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Statistics reveal surprising shift in H-1B visa approvals

People navigating the immigration system in the U.S. are often told that as long as they do what they are supposed to do, their status in the country will not be an issue. However, as far too many immigrants know, this is not always the case.

This is especially true in the current political climate, as immigration laws and standards seem to change every week. What used to be a somewhat predictable system is now rife with complications and unwelcome surprises. Currently, H-1B visa holders are among those who are struggling with some unexpected barriers.

Act now: USCIS processing fees slated to go up next year

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a proposal to raise the application fees for citizenship, lawful permanent residency (green card status) and many other services. The proposal is now in a public comment period until Dec. 16, after which the agency must consider the comments.

After that, however, the fees will almost certainly go up for citizenship, green cards, DACA renewals, asylum, Temporary Protected Status and other services.

Supreme Court to decide legality of DACA program

In 2012, President Barack Obama implemented a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The program gave protection from deportation and work authorization to a particular group of immigrants: those who had been brought here as without authorization as children within a specific period.

Beneficiaries of the program, called "Dreamers," were allowed to come from the shadows and participate in American life.

Travel ban keeps neuroscientists from attending US conference

The Trump administration's travel ban against passport holders from seven countries is causing problems for some travelers to the U.S. Most recently, it prevented invited speakers from attending this year's Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago.

Dr. Sepiedeh Keshavarzi told NPR that it was once her dream to do research in the United States. She was one of the speakers due to address approximately 25,000 brain scientists at the meeting, but she was denied a visa. She was also denied one last year.

Why should you become a US citizen? For one thing, you could vote

Many people who want to live and work in the U.S. permanently are perfectly happy with their status as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). There may be good reasons for this but, before you decide, you should be aware that there are significant advantages to becoming a citizen.

The United States is actively welcoming new citizens. Over the last decade, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) brought over 7.2 million people into citizenship through naturalization. Last year alone, 756,000 people were naturalized.

Federal judge rejects new interpretation of 'public charge'

This summer, the Trump administration issued a controversial new rule that would have imposed new financial standards on immigrants who are seeking lawful permanent residency (green cards). The rule reinterprets a policy against immigrants who are likely to become a "public charge" which has been in place for over 100 years.

Under the new rule, when immigrants applied for green cards, several economic factors would be held against them. For example, earning less than 125% of the federal poverty level would weigh against an immigrant's green card application. Other factors include:

  • Having substantial debt
  • Not speaking English
  • Having a disability
  • Accepting public assistance in the form of food stamps, Medicaid or housing assistance (even though it is perfectly legal to do so)

International students face increasing delays and security checks

You may have heard recently about a Palestinian student who was denied entry to the U.S. when he came to join his freshman class at Harvard. It wasn't for something he had done. Customs officials scanned his phone and objected to certain social media postings the student's friends had made. The man's dreams of a Harvard education were dashed because his friends made objectionable comments.

According to officials from Cottey College in Missouri, the State Department denied student visas to two of six Ethiopian students that had been accepted as freshmen. According to the State Department, the 17- and 18-year-olds lacked sufficient ties to their home country and might not be inclined to return. But how does a 17- or 18-year-old demonstrate sufficient attachment?

Key differences between a K-1 fiance visa petition and a spousal visa petition?

If you have recently become engaged, congratulations! If you are a U.S. citizen whose fiance or fiancee is from another country, you have the opportunity to sponsor them to come live with you permanently in the United States. We are often asked which is better, a K-1 fiance visa petition or a spousal visa petition.

Here are some key considerations to help you decide which is the better option for you and your loved one: 1) place and time of your marriage; 2) processing time and cost; 3) your fiance's needs for work and travel outside the U.S.

Minister or religious worker? Apply now to come to the US

If you have a full-time job offer as a minister, in a religious vocation, or in a religious occupation in the U.S., you may qualify for an EB-4 visa for Special Immigrant Religious Workers. This is an immigrant visa, meaning that you can apply later on for a green card (lawful permanent resident status). And, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 can accompany you on this visa and may also qualify for green cards.

First, be aware that the rules will soon be changing for religious workers who are not ministers. Non-ministers must immigrate by Sept. 30, 2019, if they are using the EB-4 Special Immigrant Religious Workers visa. After that, non-ministers and their dependents will no longer be allowed to use this visa.

What does the new 'public charge' rule mean for immigrants?

The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) already says that immigrants can't be a "public charge," meaning they aren't supposed to cost taxpayers money by relying on public benefit programs. If they are, or are likely to become, a public charge, immigrants are not eligible for visas or green cards.

Yet legal immigrants with little income are often eligible for some public assistance programs, such as welfare (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), public housing, Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.

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