Immigration Updates: DACA USCIS Guidance, Bridge the Gap Policy Abandoned, First Time TPS Applications Can Now Be Filed Online for 5 Countries, and TPS Extensions and Re-designations for Yemen and Somalia

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are happy to bring you the latest immigration updates recently announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


USCIS Guidance Following DACA Permanent Injunction in State of Texas, et al., v. United States of America, et al., 1:18-CV-00068, (S.D. Texas July 16, 2021)


USCIS has announced on its official webpage that consistent with the permanent injunction granted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on July 16, 2021, declaring DACA policy illegal, USCIS is prohibited from granting initial requests for first time DACA applicants, and accompanying requests for employment authorization.

However, USCIS will continue to accept both initial and renewal DACA requests but will not be able to adjudicate requests for first time DACA applicant’s pursuant to the court order.

Renewal filings for those who have received DACA benefits in the past, will continue unaffected by the court order, and USCIS will continue to adjudicate renewal requests, and accompanying renewal requests for employment authorization as before.

What’s next? The Department of Justice will be appealing the District Court’s decision and the Biden administration is urging Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021.

Read Biden’s Statement responding to the Court’s injunction here.


Applicants Filing Change of Status Applications to F-1 No Longer Need to Submit Subsequent Applications to ‘Bridge the Gap’


We are happy to report that USCIS recently ended the “Bridge the Gap” policy. Previously, prospective students with a current nonimmigrant status in the United States, that was set to expire more than 30 days before their F-1 program start date, were required to “Bridge the Gap,” by filing Form I-539 with USCIS to request an extension of their current status, or a change to another status ensuring that they would not have a “gap” in status.

Effective July 20, 2021, USCIS announced that individuals who have applied for a change of status to F-1 student, will no longer need to “Bridge the Gap,” while their initial F-1 change of status application is pending with USCIS.

To prevent a “gap” in status, USCIS has said that it will now grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day the applicant’s Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status is approved. If USCIS approves an application more than 30 days before the student’s program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time (such as engaging in unauthorized employment, more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on the Form I-20.)

These changes have been introduced to decrease current backlogs and USCIS workloads. A revision of the Form I-539 instructions will soon be published to reflect these new policy changes.


First Time TPS Applicants from Burma, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela or Yemen Can Now Apply Online


To streamline the application process, on July 21, 2021, USCIS announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applicants who are nationals of (or individuals who last habitually resided in) Burma, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen, can now file the TPS Form I-821, Application for Protected Status, online, if applicant’s will be applying for TPS for the very first time.

When filing an initial TPS application, applicants can also request an Employment Authorization Document by submitting a completed Form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization, with their Form I-821. These applications will be the first forms available for concurrent filing online.

What about first time TPS applicants from other countries?

At the moment, only nationals from the 5 countries listed above (Burma, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen) can apply for TPS benefits online. USCIS has said that it is starting with these countries because they are either new designations or recently announced re-designations.

What if I am re-registering for TPS benefits can I file online?

No. All other TPS applicants and current beneficiaries who are re-registering under the extension of a TPS designation must continue to file a paper Form I-821. If an initial TPS applicant from a country other than Burma, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, or Yemen or a re-registrant files Form I-821 online, USCIS will deny the application and retain the fee (meaning the applicant will forfeit any fees paid online).

USCIS will be working on making online filing available for re-registrants and initial applicants for all TPS designations in the future. Please stay on the lookout for those updates once they are available.


TPS Extensions and Re-Designations for Somalia and Yemen


Yemen


In further news, on July 9, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security published a notice in the Federal Register, extending and re-designating Yemen for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, from Sept. 4, 2021, through March 3, 2023. The extension and re-designation of Yemen for TPS is due to ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent Yemeni nationals (or individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Yemen) from safely returning.

This extension will allow approximately 1,700 current beneficiaries to retain TPS through March 3, 2023, so long as they meet TPS eligibility requirements.

Additionally, the re-designation of Yemen for TPS means that an estimated 480 additional Yemeni nationals (or individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Yemen) who have been continuously residing in the United States since July 5, 2021, and continuously physically present in the United States since Sept. 4, 2021, will be allowed to file initial applications to obtain TPS, if they are otherwise eligible.


TPS Re-registration for Yemen


Current beneficiaries re-registering under the extension of TPS for Yemen must re-register in a timely manner during the 60-day registration period that runs from July 9, 2021, through Sept. 7, 2021, to ensure they keep their TPS and work authorization without a gap.


Initial Filing of TPS Benefits Yemen


Under the re-designation of Yemen, eligible individuals who do not have TPS may submit an initial Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, during the initial registration period that runs from July 9, 2021, through the full length of the re-designation period ending March 3, 2023. Applicants are also eligible to apply for TPS-related Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and for travel authorization by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document with USCIS.

The FRN explains the procedures necessary to re-register or submit an initial registration application and apply for an EAD.


Somalia


Similarly, on July 21, 2021, DHS published a notice in the Federal Register officially extending and redesignating Somalia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, from Sept. 18, 2021, through March 17, 2023, due to the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions impacting Somalia.

This extension of TPS for Somalia means that approximately 447 beneficiaries of the program will be able to keep their TPS benefits through March 17, 2023, so long as they continue to meet the TPS eligibility requirements.

In addition, the redesignation of Somalia for TPS allows an estimated 100 additional Somali nationals (or individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Somalia), who have been continuously residing in the United States since July 19, 2021, and continuously physically present in the United States since Sept. 18, 2021, to file initial applications to obtain TPS, if they are otherwise eligible.


TPS Re-Registration for Somalia


Current beneficiaries re-registering under the extension of TPS for Somalia must re-register in a timely manner during the 60-day registration period that runs from July 22, 2021, through September 20, 2021, to ensure they keep their TPS and work authorization without a gap.


Initial Filing of TPS Benefits Somalia


Under the redesignation of Somalia, eligible individuals who do not have TPS may submit an initial Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, during the initial registration period that runs from July 22, 2021, through the full length of the redesignation period ending March 17, 2023.

Applicants may also apply for TPS-related Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and for travel authorization by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document with USCIS.

Again, the FRN explains the procedures necessary to re-register or submit an initial registration application and apply for an EAD.


Conclusion


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Immigration Updates: DACA USCIS Guidance, Bridge the Gap Policy Abandoned, First Time TPS Applications Can Now Be Filed Online for 5 Countries, and TPS Extensions and Re-designations for Yemen and Somalia