Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Alex Meyerovich - Immigration Lawyer - AILA link

Attorney Alex Meyerovich is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. For more information please visit the official AILA link

Friday, October 28, 2011

The United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Consultation & Worldwide Processing Priorities

Every year, immigration law requires that Executive Branch officials:

·         review the refugee situation or emergency refugee situation.
·         project the extent of possible participation of the United States in resettling refugees.
·         discuss the reasons for believing that the proposed admission of refugees is justified by humanitarian concerns, grave humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.

Following consultations (discussions) with cabinet representatives and Congress, a determination is drafted for signature by the President. The Presidential Determination establishes the overall admissions levels and regional allocations of all refugees for the upcoming fiscal year.

No refugees may be admitted in the new fiscal year until the Presidential Determination has been signed. 

Annually, processing priorities are established to determine which of the world’s refugees are of special humanitarian concern to the United States. Fulfilling a processing priority enables a refugee applicant the opportunity to interview with a USCIS officer, but does not guarantee acceptance.

Process Priorities
The priorities currently in use are:

·         Priority 1: Cases that are identified and referred to the program by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a United States Embassy, or a designated non-governmental organization (NGO). 
·         Priority 2: Groups of special humanitarian concern identified by the U.S. refugee program.
·         Priority 3: Family reunification cases (spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of persons lawfully admitted to the United States as refugees or asylees or permanent residents (green card holders) or U.S. citizens who previously had refugee or asylum status).

Refugees must generally be outside their country of origin, but we can process some individuals in their home countries if authorized by the President.

United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Partners & their Roles
The USRAP is an interagency effort involving a number of governmental and non-governmental partners both overseas and in the United States.

The following agencies are involved in this effort:

·         Department of State/Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) – PRM has overall USRAP management responsibility overseas and has lead in proposing admissions ceilings and processing priorities. 
·         United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – UNHCR refers cases to the USRAP for resettlement and provides important information with regard to the worldwide refugee situation.
·         Resettlement Support Centers (RSC), previously referred to as Overseas Processing Entities (OPE) – Under cooperative agreement with the Department of State, RSCs consist of international organizations or non-governmental organizations that carry out administrative and processing functions, such as file preparation and storage, data collection and out-processing activities.
·         Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – Within DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has responsibility for adjudicating applications for refugee status and reviewing case decisions; the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screens arriving refugees for admission at the port of entry.
·         Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) – ORR administers domestic resettlement benefits for arriving refugees.
·         International Organization for Migration (IOM) – Department of State contractors serve primarily as the travel agent for the USRAP and the OPE in certain locations.
·         Non-Governmental Organizations – Provide resettlement assistance and services to arriving refugees.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Refugees in the U.S.

Under United States law, a refugee is someone who:

·         Is located outside of the United States
·         Is of special humanitarian concern to the United States
·         Demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group
Is not firmly resettled in another country
·         Is admissible to the United States

A refugee does not include anyone who ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

For the legal definition of refugee, see section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The Refugee Process

You must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee.

If you receive a referral, you will receive help filling out your application and then be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer who will determine whether you are eligible for refugee resettlement.

Your case may include your spouse, child (unmarried and under 21 years of age), and in some limited circumstances, other family members. If your case is referred to the USRAP, you will receive help filling out your paperwork. You will be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer who will determine whether you are a refugee.

There is no fee to apply for refugee status. The information you provide will not be shared with your home country.

Coming to the United States

If you are approved as a refugee, you will receive a medical exam, a cultural orientation, help with your travel plans, and a loan for your travel to the United States. After you arrive, you will be eligible for medical and cash assistance.

Bringing Your Family to the United States

If you are a refugee in the United States and want your family members who are abroad to join you, you may file Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, for your spouse and unmarried children under 21. You must file within two years of your arrival to the United States unless there are humanitarian reasons to excuse this deadline.

You may also be eligible to file an Affidavit of Relationship for your spouse, child (unmarried, under 21), or parents. The Affidavit of Relationship is the form used to reunite refugees and asylees with close relatives who are determined to be refugees but are outside the United States. The Affidavit of Relationship records information about family relationships and must be completed in order to begin the application process for relatives who may be eligible to enter the United States as refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Working in the United States

As a refugee, you may work immediately upon arrival to the United States. When you are admitted to the United States you will receive a Form I-94 containing a refugee admission stamp. Additionally, a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, will be filed for you in order for you to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). While you are waiting for your EAD, you can present your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, to your employer as proof of your permission to work in the United States.

Filing for a Permanent Residency (Green Card)

If you are admitted as a refugee, you must apply for a green card one year after coming to the United States. To apply for permanent residency, file the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status. There is no fee for refugees to file the Form I-485. In addition, refugees do not have to pay for fingerprinting/biometrics fees.

Traveling Abroad
If you have refugee status and want to travel outside the United States, you will need to obtain a Refugee Travel Document in order to return to the United States. If you do not obtain a Refugee Travel Document in advance of departure, you may be unable to re-enter the United States. If you return to the country from which you fled, you will have to explain how you were able to return safely.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Employment Authorization Cards and Citizenship Certificates Now More Fraud-Proof

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas announced the launch of an enhanced Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a redesigned Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560) with new features to strengthen security and deter fraud on October 25, 2011.
As part of USCIS’s ongoing efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system, the state-of-the-art technology incorporated into the new documents will deter counterfeiting, obstruct tampering, and facilitate quick and accurate authentication. USCIS began issuing the new EADs today and will begin using the redesigned certificates on October 30. The agency anticipates that more than 1 million people will receive the new documents over the next year.
"These enhanced documents are more secure than ever," said Director Mayorkas. "They advance our efforts to safeguard against fraud and protect the integrity of the immigration system."
The new features of the EAD will better equip workers, employers and law enforcement officials to recognize the card as definitive proof of authorization to work in the United States.
USCIS worked closely with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Forensic Document Laboratory to incorporate technology and tactile features in order to deter fraud and facilitate card authentication.
Additionally, USCIS employs a new and more secure printing process for its redesigned Certificate of Citizenship that renders the certificate more tamper-proof.

Although the look and feel of the documents is new, the manner in which an applicant applies for and receives them will not change. USCIS will replace EADs already in circulation as individuals apply for their renewal or replacement. All previously issued EADs remain valid until the expiration date printed on the card. Previously issued Certificates of Citizenship remain valid indefinitely.
These improvements demonstrate USCIS’s ongoing efforts to produce more secure documentation. In 2010, USCIS issued the new Permanent Resident Card, which added security features to the physical card and integrated technology improvements in the card production process. Additionally, USCIS launched the redesigned Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550) featuring the naturalization candidate’s digitized photo and signature embedded into the document. USCIS will continue to enhance document security features as technology improves.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

USCIS Processing Volumes and Trends

Use the following link from the USCIS to see processing trends and volumes both nationally and for each regional USCIS office. You may view volumes and trends for all forms or for the specific form that interests you.

Monday, October 24, 2011

USCIS Improves Processing for Naturalization and Citizenship Forms

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is enhancing the filing process for select forms dealing with naturalization and citizenship (N-Forms). Beginning Oct. 30, 2011, the new process will allow individuals to file N-Forms at a secure Lockbox facility instead of our local offices. This change streamlines the way forms are processed, accelerates the collection and deposit of fees and improves the consistency of our intake process.

Individuals should begin submitting affected forms directly to the appropriate Lockbox beginning Oct. 30, 2011. Forms received by local USCIS offices during a transition period between Oct. 30 and Dec. 2, 2011, will be forwarded to the USCIS Lockbox facility for processing. Forms received at local USCIS offices after Dec. 2, 2011, will no longer be forwarded but will be returned to the individual with instructions on how to re-file at a designated USCIS Lockbox facility. USCIS will centralize intake of Forms N-336, N-600 and N-600K at the Phoenix Lockbox facility. The Dallas Lockbox facility will handle the Form N-300. Individuals filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, already file at a Lockbox facility.

The following table lists N-Forms affected by this filing change:

Affected N-Forms
Date that Lockbox starts accepting N-Forms
Last receipt date that local offices will forward N-Forms to Lockbox
          N-300, Application to File Declaration of Intention
          N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings
           N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship
          N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011

USCIS has updated the information on our N-Form Web pages regarding filing forms at a Lockbox to clearly identify this change in procedure. Please carefully read the form instructions before filing your form to ensure that you are filing the correct form type at the correct location. Any individual submitting the wrong form type for the benefit sought will not receive a fee refund. Instead, individuals will have to re-apply using the correct form and pay a new fee.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Refugees: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who is a Refugee?
A. A refugee is a person who has fled his or her country of origin because of past persecution or a fear of future persecution based upon race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. If the person is not in the United States, he or she may apply for inclusion in the U.S. refugee program. If the person is already in the United States, he or she may apply for the U.S. asylum program.

A refugee does not include a person who has left his or her home only to seek a more prosperous life, also known as an economic migrant. People fleeing civil wars and natural disasters may not be eligible for resettlement under U.S. law. However, they may fall within the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Q. Which Refugees are Eligible for Resettlement in the United States?
A. Each year, the United States resettles a limited number of refugees. Refugees may be eligible for a USCIS interview for resettlement in the United States if:

·         UNHCR, or the U.S. Embassy, or a non-governmental organization refers them to the United States for resettlement.

·         They are members of specified groups with special characteristics in certain countries determined by the United States.

·         They have an anchor relative (for definition see the “Glossary” link to the right) in the United States who is a refugee or asylee.

Generally, refugees must be outside their homelands to be eligible for the U.S. refugee program; however the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) processes refugees in their home countries in a few places.

Even if an applicant is determined by USCIS to be a refugee, refugees must be admissible to the United States. An applicant can be found “inadmissible” to the United States for a variety of reasons, including criminal, health, or security-related grounds.

Ineligibility for the U.S. refugee program does not necessarily prevent eligibility for UNHCR protection or resettlement in other countries.

Q. How Can I Find Out If I Am Eligible For Resettlement in the United States?
A. If you believe that you might be eligible for resettlement in the United States, you may make your interest known to the nearest UNHCR office. If you have relatives in the United States, they should contact the nearest refugee resettlement agency for advice and help in preparing the necessary forms in support of your application.

Q. What Kind Of Processing Can I Expect Under The United States Refugee Program?
A. The U.S. Department of State Resettlement Service Centers (RSCs), previously referred to as overseas processing entities (OPEs) carry out most of the casework preparation for refugee eligibility interviews. The OPEs pre-screen applicants, help prepare the applications for USCIS, initiate background security checks, and arrange medical examinations for those refugees approved by USCIS.

Following USCIS approval, the processing entity also asks for the names and addresses of any relatives in the United States, for details on the person's work history and job skills, and for any special educational or medical needs of the refugee and accompanying family members, in order to determine the best resettlement arrangements for the refugee.

The International Organization for Migration generally arranges transportation to the United States on a loan basis. Refugees are expected to repay the cost of their transportation once they are established in the United States. Individual refugees or their relatives may pay for transportation costs in advance.

Q. What Family Members May Accompany Me To The United States If I Am Approved?
A. Family members that may accompany you to the United States include your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 who were with you at the refugee interview.

If your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 were not with you at the time of your interview, they will be able to follow you to the United States, but you will have to file a Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, for each of them.

In either case, your dependent relative must also be otherwise admissible to the United States. Other relatives may qualify for resettlement in the United States if they meet the U.S. refugee criteria with their own claims.
Q. How Can I Report My New Address?
A. You are required to notify USCIS within 10 days of changing your address. You may file Form AR-11, Change of Address, or change your address online. See the “Change of Address Online” link to the right to report electronically.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Civil Surgeons

Most applicants for adjustment of status are required to have a medical examination. The medical examination must be conducted by a civil surgeon who has been designated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Finding A Designated Civil Surgeon in Your Area

To find a civil surgeon in your area, go to and choose your state.

Doctors interested in being registered as a Designated Civil Surgeon should submit the following to their local USCIS Office:

·         A letter to the District Director requesting consideration

·         A copy of a current medical license

·         A current resume that shows 4 years of professional experience, not including a residency program

·         Proof of U.S. Citizenship or lawful status in the United States

·         Two signature cards showing name typed and signature below

Special Instructions for Civil Surgeons

In order to perform immigration medical examinations, you must be a physician designated by USCIS as a civil surgeon. The medical examination must be performed according to CDC’s Technical Instructions for the Medical Examinations of Aliens in the United States (Technical Instructions or TIs), published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. These Technical Instructions include:

·         The Technical Instructions for Medical Examinations of Aliens in the U.S. (1991)

·         The Tuberculosis (TB) Component of the Technical Instructions for the Medical Examination of Aliens in the U.S. 2008 (effective May 1, 2008)

·         Adjustment of Status for U.S. Permanent Residence Requirements: Technical Instructions for Vaccinations 2009 (effective December 14, 2009)

·         2010 Technical Instructions for Mental Disorders and Substance Abuse for Civil Surgeons (effective June 1, 2010)

·         Any updates to the documents above as published on CDC’s website

Each of these documents and subsequent updates can be obtained from CDC’s website and are linked on the right side of this page.

CDC does not mail hard copies of these documents; it is the responsibility of the civil surgeon to obtain these documents online and comply with the requirements of the technical Instructions.
Failure to comply with the technical Instructions may result in the revocation of civil surgeon designation by USCIS.

Monday, October 17, 2011

USCIS Announces "Entrepreneurs in Residence" Initiative

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas joined the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Pittsburgh to announce “Entrepreneurs in Residence.” This new innovative initiative will utilize industry expertise to strengthen USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities. Mayorkas announced the initiative at the Jobs Council’s High Growth Entrepreneurship Listening and Action Session at AlphaLab in Pittsburgh before the Council’s quarterly meeting with President Obama.

“This initiative creates additional opportunities for USCIS to gain insights in areas critical to economic growth,” said Director Mayorkas. “The introduction of expert views from the private and public sector will help us to ensure that our policies and processes fully realize the immigration law’s potential to create and protect American jobs.”

USCIS will launch the “Entrepreneurs in Residence” initiative with a series of informational summits with industry leaders to gather high-level strategic input. Informed by the summits, the agency will stand up a tactical team comprised of entrepreneurs and experts, working with USCIS personnel, to design and implement effective solutions. This initiative will strengthen USCIS’s collaboration with industries, at the policy, training, and officer level, while complying with all current Federal statutes and regulations.
The initiative builds upon USCIS’s August announcement of efforts to promote startup enterprises and spur job creation, including enhancements to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program. Since August, USCIS is:

• Conducting a review of the EB-5 process
• Working with business analysts to enhance the EB-5 adjudication process
• Implementing direct access for EB-5 Regional Center applicants to reach adjudicators quickly; and
• Launching new specialized training modules for USCIS officers on the EB-2 visa classification and L-1B nonimmigrant intra-company transferees.

Friday, October 14, 2011

DHS Announces 18-Month Extension of Temporary Protected Status for Sudan and Designation for South Sudan

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan for 18 months. She also designated the new Republic of South Sudan for TPS for 18 months. Both the extension and the new designation are effective Nov. 3, 2011, and will continue through May 2, 2013.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) strongly encourages nationals from these countries (and persons with no nationality who last habitually resided in either country) to review the Federal Register notices for the extension and the new designation published today and follow the instructions on how to file an initial or re-registration application for TPS.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also automatically extending the validity of employment authorization documents (EADs) issued under the last extension of Sudan TPS for an additional six months, through May 2, 2012. Any individual who has a valid TPS Sudan EAD is covered by this automatic extension, even though USCIS may ultimately register the individual under the South Sudan TPS designation and issue a new EAD reflecting his or her new nationality.

All affected individuals seeking to obtain or maintain their TPS must file their application package no later than April 10, 2012.

During the past year, DHS and the State Department have reviewed the conditions in Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan—a nation that came into existence on July 9, 2011. Based on this review, Secretary Napolitano has determined that an 18-month extension for Sudan is warranted due to the ongoing armed conflict and the extraordinary and temporary conditions that prompted the last TPS designation of Sudan on Oct. 7, 2004. Secretary Napolitano also designated South Sudan for TPS due to similar ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions.

TPS only applies to eligible Sudanese or South Sudanese nationals who have continuously resided in the United States since Oct. 7, 2004. There are approximately 340 individuals who DHS anticipates will be eligible either to re-register for TPS for Sudan or to obtain TPS under the South Sudan designation.

All individuals registering for TPS under the new designation for the Republic of South Sudan or re-registering for TPS under the extension for Sudan must file a Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, and a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, accompanied by any required fees or a fee waiver request. Failure to submit the required application and biometric fees or a properly documented fee waiver request will result in the rejection of the TPS application package.

Further details on the Sudan TPS extension and South Sudan TPS designation, including information regarding the application requirements and procedures, are available at and in the Federal Register notices published Oct. 13, 2011.

TPS forms are free and available online at or by calling the toll-free USCIS Forms line at 1-800-870-3676. Applicants may also request more information by contacting USCIS’s National Customer Service Center toll-free hotline at 1-800-375-5283.

Friday, October 7, 2011

USCIS Wants to Know What YOU Think!

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeks public comments on a proposed rule published in the Federal Register yesterday that would enable USCIS to process certain applications approved between 1995 and 1998 by immigrant investors under the fifth preference employment-based immigrant visa classification, also known as EB-5.

The proposed rule would implement provisions of the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. These provisions apply to a group of immigrant investors who had a Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, approved between Jan. 1, 1995, and Aug. 31, 1998.

Specifically, the rule would enable USCIS to process cases for approximately 580 principal immigrant investors and their dependents whose Forms I-526 were approved during the period described above and who, prior to Nov. 2, 2002, sought to:

·         Register for permanent residence or adjust their status (using Form I-485); or

·         Remove conditions on permanent residence obtained as an alien entrepreneur (using Form I-829).

The processes outlined in the proposed rule would provide an additional two-year period for most of these immigrant investors to meet the EB-5 investment and job-creation requirements. This rule would not impact any other applications or petitions filed under the EB-5 program.

EB-5 visas are available to immigrants seeking to enter the United States to invest capital in a commercial enterprise that will create at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers.
The public has 60 days—from Sept. 28 to Nov. 28, 2011—to submit comments on this proposal, which is available for review at

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Work for the Department of Justice!

Experienced Attorney Hiring Process

How to Apply for Experienced Attorney Positions

Experienced attorney hiring is decentralized and each office and component within Justice conducts its own recruitment process. Attorneys can apply to specific vacancy announcements or can submit a resume and cover letter describing their interest and highlighting their relevant experience to each organization where they wish to be considered for employment.

Eligibility for Experienced Attorney Positions

Any attorney who is an active member of the bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) and has at least one year post-J.D. experience is eligible to apply for an experienced attorney position although some positions may require additional legal experience. U.S. Attorneys’ Offices may have state specific admission requirements.

What Kind of Experience Do Justice Organizations Seek?

Given the scope of Justice’s legal practice the needs of each organization and section are defined by its respective mission, areas of practice, and the specific skills needed at the time of the vacancy. Generally, as the “Nation’s Litigator,” Justice seeks attorneys with some litigation experience; however, opportunities also exist for attorneys with other types of experience, such as legislative review, policy formulation, and legal advising.

Geographic Areas of Assignment

Some offices and components within Justice only offer employment opportunities in Washington, D.C. Other organizations, such as the Antitrust Division, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Trustee Program, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Environment and Natural Resources Division, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, have field offices located in cities nationwide. The 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are organized into districts and located in every state and territory.

The next attorney recruitment event is October 25-28, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status – FAQ II

Q: Can an Individual Who Has Held U Nonimmigrant Status Eventually Apply for a Green Card (Permanent Residence)?

A: Yes.

• The individual must have been physically present in the United for a continuous period of at least three years since the date of admission as a U nonimmigrant,

• The individual must not have unreasonably refused to provide assistance to law enforcement since receiving a U nonimmigrant visa.

• The certifying agency must determine that the individual's continued presence in the country is justified on humanitarian grounds to ensure continuation of a cohesive family, or is otherwise in the national or public interest.

Q: Can Qualifying Family Members Apply for Permanent Residence (a Green Card)?

A: Yes. There are two ways family members of a U nonimmigrant visa holder can apply for a green card. First, family members who hold a derivative U nonimmigrant visa themselves may be eligible for a green card. Second, certain family members who have never held a derivative U nonimmigrant visa may be eligible for a green card.

Q: What are the Eligibility Requirements for Qualifying Family Members Who Have Never Held U Nonimmigrant Status to be Granted Permanent Resident Status?

A: The law allows USCIS to extend these benefits to spouses, children, and parents based upon their relationship to the principal U ("U-1") nonimmigrant if:

• The qualifying family member was never admitted to the United States in U nonimmigrant status, and

• It is established that either the family member or the U-1 principal applicant would suffer extreme hardship if the qualifying family member is not allowed to remain in or be admitted to the United States.

Q: What are the Procedures for Qualifying Family Members to Apply for Permanent Residency?

A: Family members with derivative U nonimmigrant visas may apply for green cards if the U-1 has met the eligibility requirements for permanent residence and the U-1’s application for adjustment of status was approved, is currently pending, or is filed at the same time.

To apply for a green card, qualifying family members with a derivative U nonimmigrant status must file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. For detailed instructions and requirements about filing for a green card please refer to special instructions on Form I-485, Supplement E.

To apply for permanent residence for family members who have never held a derivative U nonimmigrant visa, the U-1 status holder must file an immigrant petition on Form I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant, concurrently or subsequent to filing their Form I-485, Application for Adjustment of Status. If the Form I-929 is approved, qualifying family members in the United States may file a Form I-485. Qualifying family members outside the United States may visit a U.S. embassy or consulate to obtain their immigrant visas.

Q: Can a U-1 Nonimmigrant File a Form I-929, Petition For Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant, on Behalf of a Sibling?

A: No, only the spouse, children, and parents (if the petitioner is under 21) of a U-1 nonimmigrant are eligible.

Q: When Can a U-1 Nonimmigrant File a Form I-929 on Behalf of a Qualifying Family Member?

A: U-1 nonimmigrants may file the Form I-929 concurrently with, or at any time after they have filed, their Form I-485 based upon their U status.

Q: Can a Family Member File Their Form I-485 Concurrently With the Form I-929?

A: No. Only the U-1 principle can file their Form I-485 concurrently with the Form I-929.

Q: Can the Form I-929 Be Approved Before the Petitioner’s I-485 Is Approved?

A: No. The petitioner’s I-485 must be approved prior to the approval of the I-929. If the petitioner’s Form I-485 is denied, the Form I-929 will automatically be denied.

Q: Is a Biometric Fee Required for the Form I-929?

A: No. The only fee required is the filing fee.

Q: Can the Filing Fee Be Waived?

A: Yes. If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you may submit a Request for Fee Waiver, Form I-912 (or a written request). For more information about fee waiver guidance, click here.

Q: If the Petition is Approved, What Status Is Given To The Qualified Family Members (Beneficiary)?

A: Approval of the I-929 petition does not confer status upon the beneficiary.

Q: Does Approval of the I-929 Petition Grant Employment Authorization?

A: No. Approval of the petition only makes the beneficiary eligible to apply for adjustment of status.

Q: Is There an Annual Limit on the Number of I-929 Beneficiaries Who Can Be Approved?

A: No. There is no numerical limitation.

Q: Can a T Visa Holder File A Form I-929 on Behalf of His or Her Family Members?

A: No, Form I-929 may only be filed by a U-1 status holder on behalf of eligible family members.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status – FAQ I

Q: How Does One Become Eligible for U Nonimmigrant Status?

A: There are four statutory eligibility requirements. The individual must:

• The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.

• The individual must have information concerning that criminal activity.

• The individual must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

• The criminal activity violated U.S. laws

Q: What are the Procedures to Request U Nonimmigrant Status?

A: Foreign national victims of crime must file a, Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. The form requests information regarding the petitioner's eligibility for such status, as well as admissibility to the United States. Currently, USCIS has designated its Vermont Service Center as the centralized location to receive all U nonimmigrant petitions.

Q: Is There a Fee for Applying for U Nonimmigrant Status?

A: No. The program involves the well being of petitioners and USCIS' decision to waive the petition fee reflects the humanitarian purposes of the law.

Petitioners for a U nonimmigrant status are entitled to request a fee waiver of any form associated with the filing for the U nonimmigrant status.

If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you may submit a Request for Fee Waiver, Form I-912 (or a written request). For more information about fee waiver guidance, click here.

Q: What Prevents Any Foreign National From Claiming This Status By Saying They Were a Victim of a Crime?

A: A petition for U nonimmigrant status must also contain a certification of helpfulness from a certifying agency. That means the victim must provide a U Nonimmigrant Status Certification (Form I-918, Supplement B), from a U.S. law enforcement agency that demonstrates the petitioner "has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful" in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.

Q: What Qualifies as a "Certifying Agency"?

A: Certifying agencies can be Federal, State or local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges or other authority that investigates or prosecutes criminal activity.

Other agencies such as child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor also qualify as certifying agencies since they have criminal investigative jurisdiction within their respective areas of expertise.

Q: How Long Can One Maintain the U Nonimmigrant Classification?

A: U nonimmigrant status cannot exceed four years. However, extensions are available upon certification by a certifying agency that the foreign national's presence in the United States is required to assist in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity.

Q: Can a Foreign National Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status From Outside the United States?

A: Yes. USCIS has determined that the legal framework for U nonimmigrant status permits foreign national victims of criminal activity to petition for such status either inside or outside the United States.

If not admissible to enter the United States as a foreign national, an applicant for a U visa must obtain a waiver of inadmissibility through submission of a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant. This waiver is adjudicated by the Vermont Service Center of USCIS on a discretionary basis, allowing the petitioner to continue with the U nonimmigrant visa process.

Q: Is There a Cap on The Number of U Nonimmigrant Status Grants?

A: Yes. USCIS may grant no more than 10,000 U-1 nonimmigrant visas in any given fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). This does not apply to derivative family members such as spouses, children or other qualifying family members who are accompanying or following to join the principal foreign national victim.

If the cap is reached in any fiscal year before all petitions are adjudicated, USCIS will create a waiting list that will provide a mechanism by which victims cooperating with law enforcement agencies can stabilize their immigration status. Further, U nonimmigrant visa petitioners assigned to the waiting list will be given deferred action or parole while they are on the waiting list. This means they will be eligible to apply for employment authorization or travel until their petitions can be adjudicated after the start of the following fiscal year.

Q: Can Family Members of the Petitioner Receive U Nonimmigrant Status?

A: Family members who accompany the petitioner can, under certain circumstances obtain a U nonimmigrant derivative visa. The U nonimmigrant visa principal must petition on behalf of qualifying family members.

The principal petitioner needs to file a Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient, on behalf of their qualifying family members.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Victims of Criminal Activity: U Nonimmigrant Status

Individuals and their families may fall victim to many types of crime in the U.S. These crimes include: rape, murder, manslaughter, domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and many others.

Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.

U Nonimmigrant Eligibility

You may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa if:

• You are the victim of qualifying criminal activity.

• You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.

• You have information about the criminal activity. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf.

• You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If you are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf.

• The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws

• You are admissible to the United States. If you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver on a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.

Qualifying Criminal Activities

• Abduction

• Abusive Sexual Content

• Blackmail

• Domestic Violence

• Extortion

• False Imprisonment

• Female Genital Mutilation

• Felonious Assault

• Hostage

• Incest

• Involuntary Servitude

• Kidnapping

• Manslaughter

• Murder

• Obstruction of Justice

• Peonage

• Perjury

• Prostitution

• Rape

• Sexual Assault

• Sexual Exploitation

• Slave Trade

• Torture

• Trafficking

• Witness Tampering

• Unlawful Criminal Restraint

Petitioning for U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa)

To petition for a U nonimmigrant status, submit:

• Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status

• Form I-918, Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, on which a law enforcement official confirms that you were or will likely be helpful in the prosecution of the case

• A personal statement describing the criminal activity of which you were a victim

• Evidence to establish each eligibility requirement.

Filing for Qualifying Family Members

To petition for a qualified family member, you must file a Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Immediate Family Member of U-1 Recipient, at the same time as your application or at a later time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

10,000 U-Visas Approved

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), marking a significant milestone in its efforts to provide relief to victims of crimes, has for the second straight year approved 10,000 petitions for U nonimmigrant status, also referred to as the U-visa.
On an annual basis, 10,000 U-visas are set aside for victims of crime who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute crime.

“Providing immigration protection to victims of crime and their families while aiding law enforcement efforts to bring criminals to justice is of the utmost importance to the Agency and the public we serve,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas.

Due in large part to public education and partnerships forged with law enforcement agencies and service providers, USCIS reached the statutory maximum of 10,000 U-visas per fiscal year for the second year in a row since it began approving petitions for them in 2008. It is a significant milestone for the program created by Congress to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes while at the same time offering protection to victims of such crimes. More than 45,000 victims and their immediate family members have received U-visas since the implementation of this program.
As part of this effort, USCIS adjudications officers have traveled to 30 cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and Los Angeles to train federal, state and local law enforcement and immigrant-serving organizations on immigration protections available to immigrants who are victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and other crimes.

USCIS will continue to accept and adjudicate new U-visa petitions, and will resume issuing U-visas on Oct. 1, 2011, the first day of fiscal year 2012.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Was I Denied a Visa?: Part II


No. The consular officer will reconsider a case if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States. Your friend, relative or student should contact the embassy or consulate to find out about reapplication procedures. Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably.


You may provide a letter of invitation or support. However, this cannot guarantee visa issuance to a foreign national friend, relative or student. Visa applicants must qualify for the visa according to their own circumstances, not on the basis of an American sponsor's assurance.


First encourage your relative, friend or student to review carefully their situation and evaluate realistically their ties. You can suggest that they write down on paper what qualifying ties they think they have which may not have been evaluated at the time of their interview with the consular officer. Also, if they have been refused, they should review what documents were submitted for the consul to consider. Applicants refused visas under section 214(b) may reapply for a visa. When they do, they will have to show further evidence of their ties or how their circumstances have changed since the time of the original application. It may help to answer the following questions before reapplying: (1) Did I explain my situation accurately? (2) Did the consular officer overlook something? (3) Is there any additional information I can present to establish my residence and strong ties abroad?

Your acquaintances should also bear in mind that they will be charged a nonrefundable application fee each time they apply for a visa, regardless of whether a visa is issued.


Immigration law delegates the responsibility for issuance or refusal of visas to consular officers overseas. They have the final say on all visa cases. By regulation the U.S. Department of State has authority to review consular decisions, but this authority is limited to the interpretation of law, as contrasted to determinations of facts. The question at issue in such denials, whether an applicant possesses the required residence abroad, is a factual one. Therefore, it falls exclusively within the authority of consular officers at our Foreign Service posts to resolve. An applicant can influence the post to change a prior visa denial only through the presentation of new convincing evidence of strong ties.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why Was I Denied a Visa?: Part I

The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on most visitors, such as registration with local authorities. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, aliens have a responsibility to prove they are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise.


Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states:

Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status...

To qualify for a visitor or student visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA respectively. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.

Our consular officers have a difficult job. They must decide in a very short time if someone is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of whatever evidence of ties an applicant presents.


Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.

As a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, imagine your own ties in the United States. Would a consular office of a foreign country consider that you have a residence in the United States that you do not intend to abandon? It is likely that the answer would be "yes" if you have a job, a family, if you own or rent a house or apartment, or if you have other commitments that would require you to return to the United States at the conclusion of a visit abroad. Each person's situation is different.

Our consular officers are aware of this diversity. During the visa interview they look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors. In cases of younger applicants who may not have had an opportunity to form many ties, consular officers may look at the applicants specific intentions, family situations, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Visa Photo Requirement FAQ

How many photos must I submit with my visa application?

• If you are applying for a nonimmigrant visa by filling out the DS-160 or DS-1648 online form, then you must submit a digital image using the online application

• If you are applying for a K nonimmigrant visa by filling out Form DS-156, you must provide one photo.

• If you are applying for an immigrant visa using Form DS-230 or DS-260, then you must provide two (2) identical photos at your immigrant visa interview

• If you are entering the Diversity Visa Program, then you must submit a digital image as part of your entry.

• If you are applying for an immigrant visa as a Diversity Visa Selectee, you must provide two (2) identical photos at your immigrant visa interview

What type of paper should I print my photos on?
Photos must be printed on photo quality paper. The photo quality paper can be either matte or glossy photo paper.

Do my photos have to be in color?
Yes, the photos must be in color. Black and white photos will not be accepted.

How recent must my photos be?
Your photos must have been taken within 6 months of submitting your application and reflect your current appearance.

What size must my photos be?
The photo must be exactly 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm).

What pose should I be in for my photo?
Your photo must be a clear shot of your entire face horizontally centered in the photo. Profile shots or photos not in focus will not be accepted. Your photo must be taken against a plain white or off-white background. Your expression should be neutral with both eyes open and directly facing the camera. Photos with unusual expressions and squinting will not be accepted.

How large should my head be in the photo?
Your head should be between 1 inch and 1-3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of your chin to the top of your hair. If you are submitting a digital image, then your head should be between 50% and 69% of the image's total height from the top of the head, including the hair, to the bottom of the chin.

Can eyeglasses be worn for the photo?
Eyeglasses worn on a daily basis can be worn for the photo. However, there should be no reflections from the eyeglasses that obscure the eyes. Glare can be avoided with a slight downward tilt of the glasses or by removing the glasses or by turning off the camera flash.

Can I wear sunglasses or tinted glasses in my photo?
No, you cannot wear sunglasses or tinted glasses for your photo. If you are applying for a U.S. passport, and you need to wear your prescription glasses that have dark on tinted lenses for medical reasons then they may be worn in your photo. A medical certificate may be required to verify prescription eyewear. If you are applying for a U.S. visa, you may not wear any glasses with dark or tinted lenses for your photo.

Can I wear a hat for the photo?
No. Hat and head coverings should be removed for the photo unless it is worn daily for a religious purpose. The full face must be visible in your photo. The head covering should not obscure the hairline and must not cast shadows on the face.

Can I wear a uniform in my photo?
Uniforms, clothing that looks like a uniform, and camouflage attire should not be worn in photos except in the case of religious attire that is worn daily. Otherwise, normal clothing that you wear on a daily basis should be worn.

Can a parent or guardian appear in the photo of a child?
No, the child must be the only person in the photo. Nothing used to support the child should be in the camera's frame, including the arms or hands of a parent holding the child.

Is it acceptable for my child's eyes to be closed in his/her photo?
No. Please have your child’s eyes open and looking straight ahead towards the camera.

What’s the best way to take a photo of a baby?
Lay your baby on his or her back on a plain white or off-white sheet. This will ensure your baby's head is supported and provide a plain background for the photo. Make certain there are no shadows on your baby’s face, especially if you take a picture from above with the baby lying down. You can also cover a car seat with a plain white or off-white sheet and take a picture of your child in the car seat. This will also ensure your baby’s head is supported.

May photos be taken with a digital camera?
Yes, you can use a digital camera. Most webcams and mobile phones cannot provide images of sufficient quality. Please refer to our Digital Image Requirements, if you decide to take a photo yourself.

Can I remove the red-eye from my photo?
It is acceptable to use the red-eye reduction option on your digital camera when you are taking the photo. However, you cannot use any photo editing tool to digitally remove the red-eye from your photo. In general, you are not allowed to digitally enhance or alter the photo to change your appearance in any way.

Are photos that are copied from recent driver licenses or other official documents acceptable?
Copied or digitally scanned photos of official documents will not be accepted. In addition, photos must not be digitally enhanced or altered to change your appearance in any way.

Are snapshots, magazine photos, mobile photos or photos from vending machine acceptable?
No. Snapshots, magazine photos, low-resolution vending machine or mobile phone photos, or full-length photographs are not acceptable.

Do I need to take a new photo if I recently dyed my hair a new color or grew a beard?
New photos are only required if your appearance has significantly changed from what is in your photo. Growing a beard or coloring your hair would not constitute a significant change. If you can still be identified from the photo in your current passport or visa application, you do not need to apply for a new passport or submit a new photo for your visa application. However, you may have to apply for a new passport or submit a new photo for your visa application if you have:

• Undergone significant facial surgery or trauma

• Added or removed numerous/large facial piercings or tattoos

• Undergone a significant amount of weight loss or gain

• Obtained a new gender identity

The acceptance of your photo is at the discretion of the U.S. passport agency where you apply for a passport or U.S. embassy or consulate where you apply for a visa.

Photo Upload Failure - There is an "X" instead of my photo on the DS-160 or DS-1648 application confirmation page.
That means the photo upload failed. Therefore, you should submit one printed photo meeting our requirements, along with the online DS-160 confirmation page, to the U.S. embassy or consulate at which you plan to apply for your nonimmigrant visa. Please contact the U.S. embassy or consulate where you are applying for specific instructions on how to do this. If the confirmation page includes a photo of you, then the photo upload was successful and no separate photo is required.