Immigration News

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

Biometrics Fees Waived for All I-539 Applicants

USCIS announced yesterday that beginning on October 1, 2024 biometrics fees will be waived for all applicants who file Form I-539. This form is used to petition USCIS to extend or change nonimmigrant status in the United States. Applicants do not need to pay the $85 biometrics fee if their application is postmarked Oct. 1 or later. However, certain applicants who file Form I-539 before Oct. 1 will need to include this $85 fee. These applicants will still be scheduled for an ASC appointment and should still attend this appointment. Please reach out to your CYA attorney for any questions about this welcome development.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

USCIS Announces EADs will be valid for Five Years for Certain Non-Citizens

Starting on October 1, 2023, employment authorization documents (EADs), both initial and renewals, will be issued for a validity period of 5 years for certain non-citizens.  Those who are eligible for the 5-year period of work authorization include adjustment of status applicants, those who have pending asylum applications, refugees and asylees, as well as those applying for cancellation of removal in removal proceedings. 

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

Biden Administration Announces Extension and Expansion of Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans

On September 21, 2023, the Biden Administration announced an 18-month extension and expansion of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans who came to the U.S. prior to July 31, 2023, due to unsafe conditions in Venezuela.  Temporary Protected Status provides temporary legal status in the U.S. and work authorization for those who meet certain criteria.  The administration will be publishing an official announcement in the Federal Register with further details.   

by Adrianna Romero Adrianna Romero No Comments

DACA Struck Down by Texas Judge for the 2nd Time

In yet another twist in the ongoing saga of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a federal judge in Texas has ruled that the Biden administration’s efforts to codify DACA into federal regulation are unlawful. Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas made this ruling in response to a lawsuit filed by Republican-led states, echoing his similar decision in 2021 when he declared the original DACA memo established by the Obama administration illegal. However, what sets this ruling apart is that, despite finding the Biden administration’s DACA regulation unlawful, Judge Hanen did not order the immediate termination of the program.

In his latest ruling, Judge Hanen found no “material differences” between the original 2012 DACA policy and the Biden administration’s 2022 effort to transform it into a federal regulation. While he kept DACA closed to new applicants, he allowed current beneficiaries to renew their enrollment, expressing sympathy for their situation. However, he also emphasized that the fate of DACA recipients should ultimately be determined by Congress, not the courts or the executive branch.

The Biden administration is expected to appeal this decision, and the case is likely to eventually reach the Supreme Court. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, responsible for reviewing appeals of Judge Hanen’s rulings, also declared DACA illegal last year, further complicating the situation.

DACA has been at the heart of the nation’s contentious immigration debate since its inception 11 years ago. While Congress has considered several bipartisan proposals to provide permanent legal status to DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, these efforts have often become entangled in broader, partisan debates over immigration policy, including issues related to the southern border.

Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, disputed Judge Hanen’s ruling, emphasizing that it undermines the security and stability of more than half a million Dreamers who have contributed to their communities. The White House, represented by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, pledged to continue defending DACA from legal challenges and called on Congress to provide permanent protection for Dreamers.

For now, current DACA recipients can continue renewing their status, but USCIS will not process new applications. While this offers temporary relief to DACA recipients, it underscores the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform to provide a more permanent solution for these young immigrants who have spent years in limbo. The coming legal battles and political discussions will undoubtedly shape the fate of DACA and the Dreamers who depend on it.

by Caroline Lee Caroline Lee No Comments

USCIS Issues Form I-9 and E-Verify Guidance Related to the 2023 Hawaii Wildfires

Given the scope and destruction of the recent wildfires on Maui, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a fact sheet on the 2023 Hawaii wildfires and its impact on I-9 and E-Verify.  The fact sheet contains information on completing Form I-9 or reverifying when an employee’s documents are lost, stolen, or damaged, as well as how to recreate destroyed Form I-9 records.  For example, new employees whose documentation was lost, stolen or damaged may present a receipt showing they have applied for a replacement document.

For more information on I-9 or E-Verify compliance, schedule a consultation with a CYA attorney today.

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

Understanding the Visa Bulletin in U.S. Immigration

In the complex world of U.S. immigration, the Visa Bulletin is a complicated and ever-changing tool that outlines the availability of immigrant visas, offering insight into the waiting times faced by prospective immigrants. The Visa Bulletin is a crucial component of the United States immigration system, serving as a monthly guide that determines when eligible individuals can move forward in their journey to obtain a green card. Published by the U.S. Department of State, the Visa Bulletin categorizes applicants into different preference categories based on their family relationships or employment-based qualifications. These categories are further subdivided by country of origin due to the limited number of visas available each fiscal year.  

The Visa Bulletin displays a “priority date” which has been assigned to each applicant and corresponds to the date when their application was initially filed. The Visa Bulletin’s main function is to publicize processing status for each preference category and country. If an applicant’s priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed in the Visa Bulletin for their category and country, they can proceed with the final steps in their immigration process. However, due to the limited number of visas available in certain categories from certain countries, waiting times can vary widely and can be quite significant. While maddening at times, the Visa Bulletin shows current immigrant processing wait times and helps applicants anticipate potential delays in the progression of their case. Regularly checking the Visa Bulletin and staying informed about anticipated changes and trends in priority dates is essential for immigrants striving to navigate the complex path to permanent residency in the United States.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

Will all the Employment-Based Preference Categories be “Current” in October 2023?

On July 28, 2023, Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois) and Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-Indianna) led 56 of their colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas requesting the Biden administration take executive action to provide relief to highly skilled immigrant workers by advancing all the USDOS Visa Bulletin employment-based categories “Dates for Filing” to “Current”, and allowing employment-based applicants to file their I-485 applications for U.S. permanent residence based on the “Dates for Filing” charts. Since then, there has been much speculation regarding whether the Biden administration will entertain such administrative action. To date there has been no official response from the administration indicating that it intends to take such administrative action and if so, when. We will know if such action will be taken in October 2023 by mid-September when the USDOS issues the Visa Bulletin for October 2023. Given that the administration hasn’t already enacted this type of administrative relief for highly skilled workers, and USCIS is still mulling over proposed filing fee increases that would raise filing fees, decouple the I-485 Adjustment of Status filing fee from the I-765 Employment Authorization and I-131 Advance Parole filing fees, and enact a new filing fee for I-765 and I-131 renewals, we do not believe it is likely that the Biden administration will take such action starting in October 2023. If the Biden administration is considering taking such executive action, we believe it will be in conjunction with the implementation of the new filing fee rule. Thus, we do not believe that all employment-based preference categories will become “Current” in October 2023. However, we hope that there is a significant advancement in the employment-based preference categories in October 2023 which will allow those whose categories recently backlogged to move forward with their I-485 applications. Stay tuned! Mid-September is right around the corner!

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

And That’s a Wrap on the Second H-1B Lottery!

In a highly anticipated event, last week USCIS announced that the agency would be conducting a second H-1B lottery for the 2024 fiscal year. The second H-1B cap lottery was conducted over the weekend, and now appears to be completed. All registrants chosen in this second lottery have been notified, and all other registrants not selected remain eligible for selection in any further FY2024 lottery. All H-1B registrants chosen in the second lottery must submit their H-1B petition within the filing period and at the service center indicated on the selection notice. For any questions or help with an H-1B petition, reach out to a CYA attorney.

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

USCIS Will Conduct a Second H-1B Lottery for FY2024

In happy news for H-1B hopeful beneficiaries and petitioners, USCIS announced today that it will be conducting a second round of the H-1B lottery. Woo! Individuals who timely submitted their H-1B registration for FY 2024 will be automatically considered for the second lottery. We don’t know exactly when the second lottery will be conducted, but expect it to happen soon. This is very welcome news for the many H-1B registrants who were not selected in this years’ initial H-1B cap lottery. Stay tuned for further updates on this evolving process.

by Caroline Lee Caroline Lee No Comments

USCIS Launches Customer Service Digital Tools

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is launching several new online tools designed to facilitate efficiency and provide better access to the agency for people with pending immigration matters.  The USCIS customer service digital tools include the following:

  • Text Ahead Feature – Applicants will have the ability to opt-in to the text back feature from USCIS on an escalated service request after calling the 1-800 Contact Center number or through the online Ask Emma function (available on the USCIS website).
  • Online Appointment Request Form – USCIS is launching a new online appointment request feature that is designed to provide more flexibility and certainty for applicants needing specific types of appointments, including ADIT Stamps, Emergency Advance Parole (EAP), or Immigration Judge Grants.
  • Online Change of Address Function – To access this feature, applicants or attorneys must use their myUSCIS account. The new online Change of Address function will update all systems within USCIS, for each receipt number provided in real time.
  • Online Biometrics Rescheduling – Per USCIS, the online function to request a new biometrics appointment date can be used only two times. The system will ask customers to select a reason for the reschedule request, the current appointment date and time, the customer’s date of birth, and ASC location. This tool cannot be used for rescheduling missed biometrics appointments, however.

If you have questions about how to access or use the new USCIS digital tools, contact a CYA attorney today!