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Trump puts ‘hold’ on green card requests in and out of the US

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On April 23rd, 2020 President Donald Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended the approval of green card requests. This was originally addressed to immigrants abroad seeking U.S. residency. But now the Trump administration has added green card applicants already living in the USA to the list.

The proclamation will affect:

  • Spouses and minor children (under 21) of green card holders (lawful permanent residents) filing from outside the United States (“consular processing”)
  • Parents, siblings, and adult children (21 years and older) of U.S. citizens filing from outside the United States.
  • All employment-based green cards except the immigrant investors (EB-5)
  • Diversity Visas
  • Any green card applicant filing from within the United States (“adjustment of status“)

The proclamation will not affect:

  • Spouses or minor children (under 21) of U.S. citizens
  • Special Immigrant Visas
  • EB-5
  • Temporary visas (H1-B visas, student visas, etc.

Why is Trump doing this?

https://youtu.be/YDCury45WOc

The president says he is seeking to protect American jobs after more than 20 million Americans have lost their jobs amid the pandemic.

The president has said the government had a “solemn duty” to ensure they regain work.

President Donald Trump

“General Hold” will remain in effect

USCIS recently told its employees that a “general hold” on permanent residency applications filed from immigrants within the United States will remain in effect. But USCIS’s updated list of exemptions to the hold is not so clear as to when it was originally put into effect.

Exemptions to the hold will include applications from medical providers, allowing immigration officers to submit applications related to emergent or sensitive matters. Any other matter will be reviewed by their supervisor.

Also, since the suspension of in-person services, the processing of green cards has definitely been impacted by either slowing down applications or coming to a complete halt. Furthermore, their plans to continue naturalization ceremonies have also come to a halt.

USCIS said, “We’re conducting emergent adjustment of status interviews and cases related to fighting COVID-19 and will begin to resume other in-person services in the future.”

USCIS

Recently USCIS acknowledged they received guidance on the hold which had ties to President Trump. The material was posted on an internal webpage pertaining to Donald Trump’s executive order which suspended the most entries from immigrants abroad. But later USCIS said it contained incorrect information and has since been taken down.

“The dates in the post and the reference to the executive order were incorrect,” the agency said. “This post has been removed and does not reflect current adjudication guidance.” 

USCIS

What’s going to happen to USCIS ?

According to the AFGE Local 1924, 70 percent of the agency’s workforce is expected to be laid off if Congress refuses to provide the USCIS its requested $1.2 billion emergency fund. The funds were requested due to a lack of applications being processed during the pandemic. Notices of temporary layoffs due to the coronavirus are expected to go out as early as next week.

Will this effect employers?

Employers shouldn’t stress on any additional disruption to their foreign employee workforces due to this Proclamation because the operations have already been disrupted. In fact, the State Department had already suspended visa processing services at all US Consulates and US embassies outside of the US, including green cards, so this Proclamation was unnecessary.

Furthermore, Most companies are well-advised to file their employee’s visa extensions far in advance with USCIS to maximize their legal status and work authorization in the event of administrative disruption such as this. In fact, most extensions can be filed up to six months in advance giving them an automatic 240-day extension as soon as it’s filed. This allows their employees to continue working while the extension is being processed.

How long will the hold be in effect?

As of now, the order is in effect since April 23 and the Trump administration said they would reassess after 50 days whether or not they would continue the hold.

Sources:

New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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The Green Card Process Through the Lens of a DMV Visit

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As an immigration attorney, I try to provide clients with a basic, yet insightful, understanding of various aspects of a complex immigration system. It’s not always easy, but I often find analogies to something commonplace can be helpful.  One analogy I’ve found to work well to explain the green card process beyond describing its mere,

As an immigration attorney, I try to provide clients with a basic, yet insightful, understanding of various aspects of a complex immigration system. It’s not always easy, but I often find analogies to something commonplace can be helpful.  One analogy I’ve found to work well to explain the green card process beyond describing its mere sequence of form filings likens the process to a visit to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.

In my practice area of business immigration law, green card processes are mostly employment-based and involve the successive filing of a labor certification application, immigrant petition, and adjustment of status application (with the first not always required and the latter two sometimes eligible for concurrent filing). So I’ll refer to these types of filings in describing the analogy here.  But variations of the analogy may be equally applicable to other types of green card processes, such as those in which the aspiring permanent resident will apply for an immigrant visa overseas rather than adjustment of status within the United States, as well as those based on family relationships and those available to asylees and refugees.

The trappings of a visit to the DMV, no matter the state, may be familiar to you: the issuance of a waiting number determining your place in a queue, followed by a long wait for your number to be called at one of several counters to file required paperwork, followed yet again by a lengthy wait for your paperwork to be processed, and eventually – hopefully – approved without issue.  The counter at which you’ll be called, and the length of the corresponding queue (or maybe in some fortunate instances, the absence of one altogether), often depends on specific factors, such as the type of service you’re seeking.

Just as you’re issued a waiting number upon entry into a DMV office, aspiring permanent residents are issued a priority date when the first major filing in their green card process (either the labor certification application or immigrant petition) is submitted.  The priority date is the date this first filing is submitted and determines, once the immigrant petition is approved, the aspiring permanent resident’s place in any existing queue to apply for adjustment of status.

Similar to how you wait at the DMV for your number to be called to file your paperwork at the appropriate counter, aspiring permanent residents face varying wait times for their priority date to be “called” at a designated “counter” to apply for adjustment of status.  The “counter” in the green card process at which aspiring permanent residents must apply for adjustment of status is based on a combination of two main factors: their immigrant classification (which, when speaking with clients, I refer to as their “green card category”) and their country of chargeability (which I refer to as their country of birth).  Aside from some significant exceptions outside of the employment-based green card process,[1] the law limits the supply of green cards available each fiscal year.  Because the law allocates this limited supply based on a combination of both immigrant classification and country of chargeability, queues form at “counters” where the demand for green cards exceeds the available supply.  And the more severely demand exceeds supply, the longer the queue will be. This analogy helps to show why EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in India and China are often confronted with waits lasting many years for their priority date to be “called” at their designated counters,[2] while EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in most other countries often face no such queue.  In technical terms, the existence of a queue at a given “counter” means the availability of green cards associated with that counter’s classification and chargeability combination is “retrogressed.”  If there’s no queue, green card availability at that counter is “current.”

A visit to the DMV often entails a wait of several hours sitting and keeping watch of your designated counter at it serves the visitors who arrived before you until your own number is finally called.  Likewise, many aspiring permanent residents monitor the often plodding, month-to-month movement of “cut-off dates” in the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ monthly Visa Bulletins for the designated “counter” at which they must apply for adjustment of status.[3]  The Visa Bulletin for a given month contains various charts showing whether a queue for filing an adjustment of status application exists for any classification and chargeability combination, and if so, how long the queue is.  Combinations for which there is no queue are assigned a “C” notation, indicating that green card availability is current and that the adjustment of status application can thus be filed at any time that month, including in concurrence with an immigrant petition if it has not already been approved, and assuming any prerequisite labor certification has been granted. Combinations for which there is a queue, and for which green card availability is thus retrogressed, are denoted by a “cut-off date,” with older dates reflecting longer queues.  Aspiring permanent residents seeking to adjust status at a “counter” at which green card availability is retrogressed can track their place in the queue by comparing their priority date with the applicable cut-off date each month.  Priority dates that fall before the applicable cut-off date in a given month are those that have been “called,” indicating that much like counters at which green card availability is current, an adjustment of status application can be filed at any time that month, including in concurrence with an immigrant petition if it has not already been approved, and assuming again that any prerequisite labor certification has been granted.

Like processing of paperwork filed at a counter at the DMV, processing of an adjustment of status application may take a long time.  But eventually – hopefully – the application is approved without issue.  And unlike a visit to the DMV, having qualified counsel during the green card process can make all the difference in one’s chance of success.

[1] For example, “immediate relatives” (spouses and children of US citizens, and parents of US citizens if the citizen is at least 21 years old) are exempt from annual numerical limits on green card availability. INA 201(b)(2)(A)(i).
[2] Aspiring permanent residents for whom the queue for applying for adjustment of status involves a wait of several years, such as EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in India and China, commonly change jobs or employers in the course of their wait. Such a change can require a restart of the green card process since employment-based green card processes are generally job and employer specific.  But to allow aspiring permanents residents who change jobs or employers to keep their place in queue, the law permits them to retain their priority date under certain conditions if they are the beneficiary of a previously approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition, and likewise become the beneficiary of an approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition based on their new job or employer. 8 CFR 204.5(e). 
[3] US Citizenship and Immigration Service also publishes monthly updates indicating whether to use the Visa Bulletin’s Dates for Filing charts or its Final Action Dates charts, to determine whether an adjustment of status application may be filed.

Source: The Green Card Process Through the Lens of a DMV Visit

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