Updates: Signatures and Credit Card Acceptance at USCIS

3EB2E8ED-35F7-451D-B3AF-96539B02C187USCIS Now Accepting Credit Cards for Most Filings

USCIS has issued a new form G-1450 that will allow people to pay for form filing fees via credit card directly with USCIS.  This form is available for all applications filed at lockbox facilities.  It cannot be used for filings at local offices.  You should read all the information at the USCIS website here to make sure that you complete the form correctly according to what applications you are filing.

Please do call us with any questions about this new policy.

USCIS No Longer Accepting Power of Attorney for Signatures

USCIS has always required original signatures on all forms.  However, USCIS did accept the signature of someone other than the applicant if there was a duly authorized power of attorney.  This is the case no longer.  USCIS will no longer accept such arrangements.  Now the applicant must sign all forms being filed with USCIS.  Parents are still allowed to sign for minors, however.  USCIS also made clear that any deficiency in the signature (whether for an employer, employee, applicant, etc.) could also result in a rejection or denial of the application.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

H1B Recent Trends: The Wage Level 1 Conundrum

unknownIn the last year, USCIS has certainly increased its scrutiny on all cases, especially on H-1B cases.One tact that USICS has taken is to insist that, if an employer has used a Level 1 wage, then, without any further review of the position, USCIS can assume that it is an entry level position and is NOT a specialty occupation.  While to most people, this simply makes no sense, USCIS used this rationale (or lack there of) to deny many H-1B applications.  Finally, the Administrative Appeals Office, which overseas appeals of all H-1B denials, has ruled on one such case and overturned the denial.  The AAO stated;

Before we do so, a few more general observations are in order about the relevance of wage levels in the context o f H-1 B adjudications. A position’s wage level designation certainly is relevant, but is not a substitute for a determination of whether a proffered position meets the requirements of section 214(i)(l) of the Act. We assess each case on its merits. There is no inherent inconsistency between an entry-level position and a specialty occupation. For some occupations, the “basic understanding” that warrants a Level I wage may require years of study, duly recognized upon the attainment of a bachelor’s degree in a specific specialty. Most professionals start their careers in what are deemed entry-level positions. That doesn’t preclude us from identifying a specialty occupation. And likewise, at the other end of the spectrum, a Level IV wage would not necessarily reflect that an occupation qualifies as a specialty occupation if that higher-level position does not have an entry requirement of at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific specialty or its equivalent. Wage levels are relevant, and we will assess them to ensure the LCA “corresponds with” the H-1B petition. But wage is only one factor and does not by itself define or change the character of the occupation.

We are very hopeful that this means that USCIS will take a more holistic approach and review all relevant documents in all such cases instead of denying a majority of such cases without really reviewing the relevant documentation.   Despite the above, it is still very important to include sufficient evidence with the initial application showing the specialty nature of the occupation.  Such evidence can include other job postings for similar positions, letters from other employers, CVs of other employees in the same position, etc.   Please do note, that each case is different and the type and amount of evidence needed will vary by case.  Please call our office with any specific questions.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

Want to Make an Infopass Appointment? New Process is Coming Soon.

3EB2E8ED-35F7-451D-B3AF-96539B02C187According to the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, USCIS is changing the process for making InfoPass Appointments.  According to their press release:

 

 

AILA has received reports that as part of a new pilot program, select USCIS field offices are anticipated to roll out a new scheduling process for InfoPass appointments that will eliminate self-scheduling of InfoPass appointments online. Under the new pilot program, the scheduling of InfoPass appointments for select USCIS local field offices will instead be coordinated by the USCIS National Customer Service Center. The stated purpose for this new program is to avoid InfoPass appointments being utilized for routine inquiries that can be resolved via the Customer Service Hotline. According to reports, USCIS plans to implement this new pilot program at five local USCIS field offices: Hartford, CT; El Paso, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Sacramento, CA; and San Francisco, CA.

Once the new pilot program is implemented, in order to schedule an InfoPass appointment at one of the above listed USCIS field offices, stakeholders will first need to contact the NCSC by phone (1-800-375-5283), speak to a Tier 1 officer, and request to schedule an InfoPass appointment. The call will then be escalated to a Tier 2 USCIS representative who will confirm that the issue is appropriate for an InfoPass appointment before scheduling the appointment.

USCIS has not yet publicly released information about this new pilot program on the USCIS website and the implementation date of the program at all five of the selected USCIS field offices is not yet confirmed. AILA will continue to monitor the rollout of this new initiative and has reached out to USCIS for additional information on its implementation.

As stated above, USCIS is trying to prevent routine inquiries that it feels can be handled by its customer service call center from going to the local offices.  Thankfully AILA will be monitoring the roll out of the program as it is very clear that USCIS could start to abuse this system by routinely denying appointments and requiring people to go through the customer service call center (which, in many cases, is less than adequate).

We will update you when more information is available.

Check in With Charlie Oppenheim on Immigrant Visa Movement

UnknownCharlie Oppenheim has released some more information on how he sees immigrant visa usage heading this year.

Overall his  predictions are largely positive, with forward movement predicted in most categories.  However, it should be noted that the new USCIS policy requiring transfer of employment-based I-485s to field offices for interview is expected to increase volatility in final action date movement in employment-based categories. These categories may actually see faster advancement of certain final action dates in the near term because fewer cases will be adjudicated, though once the transition is complete and the USCIS adjudications process has stabilized, there may be slower movement or retrogression in certain categories depending on usage.

In addition, if there are delayed adjudications, this would  mean less visibility in demand for the State Department, which may result in more rapid forward movement (if Charlie does not know of pending cases, or projected usage, he cannot account for it in setting dates in the visa bulletin). The timeliness of the sharing of demand data by USCIS may also be impacted, as data will need to be pulled from multiple offices, as opposed to a more centralized approach to adjudications and data collection in the past.

The total number of visas used by USCIS as a whole during this fiscal year (or, at least, the first quarter of the fiscal year (October through December, 2017)) has decreased by several thousand as compared to FY2017. Charlie plans to advance categories as needed to generate sufficient demand to ensure usage of all available visa numbers, while trying not to do so too rapidly to avoid retrogression or unavailability.

In terms of specific categories:

Employment-Based Categories

EB-1 India and EB-1 China:  The imposition of a final action date for EB-1 China and EB-1 India in July/August/September of 2017, created pent up demand which was largely adjudicated in October, November and December of 2017. However, so far, this fiscal year, EB-1 India and EB-1 China have already used 7,000 and 4,500 visa numbers, respectively. Charlie expects these categories to remain current for the coming months, but the imposition of a final action date in the summer remains likely if the current rate of demand continues. This could, however, be delayed if the transition of I-485s to USCIS Field Offices results in slowed processing of EB-1 China and EB-1 India cases in the coming months.

EB-2 Worldwide: This category should remain current for the foreseeable future.

EB-2 and EB-3 China:  As stated in my last post, EB-2 China will advance just under two months to October 1, 2013, and EB-3 China will advance five months to September 15, 2014 in the February Visa Bulletin. According to Charlie this category will continue to  advance at a rate of two to three months each bulletin, and may progress at a faster pace to generate demand. EB-3 China is predicted to advance at a pace of “(u)p to five months.” Charlie advised that EB-3 China will likely continue to advance at a faster pace than EB-2 China.

However, this may “flip” around, and EB-2 China may start progressing at. Faster rate.   It is unclear whether this “flip” will occur in FY18 due to a combination of factors, including the availability of otherwise unused family-based preference numbers for China, and uncertainty as to how the transfer of employment-based I-485s to USCIS Field Offices will impact the speed of adjudications and the processing of upgrade and downgrade requests.

EB-2 India:  Again, as stated in my previous post, EB-2 India will advance by less than one month in February from November 22, 2008, to December 8, 2008. Given heavy demand, the February Visa Bulletin predicts modest forward movement for EB-2 India at a rate of “(u)p to two weeks.”

EB-3 India:  The final action date for EB-3 India will advance one month to December 1, 2006. The February Visa Bulletin predicts forward movement in this category at a pace of one to three months. Once the final action date advances beyond August 2007, Charlie will have very little visibility into demand. Once this occurs, there is the potential for rapid movement of the EB-3 India final action date to generate new demand. This may happen either late this fiscal year (August or September of this year) or next fiscal year.

EB-3 Philippines:  This category will advance two weeks to March 1, 2016, in February. Demand in this category is comfortable, but not extremely high, which means there is less room to advance this date significantly. Charlie is watching this category closely since there have been spikes in demand, and he does not want to advance the final action date too quickly to avoid future retrogression. At this time, demand in this category is heavily weighted toward consular processing, but it is expected that USCIS filings could increase significantly in the coming months.

Family Based Categories

Final action date movement tends to be less erratic and more predictable in the family-based categories since Charlie has greater visibility into demand patterns based on the fact that these cases are primarily adjudicated at consular posts rather than domestically by USCIS. Charlie predicts FB-1 Worldwide advancing at a pace of up to one month, FB-2A Worldwide advancing three to five weeks, FB-3 Worldwide advancing up to five weeks, and FB-4 worldwide advancing up to three weeks.

FB-1 Philippines and FB-2B Philippines, which had retrogressed in December, will advance seven months and 21 days in February, respectively. Charlie will continue to monitor demand carefully in these categories over the next several months. Recent volatility is attributable to the lack of visibility of rescheduled appointments made by applicants through the Department of State’s Global Support System (GSS). Charlie is working closely with the post in Manila to obtain more accurate demand data, and he hopes that as a result, these dates will slowly advance and recover.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

February 2018 Visa Bulletin Released

UnknownUSCIS has released the February 2018 Visa Bulletin. While there is certainly some movement forward, the guidance given by Mr. Oppenheim last month is still in effect and has not changed. Relevant changes are listed below.

Employment Based Immigrant Visas:

EB-1A: Still current for all Countries

EB-2: Current for Worldwide. China is at October 1, 2013, a jump of almost two months. India is at December 8, 2008, forward movement of approximately 2 weeks.

EB-3: Current for Worldwide. China is at September 15, 2014 a jump of about 5 months. India is at December 1, 2006, forward movement of one month.

Family Based Immigrant Visas:

FB-1: Worldwide, China and India are at March 15, 2011. Mexico moved forward about 2 months to July 1, 1996. The Philippines moved forward about 7 months to August 1, 2005.

FB-2A: Worldwide, India, China and the Philippines moved forward 1 month to March 1, 2016. Mexico also moved forward about 1 month to February 1, 2016.

FB-2B: Worldwide, China and India all moved forward about one and half months to January 15, 2011. Mexico and the Philippines each moved forward about 2-3 weeks to September 8, 1996 and July 22, 2006 respectively.

FB-3: Worldwide, China and India all moved forward about 5 weeks to November 15, 2005. Mexico moved forward about 1 week to June 22, 1995 and the Philippines did not move, but stayed at March 15, 1995.

FB-4: Worldwide and China moved forward 1 month to July 22, 2004. India moved forward about 3 weeks to January 8, 2004. Mexico only moved forward 1 week to November 8, 1997. The Philippines moved forward about 1 month to October 1, 1994.

The above summarizes the movements for the mentioned categories. If you are interested in another category, please feel free to contact me directly.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

January 2018 Visa Bulletin and Update from Charlie Oppenheim

UnknownThere have been some movements on the immigrant visa front, and some setbacks.  Below is an update on where things are and where they may be going.

Employment Based Immigration Visas:

EB-1:  Current across the Board for now, however according to Charlie, India and China may backlog by summer.

EB-2:  Current for Wordwide.  China progressed more than 1 month to August 8, 2013 and India progressed less than 1 month to November 22, 2008.  According to Charlie, China should continue to progress, but India will not move forward significantly in the near future, not even progressing into 2009 before the summer of 2018.

EB-3:  Current for Worldwide.  China moved forward more than 1 month to April 15, 2014.  India moved forward a couple of weeks to November 1, 2006.  The large demand in EB-3 for India has lessened somewhat so Charlie is hopeful that this category will continue to progress at the same rate over the upcoming months.  The Philippines moved forward about 1 month to February 15, 2016.  The large demand that had surfaced last month for the Philippines has lessened so, as with India, Charlie is hopeful of continued movement but will be monitoring demand closely.

Family Based Immigration Visas:

FB-1:  Most countries moved forward about 1 month to March 15, 2011.  The exceptions are Mexico (in 1996) and the Philippines (which is in 2005).  According to Charlie the Philippines, which recently had a large retrogression, will not be moving forward anytime soon.  Apparently already 40% of their immigration visas in this category are gone, whereas by the end of March they are usually at 54%.  Because they are already so close to that number, Charlie has had to slow down visa usage for them in this category (and the FB-2B category as well).  Because of movement forward in this category for worldwide number, Charlie is monitoring increased usage very closely.

FB-2A: Most Countries moved forward just over 1 month to February 1, 2016.  The only exception was Mexico which is at January 1, 2016.

FB-2B:  Most Countries moved forward just a couple weeks to December 1, 2010.  The only exceptions are the Philippines, which is in 2006 (see FB-1 for explanation) and Mexico which is in 1996.

FB-3:  Most Countries moved forward about 1 month to October 8, 2005. The only exceptions were Mexico and the Philippines, both of which are in 1995.

FB-4:  Most Countries moved forward a couple weeks to June 22, 2004.  India also moved forward a couple weeks to December 15, 2003.  Mexico is in 1997 and the Philippines is in 1994.  As India is moving forward in this category, Charlie is monitoring usage very closely in case increased demand surfaces.

Interviews for Employment Based I-485’s: What we Know so Far

3EB2E8ED-35F7-451D-B3AF-96539B02C187Beginning on October 2, 2017, USCIS started sending out interview notices for I-140 based adjustment of status applications. As of that date, all I-140 Adjustment of Status applications filed after March 6, 2017 will be subject to interviews. In case you were unaware, March 6, 2017 is the date the President signed Executive Order 13780m which began the whole move towards more intense scrutiny of applications. Below is some of the nitty gritty details of how this will work.

First, all approved I-140s (with their pending I-485 applications) will be routed to the National Benefits Center. Therefore, the most likely first notice you will receive after the approval of the I-140 is that your I-485 has been transferred to the NBC. The NBC will ensure that the case is ready for adjudication and, if necessary, issue an RFE for additional evidence that is needed to adjudicate the case. One thing to note in our experience so far: While NBC is fairly good at doing this, they do miss things sometimes. We would urge people to check the dates on their medical exams and, if you get an interview notice and more than 1 year has passed, get a new medical and bring it to the interview (otherwise the officer at the interview will request a new medical). Once they feel everything is set, they will send it on to the local office for an interview.

Second, the local office will NOT re-adjudicate the I-140. However, the local officers WILL assess the validity of the supporting documents and evaluate whether the evidence submitted was accurate, bona fide and credible. If the officer feels the underlying I-140 is not valid, they need to send the application back to the service center to re-evaluate it. The local office will ask where the foreigner is going to be working, what they are going to be doing, and could ask about experience and education as well. In addition, in employer sponsored cases they will check to make sure that the employer still intends to hire the employee in the requisite position, as well as questions about admissibility and maintenance of status.

If there are dependents, the local office will also be asked questions regarding their relationship tot he principal and to establish the bona fides of that relationship.

Third, in terms of what to prepare for the interview. For self-sponsored applications, despite the fact that the central office stated that they trained personnel on I-140 applications, in our experience the local offices have no clue what these applications are or what is required by them. It may be advantageous, because of this, to bring your attorney to the interview (at least until things settle down). In addition, you should make sure to bring all necessary documents to show maintenance of status, about any arrests or other grounds of potential inadmissibility, as well as employment documentation showing you intend to continue working in your field. If you were sponsored by an employer, you need documentation showing that the employer who sponsored you is still seeking to hire you in the same position OR that you have a new position at a new employer that is the same or similar to the original position (if the I-485 has been pending for at least 6 months). You should also bring a completed and singed I-485J. Also remember, that if you do have dependents they need to bring evidence of the bona fide relationship (marriage and birth certificate, evidence of join assets, home ownership, rental agreements, etc.). Lastly, as stated above, bring a new medical if necessary.

Remember, the purpose of the interview is to develop a more robust screening and vetting process. You need to be prepared.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.