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Question: Good morning, I hope everything is going well in this difficult time.Can I ask you something very quickly? My mother in law is here with a B2 Visa and the admit expires July 17, but the borders in Colombia will be closed until June 30th or more (we don't know).My question is, if she fills out the form "I-539, Application To Extend Status" how long in advance should we do it? could be in July 1st? (because is almost 450 US so we don't want to waste the money in case Colombia opens the borders).Thanks for your help.
As a result of a massive decrease in revenues, caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s immigration ban, the USCIS is running out of funds to operate and may not make it through the summer. USCIS estimates that immigration application revenues will drop by some 61% through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2020). To mitigate the budget shortfall, the USCIS recently requested a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress due to the lost revenues and is further proposing a 10% surcharge on application fees. That would likely mean that a Residency application which now costs $1,760, may soon cost $1,936. Naturalization fees which are now $725 could near $800. Amid reports that the agency intends to implement “drastic actions” to cut expenses, including workforce furloughs, many USCIS employees fear job loss in the coming months.
USCIS Running Out Of Funds, Plans to Charge 10%
Extra Fee For All New Immigration Applications
Immigration Questions: (954) 382-5378
POSTING DATE: May 25, 2020
Tips On Eligibility For Naturalization
Now, more than ever, it’s important to know basic requirements for filing any immigration application, particularly for Naturalization to become a U.S. Citizen.
Generally, in order to qualify, a U.S. resident must be at least eighteen years of age, have physically resided in the U.S. for the requisite period of time, have “good moral character”, be able to read and write and be proficient enough in English in order to answer the USCIS officer’s questions about the Naturalization application, U.S. history and civics (with few exceptions).
Answer: Hi dear, so nice to hear from you!!! I hope you are staying safe and healthy in this new world we live in. The USCIS has recommended that foreign nationals who are unable to leave the U.S. before their I-94 expires due to airport closures and cancelled flights file an extension request. But there are many potential risks.If she files the I-539 and stays in the U.S. past her expiration date on July 17th AND the extension request is later denied by the USCIS, she will automatically lose her B2 visa. Also, extension requests can take about 4-6 months to process, so it is unlikely that she will receive a decision before that time. Finally, if she files the extension request, then later leaves after her I-94 expires but before the USCIS makes a decision on her case, her B2 visa gets automatically cancelled. There is really no safe benefit in filing the extension request now, since it’s very likely that the airports around the world will reopen soon, maybe June or July. However if they do not within 10 days of her I-94 expiration, she really has no choice. But she should be prepared to stay in the U.S. until the USCIS issues a decision. I hope that is helpful. Big Hugs to you and your family.
Follow-up questions & answers:
1- For how long can she apply for the visa extension? 6 months? Yes, six months
2- If my mother applies for the extension, then while the decision is pending, my mother travels to Colombia without the USCIS decision, but then the decision arrives with the approved extension, and she left the country already, is the visa canceled? or in that case it is not canceled? No, her visa is automatically cancelled as soon as she steps her foot outside USA after I-94 expires, if the 539 has not been approved by that time. Once she leaves, the I-539 is automatically cancelled. Even if it is later approved her visa will still be cancelled.
3- What happens between the time the stay expires (June 10) and the date the decision arrives if it is approved? is considered out of status and may have trouble when she re-enters the country? She can legally stay while waiting for a decision, if approved great, if denied, she has to leave and her visa is cancelled. I know it sounds really crazy, but that is how it is!
Tips On Successfully Answering Requests for Evidence (RFE)
A Request for Evidence (RFE) is a letter that the USCIS officer sends you to request additional information or documentation on your application. RFE requests are generally most frequently issued for missing information or documentation to establish your eligibility.
New USCIS Interactive Voice Response Telephone System
May Make It Even Harder To Connect To Live Person For Assistance
The USCIS has announced that it is implementing a new interactive voice response (IVR) telephone system for English and Spanish calls to the USCIS Contact Center. The agency claims that the new system will “personalizes the caller’s experience”, allowing the caller to speak to the system rather than selecting keypad options and receive links for forms and information by email or text.
The new system is still in the testing phase and will be fully introduced in phases over the coming months. And while the USCIS claims that the interactive voice response system will increase efficiency by giving callers a greater range of self-service options, in reality, it will likely just make it harder for immigrants to navigate through the system in order to reach a live operator who can at least provide some assistance. As with the Trump administration’s total phase out of the Infopass services, which allowed customers to make an appointment at their local USCIS to speak directly with an officer for assistance, a second Trump term may result in live assistance through the USCIS 800# being phased out as well.
The fate of the agency could soon become even more dire, if Trump follows through on plans to suspend the issuance of new H-1B work visas and H-2B visas for seasonal non-agricultural workers, and terminate the OPT program which allows foreign students to work in the U.S. following graduation, and result in revenues plunging even further. No date has been announced for the increase in fees through the surcharge, so the best advice is to avoid delay and file your immigration applications now. Stay tuned…
With So Much Uncertainty About Changes To Immigration Policies -Ten Tips To Ensure That You File Your Immigration Application Properly The First Time!
With so many new immigration changes being implemented as a result of the pandemic, and so much uncertainty about possible future immigration restrictions and even the ability of the USCIS to continue to provide full scale services, it’s more important than ever for you to take extra care when filing any new immigration application. Once you are certain that you are eligible for the immigration benefit you are applying for, here are a few tips to make sure that your case is filed properly and you have retained the information that you will need during case processing:
1) Make Sure You Have The Correct Filing Fees: The 10% surcharge to all immigration applications may be implemented very quickly, therefore before filing your case, make sure the USCIS filing fee is correct. Go online to www.USCIS.gov and click on the Forms link to see the current filing fee for each form. Note that some applications require an additional $85 biometrics fees in addition to the regular filing fees and you can include that fee on the same check as the regular filing fee. For instance, a residency case includes form I-130 ($535), form I-485 ($1,140) plus the $85 Biometrics fee, for a total of $1,760. The work permit and travel permit requests forms I-765 and I-131 are currently included in the I-485 fee, however the agency has proposed that additional separate fees be charged for these the work and travel permit in the future.
2) Pay Your USCIS Fees Correctly: Make sure you pay the fees using the correct payment method. Fees can be paid by a personal check, Cashier’s Check, Money Order, Credit Card, Debit Card or even Gift Card. When paying by card, make sure and complete a separate form G-1450 for each immigration form payment. For instance, if your residency application is based upon marriage, you’ll need to fill out a form G-1450 for the form I-485 for $1,225 (which includes the $85 Biometrics fee) and a separate one for form I-130 $535.
3) Double Check Form Edition Date: Before filing your Immigration application, makes sure and check the USCIS forms website to ensure that you are using the most updated form, since filing an outdated form will result in case rejection. To download the current edition of each form, go to www.USCIS.gov and click on the Forms link, then choose your form 4) Include the new Public Charge Form When required: as of February 24th, all residency cases (form I-485) must include a fully completed new Public Charge Form (I-944). Cases filed after that date without the form will be rejected.
5) Make a copy of your entire application before filing: It’s vital that you make and keep copies of every page of your signed application, all supporting documents and check/money order for your records. You will need this in case you receive a Request For Evidence from the USCIS once your case is filed, so that you can review the documents which were submitted, and may also need them for reference in any future immigration case.
6) Send your application to the correct address: Make sure and check the USCIS website just before sending your application to see the most current filing address for your forms. Go to www.USCIS.gov and click on the Forms link, then choose your form and scroll down to “where to file”.
7) Use the correct mail service: Never, ever, ever send an application using Certified Mail, always send Fed-ex or USPS Priority Mail or Express Mail with tracking. Be sure to check on line and printout delivery confirmation a few days after you send your application, to confirm it was received and save the confirmation for your records.
8) Sign-up for E-Notification: Get a text message or email e-notification from the USCIS confirming that the application was received and accepted for processing by the USCIS along with the case receipt number(s), by signing up for E-Notification. Its easy to do, just include form G-1145 with each of your applications (put it on top of your forms). 9) Sign-up for E-Mail Case Updates: Once you receive your USCIS Receipt (called I-797 Notice of Action) – usually in about 10 days, go online to www.USCIS.gov and click on “Check your case status” then sign-up for email updates on your case using your case number. 10) Check USCIS Processing Times: Go to www.USCIS.gov and click on “Check your case status” then scroll down and click on “USCIS Processing Times Information” and click on the Service Center or office where your case is processing to see the current processing times for your application type.
Question: I got my American Citizenship last year and filed for my mom in Aug 2019. She just came to visit me in Jan 2020 for the birth of my new baby and is still here helping me care for my son during these past months. I have a few questions. First, her legal stay ends in july, what happens if she stays here with me and doesn’t go back? Second, the case if filed for her got approved and the national visa center emailed me to start her case at the embassy, can I change her case so she can do it here instead? Will that get her in trouble if she stays? Thanks.
Answer: Parents of U.S Citizens are in a special category called “Immediate Relatives” which allows them to immigrate to the U.S. immediately, meaning they are not required to wait for a visa to be available like many other family categories. There are two options for Parents to obtain U.S. Residency, depending upon whether they have a U.S. Visa. The first option is called U.S. Adjustment of Status: This is for Parents who come to the U.S. on a Tourist or other legal visa and decide to immigrate, we can apply to adjust status to Residency inside the U.S., and receive a Green Card within about 6-8 months. The second option, called Consular Processing is for Parents who either don’t have a U.S. visa or who prefer to stay in their home country while processing for an Immigrant Visa. The current processing time is about 12+ months.
In your case, since your mom is already here, we can adjust her status to a Green Card while she is in the U.S. and there is no need for her to leave the country and she will not have any immigration problems by overstaying. Make sure that you DO NOT pay the National Visa Fees, since if you pay them, you cannot get a refund and they can not be converted to pay your mom’s residency filing fees in the U.S..
Question: I got residency in 2015 through my son who is an American and since that time I have been going back and forth and the last time at the airport the officer questioned me about why I stay out of the us for so long and said he could take my green card. He said if I ever stay out for long again that the next time they will take it. I am still outside of the us now six more than 6 months because of the virus and am so tired of keep trying to come to america just to have the green card. All my all my friends and family except my son are at home and I cant stay in america for so long. It was easier before when I had my visitor visa. So I want to give up my green card and get a visitor visa again instead can you help me do that?
Answer: Yes, I understand, its a common issue for many parents who live abroad. Maintaining U.S. Residency status can be tough, especially when you have family in both countries. Under new policies, giving up (surrendering) your green card can no longer be done at U.S. Consulates abroad. Until recently, you could request to surrender your green card at the U.S. Consulate abroad and in exchange apply for a visitor visa (B1/B2). However these days, the USCIS requires residents (green card holders) to file Form I-407/ Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status, to relinquish residency status by mail in the U.S.. Once the USCIS acknowledges the relinquishment of Residency, an application can be made at the U.S. Consulate abroad for a visitor visa, using the I-407 Confirmation Notice. The process to relinquishment of Residency takes about two months once we file the application with the USCIS Eastern Forms Center in Vermont.
But in some cases, applying for naturalization is not as simple as just filling out the form and sending it in, since now days, filing any application with the USCIS carries risk, especially for those with certain problem issues. Increased scrutiny by the USCIS amid the current anti-immigrant atmosphere has resulted in far more denials over the past year than in previous periods. In many cases, the worst case scenario is simply denial and the loss of $725 filing fee, however in others, the result can be much more ominous, including deportation.
One of the most common reasons for denial of naturalization is failure to meet the physical presence requirements. Residents who stay outside the U.S. for extended periods of time often believe that they have accumulated the required number of days to prove “physical presence” inside the U.S., only to find out at their naturalization interview that trips of six months or more outside the U.S. breaks the “physical presence” requirement and the new period of five or three years begins the day they return from that trip. There are exceptions when a resident can prove that even though they were outside the U.S. for 180 or more but less than a year, they still continued to maintain residency in the U.S. by showing extensive documentation that they were maintaining a household, utilities, car, insurance, filing taxes, etc, but it’s a very tough case to win. Re-entry permits allow residents to remain outside the U.S. for up to two years, but do not preserve “physical presence”, so none of the time accumulated prior to a trip of 180 days or more can be counted towards the naturalization requirement. There are a very few exemptions to the rule, which include military service, religious workers, members of the media, and some residents, including government workers are able to meet the requirement by filing form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.
Another common reason for denial is for failure to prove the payment of child support for minor children both in the U.S. and abroad during the preceding five years. In most cases, a letter from the child’s mother that child support has been paid will not suffice, without additional documentation like Western Union and other money transfer receipts.
Other reasons include failure to pay taxes, which in many cases can be easily overcome with evidence of a valid payment plan with the IRS and proof of ongoing monthly installment payments. Often, however, residents do not understand the requirement and are only denied simply because they failed to provide the officer with sufficient evidence to prove tax payments. Failure to register for Selective service can also result in a denial, if the failure to do so is not adequately explained, since all males between ages of 18 and 25 are required to register, including residents, asylees, refugees, parolees and even undocumented immigrants. Those who failed to register without good cause must wait until age 31 to re-apply.
Failing the English and/or Civics Tests is also a common reason for denial. Applicants who are not fluent in English often memorize the questions and answers, but are unable to communicate with the officer about simple questions on the naturalization application. Those who fail the initial test are rescheduled for a second test within about 60-90 days. There are exceptions to the English portion of the test for those age 50 and above who have been a resident for at least 20 years, those age 55 or above with residency of 15 years or more and those who have a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment (and request a N-648 waiver). However, waivers are very difficult to obtain and most are denied. Qualifying cases are generally those where an applicant has been diagnosed with and undergone long standing treatments for dementia or some other disability for several years prior to applying for naturalization.
More serious issues which can result not only in denial, but further action against a resident involve criminal convictions, registering to vote (even unknowingly), obtaining certain public benefits, fraudulently obtaining residency (through fake marriage) or through employment, when the resident failed to work for the U.S. employer after receiving residency.
As a safeguard, residents are well advised to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to assess any problem issues, BEFORE filing for naturalization. This helps ensure that any problem issues, which can be cured, are handled prior to filing for naturalization. And in some cases, residents are legally advised not to file in order to avoid serious consequences which could result in revocation of residency and likely deportation.
Properly responding to an RFE from the USCIS
The first tip is the most obvious, always read the RFE letter very carefully to determine exactly what kind of evidence or document is being requested.
Some RFE's are more complex than the others and it is difficult to determine and some are simple and easy to understand. For more complicated RFE letters, you may want to retain an immigration attorney to assist you. Once you have determined what the letter is requesting, be sure to provide the exact document requested. For instance, an officer may request a “long form” of a Birth Certificate. If you respond that you do not have one, your case will likely be denied. The appropriate action to take is to request one from the departmental authority in your country of birth.
Timing, don’t wait too long to respond to an RFE
Depending on the type of case, you may have from 33 days to 87 days to respond so that the USCIS receives your response before the expiration date. If you fail to respond or filed after the deadline, your case will likely be denied. To be on the safe side, you should always send your response by Express or Priority Mail and get a delivery confirmation. Never send any communications to the USCIS via Certified Mail, which takes much longer and can risk your response being received late. Finally, remember that your response to the USCIS officers request must be RECEIVED by the USCIS ON or BEFORE the deadline. Responses received even one day late result in complete case denials.
Obtaining a decision from the USCIS after responding to the RFE
Depending upon the case, it could take up to 60 days or more. You can check the online status to see if it is stating that your RFE response has been received, or call the USCIS 800# to ask if the computer shows the USCIS received it. For adjustment case (I-485) requests, the officer may wait to receive your response before continuing processing of your Work Authorization application which will cause delays in its issuance. To avoid this, send your response as soon as possible and do not wait until you get near the deadline in the letter.
If you need legal assistance responding to an USCIS request, contact a qualified Immigration attorney or call our office at: (954) 382-5378.