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Welcome to the latest edition of US Immigration News, keeping you updated on the most recent developments and updates in immigration policies and laws as of April 10th, 2023.

✅1. U.S. to test faster asylum screenings for migrants crossing border illegally

The Biden administration next week will begin testing faster asylum screenings for migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, the Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday, part of preparations for the end of COVID-19 border restrictions in May.

U.S. asylum officers will conduct initial asylum screenings for a small number of migrants within days while they remain in the custody of border authorities, Homeland Security spokesperson Marsha Espinosa said. The interviews will take place over the phone and migrants will have access to legal counsel during the screenings, she said.

✅2. USCIS Creates First-Ever Virtual Service Center – HART CENTER

The New Humanitarian, Adjustment, Removing Conditions and Travel Documents (HART) Service Center

USCIS has opened a virtual service center to process requests for humanitarian immigration relief, including visas for victims of domestic violence and crimes, in an effort to reduce backlogs and improve processing times.

👉The new center is USCIS’ sixth service center and its first all-virtual one. 

With the opening of the HART USCIS service center is a response to a review of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and processing times for humanitarian petitioners. For now, HART will be a hybrid service site. Virtual adjudication and coordination with other service centers for some administrative support will be available. Going forward, HART will be a 100% virtual service center able to interact across multiple time zones with no geographic limitations.

▶The center will process paper-based and digital applications and petitions, in partnership with other service centers that support in-person requirements. Initially, HART will offer the following:

◾VAWA-based Form I-360

◾Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions, form I-730

◾Bona Fide Determination (BFD), Form I-918, U Nonimmigrant Status Petition

◾Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, Form I-601A

Currently, HART is estimated to be staffed at 30%, with 150 positions. Additional efforts are underway to reach a full staff of 480 trained individuals, estimated to be completed by the end of FY2024.

There are no changes to existing customer service channels at this time. This includes the mailing address for VAWA-based Form I-360 and Form I-918 BFD, interactions from attorneys and other accredited representatives or unrepresented petitioners and applicants. Similarly, there are no changes to filing instructions.

✅3. DHS Now Accepting Immigrants’ Self-Identified Gender Identity on Forms

Immigrant visa applicants will now be permitted to specify their own gender identity on forms, even if it does not match the gender identity shown in their supporting documents.

USCIS announced the policy update on Friday, adding that immigrants do not need to submit proof of their gender identity when requesting a change to their gender marker unless they are submitting Form N-565, used to apply for a replacement naturalization certificate or citizenship document.

✅4. USCIS removes 60-day rule on medical exam form

USCIS has removed the 60-day rule for physician signatures on the immigration medical exam results form. Green card applicants who file after March 31 can submit Form I-693 up to two years after the civil surgeon signs it. Previously, applicants had to make sure a civil surgeon signed the form within 60 days of submitting their green card application or risk a denial.

✅5. H-1B applications are no longer accepted for 2024

H-1 visa applications for fiscal year 2024 starting Oct. 1 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024 are no longer accepted by USCIS, the registration has closed out as they received the maximum applications to fill the quota and the lottery was completed.

✅6.  Democratic lawmakers are asking the federal Gov’t to increase immigration spending to fix the ever-growing application backlog

In a letter addressed to the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Representatives Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) requested that the government double the funding allocated to immigration in President Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget request “to support application processing and the reduction of backlogs within asylum, field, and service center offices.”

☝Despite the call for federal funding, USCIS is currently not receiving money from US taxpayers, but primarily funded by fees charged to applicants for various immigration services, such as filing petitions, applications, and requests for immigration benefits.

To address growing budget concerns, USCIS recently proposed an increase in filing fees for nearly every visa application type, with some categories set to double in cost. Announced in January 2023, the new fee structure could go into effect as soon as May 2023. The agency estimates that proposed fee increases will bring in an additional $1.9 billion per year to the agency. The news in the immigration space for the US is always changing. Stay in touch to get more updates.

▶Shepelsky Law may provide legal guidance and representation to individuals navigating the immigration news in today’s complex world. Learn more about the laws and policies in the United States. We’ve got you covered with the latest in US immigration news. Given the constantly changing landscape of immigration news and regulations, having a knowledgeable and experienced legal team on your side may be crucial in achieving your desired outcome.

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