January 25, 2021 -President Biden travel ban is imposed on many non-U.S. citizens attempting to enter the country. The move is an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 and contain new variants of the disease that have cropped up in several countries around the globe.
The Biden travel ban would prohibit travelers from the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders, called the Schengen Area, Brazil and South Africa.
Permanent U.S. residents and family members and some other non-U.S. citizens are permitted to return to the United States under the order. Under the Biden travel ban, non-U.S. citizens who have been in one of listed countries within the last 14 days are not eligible to travel to the United States.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director (CDC) implemented new rules take effect requiring all international air travelers age 2 and older to present a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of travel or proof of recovery from COVID-19 to enter the United States.
January 21, 2021 – President Biden laid out his vision for long overdue immigration reform. If passed into law, the Biden Immigration Bill would finally provide channels for millions of people who call this country home to validate their status. It is one step toward a more fair and just immigration system.
In addition, President Biden signed several immigration executive orders preserving DACA, ending the Muslim travel ban, ending border wall construction, halting deportation for 100 days and including immigrants in consensus. These executive orders take effect immediately.
The Biden Immigration bill has not been introduced into Congress, has not been debated or voted on but is the step in the right direction. Here are four key components you should know about Biden Immigration Bill:
1. An eight-year pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The bill would provide a five-year path to permanent residence for all undocumented immigrants present in the United States on January 1, 2021, followed by a three-year wait for naturalization. Certain individuals with long-standing ties to the United States and previous vetting by the government would be expedited, including over 1 million people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status—in addition to agricultural workers.
2. Eliminating the three- and ten-year bars and expanding legal immigration.
Many immigrants who could have a chance to legalize their status may not be able to do so. This is because of penalties that prohibit green card applicants from returning to the U.S. for three or 10 years if they depart after being in the country unauthorized. And many of these people who qualify for green cards are required to apply from abroad.
The new bill will reverse these bars which prevent or delay many eligible family members from becoming lawful permanent residents—even if they are already in the United States.
3. Expanding existing immigration channels.
The bill will also make significant changes to the legal immigration system. It will recapture millions of previously unused visas to reduce green card backlogs, eliminate per-country caps on visas, and provide rapid paths to a green card for children and spouses of permanent residents. It will also prevent children of H-1B visa holders from “aging out” and being forced to leave the United States.
4. Untangling immigration enforcement from comprehensive solutions.
Since 2003, Congress has authorized over $330 billion on immigration enforcement—and the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents nearly doubled. Yet we have not seen Congress pass any measures to support immigrants in over 30 years despite having consistently expanded the enforcement system.
Biden Immigration Bill is different than previous efforts to pass a comprehensive bill because it is not directly tied to immigration enforcement measures, which have been the singular focus of immigration policy for years.
January 20, 2021 – In his first official act, President Biden signed executive orders that rolled back partially Trump’s attack on immigration and immigrants. Biden’s immigration executive orders ended the Trump era Muslim travel ban, preserve DACA, end the southern border wall construction, halt deportations for 100 days and expand census to include undocumented immigrants.
1. Preserve DACA
President Biden signed an executive order to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the country as young children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012.
In his presidential proclamation, Biden is calling on Congress to adopt legislation that gives DACA recipients permanent legal status and a path to citizenship. There are currently about 700,000 people enrolled.
Biden Immigration Executive Order ends ban on Muslim travelers: Biden is ending what is variously known as the “travel ban” or the “Muslim ban,” one of the first acts of the Trump administration. Trump in January 2017 banned foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries from entry into the country. After a lengthy court fight, a watered-down version of the rule was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in 2018. So, there is no longer a travel ban on visitors from Syria, Iran Libya, Somalia or Yemen.
The new administration says it will improve the screening of visitors by strengthening information sharing with foreign governments and other measures.
3. End to Border wall construction
Biden Immigration Executive Order ends the national emergency that Trump declared on the border in February 2018 to divert billions of dollars from the Defense Department to wall construction. He also is halting construction to review contracts and how wall money might be redirected.
The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments Feb. 22 on the legality of Trump’s diverting Defense Department funds for counter-narcotics efforts and military construction projects to wall construction.
4. Halt Deportations for 100 Days
Biden is revoking one of Trump’s first executive orders, which declared that all of the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally are considered priorities for deportation. The Department of Homeland Security will conduct a review of enforcement priorities. Biden’s campaign site says deportations will focus on national security and public safety threats.
The Department of Homeland Security published a memo stating all deportation are halted for 100 days starting January 22, 2021 to ensure resources are directed to the highest priorities and review immigration and asylum processing.
5. Expand Census
Biden Immigration Executive Order reverses a Trump plan to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted in the 2020 Census. The once-a-decade census is used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.
Biden’s team says the new administration will ensure the Census Bureau has time to complete an accurate count for each state and that the apportionment is “fair and accurate.”
For more information on Biden Immigration Executive Order,
On day one of his presidency, President-elect Joe Biden is hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. Many Latinos voted for Biden on Immigration issues with the hope he would restore and rebuild the immigration system that was further broken by the Trump administration.
Under the proposed legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization, if they decide to pursue citizenship.
For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take swift action on immigration to reverse much of the damage done by the Trump presidency. Attorney Gail Seeram will provide updated #immigrationINFO on GailLaw.com and youtube.com/c/ImmigrationLawyerOrlandoGailSeeram.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has been ongoing for close to one year and many countries have implemented inbound and outbound travel restrictions. U.S. permanent residents and conditional permanent residents caught outside the United States due to COVID-19 are experiencing significant challenges in making return travel plans home to the United States. Certain period of absences from the United States can interrupt eligibility for U.S. citizenship as well as the ability to retain a permanent resident card (“green card”).
When a permanent resident or green card holder is seeking to return to the U.S. after a prolonged trip outside the U.S., they should not depend on the sympathy of a U.S. Custom and Border Protection officer to allow entry amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our office recommends all green card holder outside the U.S. seeking re-entry to the U.S. to gather and present the following (if available and applicable) to a U.S. Custom and Border Protection officer:
proof of filing U.S. income tax returns;
proof of job or employment in the U.S.;
proof of bank account in the U.S.;
proof of lease ot home ownership in the U.S.;
proof of spouse or children living in the U.S.;
proof that departure from U.S. was temporary and had a returning ticket;
proof that returning flight to the U.S. was canceled by airline;
proof could not get outbound flight to the U.S.;
proof that tested positive for COVID-19 and could not enter the U.S.; and
any proof to rebut the presumption that might have abandoned their residence.
In the end, a permanent resident or green card holder is applying for admission to the United States and the officer has the power to confiscate a green card at the airport/point of entry and referred the green card holder to a hearing before an immigration judge. If the green card holder outside the U.S. has been absent from the U.S. for greater than one year, then they have abandoned their residency under the law and may have to seek permission to the return to the U.S. through the U.S. Embassy abroad.
For more information on green card holder outside the U.S.,
UPDATED: 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an administrative stay of the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (noted below) meaning adjustment of status applications MUST be filed with the Form I-944. We will continue to monitor the situation.
On November 1, 2020, the U.S. District Court in Cook County, Illinois, et al v. Wolf et. al., (19-cv-6334), granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on their claim that the Department of Homeland Security’s Public Charge Rule, 84 Fed. Reg. 41,292 (Aug. 14, 2019) violates the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et. seq. The district court specifically ruled that (1) the public charge exceeds DHS’s authority under the public charge provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(A); (2) is not in accordance with law; and (3) is arbitrary and capricious.
Therefore, the court immediately set aside the DHS Public Charge Rule nationwide without staying its decision pending appeal, meaning that DHS may not apply the public charge rule as of today, which includes the submission of Form I-944 and the information contained therein.
In fiscal year 2019, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers arrested approximately 143,000 aliens and removed more than 267,000 – which is an increase in removals from the prior year.
In fiscal 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) together carried out 337,287 removals of unauthorized immigrants, a 17% increase from the previous year, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
But removals remained below the levels recorded during much of the Obama administration, including a three-year period between fiscal 2012 and 2014 when there were more than 400,000 per year. So, the United States has seen more removals or deportation under the Obama administration than under the Trump administration.
ICE, which handles majority of deportations, said in its most recent year-end report that its removal operations have encountered several challenges, including a growing backlog of cases in the immigration courts and “judicial and legislative constraints” that make it difficult to deport minors and family members.
Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) manages a detained and non-detained docket which includes aliens in all stages of the immigration process across the country. During fiscal year 2019, ICE’s detained and non-detained dockets both reached record highs in fiscal year 2019, overwhelmingly due to the historic levels of CBP apprehensions at the Southwest Border.
In fiscal year 2019:
73% of all initial book-ins to ICE custody resulted from CBP apprehensions, while overall initial book-ins to ICE custody increased 29% compared to FY 2018 and 58% compared to FY 2017.
ERO’s Average Daily Population in custody reached 50,165 in FY 2019, an increase of 19% compared to FY 2018. At times, ERO’s detention population exceeded 56,000.
ICE’s Average Length of Stay for its detained population was 34.3 days, which decreased from 39.4 days in FY 2018 and 43.7 days in FY 2017.
The number of aliens on ICE’s non-detained docket surpassed 3 million cases for the first time (3.2 million), up from 2.6 million cases at the end of FY 2018 and 2.4 million at the end of FY 2017.
It is common for our office to hear, ” I was denied and I don’t understand why I was denied.” In the U.S. immigration system, officers have a wide array of “discretion” when making decisions to approve or deny an immigration benefit.
Discretion is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “individual choice or judgment.” So, an immigration officer’s discretion means that officers individual choice or judgment. Sometimes the officer’s individual choice or judgment is based on facts presented, evidence presented, case law, statutory rules or just his/her gut feeling at the time.
Immigration officers have discretionary judgment when deciding whether to issue a B-1/B-2 visas or any non-immigrant visa after an U.S. Embassy interview. Unfortunately, officer’s discretionary decision on B-1/B-2 visas and other non-immigrant visas are not appealable.
The following immigration benefits also require the use of officer discretion in deciding whether to approve or deny an applicant: permanent residency (a green card), asylum, extension of stay, waiver of inadmissibility, temporary protected status, fiancé petition, and employment-based petitions.
There is no exhaustive list of factors that an immigration officers must consider. To perform a discretionary analysis, officers must weigh all positive factors present in a case against any negative factors in the totality of the record. There is no formula for determining the weight to be given a specific positive or negative factor. The analysis must be comprehensive, specific to the case, and based on all relevant facts known at the time of adjudication. The officer may not exercise discretion arbitrarily, inconsistently, or in reliance on biases or assumptions.
January 23, 2020, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a decision warning U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of demanding excessive proof of eligibility that goes beyond the standard of proof required by precedent. (Baez-Sanchez v. Barr, No. 19-1642 (7th Cir. 2020). It is well established that in visa petition proceedings, the petitioner bears the burden of proving eligibility by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Thus, even if the director has some doubt as to the truth, if the petitioner submits relevant, probative, and credible evidence that leads the director to believe that the claim is “probably true” or “more likely than not,” the applicant or petitioner has satisfied the standard of proof. SeeU.S. v. Cardozo-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).
So, where a denial can be appealed or challenged, contact legal counsel and exercise your right to contest the abuse of discretion by immigration officers.
For more information on Immigration Denial and Discretion,
On December 28, 2020, the U.S.Federal Court permanently enjoined, blocked or prevented the USCIS fee increase discussed below.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced an astronomical 80% fee increase on cost to become a U.S. citizen, obtain a green card and other immigration services. This filing fee increase could make the legal immigration system inaccessible to millions of people. The increased filing fees will become effective on October 2, 2020.
Adjustment of Status
When filing for adjustment of status in the U.S. or a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, the total filing fees are $1760. The fee increase will charge an extra $1,150 bringing the new cost of obtaining a green card to $2,910.
USCIS increased the total cost of a naturalization application or becoming a U.S. citizen by over 80%. Online naturalization applications will now run $1,170, up from the previous price of $640. USCIS says the new fee will cover the full cost to process the application as well as some overhead costs. Say good-bye to fee waivers as USCIS is also eliminating almost all fee waivers that it previously provided for low-income immigrants seeking citizenship.
Filing fees for employers petitioning for an H-1B worker will increase by 70%. The cost to petition for one worker will total over $3,000. The agency is also increasing the time it takes to process H-1B visas. Employers who pay for “premium processing” of their petitions will now have to wait almost twice as long to receive a decision.
Fee for Asylum Applications
USCIS will now charge a $50 fee to apply for asylum. This will be the first time the United States has charged a fee since WWII. This makes the United States only the fourth country in the world to charge a fee for asylum applications. Iran, Fiji, and Australia also charge a fee. USCIS also refused to provide any fee waivers for this expense.
USCIS’ History of Financial Mismanagement
USCIS has furlough two-thirds of its staff and has enormous budget shortfalls. The agency claims that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent office closures wiped out most of the fee-based agency’s revenue. But USCIS has long suffered from fiscal mismanagement. In reality, the fee hikes represent the culmination of years’ worth of financial recklessness and poor policy changes. These issues have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The published rule, however, says the agency did not take COVID-19 into consideration when determining the new fees.
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (online filing)
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (paper filing)
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document
I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant worker
I-129CW, I-129E&TN, and I-129MISC
I-129H2A – Named Beneficiaries
I-129H2B – Named Beneficiaries
I-129H2A – Unnamed Beneficiaries
I-129H2B – Unnamed Beneficiaries
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (online filing)
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (paper filing)
I-131 Application for Travel Document
I-131 Refugee Travel Document for an individual age 16 or older
I-131 Refugee Travel Document for a child under the age of 16
I-131A Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation)
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
I-191 Application for Relief Under Former Section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (CBP)
I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (USCIS)
I-193 Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa
I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. After Deportation or Removal
I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence
I-485 Application to Adjust Status
I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (online filing)
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (paper filing)
I-589 Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
I-600/600A Adoption Petitions and Applications
I-600A Supplement 3 Request for Action on Approved Form I-600A
I-601 Application for Waiver of Ground of Excludability
I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver
I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (Under Section 212(e) of the INA, as Amended)
I-687 Application for Status as a Temporary Resident
I-690 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility
I-694 Notice of Appeal of Decision
I-698 Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident (Under Section 245A of the INA)
I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (Non-DACA)
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (DACA only)
I-800/800A Adoption Petitions and Applications
I-800A Supplement 3 Request for Action on Approved Form I-800A
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition
I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions
I-881 Application for Suspension of Deportation
I-881 Application for Special Rule Cancellation of Removal
I-910 Application for Civil Surgeon Designation
I-924 Application For Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program
I-924A Annual Certification of Regional Center
I-929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigran
N-300 Application to File Declaration of Intention
N-336 Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (online filing)
N-336 Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (paper filing)
N-400 Application for Naturalization (online filing)
N-400 Application for Naturalization (paper filing)
N-400 Application for Naturalization (paper filing)
N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (online filing)
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (paper filing)
N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship (online filing)
N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship (paper filing)
N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate (online filing)
N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate (paper filing)
USCIS Immigrant Fee
Biometric Services (Non-DACA)
Biometric Services (DACA only)
G-1041 Genealogy Index Search Request (online filing)
G-1041 Genealogy Index Search Request (paper filing)
On July 9, the Washington Post reported that U.S.Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has shut down printing of documents evidencing legal status and work authorization for immigrants and nonimmigrants, including green cards and employment authorization documents (EAD). USCIS blames “financial concerns,” for their failure to renew the contract with the printing company despite never alerting Congress. According to a USCIS, approximately 50,000 green cards and 75,000 other employment authorization documents promised to immigrants and nonimmigrants haven’t been printed.
The administration claims that its reduction in printing capacity is due to a USCIS budget shortfall that it has blamed on a reduction in fee revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, USCIS is facing a $1.2 billion funding crisis. While COVID-19 has had a significant impact across our immigration system, USCIS has been on a path to financial ruin for years due largely to its own fiscal mismanagement.
The people impacted by these printing delays have already had their petitions and applications approved by USCIS. They have paid the often-exorbitant filing fees, completed the necessary paperwork, and gone through extensive background checks. Despite this, the agency says it “cannot speculate on future projections of processing times.”
This leaves hundreds of thousands of people without the documents needed to support themselves. These documents are important in normal times—but are even more critical during a worldwide pandemic.
USICS plans to furlough over 13,000 employees as of August 3 at a time when its own data confirms that the agency has a backlog of over 5.7 million pending cases. While the agency has asked Congress for emergency funding, the White House has yet to submit a formal request. It is unclear if Congress will be able to step in before the long August recess. Congress should step in to provide enough funding to allow the agency to continue its operations. But Congress also must also exercise its constitutional oversight authority to create and boost meaningful accountability, transparency, and productivity within USCIS.
For more information on green cards and employment authorization documents,