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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Country Reciprocity Changes – Birth Certificates of China


On April 4, 2016, changes were made to the Country Reciprocity Table for birth certificates in China. Prior to this change, the one and only accepted form of birth certificate from China was the Notarial Certificate of Birth. Applicants bring their Household Register (户口簿) to their Notary Office to obtain the accepted form of Notarial Certificate of Birth. The Notarial Certificate of Birth has always been deemed a secondary evidence of birth, but the U.S.


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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

January 2016 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State's January 2016 Visa Bulletin is posted at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin/2016/visa-bulletin-for-january-2016.html. 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 in the January 2016 Visa Bulletin (see http://www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo).


Sunday, November 15, 2015

December 2015 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State's December 2015 Visa Bulletin is posted at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin/2016/visa-bulletin-for-december-2015.html. Most of the 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 (see http://www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo)

The December Visa Bulletin includes a new addition, in which a prediction of worldwide “Visa Availability In The Coming Months” is posted. The posted potential monthly movements is as follows:

  • F1:   Three to six weeks
  • F2A: Three to six weeks
  • F2B: Up to one month
  • F3:   Two to four weeks
  • F4:   Three or four weeks

Sunday, October 18, 2015

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”). On September 25, 2015, the DOS published a revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin, rolling back some of the dates on the second chart, "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. Applicants with priority dates earlier than the date listed on the "Filing Date" chart for their preference category and country of chargeability will be notified by the National Visa Center that they may assemble and submit their documentation and begin the immigrant visa application process. However, a final decision on the immigrant visa application cannot take place until the priority date is current (i.e., priority date is earlier than the "Final Action Date").

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 http://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.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

September 2015 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State's September 2015 Visa Bulletin is posted at http://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 at http://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 3, 2015

June 2015 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State's June 2015 Visa Bulletin is posted at http://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 at http://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 at http://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).  


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