Happy New Year and best wishes for 2017! A new year is a time for goals and resolutions, which may include applying for US citizenship, renewing a green card, or meeting with an attorney to discuss available immigration paths.
Asylum applicants, applying affirmatively with USCIS can wait years for their applications to process. During this wait time, an applicant can apply for an employment authorization document (EAD), also called a work permit using form I-765. In general, applicants can apply for the EAD once their affirmative asylum application has been pending with USCIS for at least 150 days. Although there is no fee to apply for the initial work permit, almost all applicants need to apply for at least one more work permit, and subsequent EAD applications do require a fee.
Although the processing time for work permits is supposed to be 90 days, USCIS sometimes processes outside of the 90 days. This can be difficult and frustrating for an applicant who may be required to stop working while awaiting their EAD renewal.
USCIS has put in place a new 2 year EAD that should help with some of these frustrations. Effective October 5, 2016, USCIS increased the validity period for both initial and renewal work permits to two years. The change applies to all I-765 applications with category (c)(8) that are pending on October 5th, or submitted on or after this date.
USCIS released a message earlier this month stating that eligible students can apply for naturalization in the state where they attend school, or in the state where their family lives as reflected in the USCIS Policy Manual.
Q: I’m a Canadian citizen married to a US citizen and I’ve never applied for adjustment of status or green card. Can I bypass the green card and apply for citizenship since I’ve been married and living in the USA for 5 years?
The US Supreme Court’s decision on United States v. Texas is expected very soon. There are two main initiatives in dispute in this lawsuit regarding President Obama’s executive actions on immigration:
Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), and
Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA expansion)
What is the Court considering?
The Court is considering several main issues:
- Do states have standing to bring this lawsuit?
- Do expanded DACA and DAPA violate federal law or procedures with these initiatives?
- Do DAPA and expanded DACA violate the constitution?
A:Congratulations on completing your master’s degree, and I hope your OPT internship is going well.
236,000 apply for H-1b visas, about 1 in 3 will be approved
On April 7th, 2016, USCIS announced it had completed the H-1b cap random selection process. The H-1b visa allows certain foreign national workers holding a bachelor’s or higher-level degree or to be temporarily employed in the US. Employers apply for the visa on behalf of foreign national employees, and the visa allows the employee to work for that employer.
H-1b visas are capped at 65,000 plus an additional 20,000 for applicants with US master’s degrees. As the number of applicants usually exceeds 85,000, USCIS uses a lottery system to select petitions to approve. This year USCIS received 236,000 applications for H-1b visas, so only about 1 in 3 will be approved. The number of applicants only increased a small amount from last year, as shown in the table below.
Q: Who can apply for and benefit from the new 24-month STEM OPT extension?
A: New STEM OPT applicants, and some students who have already applied or already received an extension under the old program will be able to benefit from the new 24-month STEM extension. Here’s a breakdown of the OPT program and new STEM extension:
Q: If I apply now for US Citizenship will I be able to vote in the November 2016 election?
If you live in Seattle, the answer is most likely yes! Most recently, applications for naturalization (N-400) has been taking about 5 months to process. There is probably time to apply, have the naturalization interview and ceremony in time to register for November 2016 elections.
To get a general idea on the processing time for your area, check USCIS Processing Time, select your city’s field office, and check the date listed by N-400. Using Seattle, WA as an example, the chart shows that May 2015 applications were being processed in December 2015. The wait in December was about 7 months, but this wait has shortened recently to closer to 5 months as Seattle has recently added new Officers. Check with a local immigration attorney to get a more specific idea of processing times.
Apply right away
It is best to apply as soon as possible. Processing times are subject to change over time. Also, you may need to respond to a request for evidence from USCIS, which increases processing time.
This may be a popular time to apply for citizenship, with the contentious upcoming election. The New York Times reported today that many Latinos are seeking citizenship in order to vote against a particular candidate. Further, as the article points out, 8.8 million legal residents are eligible to naturalize right now.
Q: I’m currently on an F-1 student visa studying in the US. I am afraid to go back to my home country. Can I apply for asylum?
A: Yes, immigrants present in the US may apply for asylum, as long as they have a true non-frivolous claim. Although applicants generally need to apply during their first year in the US, there are some exceptions, including maintaining another lawful immigration status (like your F-1 status.) However, you should still apply as soon as possible.
TPS: Some countries have been designated for Temporary protected Status, or TPS. You should check the list of current TPS countries, and talk with your international student advisor or an immigration attorney about this option as well.
Asylum: Asylum is not just based on being afraid. Your situation/fears need to meet 3 specific criteria, and need to be reasonable. For example, as part of the application, you would provide reports to show that harm you suffered, or are afraid of suffering is reasonable for your country. I’ll outline the general 3 criteria below: