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POSTING DATE: April 9, 2018
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Questions & Answers
This Week's Immigration News
Question: I have a question about my case. My sister filed for me about 5 years ago and I am waiting in line for my visa. I know I have to wait another 10 years or so before I can immigrate. The thing is, I heard that I need to check in with the national visa center every year to keep my case going. Is that true? What if I didn’t do it for one year? Thanks for your help.
Answer: No, until a visa becomes available and the National Visa Center (NVC) notifies you that consular processing has begun, you do not need to contact the NVC. However, once the NVC sends out the processing notification and the fee bills, an immigrant visa case can be cancelled if the applicant fails to contact the NVC at least once per year. Once cancelled, the fee bills would need to be paid all over again to get the case going again. Your sister of course, should contact the NVC if she moves, so that the NVC always has her most current address on file. I hope this is helpful to you.
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Immigration News & Updates eNewsletter
Understanding Consular Visa Denials
Thousands of Foreign Nationals apply for U.S. visitor visas at U.S. Consulates around the world every day. In many cases, the U.S. Visitor Visa, called a B1/B2 is approved. But, now, more than ever under Trump's new policies making it tougher to qualify, many are denied, often leading to frustration, disappointment and confusion about why the visa was denied.
One of the most common visitor visa denials is under U.S. immigration regulations section 214(b), normally based upon the Consular Officer’s belief that the applicant has the “intent to immigrate” to the U.S. 214(b) denials are usually issued when a foreign national is not able to convince the Consular Officer that he or she has “Strong Ties” to their home country which would likely compel the applicant to return home at the end of their visit and not stay in the U.S..
The National Visa Center (NVC) handles processing of cases for relatives outside the U.S., in order to prepare the case for the U.S. Consulate in your family member’s home country. Once the I-130 family petition is approved by the USCIS, the NVC will generally send a letter to the sponsor letting them know that the case has been transferred by the USCIS to the NVC. If the family member is in a “preference category”, for all relatives who are not the Spouse, Parent or minor child of a U.S. Citizen), the letter will also say that there are no visas presently available for the foreign family member and that he or she should not make any plans to immigrate to the U.S. until a visa becomes available (which can be many years down the road).
USCIS Announces Plans To Destroy Green Cards, Work and Travel Permits Returned As Undeliverable
Question: I am a naturalized American Citizen since last year. My parents are planning to visit me in the next few months from Venezuela and I want to find out some immigration things before they come. There is a really dangerous situation in Venezuela, not much food and the economy is bad. I want to try to convince my parents to stay here in the U.S. and I will get their green cards. My worry is that they will not consider it unless my 14 year old brother can also immigrate with them as well. My wife says that is not possible, but I want to ask you first. So my questions are: can you file for my parents and brother’s green cards while they are here in the U.S. with me and can they stay here and wait for their status, even after their i-94 cards expire or do they have to go back to venezuela and wait? What about a work permit and social security card, how long will that take?
Answer: U.S. Citizens can sponsor their Parents to immigrate to the U.S., either through the U.S. Consulate if they are abroad, or by adjustment of status to U.S. Residency if they are in the U.S. and entered legally (even if they have overstayed their visa). Parents in the U.S. who entered legally can file for Residency and wait to receive their Green Card here - since there is no need to travel back to the home country. Parents of U.S. Citizens are in a special immigration category called “Immediate Relatives” which allows them to obtain a Green Card in the U.S. - even if their I-94 cards are expired.
Therefore, if your parents decide to stay, I can file for their Residency, so that they can adjust status to U.S. Permanent Residency (a Green Card) here in the U.S., it will not be a problem if their I-94 period of stay expires, even before applying. Currently, after applying for Residency, it takes about 3 months to receive a work permit and several more weeks to be issued a Social Security card. If filed properly, the entire Residency process for Parents of U.S. Citizens is currently taking about 14 to 20 months in Miami from start to finish to receive a Green Card. Consular processing can often be quicker, due to USCIS processing backlogs in the U.S. and can take about 12+ months or so. So if your parents want to return to Venezuela and do consular processing, we can still start their Immigrant visa case now, whether they are inside the U.S. or in Venezuela.
The issue of your 14 year old brother is different. In the immigration category for your parents of “Immediate Relatives” no dependent spouses or minor children are able to immigrate along with them. For instance a U.S. Citizen child cannot sponsor his parents together as a couple, instead, each parent must be sponsored separately in a separate family petition. Similarly, no dependent children are allowed to immigrate along with either parent, so your brother would not be able to stay in the U.S. and receive residency along with your parents.
Minor children of parents being sponsored can obtain U.S. Residency later once the parent obtains the Green Card. Children of U.S. Residents who are under age 21 are in the Immigration category called F2A for minor children of U.S. Residents. The visa line in that category is currently about 2 years. So once your mother or father receives Residency, they can file for your brother and he will be in a waiting line, eligible to immigrate in about two years. If you file for your brother in the F4 Immigration category for siblings, it will take up to 14 years or more for him to immigrate to the U.S..
The USCIS website includes a page which allows applicants with pending immigration cases to check the status of their case by entering the case number found on the USCIS receipt, called form I-797 Notice of Action. Generally, for immigration applications filed recently, once you input the application case number, the message displayed will indicate the date the application was filed, case type and tell the applicant to follow the instructions in the receipt notice.
In the past, the online case system would occasionally fail to recognize a case number, likely due to a USCIS error in entering the case number properly in its system.
However recently, there have been widespread reports of thousands of case numbers receiving error messages, similar to the following: "Validation Error(s) You must correct the following error(s) before proceeding: User-Defined Error."
This troublesome technical issue continues to cause anxiety and even panic for some applicants who are worried about the status of their case. Unfortunately, a call to the USCSI 800# will generally not result in resolution of the issue. Applicants are routinely told that unless action is taken on their case, no status will appear after inputting the case number in the system, which is not correct. In normal cases, when no action is taken on a case, the message regarding date of acceptance and case type continues to display. Until the major glitch in the USCIS system is finally fixed, one option for resolving the issue is to make an online einquiry, explaining that the online case status system does not recognize the case number. Another option is emailing the USCIS about the issue. In most cases, the case status issue should be resolved within about 30 days.
Samples of common case status messages:
The USCIS announced that beginning April 2nd, it has begun destroying Permanent Resident (Green) Cards, Employment Authorization Cards (work permits) and Travel Documents returned to the USCIS as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service after 60 business days, unless the Immigrant contacts the agency during that time, to provide the correct address.
Returns of cards are common when an Immigrant fails to provide an apartment number or moves and does “forwarding” with the Postal Service, but does not change their address with the USCIS.
Most are not aware that the Postal Service is prohibited from forwarding Green Cards and other immigration documents to Immigrants. Once a Green Card, work or travel permit has been returned to the USCIS and destroyed, the applicant must then file for a replacement and pay the USCIS filing fee all over again. For instance, the filing fee for a replacement Green Card is $540. So now, more than ever, it’s vital that you monitor you case status by signing up for automatic updates on the My Case Status webpage. This way, you can receive an email update once the application is approved and if the Green Card, Work/travel permit is not received within 30 days, you can call the USCIS 800# to do an inquiry and confirm your address. In all cases, remember, you are required to update your address with the USCIS by filing a change of address within 10 days of relocation.
Demonstration of “Strong Ties” includes documents which prove that the applicant is employed, owns a home or other real estate and has close family members who reside in the home country.
Most foreign nationals mistakenly believe that the fact that they have family in the U.S. will work in their favor when applying for a U.S. Visitor Visa (B1/B2). However, contrary to belief, close relatives in the U.S. such as U.S. Citizen or Resident parents, spouses or children can have a very negative impact on an application, since the mere presence of such relatives in the U.S. tends to show that an applicant might be more prone to want to stay in the U.S..
However, it’s important to know that even if an applicant is denied, they can still reapply in 6 months time. I have heard of many applicants who keep applying twice yearly and finally after the 6th or 7th time, are finally approved.
You can visit the State Department Website for information on the most common visa denial types:
Often, family circumstances and addresses change and the NVC needs to be notified in order for them to have the sponsor and family members current updated contact information. Further, when U.S. Residents become U.S. Citizens, that speeds up the process for their family member, but the NVC may not be aware of the change unless they receive a copy of the new Citizen’s Naturalization Certificate. To contact the NVC, call: (603) 334-0700. Be sure to give them the case number on the correspondence provided to you by the NVC or mail documentation or correspondence to them at:: National Visa Center, Attn: DR, 31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100, Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914. Make sure that all correspondence includes a letter containing the NVC case number, your name/ birth date and the same for your relative.
Trump Administration Imposes Quotas On Immigration Judges To Speed Up Deportations
In its latest move to try and crack down on immigration, the Trump administration recently imposed a new quota system on U.S. immigration judges in order to speed up the deportation process.
According to new Justice Department directives, the policy creates a 700 case per year quota on Immigration Judges to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating.
Presumably a lower number of cases, means a lower performance rating, which may negatively affect an Immigration Judge’s career. The quota begins on October 1st of this year.
This new step is only one of many taken by the administration in an effort to reduce the large backlog of nearly 700,000 pending deportation cases in the system. Currently, Immigrants facing deportation must wait many years for a court date to hear their case. During that time, most receive work authorization in order to support themselves while awaiting their hearings. Trump and other critics say that allowing Immigrants to live and work in the U.S. for many years waiting for an immigration hearing acts as an incentive to engage in illegal immigration. Other steps taken by the administration to limit immigration, are planned efforts to eliminate an immigration judge’s ability to order administrative closure on cases, which operates as a sort of “hold” in order to allow Immigrants to seek visas or other kinds of relief from deportation and limiting eligibility for asylum by applying higher standards which applicants are required to meet.