USCIS begins requiring interviews for Employment Adjustment Cases

Beginning October 1, 2017, USCIS will require far more people to appear at its offices for in-person interviews, including all employment-based green card applicants as well as asylees and refugees who are petitioning for a spouse or child to join them in the United States. 

This is a change that could potentially impact hundreds of thousands of people applying for permanent residence status.

The purpose of the interview requirements is said to root out fraud and protect national security and public safety. However, USCIS has not identified any specific risks or threats that justify the need to delay the process by interviewing those who have cleared rigorous background and security checks and have no fraud indicators.

While it is one thing to focus on illegal immigration, these changes will severely impact legal immigration and will slow down the process and lead to massive processing backlogs that could even  result in the systematic shutdown of the U.S. as USCIS just does not have the capacity to conduct interviews for thousands of more people; the resulting delays will hit across the board.

This policy would compound the damage the already unworkable immigration system is doing to our economy, meaning Americans will lose out – this includes individuals, U.S. businesses, local communities, and the national economy.

More Background:

For decades, USCIS has been plagued by lengthy processing times. Naturalization applications can take a year to process. Green card applications routinely take at least a year or more to process, and that is often after the applicant has patiently waited decades in a visa backlog.
While USCIS already has the authority to request an interview when it deems necessary – for specific reasons, waiving the interview for individuals who have already undergone extensive screening and have been successfully living and working in the United States for years makes sense.
These individuals have already been thoroughly vetted and have been deemed to pose no threat to the safety or security of the United States. If a background check reveals an issue, USCIS can call the individual in for an interview. But to require an in-person interview for all applicants seems like a substantial waste of resources.

DHS to collect social media information on all immigrants

On September 18, 2017, in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new rule in the Federal Register last week, that establishes that certain electronic documents be part of all immigrants’ (including permanent residents and naturalized citizens!) official records which will include “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results. This would also affect all US citizens who communicate with immigrants.

A move that has alarmed lawyers and privacy groups worried about how the information will be used.

Incorporating social media information into immigration records has become a point of focus in recent years and there is a growing trend at the Department of Homeland Security to be looking at the social media of immigrants and foreigners. As early as 2015, DHS began working on a plan to add social media searches into visa application protocol and in 2016, DHS proposed and implemented a new section in the travel form for foreign visitors coming to the US under the visa waiver program that asks for social media handles and just in June 2017, the Trump administration introduced an expanded visa applicant questionnaire that asks for all social media handles used in the last five years.

It is questionable how effective this program really is as it is simply very difficult to successfully use social media to determine what people are going or not going to do. When looking at all the ways in which we use communication tools, social media is different, very truncated. People use emojis, and short form and sometimes it is difficult to know what something means. As such, the Office of the Inspector General published a report that found the DHS pilot programs for using social media to screen immigration applicants lacked criteria to determine their effectiveness.

However, as social media may not be able to predict violence, it can certainly tell you a lot about the political, personal and religious views of people abroad and in the US and having government oversight with the potential for life-changing adverse consequences when it comes to social media use by prospective immigrants is a direct hit to the longstanding promotion of free speech that for long was at the core of the US constitution.

Diversity Lottery for FY2019 open from Oct. 3, 2017 – Nov. 7, 2017

It’s time again for the Department of State’s annual green card lottery which issues 50,000 green cards to persons from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. This year’s registration  it is open from October 3, 2017 until November 7, 2017.

The requirements are basic but strict and include specific education or work experience requirements, the submission of a digital picture and nationality of a country from a limited list.

Natives of the following countries are NOT eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan, however, are eligible. If you do not reside in a qualifying country, you may be eligible based on your country of birth, your spouse’s nationality, or your parents’ nationality.

You may apply on your own on the official website of www.dvlottery.state.gov and detailed instructions to the electronic DV Entry Form are available at www.dvlottery.state.gov. The program is highly technical and even the slightest error or minor typo such as the spelling of your name or number error in your birthdate, can result in disqualification. If you like our assistance, please email us at info@fuessel-law.com.

I encourage you to apply early, as in the past, system delays caused by extremely heavy demand in the final days of the registration period have prevented some applicants from registering for the program.

The law allows only one entry by or for each person during each registration period and the Department of State uses sophisticated technology to detect multiple entries. Individuals with more than one entry will be disqualified.

Selectees are chosen through a randomized computer drawing and starting May 1, 2018, you will be able to check online at www.dvlottery.state.gov by entering your confirmation number to see if you were selected. The Department of State does not send selectee notifications or letters by regular postal mail or by e-mail. It is therefore of utmost importance that you keep a record of your confirmation number.

Please know, entering the lottery is free and it is not necessary to pay any service in order to apply. However, if you are selected as a “winner,” you may want to consider hiring an immigration lawyer to ensure the correct and timely submission of your paperwork, as once your lottery application is drawn, the real application will start and depending on how high or low your winning number, and of course whether you fulfill all the other requirements, your chances of actually getting a Green Card in the fiscal year 2019 will increase. Winning the lottery is only the first step and does not always mean actually getting a Green Card. Please also keep in mind that playing the lottery is not a quick fix for a current immigration needs as the lottery is for Green Cards to be given out for the fiscal year 2019.

Best of luck should you decide you play!

Travel Ban partly re-instated

Travel Ban partly re-instated

The Supreme Court ruled that the government can only enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals who do not have ‘a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.’

This means is that individuals from the six countries [Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen] will be permitted to enter the United States if they have a ‘close familial relationship’ with someone already here or if they have a ‘formal, documented’ relationship with an American entity formed ‘in the ordinary course’ of business, i.e. valid work visas, student visas, or who have other connections to the U.S. 

Many foreign nationals from the affected countries have sufficient employment or familial ties to the U.S. in the form of education, employment, or relatives living in the U.S. The Court used both a spouse and a mother-in-law as examples of qualifying relationships, but it is unclear whether more distant relatives would qualify. It is also unclear whether individuals with employment-based visas that do not require a petitioning employer will be able to demonstrate the requisite relationship with a U.S. entity and it is unclear whether the Court’s decision is prospective or retrospective only, meaning how individuals who form bona fide relationships with individuals or entities in the United States after June 26, 2017 will be treated.

As the determination of one’s bona fide relationship is discretionary, we urge all foreign nationals from affected countries to use caution when traveling outside of the U.S.

The executive order creating the travel ban was originally issued in January, but, after public outcry and numerous legal challenges, was revoked. A new executive order was issued on March 6, 2017 which suspended the entry of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, yet with more exceptions than the original executive order. It was immediately challenged in Federal Court and enjoined from being implemented.

Know your rights: If ICE stops you in public

All people living in the United States, including undocumented immigrants, have certain U.S. Constitutional rights. If you are undocumented and immigration (ICE) officers stop you on the street or in a public place, know you have the following rights:

  • You have the right to remain silent. You do not need to speak to the immigration officers or answer any questions.

o You may ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says no, you may exercise your right to remain silent.

o If you are asked where you were born or how you entered the United States, you may refuse to answer or remain silent.

o If you choose to remain silent, say so out loud.

o You may show a know-your-rights card to the officer that explains that you will remain silent and wish to speak to an attorney.

o You may refuse to show identity documents that say what country you are from.

o Do not show any false documents and do not lie.

 

  • You may refuse a search. If you are stopped for questioning but are not arrested, you do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but an officer may “pat down” your clothes if he or she suspects you have a weapon.

 

  • You have the right to speak to a lawyer. If you are detained or taken into custody, you have the right to immediately contact a lawyer.

o Even if you do not have a lawyer, you may tell the immigration officers that you want to speak to a lawyer.

o If you have a lawyer, you have the right to talk to them. If you have a signed DHS Form G-28, which shows you have a lawyer, give it to an officer.

o If you do not have a lawyer, ask an immigration officer for a list of pro bono lawyers.

o You also have the right to contact your consulate. The consulate may be able to assist you in locating a lawyer.

o You can refuse to sign any/all paperwork until you have had the opportunity to speak to a lawyer.

o If you choose to sign something without speaking to a lawyer, be sure you understand exactly what the document says and means before you sign it.