What you will learn in this episode:
- Why it is important to have a lawyer during the citizenship process
- How you can work with the Familia America team during the COVID-19 pandemic
- USCIS extensions for requests for evidence and application denials
- The USCIS is still accepting applications
- Are consulates and embassies open?
- Gloria’s advice for immigrants eligible fiancé visas
- Changes to U Visa certifications
Why it is important to have a lawyer during the citizenship process
A common situation that the team at Familia America has experienced are clients, who have a green card, will begin the citizenship process, but later receive notification that (1) they were never supposed to be entitled to a green card, (2) their citizenship application is then denied, and (3) they are now put into the deportation process.
To prevent this from happening, it is recommended you work with an experienced lawyer like Gloria Cardenas, who can review your file, perform a Freedom of Information Act request on your behalf, and fight for your in court to ensure your citizenship application is approved.
How you can work with the Familia America team during the COVID-19 pandemic
If you decide to work with the Familia America team during your immigration process, you will need to come to the office. Consultations can be done via Zoom video conference and documents can be sent via fax or FedEx. Our expert team can work with your case without you needing to leave your home.
USCIS extensions for requests for evidence and application denials
If you have been issued a request for evidence, or you have been given notice that intend to deny your application or revoke your visa, the USCIS is now giving immigrants an additional 60 days to respond. These requests must have been issued between March 1, 2020 to July 1, 2020.
For example, let’s say you are issued a denial of your green card on April 1, 2020. Instead of 30 days, you now have 90 days, or June 30, 2020, to file your appeal.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) really pushed hard for this change. During the pandemic, a lot of people are having trouble getting documents, or even finding a lawyer who can do the case and respond quickly. This extension will give immigrants the time they need to respond to these requests.
This only applies to requests sent between March 1, 2020 to July 1, 2020.
The USCIS is still accepting applications
Although the USCIS had to close offices for interviews and fingerprints on March 18th, they are still accepting applications and processing applications.
Often, the USCIS office does not require an interview with an application. Even if they do require an interview, this typically takes about eight months to complete. Thus, even though they are not performing interviews now, you should still submit your application to the office.
Are consulates and embassies open?
Consulates and embassies have been open in very limited capacities. We should begin to see them announce reopening plans shortly.
Like the USCIS office closures, you should not let this stop you from getting paperwork to consulates and embassies. For example, if you are working to get your green card, the consular process could take two years. You still want to get moving on your application now so that when the consulates are open, functioning fully, you’re going to be able to get right in line.
Gloria’s advice for immigrants eligible fiancé visas
We sometimes see clients where a U.S. citizen wants to marry someone outside of the country. For example, they may plan to get married in Mexico City to be close to their family, then file for a green card. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a much more difficult process than in years past.
If you are a US citizen, it may be easier to apply for a fiance visa, then get married in the U.S. Later, after travel restrictions have eased, you can plan for the bigger wedding with family and friends in Mexico City. In the current climate, this may be the better option.
Changes to U Visa certifications
The Utah legislature recently passed a law that determines guidelines police agencies and prosecutors must follow if someone requests that a U Visa certification be signed.
U Visas are for victims of serious crimes in the U.S. The U Visa certification is the first step in filing for a U Visa.
In the past, it was left up to the police agency’s discretion on how they handle U Visa certifications. They could say, “Hey, our policy is we don’t sign these things.” Or, “Our policy is you got to pay 25 bucks.” Or their policy or there’s no policy at all.
Police agencies now have specific guidelines they must follow when asked for a U Visa certification. First, they have to respond within 90 days. If you are in removal proceedings, they only have 14 days to respond.
Second, the victim must be helpful, or likely to be helpful during the investigation. In the past, if you were not used as a witness on a case, they could deny your certification. Now, even if the police and prosecutors did not require your help, if you were likely to be helpful, they cannot deny your request.
This is also the case if no investigation was performed. If you were the victim of a crime and you were likely to be helpful, they cannot deny your request.
Also, the victim’s family could be included in the visa application too, not just a victim! It includes the victim’s spouses, children, and sometimes even the victim’s brother or sister.
The team at Familia America has years of experience with U Visas. If you were denied a U Visa certification from a police agency, contact us to get help with your U Visa application.
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