Ebola Outbreak-Related Immigration Relief Measures Announced

As many of our readers are aware, there has recently been a traumatic Ebola outbreak in several countries in West Africa. In response, the USCIS announced on August 15th relief measures to nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who are currently in the United States. These relief measures included changes or extensions of nonimmigrant status, extensions of certain grants of parole, expedited adjudications of employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship, expedited processing of (resident) immediate relative petitions, expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications and consideration for waiver of fees for certain USCIS benefit applications. If you are a national of these countries and need further information, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Duplicate Biometrics Notices Widespread

During July and August, in response to a rumored update to their system, the USCIS was busy generating duplicates of many notices. Notably, this included green card approvals, as well as new biometrics appointments (fingerprint requests) for pending green card applicants. While the duplicate green card approval notices have been confusing to many, the greatest impact has been on pending green card applicants who have been understandably been very concerned that these new biometric appointments indicated a problem with their case.

Finally on 8/27 the USCIS issued a notice to our national immigration attorney organization (AILA) that they were aware that these duplicate biometrics were being issued. They stated, as we notified our clients, that if a duplicate notice is received and the client has already attended an ASC appointment and had biometrics captured, it should not be necessary to attend the second appointment. Despite this, our office recommends that clients should individually review any duplicate notices they receive with their attorney to ensure the best course of action is followed in each case.

Immigration Reform on Hold

Previously in our blog post over the summer we reported the potential for EXECUTIVE ACTION BY PRESIDENT OBAMA TO “FIX” IMMIGRATION. President Obama, in remarks from the White House on June 30, 2014, discussed using his executive powers if congress continued to fail to act to bring immigration legislation to his desk. September 2014 was the rumored timeline for an announcement of this action.

Unfortunately, although immigration advocates are criticizing him, President Obama has decided to delay any executive action to “fix” immigration. He has pointed to other pressing national and international issues that need his immediate attention. Critics meanwhile contend that the delay is a political move to shield sympathetic politicians from any backlash before their elections.

Our office will be closely monitoring the issue, so keep following us for breaking news on this topic.

New Mobile Passport Control App Available from CBP

Something Beneficial for our Tech Savvy Travelers to Watch for in 2014

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched a limited roll-out in August of a new app to expedite a traveler’s entry process into the United States.  The new app termed “Mobile Passport Control” allows eligible travelers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form via a smartphone or tablet prior to CBP inspection.  The app is limited to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for its trial run, but is expected to expand to more airports later this year. The app is currently likewise limited to Apple devices at the moment, but will be expanded to Android devices also in the future.

DOS had technical problems with visa issuance during the summer

During the always-busy summer travel season the Department of State (DOS) experienced severe “technical problems” which lead to a worldwide backlog of nonimmigrant visas.  This problem was first reported at the end of July by DOS with the projection that it would “take weeks to resume full visa processing capacity”.  Thankfully, by mid-August, DOS reported that most of the worldwide backlog of nonimmigrant visas had been issued.  Following future breaking news like this on our Twitter account @adriennejv