USCIS Announces Expansion of Digital FOIA System

FOIA permits any person to request access to federal agency records. FOIA requires federal agencies to disclose any information requested unless it falls under one of nine exemptions. Beginning June 25, 2019, USCIS began accepting FOIA requests online through (FOIA) Immigration Records System (FIRST) in order to improve the process, reduce errors and save time.  FIRST allows requesters to submit and track FOIA status, receive email notifications, and receive documents digitally. In order to submit a FOIA request online, the requester must have a USCIS online account. FIRST is a part of USCIS’s attempt to transfer the nation’s immigration system away from paper-based services to digital transactions. Before, FOIA requests were submitted via mail, fax or email and the response was provided on a disc. Now, FIRST offers a fully electronic service: online submission and online receipt of requested records. This should help to reduce costs and save time. If you are interested in immigrating to the United States, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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Presidential Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens

On May 23, 2019, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens. The Administration is obligated to enforce existing immigration laws and protect the American taxpayer. According to this memorandum, all federal agencies must update and issue guidance and regulations to comply with current law and to ensure that ineligible immigrants do not receive federal means-tested benefits. Most family-based and some employment-based immigrants must submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support when they apply for status as a lawful permanent resident. The individual signing the affidavit of support, whether the sponsor or joint sponsor, agrees to accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the intending immigrant.  Over the next several months, federal agencies will develop and implement guidance related to the president memorandum to ensure that agencies enforce these requirements.  Specifically, USCIS is now required to remind a sponsor at the adjustment of status interview that the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support is a legally enforceable contract. The sponsor needs to understand and accept that by signing this contract he or she agrees to accept legal responsibility for financial support of the beneficiary. If the beneficiary collects any public benefits, the sponsor (or co-sponsor) will […]
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USCIS Announces Strategy to Decrease Processing Times for Naturalization and Adjustment of Status Applications

On June 17, 2019, USCIS announced that it will be implementing a national strategy to decrease differences in processing times based on location for both naturalization applications and adjustment of status applications. Since 2015, USCIS has experienced an increase in processing times due to higher than expected volumes received during fiscal years 2016 and 2017 that did not decrease as originally expected. Fiscal year 2017 receipts were up 15.6% from fiscal year 2016, and fiscal year 2016 receipts were up 25.5% from fiscal year 2015. The increased filing volumes did not affect field offices equally, which resulted in some disparity among processing times. USCIS will now begin to shift caseloads between field offices to decrease processing times. As a result, applicants may be scheduled to appear for an interview at a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction. This change will not affect where applicants attend their biometrics appointments. If you are interested in learning more about adjustment of status or naturalization, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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Filing Prevailing Wage Requests in the New FLAG System

On June 4, 2019, the Department of Labor announced beginning June 10, 2019, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is now accepting online submissions of the Form ETA-9141 in the new FLAG (Foreign Labor Application Gateway) System covering all visa programs. The old iCERT System went out of service on June 10, 2019 at 12:00 am. However, individuals who submitted an ETA-9141 through iCERT before June 10th are still able to access their iCERT System accounts to monitor the status of their applications. According to the DOL, the new FLAG system is cloud-based and will: provide personalized user accounts; be accessible via mobile devices; provide automated field population and digital document signature; provide automated case alerts; and allow for enhanced document upload capabilities. A series of instructional videos are now available to educate the stakeholder community on how to create and manage a FLAG System account and how to prepare the Form ETA-9141 to the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC). If you are interested in obtaining a green card or learning about the PERM process, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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DHS Publishes Final Rule Adjusting Student and Exchange Visitor Program Fees

On May 22, 2019, the DHS has reported that the fees charged by SEVP (the Student and Exchange Visitor Program) to international students, exchange visitors and SEVP- certified schools will be increased beginning June 24, 2019. SEVP does not receive any funding from Congress and solely relies on fees to continue operations; therefore, the increase is necessary to continue to provide oversight of international students and SEVP-certified schools. The increase will affect the following: The I-901 SEVIS Fee for F and M international students (from $200 to $350). The I-901 SEVIS Fee for J exchange visitors (from $180 to $220). Except: exchange visitors in the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work travel program participant categories. The SEVP school certification petition fee for initial certification (from $1,700 to $3,000). Also, SEVP will charge new fees for the following: A petition for recertification filed by SEVP-certified schools ($1,250). A form I-290B “Notice of Appeal of Motion” filed by schools ($675). A change of physical location or adding a new physical location or campus to Form I-17 “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student” by a SEVP-certified school ($655). If you are an international student or exchange visitor and […]
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I-94 Record Goes Alphanumeric

The I-94 is the Arrival/Departure Record Card that the United States government uses to keep track of the arrivals and departures of foreign nationals. Beginning May 2019, CBP is no longer using the 11-digit long number for the I-94 and is instead switching to alphanumeric I-94 numbers. The number will remain 11 characters, but will follow the format of 9 digits, followed by a letter in the 10thposition, and a digit in the 11thposition. Foreign visitors no longer need to complete the paper I-94 Arrival/Departure Record or I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record. The CBP arrival/departure record can be accessed and retrieved online through the CBP.gov website. A paper form I-94 will still be issued at land border ports of entry. All paper I-94 forms must be surrendered upon departure. For automatic I-94 forms, CBP will record the departure electronically. If you are coming to the United States and have questions about the electronic I-94 form, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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New Social Media Presence Question on DS-160 & DS-260 for U.S. Visa Applicants

If you are applying for your nonimmigrant or immigrant U.S. visa abroad, you will likely notice a new question on the DS-160 and DS-260 applications. This new question asks for the applicant’s username and handle for any social media or online presence within the last five years. It specifically requests the information for more than 20 social media outlets including: ASK.FM DOUBAN FACEBOOK FLICKR GOOGLE+ INSTAGRAM LINKEDIN MYSPACE PINTEREST QZONE (QQ) REDDIT SINA WEIBO TENCENT WEIBO TUMBLR TWITTER TWOO VINE VKONTAKTE (VK) YOUKU YOUTUBE It is mandatory that this question is answered – it cannot be skipped. The password for each account does not need to be given. The U.S. Department of State has noted that this information will be collected and used for “identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards.” If you have questions on obtaining a U.S. visa or the application process, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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