Announcement: USCIS Extends In-Person Services Suspension through June 3rd

 

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has announced that in-person services at its offices will reopen as early as June 4th in compliance with local and state orders. In-person services at USCIS include field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers. During this extended closure period, USCIS will continue to accept applications and petitions and will also provide limited emergency in-person services.

For more information on USCIS operations, contact us at info@enterimmi.com and speak with one of our U.S. immigration lawyers in Asia at our offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Taipei.

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Petition Statistics Released by the USCIS for Fiscal Year 2020 Q1

 

The United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (“USCIS”) has published its quarterly performance data for Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor and Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneurs to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. The number of I-526 petition filings are not much of a surprise and the painfully low number of adjudications continues to disappoint.

The U.S. fiscal year (“FY”) is from October 1st to September 30th each year. The USCIS received 4,264 I-526 petitions during the first quarter of FY2020, between October and December 2020. These are numbers not seen since the 2015 to 2017 period when mainland China investors were filing thousands of petitions per quarter. Compare this to the fiscal year 2019, which had only 4,194 petitions filed.

Form I-526 Immigrant Petition by an Alien Investor Filings

This renewed increase in filings is a direct result of the implementation of the “EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization Rule” that became effective on November 21, 2019. The most important change from this rule for investors was the increase of the standard investment amount to US$1.8 million, and an increase to US$900,000 for investments made in a targeted employment area. The rush by investors to invest and file petitions before the investment increase resulted in this spike in petition filings. Consequently, presuming anyone and everyone that was considering applying for an EB-5 immigrant visa rushed in before the increase, we expect to see in the FY2020-Q2 a dramatic drop in the number of petition filings..

What is disappointing, or even disturbing, is that the USCIS only adjudicated 455 I-526 petitions during those three months. If that rate continues, it will result in fewer adjudications in a full year since 2008 when the EB-5 program was still relatively unknown and the USCIS had few, but adequate, examiners.

The number of I-829 petitions adjudicated is equally disappointing and the number of pending petitions continues to rise, forcing ever longer waiting times for those investors and their family members to be granted full unconditional permanent residence.

Form I-829 Petition by Entrepreneurs to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Filings

Through most of 2019 the Investor Program Office (“IPO”) Chief Sarah Kendall promised that the IPO would improve its processing of petitions, most recently, during a Stakeholders Meeting on March 13, 2020. Unfortunately, we did not see this at the end of 2019 and will not see any data on whether it has done so until the end of the summer, at the latest. Is this slow down on processing yet another example of the anti-immigration sentiment of the current administration?  To make matters worse, we must expect processing to be further affected by the COVID-19 although we wonder how the processing time could slow down even more.

If you have any questions about the EB-5 immigrant investor visa, contact us at info@enterimmi.com and speak with one of our U.S. immigration lawyers in Asia at our offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Taipei.

Trump’s Immigration Ban Has Just Been Released. And It’s Not As Bad As We Expected

 

Today U.S. President Donald Trump signed his threatened Executive Order (‘EO”) as the “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the Covid-19 Outbreak.” The proclamation becomes effective on Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 11:59 PM (ET), and suspends the entry of any individual seeking to enter the U.S. as an immigrant who:

  • Is outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation;
  • Does not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
  • Does not have a valid official travel document (such as a transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document) on the effective date and issued before the proclamation.

While Trump’s Tweet on April 20th stated he would stop all immigration into the U.S., the EO falls short of that threat by including a number of important exemptions. Included in the list of intending immigrants who are exempted are the following:

  • Healthcare workers and their spouses and children
  • EB-5 immigrant investors
  • Spouse’s of U.S. citizens
  • Children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by DHS and DOS)

Foreign nationals who have been issued their immigrant visas prior to the EO’s effective date but have not yet entered the U.S. as well as those who currently have green cards and are outside the U.S. are likewise exempted from the Executive Order.  However, it is very important that immigrants understand the “validity” their green cards as an immigrant visa for reentry into the U.S., and anyone who has been absent from the U.S. for more than 1 year should seek competent legal advice about their situation.

It is important to underscore that the EO only applies to applicant’s seeking immigrant visas and does not at this time apply to those seeking non-immigrant visas, such as B-1/B-2 visitor visa, F-1 student visas, L-1 Intracompany Transfer visas and E-2 Treaty Investor visas. However, the proclamation requires that within 30 days of the effective date, the Secretary of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and the Secretary of State shall review nonimmigrant visa programs and recommend to the President other appropriate measures to stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure “the prioritization, hiring and employment” of U.S. workers.

The EO expires 60 days from its effective date and may be continued if deemed necessary. Within 50 days from the effective date, the Secretaries of Labor, DHS and State shall recommend whether the President should continue or modify the proclamation.

In fact, the effect of this EO at this time will be minimal since U.S. embassies and consulates around the world have stopped issuing both immigrant and non-immigrant visas except in extreme emergencies and it likely to continue to have limited issuance for some time.  The concern by many is now that this EO is in place, it will be extended multiple times, well beyond any justifiable need to protect the country from the virus or U.S. jobs.

Unfortunately, his announcement and subsequent action is not a surprise. In the face of growing questions and criticism about his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, it was only a matter of time before the President resorted to distraction, blame, and fearmongering, while at the same time pandering to his supporters as another example of his anti-immigration platform.

If you have any questions about how this EO might affect your status, contact us at info@enterimmi.com and speak with one of our U.S. immigration lawyers in Asia at our offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Taipei.

Stuck in the US on the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) – Requesting a 30-day extension

 

Citizens of many countries qualify for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) which allows for visa-free entry upon approval of an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”). The maximum period of stay allowed for a VWP individual is 90 days.

For foreigners in the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) who find themselves unable to depart before their current period of admission expires due to exigent circumstances such as the Coronavirus/COVID-19 event, there is an option to request relief in the form of a Satisfactory Departure request. Both U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and Customs and Border Protection have the authority to handle these requests which grant an individual a period of 30 days in which to depart the U.S. without being considered to have overstayed their approved period of stay. The USCIS has indicated it will allow for a second request for Satisfactory Departure granting another 30 day extension of stay.

It is reported that USCIS offices are facilitating remote requests and adjudication of Satisfactory Departure requests at local USCIS field offices. If you need to make a request for Satisfactory Departure, try contacting the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 or contact us at Enterline Immigration if you would like help.

Trump Tweets he will stop all immigration: No Need to Fear (Yet)

 

United States President Donald Trump tweeted late in the evening on April 20th that he intends to sign an Executive Order (“EO”) temporarily suspending immigration to the U.S. as it battles the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting mass unemployment. While concerning for many, Enterline Immigration would like to calm the fears of its current and potential clients.

Mr. Trump is known for creating uproar through his tweeting and for being anti-immigration. Until the EO is signed, this most recent tweet should merely be taken as another of Mr. Trump’s inflammatory and anti-immigrant tweets.

However, in the event that an EO is signed, we expect an immediate challenge in federal court. Depending on the severity and the restrictiveness of the EO, it is probable that a federal court judge will issue an injunction to prevent the EO from taking immediate effect. Such an injunction could last anywhere from 3 months to several years as the case works its way through the court system. If the federal court judge rules in favor of the EO, the litigants may always appeal to the federal circuit court and quite possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.

A worst-case scenario is that the President will request a direct and immediate review by the Supreme Court and thus bypass the usual appeals process. While such requests have traditionally been reserved only for the most urgent issues, Mr. Trump has used this tactic many times during his term. Such a request was made following the administration’s new Public Charge rule, which was taken up by the Supreme Court and decided in about 5 months from the date of the federal district court’s preliminary injunction.

Because the legislative branch creates immigration laws, it is also possible for members of Congress to take action on their own and prevent the EO from taking effect.

Finally, it is also possible that any restrictions on immigration will last only as long as the pandemic itself. This will depend on the actual wording of the EO issued by Mr. Trump and how restrictive it is written. Since currently U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world are closed and all but the most important and urgent immigration applications are on hold until further notice, such an EO will have limited effect anyway.

For now, intending immigrants should not overly worry about this tweet.

If you have more questions about the status of an immigrant visa application or qualification to immigrate, please contact us at info@enterimmi.com.

The Effect of Breaks in Continuity of Residence on Eligibility for Naturalization

 

Are you a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) of the United States and want to become a U.S. citizen?  If you have been a resident for at least 5 years, or 3 years if you obtained your LPR status through marriage to a U.S. citizen, then you may be eligible for “naturalization”, the process for becoming a U.S. citizen.

One of the requirements to qualify is that an applicant for naturalization generally must have resided “continuously” in the United States after his or her lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) admission for at least 5 (or 3) years prior to filing the naturalization application (residence must continue until the applicant is naturalized), but an absence from the United States for more than 6 months but less than 1 year during that 3 or 5-year period triggers a presumption of a break in the continuity of residence.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has recently issued policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to address naturalization applicants’ absences from the United States of more than 6 months but less than 1 year during the statutorily required continuous residence period.

The Policy Manual addresses when an applicant who has broken his or her continuous residence may reapply for naturalization and clarifies that:

  • Naturalization applicants absent from the United States during the statutory period for more than 6 months but less than 1 year, must overcome the presumption that the continuity of residence has been broken in order to remain eligible for naturalization; and,
  • An applicant who USCIS determines to have broken the continuity of residence must establish a new period of continuous residence; the requisite duration of that period depends on the basis upon which the applicant seeks to naturalize (three or five years).

If you are an LPR and are unable to return to the U.S. within 6 months of your departure, this presumption will apply to you and may disqualify you from naturalization, or worse, reset your “resided continuously” clock back to the start of 3 or 5 years.

For more information, contact us at info@enterimmi.com and speak with one of our U.S. immigration lawyers in Asia at our offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Taipei.

Announcement: USCIS Extends In-Person Services Suspension through May 3

 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will extend in-person services suspension at Field Offices, Asylum Offices and Application Support Centers (“ACS”) through May 3 unless otherwise announced.

While the extended closure covers interviews, naturalization ceremonies, and biometric collections, USCIS will continue to provide emergency and essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public.

Field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments including adjustment of status and naturalization ceremonies and will reschedule those cancelled appointments when the agency resumes normal operations.

Applicants with cancelled appointments at ACS offices will receive notice of a new appointment through the mail while those with Infopass or other appointments at field offices are requested to reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center.

If you have any questions or want more information, contact us at info@enterimmi.com.

Alert: Changes to American Institute in Taiwan American Citizen Services: Passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), and Notarial Services

 

The Message below is from American Institute in Taiwan (“AIT”):

Because of public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, effective March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of State began to limit passport operations.  Effective April 2, the Department further limited its ability to offer routine passport and citizenship services abroad.  

AIT urges you to consider waiting to apply for your passports, through mail or in-person, until the Department has resumed normal operations.  While AIT will continue to process a limited number of routine passport applications, we expect significant delivery delays.  At this time, we are unable to estimate when normal operations will resume.  Please note that the validity of your U.S. passport does not affect your eligibility for U.S. citizen emergency services.

AIT will continue to schedule Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) appointments.  However, we expect significant delivery delays.

For emergency passport services for U.S. citizens, please contact AIT at TaipeiACS@state.gov

AIT will also reduce routine notarial services.  If your need for a notarial service is not urgent, we encourage you to wait to apply until we resume routine operations. 

AIT cannot provide updates or estimate processing times for previously approved applications.  Please consider delaying new passport applications and update requests until we resume normal operations.  If you previously applied for a passport or citizenship service but have yet to receive your documents, you should expect significant delays.

We encourage you to visit www.ait.org.tw for more information and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest COVID-19 and U.S. Citizen Services updates.

Announcement: H-2 Visa Applicants May Be Adjudicated Without an Interview

 

As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Department of State (“DOS”) has authorized consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose application can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. The new policy allows interviewing consular officers the ability to waive in-person interviews for both first-time and returning H-2 applicants provided the applicant has no apparent or potential ineligibility.

An H-2 visa allows a foreign national to work in the United States temporarily or seasonally. Examples of H-2 visa employment areas include nurses or physical therapists working in a public school, hospitality workers, landscapers, farming, and construction workers.

The DOS notes that consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely and individual consular sections are reviewing overall capacity to adjudicate visa applications during the global pandemic.

Enterline Immigration U.S. immigration lawyers can help applicants across Asia through one of our offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Taipei and are happy to assist H-2 visa applicants who are seeking to immediately return to the United States. Contact us at info@enterimmi.com.

Announcement: Medical Professionals with Approved Petitions Encouraged to Seek an Expedited Visa Interview

 

The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) is encouraging medical professionals with an approved immigrant or non-immigrant petition (Form I-129, Form I-140) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange program to request for an expedited appointment at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Although DOS has instructed consular services to suspend routine visa appointments worldwide in response to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, medical professionals working to treat or mitigate the COVID-19 effects may be able to receive a visa interview appointment.

For more information, contact us at info@enterimmi.com and speak with one of our U.S. immigration lawyers in Asia at our offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Taipei.