Department of Homeland Security to Use Fake Social Media Accounts to Investigate Immigrant Applicants

We recently shared that the government is now asking visa applicants for their social media history. Applicants who wish to obtain a visa to enter the United States must disclose their social media handles for each platform they have used for the past 5 years.

We have recently learned that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services now authorizes its officers to create fictitious social media accounts to investigate applicants for permanent residence and U.S. citizenship.  Officers review the social media accounts of applicants flagged for additional investigation. Officers can only review publicly available social media information. They cannot “friend” or “follow” an individual.  Because we have anticipated such actions, we have for many years warned clients to make sure any public information on social media sites is truthful and consistent with your immigration strategy.  Such advice is now more important than ever.  Hopefully, the government will not illegally use information about an applicant’s political positions against him/her.  Indeed, the government’s new tactics cause a chilling effect on free speech.

Providing Stability during an Unpredictable Time

We are often asked what it is like to work in the immigration field right now. Immigration law is a political flash point with the crisis at the border, the travel ban, and a president whose policies and rhetoric have caused backlogs, instability, and fear for those wishing to stay or immigrate to the United States.  These issues do not change the work that we do on a daily basis, but require us to adapt quickly to provide our clients with stability and assurance during an unpredictable time.  When we see reviews like the one below, we know our efforts are paying off.

5 star avvoNavid and his team is extremely thorough and professional. I worked with him for my H1B application through my employer, multiple times over the years. Even in the current challenging immigration scenario, he will give you a sense of certainty and clarity into your immigration case. He is always on top of the ever changing immigration rules and would proactively advise and equip me with right documents/instructions during my international travel. Navid and his team are a delight to work with and I will continue working with them for all my immigration needs. I highly recommend them.

Immigrant Visa Availability Slows as We near End of Fiscal Year

The Department of State visa bulletin indicates when an immigrant visa becomes available for the various family-based (FB) and employment-based (EB) visa categories. Immigrant visa availability determines when many individuals are eligible to apply for a green card. The Department of State updates the visa bulletin each month depending on availability and demand for each category.

We recently learned that the EB-3 category for citizens of all countries has immediately been made “unavailable” for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2019. This means that the annual limits have been reached in this category. Additional visa numbers are unavailable until the beginning of the next fiscal year in October 2019.

In addition to this change, several other categories are listed as unavailable for the remainder of the fiscal year, including EB-1 India. EB-1 China is not listed as unavailable but did move backwards 2.5 years due to increased demand.

Individuals with pending green card applications that fall into these categories should still continue with their cases and follow government requests. For example, unless otherwise advised, applicants should still appear for a scheduled green card interview. The officer may decide not to proceed with the interview and/or reschedule it for another time. If the interview moves forward and the application is approved, the officer will put the case on hold until a visa number is available.

We will continue to track visa availability and keep clients updated. Though the visa bulletin can be unpredictable, we strive to provide clients guidance to increase the success of their immigration strategy.

Government Introduces New Medical Exam Form Edition for Green Card Applicants

All green card applicants must undergo a medical examination as a part of the application process. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) designates certain doctors to perform the medical exam.  Successful completion of the medical exam is an integral part of the application process.  If not done correctly, the green card application will be delayed or even denied.

One cause for the government to reject an otherwise complete medical exam is if the doctor uses an older version of the form.  The doctor must input the results of the medical exam on the current edition of Form I-693. Starting September 23, 2019, the government will only accept medical exam results completed on the latest edition (dated 07/15/2019). If you will soon be submitting your green card application and obtaining a medical exam, be sure that your doctor is using the most up-to-date form version. This will avoid delays in your case and save you a second trip to the doctor!

Government Expands Use of Expedited Removal

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that it is significantly expanding its expedited removal policy. Expedited removal will now happen throughout the United States rather than just to individuals who are detained near the border.

Expedited removal is a fast track process for removing (deporting) certain noncitizens without a hearing before an immigration judge. By statute, expedited removal applies only to individuals who lack valid entry documents, who commit fraud or misrepresent a material fact to obtain admission, or who falsely claim U.S. citizenship. Homeland Security has previously applied this rule to individuals it encountered only within 100 air miles of the border and who have not been physically present in the United States continuously for only 14 days.

The recent announcement expands expedited removal to cover the whole country (no matter where Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection officials encounter certain noncitizens).  The rule is also expanded to noncitizens who have been in the U.S. for up to two years.  Homeland Security officers anywhere in the country will now be able to bypass immigration court and put noncitizens directly on a fast track to removal.

The following information may be helpful in order to understand the new policy:

  • Fear of Persecution Abroad: Anyone who expresses a fear of persecution abroad will continue to be screened to determine if their fear is credible.
  • Prosecutorial Discretion: DHS states that immigration officers may exercise their discretion to allow individuals to return voluntarily, withdraw applications for admission, or be placed in full removal proceedings before a judge.
  • Physical Presence Requirement: The announcement specifies that any absence from the U.S. would break the physical presence requirement. The burden is on noncitizens to show that they have been in the U.S. for at least two years without a departure from the United States.

The American Immigration Council, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, have announced that they plan to sue the government to stop the expansion of expedited removal. Fortunately, we do not expect that this policy will affect most of our clients, but we will continue to monitor the expansion and implementation of this policy, so that our clients remain informed and prepared.