We have noticed that there is still some confusion regarding the USCIS immigrant visa fee and where it is paid. Especially amongst the Gujarati Indian community (fostered through misunderstanding or sometimes through deliberate deception by "agents" not licensed to practice US immigration law), there is a misconception that the fee is paid in the immigrant's home country. This is not true. The USCIS Immigrant Visa Fee of $165 is paid online. After the applicant appears for the immigrant visa interview, he/she will be provided with an information sheet that details the mechanics of how the fee is paid. The handout will indicate the individual's alien registration number and Department of State Case ID, two numbers that are necessary to input when paying the fee. Before the immigrant immigrates to the United States, the immigrant visa fee should be paid by logging in online at www.uscis.gov/file-online. Fortunately, now, the procedure allows anyone to pay the fee, including attorneys, family members, friends, employers, etc.
Permanent residents who file for their unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21 are often dismayed and disappointed to learn-only after it is too late--that their petitions may be jeopardized by the marriage of their children. How and why does this happen? The problems lies in the way in which our immigration system is structured. As it currently stands, there are only four family based preference categories. For permanent residents, there are only two categories available for family members: F2A and F2B. When a green card holder files for a spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21, that relative will fall under F2A. If the lawful permanent resident files for an unmarried child 21 or older, the individual will be classified under F2B. Between the two categories, F2A is generally much quicker, as spouses and minor children are involved. F2B cases can drag for years. The problem is that there is no category for married children of lawful permanent residents. As a result, if the F2B beneficiary of an I-130 petition marries while the petition is pending (or for that matter, even after visa approval but before immigrating to the United States), the petition will, for all practical purposes, be invalidated. In other words, the individual will no longer be eligible for the visa as an unmarried child, since he or she is now married. It does not matter that the beneficiary married after the I-130 was filed; after the I-130 was approved; or even after the visa is granted. If the person is married before entrance into the United States, he or she technically does qualify for the visa.
The Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") issued an important precedential decision last month regarding sibling DNA test results. The decision is Matter of RUZKU, 26 I & N Dec. 731 (BIA 2016). The holding basically establishes that direct sibling DNA test results that indicate a 99.5 percent probability that the parties are related as siblings should be taken into consideration by USCIS and accorded proper weight. In the case at hand, USCIS declined, in accordance with its official policy, to give any evidential weight to a DNA test result submitted by the petitioner in support of his I-130 application for his sibling, even though the results indicated a 99.8114 percent probability that the parties were full biological siblings. The government memorandum which USCIS relied upon to support its decision states that USCIS may not afford any weight to sibling-to-sibling DNA test results and will only evaluate parent-child DNA results, which presumably are more reliable.
Every year there is a Presidential election, USCIS generally experiences a surge in N-400 applications for naturalization. 2016 will likely prove no different. If anything, there may be unprecedented numbers of lawful permanent residents applying to become US Citizens, especially given what is at stake for our country. For some, the prospect of Republican candidate Donald Trump in office has stirred up fears of anti-immigrant sentiment, increased enforcement and a moratorium on immigration. Others are motivated by the perennial, unfounded rumor that is easier to become a citizen during an election year. Whatever a person's reasons, there are certain deadlines that one needs to be mindful of if he/she wishes to vote this year. In New Jersey specifically: