The U.S. State Department has just released the February 2017 Visa Bulletin which is the fifth Visa Bulletin for the new FY2017 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the slow forward movement across many categories, including the lack of any movement in EB-2 India. EB-3 China continues to have a more favorable cutoff date than EB-2 China which creates favorable conditions for EB-2 to EB-3 China downgrades.
Many USCIS applications (normally those which result in the production of a “secure document”) require the applicant provide digital biometrics at a USCIS office. In most cases, the biometrics process includes digital fingerprinting and a digital photo.
Many applicants who need to submit to the required biometrics are able to do so in the closest USCIS application support center (“ASC”) in the U.S. However, some applicants, especially those applying for I-131 Reentry Permit, often have very limited options to stay or travel to the U.S. for the required biometrics appointment. USCIS has recently announced that in “rare circumstances” they will use their discretion and try to accommodate taking biometrics appointments at a USCIS Field Office outside of the U.S.
The Need for Completing Biometrics on Time
As noted above, certain applications which result in the issuance of a “secure document” by USCIS require the applicant to submit to biometrics as part of every application. Among the most common USCIS application types which require biometrics are I-485, Application to Adjust Status, I-131, Application for Travel Document (Reentry Permit) (please see our specialized Expedited Reentry Permit site), and I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.
Following the filing of such application, USCIS will normally schedule the applicant for an appointment to submit biometrics at an ASC in the U.S. (normally closest to the address of the applicant). USCIS has indicated that failure to complete the biometrics process will be considered an abandonment of the application and lead to a denial. For many applications, such as Reentry Permits, USCIS will allow 120 days after the filing of the application for the biometrics to be completed. Therefore, the requirement to complete the biometrics and the timing must be considered carefully when making travel plans.
Can Biometrics be Completed Outside of US?
Until recently, USCIS refused to permit biometrics to be completed abroad. They used to cite the lack of the specialized equipment at foreign field offices. Starting late 2016, USCIS has announced that they have very limited ability to process biometrics at certain USCIS field offices outside of the U.S.
First, USCIS has indicated that they will allow biometrics to be processed outside of the U.S. only in rare and exceptional circumstances and each case will require exercise of the local field office’s discretion and specific permission. Each international USCIS field office will, on a case-by-case basis, make a determination whether to allow biometrics to be completed outside of the U.S. after review of the case’s circumstances.
How to Request Biometrics to be Processed Abroad?
While there is slight variation among various USCIS international field offices, the process generally involves reaching out to the field office via email and presenting a compelling case as to why the biometrics cannot be completed at an ASC in the U.S. The request will have to demonstrate (and document) the circumstances of the case.
While most of the field offices are very responsive, not all requests for biometrics abroad are granted. If the request is granted, the international field office will provide instructions on how to complete the biometrics. Often, they will advise the applicant to schedule an appointment at the international field office and then confirm the appointment date and time.
What are the Criteria for Requesting Biometrics Collection Outside of U.S.?
USCIS takes the position that only rare and exceptional circumstances will warrant biometrics collection outside of the U.S. Generally, the criteria for successfully asking for biometrics abroad for applicants who reside in the U.S. are:
- the applicant must have an application pending and with an outstanding ASC appointment in the U.S. (in other words, the case must be ready for biometrics collection);
- the applicant must be able to explain and document the exceptional circumstances and hardship which prevent the applicant from completing the biometrics in the U.S., including the need for departing the U.S. and inability to travel to the U.S. for biometrics;
- the applicant must also be able to show that a request for expediting the biometrics was made prior to departing the U.S. or, if such request was not made, the applicant must explain the failure of making such request.
USCIS warns that the expense of having to travel to the U.S. for biometrics, in and of itself, will not normally be considered a sufficient hardship to grant such a request.
When our office files such requests, we normally attempt to present a background of the case, including description of the application process and our attempts to secure biometrics on an expedited basis (which we almost always do for our clients). We also provide evidence of the exceptional circumstances preventing the applicant from being able to travel to the U.S. Most of our successful international biometrics cases have been health- or personal circumstance-related.
Recommendation: Focus on Completing Biometrics in US; Rely on Biometrics Abroad as Last Resort Only
Since USCIS has made the international biometrics option available, our office has been able to assist a number of reentry permit clients complete their biometrics abroad. However, our experience confirms that USCIS will grant such requests only in rare and exceptional cases. As a result, our recommendation is for applicants who must travel abroad, especially in reentry permit cases, to plan the application and biometrics well in advance in order to complete the required biometrics in the U.S. prior to departing. In many cases when expedited biometrics are requested, the biometrics can be completed within two or three weeks after filing or the biometrics may be postponed for a future U.S. trip. We urge applicants to rely on international biometrics only as a last resort.
Our office has a special reentry permit division where we handle reentry permits on a daily basis for a variety of green card applicant situations and we will be delighted to discuss and, possibly, help throughout the application process. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments or complete the case evaluation and quote form if we can be of any assistance with this or related immigration-related issues. We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.
Dear clients and readers:
We would like to take a moment to express our gratitude for your support throughout this year and for making it a special one for us. We are happy and privileged to have you as clients and readers and we wish you the happiest of holidays!
We are looking forward to working with you during the new year. Have a prosperous, happy and joyous New Year 2017.
From all of us,
The Capitol Immigration Law Group Team
The U.S. State Department has just released the January 2017 Visa Bulletin which is the fourth Visa Bulletin for the new FY2017 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the anemic forward movement across many categories, including the slowing movement in EB-2 India and China. EB-3 China continues to have a more favorable cutoff date than EB-2 China which creates favorable conditions for EB-2 to EB-3 China downgrades.
Our office handles many ETA Form 9089 – Permanent Labor Certification (“PERM”) applications and we are closely monitoring the current PERM processing times not only for the benefit of our clients but also to be able to predict longer-term trends in PERM processing.
The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has provided an update on the current PERM filing and processing statistics in addition to the processing dates as of December 3, 2016. (more…)
I-140 EAD/Job Portability Final Rule Released – Analysis and Overview of the Upcoming Changes and System Fixes
The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has just released the final text (also copy of Federal Register version) of the rule seeking to improve certain aspects of the employment-based immigration system. The new rule seeks to implement certain changes to the non-immigrant and immigrant visas in order to better allow US employers to retain foreign workers. The final rule also provides increased flexibility to foreign workers, especially from India and China, during their U.S. employment-based immigration process. The new rule will become effective 60 days after its November 18, 2016 publication in the Federal Register, or on January 17, 2017. (more…)
On November 14, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification which is available to use starting immediately. Starting Jan. 22, 2017, employers must use only the new version, dated 11/14/2016 N. Until then, they can continue to use the version dated 03/08/2013 N or the new version.
Among the changes in the new version, Section 1 asks for “other last names used” rather than “other names used,” and streamlines certification for certain foreign nationals.
Other changes include:
- The addition of prompts to ensure information is entered correctly.
- The ability to enter multiple preparers and translators.
- A dedicated area for including additional information rather than having to add it in the margins.
- A supplemental page for the preparer/translator.
The instructions have been separated from the form, in line with other USCIS forms, and include specific instructions for completing each field.
The revised Form I-9 is also easier to complete on a computer. Enhancements include drop-down lists and calendars for filling in dates, on-screen instructions for each field, easy access to the full instructions, and an option to clear the form and start over. When the employer prints the completed form, a quick response (QR) code is automatically generated, which can be read by most QR readers.
Form I-9 requirements were established in November 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). IRCA prohibits employers from hiring people, including U.S. citizens, for employment in the United States without verifying their identity and employment authorization on Form I-9.
How Can We Help
The Capitol Immigration Law Group can provide various levels of internal I-9 compliance audits and on-site employee training as well as training materials and guidance for performing regular audits and training. We can provide immigration compliance training and auditing to meet an employer’s specific needs. We encourage all employers to be mindful of their compliance requirements and to proactively and regularly audit their compliance before a government agency does. We also invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics. We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance or you have any questions or comments.
During the election campaign, President-elect Trump put immigration at the center of his agenda and platform and made a commitment to the voters to take immediate steps relating to immigration upon taking office on January 20, 2017. There are certain immigration-related steps that can be done immediately upon taking office, by executive action, and there are certain steps which require congressional approval. Our office seeks to provide our initial thoughts on what immigration-related changes we may expect during the Trump presidency. (more…)
The U.S. State Department has just released the December 2016 Visa Bulletin which is the third Visa Bulletin for the new FY2017 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the anemic forward movement across many categories, including the slowing movement in EB-2 India and China. EB-3 China continues to have a more favorable cutoff date than EB-2 China which creates favorable conditions for EB-2 to EB-3 China downgrades. Also, due to high demand, EB-1 India/China and EB-2 ROW are expected to have a cutoff date sometime later this fiscal year.
The Department of Homeland Security has just released the final rule announcing the increase of most of the Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) application filing fees. The weighted average of the increase is 21 percent and USCIS is adding one new fee. The filing fee increase will become effective for all USCIS filings starting mailed, postmarked or otherwise filed on or after December 23, 2016. (more…)