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Recent Notable Cases

THE RESULTS ON PRIOR CASES DO NOT GUARANTEE THE SAME RESULTS FOR FUTURE CASES.

2016 AUGUST – The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China approves the K-1 fiancée visa to a couple who previously married each other in 2013 and divorced in 2015. When they got married, the American husband didn’t tell the Chinese wife that he was still married to his American wife. They proceeded to file the spouse visa and after USCIS approves the case, the American husband disclosed the truth. The Chinese wife was understandably furious and after some time, was willing to forgive after taking into consideration their 6-year relationship. Their Chinese marriage was invalid and they had to file for divorce and withdrawal the spouse visa application. In the meantime, the American husband divorced his American wife, whom he has been separately from for 16 years. The American husband didn’t previously divorce his American wife because he was working overseas, kept procrastinating and delaying the inevitable. The American and Chinese couple met in 2009, during a chance meeting at a pharmacy in China. The U.S. citizen was on a business trip and went to a pharmacy to look for cold medicine. Unable to communicate with the pharmacy employees, the Chinese citizen, able to speak English, stepped in to help. To thank her, the U.S. citizen invited her to dinner and their relationship blossomed. At the K-1 interview, the consular officer asked a few basic questions and also why they previously got divorced.

2016 JULY - The USCIS Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania approves the I-485 (Adjustment of Status) application of a widow of a U.S. citizen (Form I-360). In October 2015, the applicant and her late American husband were married. In November 2015, they retained our services to the file the I-485 and I-130 applications based on their marriage. In December 2015, the American husband of heart failure. The applicant came to the USA over 10 years ago on a tourist visa and met her late husband in 2011 through common friends. It was their first marriage.

2016 JULY – The U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, China grants a 10-year B1/B2 visitor visa to the 54-year-old Chinese mother of a legal permanent resident. The applicant-mother is widowed, operates a shoe business and lives with her son and his family. The applicant applied for the visa so that she can visit her daughter and son-in-law and take a vacation.

2016 JUNE – The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China approves the K-1 fiancée visa to a couple in which the U.S. citizen previously filed two other K-1 visa petitions in the last three years, one of which was denied by the Consulate and one in which was withdrawal by the U.S. citizen. Also, the U.S. citizen had four DUI convictions, the last being 25 years ago. The couple met online and spent three trips together before the interview. At the K-1 interview, the consular officer asked 8 questions, more than the typical interview, including a question about the U.S. citizen’s DUIs.

2016 MAY - The USCIS Office in Boise, Idaho granted citizenship/naturalization to a Chinese legal permanent resident who became a conditional green card holder in October 2014. The applicant applied for expeditious citizenship under INA 319(b), naturalization for a spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad. At the time of filing, the applicant and her American husband were living in China. USCIS was very accommodating in terms of scheduling the biometrics appointment and interview date. After we submitted the N-400 application, USCIS wrote to us asking which dates we preferred for the Biometrics Appointment and called us to ask which date we wanted for the Interview Date. The oath ceremony was on the same day as the interview.

2016 MAY – The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China approves the CR-1 spousal visa to a couple who met online and got married 6 months later during their first visit together. The American husband previously filed a K-1 fiancée visa for his ex-wife from Thailand. The couple got married 5 months after the American citizen and his ex-wife were divorced. The consular officer asked the Chinese wife questions about her husband’s name, her stepchildren’s name, how they met, how many times they’ve met, how they keep in contact and about her husband’s job.

2016 MAY – The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China grants a 10-year B1/B2 visitor visa to the Chinese wife of an American citizen who have been married since 2011. The Chinese wife previously applied for two visitor visas in 2011, after she was married and was denied. The couple have been living together in China for 5 years and have a daughter together. The Chinese wife applied for her current visa so that she can accompany her husband to visit his mother, who has Alzheimer’s. The consular officer asked her why she was applying for the visa, where her husband works and when she plans to move to the USA. Her husband filed a spousal visa application for her in late 2011, but they have put the case on hold as they are not ready to move to the USA yet.

2016 APRIL – The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China approves the K-1 fiancée visa to a couple who met through friends. The Chinese fiancée has three siblings who live in the USA and she has three prior denied visitor visa applications from 2011 and 2012. When she applied for the visitor visas, her English was minimal and engaged the services of an agency to help her. She provided accurate background information to the agency, but the agency did not accurately complete the application forms, stating that she didn’t have any family members in the USA when she did and stating that she was married when she was already divorced. At the K-1 interview, the consular officer ask why she lied on her tourist visa applications and she was able to provide an explanation to satisfy the officer.

2016 APRIL – The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China grants a 10-year B1/B2 visitor visa to the Chinese wife of an American citizen after initially denying the visitor visa two weeks prior to the second interview. The couple are married for less than one year and the American husband has been living in China for almost three years. The Chinese wife applied for the visa so that she and her husband can attend a friend’s wedding and visit her husband’s family in late May. The American husband speaks fluent Chinese and the Chinese wife speaks a little English. The issue at the first interview appears to be that the consular officer couldn’t understand the applicant’s Chinese, who spoke Mandarin with a Guangdong dialect. The officer asked the applicant to repeat her answers for several questions and towards the end, asked whether she can speak to the applicant in English. The applicant stated that she spoke limited English. We rescheduled a second interview two weeks later and with a different consular officer, the visa was approved.

ARCHIVES OF RECENT NOTABLE CASES

CLIENT REVIEWS

Latest Blog Entries

Country Reciprocity Changes – Birth Certificates of China - On April 4, 2016, changes were made to the Country Reciprocity Table for birth certificates of China. The Notarial Certificate of Birth has always been deemed a secondary evidence of birth, but the U.S. government has always considered it as the most reliable form of birth certificate as many applicants were never issued any form of primary birth certificates and there were no prior standard form of birth certificates. The changes indicate that there are primary birth documents and the Notarial Certificate of Birth should be used in conjunction with other evidence. On April 5, 2016, a Request for Evidence from USCIS states three possible options birth certificate options, one being the Notarial Certificate of Birth. On April 19, 2016, the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou confirmed that for applicants born in mainland China, the Consulate will not require any additional birth documents in addition to the Notarial Certificate of Birth. Thus, Notarial Certificates of Birth should be sufficient by itself.

January 2015 Visa Bulletin - According to the Department of State's January 2016 Visa Bulletin, Most of the family-based preference categories advanced between 4 to 6 weeks, except categories F2B (Mexico) and F4 (Mexico) remained the same and category F1 (Philippines) advanced 6 months. The “Dates for Filing Family-Sponsored Visa Application” for family-bases cases have advanced a few months, except most categories for Mexico and the Philippines remained the same as last month. Family-based adjustment of status applicants may use the "Dates for Filing Visa Applications" chart.

December 2015 Visa Bulletin - According to the Department of State's December 2015 Visa Bulletin, all family-based preference categories advanced between 2 to 5 weeks, except category F4 (Mexico) remained the same and category F1 (Philippines) advanced 1 year. The “Dates for Filing Family-Sponsored Visa Application” for family-bases cases have all remained the same as last month. Family-based adjustment of status applicants may use the "Dates for Filing Visa Applications" chart in the December 2015 Visa Bulletin. The December Visa Bulletin includes a new addition, in which a prediction of worldwide “Visa Availability In The Coming Months” is posted.

October & November 2015 Visa Bulletins - On September 9, 2015, the DOS published the October 2015 Visa Bulletin with two charts per each family- and employment-based visa preference category instead of the usual single chart. The two charts now include: (1) the first chart, Application Final Action Dates (“Final Action Date”) and (2) the second chart, Dates for Filing Applications (“Filing Date”). The first chart is the same chart which has been published on all prior Visa Bulletins, which listed cut-off dates. The second chart has long been used by the DOS for internal processing purposes, which set the “qualifying dates” for consular processing cases. The DOS has historically set “qualifying dates” for the purpose of sending out “agent of choice” letter for applicants who will consular process and allow applicants to submit the necessary documents for their immigrant visa applications so that they can be considered “documentarily qualified” or ready to adjudicate once their priority date is reached.

Immigrant visa applicants, specifically consular processing applicants, can always use the “Filing Date” chart. In general, USCIS will continue to follow the “Final Action Date” chart for the acceptance of adjustment of status applications. However, if USCIS determines that there are additional visas available, it may exercise its discretion to accept adjustment of status applications in accordance with the "Filing Date" chart. Each month, USCIS will post at www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo to inform applicants whether USCIS will accept adjustment applications during the upcoming month in accordance with the "Filing Date" chart. For the months of October and November, USCIS has agreed to permit both family- and employment-based immigrants to use the "Filing Date" chart to file adjustment of status applications.

September 2015 Visa Bulletin - According to the Department of State's September 2015 Visa Bulletin, all family-based preference categories advanced except for category F1 (Mexico), which remained the same. The largest advancements are category F1 (Philippines), which advanced over 7 months; category F2A (all chargeability areas), which advanced about 4 months; and category F2B (Philippines), which also advanced about 4 months.

August 2015 Visa Bulletin - According to the Department of State's August 2015 Visa Bulletin, most family-based preference categories advanced between 3 to 6 weeks. Most family-based preference categories advanced between 3 to 6 weeks. Category F1 (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) advanced 4 weeks. Category F2A (all chargeability areas) advanced 5 or 6 weeks. Category F2B (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) advanced 4 weeks. Category F3 (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) advanced 3 weeks. Category F4 (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) advanced 5 weeks.

K-1 Fiancée Visa Trends - In the past few months, we’ve noticed that the majority of the K-1 fiancée (Form I-129F) visa petitions have been assigned to the USCIS California Service Center (CSC). Even for cases in which the U.S. citizen petitioner lives on the East Coast, those cases have also been assigned to the CSC. Although the posted processing time for the CSC at www.uscis.gov is 5 months, all of our K-1 visa petitions have been approved within less than 2 months. Also, the CSC has been issuing quite a few Request for Evidence (RFE) to applicants who have met on dating websites that USCIS suspects are international marriage brokers (IMB). Specifically, the CSC is requesting (A) a copy of the signed, written consent the IMB should have obtained from the beneficiary, authorizing the release of the beneficiary’s contact information to the petitioner, or (B) proof to establish that the dating website is not an IMB.

June 2015 Visa Bulletin - According to the Department of State's June 2015 Visa Bulletin, there were minor advancements this month and two categories retrogressed. Some family-based preference categories advanced between 1 to 5 weeks. Category F2A (Mexico), F2B (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) and F3 (all chargeability areas) remained the same as last month. F1 (Philippines) retrogressed almost 5 years and F4 (Mexico) retrogressed 4.5 months.

May 2015 Visa Bulletin - According to the Department of State's May 2015 Visa Bulletin, most of the family-based preference categories advanced between 1 to 8 weeks, except category F1 (Philippines) remained the same as last month. The most significant advancements were 8 weeks for category F2B (Mexico) and 6 weeks for category F4 (all countries except Mexico and the Philippines).

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

September 2015 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State's September 2015 Visa Bulletin is posted athttp://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-september-2015.html . All family-based preference categories advanced except for category F1 (Mexico), which remained the same. The largest advancements are category F1 (Philippines), which advanced over 7 months; category F2A (all chargeability areas), which advanced about 4 months; and category F2B (Philippines), which also advanced about 4 months.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

August 2015 Visa Bulletin
The Department of State's August 2015 Visa Bulletin is posted athttp://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-august-2015.html. Most family-based preference categories advanced between 3 to 6 weeks. Category F1 (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) advanced 4 weeks and F1 (Mexico & Philippines) remained the same. Category F2A (all chargeability areas) advanced 5 or 6 weeks. Category F2B (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) advanced 4 weeks, F2B (Mexico) remained the same and F2A (Philippines) advanced 1 week. Category F3 (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) advanced 3 weeks and F3 (Mexico & Philippines) remained the same. Category F4 (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) advanced 5 weeks, F4 (Mexico) remained the same and F4 (Philippines) advanced 5 weeks.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

K-1 Fiancée Visa Trends

In the past few months, we’ve noticed that the majority of the K-1 fiancée (Form I-129F) visa petitions have been assigned to the USCIS California Service Center (CSC). Even for cases in which the U.S. citizen petitioner lives on the East Coast, those cases have also been assigned to the CSC. The posted processing time for the CSC at www.uscis.gov is 5 months. However, all of our K-1 visa petitions have been approved within less than 2 months.

Although the CSC appears to be approving the K-1 visa petitions in record time, they are also issuing quite a few Request for Evidence (RFE) to applicants who have met on dating websites that USCIS suspects are international marriage brokers (IMB). Questions 34.a and 35 of Form I-129F asks to describe the circumstances under which the engaged couple met and whether they met through the services of an IMB. If the couple met through an IMB, the visa petition must include a copy of the signed, written consent the IMB should have obtained from the beneficiary, authorizing the release of the beneficiary’s contact information to the petitioner. Regardless of whether you checked YES or NO to Question 35 (Did you meet your fiancé(e) or spouse through the services of an international marriage broker?), USCIS appears to be requesting a copy of the signed consent form if the reviewing officer suspects that the dating website falls under the definition of an IMB or is requesting proof to establish that the dating website is not an IMB.

Confusingly, there isn’t an official published list of IMBs. The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) broadly defines an IMB as “a corporation, business, individual, or other legal entity, whether or not organized under any of the United States, that charges fees for providing dating, matrimonial, matchmaking services, or social referrals between United States clients and foreign national clients by providing personal contact information or otherwise facilitating communication between individuals from these respective groups.” An IMB does not include (1) a traditional matchmaking organization of a cultural or religious nature that operates on a nonprofit basis and otherwise operates in compliance with the laws of the countries in which it operates, including the laws of the United States, or (2) an entity that provides dating services between United States citizens or residents and other individuals who may be aliens, but does not do so as its principal business, and charges comparable rates to all individuals it serves regardless of the gender or country of citizenship or residence of the individual.

The signed consent form from the beneficiary is a requirement under IMBRA. However, USCIS did not start requesting copies of the signed consent form until mid-2013.

Since there isn’t an official published list of IMBs and many dating websites do not fully disclose their complete fee arrangements on their websites, it is difficult to determine whether a dating website is an IMB or whether it falls under an exception. Since mid-2013, we’ve been asking our clients to contact their respective dating websites and ask them to confirm whether they fall under the definition of an IMB or whether they falls under an exception. Some clients get verbal or written confirmation and some clients don’t get any response. All the dating websites which responded claim that they fall under an exception. For the dating websites that didn’t respond, we gathered as much information as we can from our clients and the webpages of the dating websites. If we conclude that the website appears to be an IMB, we would provide a written statement explaining that it appears that the website is an IMB, but that the beneficiary was never given any consent form. Also, we submitted any available evidence, such as a printout from the couple’s dating website account which may or may not make references to IMBRA. USCIS didn’t appear to have any issues with our method until about two month ago.

The CSC issued RFEs to two of our cases in which we explained that the websites appear to fall under the definition of an IMB, but the beneficiaries never received any signed consent form. In response to the RFEs, our clients contacted the dating websites and they provided written letters explaining how they fall under an exception of an IMB. USCIS approved one of the cases a week after receiving our response. The other case is pending. We also had a case in which the CSC did not issue a RFE for the beneficiary’s written consent when we indicated that the dating website appears to fall under the definition of an IMB. Thus, the CSC isn’t being consistent in handling this issue regarding the signed consent form. Currently, we are advising our clients that if they met on any dating website, then there is the possibility of a RFE for the consent form. 


Wednesday, June 03, 2015

June 2015 Visa Bulletin
The Department of State's June 2015 Visa Bulletin is posted athttp://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-june-2015.html. There were minor advancements this month and two categories retrogressed. Some family-based preference categories advanced between 1 to 5 weeks. Category F2A (Mexico), F2B (all chargeability areas except Mexico & Philippines) and F3 (all chargeability areas) remained the same as last month. F1 (Philippines) retrogressed almost 5 years and F4 (Mexico) retrogressed 4.5 months.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

May 2015 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State's May 2015 Visa Bulletin is posted at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-may-2015.html. Most of the family-based preference categories advanced between 1 to 8 weeks, except category F1 (Philippines) remained the same as last month. The most significant advancements were 8 weeks for category F2B (Mexico) and 6 weeks for category F4 (all countries except Mexico and the Philippines). 


Thursday, March 12, 2015

April 2015 Visa Bulletin
The Department of State has posted the April 2015 Visa Bulletin athttp://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-april-2015.html. Most of the family-based preference categories advanced 1 to 6 weeks, except category F1 (excluding Mexico) remained the same as last month. The most significant advancements occurred for categories F2A and F2B.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

March 2015 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State has posted the March 2015 Visa Bulletin athttp://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-march-2015.html. All the family-based preference categories progressed and most categories advanced between 1 to 8 weeks. The most significant advancements are for 7 weeks for category F2A (except Mexico only advanced 4 weeks) and 8 weeks for category F2B (except Mexico advanced 2 weeks and the Philippines advanced 4 weeks).  


Monday, February 02, 2015

National Visa Center Upgrades Telephone System

In the past year, the National Visa Center (NVC) had plans to upgrade their telephone system to accommodate an increase in call volume.  As of January 12, 2015, the NVC began responding to e-mail and telephonic inquiries regarding nonimmigrant visa cases, which inevitably increases the call volume. Prior to January 12, 2015, the NVC did not accept inquiries regarding nonimmigrant visas.  At the end of January 2015, the upgraded phone system went into effect.  

Attorneys and applicants who previously called the NVC are familiar with the frequent busy signals and lengthy hold times of minimally thirty minutes or more before speaking with a representative.  With the upgraded phone system, there are no longer any busy signals.  However, if a representative isn't available, an automated recording instructs callers to call back and then the call is automatically terminated.  When a call isn't terminated and permitted to be on hold, the wait times have been relatively short, about 10 - 15 minutes based on our calls.  The automated recording also states that applicants should proceed with their calls if it's been more than 35 days since USCIS approved their immigrant applications.  Although the phone system can use some additional improvements, calls to the NVC are now far less frustrating. 


Monday, February 02, 2015

Filing Location Changes for Form I-751

As of January 14, 2015, USCIS changed the Service Center filing location for Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence) applicants living in Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Applicants living in these states are now instructed to file their I-751 applications at the California Service Center (CSC).

Until February 16, 2015, the Vermont Service Center (VSC) will continue to accept and process applications received at their facility for the six states. Between February 17 to March 16, 2015, the VSC will forward application to the CSC for processing.   As of March 17, 2015, the Vermont Service Center will reject I-751 petitions for incorrect jurisdiction and return the petitions to the applicants. Applicants must then re-file with the CSC.

I-751 applicants should file their applications at the correct Service Center based on the state or territory they reside in. Applications filed before the filing location changes went into effect are not affected.

USCIS California Service Center

P.O. Box 10751
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1075

USCIS Vermont Service Center

75 Lower Welden Street
P.O. Box 200
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001

Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, and West Virginia


Thursday, January 15, 2015

February 2015 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State has posted the February 2015 Visa Bulletin athttp://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-february-2015.html. All the family-based preference categories progressed and most categories advanced between 1 to 8 weeks. The most significant advancement is 8 weeks for category F2A (Mexico only). 


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