Effects on K1 Visa after San Bernadino Terrorist Shooting

Future of K1 Fiance Visas in aftermath of San Bernardino Terrorist Shooting

On December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino California, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, husband and wife, entered an office holiday party with high powered weapons and murdered 14 and wounded 22. Malik had entered the USA over a year before traveling on a K1 fiance visa.

I wish to extend our heartfelt sympathies to those affected by this tragedy. We pray for their healing and recovery.

About 36,000 fiances enter the USA each year traveling on K1 Fiance Visas. In the past 8 years alone over a quarter of a million fiances have entered the USA this way.

 

Malik apparently is the only person so far to enter the USA via the fiancee visa program in order to commit an act of terrorism.

Will her act have effects on the K1 Fiance Visa program? Continue reading “Effects on K1 Visa after San Bernadino Terrorist Shooting”

Social Media Disclosure

Fiance, Spouse, all visas, Require Social Media Details

US immigration has just implemented another hurdle for prospective immigrants and visitors to the USA to jump. This is in line with the 2017 executive orders issued by President Trump to institute extreme vetting to vigorously screen visa applicants and strengthen K1 Fiance Visa Requirements.

Effective May 31, 2019, the state departments applications used for non-immigrant visas, the DS 160, and used for immigrant visas the DS 260, have been modified and the requirement is that all US immigration applicants need to reveal the social media accounts that they use.

 

Soon after his inauguration, President Trump issued executive orders tightening how US immigration treats its foreign clients.

Executive orders were issued to ban applicants from so-called terrorist countries, and US immigration was ordered to conduct “extreme vetting” on all cases. Continue reading “Social Media Disclosure”

Public Charge Rule Change

Public Charge Rule change to reduce Immigration

It’s President Trump’s mid term already. Under President Trump we have gotten used to extended processing times, more hurdles to jump over, even USCIS given permission to deny an application without allowing an applicant the opportunity to respond and clarify misunderstandings.

And NOW another proposal has been made that will make it MORE difficult to get visas and permanent residency. This rule change may affect 20 million immigrants and what it will do is make legal immigration more difficult. President Trump has repeatedly stated he wants to reduce legal immigration, and this rule change may be the one to radically do it.

 

Today we are talking about the Higher Standards that are proposed to increase the number of applicants that will be found ineligible because they receive public benefits and are considered a “Public Charge””

The administration under President Trump has done it again. They are currently working on raising the bar higher, in order to restrict legal immigration. This affects those applying for fiancee and spouse visas and permanent residency. Continue reading “Public Charge Rule Change”

Protection Order Arrests K1 Denial

Two additional reasons for K1 denial: Protection Orders, ANY arrests

After President Trump came into office many changes were made at immigration. Two of these were implemented when the application for a K1 Fiance Visa, the I129f was last revised. The addition of two questions, a total of just 60 easily overlooked words, has caused many applicants expensive and time consuming extra work to demonstrate their eligibility for a fiance visa, and for those who did not correctly answer the new questions, some have gotten denied.

 

Under President Trump’s watch, major changes were made to the application form used for a fiancee visa. These modifications greatly changed the I-129F. Previously it was six pages long. Now it is 13.

Some of the new questions that have been added are sure to cause problems for many applicants.

Previously the American sponsor was asked whether he had been convicted for a few, but VERY serious crimes. Such as domestic violence, child abuse, murder, rape, or three or more drug or alcohol convictions. Those who had these convictions were automatically in-eligible to apply for the visa. If an American sponsor had been convicted of such crimes, he already knew he would have problems in applying. It wasn’t any surprise, they expected extra hurdles, and were prepared to address them. In in some cases we could apply for waivers and obtain approval of the fiancee visa regardless of the checkered past.

But, NOW, two new questions have been added. And these are often overlooked. And ignoring them may cause delays and denials. And addressing them is an extra hurdle to jump.

These two questions are:

#1. Has the American Sponsor EVER been the subject of any type of restraining or protection order?

#2. Has the American Sponsor EVER been arrested, cited, charged, indicted, convicted, fined or imprisoned, for any law, any ordinance, ANYTIME. ?

Let’s start with the first one, about Restraining or protection orders. These could be something serious from the past, however more often, I find that these were issued as part of contentious divorces as strategy versus real cause and need..

in many cases the ex-spouse’s attorney had advised to issue restraining orders in order to obtain leverage during negotiations for custody and property settlements. As our fiance visa sponsor wasn’t really a person who had done anything to merit a protection order, he may have tried to put the painful break up and divorce out of his mind, and forgotten the specifics of the divorce process.

Well if he does forget and fails to to answer the question correctly, his fiancee visa petition is in jeopardy of denial.

The second new question is even more all encompassing. ANY crime, any arrest, any convictions. This covers a lot of ground. That arrest for trespassing when you as a teenager skateboarded on school grounds after closing, the time you were removed from a bar after defending a friend who was in an argument, the time you were driving the car and a police search the police found contraband that belonged to your passenger, but you as driver got charged for, and so on and so on.

Of course most of these issues were probably forgotten, having occurred long long ago, sometimes many decades earlier. And often times a judge or lawyer or someone in authority said “don’t worry about it, this will not be on your permanent records, the records will be erased, or expunged”. Well, expunged, on or off the books, forgotten, no matter what, if it ever occurred, WHENEVER it ever occurred, in order to apply for a fiancee the answer must be given yes, and details provided.

If one innocently forgets and neglects to answer the question accurately, runs the risk that when the FBI with all of their resources and all of their oversight finds out that the answer should’ve been yes, but you didn’t admit it, your application is ready to be denied.

The new issue, is not “what the crime was” but whether or not you admitted it. To be found in accurate on any of the immigration questions, regardless of how apparently immaterial or irrelevant they may seem, can be grounds for denial

So be warned, that under President Trump, and the policy to restrict legal immigration, you will be faced with and booby traps like never before. Now more than ever in-experience can lead to mistakes that causes delays and denials.

The safest way to navigate the system to obtain your happy life in the USA that you and your loved one deserves, is by choosing someone who is knowledgeable to help you. Choose someone who Is always aware of any rule or policy changes, intimately aware of how the system works, where the traps and quicksand are, and who is here to help you successfully get visa approval. Of course I mean me.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach

Continue reading “Protection Order Arrests K1 Denial”

Trump K1 visa CR1 visa Greencard

Trump’s first 30 months, effects on USA Immigration: K1 Visa, CR1 Visa, Green Card

President Trump may not have gotten his wall on the border with Mexico built yet, but during the last two years of his administration he has been very successful in throwing up many roadblocks to fiance and spouse visa and green card applications. Today I am going to give him a report card or what actions he has taken that will affect you.

Immigration now, more than ever, is a minefield. The more you know about what the hurdles are, the better able you will be to prepare yourself for this ordeal. Hopefully through preparation and my guidance you will get safely to the other side.

Lets talk about What’s been going on with marriage based immigration in the first two years of the Trump Presidency. Let’s talk about Trump’s effect on K1 Visas, CR1 Visas, and Green Cards Continue reading “Trump K1 visa CR1 visa Greencard”

USCIS Closes Offices

USCIS to close all International offices.

The Trump administration has announced that it intends to reduce USCIS’s international presence by closing ALL of its international offices. This means that those services that were provided to assist the processing of family visa applications, foreign adoption and similar cases now would be curtailed. This is consistent with the Trump administration’s objective to reduce legal immigration. Less support, means longer lines, slower processing, more frustration, and possibly less applicants willing to endure the process.

 

This action, is probably the final death knell to Direct Consular Filing.

In the past an American living overseas who wished to bring his spouse to the USA, could apply directly to the nearest US consulate, to obtain the spouse visa. This is called Direct Consular Filing or DCF. The American expat thus benefited as he could submit his application directly to local staff that would receive and process the application. And in practice this sped the process greatly, reducing a normally lengthy 1 to 2 year process into only a few months.

When Joyce and I decided to move to the USA, I applied directly to the US Embassy in Hong Kong, and she was granted her IR1 spouse visa in only 5 months. And then we moved with our two children to California.

In general, the State Department, has already been discontinuing DCF services from their consulates over the past 10 years, currently only those countries where USCIS has an international office is DCF still provided.

I guess it should now be called “Direct USCIS International Office Filing” instead of Direct Consular Filing, as the consulate is no longer initially involved.

Anyway, with the announced closing of all international USCIS offices I expect that DCF, regardless of acronym, will be a thing of the past.

Soon, All family visa cases regardless of whether the US sponsor lives in or outside of the USA, will be submitted and initially processed in the United States. This means those ex-pat families who previously enjoyed DCF, will now experience a much slower, and more complicated process in order to obtain visas and green cards to the USA.

The countries where USCIS currently has international offices are shown here.

Dominican Republic – Santo Domingo
El Salvador – San Salvador
Germany – Frankfurt
Ghana – Accra
Greece – Athens
Guatemala – Guatemala City
Haiti – Port-au-Prince
India – New Delhi
Italy – Rome
Jordan – Amman
Kenya – Nairobi
Mexico – Ciudad Juarez
Mexico – Mexico City
Mexico – Monterrey
Peru – Lima
Philippines – Manila
South Africa – Johannesburg
South Korea – Seoul
Thailand – Bangkok
United Kingdom – London

The US state department says it will take over the duties, at least some of the duties, previously conducted by these offices. USCIS says it will save money. Applicants for visas can certainly expect to suffer additional delays in the processing of their cases.

If you are currently on the verge of submitting a DCF case, better submit it within the next few weeks cause very soon no more DCF cases will be accepted and you will be faced with processing times that drastically jump from 3 to 5 months to 1 to 2 years.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach

USCIS Denies Without Rfe Noid

 

Tougher USCIS now able to Deny without issuing RFE or NOID

USCIS, which was never that helpful, on September 11th 2018 will become less so.

In the past when applications for fiance visas, spouse visas, adjustment of status ran into trouble, because the applicant didn’t quite know what he was doing, the reviewer at USCIS often, halted processing, then spent the time and effort to issue a RFE (Request for Evidence) that listed what was missing giving the opportunity to respond and correct the error. Or if a case was in risk of being denied due to missing materials, a NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny) might be issued, also giving the application an opportunity to correct mistakes. Now USCIS can skip the RFE, skip the NOID and go directly to denial, and in some cases directly to the start of deportation.

 

 

 

 

Under the Obama Administration USCIS reviewers were only allowed to deny out right under the most obviously ineligible cases. Now Obama’s “friendly” USCIS is a thing of the past. Under President Trump, two new policies are now taking effect. First USCIS can now deny, without warning, without allowing an applicant to fix his problems. No longer is USCIS required to issue a warning describing what is needed. No longer required to issue an RFE and ask for more info, or even a NOID (notice of INTENT to deny) warning that an application is in jeopardy.

And second and even more troubling, is that if the immigrant is physically present in the U.S.A., once a decision to deny is made, USCIS can immediately start deportation proceedings. Many applicants will be put on track for deportation before they have a chance to clear bureaucratic glitches or misunderstandings.

Now is not the time to risk making mistakes when filing applications to immigration.

For clarity let’s explain what these policies and acronyms mean.

What is an RFE?

RFE means “Request for Evidence”. This is a notice issued by normally issued by USCIS when an application is missing a particular piece of an application such as a document, photo, signature, properly completed form and so on. RFE’s sometimes are issued in error. Sometimes the application has been completed correctly, or the needed item properly submitted Sometimes the reviewing officer, does not see what is in front of him. These type of occurrences are especially worrisome, for in the past if an officer asked for an RFE in error, the applicant could clarify the error, or resubmit the evidence. It was difficult enough in the past to rectify a reviewers mistake by pointing out his error, when replying to an RFE, but now if the same issues occur, and there is mistaken denial instead of mistaken RFE, it will be much more difficult and time consuming for an applicant to get his case back on track.

What is a NOID?

NOID means “Notice of Intent to Deny”. This is similar to an RFE. It is a notice that USCIS issues too warn an applicant that the USCIS reviewer feels the applicant has not provided sufficient evidences in general to satisfy the application. And that so much is missing the officer feels appropriate next step is denial. Typically similar to an RFE the applicant has an opportunity to respond and thus a chance to satisfy the suspicions of the reviewing officer, before the application is finally denied..

What is deportation?

When a foreign-born alien applies for immigration benefits in the United States if his request is denied then U.S. immigration can initiate proceedings to have the alien forcibly removed from the USA. In past the steps initiating and leading to deportation were not automatic and allowed applicants opportunities to respond. This slow processing was especially helpful if the reasons for deportation were based on evidences or documentation that were available but were not presented due to errors in the applicants application. Applicants had time and opportunity to clear up confusion and present missing documents before things got “out of hand”. Under the new policies immediately, once, an applicant is denied, remember there is no RFE, and no NOID, the proceedings leading to deportation are allowed to begin. Without warning, without notice, without delay. This will undoubtedly lead to many more foreign Nationals being forced to leave the USA.

The new policies are vague in defining under what circumstances and for what reasons an officer can deny an application. So it is quite likely that results WILL VARY between individual USCIS officers. Some will approve, some deny, and hopefully some will still issue RFE’s or NOID’S.

It remains to be seen how tough USCIS will become, however in the current atmosphere of President Trump’s Administration where “extreme vetting”, and “vigorous enforcement” of immigration laws is being promoted, it is clear that many applicants are about to experience hard times.

What is to be done?

Check, check again, and check one more time before submitting any immigration application. Insure that all evidences and required materials are included and the forms properly filled in.

Fortunately that has always been the practice of VisaCoach. Our policy is to craft each application, touch all bases, and we “do it right. The first time”

I provide each couple with a detailed, personalized checklist of everything that should be submitted to USCIS. The list I create for them is color-coded, Red for Required, Green Highly Recommended and Black for recommended. Ask my clients about what happens if they try to get away with not providing me with all the critical Red items. I become the “squeaky wheel” that keeps reminding them to provide the items before we can submit. This policy has paid off for my couples in the past, and I expect will continue to save them from the troubles that others will experience due to a tougher USCIS.

I have met plenty of smart and capable people. And regardless of how smart or capable they are, I would never recommend that they attempt fate by risking disaster by “doing it themselves” or using cheap no-frills form filling services.

There are just too many pitfalls. In past the punishment for making common errors could sometimes be recovered from due to the generosity of a USCIS reviewer asking for RFE or warning with a NOID. Now this safety net is gone. Now more than ever we expect to see many denials come out of USCIS.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoachuscis-denies-without-rfe-noid.html

USCIS Strict Enforcement of International Marriage Broker Act, IMBRA

USCIS enforcement of IMBRA

The International Marriage Broker Act of 2005, IMBRA has been a bogey on the horizon for men and women in long distance relationships who met online at dating websites. This hasn’t been a problem for the websites or their clients UP TO RECENTLY, as the IMBRA laws been only partially enforced. However USCIS has been gradually implementing inch by inch some of the procedures as mandated by IMBRA and has taken major actions in 2015 and 2016 to now require couples to identify the websites they used, and provide evidence that the website was exempt from or strictly followed the IMBRA regulations..

 

The law puts draconian restrictions on how an American is allowed to meet his partner when using an online dating service. Basically every dating service, regardless of where located in the world, is supposed to comply with this regulation if they have American clients. To follow the act’s regulations, the dating service must obtain written, and detailed consent from the foreign born person, before ANY form of direct communication with the American is possible.

This confusing act requires the American to provide confidential information about himself to the website. The foreign born “potential date” then views the confidential information, after translation to her/his native language, and finally must sign and date a document, with all this information, if agreeing to allow communications to begin.

When this onerous law came out in 2005 some companies like mine, HeartofAsiaonline.com converted our websites to fully comply with the law. This meant that clients from US and overseas found many more hoops to jump through in order to join our membership and meet their foreign loves. By following the law, my company HeartofAsiaonline.com lost $ thousands each month, as clients gravitated to websites with easier registration and contact processes.

Many other companies abandoned the business altogether. And many companies and businesses especially ALL non-US based services decided to ignore the law. Ignoring the law has paid off for companies such as Cherry Blossoms, Filipino Cupid and so on. For the past 9 years they have continued to collect good US dollars while scoffing at the IMBRA regulations.

Up to now this hasn’t been a problem for them or their clients, as the IMBRA laws have not been fully enforced. However USCIS has been gradually implementing inch by inch some of the procedures as mandated by IMBRA.

A BIG CHANGE starting in 2015

The most recent turn of events has been implemented three months ago. Now each time a fiance visa petition is submitted to USCIS and the couple confirms they met at a online dating website USCIS has been stopping processing on their case and sending the following request for evidence (RFE) to the couple.

The evidence in the file reflects that you met the beneficiary through the services of an International Marriage Broker (IMB). You stated you met the beneficiary through xxxxxxx dot com. This website is considered to be an International Marriage Broker as it is a business that charges fees for providing, dating, matrimonial, matchmaking services. or social referrals between United States citizens and foreign nationals. Therefore, you are required to submit a copy of the signed written consent form that the International Marriage Broker obtained from the beneficiary, authorizing the release of her personal contact information to you.

The decision of whether to approve or deny your petition will be based upon the type(s) of evidence submitted and its credibility.

This is quite a problem when the majority of websites have ignored the law. And now the couple (not the website) are in trouble for not complying with IMBRA.

I have helped couples draft various answers to these requests. Sometimes we have a consent form, sometimes we deny the website is an International Marriage Broker, sometimes we just say now we know it was an IMB, but did not follow the rules, and therefore no consent form every existed..

So far of the couples I have worked with, none yet, have had their petitions denied due to using a non-compliant dating service. I believe it is just a matter of time till USCIS takes the next logical step and denies the visa applications of those who violated US law by using websites that violated IMBRA.

I suggest any couple who has met at a dating website should confirm with the administrator of that website whether The International Marriage Broker Act (IMBRA) rules were followed or not and if followed obtain written proof.

And of course for any American now going online to find his partner from overseas I strongly suggest you only join dating services that are IMBRA compliant.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach

USCIS Processing Delays

Delays in Immigration case processing: the “Trump Effect”

Fiance visa, spouse visa and adjustment of status applications all first go through USCIS. last year about this time USCIS was performing very quickly to accomplish their initial processing of cases. In general fiance and spouse visa cases consistently zoomed through the USCIS review in roughly two to three months. Green cards sometimes took 7 to 9 months and often the Green Card interviews (especially front loaded VisaCoach applications) were waived.

Now one year into the presidency of Donald Trump all cases are experiencing huge delays in processing times, taking 2 to 3 times as long. I call this the “Trump effect”.

 

President Trump has mandated that USCIS vigorously enforce and administer immigration laws, take no short cuts. The goal is to restrict Legal immigration while stopping illegal immigration.

“We have to get much tougher, much smarter, and less politically correct,” Trump said.

What this means is that they are very closely examining and scrutinizing all cases looking for reasons to deny. In addition cases that regularly had their interviews waived now specifically there is an Executive order that no interviews regardless of the strength of their evidences, may be waived.

The result is USCIS has more work to do, has more bases to touch in the processing of EACH case. And while President Trump has promised to hire more staff to handle the increased load, so far no new staff has been hired, but the workload has increased.

This is the Trump Effect. More work, with same staff. The result is that USCIS processing times for fiance and spouse visas have stretched to take at least 5 to 7 months.

This compares very unfavorably to the 2 to 3 months processing times we enjoyed in 2016 and early 2017. Conditional and Permanent Green Cards that used to take 7 to 9 months for approval, now often take over a year.

USCIS previously had the policy that fiance or spouse cases should be completely processed through their system within five months. That was their official policy for complete processing.

In the case your case was delayed past 5 months you could call and speak with an USCIS operator who would take action once you reported your case as “past the policy for processing time”. The operator would flag your case so that it could catch up.

Today that’s not what happens. Calling after 5 months one reaches a harried operator who is stressed, whose polite professional manner has disappeared. This is because the operators now are overwhelmed with calls from people constantly complaining about delays. And even if your case is over the 5 months official policy, currently the operator takes no action except to tell you “be patient” and “if you must call back, please wait 3 to 6 months more before doing so”.

There might be light at the end of the tunnel. This is because at the same time that President Trump ordered USCIS to work harder he also promised to hire 10,000 more officers. Unfortunately for you, the Fiance or Spouse visa or Green Card applicant, while the workload increased immediately, and because of that the case backlogs started to grow, no new staff was actually hired.

Eventually, perhaps USCIS Staffing may increase and when this happens hopefully processing times will speed up.

That will help if the amount of work demanded does not also continue to grow. On the table are proposals for additional and more time consuming case review steps. US immigration is seriously considering requiring for each case a thorough review of the applicants social media presence, via Social Media Data Mining as well as “EXTREME” Vetting such as surrender of cell phones and user ids and passwords. These proposals of course would add for more tasks and actions for USCIS to accomplish and could easily wipe out gains made by a gradual hiring program.

Sorry, but I don’t imagine that processing times will improve any time soon. We have three more years of the Trump Presidency I anticipate he will continually mandate more work to be accomplished in vetting all visa and green card candidates. While a promise has been made to hire adequate staff to accommodate the increased demands on Homeland Security, there is already opposition in Congress to delay and hinder the hiring efforts. More work, same staff, means more delays. And as the in-box of each USCIS reviewer gets piled higher, the processing times will increase. This probably won’t materially improve until a new President is in office, and the official policy of “immigration restriction ism” is changed.

What can you do? Well it will get worse before it gets better. Until then, your best path is to work with me to submit your well crafted, “front loaded” application, just as soon as you can. Then follow the advice of “a watched pot never boils” by ignoring the calendar and patiently waiting for your visa or green card to be approved.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach

US Embassy Manila Closing

Is US Embassy Manila (USEM) Closing?

Currently making the rounds are rumors that the US Embassy located in Manila is closing in July 2019. This rumor is absolutely false. The US Embassy has no intention of closing or moving or curtailing any of its services.

 

When embarking on the path to deal with US immigration to bring your fiancee or spouse to the USA there is a lot of information on the Internet. Sadly there is a lot of mis-information too. There are rumors, out of date material, and sometimes deliberate lies and pranks.

And that really is why, why it’s good idea to work with an experienced guide who knows the facts and can certainly separate rumor from reality.

I am Fred Wahl the VisaCoach and I help you get through a confusing and frustrating Immigration process so you can have a happy life together in the USA with your foreign partner.

In this video I’ll talk to about the background on what’s REALLY going on. And by the end of this video you will know who is effected and who is not.

About two months ago I announced in one of my videos that the USCIS international offices scattered around the world, were going to close. USCIS has been reducing its overseas presence for many years, currently or at least when the notice was made they still had about 20 offices with about 70 American personnel plus local staff. Their work was to support the US Embassy where they were located in helping process applications that came from Americans and their dependents who were living in area that the US embassy served.

This kind of service was called Direct Consular Filing. What DCF means is that Americans and their dependents, who are living in the overseas country that the consulate served, if they were applying for immigration benefits, could for applications such as spouse and dependent visas, submit their applications directly, in person to a local USCIS office or the consulate, and this avoided expensive mailing and speeded processing times.

For example, for an American ex-pat living in the Philippines. If he or she had been granted an alien card by the Philippines government, and then had had lived in the Philippines for at lease six months, then he or she could file directly to the USCIS office in Manila, for his or her spouse or child. The American could make an appoointment, come in, show proof of the Alien card and over 6 months of residence, and then drop off the application.

In only a few short months, the USCIS staff would complete their review of the application, then pass it over to the consular staff at the Embassy. The Embassy staff would conduct the final interview.

This was a real boon to those applicants, because most applications are submitted in the USA, and take about a year and a half to be processed, before arriving in Manila for the interview. Instead the application filed using DCF, would take only a few months to get to the interview.

Twenty years ago when I applied to bring Joyce to the USA on a spouse visa, all US embassies and consulates offered direct consular filing. I was living as an expat in Hong Kong with Joyce, and I was able to file directly to the Hong Kong embassy on Garden Road, and we got our spouse visa in about 5 months.

As time went by, one by one, the various consulates and embassies stopped offering DCF. Finally only 23 locations still offered it. These were locations that ALSO has a USCIS office. Now these USCIS offices are closing. And with their closing, Direct Consular Filing, DCF will no longer be available.

But for most, the closing of the USCIS offices makes absolutely NO DIFFERENCE. Only a very few applications were eligible for DCF, the VAST majority all followed the standard route.

And by the way, while this process was available for spouses and dependents, it was never available for Fiance visa applications. Always Fiance visa applications had to be submitted in the USA, regardless of whether the American sponsor lived inside or outside the USA.

So the closing of the last USCIS international offices, will frankly have little to no effect, simply now regardless of where the American sponsor lives, when he applies to US immigration, he will have to submit his application to USCIS offices in the USA. No longer can he submit the application or drop it off at a local USCIS international office.

So what caused the rumor that the US Embassy in Manila is closing in July?

Well, basically people are misreading the headlines.

The news announcements, the headlines in the Philippines press all say something like. “USCIS Closes Manila Office”

Somehow people miss read that statement and changed it to the “US Embassy in Manila is closing”.

USCIS is closing its small office presence, is certainly not the same that the US Embassy is closing.

USCIS had some office space located within the US Embassy compound. There a half a dozen American USCIS personel and local Filipino supporting staff conducted USCIS business working on DCF applications. Now these few Americans are returning to the USA and will conduct their work in the USA.

The Filipino staff will probably be reassigned to job opportunities at the US Embassy itself. And some office space within the Embassy will temporily become vacant.

The embassy itself will continue to operate, business as usual. Interviewing visa applicants and processing their cases, also business as usual.

The last local DCF application was accepted by the Manila USCIS office on May 4. Then they stopped excepting any further DCF applications. Today they are wrapping up the last cases they have in the pipeline, and packing to move back to the USA.

The vast majority of applicants never were eligible for DCF, so for them there is absolutely no change. For the few, well, now they will be treated just like the rest of us.

The few applicants who were previously eligible to apply locally in the Philippines now must send their applications all the way to the USA, and then wait for them to eventually return to Manila where the interview will be held at the US Embassy that is open today, will be open tomorrow, will continue to be open in July, and will remain open as long as the USA and Philippines have diplomatic relations.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach

Visa Denial Social Media Data Mining

Visa Denial due to Social Media Data Mining

USCIS recently announced new contracts given to companies to search through social media to collect data on Fiance and other visa applicants.

Collection starts October 18. If you have any “suspect” exposure, you have only a few more days to take it down.

 

One of VisaCoach’s clients has already experienced denial due to his Facebook presence.

This couple’s case was as near perfect as we have seen. They were young and in love. They had known each other for a few years and had met more than once. They were evenly matched by age, values and religion. Their “front loaded” petition was awesome and included many solid evidences of their bona fides.

The American sponsor even accompanied his fiancee to the interview to demonstrate his sincerity and support for the petition.

After a brief interview where the sponsor was not allowed to join in nor asked any questions before, during or after, the consular officer, denied the case.

The couple was devastated and confused. What could have gone wrong?

A consular officer who exhibits professionalism will state the reasons for denial in writing. And provide this to the rejected applicant immediately, often at the close of the interview itself.

You may not agree with the decision, but at least know what it was and then have a starting point for renewed efforts.

The officer refused to provide any verbal or written explanation.

All the couple had was the fiancee’s memory of the interview. I asked her to write a transcript of what happened, to recall exactly what was said and even what the body language was, so that we could study this in an attempt to reconstruct what MIGHT have been in the consular officer’s mind.

What seemed odd and out of context, was the consular officer made some comments about “conservative values” and what is a “woman’s role in society and in the home”.

Those comments seemed rather strange at the time and the foreign born fiancee had no idea where those comments came from.

Eventually it dawned on us. The American sponsor is active on FaceBook. He is outspoken and his views are somewhat “anti feminist”. He had posted on his social media pages, and entered into many online debates, his ideas on conservative values, and HIS ideas about a women’s role in the home and society.

He is not a bad guy. Not a bad husband. He was just expressing his free speech. He just had some strong views that are not popular, that are not considered “politically correct”.

The consular officer did her own internet search, found his activity and “Was NOT amused”, and denied, putting this loving couple’s life’s on hold.

Was it fair or reasonable that they were denied?. No, I don’t think so.

Happy end to the story. We took down his Facebook account, reapplied, and six months later they had their visa and began their married life together in Alaska.

One random consular officer searching on Facebook ended in a denial.

What will happen when ALL Fiance and Spouse applications are accompanied by a detailed dossier of one’s online statements, comments jokes, embarrassments, positive and negative feedback from friends or trolls?

Expect disaster. Expect many more denials, simply due to exercising a US Citizen’s right to free speech.

In Conclusion:

“Freedom of Speech”, doesn’t mean freedom to get your visa. The prudent path is prior to applying for a Fiance or Spouse visa to make sure there are no skeletons in your online closet. Clean or temporarily remove, or make private, potentially controversial aspects of your online and public presence before proceeding with your visa application.

By Fred Wahl
the VisaCoach

Social Media Vetting for Fiance and Spouse Visa Applicants

Fiance and Spouse visa applicants asked to provide detailed social media and telephone details

Just when we all were getting used to the delays caused by President Trump’s executive orders. He had instructed USCIS to more vigorously vet all cases with an objective to to restrict legal immigration. Just when we finally came to grips with the changes at USCIS that doubled or tripled the length of application forms, and caused most processing times to double.

Now the policy of extreme vetting, and immigration restrictionism has come to the US State Department’s consulate level.

 

Now either before a consulate interview or worst at the end of a consulate interview (just when you are waiting to hear “visa approved, welcome to USA” now many applicants are handed additional questionnaires asking about their social media, internet and telephone accounts.

These questionnaires often come with a note, saying that perhaps your case may require administrative processing. Continue reading “Social Media Vetting for Fiance and Spouse Visa Applicants”

Extreme vetting for Fiance and Spouse Visas

Extreme Vetting expected, even for Fiances and Spouses of Americans

It was recently reported that Trump administration officials are considering subjecting visitors to a range of invasive measures, including searches of their mobile phones and contacts, mandatory disclosure of their social media passwords, and interrogation about their beliefs and opinions.

 

Applicants could be asked to do the following:

Continue reading “Extreme vetting for Fiance and Spouse Visas”

How Coronavirus, Covid-19 Effects Fiance + Spouse Immigration + VisaCoach

How VisaCoach, USCIS, National Visa Center and US Consulates Worldwide are responding to Coronavirus, Covid-19

I have made arrangements for some of my staff to telecommute, and I and Joyce will continuously man the VisaCoach office from home. This means uninterrupted service for all of our clients.

Updates on USCIS, NVC US Consulate Closing and Operating Status

I hope you all have been keeping safe during this coronavirus crisis.

I have three children. The oldest, my son just got married on March 14. The bride requested I lose my goatee for the wedding photos.

The wedding celebration that we held, with 65 guests, at a wonderful Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles, was held only two days, before the Governor of California prohibited all large social gatherings, and closed all restaurants as well. We just made it under the wire. It’s been two weeks since, and no one from our guest list have reported any issues. Thank goodness.

My two youngest children are now back at home. My son had started work in Washington DC, and his company switched to remote, stay at home work. So for the time being, he is back in San Diego California working from home. My youngest child, a sophomore at University, in New Orleans, also is back, after her school closed down dormitories, and switched to online only classes.

I am lucky and relieved to have my family under my roof. I hope you and your family are fairing Equally well.

I have made arrangements for some of my staff to telecommute, and I and Joyce will continuously man the VisaCoach office from home. This means uninterrupted service for all of our clients.

The support we provide is direct and personal. We know each of our clients by name. so when you need to talk to me you can just still, just as usual, pick up the phone and we can talk together. I have never pawned off my clients to talk with a random stranger, working from an overseas call center off a generic, impersonal pre-written script. I suspect that my competitors who use such crowded boiler room call centers have probably hung out their clients, to dry during this time. At the same time me and my staff are still here, to provide, personal and direct help for your case.

Starting about a month ago, in China, US embassy and consulates there restricted and cancelled in-person interviews and meetings. My Chinese cases, all were brought to an immediate halt in processing. I even had some cases where the foreign spouse or fiancee had their visas, and were enjoying a last Chinese New Year celebration with family in China, before flying to the USA.They are now stuck in China waiting for flights to USA to resume.

I have recommended that these clients standby, until the planes resume flying and the consulates resume operations. If they are not able to use the visa before it’s 6 month validity expires, I anticipate that eventually their visas will be extended.

More recently, towards the end of March, ALL US consulates, worldwide, have closed their doors for what they call non-essential services. Sorry but interviewing applicants for visas to the USA, even for fiancées and spouses of American Citizens, is not considered essential. So all these cases have been put on hold.

When USCIS, in the USA, approves an application for a Fiancee or spouse visa they give the beneficiary 4 months to take action to arrange and attend the consulate interview. Here too, I expect that if a validity period expires, that the consulate would extend the validity requirement once the consulate resumes normal operations. I have advised my clients that even though it is not possible to BOOK an interview, they should, anyway, PAY the consulate visa fee. This is the best way to show US immigration you are pursuing the visa, to ensure one’s place in line is saved.

Stateside, USCIS has also implemented the practice of social distancing. Meaning that all in- person interviews have been cancelled. Their closure was so abrupt that they seemed to just go home, without taking any action to contact applicants who were attending already scheduled interviews. They didn’t bother, even to contact them by email or text. I advised my clients to just stay home and not bother to drive to a shuttered USCIS local office.

I do note that a week later, we are starting to get approval and other notices from USCIS, so apparently the lights ARE still on in their back offices, and their work reviewing and processing pending and new cases is still proceeding. It is too soon to tell, but I would expect that even though work is still proceeding, it probably will move slower than usual.

Updates on USCIS, NVC US Consulate Closing and Operating Status

What should you do?

If your case is already in process, expect delays. But the good news is your case is still moving forward, and this situation unlike an earthquake or flood has not damaged the infrastructure, or tools that the processing staff use. Everything is still in place and intact, and everything is ready to ramp up to full speed when the restrictions for quarantines and social distancing are lifted.

If your case has not been submitted yet, you have a decision to make. Do you already have enough evidence to demonstrate you have a bona relationship and is your case already strong enough to have a good chance of approval? Or do you need to make another trip in order to collect better evidence to ensure approval?

If you have enough, right now, then I suggest you move forward to finalize your application and submit right away. After all, you don’t know when the next time will come when you can meet in-person again. I hope that the planes will fly in a few months, but who knows? While being quarantined at home, your evidence is not getting stronger, and the longer you delay before you actually submit, the weaker your case looks. So take positive action to submit now. Use your downtime at home to bring your partner closer to joining you in the USA.

Of course one of the elements of the service I provide to my clients is that I review and take a long and hard look at all evidence you have when I choose the best way to present your application and story. IF I think you really should wait for more, I will clearly let you know my advice and opinion. I am not about letting my clients shoot themselves in the foot.

You still will face the same slower processing that everyone else is facing, but you will still be ahead of the game. Because there are a lot of couples who do not meet the eligibility requirements. Their applications are on hold waiting for the planes to fly. However, once they do start flying, then immediately afterwards there will be a big wave of new applications submitted at the same time, about a month after the quarantine is lifted. By applying now your application will be well ahead of those that apply then.

Sorry, but if you are currently short of the critical evidence needed for success, if you have been waiting to make that all important final critical trip, before submitting, perhaps to meet your fiancé for the first time in-person, or to have your wedding and honeymoon, sorry but your plans for bringing your partner to the USA, will suffer the longest delays.

Yes we can and should start working well before your trip. Yes we can start working together now. We can prepare your documents, and checklists now. We can get most of the logistics out of the way, so that once the aircraft fly again, your final trip will be properly planned in advance and will know exactly what to bring back so we can submit IMMEDIATELY on your return to the USA. It’s not ideal, but based on the current situation it would be the fastest way to bring your fiance or spouse home to the USA.

One of the most common questions I am being asked is “what will the Consulate, or USCIS or NVC” do about my not being able to use a visa, or have an interview on time?

Well, frankly I don’t think there is anything to worry about on that score. Just as you and I are suffering inconveniences by not being allowed to travel, forced to distance oneself from others, lines and shortages at stores, the same applies to the people who are charged with processing and approving your case. We are all in this together, and the problems and delays that you are facing, will be well understood by the people on the other side of the interview desk.

This is uncharted territory for all of us, but I am sure that common sense and human compassion will prevail on how your immigration journey is handled by the authorities.

In closing, I hope you and your family keep safe and healthy and that we all come out of this together and in one piece.

This was Fred Wahl, the VisaCoach

President Trump Tweets “He will Halt Immigration”

President Trump Executive Order to Ban Immigration, has no effect on visas for Fiancee's, Spouses and Children of US Citizens. Ban has minimal effects.

Updated: 4/23/2020

Wow. This has been a crazy couple of days. Sometime late in the afternoon on Monday, April 20, President Trump put out a tweet and it basically said “I’m going to halt immigration“.

There were no details, except a totally scary threat. This caused everyone worldwide, working on or intending to immigrate to the USA to panic. This was like dropping a bomb.

The message appeared to be poorly thought out, or perhaps made with no thought at all. It reminded me of the kind of regrettable and embarrassing message one sends to an ex-girlfriend, in the middle of the night.

Anyway, then followed by two days of panic, The White House finally issued the executive order.

And it’s Good news: Once published on April 22, it was clear that ALL immigration has not been halted. Only a very few cases are affected. And these are not the type of cases that VisaCoach clients are involved with.

If you are a VisaCoach client, you are not affected at all. Not if you are a US Citizen
applying for your Fiancee, Spouse or Child.

The new executive order does not, repeat, DOES NOT, apply to K1 fiance visas, CR1/IR1 spousal visas (with US citizen sponsors), CR2/IR2 child visas, Adjustments of status, Removal of Conditions, or Naturalization,

The Tweet, and the executive order was only a “tempest in a teapot”. It created a lot of concern and worry, all out of proportion to its actual effects.

Updated: 4/22/2020 17:50 PST. The published order temporarily bans most aliens who are applying for immigrant visas, but does not affect VisaCoach’s clients.

Text of the Executive Order  Posted April 22, 2020

Noteworthy from the text: Spouse’s and children of American Citizens applying for immigration are exempt.

Therefore:  CR1 or IR1 spouse visa or CR2 or IR2 child visa applications are NOT affected.

This order only  is about immigrant visas. Non-immigrant visas are not affected.  Therefore: K1 Fiance visa and K2 Fiance Dependent applications (which are not immigrant visas, they are non-immigrant visas) are also NOT affected.

Trump Tweets “He will Halt Immigration”

Late Monday Night (April 20, 2020) , President Trump Tweeted:

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

Specific details have not been announced. The executive order is still being “drafted”.

However, there has already been much backpedaling. Initial tweets implied ALL visa and green card issuance would be halted. A few days later, lots of exceptions and prevarications later, the proposed executive order may be designed to only limit SOME green cards and SOME work visas.

Who knows??

In practice, due to Coronavirus immigration to USA has already been temporarily halted. All US consulates are quarantined. Since they can not conduct interviews, they are not issuing visas. USCIS in-person visits are also halted. So cases that require interviews such as green cards and US Citizenship are also on hold.

My opinion, which might change once the actual order is published, is that marriage based immigration, (visas and green cards for Spouses, Fiancees and Children of US Citizens) will NOT suffer any negative effect.

Recent experience with previously published and implemented bans on so called “terrorist” countries, was that while supposedly a blanket ban that covered all visas from ENTIRE COUNTRIES were issued, they included notable exceptions.

Those bans did NOT include “Immediate relatives of US citizens and permanent residents”. Immediate relatives were exempt. They still got their visas.

I am confident,that a similar exception will be included for Spouses, Fiancees and Children.

VisaCoach clients should be ok.

Once the executive order is published I will provide updates here.

Coronavirus Covid-19: USCIS, NVC, US Consulate Operating Status

Updates on Office Opening Status of US Immigration during Covid-19 Pandemic

VisaCoach’s status and response to Coronavirus and it’s effects on Fiance, Spouse and marriage based immigration

USCIS June 3 reopening !!

USCIS announced their front offices, where public interviews are held will reopen June 3.

Their back offices had continued “business as usual” basically throughout the quarantine.  So many of VisaCoach’s adjustment of status and removal of conditions applications, are getting their interviews waived and getting conditional and permanent green cards in the mail. Those that require interviews, including those applying for US Citizenship where interviews are always mandatory will start to be processed after the offices reopen and allow in-person with public meetings, such as interviews and info pass appointments starting on June 3 2020

As many applicants have held off submitting applications to USCIS, due to waiting to take a final overseas trip before applying, USCIS appears to be currently less busy enjoying lighter than usual case load. I expect that new applications submitted prior to worldwide lifting of travel restrictions will enjoy faster USCIS processing.  Once travel resumes, expect a large influx of new cases, as those who have been on travel-hold send in their paper work. So at that time processing times will probably stretch and slow considerably, at least until that wave of cases are handled.

USCIS:  Back offices open, Front offices scheduled to reopen on June 3
https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-covid-19 https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-office-closings

NVC (National Visa Center)

Their operations have always been “back office”. So they have continued their work without pause. However, due to the consulates being closed to interviews, NVC instead of routinely notifying applicants that their cases have been forwarded overseas, are now holding these cases at NVC, awaiting the consulates to resume their normal operations.

NVC (National Visa Center) Back Offices open
https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/suspension-of-routine-visa-services.html

Internal Revenue Service

Front offices are closed to the public. Back offices are busy attending to payments for the stimulus payments. Processing requests for Tax Return Transcripts has been temporarily halted

IRS (Internal Revenue Service) Back offices open, overwhelmed by processing Stimulus payments
https://federalnewsnetwork.com/workforce/2020/04/irs-tells-initial-wave-of-10k-employees-to-return-to-office-monday-bring-own-ppe/

Social Security

Offices are closed to the public. Service to issue new Social Security Numbers, either in-person, or from online have been halted

Social Security Administration
https://www.ssa.gov/agency/emergency/

US Consulates

Most US Consulates worldwide halted in-person interviews around March 20 and have a two month backlog of cancelled visa interviews.  Today there is a month’s worth of interviews already backed up.  Gradually, as host countries suspend their local quarantines the consulates plan to reopen.

Afghanistan

Albania

Brazil ( as of June 2, Visa Section is (re-) scheduling  postponed interview appointments !!)

Cambodia

Canada

China

Colombia

Cuba

Czech Republic

Dominican Republic

Ecuador

Ethiopia

Fiji

Ghana

Hong Kong

Indonesia

Iran

Jamaica

Japan
https://jp.usembassy.gov/visas/
https://jp.usembassy.gov/suspension-of-routine-visa-and-notarial-services/
https://jp.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/

Kenya

Korea 

Laos

Mexico

Morocco

Nepal

Nigeria

Oman

Peru

Philippines
US consulate plans to Reopen for Interviews: July 30

Spain

Switzerland

Thailand

Tunisia

Ukraine

United Kingdom

Uruguay

Vietnam (Reopening June 29 for interviews, first priority is to clear March/April/May backlog of Spouse (CR1, IR1) and Dependent Child (CR2, IR2) Visa interviews)

VisaCoach’s status and response to Coronavirus and it’s effects on Fiance, Spouse and marriage based immigration

USCIS furloughs employees: Stops issuing green cards

USCIS  runs out of money:
Furloughs 13,400 employees Stops printing green cards

“How will your case be affected when USCIS runs out of money?”

The pandemic has not only affected you personally, but has also affected
larger institutions, even government agencies like United States Customs and Immigration Service, USCIS.

Because of economic and quarantine restrictions, Applicants for green cards, and fiancé and spouse visas have, like the rest of us, put their lives on hold. This includes delaying submitting applications to USCIS for immigration benefits.

USCIS currently is only receiving about 40% of its normal caseload of new applications.

This is good news and bad news.

It is good news for you if you have applied already because your case is being processed faster because there are less cases to compete with for the attention of the USCIS officers.

But it is bad news for USCIS

Since USCIS pays for its operations with application fees, after four months of the pandemic, after four months of reduced “sale”, USCIS is OUT of money.

13,400 employees, about 70% of it’s entire workforce have received furlough notices. By the first week in August there may only remain at USCIS a skeleton crew to handle your immigration case.

Due to Covid-19 USCIS is OUT of money. 13,400 employees, received furlough notices. Printing of Green Cards and EAD and AP cards have stopped. How will this affect your case ?

In The Visacoach newsletter, I reported months ago that USCIS was processing cases very quickly.

This was due to their office’s receiving far fewer applications than normal. While other businesses closed during the pandemic,
USCIS did not. Yes, they were not allowing in-person meetings or interviews with the public, but their back offices continued to
work uninterrupted. Basically they had plenty of staff but with less work to do. That’s why recent cases enjoyed faster processing.

And if you had all of your evidence ready for your case that was good news for you, and a great opportunity to submit your application and enjoy speedier processing.

But the party is over

USCIS is broke, they are running out of money.

USCIS operates as a self supporting fee based agency. This means they do not receive tax payer dollars to support their operations. Instead they support themselves entirely by the fees you pay when you file your application.

Their current application fee revenue is only 40% of its normal level. At the same time, their staffing is at 100%. Having “done the math”, USCIS expects to run out of money by August.

They have asked Congress to bail them out. They want to raise fees, charge surcharges on top of the new raised fees, and want 1.2 billion dollars in loans..

USCIS has asked Congress to approve higher across the board fees (including a huge $445 increase to apply for US Citizenship, also $545 for work authorization and $585 for travel authorization).

USCIS has ALSO asked to add a temporary 10% surcharge on top of any application fees charged.

And finally USCIS has asked Congress for a $1.2 BILLION dollar loan to tide them over. The temporary 10% surcharge would probably be applied until the money is paid back.

In the mean time, USCIS has sent notices to 13,400 employees notifying them to expect to be furloughed in August. If the loan falls through the employees stay home.

And green card and work and travel authorization applicants have already suffered.

USCIS previously contracted out the printing of green cards and work and travel authorization cards. The contract with the outside printing company ended in June. USCIS chose to not renew the contract as they hoped to save money by doing the printing themselves inhouse.

But, due to lack of funding, they have not hired new any staff who knows how to run the printing presses. So until their budget problems are fixed, no more green cards, no more work authorization cards.

So far 50,000 approved green cards, and 75,000 approved work and travel authorization cards Have not been printed, not issued to the applicants.

This is a real problem because a lot of new immigrants Need to work to support themselves and family, and they may not even look for work until they have these cards in their hands.

The fate of your application, and many thousands more like yours, and the fate of USCIS all lies in what Congress does.

If Congress DOES grant the loan, and does so soon, USCIS can keep its employees working, and can find a way to start printing green cards.

And if that happens, and they are still getting less new cases, then for your case, if you can submit it soon,
You can expect to enjoy faster processing, at least until the pandemic is under control, and new applications return to prior levels.

If Congress does NOT grant the loan, then expect all cases to slow to a miserable crawl.

In either case, you will pay higher fees.

No matter what happens, submitting as soon as possible, is still your best course. Depending on how soon you submit, you will most likely avoid the fee increases. And any progress you make before any reductions in staffing (if they occur) will put your case that much further along the processing path.

As always with US immigration it is “first come, first serve”.

This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach

 

USCIS: New Filing Fees Effective October 2

 

USCIS has finally confirmed it’s new fee schedule. It takes effect in less than two months, on October 2, 2020. And that is not a lot of time to prepare a solid application.

USCIS announced its new fee schedule for immigration applications. Both Naturalization (for US Citizenship) and Adjustment of Status (for lawful permanent residency) have risen substantially.

If you are considering applying for US citizenship, you should submit asap (before October 2) and avoid a 61% price increase ($445).

If applying for for Adjustment of Status for a Child you can avoid a 51% increase ($380).

If applying for Work or Travel Authorization (at same time as Adjustment of Status) you can still get these Free of Charge ($0 !!). Currently Work Authorization and Travel Authorization applications when submitted at same time as Adjustment of Status need no filing fee, they are included “Free of Charge” as part of the adjustment of status process. But, starting October 2 they cost $545 and $585 respectively.

For Fiance and Spouse visas the change is marginal, only $25. Up $25 for fiancee visas, down $25 for spouse and relative visas.

USCIS: Filing Fees Go up on October 2

New Fees: Effective October 2, 2020
Old Filing Fee New Filing Fee Change
Fiance Visa $535 $510 –  $25
Spouse Visa $535 $560 + $25
Concurrent Filing $1,760 $1,690 – $70
Adjustment of Status (Adult)
Adjustment of Status (Child)
with Work Authorization
with Travel Permission
$1,225
$   750
$       0
$       0
$1,130
$1,130
$   545
$   585
  – $95
+ $380
+ $545
+ $585
Removal Conditions on Residence $680 $ 760 + $80
US Citizenship $725 $ 1,170 + $445
Relative Visa
(Child, Parent, Sibling)
$535 $ 560 + $25

Click here for the FULL schedule of new USCIS fees