USCIS Policy Memo Expands USCIS's Ability to Place Foreign Nationals in Removal Proceedings

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently issues a new Policy Memorandum (PM) titled Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens.”  This new guidance stems from the January 25, 2017 Executive Order “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” and it seeks to expand the instances in which USCIS must issue Notices to Appear (NTAs) when denying certain applications for benefits, such as requests for extensions of status, changes of status, and adjustment of status.  

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USCIS Letter to Senator Grassley Provides Details of Planned Immigration Regulatory Changes on the Horizon

On April 4, 2018, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna wrote a letter to Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to provide him with an update on measures USCIS is taking to improve the integrity of the nonimmigrant employment visa program following the April 18, 2017 “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order.  Director Cissna indicated that changes have and will continue to be made in the form of regulations, policy memoranda, and operational changes.

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USCIS Issues Policy Memorandum Rescinding Prior Guidance Directing That Deference Be Given To Prior Visa Approvals

This week United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a Policy Memorandum titled “Rescission of Guidance Regarding Deference to Prior Determinations of Eligibility in the Adjudication of Petitions for Extension of Nonimmigrant Status” which rescinds prior USCIS policy guidance permitting USCIS adjudicators to give deference to certain previously approved nonimmigrant visa petitions where the material facts underlying the petition remained unchanged. This policy had been in place since 2004 and was reaffirmed by USCIS in 2015.

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House Passes Vote to Restrict U.S. Travel by Foreign Nationals Who Have Visited Syria, Iran, IraQ or Sudan in the Last 5 Years

Today, in a 407-19 vote, the House passed legislation restricting certain travel privileges to nationals of visa waiver participant countries. The legislation, which has the support of the White House, is expected to be wrapped into the much-discussed government spending bill and become law in the next few weeks.

Rather than a comprehensive approach, this new legislation appears to be the first of what will be a piecemeal approach to implementing enhanced security measures in response to the November 13th Paris terrorist attacks and the recent shooting in San Bernardino, CA.  The legislation comes in the wake of the White House's release of a  Fact Sheet outlining new security enhancements that would be implemented immediately to add additional security measures to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which is a program that allows nationals of 38 member countries to enter the U.S. as a visitor for up to 90 days without procuring a visa.

The legislation would ban nationals of visa waiver countries who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria since March 1, 2011 from traveling to the U.S. under the VWP. Such individuals must now obtain a visa to travel to the U.S., which requires an in-person interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas.

D&S will continue to monitor the changes that are anticipated to be made to the Visa Waiver Program in the coming weeks and provide timely updates outlining new developments.

USCIS Announces Adjustment of Status Filing Dates for December

USCIS has announced that for December, Family-Based Adjustment of Status applicants can use the "Filing Dates" listed on the Department of State's December 2015 Visa Bulletin. Employment-Based Applicants, however, can only use the "Final Action Dates" to determine when they are eligible to submit Adjustment of Status applications. 

This announcement comes after USCIS issued updated instructions regarding the use of the Revised Visa Bulletin, implemented in September 2015, which contains two sets of dates for both family-based and employment-based immigrant visas. 

Department of State December 2015 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State released the December 2015 Visa Bulletin today.  D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the family and employment based priority dates.  This month, the Final Action date for EB-2 India advanced by ten (10) months to June, 1, 2007.  The Final Action date for EB-2 China, however, remained unchanged at February 1, 2012.  The Final Action date for EB-3 India saw a modest progression of less than a month to April 22, 2004 and EB-3 China advanced 3.5 months to April 15, 2012. The Final Action date for EB-5 China advanced three (3) weeks to December 15, 2013.  

This month there was no movement in the Application Filing dates for any of the employment-based preference categories.  Finally, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has yet to confirm whether they will continue to accept adjustment of status applications for individuals whose Application Filing dates remain current in December.  D&S will continue to monitor USCIS’s Visa Bulletin page and provide an update when the agency announces later this month whether it will continue to accept these applications.

STEM OPT Extension Proposed Rule

Today, Monday, October 19th, the new proposed rule regarding STEM OPT extension was published in the Federal Register, starting the notice and comment period required as part of the regulatory process. The new rule contains many positive changes consistent with President Obama’s November 2014 Executive Action on Immigration and will help the U.S. attract students in STEM fields and remain competitive in today’s global marketplace. Stakeholders will now have an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed rule during this comment period.  

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USCIS Modifies Preparer's Declaration on Form I-129

Today, August 17, 2015, USCIS published a new version of Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, which includes a revised version of the "Preparer's Declaration" section.

The revisions come following changes made to in the Preparer's Declaration in the version of the Form I-129 with an an edition date of October 23, 2014. In that version, the I-129 Preparer's Declaration included the following language:

By my signature, I certify, swear or affirm, under penalty of perjury, that I prepared this form on behalf of, at the request of, and with the express consent of, the petitioner. I completed the form based only on responses the petitioner provided to me. After completing the form, I reviewed it and all of the petitioner's responses with the petitioner, who agreed with every answer provided for every question on the form and, when required, supplied additional information to respond to a question on the form.

Many practitioners felt this wording, which appeared to dictate the procedures used by preparers and their clients to gather the information required to complete petitions for immigration benefits, imposed an undue burden on preparers and petitioners alike. The revised Preparer's Declaration now reads:

By my signature, I certify, swear, or affirm, under penalty of perjury, that I prepared this petition on behalf of, at the request of, and with the express consent of the petitioner or authorized signatory.
The petitioner has reviewed this completed petition as prepared by me and informed me that all of the information in the form and in the supporting documents, is complete, true, and correct.

The new language appears to be more in line with the applicable regulations which require that preparers and petitioners certify that the documentation and information submitted to USCIS is true and correct but does not mandate any specific procedures for preparation and review. 

D&S Summary of White House REPORT on "Modernizing & Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System"

As a follow up to the directives in Presidents Obama's Executive Action on Immigration in November 2014, the White House has released a report detailing how technology can be used to create a comprehensive, clear, and user-friendly online visa processing system that would resolve many of the issues of the current “antiquated” system whereby physical documents travel thousands of miles, wasting both time and money. The report is aimed at boosting the American GDP by billions, expanding the labor force, and raising wages over the next decade using interagency digitization for data transparency, accuracy, and availability. There are also proposals for clearer and more accessible instructions, statistics, and policy guidance. 

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