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…)
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…)
In recent years, the U.S. government has been more efficient in reaching its citizens living abroad in order to collect U.S. taxes. Those efforts seem to have spurred a growing trend of U.S. citizens choosing to relinquish their U.S. citizenship. Burdened with ever-increasing tax compliance regulations, onerous reporting obligations and mounting professional fees to accountants and advisors, ordinary Americans residing aboard are taking steps to simplify their lives by giving up U.S. citizenship.
The so-called “Voluntary Renouncement” is the most common process used to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Typically, the applicant has two interviews with an officer at a U.S. consulate or embassy. The first interview is an information meeting designed to confirm the person’s U.S. citizenship, as well as discuss the consequences of renunciation. After the initial interview, any individual who decides to proceed will be required to undergo a waiting period to make sure that he or she has enough time to adequately ponder the irreversible decision. After a period of time, a second interview is scheduled to complete the process.
During the second meeting, the individual will be interviewed to assess whether he or she is acting intentionally and voluntarily. Consular officers follow guidelines to assure that the intent is truly voluntary. If so, the consular officer administers an oath of renunciation, and the soon-to-be former U.S. citizen signs an oath or affirmation of renunciation of nationality and a statement of understanding of the consequences and ramifications of relinquishment or renunciation of U.S. nationality. After the oath, the officer prepares a Certificate of the Loss of Nationality that is filed with the Department of State for final approval. Once approved, the Certificate is mailed to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as the now officially former U.S. citizen.
Parents Can Not Relinquish on Behalf of Children
Relinquishment of U.S. citizenship has profound and irreversible consequences. Therefore, it is required that the candidate has a voluntary intent to undergo the process and such intent cannot be expressed by another party. A minor child requesting relinquishment would likely be doing so due to parental influence and it is impossible to ascertain whether the child’s intent is completely voluntary.
In fact, consular officers are instructed in the Foreign Affairs Manual that “Children under 16 are presumed not to have the requisite maturity and knowing intent.” It is important to note that parents cannot renounce citizenship on behalf of a child once the child has US citizenship. The regulations generally require that a child wait until age 18 to renounce his or her own citizenship if this is the path the child chooses to take
After relinquishing U.S. citizenship, the former citizen immediately begins to be treated as any other foreign national. For example, in order to enter the U.S. to travel or visit family and friends, the person would need to apply for a visa or a visa waiver. Similarly, in order to work in the U.S., the individual would need to apply for work-authorized status such as H-1B or L-1, or receive an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”), if eligible. It is important to note that former citizens do not received preferential treatment when applying for admission to the U.S.
For those with minor children, a U.S. passport or green card may open up opportunities for the child in the future. It is important to note that if a U.S. citizen renounces citizenship he or she no longer has the legal right to transmit citizenship to minor children.
Moreover, relinquishment of U.S. citizenship is irreversible. Once citizenship is relinquished, any individual wishing to become a U.S. citizen again will need to follow standard immigration procedures: become a legal permanent resident first and apply for naturalization at a later time.
Relinquishment of citizenship may also have unintended consequences affecting taxes, for example an exit tax levied on the person’s global assets. Therefore, it is crucial that anyone contemplating citizenship renunciation should also seek advice from an experienced tax professional.
How Can We Help
Capitol Immigration Law Group PLLC offers a wide range of immigration law services. Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can be of any assistance or you have any questions or comments. We stand ready to help analyze any time-sensitive cases. We also invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.
The U.S. State Department has just released the November 2016 Visa Bulletin which is the second Visa Bulletin for the new FY2017 fiscal year. The headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the fact that EB-2 India and China advance notably while the forward movement in most of the other categories is fairly minor. Additionally, 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.