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USCIS fee hike blocked by federal judge

Whether submitting a visa application or pursuing a green card, immigrants in Louisiana can generally expect to pay certain fees along the way. Some people struggle to come up with money for these fees, and the situation was only set to get worse following the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services' announcement that it planned to increase fees. However, a federal judge recently ruled that the USCIS cannot increase immigration fees.

Originally set to start on Oct. 2, 2020, the increased fees would have affected virtually everyone, including international students, new citizens and businesses. The cost of some fees were even set to more than double. This includes the L visa which would have cost $805 -- 75% more than the current $460. The new rule impacted more than just fees, too. Premium processing is currently completed within 15 calendar days, and USCIS planned to change that to 15 business days.

US immigration law -- do ICE arrests violate the Constitution?

Immigrants in Louisiana may feel worried when interacting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and understandably so. Every year, ICE arrests many immigrants -- both documented and undocumented. The way things are handled after these arrests might not be totally constitutional, though. A federal appellate court recently decided that ICE and U.S. immigration law should follow the same constitutional rules to which regular police must abide.

When someone is arrested, police must be able to provide a judge with probable cause for doing so within 48 hours of the arrest. However, ICE does not follow this same protocol. In fact, weeks often go by before ICE is required to provide probable cause. This is often during the same hearing when people are expected to enter their pleas.

US immigration law and the immigration interview

Immigration interviews are a regular part of many immigration procedures in Louisiana. During an interview, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer will ask a number of different questions about someone's background, present circumstances and other relevant information. These interviews are a very important part of U.S. immigration law, but the idea of sitting down to answer a number of different personal questions can feel very overwhelming. Preparing for the process can help.

For example, it is a good idea to bring copies of relevant forms and original documents to the meeting. Having this information on hand will make it easier to answer certain questions without much confusion that could be misinterpreted as trying to avoid answering. It can also come in useful should an officer determine that an application is incomplete, as the person being interviewed can ask to remedy the situation right away.

It's important to have help with family immigration concerns

United States immigration laws are complex, and they are constantly changing. It can be quite challenging to bring a loved one into the country and reunite a Louisiana family, even in a seemingly straightforward case. Family immigration can be a frustrating and lengthy process, which is why many find it helpful to work with an experienced attorney from the very first steps. 

Those who are U.S. citizens may file a petition to bring a loved one into the United States. This includes a parent, spouse, fiancee, adult child, minor child or sibling. Lawful permanent residents can also petition to bring specific family members into the country, but their options are limited to petitioning for an adult child, spouse or minor child. Immigration also recognizes adoptive and step-family relationships, but there are restrictions on which types of family members can enter the country.

US immigration law -- What do I need to cross the border?

There are a number of requirements for crossing the border into the United States. Different U.S. immigration law requirements apply to citizens of different countries, though. To avoid any delays at a border checkpoint, anyone who is getting ready to visit Louisiana should be sure to understand which requirements apply to his or her situation.

For example, the majority of Canadian citizens do not need visas to enter the country. However, they will still need to provide some type of approved travel document. There are more requirements for Mexican citizens, though, as these individuals will need both their passports and visas before they will be allowed entry.

USCIS reverses furlough decision

In a sudden reversal, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it no longer plans to furlough almost 70% of its employees. While this means immigrants in Louisiana can still expect regular wait times for their applications, it could come with a higher cost. The USCIS also says that it still expects to run out of money, although several lawmakers have demonstrated that this may not be the case.

The original furlough plans were in response to an apparent budget shortfall because of fewer applications in early 2020. The agency had also predicted that there would be 61% fewer immigration petitions from May to Sept. 2020. This prediction was inaccurate, as lawmakers pointed out that in May 2020 the USCIS actually made $800 million more than it had predicted.

US Citizenship and Immigration services to furlough workers

Going through the immigration process means spending a lot of time waiting for answers. These already long wait times are expected to get even longer as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services plans to furlough nearly 70% of its workforce. The agency will continue to process applications, but will only be able to do so at a severely decreased capacity. This will likely affect a number of immigrants in Louisiana.

USCIS is facing a budget shortage after Congress was unable to agree on a stimulus package that included funding for the agency. Of the 20,000 USCIS employees, 13,400 will be furloughed on Aug. 30, 2020. Doug Rand -- a former White House employee who worked on immigration policy -- recently spoke about the impact that this will have on specific groups of people.

Can tech companies influence employment immigration?

The Louisiana workforce is made up of all kinds of different men and women, and many foreign workers take on vital roles that help support economic progression. Tech companies in particular understand just how important it is to have the best person for the job, and while some of those workers come from America, many also come from other countries. With new employment immigration policies impacting the ability to hire foreign workers, some tech companies are advocating for changes.

Alongside several other groups, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are suing the government over a June 22, 2020 proclamation. That proclamation suspended entry for H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and some J-1 visas through the end of 2020. Another 52 organizations and companies recently filed an amicus brief voicing their support for the lawsuit and disapproval of the proclamation.

New USCIS fees make employment immigration more expensive

Applying for a visa means more than just submitting the required documents -- it also means paying a fee. These fees can be a hurdle for some people, or businesses, in Louisiana. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services -- USCIS -- recently announced a new rule for fees associated with employment immigration, citizenship and higher education.

Prior to this change, companies applying for H-1B visas on behalf of employees had to submit a $460 fee for application. The USCIS raised the application fee by 21%, making the current fee $555. L-1 visa fees saw an even more drastic increase, and businesses will now need to pay $805 per application instead of $60 -- an increase of 75%. Companies whose workforce consists of at least 50% H-1B or L-1 visa holders will have to pay even more, too. Their fees will come out to $4,000 for H-1B petitions and extensions, and $4,500 for L-1 petitions and extensions.

US immigration law -- changes to DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- DACA -- has helped immigrants in Louisiana who were brought to the United States as children without documentation. Those who apply for protection and are approved can get work permits, attend school and more. However, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced certain changes to this part of U.S. immigration law.

For the past 12 years, DACA recipients only had to renew every two years. These changes now require DACA recipients to file renewals on a yearly basis. Renewals will supposedly be subject to the same scrutiny according to immigration law as they were before, and advanced parole applications will be automatically rejected unless there are extraordinary circumstances.