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New changes are coming to the naturalization examination beginning in December of 2020 to early 2021.

We have learned that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been busy revising the current naturalization test to ensure that the test accurately reflects an applicant’s knowledge of civics and United States history.

Back in December of 2018 a group was formed with the task of updating the test questions that appear on the naturalization exam, as well as implementing changes to the speaking portion of the examination. Prior to its implementation, USCIS will be testing the revision via a pilot program.

Section 312 of the INA requires naturalization applicants to pass an English and civics examination as part of the naturalization process. As part of this examination, applicants must demonstrate “…an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language…” and “…knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States…”

Any revisions to the naturalization examination must be reasonable. Special consideration will continue to be given to applicants over 65 years of age, living in the United States as lawful permanent residents for periods totaling at least 20 years at the time of filing the naturalization application. Special consideration will also be given based on an applicant’s education, background, age, length of residence in the US, etc.

Going forward the naturalization examination will be revised every 10-years. More information will be provided closer to the revision’s implementation.

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Today, July 16, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice issued a joint interim Final Rule that has been published in the Federal Register and is effective immediately.

The interim Final Rule aims to place additional restrictions on the asylum application process and limit the eligibility of individuals seeking to apply for asylum.

What is the Rule about?

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are revising 8 C.F.R. § 208.13(c) and 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(c) to add a new bar to eligibility for asylum for an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border, but who did not apply for protection from persecution or torture where it was available in at least one third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which he or she transited en route to the United States.

In a Nutshell:

With the passage of this rule, applicants for asylum who enter or attempt to enter the United States across the southern border, without having applied for protection in a third country outside their country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence, will not be eligible for asylum.

There are three limited exceptions for individuals who fall under the following categories:

(1) an alien who demonstrates that he or she applied for protection from persecution or torture in at least one of the countries through which the alien transited en route to the United States, and the alien received a final judgment denying the alien protection in such country;

(2) an alien who demonstrates that he or she satisfies the definition of “victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons” provided in 8 C.F.R. § 214.11; or,

(3) an alien who has transited en route to the United States through only a country or countries that were not parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1967 Protocol, or the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Who does this Rule apply to?

Aliens who enter or arrive in the United States on or after July 16, 2019, the effective date of this rule.

Why is this Rule concerning?

This rule would require asylum officers and immigration judges to apply this new bar on asylum eligibility when administering the credible-fear screening process applicable to stowaways and aliens who are subject to expedited removal under section 235(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It also limits eligibility of individuals who have not applied for asylum in a third country, prior to entering or attempting to enter the United States.

The regulation is now open for public commentary here. The comment period will close on August 15, 2019.

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We are happy to report that on July 10, 2019 the House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 (H.R. 1044), a bill that if enacted, would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, and increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants.

What is H.R. 1044?

H.R. 1044 is a piece of legislation that was first introduced before the House of Representatives on February 7, 2019 by Representative Zoe Lofgren.

Employment-Based Sponsorship

The bill seeks to drastically change the way that our employment-based green card system works by eliminating the “per country cap” that limits the number of green cards that may be issued to applicants per fiscal year depending on their country of origin also known as country of chargeability.

Currently, employment-based workers fall into one of five “preference categories” including EB-1 Priority Workers, EB-2 Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees/Persons of Exceptional Ability, EB-3 Skilled Workers, Professionals, EB-4 Special Immigrants, and EB-5 Investors. Each of these categories is subject to Congressional numerical limitations, as well as per-country limitations.

H.R. 1044 proposes to remove the per-country limitations to enable applicants to obtain employment visas based on merit, and not based on country of origin. The bill would also eliminate the 7% cap for employment-based visas and remove an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China.

The bill also establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY2020-FY2022, by reserving a percentage of EB-2 (workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability), EB-3 (skilled and other workers), and EB-5 (investors) visas for individuals not from the two countries with the largest number of recipients of such visas. Of the unreserved visas, not more than 85% would be allotted to immigrants from any single country.

Family-Based Sponsorship

H.R. 1044 also proposes to increase the per-country numerical limitations for family-sponsored categories from 7% of the total number of such visas available that year to 15%.

Currently, family-sponsored applicants fall into one of four categories including: F-1 Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens (23,400 plus), F-2 Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents (114,200 plus), F-3 Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens (23,400 plus), and F-4 Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens (65,000 plus).

What happens next?

To be enacted, the bill must pass the U.S. Senate and be signed by the President. If enacted, the bill would take effect on September 30, 2019, and apply to fiscal years beginning with fiscal year 2020.

Show your Support: Contact Your Senator:

To find your Senator click here and navigate to the contact button on your senator’s website.

 *************************************************************

Sample Email:

Dear Senator (last name):

My name is __________, and I am writing this letter to urge you to pass H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. This bill does not increase the number of immigrants eligible to enter the United States, it simply ensures that eligibility is based on merit, not country of birth.

I am a _____ job title_____ and have been living and working in the United States pursuant to a temporary work visa since ____date ____. I began my journey towards lawful permanent residence in ___year of priority date____. I remain hopeful that I might finally achieve my goal of permanent residence in this country, but the per country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants keeps me stuck in limbo simply because of where I was born.

I want to contribute to this country. My work in the field of ___________ helps _______ describe the importance of your work to the US economy or society _______. I have done my best to comply with all the immigration rules of this country. I have been through ____ # of H-1B (or F-1, OPT, L-1, H-4, etc) ______ visa renewals over the years. Every time I want to travel to my home country, I have gone through a visa interview at a U.S. Consulate. The Department of Labor has already confirmed that my presence in the United States does not harm U.S. workers. I have a __master’s, bachelor’s____ degree in ___field of study___. Based on the statistics available, it is expected that I will have to wait 150 years for a green card to become available because I was born in ____. In contrast, an individual with the exact same education and job offer from almost any other country does not have any wait at all.

President Trump has recommended a merit-based immigration system where the highest-skilled are a priority. Our current employment-based immigration system already has a merit-based component based on the five preference categories. But, the per-country limit has turned it into a discriminatory process where preference is given based on country of birth.

The Senate has introduced similar legislation to eliminate the per-country cap and already has 15 cosponsors. The bill has also been endorsed by FWD.us, Compete America Coalition, the Information Technology Industry Council, Google, Walmart, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, The Heritage Foundation, La Raza, and many others. I urge you to join with thousands of other concerned individuals who are legally in this country and have waited patiently for so long to become lawful permanent residents. Please pass the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. Treating people fairly and equally is part of America’s founding creed. Let my merit be the deciding factor, not my country of birth. Thank you for taking the time to read this email.

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The H-1B season for Fiscal Year 2020 has officially come to a close.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun the process of returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the H-1B lottery for fiscal year 2020.

As you may recall, the H-1B lottery for FY 2020 took place on April 10, 2019. Petitioners who were selected in the lottery were mailed receipt notices of selection from USCIS during the month of April. If you or your petitioner did not receive such a notice, then your petition was not selected in the lottery and will be returned.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the coming months. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories.

Below are the highlights of those trends and projections for August 2019:

EB-1 Worldwide: As demand has increased in recent weeks, this category is expected to retrogress in early August, and return back to April 22, 2018 in October of this year.

EB-1 India: This category is not expected to advance prior to October 2019. During October 2019, this category is expected to return to a Final Action Date of February 22, 2017.

EB-1 China: This category is not expected to advance prior to October 2019.  

EB-2 Worldwide: Due to increased demand in recent weeks, this category is no longer expected to remain current through September 2019. A retrogression is expected in this category in early August 2019. EB-2 Worldwide is expected to become current again in October 2019.

EB-2 India: This category is expected to continue to advance slowly, by a few days or a week.

EB-2 China: A retrogression is expected in this category in early August 2019.

EB-3 Worldwide: Due to increased demand in recent weeks, this category is no longer expected to remain current through September 2019. A retrogression is expected in this category in early August 2019.

EB-3 India: This category will remain at July 2019. A lack of unused numbers in Worldwide EB-3 has prevented this category from moving.

EB-3 China: This category is expected to advance up to several months.

EB-3 Philippines. Current as of July 2019. This category is expected to retrogress sometime in August.

EB-5: EB-5 India and EB-5 Vietnam are expected to have the same Final Action Date as EB-5 China during the month of August and September 2019.

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Spouses and minor children of Green Card Holders can file for I-485 Adjustment of Status starting July 1, 2019

The US Department of State (DOS) has released its July 2019 Visa Bulletin announcing that the Family 2A category, spouses and unmarried minor children of lawful permanent residents, will become current for all countries of the world beginning July 1, 2019.

The DOS Visa Bulletin dictates how long immigrants must wait in the ever-growing line to permanent resident status, and for many this means years, even decades, of backlogs, delays, and prolonged family separation. The DOS Visa Bulletin provides updated priority dates for immigrants who are subject to the quota system, regulating who can apply for adjustment of status and consular immigrant visa applications.

With the release of the July 2019 Visa Bulletin and F2A current as of July 1, 2019, comes renewed hope for green card holders hoping to finally be reunited with their family members. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for green card holders/permanent residents especially for those from countries subject to longer waiting times including China, India, Mexico and the Philippines.

What does this mean for green card holders? If your spouse and children (under 21 and unmarried) are in lawful status and have already filed an I-130, they should be ready to file their I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status, starting July 1. If your spouse and children (under 21 and unmarried) are in lawful status in the US and you have not already filed an I-130, the I-130 and I-485 should be filed concurrently starting July 1. If your spouse and children (under 21 and unmarried) are overseas and they have an approved I-130, they should be ready to submit all necessary documents to the National Visa Center so an immigrant visa interview can be scheduled.

Previously, wait times for F2A category averaged 2-3 years.

Why green card holders must act NOW. If you are an green card holder and would like to petition for your spouse and unmarried minor children, it is important to act quickly as the cutoff date for filing is July 31, 2019 as there is no guarantee that the F2A will continue to be current in August 2019.

What is the I-485 Adjustment of Status Process: Generally, the Adjustment of Status is the process by which an eligible foreign national already in the United States can apply for permanent residence without having to return to their home country to obtain a visa through consular processing. Adjustment of status refers to the change of the foreign national’s legal status from a non-immigrant (temporary) category to an immigrant (permanent) category.

Generally, to be eligible to file for adjustment of status within the United States, a foreign national must have an immigrant petition filed on their behalf either by a US citizen (USC) or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) qualifying relative (USCIS Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative)

A foreign national may adjust their status to permanent residence within the United States through a qualifying relative via the I-485. If the qualifying relative is a US citizen, the beneficiary can file the I-485 immediately. If the qualifying relative is a legal permanent resident, the beneficiary must wait until their priority date becomes current on the Visa Bulletin. For the first time in years, the F2A category is current for all countries starting July 1, 2019.

In addition, the relative will need to file Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, demonstrating that they meet the income guidelines required to sponsor the immigrant. The beneficiary will also need to file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document. Petitioner’s submitting the I-130 petition for their foreign spouses will be required to attend an interview along with their spouse to demonstrate their bona fide relationship.

If you need further assistance, please contact our office at (619) 819-9204.

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Immigration Raids Cancelled for Two Weeks

In a new turn of events, President Trump announced on Saturday, June 22, 2019, that he would delay the immigration raids that were set to begin on June 23, 2019, for a period of two weeks to give Congress more time to make changes to existing asylum law.

On the eve of the immigration raids, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi brokered a deal in which she asked the President to cancel the planned immigration raids. On Saturday the President tweeted that at the request of the Democrats, the raids would be pushed back for two weeks giving both parties time to roll out proposals regarding immigration reform.

For the time being the immigration raids will not be going forward as originally planned.

Digitized FOIA System

USCIS has announced that its FOIA System is now digitized. Users will now be able to submit, track, and receive FOIA requests digitally. This is great news because this option will speed up the process of requesting a FOIA and also speed up the form of delivery. Previously, applicants were required to submit a request by mail and would receive the results of the FOIA request by mail in compact disc form. Now, applicants will be able to access their documents digitally.

Applicants will simply need to create a USCIS online account to take advantage of this new and improved system.

Reminder: Citizenship and AOS Interviews

Recently, USCIS announced that applicants for adjustment of status and citizenship may be scheduled to attend an interview at a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction to decrease processing times between field offices and better manage caseloads.

Having knowledge of this change, do not be alarmed if you receive an interview at a field office outside of your normal jurisdiction.

Remember that biometrics appointments (ASC) will continue to be scheduled at the applicant’s nearest application support center.

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Photo by Fibonacci Blue

During a recent campaign rally to gain support for his re-election bid, the President promised to deport “millions of illegal aliens” from the United States.

A Trump administration official recently confirmed that ICE will be conducting raids to remove undocumented immigrants who have been issued final deportation orders and continue to remain in the United States, as early as Sunday.

The media is reporting that these immigration raids will take place in several major U.S. cities including Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, and San Francisco.

The operation will target the following individuals:

  • Undocumented Minors who came to the U.S. without their parents and have since turned 18;
  • Undocumented immigrants who were ordered removed in absentia; and
  • Undocumented immigrants who missed an immigration court hearing and did not respond to letters mailed to their homes by the Department of Justice

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement Friday informing the public that the LAPD is aware of upcoming ICE actions “beginning this Sunday,” that would be directed toward individuals who have been issued final deportation orders. LAPD Chief Michel Moore told reporters Friday that ICE has 140 targets in the Los Angeles area.

The LAPD’s statement provides, “The Department is not participating or assisting in any of these enforcement actions. The Department has reached out to various community stakeholders regarding the reported ICE enforcement actions, reiterating that members of this Department will not be participating. We are committed to protecting the public through meaningful relationship building and community partnerships.”

What Should You Do During an Immigration Raid?

It’s important to realize that when immigration raids take place, ICE agents often break the law, and may violate your due process rights, especially when you don’t have a firm understanding of the law and believe that you have no rights as an undocumented person.

Be prepared and informed of your rights BEFORE an immigration raid takes place or before going through an immigration checkpoint.

Schedule a consultation with our office to discuss your rights and come up with a plan on what you should and should not do during an immigration raid.

Know your rights, remain calm, and remember that you have the right to remain silent until a lawyer is present.

Make a plan with your loved ones today so you are better prepared when ICE agents come to your door. Never lie to an immigration officer, instead remain silent. NEVER sign any document without a lawyer being present. If immigration tries to intimidate or force you to sign a document, REFUSE.

Be Proactive NOW

  • Be prepared and plan ahead.
  • Contact or visit our office to be well-informed of your rights.
  • Be aware of documents that you should carry with you at all times such as a state identification or driver’s license.
  • Do not carry false documents.
  • Do not LIE to an immigration officer about your immigration status. You have the right to remain silent!
  • Carry a card that states that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent for use in case you are interrogated by immigration/police officers.
  • Always carry the name and the phone number of the immigration lawyer you wish to call if the immigration/police detains you.
  • Inform your neighbors, roommates, coworkers, and relatives, of their right to remain silent if immigration/police comes to your neighborhood or workplace.

What to do during a raid 

  • Do not let any immigration official or public officer into your home/house/apartment without a court warrant. If they do not have one, they need your authorization in order to go inside. DO NOT open the door. Ask them to put the warrant under the door. The warrant has specific names of people that he agents are looking for and should be signed by a judge. You should not open the door if the agents do not have a warrant or if it does not meet these requirements.
  • If immigration officials or police officers enter without proper authorization, ask for their names and/or write down their badge numbers.
  • Obtain the names and phone numbers of any witnesses.
  • Remain calm and do not try to run away. If you do so, immigration/police may use that against you.
  • Refuse to answer any questions regarding your birthplace and your legal status, unless a lawyer is present.
  • If you have children in school who will not have someone to watch them while you are detained, say so, and ask to make arrangements.

Know your rights

  • You have the right to make a phone call
  • You have the right to speak to a lawyer
  • You have the right to remain silent unless your lawyer is present
  • The right to a hearing before an immigration judge.
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Today, June 17, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced a new strategy aimed at reducing the processing times for applications for naturalization and adjustment of status. This new strategy will attempt to equalize the processing times for citizenship and adjustment applicants who live in a jurisdiction that has been burdened by higher than normal demand.

USCIS has issued a press release indicating that during fiscal years 2016 and 2017 the agency received a higher than expected volume of applications. Unfortunately, the increase in applications received throughout this period has burdened some field offices more than others, resulting in the disparities we are seeing in processing times across field offices.

To decrease the processing times in hard hit regions, USCIS will now be shifting citizenship and adjustment of status cases between different field offices to better distribute the workload and increase efficiency. This strategy should result in a decrease in processing times in regions that were previously experiencing higher than normal processing times.

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Photo: JM Parrone

In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the coming months. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories

Below are the highlights of those trends and projections for July 2019:

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
You must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2019.

Employment-Based Categories:

EB-1 Worldwide: Demand for this category remains steady. For the month of July EB-1 remains at April 22, 2018 and is not expected to become current in the foreseeable future. The Final Action Date will likely not change in July.

  • EB-1 India: No forward movement is expected in this category before October 2019. It is expected that this category will return to a Final Action Date of February 22, 2017 in October of this year.
  • EB-1 China: Has advanced to May 8, 2017 in the July visa bulletin.

EB-2 Worldwide: Current in July and will remain current through September 2019.

  • EB-2 India: Is expected to advance slowly during the month of July by a few days or one week at a time. Some forward movement may occur during the summer is there is lower EB-2 Worldwide demand.
  • EB-2 China: Has advanced to November 1, 2016 in the July visa bulletin. The category will continue to advance due to low demand.

EB-3 Worldwide: Current in July and will continue to remain current through September 2019. If demand increases for this category, a final action date may be imposed later in the fiscal year.

  • EB-3 India: Will remain steady in July.
  • EB-3 China: Has advanced to January 1, 2016 in the July visa bulletin. If demand in this category increases, movement will slow.
  • EB-3 Philippines: Current in July, please click here to read our visa guide for EB-3.
  • EB-3 Mexico: Current in July.

Family-Based Categories:

For Family-Sponsored Filings:
You must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2019.

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