Visa Applicants Now Required to Submit Social Media Accounts:
Dated: June 4, 2019
The United States Department of State issued a new policy May 31, 2019 requiring nearly all visa applicants to the United States to list any and all social media accounts, emails, and phone numbers used within the past five years. The new policy was implemented in hopes of improving the visa-screening process.
Many travelers planning a trip to the United States will find a new section on the DS-160 form, requiring the addition of such information – some of the most popular requested platforms include Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
In a statement to the Associated Press, the department said “(n)ational security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening. We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”
Under the Obama administration, previous applicants were asked to voluntarily submit their social media information, unless they were identified for extra scrutiny.
Now, anyone who attempts to conceal their social media use could face “serious immigration consequences,” according to an official that spoke to The Hill. “As we’ve seen around the world in recent years, social media can be a major forum for terrorist sentiment and activity. This will be a visa tool to screen out terrorists, public safety threats, and other dangerous individuals from gaining immigration benefits and setting foot on U.S. soil,” said the state department official.
The move has gained some scrutiny from human rights organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “This is a dangerous and problematic proposal, which does nothing to protect security concerns but raises significant privacy concerns and First Amendment issues for citizens and immigrants,” Hina Shamsi, the director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said on Sunday. Those with similar sentiments to Ms. Shamsi believe the policy could lead to a “chilling effect,” causing the censorship of speech. Others, such as Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, have accused the Trump administration of overly broad surveillance efforts.
The new requirement could affect up to 15 million potential travelers per year. However, those tourists traveling from any of the 38 countries covered by the Visa Waiver Program still have the option of listing their accounts but are not yet required to on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form.
USCIS reports Huge Increase in U.S. Citizenship Applications this Year 2019:
Dated: May 30, 2019
Recently the United States and Immigration Services Website has released naturalization statistics. According to the USCIS a total of 163,000 people were naturalized during 2018. This has been a 55% increase from the year before. Some immigration attorneys believe it is due to the recent political climate and the ability to vote is the driving factor behind the spike in citizenship applications and naturalizations. Immigration attorney, Iliana Holguin believes the raise in naturalizations is “that now they’re really seeing the importance of having a voice in our democracy by being able to vote. Especially with all the negative rhetoric that’s being said about immigrant and immigrant communities.”
The desire to vote has been a major factor for permanent residents to become citizens. Washington Post reporter, Allison Klein, reported last year that Maria Valles Vda De Bonilla officially became a United States Citizen at the age of 106-years-old. Bonilla is not the oldest immigrant to become a citizen, a Turkish man became a United States citizen at the age of 117. Both wanted their voice to be heard and it proves that becoming a United States citizen does not have an expiration. Enjoying the benefits of being a United States citizen does not have an age limit.
If you want to enjoy these benefits and have your voice be heard in the upcoming elections please reach out to us at (866)691-9894.
Government Shutdown delayed 60,000 Immigration Court hearings
The Executive Office for Immigration Review announced that court hearings will resume as the 35-day partial government shutdown came to a close last month. This was a record-long shutdown that delayed approximately 60,000 court hearings according to the Department of Justice. The Executive Office for Immigration Review noted that “cases will be reset for a later date after funding resumes.”
President Donald Trump’s demand for a border wall temporarily halted immigration court hearings for immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. or for those who were detained. Immigrants can file a motion for an earlier hearing if necessary. However, the immigration court backlog had been gradually increasing even prior to the government shutdown.
It is important that you stay updated and continue to prepare for your hearing. If you have questions regarding case processing times or would like more information, feel free to contact our firm today at (866)691-9894.
USCIS now allows you to check your Asylum Status Online
On January 28, 2019, USCIS announced that pending affirmative asylum applicants who have submitted applications to USCIS can now see their current case status online here. This feature does not cover applicants who have pending asylum cases in immigration courts, known as defensive asylum applications. Prior to this updated feature, asylum applicants would only be able to request updates on their case status directly through the asylum office in their local jurisdiction. Now, a pending asylum applicant may enter their case number into the bar and click on Check Status which will allow the applicant to view the most recent updates on their case.
USCIS has announced today that applicants who have a pending asylum application with USCIS can now check their case status online here. Only asylum applicants with an application pending with USCIS will be able to use this new feature to check their case status online. It will not cover defensive asylum applicants whose cases are pending in immigration court. Previously, asylum applicants could only check their case status through an asylum office in person or by phone, fax, or email. To check your status, simply enter your case number in the white bar, press enter, and it will show the latest updates of a case.
Asylum is a humanitarian benefit under immigration law that allows a person to stay in the country legally. You can request Asylum if you have a legitimate fear of persecution if you returned to your country of national origin. If you have a pending asylum case or would like more information on how to apply, feel free to contact our firm today at (866)691-9894 with any questions you may have.
The Government Shutdown is over, what happens to my immigration case?
On January 25, 2019, Congress and the President agreed to fund the Federal government for a 3-week period of time until February 15, 2019. Thereafter, the Federal government could be shut down again if no compromise is reached on border security.
USCIS: If you have a pending case with USCIS or would like to apply, the good news is, it’s business as usual and you will be able to continue to apply and wait for your interviews to be scheduled and attend them. This is because USCIS is funded by your application fees and remain largely unaffected by the previous and any future Federal government shutdown.
Immigration Courts: Courts at non-detained sites will now reopen this week for the next three weeks. This means that if you have a scheduled court date coming up you should prepare your case, plan on attending your scheduled court appearance, and make sure all required filings have been submitted on time prior to your court date. If your hearing was supposed to take place during the time the Government has been shut down. You will get a notice of a new rescheduled date. Unfortunately, due to the tremendous backlog currently in immigration court, some court dates may be rescheduled months and sometimes years later.
If you have any questions about how the Federal government funding and future potential shutdown may affect your immigration case, feel free to give us a call at (866)691-9894.
How Does the Government Shutdown affect my immigration case?
On Dec. 21, 2018, the U.S. federal government shut down affecting various federal agencies. This article highlights which immigration agencies were affected and how that could impact your immigration case.
USCIS: Fortunately, because USCIS is, for the most part, funded by application filing fees, it’s business as usual. This means USCIS will continue to process your immigration applications, schedule and conduct your fingerprint appointments, and interviews, and process any responses to Requests for Evidence received while your application is pending.
Immigration Courts: Courts at non-detained sites are closed until the Government reopens. This means that if you have a scheduled court date coming up and the Government remains shut down, your hearing will likely be rescheduled. The Portland Immigration Court has been notifying people in removal proceedings and their attorneys a day in advance of their court date if their hearing has been rescheduled. The Courts are still accepting filings but will not process them through until the Government reopens.
Department of State: Visa processing of nonimmigrant and immigrant visas will resume at U.S. consulates abroad based on the limited funding available.
EB-5 Processing: The EB-5 Regional Center Program ended on Dec. 21, 2018. Until the federal government reopens, and the Regional Center EB-5 program extension is signed into law, new I-526 petitions cannot be filed. Investors will also be unable to file a new adjustment of status applications based on I-526 petitions until the program is officially extended.
If you have any questions about how the Federal government shutdown may affect your immigration case, feel free to give contact us or give us a call at (866)691-9894.