Increased USCIS filing fees as of December 23, 2016

Well unfortunately, the USCIS has increased their filing fees.

IMMIGRATION BENEFIT                                                                             New Fee    Old Fee

G–1041 Genealogy Index Search Request 65 20
G–1041A Genealogy Records Request (Copy from Microfilm) 65 20
G–1041A Genealogy Records Request (Copy from Textual Record) 65 35
I–90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card 455 365
I–102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document 445 330
I–129/129CW Petition for a Nonimmigrant worker 460 325
I–129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) 535 340
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative 535 420
I-131/I-131A Application for Travel Document 575 360
I–140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker 700 580
I-191 Application for Relief Under Former Section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 930 585
I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant 585/9301 585
I-193 Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa 585 585
I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. After Deportation or Removal 930 585
I–290B Notice of Appeal or Motion 675 630
I–360 Petition for Amerasian Widow(er) or Special Immigrant 435 405
I–485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status 1,140 985
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (certain applicants under the age of 14 years) 750 635
I–526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur 3,675 1,500
I–539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status 370 290
I–600/600A Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative/Application for Advance Petition Processing of Orphan Petition 775 720
I-601 Application for Waiver of Ground of Excludability 930 585
I–601A Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver 630 585
I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (Under Section 212(e) of the INA, as Amended) 930 585
I–687 Application for Status as a Temporary Resident under Section 245A
of the Immigration and Nationality Act
1,130 1,130
I–690 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility 715 200
I–694 Notice of Appeal of Decision 890 755
I–698 Application to Adjust Status From Temporary to Permanent Resident
(Under Section 245A of the INA)
1,670 1,020
I–751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence 595 505
I–765 Application for Employment Authorization 410 380
I-800/800A Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative/Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country 775 720
I–800A Supp. 3 Request for Action on Approved Form I–800A 385 360
I–817 Application for Family Unity Benefits 600 435
I–824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition 465 405
I–829 Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions 3,750 3,750
I–910 Application for Civil Surgeon Designation 785 615
I–924 Application for Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant
Investor Program
17,795 6,230
I–924A Annual Certification of Regional Center 3,035 0
I–929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U–1 Nonimmigrant 230 215
N–300 Application to File Declaration of Intention 270 250
N–336 Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings 700 650
N–400 Application for Naturalization2 640 595
N–470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes 355 330
N–565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document 555 345
N–600/N–600K Application for Certificate of Citizenship 1,170 600/5503
USCIS Immigrant Fee 220 165
Biometric Services Fee 85 85

How to re-enter the USA if you have lost your Greencard while abroad (or I-551 Stamp has expired)

Should you require to travel back to the US and you don’t have your valid greencard you may be eligible to apply for a Boarding Foil. Please find information regarding the boarding foil below:

If your green card has been lost, stolen, expired or you never received your Alien Registration Receipt Card (“green card”), you may be able to obtain a boarding foil. This document is like a U.S. visa and is valid for 1 entry for 1 month, this will authorize a transportation line to carry you to the United States without penalty.

To issue a boarding foil, a U.S. Consular Officer must be satisfied that you hold legal permanent resident status in the United States. A personal interview is required.

You will need to present the following at your interview:

• Evidence of your identity (passport, photo ID)
• Your airplane tickets (the one showing your departure date from the U.S.)
• Evidence of your U.S. legal resident status (e.g. passport showing admission to the United States as an immigrant)
• Evidence that you were in the United States within the last 12 months
• Copy of your report to the police of the card’s loss/theft or detailed explanation as to why you do not have your card
• 1 recent passport-style photograph

Please be advised that the US Consulate Abroad may need several days in order to confirm your LPR status depending on the information you are able to present. Processing time will depend on the circumstances of your case and the amount of information and evidence you provide.

If you believe you meet the criteria for being issued a boarding foil, you need to e-mail support-australia@ustraveldocs.com to request an appointment date to lodge your application and don’t forget to advise them of the date that you hope to depart for the United States in your request.

https://plus.google.com/103318744997171038975/posts/3XX6DnTxqyt

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ylt5mFFQ-M

Some information for Consular Processing.

Congratulations, your visa has been approved by the USCIS, so unless you are a Citizen/Resident of Canada, you now need to schedule an appointment with your local US Consulate and collect your visa.

 

The whole process typically starts at:  http://www.ustraveldocs.com/  Following a successful interview, you will be granted a visa, which will be placed in your passport.  The visa is the “sticker” they place in your passport.  It is very different to your I-94, and you can read more on this on our web blog here.

 

Unfortunately, every US consulate is a little different with how they handle visa processing. What might be simple in London might be impossible in Kenya.  Some are easier to get someone on the phone and others are about impossible to get a phone number from. It’s always a good idea to check your local consulate’s website for information about their procedures.  Here is a link to the consulates in Australia for example (https://au.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/sydney/).

 

Although the different consulates have slightly different processes, there is one thing that remains constant.  Unless you are a citizen of Canada, once your petition has been approved by the USCIS, you will need to arrange an interview with the consulate. This is typically done through this visa processing website (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/), occasionally you can call into a phone number (which happens to charge you by the minute). Once your interview is scheduled (after the below steps), you’ll need to go into the interview and answer any additional questions they have about you or your petition. If your interview is a success and there are no unusual circumstances, your visa should be issued in 3 – 10 days. If you have a criminal record or from a country known for terrorism, you should talk to us about the process immediately.

 

Due to the nature of scheduling a visa interview, it is something that will need to be done by you or a manager (someone who knows your schedule etc), and your law office can’t schedule it.

 

Getting an interview at a convenient time is typically possible, however there can be quite a backlog in the processing time, so be sure to set aside plenty of time leading up to your intended departure. Some consulates will work with your timeline whereas some are very inflexible. I cannot express the importance enough of planning this well in advance.

 

Occasionally due to a time constraint a client will attempt to schedule their appointment with the consulate ahead of receiving their USCIS approval notification which is sometimes possible but not recommended.  You will just need your USCIS receipt number and to complete the steps below.  The only risk is that if your visa is not approved in time, you could potentially lose your application fee not to mention the stress of dealing with a deadline like that.

 

 

Before your interview, you’ll need to prepare your application. To do this, you’ll need several things.

 

  1. You’ll need to go on to the website and complete the DS-160 form (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/)
  2. You will need to upload your digital photo (some consulates will request a “physical passport photo).  Here are some of the requirements for the photos.  Luckily the state department has a helpful photo uploading tool.
    1. In color
    2. Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
    3. Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
    4. Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
    5. Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
    6. With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
    7. Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis
  3. When you are filling out the DS form, you will need your passport, the I-129 approval notice, a copy of the I-129 forms (it lists information about your petitioner, project income etc), Travel itinerary, if you have already made travel arrangements. Dates of your last five visits or trips to the United States, if you have previously travelled to the United States. You may also be asked for your international travel history for the past five years.  Résumé or Curriculum Vitae – You may be required to provide information about your current and previous education and work history.  Misc Information – Some applicants, depending on the intended purpose of travel, will be asked to provide additional information when completing the DS-160.

 

Side Note:  Some applicants will need to have additional information and documents handy while completing the DS-160:

Students and Exchange Visitors (F, J, and M): You will be asked to provide your SEVIS ID, which is printed on your I-20 or DS-2019, so you should have this form available when completing your DS-160. You also will be asked to provide the address of the school/program at which you intend to study. This information should also be on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

Petition-based Temporary Workers (H-1B, H-2, H-3, CW1, L, O, P, R, E2C): You should have a copy of your I-129 available when completing your DS-160.

Other Temporary Workers: You will be asked for information about your employer, including the employer’s address, while completing your DS-160.

  1. After the DS-160 is filed (you should receive a confirmation), the next step is to schedule an appointment at your specific consulate.  
  2. You’ll need to pay a fee to the consulate for issuing the visa. This is the “Visa Application Fee”, otherwise known as the “Machine Readable Visa” fee. Your consulate website will tell you where to pay this (typically a bank or post office).
  3. You may or may not need the I-797 approval notice from the Immigration Service in the US (getting this for you is our main job). Depending on your local consulate’s policies, you’ll either need the original (which we will send to you), a copy (which we will send to you), or nothing at all, because the Immigration Service sent the approval notice directly to your consulate.
  4. Issuance Fee: Depending on where you’re from, the embassy may charge you something called an “Issuance Fee” or “Reciprocity Fee”. These apply to citizens of certain countries, it may be worth your time to check the table here to see if the embassy will charge you this extra fee.

When you are going in for your Interview..

When you are in your interview, it is very important that you speak clearly and respectfully.  Take a copy of your entire case, approval notice if available, and be sure to understand what was filed on your behalf.  If Firstclass Immigration filed your case, ask our office if you have any questions regarding what was filed or information on the forms.  Most times the interview will go smoothly, but you may from time to time encounter an officer who is not friendly.  Remain calm and plead your case.  If they ask you a question you are not sure of, tell them “I don’t know, but can call my attorney or manager”, and always remember the purpose of your visa.  If you are entering as a Musician and they ask you about your career, don’t be humble, tell them about your successes.  If you a specialty worker, don’t hesitate to tell them about the importance of your work.  

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call!!

 

What is gaining permanent residence through Registration?

I recently had a client that qualified for Permanent Residency though a little used process called Registration.  If you are looking at form I-485 (https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-485.pdf), in Part 2., it would require you to check box number “G.”.  “I have continuously resided in the United States since before January 1, 1972″.  I decided to write this blog as very few people (including our interviewing USCIS officer) knew very little about the practical application of this process.

For my client, she had been moved to the USA as a newborn infant (interestingly using a Baptismal Certificate) from abroad in the 1950’s, and only recently discovered she was not a US Citizen.  Although she potentially qualified for permanent residency through her spouse or adult children, due to some other issues, we decided it would be cheaper and less of a headache to proceed with Residency as the grounds to Adjust Status.

So here is what you need to know:

You must prove the entry to the U.S. prior to 1972.  If you are from Canada, a statement from the applicant explaining the entry is sufficient.  All other countries require further proof (flight itinerary, replacement I-94 etc).  Once you have proven entry prior to 1972, you then need to prove that the applicant has remained in the USA all of that time with as many documents as you can find.  For this case, I used Social Security statements, birth certificates of children, marriage certificates, statements from friends, utility bills, home mortgages, tax returns and school report cards from the 1970’s.  Thankfully this client kept a lot of documents so it made my job relatively straight forward.

So..  If you have been in the USA since prior to 1972, you entered lawfully and have remained in the USA during the entire time, this process could be very helpful for you.  You save on the typical I-130 or I-140 filing fee, the visa is immediately available and its a relatively painless process.  As there is so little information on this process, I would recommend you hiring an attorney familiar with this process.

As a side note: For those groups interested in Immigration Reform, I am surprised they have not lobbied to move the Registration Date up (from 1972 to 1992), allowing a path for Lawful Residence and potentially citizenship for a much wider group of people.

 

EB-1B – Green Card options for Researchers or Professors

An “Outstanding Researcher or Professor” EB-1B immigrant visa is for applicants who are internationally recognized as outstanding in a particular scientific or scholarly field. Unlike self-petitioned EB-1A cases, EB-1B cases are employer sponsored. This means the petitioning employer must demonstrate that the applicant has outstanding ability as a researcher or professor and has a permanent job offer from the employer. The outstanding researcher/professor applicant must have the sponsorship of his/her employer throughout the petitioning process. The employer is the petitioner and the outstanding researcher/professor is the beneficiary for the EB-1B process.

There are three (3) main requirements for someone seeking a petition as an “Outstanding Researcher/Professor”, including:
International recognition for being outstanding in a specific academic field;
No less than three years of relevant research or teaching experience: Research or teaching experience obtained while in pursuit of an advanced degree, such as a Ph.D., can be counted toward the three year requirement, but only if the applicant/professor has acquired the degree, and if the teaching duties were such that he or she had full responsibility for the class taught or if the research conducted toward the degree has been recognized within the academic field as outstanding. The applicant must document his/her work history with letters from current and/or former employers describing work duties and years of employment; and
A job offer for a permanent research position or a tenured or tenure-track teaching position from the sponsoring employer: Generally, the job offer is given by a university or other similar academic or scientific institution, but it can also be offered by a private employer. If the offer is from a private employer, the employer must have at least three full-time researchers along with accompanying documentation supporting their accomplishments within the field.

Example:

Dr. Strings has been offered a tenure track teaching position as an Associate Professor of Music at Berkeley. He is internationally recognized as an outstanding professor in the field of music education, and has been teaching and researching in this field for more than three years.

Dr. String qualifies as an ”Outstanding Professor” since he is internationally recognized within his field, has at least three years of relevant teaching experience, and has been offered a permanent teaching position.

Example:

Dr. Green has been working in the field of biomedicine for more than 10 years. She has been offered a permanent research position as a postdoc associate at Vanderbilt university. She has made original contributions to the field of bone density development, and professional articles (scholarly etc) have been published regarding her work. She is internationally recognized as an outstanding researcher in the field of biomedical science.

Dr. Green likely qualifies as an “Outstanding Researcher” since she has at least three years of relevant research experience, has been offered a permanent research position, and has an outstanding reputation within his field.

For the sake of clarification, a permanent job offer is one where the employee has a reasonable expectation of employment in the future. As a rule, but not always the case, all job offers are considered permanent job offers, with the exception of contract offers that specify a particular duration for employment

As with all employment-based first preference petitions, no Labor Certifications are required to obtain an EB-1B immigrant visa.

As an overview:  To be recognized internationally as an Outstanding Researcher or Professor in one’s field requires at least two (2) of the following types of evidence:

Receipt of major prizes or awards for outstanding achievement.
Membership in associations which require outstanding achievements of their members.

Published material in professional publications written by others about the applicant’s work (more than merely citing the applicant’s work).
Participation as a judge (individually or as a part of a panel) evaluating the work of others in the same field or concentration.
Original scientific, scholarly, or artistic contributions in the field.
Evidence of authorship of scholarly books/articles in journals with an international circulation.

 

Vaccination & Medical Examination Requirements

Per United States’ immigration law, all incoming immigrants are required to have updated vaccinations as well as a medical examination. One of the last steps in the immigration process is an interview with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office closest to you. A copy of the medical examination, Form I-693, which will include a list of all previously obtained and administered vaccinations, should be taken with you to the USCIS interview.

Required vaccinations are listed below:

  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Rubella
  • Polio
  • Tetanus and Diphtheria Toxoids
  • Pertussis
  • Haemophilus influenzae type B
  • Hepatitis B
  • Any other vaccine-preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization

If you are applying for an Adjustment of Status (AOS) within the United States, currently the time lapse between filing your petition and having an interview with USCIS is around 3-4 months. If you are outside of the U.S. and applying for Consular processing (I-130 IV) the time lapse between filing your petition and the interview will vary country to country and is determined by the following:

  • The demand for and supply of immigrant visas.
  • The per-country visa limitations.
  • The number of visas allocated for your preference category.

Our office can give you an estimate of the number of months you’re looking at based on the country you’re in and time of filing. (https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplayInit.do) Use this timeline to determine when you should go see an approved civil surgeon for the examination. You can always submit Form I-693 with your petition, however, if there are any unforeseen delays, and your case extends beyond one year, you will have to obtain another one. Form I-693 will expire after one year. Because of this, our office recommends having the medical examination done as close to your interview date as possible.

Medical evaluations should be obtained from a civil surgeon in the United States or, if you’re outside of the U.S., by an approved panel physician designated by the U.S. Department of State. Vaccinations can be obtained from the same civil surgeon that you receive the medical examination from or you may receive them from your primary healthcare provider. You should bear in mind, though, that only approved civil surgeon’s can sign off on Form I-693, meaning that you would then need to return to the approved civil surgeon for signature after all vaccinations have been administered.

Approved civil surgeons can be found by following the link below:

https://my.uscis.gov/findadoctor

There are many variables when it comes to what types of vaccinations you will need. If you decline a vaccination for an unapproved reason, it is likely that your petition may be denied. Please consult one of the approved civil surgeons or the links below if you have any concerns or questions regarding your circumstances.

Links to additional information regarding vaccinations and the medical evaluation are listed below.

http://www.cdc.gov/immigrantrefugeehealth/exams/ti/civil/technical-instructions-civil-surgeons.html

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/

https://www.uscis.gov/news/questions-and-answers/vaccination-requirements

U.S. v Texas Implications

In our previous post we talked about how the Supreme Court has agreed to make a ruling on United States v Texas, the lawsuit brought against the series of executive actions Obama introduced to further alleviate illegal immigration. The weight of the Supreme Court’s decision hinges on whether the Justices agree that the President exercised lawful discretion through use of the executive action in proposing these initiatives. This ruling could affect more than 5 million immigrants currently in the U.S. and what the next three years of their lives will look like.

Included in the initiatives are the expansion of the DACA program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and the implementation of the newly developed program DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. For context, DACA is a program designed and implemented by the Obama Administration to grant temporary lawful status and work authorization (currently for 2 years) for individuals who were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday; and/or have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007. DAPA, the second of Obama’s initiatives, is designed to grant deferred action on deportation proceedings and employment authorization to parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents for three years. (USCIS) Neither of these programs were designed as a path to citizenship but as a means for illegal immigrants to have temporary legal status.

If the Supreme Court decides that Obama exercised a lawful use of executive action, then the proposed initiatives could go into effect as early as this year, the last year of Obama’s presidency. Millions of illegal immigrants that fall within the requirements of each program could apply for lawful status and work authorization immediately. As this is not a path to citizenship qualifying applicants would receive three years of lawful status and work authorization, meaning that they would also be paying U.S. taxes during this time. Unfortunately, the decision by the Supreme Court is only on the legalities of the President’s actions, making the immigration programs temporary and susceptible to repeal by the next president.

If the Supreme Court rules against Obama or throws out the case, then the DACA program would continue to exist granting status to those who entered before their 16th birthday and lasting for only two years. Illegal immigrants, much like they are now, would be subject to deportation based upon lawful status and entry and the DAPA program will remain an idea for immigration reform in the United States.

Tags: Immigration Action, Executive Action, US v Texas, DACA, DAPA

http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction

http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/united-states-v-texas/

SCOTUS To Rule On Obama’s Immigration Initiatives

Today the Supreme Court of the United States said they will rule on the constitutionality of immigration initiatives proposed by Obama back in 2015. News sources say this ruling could affect around 5 million undocumented immigrants potentially granting them lawful status and access to employment authorization.

Programs of note under the ruling include Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which is a similar program to the already implemented DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and DACA itself. The initiative would grant expansion to the DACA program, allowing for status holders to stay for three years instead of the current two. It would also expand the eligibility requirements of the program to include more undocumented immigrants. 

SCOTUS will present their decision this summer.

For further reading on the history of these initiatives and the implications of SCOTUS’ ruling, follow the links below.

http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction

https://www.ice.gov/daca

http://www.dhs.gov/immigration-action

http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4562013/pres-obama-asks-supreme-court-rule-immigration

 

TN-1 Visas – Don’t forget about this option for Canadian & Mexican citizens.

The TN-1 visa is a really great option particularly for Canadians. It also applies for Mexican citizens, however, the processing of TN-1’s for Mexicans is somewhat more difficult. The visa category “Professionals Under the North American Free Trade Agreement” (also known as a TN Visa) is available only to citizens of Canada and Mexico, under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For the purpose of this blog, I will discuss the TN-1 for Canadians.

What you need to know:
1) You MUST have a job offer
2) Your job title must fit within these categories (http://canada.usembassy.gov/visas/doing-business-in-america/professions-covered-by-nafta.html)
3) In most cases you need to have a degree or diploma applicable to the job title and job being offered.
4) You must in fact work for the US employer.

When applying for the TN-1, it is really important that you present all of your documents in order and in a straight forward way. I typically create a book with all of the applicable documents (support letters, copy of degrees/diploma’s/job offer letter/proof of experience etc) to make for a smooth border crossing.

This is the type of application that you do want to get overly creative with how you present the information requested.

The TN-1 is a great option for Canadians. Its renewable, and in a lot of cases is a great pathway to a Greencard if you decide that is a route you would like to take.