This past year 2017 was generous for U.S. immigration's news. In this article, I would like to highlight the most significant changes.
If you remember, the year of 2017 began very dynamically – President Trump signed one of the most controversial executive orders halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In April 2017, President Trump signed Buy American, Hire American (BAHA) Executive Order which seeks to protect interests of the U.S. workers by changing immigration law and regulations.
USCIS conducts in-person interviews with specific categories of foreign nationals applying for permanent residency
From October 1, 2017, in addition to the existing categories, USCIS holds in-person interviews with:
- Adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status);
- Refugee/asylee relative petitions for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant (Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition).
On its website, USCIS states that they are “planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.” As a justification of this change, USCIS argues the necessity of the development of “more robust screening and vetting procedures for individuals seeking immigration benefits to reside in the United States.”
It cannot yet be said how it impacts our safety; however, there is no doubt that the processing time for all AOS applications will increase.
Ending of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
September 5, 2017, the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions announced, a presidential decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protecting about 800,000 persons who were brought to the United States as children and never had lawful status or lost it through no fault of their own.
Currently, there is a bipartisan bill called the Dream Act of 2017 in the Congress’s docket. Under the bill, the "dreamers" with DACA, would receive immediate protection under the Dream Act of 2017. There is still a chance that Congress may finally feel the pressure to act now and pass a law for permanent protection of the “dreamers.”
90 Days Rule
In September 2017, the Department of State updated its Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) by changing the previous “30/60/90 Days Rule” to the “90 Days Rule.”
The 90 Days Rule affects foreign nationals who do not have permanent legal residency in the United States. They must understand that within the first 90 days from their arrival in the United States, these persons must rigorously follow the plan they announced to a consular officer during their visa interview or a CBP officer at the U.S. border.
If a foreign national “violates or engages in conduct inconsistent with his or her nonimmigrant status within 90 days of entry" (i.e., searching for a job, school, marring a U.S. citizen or LPR), a consular officer may presume that the foreign national’s representations “about engaging in only status-compliant activity were willful misrepresentations of his or her intention in seeking a visa or entry.” Such misrepresentation increases the risk of the significant difficulties or even impossibility in the process of obtaining new visas or change of status. In the worst case, such misrepresentation might lead to the foreign national's deportation.Even if the foreign national engages in an inconsistent conduct after 90 days, her visa might be revoked if a consular officer has “reasonable belief that the alien misrepresented his or her purpose of travel at the time of the visa application or application for admission.”
At present, USCIS has not changed its regulations, and de-jure applies the old “30/60/90 Days Rule.” However, USCIS can update its rules at any moment.
Appling for Social Security Number While Applying for Work Permit
In October 2017, USCIS updated Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. It now allows specific categories of aliens to apply for their SSN and card (SSN card) on the same application form used to apply for permission to work legally in the United States. Previously, an alien had to obtain their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) at first, and then, apply for SSN in person.
Now, if USCIS approves the alien’s application, she will receive her SSN card within seven business days after she receives her EAD.
Extension of Nonimmigrant Workers’ Visas
In October 2017, under the aegis of BAHA, USCIS announced a new policy to ensure petitioners meet the burden of proof for nonimmigrant worker extension petitions. Under the new policy, USCIS officers will apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests for nearly all nonimmigrant classifications filed using .
In other words, even where the underlying facts are unchanged from a previously approved petition, the officers do not have to give deference to the findings of an already approved petition. While adjudicators may ultimately reach the same conclusion as in a prior decision, they are not compelled to do so as a default starting point as the burden of proof to establish eligibility for an immigration benefit always lies with the petitioner.
We'll see what 2018 bringsto the U.S. immigration.