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USCIS Aims to Decrease Processing Times for N-400 and I-485 Applications

Posted June 18, 2019Articles

Since 2015, there have been significant increases in processing times due to high volumes of Naturalization (N-400) and Permanent Residency or Adjustment of Status Applications (I-485). Because these applications reach various field offices, some have been more severely affected by this increase in volume more than others. In efforts to counteract this issue, USCIS intends to schedule applicants to appear for interviews in field offices outside of their normal jurisdiction. While interview locations may change, biometrics appointments will remain consistent with the nearest application support center available within an applicant’s jurisdiction. With these upcoming changes, it is critical that applicants follow the exact instructions on any notices that they receive from USCIS.  

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White House Seeks to Enforce Affidavit of Support Obligations

Posted June 17, 2019Articles

On May 23, 2019, the White House issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to comply with laws restricting certain immigrants from receiving federal means-tested benefits. Under federal immigration law, certain individuals who were required to have a sponsor execute and enforceable affidavit support are ineligible to receive means-tested public benefits, such as from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Key points:

  • The memorandum reminds relevant federal agencies that when a sponsored individual applied for benefits, the resources of the sponsor must be counted.
  • It further reminds agencies that the sponsor is expected to fulfill their commitments under the affidavit of support, which can include reimbursing the government.
  • It directs the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to establish or update procedures and guidance within 90 days on how to notify sponsors of amounts owed and how to collect reimbursements from sponsors.
  • By the end of fiscal year 2019, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are directed to provide relevant federal and state officials with procedures on how to notify sponsors of reimbursement obligations for means-tested public benefits.
  • By the end of fiscal year 2019, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are directed notify those in the following situations of how reimbursement requirements will be enforced:
    • All current sponsors and those seeking to become sponsors who have signed or plan to sign an affidavit of support;
    • Others who, under applicable provisions of law, may become liable for reimbursing the cost of public benefits paid to a sponsored alien;
    • All current sponsored aliens and those seeking to become sponsored aliens.

In general, sponsors who have signed an affidavit of support can be held responsible for the costs of means-tested public benefits provided by federal, state, local or private agencies. A sponsor’s obligations continue until:

  • The sponsored immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen;
  • The sponsored immigrant has worked or can receive credit for 40 quarters of coverage under the Social Security Act;
  • The sponsored immigrant is no longer a lawful permanent resident and has departed the United States;
  • The sponsored immigrant is subject to removal, but applies for and obtains, while in removal proceedings, a new grant of adjustment of status based on a new affidavit of support, if one is required;
  • The sponsored immigrant dies; or
  • The sponsor dies. However, the sponsor’s estate may be responsible for the cost of benefits accumulated before the sponsor’s death.

If you are a sponsor, are thinking about sponsoring an individual, or are a sponsored immigrant and have questions about how enforcement may affect you, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung LLC attorney.

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Proposed H-1B Cap Registration Fee is currently under Federal Review

Posted June 14, 2019Articles, H-1B

The Department of Homeland Security is moving forward with plans to impose a fee for filing registration in the forthcoming H-1B cap online system. The proposed fee is unknown. This proposal is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget. H-1B cap registration will begin with the FY 2021 H-1B cap season which will begin in early 2020. Under this proposed system, employers would register and submit a fee for each foreign national they wish to sponsor. The Office of Management and Budget has 90 days to review the proposed regulation. Once they have reviewed, the proposal will be published in the Federal Register for public comment for 30 to 60 days. When the comment period closes, DHS will review the feedback and issue a final regulation. It is expected to be in place when the FY 2021 H-1B cap season begins early next year.

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E1/E2 Visa Available for New Zealand Nationals and Residents

Posted June 14, 2019Articles, Entrepreneurship

The US and New Zealand have announced a treaty investor agreement (E1/E2) which will become effective as of June 10, 2019. New Zealand citizens will be able to apply for the E1/E2 visa the US Embassy Branch Office in Auckland as well as allow New Zealand nationals already in the U.S.  to request a change of status to E-1 or E-2 classification through USCIS.  Spouses, and unmarried children under 21 who wish to join the principal visa holder may apply for derivate E visas. Spouses who hold a derivative E visa may seek employment authorization. Spouses and unmarried children may also request a change of status if they are already in the United States. Please contact your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney for additional information regarding E1/E2 visas.

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Department of State to Require Disclosure of Social Media and Prior Contact Information

Posted June 6, 2019Kristen KellarArticles

The State Department has updated its Forms DS-160 and DS-260 to require all foreign nationals to provide social media and contact history when applying for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. Specifically, applicants will need to provide the following:

  • Social media platforms used in the last five years
  • Username(s) for each of the social media platforms used, however, passwords are not required at this time
  • All email addresses and phone numbers phone numbers used in the last five years

Consular offices can review this information and the other information provided in the DS-160 or DS-260 to determine whether additional information or security is necessary, or whether to refuse to issue the visa. Applicants should ensure that they have all of the above information on hand and complete the applications to the best of their ability.

In 2017, consular officers were temporarily given authority to collect additional information to further vet applicants. In 2018, the Department of State announced a new form to collect supplemental information from applicants during a consular interview. The new change to the DS-160 and DS-260 represent an increase in data collection from applicants as it applies to all visa applicants required to submit one of the forms.

If you have any questions about how this may affect your visa application please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung LLC attorney.

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