Immigration Medical Exam Valid for Two Years

USCIS is revising policy guidance for the validity period of Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.

Effective Nov. 1, 2018, applicants required to submit a Form I-693, immigration medical exam, that is signed by a civil surgeon would remain valid for a two-year period following the date the civil surgeon signed it. Also, the Form I-693 is required to be submitted within 60 days of the civil surgeon completion of the immigration medical exam. The Form I-693 As such, USCIS is retaining the current maximum two-year validity period of Form I-693, but calculating it in a different manner to both enhance operational efficiencies and reduce the number of requests to applicants for an updated Form I-693.

USCIS officers use Form I-693, Immigration Medical Exam, to determine whether an applicant for an immigration benefit in the United States is inadmissible under the health-related grounds of inadmissibility. By specifying that the Form I-693 must be signed no more than 60 days before the applicant files the underlying application for which Form I-693 is required, the validity of the form is more closely tied to the timing of the underlying application.

Additionally, requiring submission of a Form I-693, Immigration Medical Exam, that was signed no more than 60 days before the date the underlying application was filed may, in some cases, maximize the period of time Form I-693 will be valid while the underlying application is under USCIS review. Officers will still have the discretion, as they have always had, to request a new Form I-693 if they have reason to believe an applicant may be inadmissible on the health-related grounds. Delays in adjudicating the underlying application will also be reduced if fewer requests for updated Forms I-693 are necessary.

For more information on Form I-693, immigration medical exam, 

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No More Interpreters in Immigration Court

According to news reports, the policy of no more interpreters in immigration court was officially announced to judges on Thursday. The policy is set to begin nationwide on the week of July 15, 2019. However, it has not been publicly confirmed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency which oversees the immigration courts.

All immigrants in removal proceedings have a right to interpretation, but how that interpretation is carried out varies from place to place. In most locations, interpreters sit next to immigrants when they appear in front of a judge, translating from the immigrants’ language to English and vice versa. 

Under the new policy, interpreters in immigration court will not be available for initial hearings or master hearings. Instead, immigrants who don’t speak English will watch a video orientation in “multiple languages,” and will not be permitted to ask questions about the video. Once the immigrant appears in front of the judge, they will only be able to receive interpretation through the phone.

Telephonic interpretation is often of lower quality than in-person interpretation. Telephonic interpreters have to wait longer to determine whether someone has finished talking, slowing proceedings down. Since they can’t see people, they can’t consider facial expressions or body language in their interpretation. Low-quality telephone lines and volume problems may prevent them from understanding everything that was said.

Before the policy rolled out, immigration judges expressed significant reservations. In leaked emails revealed by BuzzFeed, judges attacked the policy as misguided, with one judge suggesting that playing a video means he will be sitting in court “twiddling my thumbs while the message plays.” Another judge said that the “entire premise of this plan is wrongheaded,” and indicated that it is “disruptive to my court and definitely will not be a time saver.”

About the Author: Aaron Reichlin-Melnick is a Policy Analyst at the American Immigration Council, where he works primarily on immigration court issues and the intersection of immigration law and policy.

Why is my Immigration Case Processing taking so long?

Why Hasn’t Your Case Been Decided Yet? 

Nationwide, you and millions of families, businesses, and people applying for humanitarian relief are waiting longer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process and approve your applications and petitions. If you filed Form I-130/I-485 based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, under the law, you should receive a work permit within 90 days of submitting the Form I-130/I-485. Currently, the wait time for a work permit is over 9 months.

Five years ago, an average case was taking about five months to process. By Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, that same applicant waited nearly 10 months. Those extra months of waiting halt business operations, keep families separated, and jeopardize people’s lives. 

Who Is Affected? 

You and other people applying for family-based benefits, employment-based benefits, naturalization, travel documents, and employment authorization are all experiencing delays. In FY2018, a staggering 94 percent of all immigration petitions and application form types took longer to process when compared to FY2014. 

Why Are Cases Taking Longer? 

Many factors can slow down your case. New policies at USCIS are restricting legal immigration. For example, one policy requires USCIS officers to conduct duplicate reviews of past decisions, adding unnecessary work to each case. 

Such inefficient policies help explain why processing times are increasing even as USCIS application rates are decreasing. Recent USCIS data shows that USCIS’s average processing time rose by 19 percent from FY2017 to FY2018, even while overall numbers of case receipts declined by 13 percent during that same period. 

Congress intended USCIS to function as a service-oriented agency on behalf of the American people. But the agency is failing its mission with unacceptably and increasingly slow case processing. 

For more information on immigration case processing, 

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Trump will make Asylum Seekers Pay Fee

President Donald Trump ordered major changes to U.S. asylum policies that would charge fees to those applying for humanitarian refuge in the United States.

Trump’s directive also calls for tightening asylum rules by banning anyone who crosses the border illegally from obtaining a work permit, and giving courts a 180-day limit to adjudicate asylum claims that now routinely take years to process because of a ballooning case backlog.

The order, announced in a presidential memorandum, comes as the president seeks to mobilize his supporters with a focus on illegal immigration ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign

The surge of migrants from Central America arriving at the U.S. southern border with Mexico has frustrated the Trump administration, which has been trying various methods to stem the flow, all of them thus far unsuccessful. The proposed changes to the asylum system aim to address one of the most confounding aspects of the surge: families seeking safe passage using long-standing U.S. asylum protections.

More than 103,000 migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last month, the highest level in more than a decade. About 60 percent were Central American parents traveling with children who, upon arrival on U.S. soil, have the legal right to request refuge from persecution.

Their numbers have overwhelmed the government’s ability to hold them in custody and quickly process their claims. Adults who arrive with children are typically assigned a court date and are released into the country, often reuniting with family members and taking jobs while their claims are pending.

Trump in recent weeks has increasingly mocked asylum seekers as fraudsters trying to game the system by making up stories about their hardships and fears of return to their native lands. Although homicide rates in Central America are among the highest in the world, many of those now arriving acknowledge they are fleeing poverty and hopelessness, which are not grounds for asylum protections.

The new White House measures, which call for new regulations in 90 days, follow one week after Trump issued a memorandum directing the secretaries of state and homeland security to find ways to combat visa overstays; it is another example of the administration trying to squeeze migration as it argues that the influx of undocumented people amounts to a national emergency.

The memorandum directs Attorney General William P. Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to propose regulations within 90 days that would change various aspects of the way asylum cases are handled.

It calls for the United States to charge a fee for asylum applications, and it seeks to ensure that “absent exceptional circumstances,” all asylum applications will be adjudicated within 180 days of filing.

The moves would prohibit those who have entered the United States illegally from receiving provisional work permits until they have been approved for relief or protection from removal.

U.S. immigration law grants the attorney general the authority to impose fees on asylum applicants but does not require such payments, and migrants seeking refuge to avoid deportation have not been charged.

David A. Martin, a former Homeland Security deputy general counsel who helped make changes to the asylum system in the 1990s, said that he had never heard of charging a fee to applicants and that it would be a “bad idea.”

Asylum seekers are fleeing for their lives — fearing torture or death in their home countries — and often cannot afford to survive without assistance in the United States, he said.

“Genuine asylum seekers by definition leave in the most urgent of circumstances,” Martin said. “As a group, they tend to be very short on resources. If you’re going to leave the possibility of refuge for people who legally qualify truly open, you wouldn’t impose a barrier of a fee.”

Charging a fee for asylum claims would put the United States in the clear minority. A study of 147 countries found that the “vast majority” did not charge a fee to apply for asylum, according to a December 2017 report by the Law Library of Congress’ Global Legal Research Center. Some nations charged migrants fees for temporary or permanent protection visas, though migrants could apply for waivers.

But almost a decade ago, Martin said, asylum cases started to pile up again and the government failed to invest enough in the immigration courts to keep up. Now the court backlog exceeds 850,000 cases, including asylum, with approximately 400 judges to handle them.

But they said the presidential memo could cause chaos in the already overwhelmed immigration courts, intensifying pressure on immigration judges who would be subject to case-completion quotas.

“It’s not that asylum seekers don’t want other cases to be quickly adjudicated,” she said. “There’s a fine line between quick adjudication and being railroaded through the system. … It’s not like asylum seekers want to sit here in limbo forever,” she said. “But they also don’t want to be punished for seeking asylum.”