Immigration News and Updates for Mid-September 2018

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The USCIS has gone live with its new policy to deny applications and petitions without requests for evidence, but has delayed its new policy to automatically issues Notices to Appear in Deportation Court if denied.
There is also lots of updated immigration news below Enjoy!
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Here is the Immigration News
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USCIS Now Accepting Copies of Negative O Visa Consultations Directly from Labor Unions

Effective September 14, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun accepting copies of negative consultation letters directly from labor unions relating to a current or future O nonimmigrant visa petition request. A consultation letter from a U.S. peer group, labor organization, and/or management organization is generally required for petitions in the O visa classification.
O-1 and O-2 nonimmigrant visas are available to individuals with extraordinary ability in science, education, business, athletics, or the arts; individuals with extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry; and certain essential support personnel.
USCIS explained that typically, a petitioner submits the necessary O visa consultation with the petition, and that this process requirement remains unchanged. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna recently met with several labor unions to discuss concerns they had with the consultation process for O visa petitions, particularly “that some advisory opinions may be falsified by petitioners and submitted to USCIS as no-objections or favorable consultations, when in fact these were negative,” the agency said. The labor unions will now be able to send a copy of a negative consultation letter to USCIS so it can be compared to the consultation letter submitted to USCIS by the petitioner.
USCIS said labor unions should send copies of negative O nonimmigrant consultation letters to UnionConsultationMailbox@uscis.dhs.gov. To make sure USCIS matches the letters to the correct petitions, labor unions should include the last five digits of each beneficiary’s passport number in the consultation letters.
After six months, USCIS will analyze the data collected “to identify areas for improvement in the consultation process.”

USCIS Changes Filing Location for Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence

On September 10, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed the filing location for Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. This form was previously filed at the California and Vermont Service Centers. Now, petitioners must send Form I-751 to a USCIS Lockbox facility. However, the California, Nebraska, Vermont, and Texas Service Centers will be the adjudicating offices. When filing at a USCIS Lockbox facility, petitioners have the option to pay the fee with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card.

USCIS Extends Validity of Certain EADs for TPS Beneficiaries From Somalia, El Salvador

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has automatically extended the validity of certain employment authorization documents (EADs) issued under the temporary protected status (TPS) designations of Somalia and El Salvador. Following are highlights:
Somalia. USCIS has automatically extended the validity of EADs issued under the TPS designation of Somalia with an original expiration date of September 17, 2018, for 180 days, through March 16, 2019. Additionally, individuals who have EADs with an expiration date of March 17, 2017, and who applied for a new EAD during the last re-registration period but have not yet received it are covered by this automatic extension.
Those who are covered by this automatic extension may continue to use their existing EADs through March 16, 2019, as evidence that they are authorized to work, USCIS said.
The following documentation constitutes proof of authorization for a Somali TPS beneficiary to continue working legally in the United States:
  • A TPS-related EAD with a September 17, 2018, expiration date, or
  • A TPS-related EAD with a March 17, 2017, expiration date and an EAD application receipt (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) noting that the application was received on or after January 17, 2017.
El Salvador.USCIS has automatically extended the validity of EADs issued under the TPS designation of El Salvador through March 4, 2019. The EADs of TPS beneficiaries under the El Salvador designation whose EADs are based on TPS may now be valid through March 4, 2019, if the EAD includes a category code of A12 or C19, the beneficiary has not received his or her new EAD, and:
  • The EAD has a marked expiration date of March 9, 2018, and the beneficiary applied for a new EAD after January 18, 2018; or
  • The EAD has a marked expiration date of September 9, 2016, and the beneficiary applied for a new EAD on or after July 8, 2016.
USCIS said it will mail a Notice of Continued Evidence of Work Authorization to individuals who are eligible for the additional 180-day automatic extension. The notice will provide evidence of the automatic extension of the EAD through March 4, 2019, to show to employers. Individuals who receive the notice may use it in combination with their current EADs as evidence of work authorization through March 4, 2019. Those who have a pending EAD application and believe they are eligible for the additional automatic extension but did not receive the Notice of Continued Evidence of Work Authorization by September 4, 2018, should contact USCIS at 202-272-8377 or the USCIS Contact Center number at https://www.uscis.gov/contactcenter.
Eligible beneficiaries may show their employers USCIS’s webpage on El Salvador TPS (click on the Automatic Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Extension link at https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status/temporary-protected-status-designated-country-el-salvador in combination with the current EAD to demonstrate continued employment authorization until they receive their Notice of Continued Evidence of Work Authorization.

Attorney General Delivers Remarks to Largest IJ Class in History

On September 10, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered remarks to 44 new Immigration Judges (IJs), the largest class of IJs in history.
The speech is particularly note-worthy because of its factual inaccuracies, anti-due process rhetoric and the utter disdain for immigrants seeking lawful relief under US immigration laws.
Among other things, Mr. Sessions said more IJs will be added by the end of this calendar year, “with a goal of seeing a 50 percent increase in the number” of IJs since the beginning of the Trump administration.
He also said that “[g]ood lawyers, using all of their talents and skill, work every day—like water seeping through an earthen dam—to get around the plain words of the [Immigration and Nationality Act] to advance their clients’ interests. Theirs is not the duty to uphold the integrity of the act. That is our most serious duty.” He called attention to the fact that earlier in 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “announced that it would seek to refer 100 percent of illegal border crossers to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution in Federal courts.” He said that U.S. Attorneys are prosecuting over 90 percent of those cases referred to the Department of Justice, which he noted is a “two to threefold increase” and is the ” ‘zero tolerance’ policy you have heard about. You don’t get to enter the border unlawfully, between ports of entry, and place our [Customs and Border Protection] officers at risk without consequences.”
Mr. Sessions said that the asylum system “has been abused for years to the detriment of the rule of law, sound public policy, and public safety.” He said that “[s]aying a few simple words—claiming a fear of return—has transformed a straightforward arrest for illegal entry and immediate return…too often into a prolonged legal process, where an alien may be released from custody into the United States and possibly never show up for an immigration hearing.” He asserted that “the vast majority of the current asylum claims are not valid under the law.” He said that for the past five years, only 20 percent of claims have been found to be meritorious after a hearing before an IJ, and that in addition, roughly 15 percent are found invalid by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as a part of their initial credible fear screenings. “Further illustrating this point,” Mr. Sessions said, “in 2009, DHS conducted more than 5,000 credible fear reviews. By 2016, only seven years later, that number had increased to 94,000. The number of these aliens placed in immigration court proceedings went from fewer than 4,000 to more than 73,000 by 2016—nearly a 19-fold increase—overwhelming the system and leaving legitimate claims buried.”
Mr. Sessions also said it is the duty of the IJs to carry out his ruling on the principles of asylum and immigration law, and said “there will be more still to come.” “When we depart from the law and create nebulous legal standards out of a sense of sympathy for the personal circumstances of a respondent in our immigration courts, we do violence to the rule of law and constitutional fabric that bind this great nation. Your job is to apply the law—even in tough cases. As we work to restore rule of law in our immigration system, we will send a clear message to the world that the lawless practices of the past are over. The world will know what our rules are, and great numbers will no longer undertake this dangerous journey.”

Advisories and tips:

Government Agency Links

Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, and the Department of State’s latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers:
USCIS Service Center processing times online: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplay.do

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