Immigration Questions: (954) 382-5378
POSTING DATE: March 30, 2020
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Question: I am here in the US on my h1b visa for the past 2 years. Because of the virus, my manager just told me Friday that we would be closing and my last payday will be in 2 weeks. I cant find another company that fast to sponsor me so I want to know if there is some special law that will let me stay because of the virus epidemic going on now? What happens if I cant find another company to file a visa for me and I stay anyways?
Answer: Very good question. You have a few options, but little time. First, we can file an application to change you from your H-1B visa to a B2 visa and ask for an additional six months period to give you time to finalize your personal affairs here in the U.S. such as sell your car, arrange for your apartment lease to be terminated, etc. Once the application is pending, you are legally eligible to stay in the U.S. while awaiting a decision on your case. While that is pending, try to find another employer to sponsor you as soon as possible. If you are able to do so, we would transfer you to the new company and as long as it is within your 60 day grace period, you would be eligible to begin working for the new company immediately once the H-1B transfer petition is filed, takes about 10 days to get the receipt. Give me a call and we can go over the details:954-382-5378.
With the recent closure of many businesses nationwide due to the Coronavirus pandemic, millions of workers across America have lost their jobs, including immigrants.
To counteract the harm to our economy, a new stimulus bill was just signed into law, called the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES” Act (the “Act”) which will provide direct payment of $1,200 to individuals earning $75,000 or less and $2,400 to married couples earning up to $150,000, plus an additional $500 per each child. Taxpayers filing as head of household will receive $1,200 if they earned $112,500 or less. However, those who are claimed as dependents on someone else’s tax return do not qualify for the payment.
Stay Informed - Sign-up For USCIS E-Notification & Email Updates
On Your Immigration Case
The USCIS offers several very convenient ways for Applicants to get updates on newly filed and pending Immigration cases. Immigrants and Sponsors filing Immigration applications with the USCIS can now sign-up to receive text messages and email E-notifications confirming application receipt by the USCIS, along with the case receipt number(s). The receipt number allows individuals to track the status of their case online. E-notifications are issued within 24 hours after the USCIS receives the application. To request e-notification, download and complete form G-1145 and mail along with all Immigration applications.
Understanding What Happens After Your Immigration Application Is Filed
Once the USCIS receives your Immigration application, it issues a receipt, called the I-797 Notice of Action for whatever case type relates to your application in about 7-10 days. For instance, if you filed your application for Adjustment of Status (I-485), along with your application for Employment Authorization (I-765), and I-131 Application for Travel Document (Advance Parole), and the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative(from the U.S. Citizen or Resident sponsoring you) the USCIS will issue four receipts, one for the I-485, one for the I-765, one for the I-131 and one for the I-130.
Make sure to copy your receipts and keep the originals in a safe place.
Which Immigrants Qualify For Cash Payments And Unemployment Benefits?
The USCIS has announced that it is extending its temporary local field office closures until at least April 7th, due to the Coronavirus Virus (COVID-19). This means that it is continuing to suspend all in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs), with the exception of some (undefined) emergency services. However, the administration is likely to extend the closure through April 30th.
Who is affected?
Applicants and Petitioners with scheduled appointments for biometrics, infopass, naturalization/residency/asylum interviews, swearing in ceremonies and others. This includes those whose appointments were previously cancelled, then rescheduled before April 7th.
Closures of USCIS Local Offices Extended Until April 7th,
But Expected To Be Continued Up To The 30th!
So which benefits are immigrants who have been hard hit by business closures and loss of income eligible for? Who qualifies for the cash payments and who does not? The good news is that immigrants who have a valid Social Security number and have filed a tax return, are eligible for the cash payment. If they did not file taxes in 2018, they should file a tax return for 2019 as soon as possible in order to qualify, even if they do not have any income to report, just put -$0-. This includes DACA and TPS. Immigrants who do not have a social security number do not qualify. This includes immigrants who are in the process of adjusting status to residency who have not yet received a work permit, since they must have had a social security number and have filed a return in order to qualify. Further, Individual Tax Identifying Numbers do not qualify.
In addition to the stimulus bill, there is also other legislation in the works which may become law shortly, to expand unemployment insurance and give jobless workers an extra $600 a week on top of state unemployment benefits for four months. However, similar to the stimulus bill benefits, only immigrants with a valid social security number, who are legally authorized to work in the U.S. qualify. Some states like Florida also require an Alien Registration number (A#) and work permit as well. You can check out the Department of Labor website which provides links to all states and unemployment eligibility requirements.
What about the Public Charge Issue? Will I still qualify for my green card if I accept benefits? Yes you will. The stimulus cash payment and unemployment benefits are not prohibited under the Public Charge rule and qualifying immigrants will not be penalized for receiving such benefits.
However, there are certain categories of workers with social security numbers and legal permission to work, who do not qualify for unemployment benefits once they become unemployed, including workers on H, L and E visas, since legal status in the U.S. depends solely upon their employment with the company who sponsored them for the visa. For instance, once unemployed, H-1B workers only have 60 days to become re-employed by another qualifying U.S. company. Otherwise, they must leave the U.S.. The rule is different for spouses of these workers who have obtained work permits, but only as long as their spouse maintains employment with the sponsoring company. These spouses do qualify for unemployment benefits as a result of qualifying job loss.
What to do now?
Do not go to your local USCIS field office, even if you have an appointment. All appointments scheduled before April 7th have been automatically cancelled, even if you have not yet received a cancellation notice. The announcement says that the USCIS will mail out cancellation notices, however in many cases, it has not done so. Do not go to the USCIS local office, even if you have not received a cancellation notice, as you will not be allowed to enter the building.
What will happen next?
Due to the worsening spread of the COVID-19 virus, USCIS field offices will most likely remain closed at least until mid-April, and more likely until May or later. However, due to Trump’s refusal to publically acknowledge the severity of the virus and the impact on our population, he continues to make televised statements that the U.S. will reopen normal operations by Easter, even though he and government officials clearly know that it is not true. As a result, agencies such as the USCIS are not being permitted to give accurate closure information to the public and are instead being forced to continue to release ridiculous closure extensions for periods which do not reflect the true extent of the emergency. This just creates more uncertainty and causes immigrants to continue to believe that they must attend scheduled appointments in April, when that is likely not the case.
Rescheduling of Appointments:
USCIS field offices will eventually send out reschedule notices for all appointments cancelled due to the temporary closures, however, before heading over to the new appointment, go online and check to make sure that the USCIS local field office where your appointment is scheduled is actually open. Note that most local field office websites confirm that they will remain closed “until further notice”. You can contact the USCIS at (800) 375-5283 or go online to the USCIS.gov website. For any other questions about the USCIS Field Office closures or other immigration issues, you may call our offices at: 954-382-5378.
National Benefits Center Remains Open For Residency Filings
Currently, USCIS Service Centers are continuing to remain open and are accepting residency and other immigration application filings. However, due to reduced staffing, cases may take longer for processing.
As a result, cases should be filed as early as possible to avoid long delays and as a safeguard in case USCIS processing centers are later temporarily closed.
It’s important to note that the proper filing of a residency application (adjustment of status) by immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens and qualifying spouses and minor children of U.S. Residents automatically allows the immigrant to remain legally in the U.S. in most cases, and preserves their place in the line for issuance of a work and travel permit within about six months, while waiting for a residency interview to be scheduled. The early filing for residency is especially important in many cases, particularly for spouses and minor children of U.S. Residents, since those who allow their legal period of stay to expire, become ineligible to adjust status in the U.S..
For questions about filing immigration applications, call us for a free consultation at: (954) 382-5378
USCIS Announces Changes To Application Signature Requirements
In an effort to stay abreast of the rapidly changing societal need for “social distancing”, the USCIS has announced that due to the ongoing COVID-19 National Emergency, the agency will now no longer require original signatures on immigration forms and applications. This is an effort to reduce the need for personal contact to obtain original signatures and provide for the new reality of remote services.
Under the new policy, beginning March 21st, all forms and documents will now be accepted with scanned, faxed and photocopied signatures. Previously, all immigration forms were required to contain an original handwritten signature in ink, called a "wet" signature.
As a result, our law firm can now accept signed forms sent by our clients via email, fax, dropbox and other electronic means, without the need for obtaining original signatures through mail or office meetings.
Question: Me and my wife are planning to file for my green card soon. I know I need to have a doctor exam. The problem is that the local doctors offices on the list say they are closed due to the viral epidemic. We are worried what to do now. Is there something you can do so that we can still file even though I don’t have my doctor exam?
Answer: Yes, no worries, we can file your residency case without the medical exam. Once the case is filed, the National Benefits Center will issue a notice directing you to have your medical performed once your residency interview is schedule and to present to the officer at the interview. Omitting your medical report with your residency filing will not negatively affect your case in any way.
Question: My husband passed his citizenship exam at his interview and got his ceremony notice, but then it was cancelled due the corona virus. I am here on an expired visa and we have been waiting for 3 years so far for my husband to get his citizenship so I can file my immigration papers. My question is if he passed the exam, cant you just file my immigration papers now anyway and then we can give them his citizen certificate once gets it? That way I can get my legal status faster.
Answer: Unfortunately, a U.S. Resident must actually take an oath and be sworn in as a U.S. Citizen, in order to be naturalized. For instance, if a U.S. Resident take and passes the naturalization exam, is scheduled for his or her swearing-in, but fails to attend, after a certain period of time, the naturalization application is abandoned and he or she must begin the process all over again. Under immigration rules, you must qualify for the immigration benefit sought, at the time of filing, not afterwards. So in your case, you are not eligible to file your residency application until the USCIS local field office reopens and reschedules your husbands ceremony and he receives his certificate. If you file your I-485 before his is a citizen, your case will be denied and you will lose your filing fees of $1,225.
Each receipt has a case number, located under the notice date in the upper left hand side of the receipt. This case number allows you to track the status of your case on the USCIS website and to receive email updates on your status. So be sure to sign up for USCIS case status updates called My USCIS Case. If you applied for adjustment of status, work authorization, Naturalization, DACA, Green Card renewal or related applications, normally, you would also be issued a Biometrics Appointment Notice within about 30 days for you to go to the USCIS office and have your fingerprints taken. However, with the temporary closures, it could likely take several months to receive it.
Once your case is approved, you will again receive the I-797 Notice of Action Approval for the related case. If you feel you are having problems with your case or have not received one or more receipts related to your case, you can call the USCIS at: 1 (800) 375-5283. Make sure to document the date of your call and get a reference number in case you need to call again on the same issue.
For instance, once your Immigration application is filed, the USCIS may issue you a letter requesting more evidence in order to continue processing the case. If you are registered to receive case status updates, you will receive an email notification that the USCIS has issued the request, which helps you to be aware that you should be receiving the request by mail soon. If you have not received the request, you can then make further inquiries. Similarly, once you respond to the USCIS request, you will receive an updated email notification that they have received your documentation. It’s a great way to stay informed and keep up to date on the status of your case as it is being processed.