Dear Valued Clients and Subscribers,
We hope this weekly update finds you well. At the Law Offices of Keshab Raj Seadie, P.C., we are committed to keeping you informed about the latest developments in immigration law that may impact you or your loved ones. Here are some important updates for this week:
ESTA to Israeli Citizens
Effective October 19, 2023, Israeli nationals may apply for visa-free business or tourism travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
DOS Expected to Begin Stateside Visa Renewal Pilot in Early 2024
In a significant development for nonimmigrant visa holders in the United States, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) is poised to launch a pilot program aimed at streamlining the renewal process for H-1B nonimmigrant visas. On October 17, 2023, the DOS submitted a Federal Register notice titled “Pilot Program to Resume Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas in the United States for Certain Qualified Noncitizens” to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
The forthcoming Federal Register notice, once published, will outline the criteria for eligibility in the Stateside Visa Renewal pilot program.
While detailed program specifications will be officially disclosed in the Federal Register notice, AILA has provided some preliminary insights:
- The pilot program is scheduled to commence early in 2024.
- Initially, it will be limited to H-1B principal visa holders.
- Eligibility will extend to nationals of countries not subject to reciprocity fees, with India being one of the eligible nations.
- Participation requirements will align with those of the interview waiver program.
- The pilot program will have a cap of 20,000 applicants.
- Participation in the program will be voluntary.
The launch of the Stateside Visa Renewal program will commence as a limited pilot, serving as a testing ground to refine its operational aspects. DOS has expressed a firm commitment to expanding the program once initial challenges have been addressed, paving the way for a smoother and more efficient visa renewal process for eligible noncitizens.
Stay tuned for the official publication of the Federal Register notice to gain a comprehensive understanding of the program's details and eligibility criteria. The program's initiation in early 2024 holds promise for H-1B visa holders seeking efficient renewal processes and reduced consular delays.
USCIS Issues Reminder that the 08/01/2023 Form I-9 Must Be Used Starting November 1, 2023.
USCIS issued a reminder that starting on 11/1/23, the 08/01/2023 edition of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification must be used.
What Is the Visa Bulletin?
The Visa Bulletin is a crucial tool in the complex process of obtaining a green card (or immigrant visa) in the United States. This bulletin serves as a guideline, outlining when individuals can apply for their immigration cases and when they can expect their applications to be approved. Essentially, it functions as a schedule, helping applicants determine when it's their turn to move forward in the immigration process.
How Does It Work?
The Visa Bulletin plays a vital role in helping applicants understand when they can initiate the final stage of the green card process. If you are in the United States, this stage involves filing a Form I-485 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), while for those overseas, it relates to consular processing through the Department of State (DOS). The Visa Bulletin comprises a list of countries at the top and various visa categories on the side, such as F1 or EB2. To use it effectively, you need to find your Priority Date from your Form I-797 Approval Notice. Then, locate your visa category in the Visa Bulletin under your Country of Birth. If the date in that box is later than your Priority Date, you may be eligible to proceed with your case. However, this depends on whether you are referring to the Final Action or Dates for Filing charts. The Dates for Filing Chart is particularly relevant for individuals filing a Form I-485. For example, if your Priority Date is September 1, 2013, in the F1 category, and you were born in India, and the date listed for F1 India is December 1, 2014 (the Cutoff Date), it means you can move forward with your case.
Can I File My Form I-485 Using the Dates for Filing Chart?
If you are applying for a green card within the United States, you must have permission to file from both DOS (via the Visa Bulletin) and USCIS (via their Adjustment of Status Filing Chart). When USCIS lists the Dates for Filing Chart, and your Priority Date is current according to it, you can proceed to file a Form I-485.
What Is Special About the October Visa Bulletin?
The October Visa Bulletin is significant because it marks the beginning of the new fiscal year for the U.S. government. During this month, visa numbers typically show forward movement for several reasons: Allocation Reset: DOS starts the fiscal year with the full quota of visas they are legally allowed to issue, like having a full bucket of visas to distribute. Annual Quotas: Generally, there are 140,000 employment-based and 226,000 family-based visas available each year, and these become available for allocation at the start of the fiscal year.
What Happens If Next Month's Visa Bulletin Changes?
A new Visa Bulletin is published every month, and it's important to pay attention to any changes. If the upcoming Visa Bulletin indicates that your Priority Date is not "Current," several consequences follow:
Consular Approval: The consulate cannot approve your green card.
Form I-485 Submission: You cannot submit your Form I-485 to USCIS.
USCIS Approval: USCIS cannot approve your application if you have already submitted it.
For example, if your Priority Date is "Current" in October, you can apply with USCIS during that month. However, if the November Visa Bulletin retrogresses your Priority Date, USCIS cannot accept or approve your application in November. It will remain with USCIS until your Priority Date becomes current again. In the meantime, you may still be eligible for work authorization, travel, and the ability to change jobs. Similarly, if you are applying at a consulate and your Priority Date is "Current" in October, they can grant you an immigrant visa that month. But if your Priority Date is no longer "Current" in November, and they require additional documents, they cannot issue the visa in November, even if you had an interview in October. In essence, the Visa Bulletin is a crucial tool that helps individuals navigate the complexities of the U.S. immigration system, ensuring that they are aware of the timing and eligibility criteria for each stage of the green card application process.
As always, our dedicated team at the Law Offices of Keshab Raj Seadie, P.C. is committed to providing you with timely updates and expert guidance. If you have questions about any of the topics covered in this newsletter, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Keshab Raj Seadie, Esq.
Law Offices of Keshab Raj Seadie, P.C.
Disclaimer: This newsletter is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always consult an attorney for personalized advice.