February 2023 was a very active month for US Immigration. GLF provided updates via Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram on numerous US Immigration matters including: 

  • USCIS to bundle H-4 and H-4 EAD requests when filed with H-1B
  • Newly designed Green cards and EAD cards
  • Automatic extension of Green cards up to 48 Months
  • Expansion of premium processing
  • USCIS further extends deadline for RFE response by 60 days
  • State department set to launch a pilot visa revalidation program
  • State department’s Visa Bulletin summary for March 2023
  • Extension of SSR employment authorization 

We at GLPO post regular updates on our Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram handles. Additionally, we also periodically send out GLF Newsletters when the subject matter is extensive and relevant for a detailed analysis. Presented below is a consolidated summary of updates posted on GLF’s Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram handles for February 2023. 

In a settlement agreement reached with the Class (Edakunni v. Mayorkas – challenging H-4 adjudication delays), USCIS has agreed to adjudicate H-4 and H-4 EAD along with the H-1B Visa petitions. This applies to both regular and premium cases filed on or after January 25, 2023 and will remain in effect for two years. There will be an automatic extension of H-4 EAD for 180 days following expiration (as with I-485 EADs).

From January 30, 2023, USCIS has been issuing newly designed Permanent Resident Cards (Green Cards) and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs).   Some of the Green Cards and EADs issued after January 30, 2023, may still have the existing design until current supplies get exhausted.

The newly designed cards will have state of art technology with an aim to improve the services and security with an improved detailed artwork, tactile printing with enhanced optically variable ink, highly secure holographic images on front and back along with a layer-reveal feature with a partial window on the back photo box.  The newly designed cards will have data fields displayed in different places when compared to the current version.

The Current version of cards will remain valid until their expiration date, unless otherwise noted. Applicants with older Green Cards that do not have an expiration date will remain valid too. However, the USCIS encourages applicants to apply for a replacement card to prevent fraud or tampering if the card ever gets lost or stolen.  Both versions of the cards are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification and for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) purposes. 

USCIS extends validity of Green Cards up to 48 months from its expiration date for applicants who filed their Forms – I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions) and I-829 (Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status) respectively.  The automatic extension has been implemented to accommodate current processing times for Form I-751 and I-824, which has increased since last year.  The automatic extension is available from January 11, 2023, for Form I-829 and for Form I-751 from January 25, 2023. 

CPRs with their current extension notices below 48 months and those with pending receipt notices will now receive new receipt notices from USCIS, which can be used as an evidence for their continuing status. 

Updated receipt notices with the expired Green Cards will allow them to be work authorized and to travel for next 48 months.  However for CPRs who intend to stay outside of country for a year or more, are expected to apply for re-entry permit before leaving US, to lawfully re-enter US.

Beginning January 30, 2023, UCSIS has started implementing the final phase of the Premium Processing expansion for Form I-140 Petition for EB-1-C and EB-2 NIW Petitions. This phase will apply to all new and pending I-140 petitions under an E13 Multinational Executive and Manager Classification and E21 classification as a member of Professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a National Interest waiver (NIW). Beginning March 2023, Premium Processing will include F-1 students seeking OPT and STEM OPT extensions who have a pending Form I-765; and from April 2023, Premium processing will be available for those F-1 students seeking OPT and STEM OPT extensions who are filing their initial Form I-765. In May and June, pending and initial I-539s for change of status to F-1 will also be allowed Premium Processing. 

USCIS has further extended its flexibilities to its announcement issued on March 30, 2020 until March 23, 2023.  It had allowed the applicants to Respond to Notices, Requests and Decisions issued between March 1, 2020, and January 24, 2023, beyond the pre-determined period.  Now if the issuance date specified on the request or notification would be between March 1, 2020 and March 23, 2023, USCIS will consider a response submitted within 60 calendar days of the due date before taking any further action. 

The flexibility period extends to certain agency requests comprising of: 

  • Requests for Evidence
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14)
  • Notices of Intent to Deny, Revoke and Rescind
  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional centers
  • Notices of Intent to Withdraw Temporary Protected Status; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant. 

USCIS will consider Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, if the decision was made between November 1, 2021, and March 23, 2023, and if the form was filed up to 90 calendar days from the issuance of a decision made.

Responding to the need of the hour, State Department is set to launch a Pilot Visa Revalidation program. The pilot program will apply to first time visa applicants also (such as those who changed status in the US from F-1 to H-1B) and who have not yet traveled to India for H-1B stamping. The need for this program became very evident during COVID, when Consulates shut down and people could not travel as their visas had expired. People lost close family members in 2021 and were unable to go home. We are hopeful that the State Department will quickly roll this out fully and the Program will be made permanent.  It is not clear from the announcement whether it applies to H-4 and L-2 dependents. We are awaiting further clarity on this. The announcement says the launch is “later in the year.” Our estimate is Fall 2023 as they have to set up a Consular Division in Washington DC.

State Department has issued the March 2023 Visa Bulletin and here are the highlights:

  • Adjustment of Status for Family Sponsored filing and Employment Based filing – Dates for Filing chart to be used.
  • Final Action dates and Dates for Filing chart for family sponsored preference cases for India remain unchanged. For F-2A category the dates are current – as such, use Final Action Dates chart.
  • Final action dates (February 01, 2022) and Dates of Filing for (June 01, 2022) for EB-1 Category have not changed.
  • Final action dates (October 08, 2011) and Dates of filing (May 01, 2012) for EB-2 category have not changed.
  • Final action dates (June 15, 2012) and Dates of filing (August 01, 2012) for EB-3 category have not changed.
  • Final action dates and Dates of filing for Certain Religious Workers have retrogressed from June 22, 2022, to March 01, 2021, and July 22, 2022, to April 01, 2021 respectively.
  • The DV-2023 annual limit was reduced to 54,850. 

USCIS issued new policy guidance on issuance of Campus SSRs (Special Student Relief) Employment Authorization to F-1 non-immigrant students who are experiencing severe economic hardships due to emerging circumstances.  Off campus SSR Employment Authorization are issued considering extraordinary events such as: natural disasters, financial crises, and military conflicts that affect F-1 students from a particular region and create severe economic hardship.

This policy clarifies that the SSR EAD may be issued only until their respective academic program end dates and as such employment authorization shall remain valid only for a period of eighteen months which is the duration prescribed in the Federal Register Notice.

This policy update shall apply to all pending and future applications for SSR Employment Authorization after its publication.

At GLF, we will continue to follow further developments in the above discussed and other matters, while we provide updates through our Newsletter as and when they become available. GLF receives numerous emails and phone calls every day seeking comments on various proposed bills and media reports that are often inaccurate. It is our job to separate fact from fiction and advise clients on important and relevant updates. The best way to receive accurate information is through GLF Newsletters.

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