USCIS and Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expanded the list of academic degrees eligible for the F-1 STEM optional practical training (OPT) program, now including eight new fields of study.
Please note, the EB-1 India and EB-3 Worldwide (excluding EB-3 India and China) categories will experience significant retrogression in August. Despite this, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to accept employment-based adjustment of status applications from foreign nationals whose priority date is earlier than the Final Action Dates listed in the State Department's August Visa Bulletin.
USCIS has extended the myProgress tool to Forms I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and I-131 (Application for Travel Document). This tool provides personalized estimates of processing time, keeping applicants informed about the progress of their case.
In another news, DHS announced the implementation of new Family Reunification Parole (FRP) processes for nationals from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This move is part of the Biden-Harris Administration's strategy to offer lawful pathways and reduce dangerous irregular migration, while promoting family unity.
Update from the Department of State:
Pilot Program for Stateside Renewals: DOS is developing a pilot program to test the renewal of certain petition-based NIV categories, such as H-1B and L visas, without applicants having to leave the U.S. The pilot is expected to roll out in Fall 2023.
PPP Loans for E Visas: DOS has stated that the receipt of PPP loans could be seen as both a positive or negative factor in the decision-making process for an E-visa application. It will be considered alongside other factors as part of a holistic evaluation.
Technical Issues on Forms DS-160 and DS-3035: In the event of technical issues with contractor booking systems, applicants should contact their respective posts. If systemic issues arise, AILA will address these with the DOS.
Annotations on K Visas: DOS will update the FAM to address concerns raised about annotations potentially revealing an applicant's same-sex relationship status. Any updates will be shared.
Email Contacts for U and T Visas: Contact information for respective posts can be found on the individual post websites.
National Vetting Center and Administrative Processing: In Fall 2022, DOS began using the CBP's National Vetting Center to screen nonimmigrant visa applications flagged for administrative processing.
Interview Waiver Process: Concerns have been raised about potential delays in the interview waiver process. Extensions for certain categories are under review and will be decided in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.
Immigrant Visa Processing for Russian Nationals: Warsaw, Poland, remains the designated post for Russian immigrant visa applicants, except for parents of U.S. citizens who may process their visas at Almaty, Kazakhstan, or Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Grounds of Inadmissibility: Positive drug tests for marijuana by Panel Physicians may lead to further review by a consular officer. A THC content of less than 0.3% should not be grounds for inadmissibility under sections 212(a)(2) or (a)(3), as it does not meet the CSA's definition of illegal cannabis. However, the CDC does not recognize the CSA's definition for the finding of a substance use disorder, Class A, INA 212(a)(1)(A)(iv).
For Immigrant Visa (IV) applicants, it is advisable to undergo the medical exam prior to the IV interview. If a Class A finding arises from a positive drug test, the IV will be denied and any approved I-601A will be automatically revoked.
For Non-immigrant Visa (NIV) applicants, if there's any suspicion, a consular officer may require a medical exam. A positive drug test will result in denial of the application. It's recommended to discuss potential drug and alcohol use with your attorney ahead of your NIV interviews and conduct an online search for any media reports regarding past drug use.
E-Visa Delays and Processing: DOS expects posts to accept E visa applicants for up to six months in the future. Beyond this timeframe, appointments may not be available. In Bogota, rescheduling of previously canceled appointments is underway. E visa applicants can apply at any post as third-country nationals. For systemic issues or big picture questions (e.g., cessation of E Visa processing at a post), businesses can contact the Business Visa Center at [email protected]. The Center, however, is not a resource for requesting case-specific services.
Understanding the "Automatic Visa Revalidation" Process
"Automatic Visa Revalidation" procedure often applies to non-immigrant aliens who have previously used a visa for admission into the United States and are seeking readmission. Two scenarios can occur: a) They may be readmitted under the same nonimmigrant classification as indicated on their expired visa. b) They may be readmitted under a different nonimmigrant classification as depicted on their expired or valid visa if a change of status happened while they were in the United States.
Please note, the individual's absence from the U.S. must not exceed 30 days and their travel should be restricted to specific geographical regions. The process of reentry under these conditions is known as "Automatic Visa Revalidation." How this is applied can vary depending on the individual's nonimmigrant visa classification.
The majority of nonimmigrants can utilize automatic visa revalidation for readmission after traveling to a "contiguous territory" such as Canada or Mexico. For nonimmigrants holding F or J classification, this can apply after travel to a "contiguous territory" or "adjacent islands other than Cuba."
To be eligible for this benefit, the nonimmigrant alien must present a valid passport, a valid Form I-94 (Departure Record or Arrival-Departure Record), and either (a) an expired nonimmigrant visa of any classification or (b) a current, valid nonimmigrant visa of any classification. For a successful Automatic Visa Revalidation application, a nonimmigrant alien must meet certain conditions upon applying for readmission to the United States: Present a Form I-94 showcasing an unexpired period of initial or extended authorized stay. If the individual has applied for and received an extension or change of nonimmigrant status while in the United States, the Form I-94 may be attached to, or separated from, a Form I-797, Notice of Action. Nonimmigrant aliens (including an accompanying spouse or child) applying to be admitted in F, M, or J classification must also present one of the following documents as applicable:
For F or M classification: A valid Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant, issued by the school at which the Department of Homeland Security has authorized the principal nonimmigrant's attendance.
For J classification: A valid Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, issued by the authorized program sponsor indicating the unexpired period of stay. Present a valid passport with a nonimmigrant visa, whether valid or expired, used for prior admission to the United States. If the individual's current passport does not contain the nonimmigrant visa, they must present a previous passport with a visa.
We are dedicated to keeping you updated on these developments and their potential impact on you or your business. For a detailed analysis and personalized advice, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Have a great weekend!
Keshab Raj Seadie, Esq.