September Visa Bulletin Analysis

By Maxine Philavong

In its last visa bulletin of the fiscal year, USCIS announced little movement amongst immigration work and family visas from its previous August bulletin.

As fiscal year 2020 comes to an end on September 30, it was expected that the September Visa Bulletin would show not much movement form the previous August bulletin. While this prediction was true, this was to be expected at the end of any fiscal year. At the end of each fiscal year, there are usually not as many visas available as there would be at the beginning of the fiscal year. This year, the agency reports that the fiscal year 2020 Worldwide Employment-based preference limit is 156,253 immigrant visas. This number has nearly been reached.

Although there was not much movement in the most recent bulletin, applications should not be discouraged. More movement is expected to come from the October Visa Bulletin, as it will be the first Visa Bulletin of the 2021 fiscal year. Applicants should keep an eye out for the October Visa Bulletin, which has not been released at the time of writing this article.

The dates listed for employment-based visas are as follows:

For EB-1, all countries expect China and India remained current in September. China and India advanced three weeks to March 1, 2018.

For EB-2and EB-3, just as they did for EB-1, all countries remained current with exception to China and India. China remained at Jan. 15, 2016, while Indian remained July 8, 2009 for EB-2 visas. For EB-3, China stayed at Feb. 15, 2017 and India remained at Oct. 1, 2009.

For EB-5, India and all other countries remained current, with exception to China and Vietnam.  China’s cutoff date will advance by one week to August 15, 2015, while Vietnam’s cutoff date will advance by more than one week to August 1, 2017.

The USCIS only indicated movement forward for employment-based visas in China, where EB-1 dates moved up three weeks and EB-5 dates moved up one week.

In the most recent Visa Bulletin and previous years, EB-5 has steadily had the most countries current in respect to other visa types.

At Davies and Associates, we’ve helped hundreds of families gain entry to the United States through the EB-5 program. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program offers a direct route to a US Green Card. The minimum investment requirement is $900,000 and other conditions, such as job creation, apply. The EB-5 Visa is exempted from President Trump’s current “immigration ban”.

Dates for family-sponsored visas are as follows:

For F-1, all countries including China and India have moved up one month to Sep. 15, 2014, except for Mexico and the Philippines. Mexico advanced two weeks to Jan. 8, 1998, and the Philippines advanced three months to Dec. 15, 2011.

For F-2A, all countries are current.

For F-3, all countries expect for Mexico and the Philippines moved up two weeks to June 15, 2008. Mexico moved one week to Aug. 01, 1996 and the Philippines moved three months to Feb. 15, 2002.

For F-4, all countries expect for India, Mexico and the Philippines moved two weeks to Sep. 22, 2006. India moved two weeks to March 8, 2005, Mexico one week to June 22, 1998 and the Philippines moved four months to Jan. 1, 2002.

USCIS Approval Slowdown

At the end of July, USCIS announced that they would furlough 13,000 of their employees at the end of August if Congress did not allot $1.5 billion of funding. If they had gone through with the furlough, applicants would have expected longer wait times than originally anticipated. Meaning, applicants would have been more movement backwards than their original date. After discussion, Congress has allotted the needed funding and USCIS has cancelled their plans to furlough their employees. Applicants should not expect the longer than usual wait periods, however, Davies and Associates will continue to update as USCIS announces next steps.

Contact Us to discuss your case.

This article is published for clients, friends and other interested visitors for information purposes only. The contents of the article do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Davies & Associates or any of its attorneys, staff or clients. External links are not an endorsement of the content.


The President’s Immigration Ban: Update

President Trump has signed the Executive Order temporarily suspending some visa categories for an initial 60 days. This mostly applies to people outside the United States seeking permanent residency / Green Cards, excluding the EB-5 program.
The State Department has just issued a clarification stating that the Order is not retroactive and that “no valid visas will be revoked under this proclamation.”
There are a number of exclusions and exemptions. We recommend you contact us to discuss your specific circumstances.

What is NOT included in the ban:

What is also NOT included in the ban, but subject to a 30-day review:

E-3 Australian Professional Specialty Visa

EB-5 Visas Exemption
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa has been given a special exemption from the ban. EB-5 is a job-creating program. Each EB-5 investment is required to create ten American jobs. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is a fast route to a Green Card for families or individuals able to invest $900,000.

Review of Non-Immigrant Visas
The Executive Order only covers immigrants outside the United States seeking permanent residency (Green Cards). Non-immigrant categories, such as the E-2 Visa, the L-1 Visa, and the H-1B Visa are not currently included in the ban.
However, the Executive Order does call for a review of non-immigrant programs within 30 days with a view to “other measures” affecting these categories. The Order instructs the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State to report recommendations to the President within 30 days regarding restrictions (if any) on non-immigrant visas.

Adjustment of Status
The order only applies to those seeking immigrant visas (i.e. those outside the US seeking to go through consular processing). It does not impact those inside the US already on a valid visa that are eligible to do Adjustment of Status (AOS). Clients should consult us before traveling outside of the United States if they have a pending AOS application or may be eligible to file one in the near future.

Our Advice
We recommend that anyone seeking a US visa proceed with their application. Much can change in the time it takes to prepare one.
With flights grounded and American embassies closed to consular appointments, the Executive Order makes limited material difference in the short term. There are likely to be a number of lawsuits challenging the ban. This is also an election year. A new administration could be expected to reverse this Order.
We will provide updates on the 30-day review of non-immigrant visas. Some non-immigrant categories, such as the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, bring investment to the United States and create jobs.

Each client’s circumstances are different. Please contact us to discuss how this may affect you.

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The President’s Immigration Ban: Why you Should Still Apply for a Visa

Cost of EB 5 Visa

Duncan Hill is marketing director at Davies & Associates LLC. Duncan is not a lawyer and nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice.

 

President Trump tweeted last night that he would sign an executive order banning immigration to the United States. While it is still unclear how this will play out, it is only likely to be a temporary setback. Anyone hoping to apply for a US visa should continue as normal if their circumstances permit.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy,” the president tweeted, “as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States.”

Beyond the tweet, there is very little detail on what would be covered in the executive order. Immigration is a broad concept in the United States, ranging from asylum and the rights of undocumented workers to green cards for investors under the EB-5 Visa program. Would, for example, spouses of Americans (K-1 visas) be included in a ban?

Despite the lack of detail, it might still be advisable for would-be immigrants to press on with their applications. For one thing, any ban would likely cause a build-up of demand. Therefore, progressing an application would help secure a good position in the line once a ban is lifted.

While it is difficult to predict when such a lifting would occur (especially as the ban has not yet been ordered), there are still clues. For starters, President Trump said in his tweet this would only be temporary. Moreover, there are also likely to be legal challenges as there were over Executive Order 13769, the so-called “Muslim Ban”. Additionally, this being an election year, a change of administration in January 2021 would likely result in a reversal.

The second, closely related reason to persevere with an application is that it takes time to prepare one. Davies & Associates specializes in EB-5 visas, E-2 visas, and L-1 visas, all of which require significant preparation. This work could still be conducted while a ban was in progress.

Under the EB-5 program an entire family can obtain Green Cards in exchange for a minimum $900,000 investment. The US authorities are meticulous that each dollar is properly accounted for, and this can take time to document.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which processes EB-5 applications, is still operating in spite of Coronavirus. While they are closed to public interactions, they continue to adjudicate cases. Processing times currently range from 30 to 50 months. Reform to the EB-5 adjudications process will probably reduce this, but it nevertheless points to a time frame much greater than a temporary immigration ban.

The E-2 visa allows a family to move to the United States for the purposes of owning and operating a business. The applicant must pitch a credible business case to the US authorities, which takes time to prepare.

E-2 applicants must come from an E-2 Treaty Country. If you are not from an E-2 Treaty country, it is possible to become eligible for an E-2 visa by first taking citizenship of a country that is eligible. The cheapest and most cost-effective of these is Grenada, Turkey and Montenegro.

Processing times for these citizenship-by-investment programs are quick. In Grenada, for example, citizenship can be obtained in less than three months. The Grenadian authorities are still processing applications, despite a strict lockdown. There is no requirement to visit the country so applications can be made remotely.

Davies & Associates has helped clients obtain the E-2 visa in this way. Countries non directly eligible for the E-2 visa include India, China, Russia, Vietnam, South Africa and Nigeria. Davies & Associates has helped people from non-Treaty countries become eligible for the E-2 visa.

The L-1A visa moves managers within the same company, from an overseas office to an American one. At D&A we specialize in so-called “new office” L1s. This is where we help clients set up a US branch of their existing business and then move themselves or a colleague there to manage the new office.

Inevitably it is necessary to set up the US office before applying for the visa. Again, this is work that could be done regardless of an immigration ban. Our corporate lawyers have helped hundreds of foreign businesses relocate and thrive in the United States.

So, given the time it takes to prepare a visa application and the uncertainty surrounding the ban, it is advisable to start applying regardless. The USCIS and American embassies would likely face a backlog once any ban is lifted. Secure yourself a good position in the queue by proceeding with your application.

 


The Solution to a Stuck EB-5 Visa Application – Filing Writ of Mandamus

The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has slowed the pace at which it adjudicates I-526 petitions. The I-526 form demonstrates a petitioner’s eligibility for the EB-5 visa and constitutes the first official step in the application process for would-be immigrant investors.

The slowdown in adjudications are the result of political, administrative and external factors. They are evidenced in the fact that “priority dates” for countries in visa retrogression are quickly shifting forward. The changes to the priority dates is most likely the artificial result of low demand for visas caused by a slow rate of adjudication rather than meaningful changes to the number of applicants waiting for EB-5 visas.

 

USCIS Ombudsman

There are several courses of action open to any immigrant petitioner who suspects their I-526 application to have been unreasonably delayed. In the first instance, petitioners should contact the USCIS ombudsman’s office. This may not ultimately expedite your adjudication, but it is helpful to show evidence of seeking a solution should a petitioner need to subsequently escalate their case. Another option is to contact the senator or congressional representative covering the state or district where the EB-5 project is located.

 

Writ of Mandamus

It is possible to file a lawsuit in a federal court to determine whether your immigration petition has been unreasonably delayed. This lawsuit, known as a writ of mandamus, will have no bearing on whether or not your I-526 application is successfully approved. It does, however, force USCIS into adjudicating your case quickly if it is judged to have been unreasonably delayed. Sometimes simply initiating proceedings can galvanize action as USCIS has been known to adjudicate a plaintiff’s application in order to avoid progressing with the lawsuit.

 

Filing a Case

Since filing a writ of mandamus is a legal course of action which may require litigation, it is always advisable to seek advice from an attorney. Contact D&A for a free consultation to determine whether it would be advantageous for your I-526 petition. Our team has filed dozens of successful writs of mandamus actions against USCIS for unreasonably delaying immigrant petitions. We can assist regardless of whether your I-526 application was prepared by Davies & Associates. The average time between filing a writ of mandamus and receiving an adjudication is around two months, in some cases it can be significantly less.

 

Act Quickly

It is anticipated that USCIS might suddenly start processing applications at a faster pace. It is advisable to file a writ of mandamus as soon as possible to have your case reviewed ahead of a possible surge.