Immigration Lawyer Portland

On July 17th, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration must accept new applications for DACA, a program started by former President Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. A month ago, the Trump administration attempted to completely end the DACA program, but this order was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis that the administration did not provide sufficient justification for ending the DACA program.

The DACA program applies to undocumented immigrants who were younger than 16 years old when they came to the country and who were 30 years old or younger as of June 2012. Under the program, immigrants would receive a renewable, two-year work permit. USCIS has been renewing the DACA status for about 650,000 immigrants, but rejecting all new applicants since Trump took office.

In his 4-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Grimm announced that the DACA program will return to its “pre-September 5, 2017 status,” which refers to the pre-Trump era when any eligible immigrant had the opportunity to apply to the program.

Judge Paul Grimm wrote, “Defendants [including the Department of Homeland Security] and their agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and all persons in active concert or participation with any of them, are ENJOINED from implementing or enforcing the DACA rescission and from taking any other action to rescind DACA.”

It is uncertain whether many will apply for the DACA program, as this requires releasing identifying information to officials who are serving an administration that has been increasingly hostile towards immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland and Security (DHS) is currently reviewing the ruling. Amidst uncertainty, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, Ali Noorani, noted: “Ignoring this decision puts the administration directly at odds with the rule of law, and leaves DREAMers steeped in even more uncertainty about their futures.”

From the Supreme Court down, the courts have supported the decision for the DACA program to remain and to open for new applicants. The decision to restore DACA to a pre-Trump era will allow around 300,000 young and eligible immigrants to apply.

On the 10th of July 2020, President Trump announced that he would work to transform U.S. immigration policy, noting that an executive order will be released in the next four weeks to create a merit-based immigration system. This transformation will shift U.S. immigration policy to a structure in which an alien applicant’s skills are the central factor analyzed when determining whether he or she may immigrate to the United States. Skills include things like education level, financial ability, and fluency in English, but no specific list of criteria have been released thus far by the White House. The proposed system will replace family-based immigration, which the U.S. has had for decades to unite alien individuals with their spouses and other family members on U.S. soil.

In recent interviews, President Trump described a sort of point scheme that would be utilized in this new merit-based system, in which an immigrant applicant accumulates points based on their specific circumstances (for instance, an alien will earn points if he or she has a job offer in the U.S.). This point-based evaluation method will determine if an alien may immigrate and when an alien may immigrate. The White House released a statement noting that establishing this system would further protect U.S. workers. This points-based immigration system already exists in Canada and Australia.

Certainly, such a system will consequently favor privileged alien individuals who have wealthy backgrounds and high levels of education over marginalized individuals attempting to flee poverty. The ethics of this can be debated.

During his interview with Telemundo, Trump announced that a provision concerning DACA will also be included in the upcoming executive order, although the president’s statement was unclear. During the interview, Trump said that the executive order would include a “road to citizenship” for DACA individuals. Immediately after the president’s interview, however, a White House spokesman issued a statement that the order would not be related to DACA. The Trump administration has tried to rescind DACA numerous times, which many business leaders recently warned would negatively affect the economy and disrupt the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past few weeks, the Trump administration has issued many executive orders that impact international students on F-1 visas, asylum seekers, and almost all green card applicants. Transforming the current U.S. family-based immigration system to a merit-based one plays into this narrative of restriction.

On July 6th, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications to temporary exceptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the fall term of 2020. The SEVP, which sets all student visa regulations for student visas, is run by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

This spring and summer 2020, the SEVP allowed foreign students to take their courses online while remaining in the United States. Now, the U.S. The Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools or programs that are fully online for the fall semester. Additionally, the Customs and Border Protection will not allow such students to enter the country if they are abroad. International students on F-1 and M-1 visas residing in the U.S. whose schools are planning on using online platforms for classes this fall 2020 must leave the country or take other measures, such as transferring to another institution with in-person options. If international students do not do so, they risk violating their visa status and may be removed from the country.

In its announcement on the ICE website, SEVP noted that foreign students who do not transfer to in-person programs and who remain in the U.S. while enrolled in online courses would face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

Students taking in-person classes with F-1 nonimmigrant visas may remain in the country, but continue to be bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may only take one class or three credit hours online.

Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools with a hybrid model (a mixture of online and in-person classes) can take more than one class or three credit hours. Such students must have valid certification from their universities that their programs are not entirely online. Such institutions must certify to SEVP with Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” to prove that their program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load during the fall semester of 2020, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online courses required for their degree program.

Finally, students in English language courses and nonimmigrant M-1 visa students with vocational degrees may not take online courses.

If an international student begins his or her fall semester with in-person classes but is later required to switch to online classes (which could happen if the university’s policy changes due to changes in the COVID-19 pandemic), he or she must update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change. Likewise, if the student changes his or her course selections so that all courses are taken online, this change must be noted in the SEVIS as well.

Note that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will publish procedures and responsibilities in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.

This change will result in the U.S. losing many thousands of students because of this regulation, which will negatively impact international perception of the United States. Today, the U.S. has over a million international students studying at universities and vocational institutions. Many educational institutions have already announced that they will adopt a fully-online program for the upcoming fall 2020 semester to support containment of the pandemic.

This new change comes during an unpredictable time during which the Trump Administration has already expanded restrictions on immigration, citing the pandemic as a valid justification. Like previous visa bans, this new restriction will lead to USCIS suffering financially, as fewer visa application fees will be deposited into the institution’s hands.

It is very likely that talented international students who are forced to leave will feel resentful towards the U.S., lessening the chance of them returning as a student, as a visitor, or as an employee in the future. This will hurt American industry innovation and productivity, since foreign workers have always added a profound richness to this country.

Last Tuesday, United States District Judge Timothy J. Kelly overturned the Third-Country Asylum Rule, one of the Trump Administration’s most severe asylum policies, ruling it illegal. Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2017 by President Trump, claimed that the Third-Country Asylum Rule was “unlawfully promulgated” because it did not give a public notice or provide time for public comment, bypassing the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Furthermore, the Administration failed to show how such a quick implementation was in the public interest.

The Third-Country Asylum Rule was issued in July 2019 so that aliens who sought asylum in the U.S. would have to apply for asylum in at least one country of transit on their way to the U.S. southwestern border. This policy has effectively barred many Central American migrants from obtaining asylum in the United States, forcing them to first seek asylum from Mexico.

In his 52-page opinion, Kelly argued that the Administration based this Third-Country Asylum Rule almost entirely on a single October 2018 newspaper article that insinuated that the proportion of asylum seekers with children increased after the Administration ended a policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Kelly critiqued the Administration for not having complied with the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements after first issuing this rule, explaining that the broader a rule’s reach, the greater the necessity for public comment. He added that, “with these baseline principles in mind, the Court considers whether either the good cause or foreign affairs function exception applies here.

Note that while the decision will overturn the Third-Country Asylum Rule, this will likely not lead to an extreme increase in asylum claims because the Trump Administration has issued other policies that make immigration less accessible to aliens, including asylum seekers, that cite the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency health protections as justifications to restrict human movement that consequently prevent individuals from seeking protection. However, by striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirms two fundamental principles, explains Claudia Cubas, the Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Cubas added, “the protection of asylum seekers fleeing for a safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims.”

Our Portland Immigration Lawyers in Portland, Oregon are providing you constant updates on how recent immigration changes may affect your immigration law case at USCIS located here in Portland, Oregon.

Recently, the Trump Administrations suspended the approval of green card requests to immigrants abroad seeking residency in the United States. Last week, this administration temporarily halted the process of requests from green card applicants already living in the country. The agency argues that this hold on processing green card applications is due to the suspension of in-person services caused by precautions taken during the coronavirus pandemic. Its current priority, USCIS claims, is to resume naturalization ceremonies.   

A senior USCIS officer told CQ Roll Call that some field adjudicators stopped processing green card applications from noncitizens residing in the U.S. back in April. While there may still be a larger hold on I-845 adjustment of status cases, there remain certain exemptions that have been released through internal communication within the USCIS network. Such exemptions that allow for cases to continue include

1) Case already distributed to adjudicator (for instance, if your interview was rescheduled due to COVID)

2) Continuations

3) Case related to a medical provider 

4) National Benefits Center work on adjustments 

5) Older, pending cases 

6) Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) I-485s

7) Identified national security concerns  

8) Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate cases 

9) ELIS beta cases 
10) Age outs

11) DV cases 

12) Mandamus and other litigation cases

13) Detailed immigrants 

14) Military families

The USCIS also will allow immigration officers to submit applications that concern an “emergent or sensitive matter” outside these exemptions to their supervisors for consideration. 

While most federal agencies receive funding from Congress, USCIS receives most of its funding from immigration application fees. Since March, when USCIS temporarily suspended in-person services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, echoed by an overall decrease of human movement because of restricted international travel, USCIS has received an extremely low volume of immigration petitions and fees.   

As USCIS has experienced falling petition rates over the last two years, increased funding has been dedicated to vetting and enforcement by the Trump Administration. This shift reflects the administration’s immigration goals, which definitely have an unsustainable impact on USCIS’ finances. As the processing of green cards is being halted, we can predict that such restricted immigration will further constrain USCIS’ financial sustainability. While USCIS had a $790 million cash carryover at the end of fiscal 2017, it now faces a $1.5 billion deficit. 

End-of-Year Immigration Examinations Fee Account Carryover Balances, FY 2008-20

Source: Migration Policy Institute

Recently, USCIS urged Congress to provide $1.2 billion to address its severe budget shortfall. It is very likely that without this emergency infusion, USCIS will have to furlough up to 15,000 of its 18,700 employees. Such a measure will likely further slow down visa and green card processing in the near future. The agency claims that it will be able to pay back this requested $1.2 billion by imposing a 10 percent surcharge to USCIS application fees. This is important to note, because such a surcharge may act as a deterrent to future immigrants. 

Last November, USCIS proposed fee increases; for instance, this includes an 83 percent increase in naturalization application fees from $640 to $1,170. As immigration continues to be restricted through expanding proclamations, such proposed fee increases are likely to occur in order for USCIS to continue running. Retroactively, this would likely decrease the types of foreign nationals who are capable of affording this steep increase. 

 

Since the Trump Administration published new proclamations restricting certain immigrants from entering the U.S. on April 22nd, further proclamations have been expected to be added to restrict the entry of nonimmigrant visa holders. On June 5th, 2020, the Whitehouse, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Homeland Security have agreed to some changes that will restrict merit-based immigration into the United States. Thus far, no final version of the order has been published (only a draft of the order has been leaked). The final details of the ban will likely be announced on June 15th.

This new visa ban will impede the entry of nonimmigrants with temporary visas, particularly visas of categories J-1 (temporary work visa for students and trainees), L-1 (visa for high-level executives transferring to the U.S.), H-2B (temporary nonagricultural work visa used by many in the food processing industry), and H-1B (most common high-skill work visa). It is likely that the ban will also obstruct the initial obtainment of these visas by nonimmigrants, and that other temporary visas will also be impacted.

The Trump Administration also reported that it would target the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which offers recent graduates of U.S. institutions the opportunity to work in the U.S. for a short period of time (typically one year for students, or three years for STEM students) after graduating. This new restriction would only allow for students graduating at the top 5%-15% of their classes to have this opportunity.

A very devastating change created by this ban would be to include a new additional $20,000 filing fee for H-1B visas that would be added to the pre-existing filing fee. This would automatically deter many employers from staffing their agencies with foreign national workers. However, note that this change has not yet been made, and it is doubtful that this is even legally permissible.

These new visa ban efforts, drafted by Jared Kudlow and Jared Kushner, seem to be a continuation of President Trump’s executive order in April that limited the issuance of green cards to foreign nationals abroad on the basis that this was a crucial step to protect American jobs during the economic crisis catalyzed by the coronavirus pandemic. Many experts doubt the validity of this justification.

Additionally, the U.S. nonimmigrant visa ban will likely last between 90 to 180 days, but there are certain exemptions related to the coronavirus pandemic that will permit an alien to enter the United States. Such exemptions will be made for aliens who are healthcare professionals, food supply workers, or medical researchers working in fields related to COVID-19. However, these exemptions are only valid if American employees have enacted additional recruitment efforts to hire American workers to fill these positions.

It is also important to note that a 120-day ban will likely apply after October 1st, 2020, which is when the H-1B cap-based petitions of the autumn will be approved. The implications of this are that even if companies have passed the lottery and submitted successful H-1B petitions after October 1st, their workers may still be prevented from entering the U.S. under this ban.

Many actors, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Thomas Donohue, have written letters to President Trump or spoken publicly against such a new visa ban, warning against the negative economic effects. Overall, if this ban is implemented completely, the implied changes will impact the 5% of the American workforce that rely on nonimmigrant visas, along with the companies that hire these nonimmigrants. It has been recommended by some experts that if you are currently outside the U.S. and have a valid H-1B/H-4 or an L-1 or L-2 visa, you should consider returning to the U.S. as soon as possible.

Before the end of June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to deliver a ruling about the future of DACA. This ruling will have deep impacts for the 649,070 immigrants with DACA status across the country. It is suspected that the Supreme Court will favor the Trump Administration and rule to terminate the DACA program.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created by President Obama in 2012 after considerable pressure from immigrant rights advocates. Since its conception, DACA was not intended to be a permanent solution, but rather, a “temporary stopgap measure,” as President Obama explained. The program helped individuals who were brought to the United States before the age of 16 and who were younger than 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012 (the date the program was announced). Individuals with DACA status have a two-year deferment from deportation, a Social security number, and the right to work legally in the U.S. This status is renewable every two years.

On September 5th, 2017, the Trump Administration announced that DACA would begin phasing out, pushing for Congress to establish a replacement program. Since 2017, immigrants have been unable to apply for DACA and can only renew if they are already recipients. There are concerns that immigrants with DACA status will be unable to renew their statuses after June.

Even if the Supreme Court rules to terminate or pause DACA this June 2020, President Trump still has the authority to allow individuals with DACA status to continue receiving DACA benefits. It is possible that the President may allow for renewals to continue, even after June 2020, until a new permanent solution is established.

A recommendation to individuals with DACA status is to try renewing DACA statuses before the end of June, in case the ruling does establish termination. DACA renewals received earlier than 150 days and up to 365 days in advance may be accepted. At the end of March 2020, 23,020 DACA recipients with April, May, and June expirations were reported to have yet to apply for renewals of their protections. If DACA recipients lose their ability to renew protections, about 1 in 5 individuals with DACA statuses in the U.S. will lose their protections by November 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique period of time, and a termination of DACA will have deep impacts on the U.S.’s management of the pandemic. Today, more than 200,000 DACA recipients are considered to be essential workers, including 28,200 nurses, personal care aides, and medical assistants, according to the Center for American Progress. Can the U.S. afford to lose this medical support during this pandemic?

On a positive note, immigrant-rights advocates continue to push for a permanent solution in Congress that will benefit noncitizens. The HR-6 Act, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would offer 2.5 million immigrants eligibility for protections and a pathway to citizenship. This is a bill that was passed by the House of Representatives, but has not yet been heard by the Senate. Perhaps, if DACA is paused or terminated, the HR-6 Act will gain more momentum.

On May 27th, USCIS announced that it will reopen some domestic offices and resume non-emergency public services on or after June 4th. As a response to the novel COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS had temporarily suspended routine in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers. USCIS has been following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. Now, USCIS lists individual office closures and amended hours on its website here.  USCIS Field Office in Portland Oregon is set to reopen on June 4th meaning green card and citizenship applicants and their Immigration Lawyers in Portland, Oregon should be ready for their interviews to be scheduled soon.

Please click here for more information regarding visits to USCIS facilities. You can also click here for updates regarding reopenings and modified hours of operation.

Note that USCIS requires that you do not visit an office if you experience any of the following:

  • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
  • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
  • Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.

If you need assistance with an emergency service at any time, call the USCIS Contact Center.

Rescheduling Interviews and Appointments

USCIS will reschedule green card and citizenship interviews and appointments for applicants and petitioners who previously had scheduled appointments. If you believe that you should have received a rescheduling notice, you may always contact the USCIS Contact Center.

During these interviews and appointments, visitors are limited to the applicant, one representative, one family member, and one individual providing disability accommodations. The applicant should arrange to have their interpreter available by phone. If you had other appointments, USCIS indicates that you should reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public.

Once services begin to reopen, offices will limit the daily number of appointments and interviews in order to ensure social distancing, allow time for cleaning, and reduce waiting room occupancy. Appointment notices will include information on safety precautions that visitors of USCIS facilities must follow. USCIS will not penalize you if you reschedule due to illness—if you feel sick, follow the instructions on your appointment notice to reschedule your appointment for when you are healthy.

Reopening Asylum Offices

The interview process at asylum offices will be slightly modified to fit with social distancing guidelines. Asylum offices will conduct video-facilitated asylum interviews, with the applicants sitting in a room and the interviewing officer sitting in another room. Asylum offices will use all available technology, such as mobile devices provided by the agency, to ensure that the officer, applicant, interpreter, and representative are still able to fully participate in the interview while practicing social distancing.

For affirmative asylum interviews, applicants must bring all immediate family members listed as dependents on the application as well as an interpreter if the applicant does not speak or understand English. If the applicant is a minor, he or she can also have a representative, witness, individual providing disability accommodations, or “trusted adult” attend the interview.

For non-detained credible or reasonable fear interviews, family members listed on the interview notice must accompany the applicant to the interview. While representatives may attend these interviews, USCIS encourages these individuals to participate telephonically. USCIS can provide professional interpreters for these interviews as well.

USCIS asylum offices will automatically reschedule asylum interviews that were cancelled due to the temporary closures. Asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with a new time, date, and location for their interviews after USCIS reschedules this interview. Asylum applicants will also receive information about safety precautions before attending interviews.

 

Naturalization Ceremonies during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

If your naturalization ceremony was postponed, USCIS will send notices to reschedule it. To limit the exposure of attendees, the ceremonies will likely be shorter. Rather than playing videos during these ceremonies (which previously occurred), attendees will receive a flyer with information and links directing them to the videos. During the shorter ceremony, only the legally-required portions will occur. Only the naturalization candidate and individuals providing assistance to disabled persons may attend these naturalization ceremonies.

 

Application Support Centers (ASC)

USCIS will automatically reschedule any necessary ASC appointment that was canceled and send a new appointment letter in the mail with specific safety requirements. With the exception of military members, individuals who appear at a date or time other than that listed on the ASC appointment notice will face processing delays.


Entering USCIS Facilities


According to the USCIS website, visitors may not enter a USCIS facility if they:

  • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
  • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
  • Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
  • Visitors may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided for visitors at entry points.
  • Members of the public must wear facial coverings that cover both the mouth and nose when entering facilities.
  • Visitors may be directed to briefly remove their face covering to confirm identity or take their photograph. There will be markings and physical barriers in the facility; visitors should pay close attention to these signs to ensure they follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

Contact our Immigration Lawyers with any questions you may have about the reopening of USICS FIeld office here in Portland, Oregon.

Significance of HEROES Act on Immigrants in the United States

The U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) as their “phase four” 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus and relief package. The HEROES Act, which House Representatives narrowly passed on May 15, 2020, by a 208 to 199 vote, includes a package of $3 trillion in tax cuts and spending to alleviate the negative health and financial impacts of the pandemic. This package also includes financial relief to state, local and tribal governments, an extension to enhanced unemployment benefits, debt collection relief, and direct cash payments to households.

This Act is unique to previous acts, as it addresses many of the faults of the previous bill that excluded immigrants. Six key provisions are included in the HEROES Act that will directly benefit immigrants and immigrant families who were neglected by the previous CARES act.

Cash Payments to Immigrants and their Families

The HEROES Act will provide stimulus money that was previously unavailable by the CARES Act. Direct payments will be issued in the amount of $1,200 for an individual, $2,400 for joint-filers, and $1,200 for up to three dependents with a maximum of $3,600. Undocumented immigrants would be also eligible for the first round of $1,200 checks sent out in April. Immigrants who are eligible for Medicaid will also have access to additional health care benefits.

Relief and Protections for Undocumented Essential Workers

According to the HEROES Act, undocumented immigrants working in essential fields such as health care will be temporary shielded from deportation, as their statuses will be “frozen” under deferred action. They will be able to apply for employment authorization throughout the pandemic. Moreover, unauthorized immigrants will be able to obtain work permits—and may hire these noncitizen immigrants without penalization.

Releasing Low Risk Immigrants from Detention

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be required to re-evaluate the files of detained immigrants and release those who are not perceived to be a threat to society or who are not necessarily subject to mandatory detention. The HEROES Act pushes ICE to apply low-cost alternatives to detention for low-risk immigrants (such as the use of ankle bracelet monitors).

Additionally, the bill requires detention facilities to provide free and unlimited soap to detainees, as well as phone and video call accessibility to communicate with family and legal representatives.

Facilitating the Arrival and Stay of Medical Professionals 

The HEROES Act would speed up visa and green card processing for all foreign medical workers who seek to research or work in fields related to combatting COVID-19. Consulates and U.S. Embassies would be required to prioritize visa interviews for these workers. Emergency appointments would have to be appointed in-person or through a remote platform as a teleconference. Furthermore, foreign-national doctors who have completed their residency in the U.S. are eligible under the HEROES Act to receive permanent residency through an expedited process.
This Act also grants nurses, doctors, and medical researches more flexibility in regards to where they work, which will allow doctors to work where they are most needed without the restrictions under visa controls that previously existed. This means that rather than applying for a new visa, medical professionals with H-1B statuses can transfer between hospitals without re-applying for new H-1B visas.

Medical students are also impacted: they will be able to transfer rotations within their host institution, while also receiving compensation for their work during this pandemic. These students will be able to work outside of their approved program as long as their work relates to COVID-19.

Health Benefits for Immigrants Regardless of Status

The HEROES Act also allows for undocumented immigrants to obtain testing, and treatment, and vaccination (once available) related to COVID-19 without cost, even if the individual does not have health insurance. This extension was not available to immigrants under the CARES Act. The USCIS has already affirmed that treatment in relation to COVID-19 will not make an immigrant a public charge.

While this legislation was passed in the House of Representatives, it is unlikely that it will pass in the Republican-majority Senate or get signed by President Trump, as the White House recently issued a statement opposing the legislation. Even if this act does not directly pass, it is possible that certain provisions of the Act will reappear in the future, perhaps as a bipartisan stimulus and relief bill later in the summer.

Feel free to contact our Portland Immigration Lawyers in Portland, Oregon for answers to your questions at our email address: info@immigrationlawgroupllc.com or call us at (866) 691-9894.

USCIS Proposed Changes to Affidavit of Support  

 

USCIS has recently proposed significant changes to the Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) and other related forms I-864A and I0864EZ. The first proposed change is for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are sponsoring a foreign spouse or relative for green cards to disclose detailed bank account information to the federal government. This includes the banking institution’s name, the account number, routing number, and account holder names. Note that U.S. legislation does not authorize USCIS to collect such information.

 

As a reminder, the Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) is required for most immigrants seeking a green card in the U.S. based on marriage and family petitions in order to demonstrate that they will be financially supported and not become a public charge. This form is also sometimes required for immigrants seeking green cards based on employer sponsorship. Normally, sponsors must provide evidence of their income by submitting copies of their recent federal tax transcript or return, as well as any other financial statements or evidence of future outcome. The new USCIS proposal would change this process.

 

Almost a year ago on May 23rd, 2019, President Trump issued the Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens. In the presidential memo, President Trump emphasized that individuals financially sponsoring alien green card applicants must completely fulfill their commitments under the law. In response to this memo, USCIS focused on better informing sponsors and household members on the implications of their financial obligations. For instance, language in these forms has been modified to ensure clarity regarding sponsor obligations and consequences if the sponsor’s responsibilities are not met. These are included in an extended “Sponsor’s Certification” section as well as a “Household Member’s Contract, Statement, and Certification.” Moreover, the draft of this new form informs sponsors of a civil penalty imposed by the USCIS if the sponsor does not inform the USCIS within 30 days of moving. Additionally, this new Affidavit of Support also asks sponsors to list people who not actively living with the sponsor (such as college students that are not living at home), which will consequently increase the income requirement as the household size increases.

 

Forms I-864 will also allow sponsors to provide information about previously submitted Affidavits and an optional submission of a credit report as evidence. USCIS is also proposing to require U.S. citizens and permanent legal resident sponsors to notarize forms I-864, I-864A, and I-864EZ by a notary public prior to submission to USCIS. These proposed changes will create a burden for sponsors. This may deter them from accepting to be sponsors, which will likely impede some individuals from immigrating.

Finally, the new form requires that the sponsor agree to allow the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other agencies to share information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State. If the alien applicant applies for means-tested public benefits, the sponsor’s privacy can be waived to a greater extent. The new form is stricter in its warning that improperly completed forms, or forms missing proper evidence, may be denied.

 

No effective date has been published, and this will come with the final rule. USCIS accepted public comments for these revisions during a thirty-day period that ended on May 11, 2020. Because the comment period for the rule is closed, the state will now review public comments and publish a final rule within the coming months. Note that if passed, this proposal will only impact applications filed on or after the effective date of the rule.