Immigration News You Can Use - July Visa Bulletin and USCIS Chart Acceptance Quick Summary; Watch Out for Distance Learning; DOS Administrative Processing Time Being Shortened.

by Alan Lee, Esq.

1. July 2023 visa bulletin and USCIS chart acceptance quick summary.

The number of changes without counting diversity visa distribution is minimal in advances, and features a 3 ½ year retrogression to the India EB-3 final action date. A quick summary of family-based (FB) and employment based (EB) changes from June reveals the following: FB dates for filing – F-1 moved up nine months to 9/1/17 for all countries except Mexico and the Philippines; F-2A stays current; F-3 moves up three weeks to 3/1/10; and F-4 one month to 3/1/08. FBfinal action dates – only Mexico moved. EB filing dates – No movement at all. EB final action dates – EB-3 worldwide (except for China and India) moved back four months to 2/1/22 and India went backwards 3 years 6 ½ months to 1/1/09 in both EB-3 and EB-3W categories – ouch! A big warning was given in the notes that there is a strong likelihood that it will be necessary to retrogress the F-2A final action date next month, that the F-2B category final action dates will be continually monitored and that it may become necessary to retrogress the category to keep it within FY-2023 annual limitations. The July adjustment chart put out by USCIS is the same as in previous months – acceptance of dates for filing chart for FB and final action date chart for EB cases.

2. Watch out for distance learning.

During the pandemic, USCIS was operating under Covid flexibilities under which distance-learning had been allowed in excess of the regulations under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) which states:

(G) For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken on-line or through distance education and does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class. An on-line or distance education course is a course that is offered principally through the use of television, audio, or computer transmission including open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite, audio conferencing, or computer conferencing. If the F-1 student's course of study is in a language study program, no on-line or distance education classes may be considered to count toward a student's full course of study requirement.

In an ICE SEVP Broadcast Message on 5/11/23: “Termination of SEVP COVID-19 Flexibilities”, ICE said that because of the termination of the Covid public emergency on 5/11/23, the SEVP Covid-19 guidance terminated on that day. Active F and M nonimmigrant students are able to complete the 2022-23 academic year under Covid-19 flexibilities through the 2023 summer semester. But active F and M nonimmigrant students will not be permitted to count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the regulatory limits for the 2023-24 academic year. Initial or reentering students must enroll in programs complying with the regulatory limits for distance learning. This must give pause now to those students wishing to enroll in schools offering a tenuous connection to physical classroom instruction as USCIS may now be looking harder at these schools’ arrangements for instruction following the ending of the pandemic emergency.

3. DOS administrative processing time being shortened.

The Department of State has good news for everyone. It sent out a message on 5/19/23 and reiterated it in the June 8, 2023 advice, “Facilitating Travel and Safeguarding National Security”, that the Department is processing visas more efficiently than ever and is continuously reducing the time required for administrative processing; that it has recently adopted new technology and enhanced coordination to reduce the number of these applications requiring administrative processing on security grounds, while upholding strict national security protections. It adds that since October 2022, most cases that would have previously required additional administrative processing were resolved immediately without additional, time-consuming handling.

About The Author

Alan Lee, Esq. is an exclusive practitioner of immigration law based in New York City with an AV preeminent rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory for 20+ years, registered in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, on the New York Super Lawyers list (2011-12, 2013-14, 2014-2015, 2015-2022), and recognized as a New York Area Top Rated Lawyer. He has written extensively on immigration over the past years for Interpreter Releases, Immigration Daily, and the ethnic newspapers, World Journal, Sing Tao, Epoch Times, Pakistan Calling, Muhasba and OCS; testified as an expert on immigration in civil court proceedings; and is a regular contributor to Martindale-Hubbell's Ask-a-Lawyer program. His article, "The Bush Temporary Worker Proposal and Comparative Pending Legislation: an Analysis" was Interpreter Releases' cover display article at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in 2004; his 2004 case in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Firstland International v. INS, successfully challenged Legacy INS' policy of over 40 years of revoking approved immigrant visa petitions under a nebulous standard of proof, although its central holding that the government had to notify approved immigrant petition holders of the revocation prior to the their departure to the U. S. for the petition to be able to be revoked was short-lived as it was specifically targeted in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 (which in response changed the language of the revocation statute itself). Yet Firstland lives on as precedent that the government must comply with nondiscretionary duties established in law, and such failure is reviewable in federal courts. His 2015 case, Matter of Leacheng International, Inc., with the Administrative Appeals Office of USCIS (AAO) set nation-wide standards on the definition of "doing business" for multinational executives and managers to gain immigration benefits.

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