September 9, 2015
Amazing news!! The government has made good on one of its November 2014 goals for immigration reform: they have updated the methods used to estimate immigrant visa availability to improve predictability and efficiency in the process and reduce the wild fluctuations in visa availability. This is great!
What does this mean and how will it work? Effectively this should allow people to submit their adjustment applications, based on approved family- or employment-based immigrant petitions, earlier than previously allowed. Why is this? Normally, a person cannot submit their adjustment application until their priority date (usually the date their immigrant petition was filed, which indicates their place in line) is “current”. Whether the date is current is determined by checking the Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin issued each month. Here is the significance summarized by the USCIS:
“This revised process will enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. This will help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.”
The government has changed the process in a great way: now the visa bulletin reflects 2 different charts in for both Family Based and Employment Based cases. The first chart is the one we are used to seeing and reflects the cutoff dates for visa numbers that are immediately available. This set is now titled “Application Final Action Dates”. Only cases with current priority dates under this chart will actually be finalized and have a visa assigned and thus the green card issued. But the second and new chart added to both the family- and employment-based visa bulletins is very exciting. Titled “Dates for Filing”, it provides another set of cutoff dates that allow people to file their adjustment of status applications (or submit their documentation to the National Visa Center if they are going through the consular process) to get their cases keyed up so that when the final action date becomes available, their applications are already in the system and ready for final adjudication.
The other great thing about this? It allows people to apply for advance parole and work authorization earlier than before.
We’ll see how this works out in practice – the hope is, the process will be smoother, more predictable, and that visa numbers will be allocated in a more reasonable way.
November 21, 2014
President Obama has taken highly anticipated and welcome steps to fix our immigration system, which is titled “Immigration Accountability Executive Action”. Remember when Beyoncé dropped her entire album and all videos at once last year amazing everyone?! Well, this feels like the immigration law version of that!
So much is packed into this plan and so many memoranda were issued on November 20, 2014 providing an initial view of the changes. Although President Obama can’t do everything by executive action, he has broad authority to act and has made some important first steps that will benefit millions of people, including not only people who are here illegally, but also business people, people in the US military, students, and more.
Not all the details of the President’s plan have been clearly defined yet, but here is an outline of some of the key elements. Keep in mind that these changes have not yet been implemented, so beware of anyone telling you you can apply for any of these new programs now. But, it is important to know what they are so we can all start getting ready!
Expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
The DACA program will be expanded.
•The age cap will be lifted. This means that the program will no longer be limited to people who were under 31 years old on June 15, 2012.
•People will need to show continuous residence since January 1, 2010, instead of since June 15, 2007.
•DACA will also be expanded to 3-year increments (instead of 2)
This will go into effect approximately 90 days after November 20, 2014 (around February 18, 2015).
New Program for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Green Card Holders
The government is introducing Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (aka green card holders). Parents can request deferred action and work authorization if they:
•Have continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010;
•Are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents born on or before November 20, 2014; and
•Do not have criminal convictions or other issues that make them ineligible.
This will go into effect approximately 180 days after November 20, 2014 (around May 19, 2015).
Expansion of Provisional Waivers
The President’s action will also allow spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (aka green card holders or LPRs) as well as the adult children of US citizens and LPRs to apply for provisional waivers to minimize separation of families while immigrant visa applications are pending. (Provisional waivers are required for people who are inadmissible only because of unlawful presence.)
This will go into effect once the government issues new guidelines and regulations.
Families of US Armed Forces Members and Enlistees
Based on the request by the Department of Defense, the government will expand parole-in-place, i.e., allowing people to stay in the U.S. and also makes them eligible to apply for a green card, and deferred action to spouses, parents, and children of US citizens or lawful permanent residents who seek to enlist in the US armed forces. Previously, this benefit was only considered for family members of US military service members and veterans.
Enhancing Opportunities for Entrepreneurs, Researchers, and Inventors
Two administrative improvements are being developed to enhance opportunities for foreign inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises who want to conduct R&D and create jobs in the United States.
•The National Interest Waiver standards will be clarified with the goal of allowing inventors, researchers, and start-up founders to qualify based on benefit to the U.S. economy.
•Parole authority will exercised in favor of inventors, researchers, and start-up founders who have been awarded substantial US investor financing or otherwise will innovate and create jobs through development of new technologies or cutting-edge research
Changes to OPT for Students
USCIS will be developing regulations to expand the degree programs eligible for OPT and extend the time period and use of OPT for foreign science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students and graduates.
These are some of the main areas of impact of the President’s bold announcement – and there are many others in the works. Given all the changes, if you are about to apply for some form of benefit or relief, think about how these upcoming changes may impact what you want to do. They may change or expand your options. Stay tuned for more details!