On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Trump administration announced the upcoming publication of a proposed rule designed to redefine a status known as “public charge” — a category used to determine whether someone seeking permanent resident status is “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” for those seeking to immigrate to the United States. This rule was signed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on September 21, 2018 and will open for comment on the date of the official version’s publication in the Federal Register. As per past practices, the comment period should last for 60 days from the date of publication.

The 400 page rule expands greatly on how the government proposes to enforce a determination that a foreign national who is seeking a U.S. immigration benefit is or is likely to become a “Public Charge”, which means an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense. Specifically, under Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, an individual seeking admission to the United States or seeking to adjust status to that of an individual lawfully admitted for permanent residence (green card) is inadmissible if the individual, “at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” Public charge does not apply in naturalization proceedings. If an individual is inadmissible, admission to the United States or adjustment of status is not granted. (Note that there are many exceptions in which a public charge finding would not apply, including but not limited to: Refugees and Asylees, those who are victims of violence (VAWA), Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ), Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applicants, Amerasians, Afghan/Iraqi interpreters or U.S. Government employees, Cuban Adjustment Act applicants, NACARA applicants, etc.)

Currently, there is no formal definition of a public charge, but DHS states that “A number of factors must be considered when making a determination that a person is likely to become a public charge”. The proposed new rule would define a public charge as “an alien who receives one or more public benefits.” In the past, people have been at risk of being defined a “public charge” if they took cash welfare — known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Supplemental Security Income — or federal help paying for long-term care. (Immigrants must be in the country legally for five years before being eligible for TANF or SSI.) The new rule would expand the list to include some health insurance, food and housing programs. Specifically, it would penalize green-card applicants for using Medicaid under certain conditions, using food stamps, Section 8 rental assistance, federal housing vouchers and even enrollment in a Medicare Part D program subsidy.

Specifically, pages 95-96 of the proposed Rule lists the following that would be considered Public Benefits:
· Monetizable benefits: – Any Federal, State, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, including: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Federal, State or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the State context, but which may exist under other names);
– Benefits that can be monetized in accordance with proposed 8 CFR 212.24:
· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”),
· Public housing defined as Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program;
· Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation); and
· Non-cash benefits that cannot be monetized:
– Many Benefits paid for by Medicaid;
– Premium and Cost Sharing Subsidies for Medicare Part D; Benefits provided for institutionalization for long-term care at government expense;
– Subsidized Housing under the Housing Act of 1937.

While public charge is an old idea dating back to the 1990s, the proposed changes are unprecedented. Including programs like Medicaid and food stamps, which are much wider in scope, is a significant change.

In the past, DHS has been forgiving regarding the issuance of immigration benefits if someone had obtained government benefits in the past, so long the individual can prove that he or she is not likely to become a public charge in the future. Under the proposed rule as currently envisioned, it is clear that DHS will not be forgiving now looking at multiple factors including age, health, and past employment history, and, most importantly, receipt of past public benefits.

If implemented as contemplated, DHS will look back within a 36 month period of receipt of government benefits in making their decision on admissibility. Immigrants are encouraged to reexamine any currently public benefits that he/she is currently receiving to determine whether in the upcoming months it will be necessary to drop-out of these public benefit programs once the new public charge rule formally goes into effect.

DHS estimates that 2.5 percent of eligible immigrants would drop out of public benefits programs because of this change — which would tally about $1.5 billion worth of federal money per year, but others expect a much larger impact, including a chilling effect on the use of routine health benefits, particularly for children. In the proposed rule, DHS itself notes that the changes could result in “worse health outcomes,” “increased use of emergency rooms,” “increased prevalence of communicable diseases,” “increased rates of poverty” and other concerns.

Fear of being deemed a public charge and being unable to attain lawful permanent residency, and ultimately U.S. Citizenship will necessarily result in a detriment to low-income immigrant populations and eventually, the separation of families.

This is an early step in the complex federal rule-making process and many things could still change. Once the proposed rule appears in the Federal Register, it opens a 60-day public comment period allowing members of the public to provide input. As such, a final rule is unlikely to take effect before 2019.

We recommend that any immigrant, regardless of immigration status, who has previously received a public assistance benefit in the past for themselves, or immediate family members, should contact an immigration attorney for evaluation of their case.

Fox Rothschild immigration attorney, Kristen Schneck will be speaking on this topic as a panelist on Oct 24th, at the DHS Advisory Committee meeting to be held in Pittsburgh hosted by the Allegheny Dept. of Human Services.

Fox Rothschild will continue to monitor and report on activity regarding these rule making efforts. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will publish a series of blog posts with more details and updated regarding the Public Charge proposed rule. As always, please refer to ImmigrationView for the latest information on topics of importance in the immigration law practice.
For questions or more information about this alert, please contact Mark Harley at (412) 391-2418 or mharley@foxrothschild.com, Alka Bahal at (973) 994-7800 or abahal@foxrothschild.com or any member of the firm’s Immigration Practice

 

 

In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (September 13, 2018), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie comments on the close of this fiscal year and the recovery in certain categories at the start of FY2019, provides his predictions on final action date movement in the coming months, and answers questions from the public.

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: September 13, 2018

On September 14, 2018, USCIS announced that it would accept adjustment of status applications based on the “Dates for Filing” chart for both family-based and employment-based cases.  Since Charlie sets the “Dates for Filing” based on where he expects the final action dates will be in the next 8 to 12 months, these charts are also helpful in understanding how far the final action dates are likely to advance in the near term.

Family-Based Preference Categories

Since most family-based cases are processed at Embassies/Consulates, Charlie’s visibility into family-based demand is good, which avoids dramatic fluctuations in the final action dates.  These categories are expected to advance modestly or hold steady, except Mexico.  Given lower than anticipated demand members may see the Mexico family-based categories move more rapidly than normal.  Demand from China continues to be relatively low, whereas India demand has rebounded over the past year.

Employment-Based Preference Categories

EB-1:  For October, EB-1 Worldwide along with all other countries except China and India, advances ten months to April 1, 2017.  Charlie remains pessimistic that the EB-1 Worldwide final action date will advance before the end of this calendar year.  He forecloses the possibility of advancement in November and is pessimistic that there will be advancement in December but notes that there will be some forward movement in all EB-1 categories after the beginning of 2019.  Demand is sufficiently high that Charlie is unable to predict at this time whether this category will become current in FY 2019.  Charlie does not expect any advancement of EB-1 China or EB-1 India before January 2019 and believes it is “almost guaranteed” that both categories will be subject to a final action date through the fiscal year.

EB-2 and EB-3 Worldwide:  As previously predicted, EB-2 Worldwide and EB-3 Worldwide will return to current in October and will remain current for the foreseeable future and well into the next calendar year.  Charlie has not seen expected growth in EB-3 Worldwide.

EB-2 China and EB-3 China:  While EB-2 China recovers to April 1, 2015 in October, it will not surpass the EB-3 China final action date, which advances to June 1, 2015.  It is unclear whether EB-3 China’s two-month lead will be significant enough to spur downgrade demand.  If there are not as many downgrades, EB-3 China could advance more rapidly than expected.  Charlie has no visibility into EB-3 China “downgrade” demand until a visa number is requested, so this category may move modestly to avoid future retrogression.

EB-2 India and EB-3 India:  EB-2 India advances to March 26, 2009 in October, with EB-3 India trailing behind by less than three months at January 1, 2009.  Based on the dates for filing and depending on the level of demand in each of these categories, it is possible that EB-3 India may surpass EB-2 India at some point this fiscal year.

EB-3 Philippines and Other Workers Philippines:  As predicted, EB-3 Philippines and Other Workers Philippines will recover to June 1, 2017 in October. Nnly minimal movement during the first quarter of the fiscal year is expected.

EB-4:  As predicted, EB-4 Mexico will fully recover in October to its June Visa Bulletin date of October 22, 2016, EB-4 India will return to current, and EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain at February 15, 2016 in October.  There will be forward movement in EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras this fiscal year, but anything more than minimal movement is unlikely in Q1.  Due to visibility into preadjudicated cases filed prior to the imposition of a final action date in May 2016, as well as potential future demand by cases with old priority dates, Charlie is moving this category conservatively to avoid a future retrogression.

EB-4 India:  It is expected that this category will be subject to a final action date again, but that will not likely happen until late in the fiscal year.

EB-5 Non-Regional Center:  for China and Vietnam will advance to August 15, 2014 and January 1, 2016 respectively in October.

EB-5 China:  Demand remains high, so members should not expect much movement in this category throughout the fiscal year.  EB-5 Vietnam, in contrast, is likely to advance modestly early in the fiscal year until it reaches its per country limit, at which time, its final action date will track EB-5 China.

Expiration of Two Visa Categories

Unless reauthorized by Congress, the EB-4 Religious Worker and EB-5 (I5 and R5) categories will be unavailable after September 30, 2018.  If Congress reauthorizes these programs, the EB-4 Religious Worker category will become current in October, except EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras which will have a final action date of February 15, 2016 and EB-4 Mexico, which will have an October 22, 2016 final action date.  If reauthorized, EB-5 Worldwide (I5 and R5) would become current, with EB-5 China (I5 and R5) subject to an August 15, 2014 final action date, and EB-5 Vietnam (I5 and R5) subject to a January 1, 2016 final action date.

QUESTION:  USCIS data from July 2018 indicates that there are only 473 pending applications for EB-3 India.  USCIS notes that this is for service centers only and doesn’t include field offices.  The number of EB-3 China cases is 161.  Do these numbers track to the information DOS is receiving from USCIS about pending demand?

CHARLIE’S RESPONSE: As these are USCIS statistics, I would suggest that you pose your question to USCIS.  However, I am told that the Service Centers have dramatically reduced their inventories as pending adjustment cases which were filed years ago have become current and were approved, and new cases are now being sent to field offices via the National Benefits Center (NBC).  If I were to speculate, the numbers posted likely represent only India and China cases that were pending and subject to a priority backlog on March 6, 2017, when USCIS started sending new cases to the NBC.  Therefore, it should be expected that the number of cases at the NBC and the field offices far exceeds those which remain at the Service Centers.

QUESTION: Can you explain why sometimes final action dates are the same for different countries in a certain preference category and why sometimes they are different?

CHARLIE’S RESPONSE: Whenever the total number of documentarily qualified applicants for an individual country or category exceeds the supply of numbers available for a particular month, it is considered to be “oversubscribed” and a final action date is established.  The final action date is the priority date of the first documentarily qualified applicant who cannot be accommodated for a visa number.  For example, if the monthly allocation target for the China and India EB-2 preference categories were 250, and each country had demand in excess of 500, a final action date would be established so that only 250 numbers would be allocated.  In this case, the final action date for each country would be the priority date of the 251st applicant.  That date could be widely different based on EB-2 demand patterns for each country.

QUESTION: Using the EB-1 patterns we have observed over the past couple of years as an example, can you explain how “otherwise unused” numbers are allocated?

CHARLIE’S RESPONSE: Section 202(e) of the INA says that if there are “otherwise unused” employment numbers under the respective Worldwide preference limit, such numbers may be made available to those countries which have already reached the per-country preference limit.  In the past, EB-1 has been listed as “Current” for all countries for at least the first six months of each fiscal year because the worldwide level of demand at that time was insufficient to use all numbers available under the annual limit.  However, the “otherwise unused” numbers situation is constantly monitored, and subsequent changes in demand patterns can negatively impact the availability of future numbers to countries which had previously benefitted from their use.  Such increases in EB-1 Worldwide demand later in the year have eventually required the imposition of a final action date for EB-1 China and India to allow other countries that had not yet reached the per-country limit to remain “Current.”  Any remaining unused numbers are then made available strictly in priority date order without regard to country, and a single date would be applied.  That has been the case in past years when it has been necessary to apply a final action date to govern the use of a more limited amount of unused numbers (or none) available for use by China and India EB-1 applicants.  This is the reason why the October China and India EB-1 date is earlier than the Worldwide date, with both being required to govern number use within the overall annual limit.

You may access the September 2018 Visa Bulletin here and the October 2018 Visa Bulletin here.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide.  You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.http://www.foxrothschild.com/alka-bahal/

In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (April 13, 2018), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie examines the dramatic final action dates movement in the April Visa Bulletin, which hold steady for May, and provides his predictions on final action date movement in the coming months.

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: June 13, 2017

Given that USCIS takes roughly five months to process I-485 applications to completion, the dramatic final action date advancements in the April Visa Bulletin were not completely unexpected as the objective is to spur more applications in May and June in order to ensure that the full visa numbers will be used by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2018.  Since it is unlikely that most May I-485 filings will be processed to completion before the end of the fiscal year, many employment-based preference categories hold their April final action dates in the May Visa Bulletin, with only modest advancements in a few select categories.  These advancements were made in an abundance of caution, based on data Charlie received from USCIS regarding the number of pending cases.

Categories in which final action dates will remain the same include:

  • EB-1 China and India;
  • EB-2 India;
  • EB-3 China and Philippines;
  • EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and
  • EB-5 China.

There are only five categories with modest advancements-

  • EB-2 China will move forward one month to September 1, 2014;
  • EB-3 India will advance three months to May 1, 2008;
  • EB-3 Other Workers China and India will advance one and three months respectively, to May 1, 2007 and May 1, 2008; and
  • EB-4 Mexico will advance roughly five weeks to October 22, 2016.

As Charlie predicted, EB-5 Vietnam became oversubscribed, due to high demand, and will assume a final action date of July 22, 2014 in May, tracking to EB-5 China.

 Most family-based preference petitions are processed through the National Visa Center and U.S. consulates abroad, which accept applications based on the “filing date” rather than the final action date.  As a result, Charlie has excellent visibility into demand in these categories, enabling a slow and steady progression of the final action dates with much less volatility than is seen in the employment-based preference categories.  Final action dates advance modestly in May for all family-based preference categories, except FB-1 China, India and Worldwide, which hold at the April dates. T here is no retrogression in any of the family-based preference categories in May.

What can be expected in the coming months?

It is likely that most employment-based final action dates will hold at their May dates for the month of June with some changes possible in July.  What occurs is entirely dependent on demand that may materialize, and continuing consultations with USCIS.  The wildcard this year that could cause unanticipated fluctuations in the final action dates is the pace of USCIS field office processing of I-485s.

With regard to EB-1 China and India, it is too early to know whether the high worldwide EB-1 demand seen over the past few months is the result of a processing glut or sustained demand.  It is likely that EB-1 China and India will hold for at least another month, but Charlie will continue to watch demand to determine whether any advancements may be possible.

While Charlie is hopeful that the advancements made in April to EB-2 China will be sufficient to exhaust the visa numbers in this category, he continues to monitor China EB-3 downgrades and is likely to hold the final action dates in these categories for at least another month.  However, there still remains the possibility of some advancement later this fiscal year if the anticipated demand does not materialize.

As noted above, EB-4 Mexico advanced five weeks in May.  Although Charlie predicted a summer retrogression of this category to track to the final action date of EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, if demand lightens it may be possible to avoid or perhaps delay retrogression for EB-4 Mexico.

You may access the April 2018 Visa Bulletin here and the May 2018 Visa Bulletin here.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide.  You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

If Congress cannot resolve FY2018 funding issues by December 8, 2017, it will result in another federal government shutdown. Such a shutdown will impact immigration services across a number of different government agencies, affecting many of the systems and processes employers rely on to facilitate employment, including E-Verify, visa petition processing, labor certifications and other government services that corporations and individuals rely upon.

We will closely monitor the circumstances and provide updates as they become available. Individuals with pending applications or who are planning to travel abroad to secure a visa should consult with their Fox Rothschild immigration attorney, prior to travel.

E-Verify

E-Verify, the Internet-based system that allows employers to determine the eligibility of prospective employees to work in the United States, would be unavailable during a shutdown. Although employers must still complete the Form I-9 on a timely basis, in the past, U.S. Department of Homeland Security has suspended E-Verify’s 3-day rule and extended the time for responding to Tentative Non-Confirmations. Federal contractors are recommended to contact their contracting officers to confirm time frames.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

As a fee-based agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process applications and petitions for immigration benefits during the shutdown; however, processing delays are likely, as a certain portion of the staff will be furloughed. Further, delays may occur if adjudication of a petition/application is dependent on support from nonessential government functions that are suspended during the shutdown—for example, if a petition requires a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor (DOL).

In the past, USCIS has relaxed its rules and accepted H-1B filings without certified LCAs when DOL operations have been suspended or delayed, however, USCIS has not yet announced whether it will do so during the current shutdown.

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor (DOL) will suspend all immigration-related functions during a shutdown, affecting PERM Labor Certifications and Labor Condition Applications. Filed and pending applications will not be processed, nor will filings be accepted during a shutdown.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) employees are expected to stay on the job at the borders and ports of entry. CBP is deemed an essential function and will likely continue operations at near normal capacity, including the adjudication of applications/petitions for TN and L-1 status that are normally processed at the border.

The Department of State

In the past, The Department of State’s (DOS’s) consular operations have remained operational, although services may be limited. It is expected that U.S. Consulates abroad will continue to process visa applications as long as funds are available. This funding is expected to last only for a few days, at which point the State Department will likely cease processing visas and focus solely on diplomatic services and emergency services for American citizens.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs/Passport Office U.S. Passports

The Bureau of Consular Affairs is a fee-based agency; therefore, the Passport Office should continue to operate normally during a shutdown. However, some those passport offices that are located in federal buildings, which themselves may have to shut down, restricting access to those passport offices.

Social Security Administration

While The Social Security Administration (SSA) is expected to remain open during a shutdown, it will not accept or processing Social Security Number (SSN) applications. Although an employee may begin work without a social security number, the lack of an SSN could affect the individual’s ability to secure a U.S. driver’s license, open a bank account, secure credit or obtain other benefits.

State Department of Motor Vehicle Agencies

Although driver’s license and state identification cards are issued by state governments, applications by foreign nationals could be delayed during the shutdown because local agencies must access a federal database to verify the foreign national’s immigration status before it may issue a driver’s license or identification card. This database, known as SAVE, could be suspended during a shutdown.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

 

On May 1, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began issuing redesigned versions of the Permanent Resident Card (aka a “Green Card”) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project.

The redesigned cards use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant than the ones currently in use.

USCIS states that the new card designs are part of an ongoing effort between USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter counterfeiting and f raud and demonstrate USCIS’ commitment to continue taking a proactive approach against the threat of document tampering and fraud.

The new Permanent Resident and EAD Cards will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.
  • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Permanent Resident Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
  • Permanent Resident Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

Some Permanent Resident Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Permanent Resident Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card. Additionally, older Permanent Resident Cards without an expiration date also remain valid. USCIS continues to encourage individuals who have Permanent Resident Cards without an expiration date to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date in order to reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen, but have not mandated that they must do so.

The M-274 Handbook for Employers for Completing Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) was updated in July 2017 to depict the design of the new cards and those several still valid versions.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (June 13, 2017), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie examines the final action date movements in the July 2017 Visa Bulletin and provides his projections for monthly final action date movement through the remainder of this fiscal year.

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: June 13, 2017

EB-1 China and India. The final action date for EB-1 China and EB-1 India (January 1, 2012) that was imposed in June 2017 remains for July 2017 and is expected to hold through the end of this fiscal year. Due to the availability (through May) of “otherwise unused numbers” in these categories, EB-1 China has used more than 6,300 numbers and EB-1 India has used more than 12,900 so far this fiscal year.

EB-2 Worldwide. Since demand declined slightly in the second half of May, and demand during the first week of June was steady, Charlie felt comfortable keeping EB-2 Worldwide current in July. A final action cut-off date will be imposed in this category in August and will be more dramatic than it would have been if a date had been imposed in July. The good news is that this category will become current again on October 1, 2017.

EB-2 India. In July, the final action date for EB-2 India will advance three weeks to July 22, 2008. Charlie expects minimal advancement in this category through the rest of the fiscal year. The best case scenario for this fiscal year would be a final action date of September or October 2008.

Pressure on this category is attributable to high demand in EB-2 India and the lack of otherwise unused numbers under the EB-2 annual limit, which had been prevalent through FY-2015. Charlie noted that approximately 40 percent of the available EB-2 India numbers are being used by beneficiaries who have upgraded from EB-3 India.

EB-2 China and EB-3 China. For the first time this fiscal year, the final action date for EB-2 China is later than the final action date for EB-3 China. EB-2 China advanced three weeks in July to March 22, 2013, and Charlie expects slow progress in this category will continue. By contrast, EB-3 China will retrogress three years in July to January 1, 2012, as a result of a significant amount of EB-3 downgrades. The final action date for EB-3 China Other Workers will hold at July 15, 2006, and this date could also retrogress in August.

The final action date of January 1, 2012, for EB-3 China will hold through the end of this fiscal year, but will advance to October 1, 2014, effective October 1, 2017.

The annual allocation for EB-3 China is only 2,500 because the Chinese Student Protection Act requires an offset of 1,000 numbers from the China employment-based visa annual limit each fiscal year. Three hundred of those numbers are deducted from the EB-3 limit, and seven hundred numbers are deducted from the EB-5 limit.

EB-3 Worldwide. In July, EB-3 Worldwide will advance less than two months to June 8, 2017, keeping this category effectively current.

EB-3 India. In July, EB-3 India will advance five months to October 15, 2005, and should continue to advance. The otherwise unused numbers for EB-3 Worldwide are required to be allocated in order of priority date, meaning that these numbers will fall to EB-3 India, which has the earliest final action date in the EB-3 category.

EB-5 China. The final action date for EB-5 China will continue to hold at June 8, 2014, in July and Charlie expects this category to advance to by one week for August. Some additional forward movement in this category remains possible for September should demand by USCIS be less than estimated.

FB-4 Worldwide. In July, the final action date for FB-4 Worldwide will be May 8, 2004. Charlie hopes to advance this category later this fiscal year, but the data is too close to make a definitive prediction at this time. The response rate to the NVC “Agent of Choice” letters in this and most family-based categories is less than 50%, with less than 35% of those respondents providing all of the information required for a visa interview to be scheduled. Charlie reminds members that it is important to promptly respond to an “Agent of Choice” letter. If individuals who received “Agent of Choice” letters before April 2016 had responded promptly, more than 100,000 of them could have been scheduled for an interview by April 2017.

Special Immigrants. A final action date of August 15, 2015, will be imposed for EB-4 India in July. This date tracks the July final action date for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico (which advanced one month from June) and will continue to do so for the remainder of the fiscal year, possibly reaching October 2015. In October, EB-4 India is expected to return to current. A final action date for EB-4 will continue into FY 2018 for the other countries, though Mexico may have different date from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Note: numbers “otherwise unused” under the Worldwide EB-3 limit are allocated in order of priority date without regard to the per-country limitation. Therefore, such numbers would be provided to EB-3 India applicants, which are subject to the earliest final action date.

For July, EB-3 Philippines will advance one year to May 15, 2014, and will likely advance to a date in the fall of 2015 before the end of this fiscal year.

You may access the July 2017 Visa Bulletin here and the August 2017 Visa Bulletin (once available) here.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (April 16, 2017), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie offers his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories for the beginning of the next fiscal year (May 2017) and beyond.                                                                      

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: April 16, 2017

FB-4 Worldwide. FB-4 Worldwide should be watched closely. Following aggressive movement of the final action date in April, this category is not expected to advance. The April movement seems to have stimulated applicants to take action, and increased demand may require a temporary retrogression in this category later this fiscal year. Should retrogression occur, the category would recover completely in October, the first month of the new fiscal year. The final action dates for all other family-based categories are expected remain stable.

EB-1 and EB-2 Worldwide. As noted in the May 2017 Visa Bulletin, EB-1 and EB-2 Worldwide demand at USCIS has increased dramatically over the past six weeks, signaling the possibility of a future correction to the final action date. Charlie explained that number usage in both of these categories for January and February was about 1,000 higher than earlier months and he expects that it will be at least that high, if not higher, in April. While this is positive in the sense that USCIS is clearing out and approving cases, it may limit the ability for the agencies to take final action on pending cases towards the end of the summer if a correction is required.

EB-1 India and China. Charlie has been predicting the imposition of a final action cut-off date for EB-1 China and India for several months and echoes that warning in the May Visa Bulletin. Charlie tells AILA that the only reason a final action cut-off date has not already been imposed is that thus far, India and China have been able to benefit from “otherwise unused numbers” not currently required for other countries. The use of “otherwise unused numbers” by these two countries will soon end in order to ensure that other countries who have not yet reached their EB-1 per country limit can remain “current.” The worldwide demand and heavy use of EB-4 and EB-5 numbers, which in earlier years had remained unused and had “fallen up” to EB-1, has resulted in the restriction of EB-1 number use strictly to those numbers available to that category on an annual basis.

Charlie predicts that a final action cut-off date will be imposed for EB-1 China and India no later than July. When that occurs, both countries will have the same final action date. While these categories will not technically become “unavailable,” the date that is imposed will effectively shut off the use of additional numbers.

EB-2 India. March demand for EB-2 India doubled from February. Based on this spike in demand, Charlie can no longer say with confidence that this category will recover to last year’s level. However, there may still be some room for the date to advance further, and based on current demand patterns, the absolute best case scenario would be for the final action date to reach December 2008. The wildcard factor is whether EB-3 upgrades will subside or continue at the same or faster pace. Charlie lacks visibility into EB-3 upgrade demand until a visa number is requested, and therefore cannot plan final action date movements with as much precision as he would like.

The China EB-3 Downgrade Phenomenon. The gap between EB-2 China and EB-3 China continues to widen in May, with EB-3 China advancing six months to October 1, 2014 and EB-2 China advancing less than one month to February 8, 2013. Consistent with this trend, AILA members should not expect any significant advancement in the final action date for EB-2 China this fiscal year. By contrast, we may continue to see a healthy advancement of EB-3 China until or unless the expected EB-3 downgrade phenomenon materializes.

Based on current data, Charlie predicts that the final action date for EB-2 China may advance as far as a date in spring or summer 2013 before the end of this fiscal year.

EB-4 Religious Workers and EB-5 Investors (I5 and R5). Both the EB-4 Religious Worker and EB-5 Investor Programs will sunset on April 28, 2017 unless reauthorized by Congress. As such, the May Visa Bulletin notes that both of these categories will be unavailable in May unless Congress acts. Should Congress reauthorize both programs, EB-4 will return to current with the exception of EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, which would be subject to a July 15, 2015 final action date. With regard to these countries, and despite healthy demand, Charlie maintains that it is still possible that the final action date may advance before the end of the fiscal year.

If the Investor Program is reauthorized, all countries except China would become current, with a final action date of June 1, 2014 for EB-5 China (I5 and R5).

You may access the May 2017 Visa Bulletin here, the April 2017 Visa Bulletin here, and the March 2017 Visa Bulletin here.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

On February 3, 2017, a Seattle federal court judge granted Washington State and Minnesota’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) in its challenge to President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) on “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.”

In accordance with the court ruling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has suspended any and all actions implementing the affected sections of the EO, including actions to suspend passenger system rules that flag travelers for operational action subject to the EO. DHS personnel will resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy and procedure. Further, the Department of State (DOS) has lifted the provisional revocation of valid visas of nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

According to DOS, those visas are now valid for travel to the United States may travel if the holder is otherwise eligible. However, DOS also stated that “individuals whose visas are expired or were physically cancelled, must apply for a new visa at the a U.S. embassy or consulate, absent a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) decision to grant parole or waive the visa requirement at the port of entry”. DOS has also resumed processing those immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications that were halted by the EO.

All CBP Field Offices have been instructed to immediately resume inspection of travelers under standard policies and procedures, and that all airlines and terminal operators have been notified to permit boarding of all passengers without regard to nationality.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

Today, December 23, 2016, USCIS posted a large number of new form versions. The forms all have an effective date of today, December 23, 2016, and the website indicates that no other versions of the forms are acceptable, with the exception of Form I-129.  It appears USCIS is continuing to accept prior version of Form I-129. No prior notice of these changes was given, and there was no alert sent to stakeholders today.

Because USCIS elected to deviate from its normal procedures and did not provide notice to stakeholders or provide any grace period during which prior form versions could be submitted, it will pose some challenges to form vendors who will not have time to reprogram the case management software systems and applicants/petitioners who may remain unaware. 

USCIS has indicated to The American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA) that ,while it strongly encourages people to use the new version of the forms, it is aware that there may be older editions of the forms that have already been completed and are in the queue to be mailed and/or filed. USCIS said that it will be flexible and will apply discretion when receipting forms, rather than rejecting them outright.

Affected forms include the following: I-90, I-102, I-129, I-129CW, I-129F, I-130, I-131, I-131A, I-140, I-191, I-192, I-212, I-290B, I-360, I-485, I-485 Supplement A, I-525, I-539, I-600, I-600A, I-601, I-601A, I-612, I-690, I-694, I-698, I-751, I-765, I-800, I-800A, I-817, I-824, I-910, I-924, I-924A, I-929, I-942, I-942P, N-300, N-336, N-400, N-470, N-600, and N-600K.

Please also note that regardless of the form edition submitted, applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after December 23, 2016, must include the new fees or USCIS will reject the submission.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

On October 24, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a final rule confirming an increase to the processing fees for most of the applications and petitions it handles. This is a result of USCIS’ comprehensive review of the fee schedule for the fiscal year 2016/2017 the first USCIS fee increase since November 2010. The new fees will go into effect on December 23, 2016, which means that all applications or petitions postmarked on or after this date must include the new fees, or they will not be accepted by USCIS for processing.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS’ operational funding comes almost entirely from the user fees, and the current fees do not cover the full cost of services provided by the agency; the average fee increase of 21% is necessary to recover costs and maintain adequate level of services to the immigration benefits seekers.

While some applications see a relatively slight increase of $30 or $45, the cost of others, such as the Application for Adjustment of Status (I-485), Application for Naturalization (N-400), and Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (I-129) will go up by more than $100, which undoubtedly may affect certain applicants and petitioners, such as households with limited incomes or small employers. As a relief measure, simultaneously with the overall increase of the cost of services provided by USCIS, the agency now offers a reduced filing fee for the naturalization applicants (N-400) whose family income falls between 150% and 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which is adjusted annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to determine eligibility for certain federal programs. An additional benefit of the new rule is that USCIS will no longer automatically reject an immigration or naturalization benefit paid with a dishonored check or missing the required biometrics fee. Instead, applicants will be provided an opportunity to correct the deficient payment (i.e., USCIS will attempt to resubmit the insufficient check to the applicant’s bank once again) or by paying the required biometrics fee during their biometrics appointments or immigration interview. The new rule will not affect charge free services provided to refugees and asylum applicants, as well as other customers eligible for fee waivers or exemptions.

This chart lists some of the key new USCIS’ fees effective December 23, 2016. Applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after December 23, 2016, must include these new fees or USCIS will reject the submission.  You can find the complete new fee schedule here.

Immigration Benefit Request New Fee ($) Old Fee ($)
I–90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card 455 365
I–102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document 445 330
I–129/129CW Petition for a Nonimmigrant worker 460 325
I–129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) 535 340
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative 535 420
I-131/I-131A Application for Travel Document 575 360
I–140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker 700 580
I–290B Notice of Appeal or Motion 675 630
I–360 Petition for Amerasian Widow(er) or Special Immigrant 435 405
I–485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status 1,140 985
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (certain applicants under the age of 14 years) 750 635
I–526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur 3,675 1,500
I–539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status 370 290
I–600/600A Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative/Application for Advance Petition Processing of Orphan Petition 775 720
I–751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence 595 505
I–765 Application for Employment Authorization 410 380
I–824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition 465 405
I–829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions 3,750 3,750
I–924 Application for Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program 17,795 6,230
I–924A Annual Certification of Regional Center 3,035 0
N–400 Application for Naturalization* 640 595
N–470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes 355 330
N–565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document 555 345
N–600/N–600K Application for Certificate of Citizenship 1,170 600/5503
USCIS Immigrant Fee 220 165
Biometric Services Fee 85 85

*Certain low-income naturalization applicants may pay a filing fee of $320 plus the $85 biometric services fee. For eligibility details and filing instructions, see Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee and Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.