed that permanent residents (i.e. green card holders) with passports from one of the 7 designated countries would be admitted in the “national interest.” CBP also confirmed that dual nationals presenting passports from unrestricted country would be admitted to the United States (for example, someone born in Sudan with a UK passport could enter the United States with their UK passport). Canadian landed immigrants traveling from Canada were also exempt from the travel ban. US embassies and consulates also confirmed that dual nationals could still apply for nonimmigrant and immigrant visas if applying with a passport from an unrestricted country.
  • During this week of chaos, USCIS confirmed that it would continue adjudicating all applications for benefits and that the EO did not impact nationals from these 7 countries who were already in the United States. This meant that USCIS would continue to adjudicate F-1 OPT applications, nonimmigrant visa applications (e.g. F-1, H-1B, O-1, L-1, etc.), immigrant visa applications for green cards, citizenship applications, etc. for nationals of these 7 designated countries.
  • On Friday, February 3, 2017, a Washington state judge, James Robart, issued a nationwide order temporarily banning the enforcement of the travel ban. CBP immediately confirmed that airports were “back to normal” processing and travelers from the 7 countries have been admitted to the United States since then. US embassies and consulates, after provisionally revoking approximately 100,000 visas, rescinded this order and these visas were once again deemed “valid.”
  • On Saturday, February 4, 2017, the DOJ filed an emergency request to the 9th Circuit Appeals Court. The 9th Circuit declined to issue an emergency stay but held hearings on Tuesday, February 7th, 2017.
  • On Thursday, February 9th, the 9th Circuit in a 3-0 decision (with a 29-page decision) declined to reinstate Trump’s travel ban.

 


 

The situation remains fluid with Trump calling this latest ruling as a “disgraceful decision” and promising to take it all the way to the Supreme Court. But for now, there is no travel ban and nationals from these 7 designated countries, as well as refugees, may continue to enter the United States. The impact of the last few weeks has not only created an unprecedented level of anxiety for nationals of these 7 countries, but also for many foreign nationals from all over the world who love America, who contribute to America and who call the United States “home.”

In this uncertain time, we at Loke Walsh Immigration stand with Immigrants in support of “our” America.

Posted in Updates

CBP Publishes FAQs on Trump Travel Ban (UPDATED)

On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published FAQs on the Trump travel ban, which included statistics on how many travelers have been affected since the Executive Order was signed on January 27, 2017.

CBP Executive Order Actions (UPDATED)
Recommended Denial of Boarding 1,136
Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) waivers 1,059
Visa holders granted waivers 87
(valid as of 1500 hrs, February 1, 2017)
 
Update

The CBP FAQs reference below was also updated with additional questions and answers.
 


Posted in Updates