Visa Requirements for Bahamas Citizens Coming to U.S.

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau is open for emergency visa appointments and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Ports of Entry are prepared, should Bahamians request to temporarily relocate to the United States. The U.S. Embassy in Nassau is located at 42 Queen St, Nassau, The Bahamas and the phone number is 242-322-1181.

All travelers applying for admission to the United States via air or sea must meet the following document requirements for admission to ensure a lawful and orderly arrival to the United States..

1. Bahamians must be in possession of a valid, unexpired passport or a Bahamian Travel Document listing nationality as Bahamian. All other travelers arriving from the Bahamas (U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and individuals of other nationalities) must possess a valid, unexpired government–issued passport.

2. Bahamians arriving to the United States by vessel must be in possession of a valid passport AND valid travel visa.

3. Detailed information on all visa application requirements and processes, as well as a step-by-step guide to visa applications for Bahamians, can be found athttps://bs.usembassy.gov/visas/nonimmigrant-visas.

4. Bahamian citizens may apply for admission to the United States without a visa at one of the CBP Preclearance facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International Airports, IF they meet the following requirements:
a) Be traveling on a flight that CBP completes immigration and customs inspections in Nassau or Freeport. (*Note – Bahamians traveling on to another country and expecting to transit the United States on their return will need a visa);
b) Be in possession of a valid, unexpired passport or a Bahamian Travel Document listing nationality as Bahamian;
c) Have no criminal record nor any legal ineligibility or inadmissibility as defined by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (click here);
d) Be traveling for business or pleasure (tourism, visiting relatives, shopping, etc.) purposes for a short duration;
e) All persons 14 years of age and older must be in possession of a police certificate issued within the past six months;
f) Bahamians traveling through the United States to a third country must possess a valid visa for return travel through the U.S.

Other details
CBP Port Directors may use discretion and will consider all exigent circumstances on a case by case basis, in accordance with existing laws and regulations.   

The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army continue to also work with local Florida governments to address any needs of evacuees who seek temporary relocation in the United States.

For more information on Bahamas Residents after Hurricane Dorian, 
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Public Charge Rule – Q&A to Clear Confusion

The proposed rule to change the meaning of “public charge” has no impact on the rights of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The proposed rule is not in effect, faces numerous legal challenges and there is still time to oppose and resist the change.

DHS has revised the definition of public charge in determining whether an alien can be denied a green card or permanent residency. If the proposed rule goes into effect, the U.S. government will at a minimum consider the alien’s age; health; family status; assets, resources, and financial status; and education and skills; and may consider any required affidavit of support.

The final rule defines the term public charge to mean an alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in total, within any 36-month period. The rule further defines the term public benefit to include cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and subsidized public housing.

The rule does not include, for example, consideration of emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch programs, foster care and adoption, Head Start, or student or home mortgage loans.

Q1. Does President Trump’s new public charge apply to citizenship applicants?

A1. No. The rule impacts only applicants for permanent residence (green cards). Applicants for U.S. citizenship need not be concerned. You can naturalize even if you are receiving public benefits. That’s true assuming you were eligible to get the benefits when you applied and did not lie to get them.

Q2. I got a conditional, two-year green card through marriage. I already filed U.S. Citizenship and Citizenship Services form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Am I subject to the new public charge rule?

A2. No. The rule does not apply to I-751 petitioners. That’s because you are not applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence. The law requires you to file form I-751 because you got your permanent residence within two years of your marriage. However, since you already have permanent residence, though it is conditional the rule doesn’t apply. You are just applying to remove a condition from your residence.

Q3. Does the new rule apply to green card holders applying to renew or replace their cards?

A3. No. Applying for a new card doesn’t count as applying for permanent residence.

Public Charge Rule Expanded to Deny Green Card Faces Legal Challenges in U.S. Courts

On Wednesday, August 14, 2019, DHS published a final rule redefining the public charge ground for denying green card issuance. Lawsuits have already been filed in multiple jurisdictions, raising questions whether the rule will go into effect October 15, 2019.

The new public charge rule removes the consideration of whether an individual is primarily dependent on public benefits, redefining public charge as a noncitizen who receives a specified public benefit for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months).

The final rule at 8 CFR 212.21(b) defines a public benefit as:

  1. Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, including:
    1. Social Security Income (SSI), 42 U.S.C. 1381 et seq.;
    1. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), 42 U.S.C. 601 et seq.;
    1. Federal, state, or local cash benefits programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the State context, but which also exist under other names);
  2. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), 7 U.S.C. 2011 to 2036c;
  3. Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program as administered by HUD under 42 U.S.C. 1437f;
  4. Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation) under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437f);
  5. Medicaid, with certain exceptions, such as benefits received by individuals under the age of 21 and pregnant women (or for a period of 60 days after the last day of pregnancy); and
  6. Public housing under section 9 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937

A sufficient affidavit of support will NOT be outcome-determinative as to whether an individual is likely at any time in the future to become a public charge. Rather, to make that assessment, USCIS adjudicators will apply a complex totality of circumstances test that weighs the alien’s age; health; family status; education and skills; and assets, resources, and financial status, taking into account a broad range of positive and negative factors.

USCIS notes in the final rule that it interprets “likely at any time” to mean that it is “more likely than not” that the individual at any time in the future will receive one or more public benefits as defined by the rule.  One heavily weighted negative factor is an applicant’s receipt of specified public benefits for 12 or more months in the aggregate within any 36-month period, beginning no earlier than the 36 months prior to the application for adjustment of status or adjustment.

The public charge rule, which is vastly more restrictive than current policy, could result in significantly higher USCIS denial rates of adjustment of status applications subject to public charge determinations. Moreover, the multi-factor test will leave substantial discretion to adjudicators and could produce inconsistent and unpredictable decision-making. Additionally, the rule will prove burdensome for the public and DHS alike. It requires that adjustment applicants subject to public charge determinations prepare and submit lengthy Forms I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, with their adjustment filings. USCIS’s review of hundreds of thousands of these new forms each year will further slow the agency’s already severely delayed case processing.

For more information on public charge, 

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Asylum claim at a previous country

The Trump Administration announced rules that migrants coming from Central America who have passed through other countries en route to the U.S. border will no longer be able to make a claim for asylum beginning July 16. Immigration attorneys and experts say the rule is a violation of domestic and international asylum laws, and federal judge has sided with the administration in one of two cases brought against the new rule.

On July 15, the Trump Administration announced the change to asylum rules making it so that migrants had to have made an asylum claim at a previous country while en route to the U.S. before arriving to the southern border — anyone who hasn’t becomes ineligible for asylum in the U.S.

On July 24, a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the new Trump administration policy that sought to bar Central Americans and other migrants from requesting asylum at the southern border, saying the federal government’s frustrations with rising border crossings did not justify “shortcutting the law.”

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar, who halted another version of the Trump administration’s asylum ban last year, said a “mountain” of evidence showed that migrants could not safely seek asylum in Mexico. He said the rule likely violated federal law in part by categorically denying asylum to almost anyone crossing the border. U.S. law generally allows anyone who sets foot on U.S. soil to apply for asylum.

For more information on asylum claim at a previous country, 

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Expedited Removal – Not see Judge

July 22, 2019 – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on that it would vastly expand “expedited removal,” a provision of the law that permits the agency to rapidly deport certain individuals without an opportunity to see an immigration judge. Under the expansion, DHS can rapidly deport undocumented immigrants in the United States who crossed the border without a visa and have not resided in the United States for at least two years. This amounts to a nationwide “send them back” immigration policy.

Individuals who are subject to expedited removal don’t get a chance to go in front of an immigration judge to argue against their deportation. Instead, the decision about whether some can and should be deported under expedited removal is made by a single immigration enforcement officer, with the only review coming from the officer’s supervisor. Courts are generally prohibited from reviewing a deportation order done through expedited removal (except in very narrow circumstances) and only asylum seekers have a path to avoid expedited removal.

Previously, expedited removal applied only to those encountered within 100 miles of the border and within 14 days of entering the United States. Customs and Border Protection officers were the ones making decisions about whether people qualified for expedited removal. However, under the expansion, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also would be able to carry out expedited removal determinations inside the United States.

As a result of this new expansion, ICE officers also would act as both judge and jury. A single officer and supervisor could determine whether individuals with significant ties to the United States should go through expedited removal and be deported without judicial review.

The new policy goes into effect on Tuesday, July 23. An estimated 300,000 people in the United States could now be at risk of arrest and deportation without the opportunity to see a judge. That doesn’t even consider people who may be erroneously placed in expedited removal proceedings. Individuals will have the burden of proving to ICE they have resided in the United States for two or more years.

Because expedited removal generally does not involve the safeguard of judicial review, legal immigrants and even U.S. citizens will be at much greater risk of wrongful deportation. Because ICE is casting its net wider, it’s more likely than ever that citizens will face arrests. And with expanded expedited removal taking away judicial review in some cases, the odds that a mistaken arrest could lead to a wrongful deportation will be even higher.

Congress created expedited removal in 1996 as a way to speed up the deportation process. Although Congress permitted the government to apply expedited removal to anyone in the United States within two years of entry, it did not require that. Expedited removal was first applied to individuals who came through ports of entry, then in 2002 it was expanded to people intercepted at sea or who arrive by boat. In 2004, the Bush administration expanded expedited removal to its current extent.

Under the current system, those who arrive at the border are generally subject to expedited removal. This permits the government to deport them without due process. But if a person expresses a fear of returning to their home country or asks for asylum, they are then referred to an asylum officer. If the asylum officer determines that a person has a credible fear of persecution, they are taken out of the expedited removal process and allowed to apply for asylum in immigration court. If the officer determines otherwise, the person is subject to rapid deportation.

Now, individuals throughout the United States could be put through this process. No one should get ripped from their home without the chance to go in front of a judge and argue why they should be allowed to stay.

The American Immigration Council and the ACLU already announced that they will sue to stop the expansion.

For more information on expedited removal, 

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NEW Citizenship Test Coming

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is revising the current naturalization test with improvements to ensure it continues to serve as an accurate measure of a naturalization applicant’s civics knowledge and that it reflects best practices in adult education assessments. The goal is to create a meaningful, uniform, and efficient test that will assess applicants’ knowledge and understanding of U.S. history, government and values. 

This spring, the former USCIS director signed the Revision of the Naturalization Civics Test Memorandum announcing the new citizenship test coming in 2021.

“Granting U. S. citizenship is the highest honor our nation bestows,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “Updating, maintaining, and improving a test that is current and relevant is our responsibility as an agency in order to help potential new citizens fully understand the meaning of U.S. citizenship and the values that unite all Americans.” 

In December 2018, USCIS formed a naturalization test revision working group with members from across the agency. The working group has been reviewing and updating the naturalization test questions. The working group will also assess potential changes to the speaking portion of the test. USCIS is soliciting the input of experts in the field of adult education to ensure that this process is fair and transparent. After careful analysis of the pilot, and thorough officer training, USCIS will set an implementation date in December 2020 or early 2021.  

In Fiscal Year 2018, USCIS naturalized nearly 757,000 people, a five-year high in new oaths of citizenship. The naturalization test revision is a key part of preparing legal immigrants to fully exercise their rights and meet their responsibilities. 

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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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