Public Charge Update

USCIS has released the following information re: the public charge rule:

On Oct. 11 and Oct. 14, 2019, judges in eight separate cases before U.S. District Courts for the Southern District of New York, Northern District of California, Eastern District of Washington, Northern District of Illinois, and District of Maryland enjoined DHS from implementing and enforcing this final rule and postponed the effective date until a final resolution of the litigation.

Social Media Disclosure

This is a reminder that the Department of State updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application forms to request additional information, including social media identifiers, from most U.S. visa applicants worldwide.

This update – which we initially announced last year in the Federal Register – is a result of the President’s March 6, 2017, Memorandum on Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits and Section 5 of Executive Order 13780 regarding implementing uniform screening and vetting standards for visa applications. 

Reminder – Public Charge Rule 10/15/19

USCIS has announced a final rule to better ensure that aliens seeking to enter and remain in the United States are self-sufficient and rely on their own capabilities rather than on public resources.

This final rule amends DHS regulations by prescribing how DHS will determine whether an alien is inadmissible to the United States based on his or her likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future, as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The final rule addresses U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) authority to permit an alien to submit a public charge bond in the context of adjustment of status applications. The rule also makes nonimmigrant aliens who have received certain public benefits above a specific threshold generally ineligible for extension of stay and change of status.

DHS has revised the definition of “public charge” to incorporate consideration of more kinds of public benefits received, which the Department believes will better ensure that applicants subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient. The rule defines the term “public charge” to mean an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months). The rule further defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, and certain housing programs.

Sponsor Obligations

The May 2019 Presidential Memo on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens emphasizes that certain requirements apply to you if you have sponsored (or will sponsor) an immigrant. USCIS has highlighted these obligations given the public charge rules set to begin on October 15, 2019:

Since 1997, U.S. immigration law has required an alien’s sponsor to sign an Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act, pledging financial support for the sponsored immigrant. By signing and submitting this affidavit or a Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member, you agree to use your financial resources to support the immigrants named on the forms and to reimburse the cost of any means-tested public benefits that the sponsored alien receives while your obligation is in effect. 

Reimbursing Means-Tested Public Benefits

Sometimes, sponsored immigrants apply for and receive means-tested public benefits from federal, state, local or tribal agencies. Means-tested public benefits include Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the State Child Health Insurance Program. See 8 CFR 2131.1.  

Sponsored immigrants may be ineligible for certain means-tested public benefits because the agency will consider your resources and assets, and those of your household members, when determining the immigrant’s eligibility for the benefits. This is called “income deeming.”

However, if an immigrant named on your affidavit of support receives a means-tested public benefit while the affidavit is enforceable, you, as the sponsor, will be responsible for reimbursing the agency providing the benefit. If you do not reimburse the agency, the agency can obtain a court order for repayment.

AOS Filing Chart 10/19

If USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will state whether you may use the Dates for Filing Visa Applications.

Otherwise, they will indicate that you must use the Application Final Action Dates to determine when you may file your adjustment of status application.

See the following link here for the month of October 2019:

https://www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo

Visa Bulletin 10/19

The Visa Bulletin provides updated priority date information for family-based and employment-based green cards.

Immigrants to the US are classified into two categories – those requiring placement on a waiting list and those not through their relationship to a US immediate relative.

Further, there are numerical quotas on the green cards that require a priority date. If the number of applicants in a year is over the available visa numbers, those applicants are placed on a waiting list and are given a priority date, which estimates when an applicant would get a visa based on the number of previous applicants on the waiting list. Below are preference category information and visa allocations.

FAMILY-SPONSORED PREFERENCES
First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCES

First: Priority Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required for fourth and fifth preferences.

Second: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability: 28.6% of the worldwide employment-based preference level, plus any numbers not required by first preference.

Third: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers: 28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, not more than 10,000 of which to “*Other Workers”
Fourth: Certain Special Immigrants: 7.1% of the worldwide level.

Fifth: Employment Creation: 7.1% of the worldwide level, not less than 3,000 of which reserved for investors in a targeted rural or high-unemployment area, and 3,000 set aside for investors in regional centers by Sec. 610 of Pub. L. 102-395.

Below is the link for the Visa Bulletin for October 2019.

https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin/2019/visa-bulletin-for-October-2019.html

For more information, contact ALO at 978-905-9992.

N400 & I485 Processing

USCIS has announced their strategy to decrease differences in processing times based on location for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. 

Since the end of 2015, we have experienced an increase in processing times due to higher than expected volumes received during fiscal years (FY) 2016 and 2017 that did not decrease as originally projected. FY 2017 receipts were up 15.6% from FY 2016, and FY 2016 receipts were up 25.5% from FY 2015. The increased filing volumes did not affect our field offices equally, which resulted in some disparity in the processing times among field offices.

As we shift caseloads between field offices to decrease processing times, we may schedule applicants to appear for an interview at a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction. Applicants may receive an interview appointment notice or other types of notices (such as a Request for Evidence) from a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction. However, these caseload changes will not affect where applicants attend their biometrics appointments. We will still direct them to the nearest application support center. Applicants should follow the instructions on any notices they receive from USCIS.

TPS Syria Update

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that current beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under Syria’s designation who want to maintain their status through March 31, 2021, must re-register between Sept. 23 and Nov. 22, 2019. 

Re-registration procedures, including how to renew employment authorization documents (EADs), have been published in the Federal Register and are available at uscis.gov/tps.

All applicants must submit Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status. Applicants may also request an EAD by submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, when they file Form I-821 or separately at a later date. Like all USCIS forms, both forms are free for download from the USCIS website at uscis.gov/forms.

Citizenship Test Update

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it is revising the current naturalization test.

There will be improvements to ensure it continues to serve as an accurate measure of a naturalization applicant’s civics knowledge and that it reflects best practices in adult education assessments. The goal is to create a meaningful, uniform, and efficient test that will assess applicants’ knowledge and understanding of U.S. history, government and values. This spring, the former USCIS director signed the Revision of the Naturalization Civics Test Memorandum (PDF, 202 KB). This memorandum announces the revision of the naturalization test and formalizes a decennial revision schedule of the naturalization test based on adult education best practices.

Citizenship Day

USCIS announced that it will celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day by welcoming nearly 34,300 new U.S. citizens during 316 naturalization ceremonies across the nation between Sept. 13 and 23.

The USCIS Constitution Week activities will feature a naturalization ceremony at the DAR Constitution Hall on Sept. 17, where USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli will administer the Oath of Allegiance and provide congratulatory remarks to 1,000 new U.S. citizens. View a list of other notable 2019 Constitution Week-themed naturalization ceremonies.

Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, our great country adopted the United States Constitution, and as we celebrate Constitution Week, it is important to underscore the significance of citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution,” said Acting Director Cuccinelli. “These nearly 34,300 new U.S. citizens followed the law on their path to naturalization and now call the U.S. home. I can think of no better way to celebrate Constitution Week than to welcome thousands of new U.S. citizens who have assimilated, made a commitment to our great country, and have vowed to support the Constitution.