August 2022 was a very active month for US Immigration. GLF provided updates via Google, LinkedIn, Twitter on numerous US Immigration matters including:
- Premium cases filed with the Texas Service Center
- Pandemic Signature Policy is now Permanent
- State Department’s September 2022 Visa Bulletin Summary
- Consideration for Green Card Applicants as the End of FY2022 Approaches
- “Virtual Waiting Queue” at the US Embassy in London
- Uniting for Ukraine: Covid-19 Vaccination Requirements
- USCIS reaches the FY2023 H-1B CAP Limits
- Amendment of DS-160 after Final Submission
- Criterias for Visa Interview Waiver
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, handles for August 2022.
PREMIUM CASES FILED WITH THE TEXAS SERVICE CENTER
On July 26, 2022, USCIS had issued the following clarifications that could be useful while following up on cases filed with the Texas Service Center (TSC) via premium processing. Premium processing is a service which USCIS offers to guarantee processing of approval, denial, RFE, NOID or fraud investigation within 15 calendar days. This service can be availed by paying the premium processing filing fee and filing the current edition of Form I-907.
Here are the highlights of the clarifications issued:
- Phone: The TSC has reopened its phone line since March 2022. Applicants with inquiries can call 1-866-315-5718 Mon-Fri 8am-4pm CT to speak with a live agent.
- Fax: The TSC is currently not faxing RFEs, NOIDs and Denials. This service was ceased due to the COVID pandemic and the TSC currently does not have the resources to resume this service.
- Email: The TSC premium processing unit previously had different email addresses for specific classifications which will shortly be closed permanently. The TSC now has one email address to submit premium processing related inquiries, regardless of form type: TSC-Premium.Processing@uscis.dhs.gov
PANDEMIC SIGNATURE POLICY IS NOW PERMANENT
Due to Covid -19 breakout, on March 13, 2020, USCIS had introduced Pandemic Signature Policy by revising its signatures guidelines and accommodating various flexibilities with benefits forms and documents. USCIS Pandemic Signature Policy allowed USCIS to accept copies of original signatures and digital signatures on all forms and documents, even if it requires Original handwritten ‘Wet’ Signatures. On July 25, 2022, USCIS made it permanent to accept copies of original signatures on all forms and documents and to make it a permanent policy.
USCIS will continue to accept any scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced copy of a document to USCIS, even if the form instructions require an original handwritten (“wet”) signature. The original document with the wet signature must be saved and must be produced to USCIS if requested.
USCIS made it clear that this exception applies only to signatures and as such applicants are required to follow all other form instructions while completing a form.
STATE DEPARTMENT’S SEPTEMBER 2022 VISA BULLETIN SUMMARY
State Department issued the September 2022 Visa Bulletin and here are the highlights:
- Employment-based preference limit for FY 2022 are expected to be reached during September. If the annual limit is reached, the preference category is deemed “unavailable.”
- The Department of State has determined the Worldwide Family and Worldwide Employment preference numerical limits for FY-2022 to 226,000 and 281,507 respectively with per-country limit at 35,525, which is 7% of the family and employment annual limits.
- Adjustment of status for Family Sponsored filing and Employment Based filing use Dates for Filing chart and Final Action Dates Chart respectively.
- Final Action Dates for family sponsored preference cases for India have not changed and F-2A is current.
- F2A numbers exempt from per-country limits are available to applicants from all countries with priority dates earlier than April 22, 2019, and for those.
- F2A numbers subject to per country limits are available to applicants chargeable to all countries except Mexico with priority dates on or after April 22, 2019.
- Dates for filing for family sponsored preference for F1, F2B and F3 have not changed.
- Final action dates and Dates for Filing dates chart for employment-based preference category for India have not changed.
- The Certain Religious Workers, I5 and R5 categories are all “Current”.
- The DV-2022 annual limit is reduced to 54,850 and set to “Current” for September 2022 to maximize number use during the DV-2022 program year.
CONSIDERTAION FOR GREEN CARD APPLICANTS AS THE END OF FY2022 APPROACHES
The September 2022 Visa bulletin has stated that the Federal Government may issue all remaining employment-based visas that are available for this fiscal year during the month of September, and it has also implemented measures to facilitate the same. However, this would result in unavailability of employment-based green card numbers until October 1, 2022. USCIS and DOS will resume issuing further employment-based green cards in the FY 2023 which begins on October 1, 2022.
Additionally all applicants are advised to use new edition of Form I-485 starting September 21, 2022, as failure to do so would result in rejection of application.
“VIRTUAL WAITING QUEUE” AT THE US EMBASSY IN LONDON
The U.S. Embassy in London has notified the eligible Interview Waivers applicants that their applications will now be placed in a ‘Virtual Waiting Queue’. Virtual waiting queue was first launched at US embassy of Trinidad and Tobago to tackle high demand in Interview Waiver applications.
While being on the ‘Virtual Waiting Queue’ applicants can maintain possession of their passports and required documents until notified for further processing. Applicants are expected to provide accurate and up-to-date contact information at the time of applying. Applicants will be notified via email with instructions on how to submit their passport and documents once the Consular Section is ready to receive their documents. The average processing time is 21 working days to get the visas in hand but the local timelines, remain subject to change based on demand and capacity.
Requests to withdraw from Interview Waiver Program can be initiated by an applicant by submitting such a request through the contact form or via email to LondonInfoUnit@state.gov confirming that they would instead like to make an appointment for an interview through the appointment calendar. Currently expedited processing is not being entertained however one can try making a request through their account.
UNITING FOR UKRAINE: COVID-19 VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS
DHS has issued fresh guidelines on COVID-19 Vaccination requirements for beneficiaries to be Paroled into the United States under the ‘Uniting for Ukraine’ program. Uniting for Ukraine provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States to come to the US and stay temporarily in a two-year period of Parole.
All beneficiaries aged 6 months and older must have a proof of COVID-19 vaccinations both before traveling to the United States and after arrival in the United States, unless they are eligible for an exception.
The new guidance specifies that, to apply for travel authorization under Uniting for Ukraine, beneficiaries must have attestation to have at least received 1 dose of Covid-19 Vaccine. Attestation is a condition for Parole and must be completed in the beneficiary’s USCIS online account.
After being Paroled into US, all beneficiaries must have attestation submitted that they have completed or will be completing their vaccination series within 90days of arrival or within 90 days of reaching the eligible age for vaccination in accordance with the guidelines by CDC, unless they are eligible for an exception.
USCIS REACHES THE FY2023 H-1B CAP LIMITS
USCIS has received adequate number of petitions required to reach the mandatory 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap and the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree (Master’s Cap) for the fiscal year 2023.
USCIS has started sending the non – selection notices to registrants via myUSCIS.gov portal. For those registrants who remained in the “Submitted” stage for all this while, will see their status been changed to ‘Not Selected’ status. Not selected’ – are not eligible to file an H-1B cap petition based on this registration”.
For FY 2022, USCIS conducted lottery in March, July, and November, resulting in 131,970 selections. For the FY 2023, USCIS has selected 127,600 registrations to reach the 85,000 Cap, from 483,927 registrations received this year.
USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise Cap- exempt Petitions – Extensions, Amendments, Concurrent and Change of Employer Petitions.
AMENDMENT OF DS-160 AFTER FINAL SUBMISSION
Applicants and Attorneys were not allowed to make any changes to the submitted DS-160 application. DOS has now come up with two efficient ways to reuse the information from a previously submitted application and accordingly submit a new/updated DS-160 application.
- Option 1: Log into the CEAC portal and select “Retrieve an Application” using the previous submitted application ID, and then to select “Create a New Application”. This will allow applicants to auto -populate the information and also to update the required information; or
- Option 2: Saving “DAT” file from the original application to a PC will give applicants the access to amend the previously submitted application after 30 days. Applicants need to Select “Upload a Previously Saved Application” on the ‘Getting Started’ page. Once the desired changes are made, submit the new application and new confirmation page gets generated
If the previously submitted DS-160 was used to book the visa appointment and to make the MRV fee payment, applicants are required to present both the new and original DS-160 at the time of visa interview. Each DS-160 owns a unique barcode and the consular officer uses it to retrieve the application. It is essential to carry the printout of DS-160 to the Visa interview, in case the officer cannot retrieve or access the application due to system outage
CRITERIAS FOR VISA INTERVIEW WAIVER
Applicants between the age of 14 to 79 seeking Non- Immigrant Visas are expected to appear for Visa Interview unless their Interview is waived. DHS has expanded the Interview Waiver Policy till December 31, 2022 for certain temporary employment non-immigrant Visa applicants.
Consular posts have following authorities to Waive the In-person Visa interview:
- If the renewal visa sought is in the same visa class, and the previous visa is either unexpired or the renewal is within 48 months of expiration and are applying for Visa from same country of Residence.
- If the application has been previously issued any type of NIV for an F, M, J, H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, or Q visas.
Interview Waiver does not guarantee visa issuance:
- Consular officer retains the right to call an applicant in for an interview if necessary.
- Applicants who were initially approved for an Interview waiver and subsequent to the submission of documents may be called for in-person appearance for an Interview.
- Blanket L visa applicants are not eligible for an Interview Waiver as the authority
Applicants are expected to be accurate and truthful in their responses to the interview waiver eligibility questions. Misleading posts will lead to significant delays in visa processing. Applicants are advised to review post’s website for the latest interview waiver instructions, eligibility requirements, application procedure, and processing times.
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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 advice clients on important and relevant updates. The best way to receive accurate information is through GLF Newsletters.
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