December 2022 Visa Bulletin: Updates
The Department of State’s (DOS) Visa Bulletin for December 2022 includes a variety of updates:
· The estimated employment-based annual limit will be 197,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2023.
· Establishment of final action dates and application filing dates for China and India will most likely be necessary in the coming months.
· DOS has deemed it necessary to establish a worldwide employment second preference final action and application filing dates effective in December. Except for China and India, all countries are subject to a final action date of 01NOV22 and an application filing date of 01DEC22.
· Fewer additional numbers will be available to India in the employment second preference category than originally estimated when the October and November final action and application filing dates were established. Therefore, further corrective action has been necessary to ensure that the limited supply of visa numbers is allocated by the priority date.
· High demand in the employment fourth preference category has necessitated the establishment of a worldwide final action date and application filing date for December. Except for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, all countries are subject to a final action date of 22JUN22 and an application filing date of 22JUL22.
· Higher than expected demand in the employment fourth preference category for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras may necessitate corrective action.
The Certain Religious Workers (SR) category is set to expire on December 16, 2022. No SR visas may be issued overseas, or final action was taken on adjustment of status cases, after midnight December 15, 2022. Visas issued prior to that date will be valid only until December 15, 2022, and all individuals seeking admission in the non-minister special immigrant category must be admitted into the United States no later than midnight December 15, 2022. If legislative action extends this category, the December dates will be applied for the entire month. If there is no legislative action extending this category, the category will become “Unavailable” effective December 16, 2022.
SOURCES: ABIL Immigration Insider, November 20, 2022, and https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin/2023/visa-bulletin-for-december-2022.html
USCIS Releases Tips on Avoiding Paper Filing-Related Delays
On November 16, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released tips to avoid paper filing-related scanning delays. USCIS said it scans and uploads many documents into electronic database systems as it moves toward an increasing electronic environment.
Examples of practices to avoid include attaching documents together with staples, paper clips or other methods; folding documents; using insertable tab dividers; submitting multiple copies unless required; and sending original documents unless required, among other tips.
SOURCES: ABIL Immigration Insider, November 20, 2022, and https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/recommendations-for-paper-filings-to-avoid-scanning-delays
DHS Criticized for Fingerprint Appointment Procedures
The current process of getting non-detained individuals required biometrics appointments before final removal hearings is further burdening immigration backlogs and risking people’s chances at getting asylum, organizations said in a letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The more than 50 legal service providers and advocacy organizations — including the American Immigration Lawyers Association — said that, while USCIS had the sole authority to process and schedule the appointments, it is the individuals seeking to secure the appointments who are bearing the burden.
Biometrics appointments — or fingerprint appointments — are required for individuals seeking relief in deportation proceedings, including asylum and withholding of removal. But USCIS regularly fails to issue the appointments in a timely manner, or issue them at all, the organizations said.
Even when biometrics are already filed with USCIS or Customs and Border Protection, the organizations said Immigration and Customs Enforcement often refuse to “refresh” the already taken biometrics, instructing attorneys and those in removal proceedings to file another application form and request a new appointment notice.
Because fingerprints do not change, the organizations suggested that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP, ICE and USCIS, “refresh” existing fingerprints when possible. They said doing so would not only save USCIS time and resources but would also relieve some of the burden placed on applicants and their attorneys.
ICE’s chief legal adviser has previously said in stakeholder calls that the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor has the ability to refresh fingerprints, according to the organization. But the office has been inconsistent in requesting refreshes.
The organizations said the office has also suggested it could not refresh fingerprints taken by CBP. The organizations suggested DHS update internal procedures to allow OPLA to refresh CBP fingerprints as it does for prints taken by USCIS.
If ICE cannot refresh fingerprints, the organizations suggested those in removal proceedings get biometrics notices by mail six months ahead of their merits hearing. And as a “last-resort” solution, the organizations urged USCIS to accept walk-in appointments for those who have hearing notices dated within a shorter period of time, such as 90 days.
SOURCE: Rae Ann Varona, Law360, November 18, 2022: https://www.law360.com/immigration/articles/1550985/dhs-urged-to-fix-immigration-fingerprint-appointments