Protected Status of Nicaraguans, Diversity Immigrant Quotas and Changes to Premium Processing

Published on: Sep 10, 2018, Last Edited: Sep 10, 2018 | Tags: USA Visa, USA Immigration

Nicaraguans fear the end of temporary protected status

When their home countries are faced with terrible conditions, whether wars or natural disasters such as earthquakes, epidemics or hurricanes, foreign nationals have been able to claim temporary protected status (TPS) which allows them to live and work in the States without the threat of deportation. Nicaragua is one such country, awarded temporary protected status after a devastating hurricane in 1996: this protection has been extended by every successive president. Now, however, the Trump administration is gradually ending many of the TPS protections that apply to around 400,000 immigrants, on the grounds that the status cannot be extended if troubled conditions arising from the original disaster no longer exist. Last November, Nicaraguan nationals were given just 12 months to put their affairs in order and prepare to leave the States and the deadline is coming up fast. However, there is now a situation of violent unrest in Nicaragua, with the White House itself currently counting the death toll as at least 322. TSP holders who have lived in the US for many years, working and building their lives here, will no longer have any legal status to remain and many have already lost homes and businesses. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, where most Nicaraguans have settled, told CNN this week that it would be catastrophic to return them to such a barbaric regime and to a country that is on the point of civil war. In the meantime, Nicaraguan immigrants continue to live in desperate hope that President Trump has a change of heart. 

Diversity Immigrant (DV) Category Quotas for September

In the interests of diversity and fairness, up to 55,000 USA immigration visas are granted in a lottery each year under Section 203(c) of the INA. This allows more opportunities for immigration from regions and countries whose admissions have been low during the previous 5 year period. 5000 of these places are made available to immigrants under the NACARA programme (Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act), leaving 50,000 DV visas to be divided among six regions. No country can receive more than 7% of the diversity visas in a single year. 

For this September, the breakdown of DV allocations looks like this: Africa will receive 39,500, Europe 25,755, Oceania 1,450 and the Caribbean region 1,715. The entitlement to immigrant status for applicants registered for the 2018 DV programme ends on September 30th, 2018. Spouses and children following to join DV-2018 principals will only be entitled to derivative status up to this date. The availability of DV visas up the end of the fiscal year should not be taken for granted and numbers could well be exhausted before the end of the month, so it is advisable to make applications in good time. 

Changes to the premium processing service hits IT professionals

Premium processing has been particularly popular with Indian IT professionals but it will be another six months before companies are once again able to jump the queue. The service is authorised for applicants for H-1B visas filing forms l-129 and l-140. This allows specific employment-based immigration requests to be fast-tracked and processed in 15 days on the payment of an extra fee on top of the basic filing fee. Without the extra payment, the average time taken for processing is 6 months. 

On August 31, USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) announced that the premium processing fee for a USA visa would be increased by nearly 15%, from $1225 to $1410. The fee has not been raised since 2010 and the premium funds generated by the increase will be invested in IT upgrades and in hiring more staff to process immigration benefits requests more efficiently. 

However, in March of this year the premium processing service was temporarily suspended altogether for six months, including petitions from applicants with a US Master’s degree or higher qualification. The period of suspension was due to last up to September 10th but last week, USCIS announced that the suspension period for cap-subject H-1B requests and some additional H-1B petitions is to be extended up to 19th February, 2019 because they have been unable to clear the backlog of the very high volume of petitions.

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