September 2021 was a very active month for US Immigration. GLF provided updates via Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, on numerous US Immigration matters including:
- USCIS extends residence status to 24 months on pending I-751 or I-829.
- Visa bulletin highlights – October 2021.
- Visa interviews waived for certain international students.
- USCIS expands credit card payment pilot program to Texas Service Center.
- COVID-19 related travel ban to be lifted from November!
- USCIS updates policy guidance requiring COVID-19 vaccination at immigration medical.
- Update on drop box locations for submission of medicals and cancelled interviews at USCIS field offices.
- USCIS further extends deadline for RFE response by 60 days.
We at GLPO post regular updates on our Google, LinkedIn and Twitter, 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, handles for September 2021.
USCIS EXTENDS RESIDENCE STATUS TO 24 MONTHS ON PENDING I-751 OR I-829
Beginning September 4, 2021, Petitioners for Removal of Conditions on Permanent Residence, who had properly filed either Form I-751 (Family Petitions) or Form I-829 (EB-5 Investor Petition); can use their receipt notices as evidence of Lawful Immigration Status (employment and travel) for up to 24 months (past the expiration date of their “green card”). Previously, these receipts established status for up to 12 months and it was later extended to 18 months. USCIS made this latest change given the delays in processing times for I-751 and I-829 filings. Please note that USCIS will issue new receipt notices for I-751 and I-829, filed before September 4, and are pending.
VISA BULLETIN HIGHLIGHTS – OCTOBER 2021
DOS posted the October 2021 Visa Bulletin on September 13, 2021. Listed are the highlights.
- USCIS will accept I-485 applications for family or employment-based petitions based on filing dates – except F2A and EB-5.
- The DV-2022 annual limit reduced to 54,850.
- Dates for Filing for employment-based preference cases (India) are:
- EB2- July 8, 2012
- EB3- January 8, 2014
- Other Workers- January 8, 2014
- Final action dates and dates for filing for family-sponsored preference cases for India have not changed.
- The only change in final action dates for employment-based preference cases for India is the category “Certain Religious Workers” – changed from current to “unauthorized” i.e., numbers are not authorized for issuance.
- No SR visas (Certain Religious Workers) may be issued overseas, or final action taken on adjustment of status cases, after midnight September 29, 2021.
- Employment Fifth Preference I5 and R5 Regional Center Visa Categories (I5 and R5): Division O, Title 1, Section 104 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 extended the immigrant investor pilot program until June 30, 2021. No I5 or R5 visas may be issued overseas, or final action taken on adjustment of status cases after June 30, 2021. The final action dates for the I5 and R5 categories have been listed as “Unavailable” for October.
VISA INTERVIEWS WAIVED FOR CERTAIN INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Department of State had announced that certain F, M and J visa applicants will be exempted from any Visa interview requirements until the end of 2021. The Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, in consultation with the DHS had authorized the Consular officers to adjudicate F, M and J visa applications without any in-person interview process in their district of residence.
Consular officer may choose to waive the Visa Interview requirements with certain exceptions such as:
- If the applicant has never been refused any visa unless such refusal was overcome/waived;
- If the applicant has no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility;
- Citizen/ National of Country that participates in Visa Waiver Program (VWP) (For first timers under F, M and J Visa application).
Due to the ongoing pandemic, all International Students seeking new F-1 or M-1 visa are advised to contact their nearest consulate on the status of Visa services. Others who are qualified for F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.
USCIS EXPANDS CREDIT CARD PAYMENT PILOT PROGRAM TO TEXAS SERVICE CENTER
USCIS on September 16, 2021, announced that it has expanded the pilot program of accepting credit card payments at Texas Service Center. Petitions filing Form I-140(Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers) with Form I-907, (Request for Premium Processing Service), or when filing Form, I-907 to upgrade a pending Form I-140 to premium processing will be allowed to make payments through their Credit Cards using Form G-1450(Authorization for credit card transactions).
This pilot program was first initiated at Nebraska Service Center and now being expanded to Texas Service Center. The main objective of this program is to bring USCIS one step closer to accepting digital payments using a credit card at all service centers. By the end of the program, USCIS will be evaluating and taking a call whether to apply to other forms or service centers.
COVID-19 RELATED TRAVEL BAN TO BE LIFTED FROM NOVEMBER!
Beginning early November 2021, Biden Administration will ease travel restrictions to United States. The current Covid-19 related travels ban on countries such as China, Iran, the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India will be lifted. Instead, all international travelers into United States must carry:
- Proof of vaccination along; and
- Proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the United States.
The exceptions to this rule include:
- COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants; and
- Humanitarian exceptions for people traveling for an important reason and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner will be available.
Those Individuals who are exempted from the vaccine requirement may be required to be vaccinated upon arrival. Other unvaccinated travelers who return to the United States are expected to
- Provide proof of a negative test result taken within one day of their departure; or
- Provide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival.
Additional recommendations are also made to stop spread COVID-19 such as:
- Continuing the mask mandate through January 18, 2022;
- Stepping up pre-departure and post-arrival testing requirements; and
- Placing a contact tracing order for airlines.
USCIS UPDATES POLICY GUIDANCE REQUIRING COVID-19 VACCINATION AT IMMIGRATION MEDICAL
Starting October 1, 2021, all applicants for Lawful Permanent Residence (“Green Card”) must be vaccinated for COVID-19 and must provide proof of vaccination. Civil Surgeon must physically inspect and confirm the COVID-19 formulation and the number of doses given. The entire vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) must be completed in addition to the other routinely required vaccines. Evidence of vaccination must be given to the civil surgeon before examination, and it applies to all Forms I-693 signed by Civil surgeon.
However Civil Surgeon may indicate that a blanket waiver could apply under the following circumstances:
- Applicants who are too young to receive the vaccine;
- Those who have a medical contraindication to the vaccine;
- If it is not available in the state where in civil surgeon practices; or
- If it has a limited supply and may cause delay in receiving the vaccination.
This policy shall be effective from October 1, 2021, onwards and applies to all Forms I-693 signed by a civil surgeon on or after that date.
UPDATE ON DROP BOX LOCATIONS FOR SUBMISSION OF MEDICALS AND CANCELLED INTERVIEWS AT USCIS FIELD OFFICES
USCIS Field Offices in San Antonio and Washington, DC, have set up a process for pending Adjustment of Status applicants wherein they will be allowed to may submit their Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination via a designated dropbox location.
At San Antonio, only Employment Based Applicants can drop off their Medicals. Letters to all known EB applicants were sent starting September 8, 2021. Applicants are expected to write their Alien number and Receipt Number on the envelope before placing in drop box. Alternatively, applicants can also mail to:
USCIS Citizenship and Immigration Services
ATTN: Employment Base Filing
20760 US Hwy 281 N, Suite A
San Antonio, TX, 78260
Washington, DC field Office will accept the I-693 at the Triage Counter on the first floor as they don’t have any drobox facility.
USCIS Field Offices in San Antonio, Houston and Washington, D.C region cancelled the scheduled interviews for the month of September due to an increase in COVID cases and redistribution of their resources. The same had been communicated to the impacted applicants.
USCIS FURTHER EXTENDS DEADLINE FOR RFE RESPONSE BY 60 DAYS
Due to Covid-19 Pandemic, USCIS has further extended the flexibilities to its announcement issued on March 30, 2020. It provides additional time for Applicants, Petitioners, and Requestors to respond to the requests, notices and decisions issued between March 1, 2020, and January 15, 2022, inclusive. This flexibility is restricted to the followings:
- Requests for Evidence;
- Continuations to Request Evidence(N-14);
- Notices of Intent to Deny, Revoke and Rescind;
- Notices of intent to Terminate regional centers;
- Motions to Re-open N-400 pursuant to Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant; and
- Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, or Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings.
USCIS will consider a response to the above requests submitted within 60 days from the due date as mentioned in the request or notice
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