1. October 2021 Visa Bulletin: No Advancement in Employment-based and Family-based Categories
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) released the Visa Bulletin for October 2021, which shows no advancement in either employment-based categories or family-based categories. The cutoff dates for issuance of employment-based immigrant visas are as follows:
EB-1: All countries are current.
EB-2: China remains at July 1, 2018; India remains at September 1, 2011. All other countries are current.
EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: China remains at January 8, 2019; India advanced 6 months to January 1, 2014. All other countries are current.
USCIS will accept adjustment of status applications F2A Spouses and Minor Children of Green Card Holders based on the “Final Action Dates” charts, and all other family-based cases and all employment-based cases based on the “Dates for Filing” charts.
The October 2021 Visa Bulletin can be found here.
2. COVID-19 Vaccination Required for Immigration Medical Examinations Effective October 1, 2021
On September 14, 2021, USCIS announced that effective October 1, 2021, in line with CDC guidelines, all foreign nationals applying for U.S. permanent residency (i.e. a green card) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, where green card applicants must submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination as part of their Form I-693 medical examinations.
The requirement will apply to both adjustment of status applicants in the United States and immigrant visa applicants applying for green cards abroad at U.S. embassies and consulates.
CDC allows for specific blanket waivers that cover reasons why an applicant did not receive the required vaccination, including:
Not Age-appropriate: Applicants are younger than the lowest age limit for available vaccines in their jurisdiction
Contraindication: Applicants have a contraindication or precaution (e.g. an allergy) to the COVID-19 vaccine formulation available
Not Routinely Available: No COVID-19 vaccine is routinely available in the jurisdiction of the U.S. civil surgeon or panel physician performing the medical exam
Limited in Supply: The vaccination is limited in supply, which would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive the vaccination
If an applicant objects to COVID-19 vaccination on religious or moral grounds, the applicant must submit a waiver request to USCIS. USCIS will determine if the waiver is granted. Neither the examining physician nor the CDC can make this determination.
3. USCIS Extends Evidence of Status for Conditional Permanent Residents to 24 Months with Pending Form I-751 or Form I-829
On September 3, 2021, USCIS announced that it is extending the time that receipt notices can be used to show evidence of status from 18 months to 24 months for petitioners who properly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, or Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, beginning September 4, 2021.
Additionally, USCIS will issue new receipt notices to eligible conditional permanent residents who properly filed their Form I-751 or Form I-829 before September 4, and whose cases are still pending.
USCIS’ alert can be found here.
4. USCIS Extends Flexibility for Responding to Agency Requests
On September 24, 2021, USCIS announced that it is extending its flexibility for applicants and petitioners responding to a Request for Evidence (RFE), Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR), Notice of Intent to Terminate (NOIT) regional investment center, as well as filing date requirements for Notice of Appeal or Motion, etc., dated between March 1, 2020 and January 15, 2022, inclusive, USCIS will consider responses submitted within 60 calendar days after the response date set forth in the notices.
USCIS’ alert can be found here.
5. DOS Adopting a Four-Tiered Approach for Immigrant Visa Prioritization at Consulates and Embassies Worldwide
On August 30, 2021, the State Department clarified the details of how embassies and consulates worldwide are prioritizing immigrant visa applications as the Department works to reduce the backlog of such applications resulting from travel restrictions and operational constraints caused by the global COVID pandemic.
U.S. embassies and consulates, where possible, will be using a tiered approach to triage immigrant visa applications, scheduling appointments within all four priority tiers every month while following the below priority order:
Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas; age-out cases; certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI Visas for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government); and emergency cases as determined on a case-by-case basis.
Tier Two: Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas; and SE Special Immigrant Visas (certain employees of the U.S. government abroad)
Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas
Many embassies and consulates continue to have a significant backlog of all categories of immigrant visas; however, the prioritization plan instructs posts to schedule and adjudicate some cases in Tier Three and Tier Four each month. DOS recognizes that visa applicants, particularly those in Tiers Three and Four, will face continued delays.
DOS’ alert can be found here.
ALG SUCCESS STORIES
P-1B Petition Approved in 1.5 Months for Leading Actors of a Film Production
Mr. M and Ms. M are the 2 leading actors of a film produced by an internationally recognized entertainment group. The entertainment group hoped to bring Mr. M and Ms. M temporarily to the U.S. so that they may complete the filming of the necessary scenes for the film in the U.S.
ALG worked with the entertainment group to prove that the group has been established for a minimum of one year, where at least 75 percent of the members of the entertainment group have had a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year. ALG also submitted evidence of the group’s performances in leading or starring roles in productions with distinguished reputation; media reports about the group that were published in major or professional media; the group’s performance in leading or starring roles in organizations with distinguished reputation; and the group’s record of critically acclaimed success.
Even with a request for additional evidence, which ALG attorneys swiftly responded to, USCIS approved this P-1B petition in 1.5 months from initial submission.
Related media report can be found here.
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS & UPDATES
Further Extension of Restrictions on US-Canada and US-Mexico Borders Until October 21, 2021
In order to limit the further spread of the coronavirus, on March 21, 2020, the U.S. reached agreements with both Canada and Mexico to limit all non-essential travel across borders. These joint initiatives were originally set to be in place for 30 days, subject to reevaluation and further extension in light of coronavirus pandemic developments. “Non-essential” travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.
On September 21, 2021, these measures were further extended until October 21, 2021, which marks the eighteenth extension since implementation. These restrictions do not apply to entry through U.S. airports.
DHS’ twitter update can be found here.