NIW Adjudications on Hold

Unknown-1.jpegA couple of weeks ago we informed you that the AAO decided a case in which they changed the standard for adjudicating NIW cases (See this blog post).  USCIS has confirmed today that ALL pending NIW cases are on hold pending training for officers on the new standard.  USCIS did indicate, however, that processing of these cases should resume by the end of February of this year.

What does this mean for your case?  The chances are that USCIS has not adjudicated any cases since the decision was handed down, more than 1.5 months ago.  The backlog created by this stoppage will take some time to clear out, and will probably delay adjudications by up to 2 months. We will update you if additional information is made available.

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.

National Interest Waiver (NIW): NYSDOT overturned, new standard introduced

pic.jpgOn December 28th, 2016 the Administrative Appeals Office issued a decision in Matter of DHANASAR that has changed the landscape for National Interest Waiver cases.  This is of major importance as the National Interest Waiver is one of only two self-sponsored applications and many scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and others use this application to obtain Permanent residence in the US.  In order to explain how this decision has changed the landscape, it is first important to understand what the previous standard was

In Re: New York State Department of Transportation

Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, there are five Employment Based Immigrant Visa Levels.  Each level can have several categories.  The National Interest Waiver is laid out in the Second Level (EB-2) in section 203(b)(2) of the act.  Under subparagraph (B) of section 203(b)(2), the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive the requirement of a “job offer” (namely, that the beneficiary’s services are sought by a U.S. employer) and, “may, when the [Secretary] deems it to be in the national interest, waive the requirements of subparagraph (A) that an alien’s services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business be sought by an employer in the United States.” (See INA Section 203(b)(2)).

As can be seen, this does not provide much, if any, guidance on how USCIS should proceed in these types of cases.  USCIS did not help matters when it passed its regulations in this area.  All USCIS did was copy the language of the above statute verbatim.  It was the AAO that ended up defining how to show that your services are in the national interest.  The AAO did this in a case called In Re: New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). In that case the AAO laid out a three-part test:

  1. Show that the area of employment is of  “substantial intrinsic merit”.
  2. Show that any proposed benefit from the individual’s endeavors would be “national in scope”.
  3. The petitioner must demonstrate that “the national interest would be adversely affected if a labor certification were required for the foreign national.”

In deciding to relook at this framework, the AAO stated that they felt that there has been confusion, especially as to the third prong, about how to demonstrate the above three prongs.  In addition, the AAO felt that this confusion has caused USCIS to be too narrow in the cases it has approved.  More specifically, the AAO seemed to feel there were two main issues.  First, in terms of the national in scope, the AAO wanted to make clear that this was NOT a geographic issue. Instead, it is an issue of national importance.  Second, in looking at the third prong, too much emphasis has been placed on requiring a showing of harm to the national interest if the application is not approved as well as too much emphasis on showing influence on the field and using that as a yardstick to determine if a person meets the standard.  Because of the above, the AAO decided to reformulate the above test.

New Test in Matter of DHANASAR

Under the new framework, and after eligibility for EB-2 classification has been established, USCIS may grant a national interest waiver if the petitioner demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence:1. that the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; that the foreign national is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and (3) that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification. If these three elements are satisfied, USCIS may approve the national interest waiver as a matter of discretion.

  1. That the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance;
  2. That the foreign national is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and
  3. That, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification. If these three elements are satisfied, USCIS may approve the national interest waiver as a matter of discretion.

Prong 1: That the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance

Looking at the first prong first, this is what the AAO states:

Evidence that the endeavor has the potential to create a significant economic impact may be favorable but is not required, as an endeavor’s merit may be established without immediate or quantifiable economic impact. For example, endeavors related to research, pure science, and the furtherance of human knowledge may qualify, whether or not the potential accomplishments in those fields are likely to translate into economic benefits for the United States.

In determining whether the proposed endeavor has national importance, we consider its potential prospective impact. An undertaking may have national importance for example, because it has national or even global implications within a particular field, such as those resulting from certain improved manufacturing processes or medical advances. But we do not evaluate prospective impact solely in geographic terms. Instead, we look for broader implications. Even ventures and undertakings that have as their focus one geographic area of the United States may properly be considered to have national importance. In modifying this prong to assess “national importance” rather than “national in scope,” as used in NYSDOT, we seek to avoid overemphasis on the geographic breadth of the endeavor. An endeavor that has significant potential to employ U.S. workers or has other substantial positive economic effects, particularly in an economically depressed area, for instance, may well be understood to have national importance.

Comparing this to the first two prongs of NYSDOT, it is clear that many more people should be able to meet these standards.  First, in terms of substantial merit, the AAO is removing any required proof about economic benefit and is willing to accept more esoteric benefits.  While we have used this in many cases, it is good to see it immortalized into the actual standard.

Second, it show national importance, the AAO is specifically allowing local impacts that affect national priorities to be used in this regard.  In other words, with such a big emphasis these days on the economy and especially on creating jobs, you can use the potential jobs created for a particular endeavor in one state to justify the national importance of the project.  This is a major broadening of this criteria.

Again, we have used these arguments already in many cases (especially the global importance equals US national importance) and it is good to see this more formally allowed.

Prong 2:  That the foreign national is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor

This prong is, perhaps, the most interesting.  According to the AAO:

The second prong shifts the focus from the proposed endeavor to the foreign national. To determine whether he or she is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor, we consider factors including, but not limited to: the individual’s education, skills, knowledge and record of success in related or similar efforts; a model or plan for future activities; any progress towards achieving the proposed endeavor; and the interest of potential customers, users, investors, or other relevant entities or individuals.

We recognize that forecasting feasibility or future success may present challenges to petitioners and USCIS officers, and that many innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors may ultimately fail, in whole or in part, despite an intelligent plan and competent execution. We do not, therefore, require petitioners to demonstrate that their endeavors are more likely than not to ultimately succeed. But notwithstanding this inherent uncertainty, in order to merit a national interest waiver, petitioners must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they are well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

It seems that, what the AAO is getting at, is that just saying you want to continue working in your field is not enough.  While you may not need a job offer, you do need a plan as to how you will continue your work in your field (be it collaborations you are planning or something similar.  It also is looking at your past successes to ensure that you will be able to continue to have success in your area of expertise.  In this way, it is also very similar to what was already required under the old standard.  It seems that the AAO is trying to open up that standard by saying that you do not have to show substantial success in the past, just a record of success, which is easier to show.

Prong 3: The petitioner must demonstrate, that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the US to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus a labor certification.

Again, as above, this is very similar to what the AAO said in NYSDOT, however, it is also much broader.  Under the old standard, this was phrased in the negative, you had to show that the National Interest would be adversely affected if you were not granted the waiver of the job and labor certification requirement.  The AAO felt this was too restrictive:

In performing this analysis, USCIS may evaluate factors such as: whether, in light of the nature of the foreign national’s qualifications or proposed endeavor, it would be impractical either for the foreign national to secure a job offer or for the petitioner to obtain a labor certification; whether, even assuming that other qualified U.S. workers are available, the United States would still benefit from the foreign national’s contributions; and whether the national interest in the foreign national’s contributions is sufficiently urgent to warrant forgoing the labor certification process. We emphasize that, in each case, the factor(s) considered must, taken together, indicate that on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.

Under the old standard, you had to show why you would help the national interest to “a substantially higher degree” than an available US worker.  Under this new standard, you need to show that the US would still benefit from your work (or, at least, this is part of the test).  Again, this new standard helps broaden the scope of the NIW and helps many people who may not have qualified previously, to now, at least, have an argument for qualifying.

Conclusion

Overall, the AAO tried to open up the NIW to people who it felt should qualify, but whom USCIS was not qualifying under the old standard.  While the intent of the AAO is clear it remains to be seen how USCIS will interpret this new standard.  We are hopefully that they will interpret it in the spirit in which it was annunciated, that is liberally. We are also hopeful that this new standard will especially help those in the areas of international relations, scientists whose fields do not garner large number of citations or who have moved to non-traditional jobs as well as the aforementioned business people and entrepreneurs.  We will certainly update you as we learn more about how USCIS will implement this new standard.

Lastly, please keep in mind that, even if you filed your NIW case prior to this ruling, this is now the rule that USCIS will apply in your case.  Please also 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.

October 2016 VIsa Bulletin: Forward Movement for All

unknownThe Department of State released the visa bulletin for October 2016 recently. Below is a summary of movement and changes.

Family Based Immigrant Visa Numbers

F1 – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of US Citizens: This category moved forward about 1 week to September 22, 2090 for every country except Mexico (which moved forward 1 week to April 1, 1995 and the Philippines (which moved forward 1 week to August 1, 1995).

F2A – Spouses and children of Permanent Residents: All countries moved forward around 1 month, Mexico moved forward about 3 months to December 1, 2014. And the rest of the World moved forward about 5 weeks to December 22, 2014

F2B – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: Most of the world moved forward about 5 weeks to March 15, 2010. Mexico moved forward only 2 weeks to October 1, 1995 and the Philippines moved forward 1 month to January 1, 2006

F3 – Married Sons and Daughters of US Citizens: Most of the world moved forward about 3 weeks to December 22, 2004. Mexico moved forward about 1 week to November 22, 1994 and the Philippines moved forward about 3 weeks to July 8, 1994

F4 – Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens: China moved forward 4 months to May 1, 2003. India jumped just over 1 year to December 1, 2002. Mexico moved forward a couple weeks to May 1, 1997. The Philippines moved forward about 6 weeks to April 15, 1993. The rest of the world moved forward about 1 month to November 1, 2003

Predictions for coming months:

There should be forward movement on all categories in the next several months of about 2-6 weeks.

Employment Based Immigrant Visas

EB-1: As stated previously, this became current for everyone for October.

EB-2: Again, as we stated previously this became current for Worldwide numbers, Mexico and the Philippines. It moved forward to February 15, 2012 for China and to January 15, 2007 for India.

EB-3: Moved forward 1 month for Worldwide and Mexico to June 1, 2016. China jumped forward to January 22, 2013 (putting the EB-3 category ahead of the EB-2 for China). India Moved forward about 1 month to March 1, 2005 and the Philippines moved forward about 5 months to December 1, 2010.

Predictions for the Coming Months:

For EB-2s the Department of State sees China and India moving forward about 3 months (maybe 4 months for India) in the coming months. Worldwide and Mexico should remain current.

For EB-3s, they still feel that for the Worldwide numbers, demand may cause them to backlog (however this did not occur at all last year, and they thought it would then as well), but we will have to see. For China, EB-3 should move forward about 3 months. It will move forward only about 1 week for India and about 3 weeks for the Philippines.

August Visa Bulletin: EB-1 backlogs for India and China, EB-2 Backlogged for Everyone

UnknownThe August 2016 visa bulletin was released by the Department of State yesterday.   It features backlogs for ALL countries in the EB-2 category and other changed.  However, readers should understand, that while certain countries (India and China) have regular backlogs in the EB-2 category, those for other countries in the EB-2 category and those in the EB-1 category are  temporary.  I will discuss this more in depth below as we  look at the specifics of the Visa Bulletin:

Family Based Applications

F2A (spouses and children of permanent residents):  No movement

F4 (siblings of US citizens): No movement

F1 (unmarried sons and daughters of US Citizens):  The priority date for most countries moved forward about 2 months to May 22, 2009.  The exceptions are Mexico (no change) and the Philippines (moved forward 1 month to March 22, 2005)

F2B (unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents):Not much movement.  Most countries moved forward about 1 month to January 8, 2010.  The exceptions are Mexico (no movement) and the Philippines (moved forward 2 months to Sep. 15, 2005)

F3 (married sons and daughters of US Citizens):  Almost no movement, except the Philippines moved forward about 2 weeks to March 15, 1994

Work Based Applications

EB1:  As discussed in previous blog posts, there was always a change of a backlog, and it has occurred.  India and China are backlogged to January 1, 2010.  This will be a TEMPORARY backlog, however.  These dates will become current again on October 1, 2016. The beginning of the new fiscal year.  Every other country remains current.

EB2:  Worldwide is backlogged to February 1, 2014.  Again, this is temporary and will become current again on October 1, 2016 the beginning of the new fiscal year.  China remained unchanged at January 1, 2010 and India moved forward very slightly to November 15, 2004

EB3: Worldwide numbers moved forward about 2 weeks to March 15, 2016.  China, again, remained unchanged at Jan. 1, 2010 and India, again, moved forward slightly to November 8. 2004.  The Philippines also moved forward in this category about two months to May 15, 2009.

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.

USCIS and Workload Transfers: What you Need to Know

images.jpegUSCIS frequently is juggling around case types between various service centers to try and assure that all case types are adjudicated as quickly as possible.  Fairly recently they started transferring EB-1A Extraordinary Ability cases to Nebraska from the Texas Service Center.    Even more recent certain H-1Bs were sent from Vermont to California and Nebraska.

Recently, USCIS started a new webpage on their site devoted to such transfers.  This webpage lists all recent transfers and gives some information on what the transfer means to your case and how you can check the status of your case online.  In reality, once USCIS transfers files to a new service center, that service center usually slows down slightly for a little while before they are able to catch up on all the new cases they have received.  In some cases, the new service center slows down so much, that it actually takes longer than it appeared to be taking at the old service center.  This is an unfortunate consequence, however there is no way to request that your file be sent back to the old center.  Following the timelines where your case is and filing requests for information once your date has been reached is the best bet to ensure smooth processing in your case.

If you have any questions leave a comment below or send me an email.  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.

July 2016 Visa Bulletin and Check-In with DOS

Unknown.jpegThe Department of State (DOS) released the July visa bulletin recently and Charlie Oppenheim, the person at the DOS who is in charge of the visa bulletin also updated the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association on what further movement or backlogs can be expected in the near future.

For family based cases, there was not much movement at all.  Below is a table showing the movement.

Family Based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed China – Mainland Born India Mexico Philippines
F1 2 Months 2 Months 2 Months 2 Weeks 1 month
F2A 1 Week ! Week ! Week None 1 Week
F2B 2 Weeks 2 Weeks 2 Weeks None 1 Month
F3 None None None None 1 Month
F4 1 Month None None None 1 Month

For employment based, there was also not a lot of movement.  Again, the movement and new dates are listed below:

 

Employ.

Based

All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed China – Mainland Born India Mexico Philippines
1st C C C C C
2nd C None (Jan 1, 2010) 1 Month (Nov 1, 2004) C C
3rd 2 Weeks (Mar 1, 2016) None (Jan 1, 2010) I Month (Oct 22, 2004) 1 Month (Oct 22, 2004) 3.5 Months (Feb 15, 2009)

In terms of future movements, we will look at family based categories first.

FB4- China: For China, the FB-4 category just recently retrogressed and will remain at its current date through July, and perhaps through the rest of the fiscal year (it will depend on usage for FB-1 through FB-3).  However it will return to the prior cut off date by November of this year.

FB-4 India:  Similar to FB-4 China, FB-4 India recently tracked the FB-4 Worldwide final action date until it retrogressed in June. However, unlike FB-4 China, the final action date for FB-4 India will definitely remain at January 1, 2001, through September. Mr. Oppenheim predicts that FB-4 India will advance to the former July 2003 cutoff date early in the next fiscal year, but expects that recovery to happen more slowly than for FB-4 China. Mr. Oppenheim anticipates that the FB-4 India date will reach late 2002 for October, and may fully recover to July 2003 by the end of the calendar year.

Moving on to employment based categories:

EB-2 and EB-3 China:   There will be no forward movement in these categories for the rest of this fiscal year (the fiscal year ends on September 30, 2016).  We will have to see what the new fiscal year brings, but hopefully there will be forward movement shortly after the new fiscal year.

EB-2 and EB-3 India:  There may be some moderate movement forward in September, but it depends (see next category)

EB-2 Worldwide:  It is looking increasingly likely that this category will become unavailable in September.  However, since the new fiscal year begins October 1, they will, again, become current on that date.

EB-1 for India and China:  Similar to EB-2 Worldwide, these categories will most likely become unavailable in September but go back to current in October.

If you have any questions leave a comment below or send me an email.  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.

June 2016 Visa Bulletin is Out

In the last week, the Department of State released the June, 2016 visa bulletin,  USCIS has announced which tables they will utilize for this month and Charlie Oppenheim, the Department of State employee in charge of immigrant visa numbers, issued guidance for the coming months.   Below is a summary of the relevant points for all three of these documents.

Family Based Cases

There was some slight forward movement in some categories, but not much.  The largest movement was a backlog in the F4 category (Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens) for India and Chine.  India dropped from 2003 to 2001, and there is little hope of forward movement until the next fiscal year.  There has been high demand across the board in this category, and this is what is causing the retrogression.  China went back to January of 2013, about a seven month retrogression.  Again, high demand has caused the retrogression, but, in the case of China, there may still be some forward movement this fiscal year – depending on usage.

Employment Based

EB-1:  While EB-1 remains current across the board, it should be noted that there us unusually high usage of EB-1 numbers this fiscal year.  According to a recent update by Charlie Oppenheim this may result in corrective action later this fiscal year.

EB-2:  China will retrogress to January 1, 2010 (as will China EB-3).  Since EB-2 and EB-3 for China will be at the same date for the rest of the fiscal year (most likely) this should stop the upswell of downgrades from EB-2 to EB-3.

India is also retrogressing, but much more severely.  India will be at October 1, 2004.   There is a large amount of usage for EB-2’s in general, meaning that there most likely will not be any “unused” numbers for other countries that could be given to India.  This, in conjunction with the number of EB-3 cases that have moved up to EB-2s, has led to this need for retrogression.  However, Charlie Oppenheim, in his latest update, said this date could move forward if more EB-3 India cases are adjudicated, alleviating the burden of older EB-3 priority dates moving up to EB-2.

It does not appear that the EB-2 worldwide category will be retrogressed at this time.

EB-3:  As stated above, China has retrogressed to 2010.  India, on the other hand, moved forward slightly to September 22, 2004.

Worldwide held steady at February 15, 2016.  Charlie did not indicate anything about what the future holds for EB-3 Worldwide numbers.  If  we get an update on this we will certainly let you know.

USICS

USCIS has, once again, decided that the final action table should be used for both Family based and Employment based green cards.  This is frustrating to not only attorneys and their clients, but also to the Department of State.  The only way they can get a good handle on what the actual backlogs are for both EB-2 India and China and EB-3s for everyone, is if those in the backlog are able to file their adjustment of status applications.  If USCIS would utilize the Dates for Filing Table, it would give DOS the visibility they need to accurately predict usage and would prevent these wildly swinging priority date movements.  Alas, USCIS does not look like they will employe these dates any time soon.  This is unfortunate and shows that USCI was not serious about reforming the current visa processing, as if they were, they would at least explain why they are failing to utilize the Dates for Filing and helping the DOS get more visibility into these issues.  We will certainly update you if there is any change in this area.

If you have any questions leave a comment below or send me an email.  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.