As published in the Immigration Daily on February 14, 2022
Will K-3s come back into vogue?
The K-3 visa was instituted in 2000 when legacy INS took years to approve immediate relative spouse cases. It allows a US citizen petitioner to file not only the traditional I-130 petition for alien relative, but also a nonimmigrant I-129F K-3 petition for the married spouse. As the agency improved on backlog processing, use of the K-3 option decreased drastically, especially as the petition was nullified if both I-130 and I-129F met each other at the next waystation of the process after approval, the National Visa Center (NVC). Although USCIS processing times are known to be many times unrealistic, the published times give one pause to consider the possibility of K-3 petitions to all service centers except Nebraska. The following are the published processing times as of February 12, 2022, for immediate relative and K-3 petitions:
Service Center I-130 processing times K-3 processing times
California 29.5-38.5 months 9-12 months
Nebraska 4.5-7 months 5-7 months
Potomac 12.5-16 months 3.5-7 months
Texas 10.5-14 months 3.5-7 months
Vermont 11.5-15 months 7-9 months
K-3 processing times at the consulates and embassies track the time for immigrant visas according to State Department information, so it would appear that there may be some merit to considering K-3 petitions at this time. If USCIS reduces the I-130 backlog times or processes cases out of chronological order (as we have seen in some of our cases), the attraction of the K-3 visa becomes less.
Why base PERM prevailing wage determinations on alternative requirements now?
For those attorneys whose practices include PERM labor certifications for permanent residence, the Department of Labor announcement through FAQs on July 16, 2021, relating to implementation of its revised prevailing wage determination form, ETA 9141, was a disappointing surprise in demanding that employers use the higher wage of either its principal or alternative requirements as the prevailing wage. The labor certification process is the method by which employers must test the American job market for able, qualified, available and willing US workers before a non-US worker can obtain residence status through nonavailability of US workers for the position. The sponsoring employer in the first step applies to the Department for a weighted-average wage in the job locality by informing the Labor Department of the job title, duties, and requirements and upon receiving a prevailing wage determination, then offers that wage to US workers in the recruitment process. Many employers not only have a principal set of requirements, e.g. Masters degree +3 years of experience, but also an alternate set of requirements, e.g. Bachelors degree +5 years of experience, that they will accept to attract a higher number of candidates and also sometimes because the non-US worker being sponsored might only qualify under the alternative requirements. Over the years, the Department policy had been to only consider the employer’s principal requirements for purposes of setting the wage to be assigned in understanding that principal and not alternative requirements should govern the wage level. Yet in one fell swoop, the Department reversed historical policy through the July 2021 round of FAQs. Such penalizes an employer that has a primary set of requirements for which it is willing to pay a prevailing wage by forcing it to now recruit such workers at a higher rate of pay if the Labor Department determines that the alternative requirements command a higher wage. Such makes little sense historically and logically. In addition, the upward forcing of wages does not serve the country’s best interests in the battle against inflation as it becomes part of an everlasting cycle of raised wages and raised product prices in response which largely contributes to the current rise of inflation in the US (7% from January 2021-January 2022). The author would be interested to know whether there is any attorney, firm, or organization with pending or impending litigation over the new policy.
Why 10-year LPR instead of 2-year CPR cards for those married less than two years?
Section 216 of the INA states that an alien spouse is considered a conditional resident who obtains status by virtue of a marriage entered into less than 24 months and that this applies to both spouses of US citizens and permanent residents. (Please note that this does not include spouses immigrating with their spouses – only those who are petitioned on form I-130). We have anecdotally seen cases in which such spouses of permanent residents recently approved for adjustment of status were given 10 year green cards instead of 2 year conditional residence cards. It may be that the current open availability of the F-2A visa category (for spouses and children of permanent residents) versus the past backlog in the category may be causing some confusion among USCIS adjudicators since F-2A cases used to take well over two years, but such errors have capacity for damaging future effects, and we encourage officers to be more careful in noting the marriage date. It is academic that an I-751 petition to remove the conditional basis of residence status must be filed within the 90 days preceding the second anniversary of the issuance of conditional permanent residence. A conditional resident who fails to file is not considered to be lawfully in the country. In addition, such an applicant who later files for naturalization would be denied, and informed that he or she would still have to file the I-751 petition. Mayhaps USCIS will apologetically recognize its error and offer the individual an opportunity to file the I-751 out of time, but such a result would nevertheless cause the applicant much stress not to mention the loss of time, energy, and money in filing and paying for an unsuccessful citizenship application.
Photos needed at naturalization oath ceremonies?
What do you ask your client to bring to USCIS for a naturalization interview? For convenience’s sake, we encourage them to take everything with them even though officers may only be interested in a few items. We also suggest bringing new passport size photos- if they wish- on the off-chance that an officer may ask. But we never thought that photographs would be requested at the swearing-in ceremony. Lo and behold, a client recently reported to us that at the oath ceremony for herself and husband, she was requested to provide passport photos while her husband was not. Such necessitated her having to exit the building, find a place that took photos (usually a few around federal buildings), and hustle back to the building in time for the ceremony. And she further informed us that the officer told her that “This happens all the time.” The moral appears to be that, if an applicant is willing to take new passport photos, it may be prudent to take the photos not only to the interview, but to the oath ceremony as well.
New forms for April and new USCIS lockbox in Elgin, Illinois.
The penalty for filing old or noncurrent forms with USCIS is rejection of petition or application, which can be both embarrassing and damaging if there is a time deadline. The watchword is to always look at the form edition and compare it with the current form in use before filing. A list of recent changed forms that will come into play in April are:
- I-864 and all its variations (A, EZ, W) – 12/8/21 editions as of 4/7/22 only.
- I-829 – 12/8/21 edition as of 4/7/22 only.
- I-824 – 12/2/21 edition beginning 4/7/22 only.
- I-102 – 12/2/21 edition as of 4/7/22 only.
USCIS also announced the opening of a new lockbox in Elgin, Illinois, for which I-751s must now be filed for those residing in New York, New Jersey, and most of the East Coast. The address of the lockbox is:
PO Box 4072
Carol Stream, IL 60197-4072
(FedEx and other couriers)
Attention-I 751 (Box 4072)
2500 Westfield Dr.
Elgin, IL 60124-7836
In addition to taking I-751s, the lockbox in Elgin will also begin accepting additional workloads including N-400s and I-130s in the coming weeks and USCIS expects the transition to Elgin to be completed by late summer 2022. Additionally, it expects to move the lockbox facility in Arizona from Phoenix to Tempe in Fall 2022. So keep your eyes open!