Implementation of a New Family Reunification Parole Process for Ecuador
Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced implementation of a new family reunification parole (FRP) process for certain nationals of Ecuador. This process allows an eligible beneficiary to be considered for parole into the United States on a case-by-case basis while they wait for their family-based immigrant visa to become available. It is available by invitation only to certain petitioners with an approved Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of an Ecuadorian beneficiary.
What You Need to Know
On Nov. 17, 2023, the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) will begin issuing invitations to certain U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident petitioners whose Form I-130 on behalf of an Ecuadorian beneficiary has been approved. After a petitioner receives an invitation, they can begin the FRP process by filing Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support, and requesting to be a supporter of the principal beneficiary and any derivative beneficiary spouse and children. These beneficiaries may then be considered for advance travel authorization to travel to the United States to be considered for a discretionary grant of parole.
Petitioners must receive an invitation from the NVC before filing Form I-134A under this process. Petitioners may use our online tool to confirm whether they have been issued an invitation. If you are a petitioner and you believe you may be eligible, make sure the NVC has your current contact information and mailing address. To update your contact information and address, contact the NVC through their Public Inquiry Form.
Noncitizens paroled into the United States under this process will generally be considered for parole for up to three years and can request employment authorization while they wait for their immigrant visa to become available. When their immigrant visa becomes available, they may apply to become a lawful permanent resident.
Certain Renewal Applicants for Employment Authorization to Receive Automatic 180 Day Extension
Certain renewal applicants who have filed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, qualify for an automatic extension of their expiring employment authorization and/or employment authorization documents (EADs) while their renewal application is pending. From October 27, 2023, those who are eligible will receive 180-day extensions in accordance with existing regulations, including those who have applied for or have received Temporary Protected Status or asylum.
In May 2022, however, USCIS announced a temporary final rule (TFR) that increased the automatic extension period for EADs available to certain EAD renewal applicants from up to 180 days to up to 540 days. Today’s change is not retroactive; all previous up to 540-day automatic extensions will remain in place.
USCIS is in the process of determining whether there is a need for a new regulatory action similar to the May 2022 TFR, notwithstanding past and ongoing operational improvements and efforts to accelerate EAD processing more broadly.
As announced in the 2022 TFR, automatic extensions of employment authorization and EAD validity will be the original up to 180-day period for those eligible applicants who timely file a Form I-765 renewal applications on or after Oct. 27, 2023.
For individuals who received an increased automatic extension period under the TFR, the increased automatic extension will end when they receive a final decision on their renewal application or when the up to 540-day period expires (counted from the expiration date of the employment authorization and/or their EAD), whichever comes earlier.
Meanwhile, USCIS recently published a Policy Manual update increasing the maximum EAD validity period to five years for initial and renewal applications approved on or after Sept. 27, 2023, for the following categories:
- Certain noncitizens who are employment authorized incident to status or circumstance, including those admitted as refugees, paroled as refugees, granted asylum, and recipients of withholding of removal; and
- Certain noncitizens who must apply for employment authorization, including applicants for asylum and withholding of removal, adjustment of status, and suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal.
Diversity Visa Lottery for 2025 (a.k.a. 'Green Card lottery')
DV-2025 Program: The online registration period for the DV-2025 Program begins on Wednesday, October 4, 2023, at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) and concludes on Tuesday, November 7, 2023, at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-5). Submission of more than one entry for a person during the registration period will disqualify all entries for that person.
Natives of the following countries and areas are not eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, The People's Republic of China (including mainland and Hong Kong born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Venezuela and Vietnam.
Natives of Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.
To apply for the DV Lottery read the instructions at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/diversity…
Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken Announce Designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program
Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, in consultation with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, announced the designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). By November 30, 2023, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will be updated to allow citizens and nationals of Israel to apply to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a U.S. visa, a step which further strengthens the security, economic and people-to-people ties between the United States and Israel. Following updates in Israel’s travel policies, all U.S. citizens may request entry to Israel for up to 90 days for business, tourism, or transit without obtaining a visa.
“The designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program is an important recognition of our shared security interests and the close cooperation between our two countries,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “This designation, which represents over a decade of work and coordination between the United States and Israel, will enhance our two nations’ collaboration on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and our other common priorities. Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, and the stringent requirements it entails, will make both of our nations more secure.”
“Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program represents a critical step forward in our strategic partnership with Israel that will further strengthen long-standing people-to-people engagement, economic cooperation, and security coordination between our two countries,” said Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. “This important achievement will enhance freedom of movement for U.S. citizens, including those living in the Palestinian Territories or traveling to and from them.”
The Visa Waiver Program is designed to enhance the security of the United States and partner countries while encouraging legitimate travel and commerce. The program builds comprehensive security partnerships between the United States and designated countries that meet strict requirements related to counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management. These requirements include confirmation that a country issues secure travel documents; extends visa-free privileges to all U.S. citizens without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity; works closely with U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism authorities; and for initial designation, has a rate of nonimmigrant visitor visa refusals below 3% during the previous full fiscal year. Israel put forth a significant whole-of-government effort to meet all program requirements, including passing multiple new laws, establishing information sharing systems, and implementing new entry procedures for all U.S. citizens.
In advance of this designation, Israel made updates to its entry policies to meet the VWP requirement to extend reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity. DHS monitored Israel’s implementation of these requirements and engaged with Palestinian-Americans both living in the West Bank and living in the United States, who now have the ability to enter Israel visa free, and fly in and out of Ben Gurion airport, reducing barriers to travel for these Americans.
Today’s designation is not the end of the process. As is the process with all VWP countries, the U.S. Government will continue to engage with the Government of Israel while monitoring its continued implementation of all program requirements, including the reciprocity commitments it made to the United States on July 19, 2023.
Under the VWP, on November 30, 2023, citizens and nationals of Israel will be able to apply online for authorization to travel to the United States through the ESTA. These authorizations are generally valid for two years. Israeli citizens with valid B-1/B-2 visas may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the United States. ESTA applications may be found at esta.cbp.dhs.gov or download the “ESTA Mobile” app through iOS App Store or the Google Play store.
Extension and Re-designation of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the extension and re-designation of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, due to extraordinary and temporary conditions in Venezuela that prevent individuals from safely returning.
After reviewing the country conditions in Venezuela and consulting with interagency partners, Secretary Mayorkas determined that an 18-month TPS extension and re-designation are warranted based on Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political, and environmental conditions. This re-designation provides temporary protection from removal, as well as employment authorization for individuals in the United States before July 31, 2023.
Applicants for TPS under this redesignation must demonstrate that they are Venezuelan nationals (or individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Venezuela) who have been continuously residing in the United States since July 31, 2023, and meet other eligibility criteria.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process pending applications filed under the previous TPS designation for Venezuela. Individuals with a pending Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, or a related Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, as of the date of the forthcoming Federal Register notice, do not need to file either application again. If USCIS approves a pending Form I-821 or Form I-765 filed under the previous designation of TPS for Venezuela, USCIS will grant the individual TPS and issue an EAD valid through the same date.
Under the redesignation of Venezuela, eligible individuals who do not have TPS may submit a Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, during the initial registration period which will be specified in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. Applicants also may apply for TPS-related EADs and for travel authorization. Applicants can request an EAD by submitting a completed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with their Form I-821, or separately later.
There are currently approximately 242,700 TPS beneficiaries under Venezuela’s existing TPS designation. There are an additional approximately 472,000 nationals of Venezuela who may be eligible under the redesignation of Venezuela.
The forthcoming Federal Register notice will explain eligibility criteria, timelines, and procedures necessary for current beneficiaries to re-register and renew EADs, and for new applicants to submit an initial application under the re-designation and apply for an EAD.
Extension and Re-designation of Afghanistan for TPS
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the extension and redesignation of Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months from November 21, 2023, through May 20, 2025. DHS also posted a Federal Register Notice for public inspection.
The extension of TPS for Afghanistan allows current beneficiaries to re-register to retain TPS through May 20, 2025, if they otherwise continue to meet the eligibility requirements for TPS. Existing TPS beneficiaries who wish to extend their status through May 20, 2025, must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period.
The redesignation of Afghanistan for TPS allows additional Afghan nationals (and individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Afghanistan) who have continuously resided in the United States since September 20, 2023, and been continuously physically present in the United States since November 21, 2023, to file initial applications to obtain TPS.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process pending applications filed under the previous TPS designation for Afghanistan. Individuals with a pending Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, or a related Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, as of September 25, 2023, do not need to file either application again. If USCIS approves a pending Form I-821 or Form I-765 filed under the previous designation of TPS for Afghanistan, we will grant the individual TPS through May 20, 2025, and issue an EAD valid through the same date.
Afghan nationals paroled into the United States can apply for TPS as well as other immigration benefits, they may be eligible for.
The Federal Register notice explains the procedures necessary for an individual to re-register under the extension or submit an initial application under the redesignation and to apply for an Employment Authorization Document.
UPDATE ON DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival)
On September 13, 2023, the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a decision finding the DACA's final rule unlawful and expanding the original July 16, 2021 injunction and order of vacatur to cover the Final Rule. However, the court maintained a partial stay of the order for "all DACA recipients who received their initial DACA status prior to July 16, 2021."
This means that currents grants of DACA and related Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) remain valid until they expire, unless individually terminated. However, USCIS will continue to accept and process DACA renewal requests and accompanying applications for employment authorization under the DACA regulations at 8 CFR 236.22 and 236.23, as it has since October 21, 2022, in accordance with this decision. USCIS will continue to accept initial requests, but per the order it will not process them.
Currently valid grants of DACA and related EADs will continue to be recognized as valid under the Final Rule. This means that individuals with DACA and related EADs do not have to submit a request for DACA or employment authorization until the appropriate time to seek renewal.
DHS Reopens USCIS Field Office in Havana, Cuba
On August 17, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced the reopening of a field office in Havana, Cuba. USCIS previously closed the Havana Field Office on December 10, 2018, due to a reallocation of agency resources and the long-term suspension of operations in 2017 after the U.S. Department of State ordered all non-essential personnel and families to depart Cuba.
The new Havana office will assist with U.S. immigration benefits and services, including conducting interviews and processing cases for pending Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) cases and Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions. Other limited services will be provided as the office establishes operations, which may include refugee processing and other limited appointment-only services such as collecting biometrics for U visa applications. Services at the Havana Field Office will be available only by appointment. USCIS has updated the USCIS International Immigration Offices page with more information about the office.
The process for both Cuba and Haiti requires the National Visa Center to issue an invitation to the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident petitioner who has filed a I-130 Immigrant Visa Petition for a Coban or Haitian family member that has been approved. Upon receiving this invitation from the NVC, the I-130 petitioner can file Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support, on behalf of the Cuban or Haitian beneficiary and any derivative spouse and children.
USCIS will send a letter to CFRP petitioners who have a pending Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, filed for a principal beneficiary who is waiting for an interview in Havana. Additionally, DHS is opening the process to all Haitian approved principal beneficiaries, regardless of when USCIS approved the Form I-130.
H-1B Visa Lottery Results
The H-1B lottery results for fiscal year (FY) 2024 were announced on March 31, 2023. This year, USCIS received a record-breaking number of registrations, with over 483,000 registrations submitted for 85,000 available visas. This means that the odds of being selected in the lottery were just 18%.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require a bachelor's degree or higher. The visa is highly sought-after by foreign workers, as it allows them to live and work in the United States for up to six years.
The lottery process is used to select H-1B applicants for the limited number of visas that are available each year. Applicants are randomly selected from the pool of registered applicants, and those who are selected are then able to file a petition with USCIS for an H-1B visa.
This year's lottery results were particularly disappointing for many applicants, as the odds of being selected were even lower than in previous years. This is likely due to the fact that the number of H-1B visas has remained unchanged for several years, while the number of applicants has continued to grow.
The low odds of being selected in the H-1B lottery have led to calls for reform of the program. Some have suggested that the number of H-1B visas should be increased, while others have proposed that the lottery system should be replaced with a first-come, first-served system.