Significant Change to Employment Based Green Card Cases – As of today, two separate categories for EB Visa Bulletins, for the filing (Acceptance) of Adjustment of Status cases and one for final Approval of cases
The Obama Administration’s attempts to “streamline” the U.S. employment based green card process appeared to have paid off when the U.S. Department of State recently acknowledged that it was reworking its visa availability system. Today, however, we received a wonderful surprise: as per the U.S. Dept. of State’s Visa Bulletin for October 2015, a significant change in the EB process is apparent: the Visa Bulletin includes two separate employment based categories, each with a different cut off date (see below).
The first category represents the “Approval” category which notes the priority date as to when an Applicant’s Adjustment of Status or IV case would be ultimately approved. The second category represents the “Acceptance” category which control when an Applicant could file for Adjustment of Status, assuming an Applicant’s Priority Date is current at that time.
This is a remarkable and welcome update that conveys significant benefits to EB preference applicants, particularly for Indian and Chinese nationals who were most prejudiced by the long delays arising from retrogressed priority dates.
USCIS should prepare for an avalanche of AOS applications.
A. APPLICATION FINAL ACTION DATES FOR
EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES
On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed (see paragraph 1); “C” means current, i.e., numbers are authorized for issuance to all qualified applicants; and “U” means unauthorized, i.e., numbers are not authorized for issuance. (NOTE: Numbers are authorized for issuance only for applicants whose priority date isearlier than the cut-off date listed below.)
|Employment- Based||All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed||CHINA – mainland born||INDIA||MEXICO||PHILIPPINES|
|Certain Religious Workers||U||U||U||U||U|
*Employment Third Preference Other Workers Category: Section 203(e) of the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) passed by Congress in November 1997, as amended by Section 1(e) of Pub. L. 105-139, provides that once the Employment Third Preference Other Worker (EW) cut-off date has reached the priority date of the latest EW petition approved prior to November 19, 1997, the 10,000 EW numbers available for a fiscal year are to be reduced by up to 5,000 annually beginning in the following fiscal year. This reduction is to be made for as long as necessary to offset adjustments under the NACARA program. Since the EW cut-off date reached November 19, 1997 during Fiscal Year 2001, the reduction in the EW annual limit to 5,000 began in Fiscal Year 2002.
B. DATES FOR FILING OF EMPLOYMENT-BASED
The chart below reflects dates for filing visa applications within a timeframe justifying immediate action in the application process. Applicants for immigrant visas who have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date in the chart may assemble and submit required documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, following receipt of notification from the National Visa Center containing detailed instructions. The cut-off date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who cannot submit documentation to the National Visa Center for an immigrant visa. If a category is designated “current,” all applicants in the relevant category may file, regardless of priority date.
The “C” listing indicates that the category is current, and that applications may be filed regardless of the applicant’s priority date. The listing of a date for any category indicates that only applicants with a priority date which isearlier than the listed date may file their application.
USCIS has determined that this chart may be used (in lieu of the chart in paragraph 5.A.) this month for filing applications for adjustment of status with USCIS. Applicants for adjustment of status may visitwww.USCIS.gov/visabulletininfo for additional information.
and Pilot Programs
6. The Department of State has a recorded message with the cut-off date information for Final Application Action which can be heard at: (202) 485-7699. This recording is updated on or about the tenth of each month with information on cut-off dates for the following month.
Insight into anticipated EB-2 (India) Visa Priority Date Movements from AILA/U.S. Department of State
On January 9, 2015, the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Department of State Liaison Committee asked Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State for his thoughts on current and future trends/projections with regards to immigrant visa preference categories. The Committee hopes that this action may help provide additional insight, beyond the basic visa availability updates that are provided in the monthly Visa Bulletin.
Bitcoin entrepreneur Roger Ver gave up U.S. Citizenship and left but denied U.S. entry for a short visit under INA 214(b), a regulation aimed at preventing the entry of individuals who would Overstay their Visa
Coindesk.com notes that Bitcoin entrepreneur Roger Ver was denied a non-immigrant visa for the third time this week. He was planning to speak at the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami later this month.
Interestingly, Mr. Ver was denied under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which states, “Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…” In short, this section of the INA presumes every applicant for a visa to America intends to eventually reside in America. It is the burden of each applicant to demonstrate that this is not the case – that the applicant only intends to visit America for a short duration and maintains ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. Consular officers have a substantial say in adjudicating each applicant to determine whether that applicant has overcome the requirements of this section.
It is strange then, to say the least, that Mr. Ver was denied by the U.S. Consular General, Barbados, under a regulation that requires he prove his intent to depart the U.S. when he appears to have already done so. While the Coindesk article does note that Mr. Ver’s “parents, siblings and extended family all live in the US“, his decision last year to legally relinquish his U.S. Citizenship (at an apparent cost of $350,000, which he paid into the U.S. treasury) his decision to take up citizenship of a different country, his having resided mainly abroad for the past 9 years – these facts objectively constitute clear, material and probative evidence establishing an intent to depart the U.S. after a short visit.
While Mr. Ver can attempt to enter the US in the future (a denial under section 214(b) is not permanent) chances for subsequent approval diminish with each denial. Meaning: the fourth time is probably not going to be the charm.
While it’s a good time for us to revisit INA 214(b) – an overbroad, overused “hatchet” which has kept many a qualified individual out of the U.S, it appears possible that Mr. Ver’s visa denial is actually predicated upon other (read: political) grounds.
The Department of State released the Visa Bulletin for November 2014 which notes a slight forward movement in most categories, except the employment-based, second preference (EB2) India category, which retrogressed from May 1, 2009 to February 15, 2005. The Visa Bulletin, see below, also included notes on potential visa availability in the coming months.
Per the AILA DOS Liaison Committee’s followup with Mr. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, “retrogression of EB-2 India appears to be imminent, and could happen as early as November. The October 2014 priority date for EB-2 India is May 1, 2009. Given current demand, the priority date will retrogress, possibly to a date in early 2005.”
Attorney Sharma defends client who was wrongly accused of being a ‘terrorist’ and barred from entering the United States
Attorney Sharma and our client were interviewed by Channel 4 News yesterday. Our client’s Afghan husband has been wrongly deemed permanently inadmissible to the U.S. under the Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds section in the INA, the same overbroad regulation that many innocent individuals have been unjustly subject to.
For example: an asylee from Burundi was considered a terrorist under this regulation, and jailed for 20 months by the U.S. because he was found to have financially supported the Rebel group that robbed him of $4.00 and a bagged lunch. For fighting against Apartheid, Mr. Nelson Mandela was subjected to this regulation and had to be granted a waiver to enter the U.S. by the then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Attorney Sharma will be filing an exemption for our client’s husband with the offices of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and/or U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Our exemption will petition the highest levels of our government to review this case again, and approve an admission to the U.S. if no adverse grounds are discovered.
EB-2 Priority Date Movement in FY2012 for China-mainland Born and India expected to retrogress to August 15, 2007
IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY APPLAUDS NEWLY ANNOUNCED DHS REFORMS IN FURTHERANCE OF ATTRACTING AND RETAINING HIGHLY SKILLED IMMIGRANTS/INVESTORS AND CALLS FOR PARALLEL CHANGES IN THE U.S. CONSULAR PROCESSING SYSTEM
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced substantial changes to our immigration system by way of a two prong strategy aimed at retaining highly skilled immigrants and increasing investment in the U.S. by foreign investors, reports U.S. Immigration lawyer Ashwin Sharma. The DHS announced this week that it would add to or modify established immigration processes so as to further President Obama’s commitments to:
1. The Creation of a “Startup Visa,”
2. Strengthening the H-1B nonimmigrant professional program,
3. “Stapling” green cards to the diplomas of certain foreign-born graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and make improvements to existing programs.
The DHS hopes that these and other proposed changes will attract and retain highly-skilled immigrants.
Ashwin Sharma, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, applauds the DHS’s actions and calls for parallel changes within the U.S. Department of State’s Consular Posts. “We urgently require these changes and more, particularly with regard to professionals and investors. It has never been more difficult for tourists, professionals or investors to legally enter this country and contribute to the American economy. Our various immigration departments and agencies are interpreting the same laws differently. The U.S. Consulates, for example, appear to be ignoring specific Congressional mandates. Furthermore, there appears to be little communication between DHS and the Consulates which results in the inexplicable penalization of valuable immigrants.”
Mr. Sharma continued, “For example, to fill a specialty occupation with an H-1B professional worker, a U.S. employer may pay up to $5,500 just in government filing fees, provide hundreds or thousands of pages to DHS in support, make applicable attestations, answer up to one or two DHS queries and remain ready for a random on-site inspection. However, even after obtaining an approval subsequent to this rigorous and expensive adjudication process, which will have to be repeated each time an employer files a case, an employer may learn that their H-1B employee(s) are barred from reentering the U.S. after a short visit abroad. These employee(s) may be held abroad for months or years, away from their family, home and of course, job. U.S. employers of those encountering such a situation often lose contracts, profits and incur harm to their corporate reputation.”
“A U.S. Consular officer may deny entry to the U.S. to anyone, even someone with a DHS approved H-1B. Such a denial follows, generally, a two to five minute interview in which a Consular officer quickly flips through the same documentation previously scrutinized by the DHS. Presently, the main reason for such denials for H-1B IT workers appears predicated on Consular Officers’ outdated interpretation of what constitutes an “employee-employer” relationship within the H-1B context. This definition however, has been substantially modified by DHS and DHS Chief Napolitano since the original, restrictive definition was announced in January of 2010. Unfortunately, no one seems to have issued the revisions to the Consulates. Further, it appears that a substantial percentage of such H-1B visa denials may be improper. This is because the Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) guidelines for Consulates state that a U.S. Consular Officer may only deny a case on very specific grounds, that is, the discovery of new negative facts not previously known to DHS in the course of DHS’ adjudication. For example, 9 FAM 41.53(d) states that,”
“…The consular officer must suspend action on this alien’s application and submit a report to the approving DHS office if the consular officer knows or has reason to believe that an alien applying for a visa under INA 101(a)(15)(H) is not entitled to the classification as approved.”
Mr. Sharma highlighted a selection in the FAM which indicates a Consular officer,
“…must have specific evidence of a requirement for automatic revocation, misrepresentation in the petition process, lack of qualification on the part of the beneficiary, or of other previously unknown facts, which might alter USCIS’s finding before requesting review of an approved Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.”
Mr. Sharma noted that, “The FAM repeatedly emphasizes that DHS, the original adjudicator of the petition, should be given greater deference than Consulates in reviewing the qualifications of a particular alien for “H” status, and that Consulates should rely on DHS expertise, and not their own. This is not only so because Congress explicitly and implicitly assigned “responsibility” and “authority” of making such a decision to DHS but also because of the complexity of H petitions in general.”
“By mandating a preliminary petition process, Congress placed responsibility and authority with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine whether the alien meets the required qualifications for “H” status. Because DHS regulations governing adjudication of H petitions are complex, you should rely on the expertise of DHS in this area.” 9 FAM 41.53 N2.1 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Responsible for Adjudicating H Petitions”
Mr. Sharma stated, “Another unambiguous demand for Consulates’ deference to DHS is contained in 9 FAM 41.53 N2.2, under the heading entitled, “Approved Petition Is Prima Facie Evidence of Entitlement to H Classification”. Subsection (a) of this section makes it abundantly clear that the Consulate or Consular officer should not make any adverse decision on an H-1B petition approved by DHS, unless the Consulate discovers (presumably material) information during the visa interview that was not available to DHS,”
“You do not have the authority to question the approval of H petitions without specific evidence, unavailable to DHS at the time of petition approval, that the beneficiary may not be entitled to status. The large majority of approved H petitions are valid, and involve bona fide establishments, relationships, and individual qualifications that conform to the DHS regulations in effect at the time the H petition was filed.”
Mr. Sharma emphasized that it is “only if the Consulate discovers material not known to the DHS is it advised to issue a request for evidence in the following note (b),”
“If information develops during the visa interview (e.g., evidence which was not available to DHS) that gives you reason to believe that the beneficiary may not be entitled to status, you may request any additional evidence which bears a reasonable relationship to this issue. “
Mr. Sharma provided another example in 9 FAM 41.53 N2.3, “Referring Approved H Petition to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for Reconsideration” which he stated “…reemphasizes an often ignored directive: that Consular officers,”
“… should consider all approved H petitions in light of these Notes, process those applications that appear to be legitimate, identify those applications which require local investigation, and identify those petitions that require referral to the approving U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office for reconsideration. Refer petitions to USCIS for reconsideration sparingly, to avoid inconveniencing bona fide petitioners and beneficiaries and causing duplication of effort by USCIS. You must have specific evidence of a requirement for automatic revocation, misrepresentation in the petition process, lack of qualification on the part of the beneficiary, or of other previously unknown facts, which might alter USCIS’s finding before requesting review of an approved Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.”
Mr. Sharma concluded, “It is highly improbable that freshly discovered documentary evidence, both material in nature and unavailable to DHS at the time of original adjudication, could be discovered during the course of a typically rapid Consulate interview for the majority of H-1B petitions that have been denied recently. Visa applicants and their employers obey the law, ‘wait their turn’ and pay the requisite fees but are often those most ill treated by our system. These individuals are suffering harm because of the carelessness, ignorance and a lack of communication within and among our Immigration agencies, particularly at the Consular level. This may be one of the major reasons why our economy suffers; tourists, students, investors and professionals are increasingly selecting emigration to Australia and Canada over the U.S. and its unpredictable, almost schizophrenic immigration system. I welcome the DHS’ proposed changes but they will have little impact if the U.S. Department of State’s Consulates continue to ignore them.”