Immigration Update

Apr 19, 2021 | Immigration Updates

More news this month about visa processing backlogs as well as news from Washington DC about the refugee cap, and more.

State Dept. Releases FAQ on Immigrant Visa Backlog and Consular Processing

The Department of State has recently issued an FAQ on the immigrant visa backlog and consular processing. The FAQ notes that the immigrant visa interview backlog has developed because of limitations in staffing and other COVID-related operational constraints preventing us from processing the same volume of applicants as pre-pandemic. In addition, the FAQ cites previous presidential proclamations that “restricted visa processing for many immigrants for nearly a year.” The Department said it would take time to process the cases affected by these travel restrictions.

The Department said it is committed to decreasing the backlog by “prioritizing certain visas, creating efficiencies in the visa process, and utilizing all available resources until our task is accomplished.” Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for updates on currently available visa services, the FAQ states. Virtual interviews are not available because current regulations require all immigrant visa applicants to appear in person before a consular officer.

Details: “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Immigrant Visa Backlog,” Dept. of State, Apr. 13, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/travelgov

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President Biden Will Raise Refugee Cap Following Backlash

Following a backlash after President Joe Biden announced that the number of refugee admissions would be kept at the Trump Administration’s 15,000 level, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reversed course and stated that the President plans to raise the cap on refugees for fiscal year 2021 by May 15, 2021.

Previously, the Biden administration had said the FY 2021 cap would be 62,500 and the FY 2022 cap would be 125,000. It remains unclear how much the administration will raise the FY 2021 cap. The allocations announced earlier on April 16 included Africa (7,000), East Asia (1,000), Europe and Central Asia (1,500), Latin America and the Caribbean (3,000), Near East and South Asia (1,500), and an unallocated reserve of 1,000 to be used “where the need for additional admissions arises and to transfer unused allocations from a particular category to one or more other categories” if needed.

A White House statement also said that persons in the following countries “may, if otherwise qualified, be considered refugees for the purpose of admission to the United States within their countries of nationality or habitual residence”: Cuba; Eurasia and the Baltics; Iraq; Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador; and in special circumstances, “persons identified by a United States Embassy in any location or initially referred to the Federal Government by a designated non-governmental organization.”

Details: “Biden Will Raise Trump Refugee Cap Following Democratic Outcry,” Bloomberg, Apr. 16, 2021, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/biden-will-raise-trump-refugee-cap-following-democratic-outcry/ar-BB1fJksf?ocid=msedgntp

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President Biden Picks Nominees for USCIS, CBP

President Joe Biden has chosen Ur Jaddou to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), according to reports.

Ms. Jaddou has two decades of experience in immigration law, policy, and administration. Most recently, she was Director of DHS Watch, a project of America’s Voice. She is an adjunct professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law, and counsel at Potomac Law Group, PLLC. From June 2014 to January 2017, she was Chief Counsel for USCIS. She also served as Chief Counsel to the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Immigration, and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional, Global and Functional Affairs in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs at the Department of State. Ms. Jaddou is a daughter of immigrants from Mexico (mother) and Iraq (father) and was born in California. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and a law degree from UCLA School of Law.

Mr. Magnus is currently the Police Chief in Tucson, Arizona. He has a long career in public safety, including with the Lansing, Michigan, police department and serving as Police Chief in Fargo, North Dakota; Richmond, California; and Tucson, Arizona. In those roles, Mr. Magnus focused on relationship-building between the police and community, implementing evidence-based best practices, promoting reform, and police accountability. Because of Tucson’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, Mr. Magnus has “extensive experience in addressing immigration issues,” the White House said. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan State University and attended the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Details: “President Biden Announces His Intent to Nominate Key Members for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” White House, Apr. 12, 2021, https://bit.ly/3sqtDf8

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F-1 Students Seeking OPT Can Now File Form I-765 Online

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 12, 2021, that F-1 students seeking optional practical training (OPT) can now file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, online if they are filing under one of these categories:

  • (c)(3)(A), Pre-Completion OPT
  • (c)(3)(B), Post-Completion OPT
  • (c)(3)(C), 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students

USCIS emphasized that the option to file Form I-765 online is only available to F-1 students filing Form I-765 for OPT, noting that “[i]f an applicant submits Form I-765 online to request employment authorization on or after April 15, but is eligible for a different employment authorization category, USCIS will deny the application and retain the fee. As USCIS continues to transition to paperless operations, the agency will work to expand online filing for Form I-765 to additional categories.”

To submit a form online, an individual must first create a USCIS online account at myaccount.uscis.gov. The free account allows people to submit forms, pay fees, track the status of their case, communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox, and respond to requests for additional evidence. USCIS continues to accept the latest paper versions of forms by mail.

Details: USCIS release, https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/f-1-students-seeking-optional-practical-training-can-now-file-form-i-765-online

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