End to Self-Scheduled InfoPass Appointment – Scheduling Only with Pre-Authorization

The new Information Services Modernization Program is replacing the current self-scheduled InfoPass appointment system that allows anyone to make an appointment on-line or at their local USCIS office to speak to an immigration officer regarding their pending case, get immigration resources or get answers to immigration questions. The new program is suppose to improves the timeliness of information and emergency services. Additionally, the new program should improve information efficiency for all classes of immigration applicants.

Effective March 4, 2019, the new Information Services Modernization Program will be rolled out to the Tampa and Orlando Field Offices. This means that in order to get information in-person, you first have to call 1-800-375-5283 and after speaking to an agent then you may or may not meet the guidelines to get “pre-authorized” for an appointment at your local immigration office to speak to an officer in-person.

Based on internal surveys, USCIS found that many users of the InfoPass self-scheduled appointment program could have saved time by calling the USCIS Contact Center or checking the USCIS website. In the long term, the new modernization efforts will help applicants save time by limiting the hassle of scheduling an in-person appointment. USCIS additionally hopes that by limiting in-person appointments, the service can better allocate resources and staff towards processing and adjudicating applications. For those who require in-person assistance, USCIS states that applicants will still maintain the right to schedule an appointment, and can receive assistance to do so through the new modernized information service program.

The new Information Services Modernization Program is basically replacing in-person customer support with over the phone assistance that involves long hold times on the phone and generic scripted answers to applicants. Instead of customer support modernization, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is going back to an antiquated system of navigating telephone prompts before speaking to a live person who has no background on immigration law and reads from a computer screen telling you your “case is pending” or “go to our website for more information”.

For more information on InfoPass or Information Services Modernization Program,

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2018 Anti-Immigration Politics and Rhetoric under Trump – Family Separation, Asylum Ban, Wall

Courtesy of , Axios.com

In 2018, we saw a wave of anti-immigration policies, rules and proclamations intended to obstruct U.S. immigration.

Driving the news: The House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on immigration legislation, leaving the Trump administration to use everything within its executive power to address the issue. Many of those efforts were blocked (at least temporarily) by the courts.

AT THE BORDER:

The Justice Department and Homeland Security announced a “zero-tolerance” policy in May that resulted in the traumatic separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border. In the face of global backlash, Trump signed an executive order calling for an end to family separation. But it took government agencies weeks of chaos to reunite migrant families.

Through the executive branch:

IN THE COURTS:

The Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel banbut blocked his asylum ban for migrants who cross the border illegally. The court did not take up the DACA case —protecting thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children until at least next year.

Federal judges blocked (at least temporarily) administration efforts to end:

ON THE GLOBAL STAGE:

The U.S. was one of a small number of nations to vote against the UN Compact for Migration and Compact for Refugees.

  • A wave of anti-immigration politics and rhetoric continued to sweep Europe, mirroring some of Trump’s 2016 platform.
  • Most recently, the U.S. cut a deal with a Mexico to keep migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. on Mexican soil until their applications are processed. The U.S. pledged billions of dollars in aid to Central American nations and southern Mexico.

#GovernmentShutdown #TrumpShutdown effect on Immigration Services

In light of President Trump’s refusal to sign a bill to prevent a #GovernmentShutdown that does not include border wall funding, a partial government shutdown is currently in effect. Approximately 25 percent of government functions are shut down. Immigration-related agencies that are impacted by the shutdown include the Department of Homeland Security and its immigration-related components (CBP, ICE, USCIS, CIS Ombudsman), the Department of Justice (EOIR), and the Department of State. See below for information as to how these agencies operated during prior shutdown periods. We will update this page with additional information from the agencies as it becomes available.

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services: USCIS announced that a lapse in annual appropriated funding does not affect USCIS’s fee-funded activities. USCIS offices will remain open, and all individuals should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled. USCIS will continue to accept petitions and applications.  Please attend your biometrics appointments, citizenship interviews and visa appointments.

EOIR Immigration Court: Detained cases and court hearings will proceed as scheduled.  Non-detained docket cases will be reset for a later date after funding resumes. Immigration courts will issue an updated notice of hearing to respondents or, if applicable, respondents’ representatives of record for each reset hearing.

U.S. Custom & Border Protection: The www.cbp.gov website will not be updated during the government shutdown.  Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted.  Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential.” Ports of entry will be open; however, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted.

Immigration and Custom Enforcement: ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.

Department of Labor (DOL) will not be impacted by a government shutdown. (more…)

Immigration Case About Indefinite Detention Hits the U.S. Supreme Court – Nielsen v. Preap

Next Wednesday,  the U.S. Supreme Court (with Trump new appointee, Justice Kavanaugh) will decide Nielsen v. Preap and determine whether thousands of longtime U.S. residents face indefinite detention without a hearing.  Nielsen is a class action brought by a group of immigrants in the Ninth Circuit who have been or are being detained under 8 U.S.C. § 1226, a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. That section authorizes federal authorities to detain any alien who may be subject to “removal”—the technical term for deportation. That term covers a lot of immigrants—border-crossers arrested after entering the U.S. illegally, tourists or students who have overstayed their visas, and lawful permanent residents who have committed certain crimes.

The issue to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court is whether a criminal alien becomes exempt from mandatory detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) if, after the alien is released from criminal custody, the Department of Homeland Security does not take him into immigration custody immediately.

The statute creates two classes of “removable” aliens—first, ordinary detainees who have NOT committed crimes but are facing removal on other grounds and second, “criminal aliens” facing removal because of criminal convictions.

For the “criminal alien” group, the statute says that “when the alien is released” from imprisonment, the government “shall take [him or her] into custody.” These immigrants get no bond hearing; they must be held in detention until their cases are resolved.

This is the issue in Nielsen v. Preap: It is not whether authorities can detain these aliens—they can. But does the statute really deny bond hearings to “criminal aliens” who have been released and has returned to a community, established a family and put down roots, and lived a blameless life since that brush with the law? In other words, can criminal aliens be detained indefinitely without bond ONLY when release from prison straight into ICE custody OR can criminal aliens be detained indefinitely without bond when release from prison straight into ICE custody AND even is released into the community and later apprehended by ICE.

(more…)

Immigration Medical Exam – New Changes

Effective on Nov. 1, 2018, applicants must submit Form I-693 that is signed by a civil surgeon no more than 60 days before filing the underlying application for an immigration benefit. The Form I-693 would remain valid for a two-year period following the date the civil surgeon signed it.

Also, starting October 1,  2018,  the tuberculin skin test (TST) will no longer be accepted for US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) I-693 Form Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.

All applicants ages 2 and up will now be required to obtain a TB blood test (interferon-gamma release assay or IGRA) as the initial TB screening method.

This new TB blood test will bear the following consequences:

  • Children will be subjected to venipuncture (blood work)
  • There will be an increase in the price of the medical exam
  • The sealed envelope will be ready in 4-5 business days instead of 2 days as previously promised.

Questions regarding Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record:

Q1. Can a civil surgeon accept identification issued in an applicant’s maiden name if she also provides a marriage certificate? How does the civil surgeon notate this if the Form I-693 is completed in her married name but the identity document is in her maiden name?

A1. Yes. A civil surgeon can accept government-issued identification (more…)

Immigration Denial without issuing Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)

Blue folder with the label Immigration Law

Effective September 11, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will deny an immigration application or petition without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) if initial evidence is not submitted or if the evidence in the record does not establish eligibility.  So, it will be important to file your immigration petitions will ALL required evidence as lack of evidence and civil documents will lead to a denial.  In some cases, denials can lead to deportation in immigration court.  USCIS will not send applicants a letter asking for the missing evidence or document (known as Request for Evidence (RFE)).  Unfortunately, an innocent mistake or misunderstanding of what documents should have been submitted with the immigration petition will lead to a denial of your application.  Note, USCIS will still cash your check and accept the filing fee but will deny your application.  It is very important to understand that immigration is more than filing out a form – immigration benefits are based on a complex set of Federal immigration laws.  Consult with an Attorney Gail Seeram, an experienced immigration lawyer named Best Lawyer 2016-2019 before submitting an application that may be denied!

Examples of cases where the issuance of an immigration denial may be appropriate without prior issuance of a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID):

  1. Waiver applications submitted with little to no supporting evidence of extreme hardship or a qualifying relative;
  2. Submitting an affidavit of support that doe not meet the poverty guideline or the sponsor not have required income;
  3. Family-based visa petitions (I-130) filed for family members under categories that are not authorized by statute; and
  4. At the discretion of the officer.

This means that visa applicants can suddenly find themselves on a path toward deportation. This also seems to be another attack on legal immigration and the administration seems to be seeking to deport legal applicants for minor technicalities.

Whenever possible it is now even more important to file applications/petitions as early as possible to give applicants the best chance of having their case adjudicated before their status or visa expires. It is essential to make sure the files are complete and accurate.

(more…)

TSA New Secret Watch List “95 List”

TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has created a new secret watch list also known as a “95 list” to monitor people who may be targeted as potential threats at airport checkpoints.  “While people on the list are not necessarily subject to additional scrutiny, it seems likely that agents would single them out for additional attention, and there is no way to get off the list,” said Faiza Patel, a director of the Liberty and National Security Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

Federal security directors, top TSA. security officials at airports and top Air Marshals supervisors can nominate individuals to be put on the watch list. Only the TSA administrator, his deputy and the top two officials at the agency’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis may add or remove people from the database

Individuals can be placed on the “95 list” for the following:

  • they have swatted away security screeners’ hands;
  • appeared unruly;
  • their actions pose physical danger to security screeners;
  • people who loiter suspiciously near security checkpoints;
  • people who present “challenges to the safe and effective completion of screening”

So far, the names of fewer than 50 people (more…)

Recall of 8,500 Green Cards for Incorrect “Resident Since” date

On May 14, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) began recalling approximately 8,500 Permanent Resident Cards (also known as Green Cards), that contain an incorrect “Resident Since” date. We issued these cards between February and April 2018 to spouses of U.S. citizens after  we approved their Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence. The correct “Resident Since” date on the new Green Card should be the same as the “Residence Since” date on the expired two-year Green Card.

Our office has already received letters from USCIS asking to mail back to return the incorrect green cards and a replacement card with the correct “Resident Since” date will be issued in three (3) months.

U.S. Supreme Court Reject Trump request to block DACA – DACA Renewals will Continue

(CNN) February 26,2018 – The Supreme Court announced it will stay out of the dispute concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for now, meaning the Trump administration may not be able to end the program March 5 as planned.

In an order, the justices declined a request from the Trump administration to review a lower court opinion that temporarily blocked the government’s effort to end the program.

The court’s order means the case will continue in the lower courts and DACA renewals can continue. (more…)