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U.S. Immigration updates for early 2019 relating to border security, green cards and citizenship.

Updated: Jan 12, 2019  | Tags: USA Immigration, USA Visa, USA Visa Requirements

President Trump addresses his administrations immigration goals in his first Oval Office address to the nation

Donald Trump described the situation at the Mexican border as a national crisis. He argued that the current immigration system allows organised criminals and gangs to prey on the vulnerable, especially women and children; Trump also continued to make his argument for the border wall which has been a central feature of his policy since his election campaign during 2016. The President also asserted that his US-Mexico trade deal means that Mexico will effectively be paying for the wall - something that the country has always refused to do. Meanwhile, leading Democrats have countered against President Trumps arguments. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Chuck Schumer rebutted the President’s claims and appealed for unity, while strongly recommending him to cancel plans for the wall and reopen the closed government departments immediately. 

If Trump does declare a national emergency, as he has threatened, in order to circumvent Congress control of government finance and obtain the funding for his border wall from US taxpayers, he would almost certainly face a lengthy legal battle that could easily drag on through the remaining two years of his presidential term. If the President argued that illegal immigration via the Mexico-US border constituted a national emergency, he could possibly order the military to construct and staff a border wall. This would almost certainly be challenged in court and Trump would have to prove that such an emergency actually existed. 

Changes affecting legal immigrants in 2019

Throughout 2018, Donald Trump’s administration sought to strengthen laws limiting legal immigrants to the US. Now, immigration judges have been given an expanded list of reasons for which they can summon immigrants to appear to begin procedures for deportation. The list will now include criminal or fraudulent activities, violations of state or federal programmes relating to receiving public benefits, and the denial of benefits such as a visa that will lead to the loss of status to legally remain in the US. Further changes include: 

  • Applications can be denied without warning - USCIS officials will have full discretion to refuse an application for immigration benefits such as permanent residency, visa extensions, or applying for US citizenship, without needing to first issue a Request for Evidence (or RFE) warning or NOID. Applicants and their lawyers will no longer have the chance to correct mistakes or provide more documentation and can be deported without further ado.
  • Green card requirement for legal immigrants changes - It’s not all bad news for immigrants to the US. The policy guidance for medical exam record for US residency has been updated: an authorised doctor can now sign the required form 1-693 up to two months before the application for immigration benefit is filed.
  • Interviews for green card through marriage may be waived - Revised rules will allow USCIS officials to waive interviews required when removing conditional status of legal residence for foreign nationals who are married to citizens of the USA, if there is sufficient documentary evidence of the marriage, for example. Other conditions may sometimes apply. The interview is currently required after two years of marriage and couples are often nervous about it. 

January’s Diversity Immigrant (DV) Category Quotas

Providing up to 55,000 US visas in each fiscal year, Section 203(c) of the INA permits extra immigration opportunities to those from countries that have seen low admissions during the previous 5 year period. 5000 of these places will be taken up by the NACARA programme and the remaining 50,000 are taken up by six geographical regions. No country can take more than 7% of the diversity visa quota in any single year. 

For January 2019, Africa, excluding Egypt, is allocated 13,100 visas while Egypt will be offered 8,300. Iran receives 2,900 and Nepal 2,150 while the rest of Asia gets 3,800. Europe is allocated 8,800 places. South America and the Caribbean get 550 DV allocations while Oceania receives 350. DV availability cannot be guaranteed up to the end of this financial year as the numbers could well be exhausted before the end of September 2019. Applicants who meet the qualifications for a Diversity Visa are selected by lottery.