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.
My area of specialization is Marriage Based Immigration. That means I help American Citizens or Lawful residents obtain fiance and spouse visas and later Green Cards for their foreign partners, so the couple can live together permanently in the USA.
A fiance visa is the visa that an American can apply for, for his or her foreign fiance. When approved it allows the foreign fiance to enter the USA and just like on that reality TV show, to marry within 90 days. A spouse visa is when the American is already married to his foreign love, and he or she applies to bring the spouse to the USA. After arrival, then the couple applies for adjustment of status which allows the foreign partner to live permanently in the USA as a green card holder, permanent resident.
In normal immigration, there is a simple test whether someone is eligible or not. Usually it requires birth certificates or DNA tests, and a visa to enter a live in the USA is approved. But when it comes to romance, when it comes to fiancees or spouses, there is no x-ray machine that looks into the hearts of a couple to confirm that they really are, the real thing, that they really are Bona fide. Because of this lack of a simple test much fraud has occurred in the past. Because US immigration is frustrated that they don’t have a simple test, and they’ve been tricked many times, they in general treat applicants for fiance and spouse visa’s as “guilty until proven innocent”. This was a general atmosphere that we previously always worked to overcome. I do it by concentrating on helping a couple to demonstrate how sincere , how bona fide they are.
It was already difficult to get a Fiance or Spouse visa before, now it is tougher, the bar has been raised even more by President Trump. In general he has striven to push US immigration to perform stricter reviews of all cases, which has caused denial rates to skyrocket. Under the Obama administration denial rates may have been one percent or under, now we are seeing 20 to 30% denial At the USCIS’s stateside reviews, and then further at the foreign consulate reviews. These are dark days indeed for applicants. The reasons why denials have increased, and processing times have stretched can primarily be attributed to the executive orders passed down from the President to US CIS and the US state department.
Our “Country is Full” was a recent tweet by President Trump.
Here is my report on the executive orders that have been made or proposed during the Trump administrations first 30 months that have been designed to limit legal immigration and keep more aliens out.
1. Travel Bans
Travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea have been banned from being issued visas to USA.
So far over 37,000 applications have been rejected.
2. Vigorous Enforcement of Immigration Laws
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.
3. Extreme Vetting
Applicants could be asked to do the following: Hand over their phones so that their contact list and photos could be examined by embassy or consulate staff
Provide their social media handles and passwords so that both private and public posts can be viewed.
Provide 15 years’ worth of travel history, employment history and addresses
Pass an “ideological test” Potential questions might focus on the traveler’s view of society, and culture
4. Application forms increasing in size and complexity
Fiance Visa I-129F application has increased from 3 to 13 pages. The Spouse visa I-130 application has increased from 2 to 12 Adjustment of Status, Green Card I-485 application has increased from 6 to 18
5. Heightened Scrutiny of any arrest, conviction, citation.
The Fiance Visa application now has two fairly problematic new questions that must be answered, and when answered must be backed up with court and police records..
Has the American Sponsor EVER been the subject of any type of restraining or protection order?
Has the American Sponsor EVER been arrested, cited, charged, indicted, convicted, fined or imprisoned, for any law, any ordinance, ANYTIME. ?
No matter how frivolous a protection order was,(Divorce lawyers frequently use this as a pressuring tactic) no matter how trivial or long ago the crime, (a teenager in the wrong place at the wrong time) these questions create extra hurdles to be jumped, and extra reasons for delays and possible denials.
6. USCIS can deny without warning
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 if the applicant is present in the USA, go directly to deportation procedures.
7. 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. If you have any “suspect” exposure, best to take it down immediately.
8. Stricter Public Benefits Rules
The proposed new rule is to expand the criteria for what makes a person in-eligible for a visa or immigration benefits. The new proposed rule, and it is still a proposal, it has not made into law YET, is that if the household is receiving ANY kind of public benefits, they could be found ineligible for visa or green card.
This means, those receiving Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program, and several housing programs such as section 8, and so on would make an applicant in eligible. Even if one had requested a waiver against paying a immigration fee, one could be found ineligible.
Worse still, is even if an applicant has applied for such benefits, in the past, even if not granted even if the application was withdrawn, that would be enough to demonstrate that the applicant might in future need some kind of welfare and he would be found in eligible due to previous applications even for the most minor subsidies.
And even more worse is an applicant can be found ineligible, even if never having applied, nor taken any subsidies, even if income meets the eligibility threshold, IF the reviewer anticipates that possibly, POSSIBLY the applicant MIGHT need subsidies in the future If the applicant is “Likely to need” subsidies he can be found ineligible.
9. Closing 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.
10. Interviews are No longer waived
Green Card 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.
11 Delays and slower, longer processing times
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.
As you can see the Trump administration has been very busy during it’s first 30 months in office. More rules, more restrictions, less support, longer lines, slower processing, more delays and denials. And probably more to come.
What can you do?
Well it will get worse before it gets better. And if you want to be successful tiptoeing through this mine field you really shouldn’t go alone. At VisaCoach we have always strived to help make our clients applications “touch every base”. We encourage and push our clients to provide ample good quality evidences when we craft their front loaded applications. This higher quality from the get go, has helped our clients weather this storm. We still endure the delays that everyone face, but our approval rates as high as ever.
By Fred Wahl