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.

___________________________

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.

Some things don’t change, others do.  The debate rages over immigration reform.  Speaker of the House John Boehner expressed doubt today that immigration reform will happen in 2014.  This has been going back and forth for years…

Something new: a new form for application to naturalize to US citizenship.  USCIS announced on February 4th the introduction of a new N-400 form.  The current form will be valid for 90 days, but after May 5th the new version of the N-400 application must be used to apply for US citizenship.  The new form is longer (21 pages) , but has clearer instructions.  It asks more questions about the applicant’s family, about good moral character, about security related topics.  The form may be filed electronically , but the filing must be followed by the completed paper form with the required supporting documents and fee.   The form is new but the substantive requirements for naturalization eligibility remain the same.  The basic requirements are that the applicant must be 18 years of age or older and have been a permanent resident for 5 years.  If the permanent resident is married to a US citizen for 3 years and continues to live with that spouse in “marital union”, then the eligibility period is 3 years.  Half of the time, whether 5  or 3 years,  the applicant must have been physically in the US.  The applicant must be a person of good moral character, must be able to read write and speak basic English, must pass the Naturalization Exam and be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.  There are other requirements, exceptions , waivers and subtleties —and a fee in the amount of $680.  USCIS has extensive materials about naturalization on line at www.uscis.gov/n-400.

Hopefully,  despite its length, the new N-400 Naturalization form will make the process more inviting so that more people can pursue naturalization, then vote and then, with enough new voters, maybe we will have immigration reform.

 

Recently, Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State’s Visa Office shared his impressions at this time regarding visa demand in preference categories and predictions for the remainder of FY2013 with AILA.  This information is subject to change based on usage or new developments.

  • The India EB2 cutoff date continues to see very little forward movement due to upgrades (EB3 to EB2 while maintaining the earlier priority date). In December 2012 alone, India EB2 had 125 cases approved that were from 2003 or earlier. Even looking at the current 2004 cutoff dates, EB2 India could easily reach the annual limit. However, the fall down from EB1 could allow for more numbers to be used for EB2 India.
  • EB1 India and China appear to have used their numbers for this year, but the rest of open EB1 numbers can “fall across” to satisfy the need from India and China for EB1, so no retrogression is expected at this time.
  • Current numbers indicate that there are approximately 42,000 India EB2 cases in line with priority dates prior to May 2010.
  • There are 12,000 India EB3 cases with priority dates before January 2004. The Visa Office has very good information regarding how many India EB3 cases are lined up for the older dates, due to the 2007 retrogression. For example, there are 63 cases with a November 18, 2002 priority date. Accounting for demand in India EB3 has been pretty precise.
  • EB-2 India demand continues to be very high, and it is possible that the cutoff date may be retrogressed during this fiscal year.
  • India EB3 has 44,000 cases with priority dates before August 2007, which have been pre-adjudicated, though final approval and visa issuance has not taken place due to priority date retrogressions over the past several years.

The Visa Bulletin for April will be published mid-March.

The Department of State’s Visa Office’s predictions as to how the priority dates will move for the next several months appear in the March Visa Bulletin:

VISA AVAILABILITY IN THE COMING MONTHS (April – June)

FAMILY-sponsored categories (potential monthly movement)

    Worldwide dates:

  • F1:  Three or four weeks
  • F2A:  Three to five weeks
  • F2B:  Three to five weeks
  • F3:  One or two weeks
  • F4:  Up to two weeks

EMPLOYMENT-based categories (potential monthly movement)

     Employment First:  Current

     Employment Second:

  • Worldwide:  Current
  • China:  Three to six weeks 
  • India:  No movement.  Despite the established cut-off date having been held for the past five months in an effort to keep demand within the average monthly usage targets, the amount of demand being received from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Offices for adjustment of status cases remains extremely high.  Should the current rate of demand continue, it is likely that at some point the cut-off date will need to be retrogressed in an effort to hold demand within the FY-2013 annual limit.  

     Employment Third:

  • Worldwide:  Four to six weeks
  • China:  Two to three months
  • India:  Up to two weeks
  • Mexico:  Four to six weeks
  • Philippines:  Up to one week

     Employment Fourth:  Current

     Employment Fifth:  Current

  • Item D of the December 2012 Visa Bulletin alerted readers that a China cut-off date might be imposed at some point during the second half of the fiscal year.  Currently there is no reason to believe that it will be necessary to establish a China Employment Fifth preference category cut-off date during FY-2013, since demand over first six months of FY-2013 has now averaged out to a manageable level.

The above projections for the Family and Employment categories are for what is likely to happen during each of the next few months based on current applicant demand patterns.  Readers should never assume that recent trends in cut-off date movements are guaranteed for the future.  The determination of the actual monthly cut-off dates is subject to fluctuations in applicant demand and a number of other variables which can change at any time.  Those categories with a “Current” projection will remain so for the foreseeable future.  

If you are eligible to apply for naturalization to U.S. citizenship, it may be best to apply sooner rather than later.

The reason is because the Immigration Service (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS) is considering edits to the N-400 Application for Naturalization form.   

The current N-400 naturalization application may more-than double in its number of pages.  The comment period regarding the proposed changes closed on February 19, 2013, so consideration of the comments has begun.  It isn’t clear when any revisions may take effect and whether the N-400 application filing fee will also increase. 

While many of the additional questions and documentation requirements may not apply to all applicants, it could still be the best course of action to simply file now if you meet the eligibility requirements and want to apply for U.S. citizenship.  Note that it is possible that revisions could retroactively apply to those whose applications are pending at the time when any change takes effect. 

Of course, before deciding to proceed, it’s best to consult not only with an immigration attorney, but also with tax and estates lawyers who can provide advice regarding potential implications under those areas of the law.

The author can be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.