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Monthly U.S. immigration law news roundup: State Department planning pilot program for domestic visa renewals

Welcome to the Garfinkel Immigration news roundup, where every month we will summarize and provide links to the latest stories impacting U.S. immigration.

Below is the February 2023 edition of the Garfinkel Immigration news roundup:

Frequently asked questions: Latest updates regarding the Public Charge Rule

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) clarified in December 2022 the factors in determining whether a foreign national would be deemed inadmissible to the United States based upon the likelihood of ever becoming a public charge (someone with “significant reliance on the government for support”).

The new guidance became effective on December 23, 2022.

The public charge rule applies to all applicants for admission to the U.S. or adjustment of status, with limited exceptions. Questions on public charge are integrated into the I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status which must be answered by each applicant filing the I-485.

Below are some frequently asked questions related to the Public Charge Rule and the Form I-485.

How should household income be calculated?

Applicants should calculate an estimate of their household’s total annual income. USCIS does not limit this calculation only to income that appears on federal tax forms. USCIS considers all evidence of income from lawful sources for public charge purposes. Examples of income that may not appear on tax forms include child support, alimony, and Social Security income.

In some instances, this listed income may include income that has resulted from unauthorized employment. Whether a member of the noncitizen’s household engaged in unlawful employment, and any immigration consequences flowing from such unauthorized employment, is a separate determination from the public charge inadmissibility determination.

Read the complete list of FAQs here.

USCIS alters CSPA age calculation for Adjustment of Status applications

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has altered the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) age calculation for some adjustment of status applications.

Children who are applying, based on a parent’s approved visa, for lawful permanent residency (green card) “age out” of the process and become ineligible to immigrate to the United States (based off of that petition) after they turn 21. Effectively, the change by USCIS should provide “more certainty” for these children about their eligibility to adjust status before “aging out.”

The updated guidance became effective immediately on Feb. 14, 2023.  It also applies to pending applications.

Read the full story here.

Immigration fees may go up and green card applicants could be hard hit

This story from NPR details the potential upcoming increase in cost for green card and other nonimmigrant visa applications.

USCIS presented the increases in a proposed rule released last month. The proposal has not been finalized, as it is subject to a 60-day comment period before a final rule can be published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that oversees legal immigration, is planning to raise costs for an array of applications including ones required for citizenship naturalization, to obtain a green card, or to legally work in the U.S. as a noncitizen,” the story from NPR read.

USCIS said in a statement the increases were needed to recover from issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to “keep up with incoming inventories and avoid future backlogs.”

“The federal agency said it needs to raise application fees, adding that the proposed prices are expected to generate $1.9 billion more per year than current application costs,” the NPR story read.

Find out more via NPR here.

State Department plans pilot for domestic visa renewal

The Department of State (DOS) is planning to test a program which will provide a visa renewal option in the U.S. for H and L visa holders, according to a story published by Bloomberg in mid-February.

The program could eventually expand to other visa classifications, according to the report.

“Restoring stateside visa renewals, which were discontinued in 2004, will save those applicants from having to leave the country, and will reduce the workload of consular offices abroad,” Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary for visa services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, told Bloomberg Law in the story.

“We all saw during the pandemic how difficult it was for these people to return to their home country and often not be able to get visa appointments to come back to their home, the United States,” Stufft told Bloomberg. “That’s what we’re trying to address initially with this.”

Read the full Bloomberg story here.

New USCIS data shows H-1B denial rates remain low

This story, written by Forbes Senior Contributor Stuart Anderson, analyzes recent data about H-1B visa denial rates.

The current denial rate for an H-1B visa is about two percent, “the lowest on record,” according to the Forbes article.

“The denial rates on H-1B petitions declined in Donald Trump’s last year after his administration suffered several legal defeats that reversed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policies,” Anderson writes. “Despite fewer denials, companies face the prospect of 80% of H-1B registrations failing to result in hiring a foreign-born employee due to the low annual limit on H-1B petitions.”

The story adds: “H-1B visas play a vital role in the U.S. immigration system—and the U.S. economy—because they are usually the only practical way to hire long-term international students or other high-skilled foreign nationals.”

Read the full Forbes story here.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions.

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