THE ‘INVISIBLE’ WALL – PART II
Congress intended USCIS to function as a service-oriented agency that efficiently processes immigration-related applications and petitions, enabling individuals to obtain work authorization, citizenship, humanitarian protection, and other vital benefits, and enabling U.S. employers to fill critical workforce gaps. Indeed, the agency charges high filing fees for cases and is not affected by government shutdowns. But, ballooning USCIS processing times coupled with other policy changes leave families — including families with U.S. citizen spouses and children — in financial distress, exposing vulnerable protection seekers to danger, and threatening the viability of American companies. Congress and the public need to hold USCIS accountable.
Department of State’s ‘Invisible Wall’
Recent data released by the Department of State reveal that it too is laying brick after brick of an invisible wall that is curbing legal immigration to the United States. Visa inadmissibility statistics in FY 2018 reveal an uptick in just one year of almost 10,000 visa denials on public charge grounds (3,237 in FY 2017 vs. 13,450 in FY 2018); almost 3,000 more smuggling-related denials (2,521 vs. 5,379); and almost 100,000 more denials where the consular officer believes that the foreign national is ineligible to receive a visa (often for documentary reasons). Unlike many denials issued by USCIS which can in many cases can be appealed or even litigated, consular officer decisions are non-reviewable with limited exceptions.
New I-539 Form Must Be Used Starting on MARCH 11
USCIS announced that it has revised Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and that starting March 11, 2019, it will only accept the new version of the form. A new Form I-539A, also effective March 11, replaces the amendment pages normally used for children. (Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign.)
The most significant change to the new form is the requirement that every co-applicant pay a biometrics fee and attend an ASC (Application Service Center) appointment, regardless of age. AILA has requested that USCIS delay implementation for 90 days, but as of late February, the new form and biometrics requirement remain in place.
Dilip Patel of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 222-1120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org