Can’t Travel, Visa Expires, What Do I Do Now?

A lot of people stuck abroad have experienced panicking moments in the past two weeks when flights are cancelled and borders are closed due to the #COVID-19 shutdown. In March, 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced that immigrant (IV) and nonimmigrant visa (NIV) appointments at ALL Consulates are suspended due to coronavirus. Many countries are also restricting exiting and entering in order to control spread of the pandemic.
So what does this mean when my visa expires? 
These travel restrictions have made family unity and returning to work difficult, if not impossible. Employers are now in the dark with no specific return date for their valued employees and facing uncertainties as to their future needs. Since many visas have a maximum period allowed pursuant to regulation, consular officers do not have the authority to extend visa validity. However, the consular may be able to re-print a visa once travel becomes possible.
Consulates are able to re-issue a new visa provided that all supporting documents, such as police certificates, medical examinations, etc., have not expired. If the supporting documents have expired,  the applicant will be required to obtain new copies prior to the re-issuance of the new visa. Applicants will have to contact the consulate for the re-issuance and different consulate has different procedures. 
For people who are stuck in the U.S. either on valid visas or during grace period, but are not able to leave the U.S. to return to their home countries, options are also limited. Many have applied to extend or change their status using the Form I-539, but this also comes with a hefty fee. Others are banking on the fact that a brief overstay won’t be too problematic if it is limited to 180 days.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has filed a complaint against USCIS calling for the immediate suspension of immigration benefit deadlines and the maintenance of status for nonimmigrants in the U.S. in light of the pandemic, urging USCIS to extend its filing deadlines so that lawfully present foreign nationals in the United States can maintain status during the pandemic.
While we wait for the outcome of this lawsuit, we urge everyone to stay tuned and take care of yourselves. 

USCIS Announced New Online Tool Calculates Fees

USCIS has launched a new Online Fee Calculator to assist applicants calculating the correct fee amount when filing their forms with USCIS.

USCIS’ Online Fee Calculator will determine the exact filing and biometric fees an individual needs to include with their forms and will have the most up-to-date fee information. When using the Online Fee Calculator, applicants select a form, or combination of forms, and answer a series of questions. The tool then calculates the correct fee amount that the filer must submit.

USCIS accepts payment via check, money order, or credit card with Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.

If you need assistance with immigration, feel free to contact us at 913-717-7112 for a free consultation.

USCIS Updates Guidances and Policies for Benefits Applications

Be careful petitioners and applicants, your application for immigration benefits may be denied if you do not have all evidence to prove you are eligible. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) issued a new memo, to give its officers the right to deny visas if applications do not include all the necessary information when submitted.

CIS officers no longer need to first seeking additional evidence that might be needed to complete an application, or issuing a notice stating the intent to deny a request to adjudicate.

USCIS announced recently that it would also begin initiating removal/deportation proceedings against visa applicants who lack immigration status when their visa applications are denied.  For example, if you are are out of status when you applied for change of status, therefore, you are ineligible to change status, CIS will deny your application and start removal proceedings. Or you may be a F-1 student applying for the H-1b lottery, but due to all sorts of administrative delays, your H-1b is not adjudicate until your F-1 expired, and then unfortunately it gets denied and you are out of status. CIS can also place you in removal proceedings.

Despite CIS saying the new memos are “not intended to penalize filers for innocent mistakes or misunderstandings of evidentiary requirements,” it certainly feels that way. Immigration enforcement has always been the realm of ICE, not CIS. USCIS adjudications are often inconsistent and often arbitrary. Applicants have the choices to appeal CIS decision or to seek review, and such options will be lost.

DNA Testing Rules in Sibling Immigration Petition Cases

USCIS may suggest and accept DNA tests s evidence of a full-or half-sibling relationship

USCIS has updated its policy regarding direct sibling-to-sibling DNA testing. If USCIS determined primary evidence is unavailable or unreliable, USCIS may suggest and accept DNA test results from an American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) accredited lab as evidence of a full-or half-sibling relationship. In these cases, USCIS will consider DNA along with all evidence on record to determine if the requisite relationship exists.

A sibling relationship requires that the petitioner and beneficiary are, or once were, the children of at least one common parent. Primary evidence includes birth and marriage certificates. Secondary evidence includes medical records, school records, and religious documents. Affidavits sworn to by persons who were living at the time of and who have personal knowledge of the event to which they attest may also be accepted if certain conditions are met.

USCIS will consider results of DNA testing conducted by an AABB-accredited lab that reflect a 90 percent probability or higher that a full- or half-sibling relationship exists as probative evidence of the claimed relationship. Due to the variations within half-sibling relationship test results, any result for a half sibling below 90 percent will be deemed inconclusive. Where a result is inconclusive, an officer must continue to evaluate the remaining evidence in the totality of the circumstances. To the extent possible, DNA testing against the common parent(s) is encouraged.

兄弟姐妹移民申请案件DNA测试规则

美国移民局已更新其关于兄弟姐妹DNA测试的政策。 如果USCIS确定主要证据不可用或不可靠,USCIS可能会建议并接受AABB认可的实验室的DNA测试结果作为兄弟姐妹关系的证据。 在这些情况下,移民局将考虑DNA以及所有记录在案的证据,以确定申请人于受益人是否存在真实的兄弟姐妹关系。

兄弟姐妹关系的请愿者和受益人至少需要有一个共同父母。 主要证据包括出生和结婚证书。 次要证据包括医疗记录,学校记录和宗教文件。 亲戚朋友邻居也可以写信证明他们兄弟姐妹关系的了解程度。

美国移民局将考虑由AABB认证实验室进行的DNA测试结果,该结果必须反映90%或更高的兄弟姐妹关系概率,作为所声称关系的证明证据。由于半同胞关系测试结果的差异,任何半兄弟姐妹低于90%的结果都将被视为不确定证据。 如果结果不确定,美国移民局官员必须继续评估所有的剩余证据。在可能的范围内,移民局鼓励对共同父母进行DNA测试。

How to Apply for the 2019 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

DOS issued a public notice [Public Notice 10121] regarding the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program for 2019. ‘‘Diversity immigrants” are from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For fiscal year 2018, 50,000 diversity visas (DVs) will be available. There is no cost to register for the DV Program.

Completing Your Electronic Entry for the DV–2019 Program. Submit your Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (E–DV Entry Form or DS–5501), online at dvlottery.state.gov. DOS will not accept incomplete entries.

Applicants must submit entries for the DV–2019 DV program electronically at dvlottery.state.gov between noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT–4), Tuesday, October 3, 2017, and noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT–5), Tuesday, November 7, 2017. Starting May 1, 2018, you will be able to check the status of your entry by returning to dvlottery.state.gov, clicking on Entrant Status Check, and entering your unique confirmation number and personal information.

DOS selectees through a randomized computer drawing. Diversity visa numbers are distributed among six geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.

For DV–2019, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.