Top 10 Immigration Changes in 2018
In 2018 U.S. immigration law saw many changes. All non-citizens were impacted including immigrants seeking asylum and adjustment of status applicants. In this article, American Immigration Center takes a look back at the 10 biggest immigration reforms in 2018.
1. Effective February 27, 2018- Supreme Court Decision Allows Lengthy Detention of Immigrants in Jennings vs Rodriguez
Under this Supreme Court decision, undocumented immigrants, and immigrants in a detention facility can be held in detention without access to a bond hearing.
In the current backlog, an immigrant waits months or years before their hearing is complete. Before, an immigrant would attend a bond hearing every 6 months. But now, the immigrant will not have access to a bond hearing during this time. This means that the immigrant will need to remain in the detention center while they wait for the judge to decide whether they qualify for relief or removal.
2. Effective March 28, 2018- Receiving Public Benefits Will Affect Green Card and Visa Approvals
New U.S. Regulations effective as of March 28, 2018, mean that receiving public benefits could lead to a denial of your visa or green card. This law is a way of preventing those who could be considered as a “public charge” from immigrating to the United States.
Under this update, non-cash public benefits now include educational benefits, health insurance benefits, food stamps, transportation benefits, tax credits, and public housing benefits. Some examples of non-cash benefits are Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Using any of these categories for more than 6 months will count against the applicant. It is important to note that any benefits used prior to when this immigration law came into effect will not count against the applicant.
*If you have a disability, you can apply for a waiver to be exempt from the regulation.
What will NOT be counted against the applicant under this new regulation are the following: emergency or disaster relief benefits, assistance provided by community or nonprofit organizations in making the public charge determination under the new policy, public school, receiving free lunch, foster care, and adoption benefits.
Those that are exempted from the public charge bar are the following: Refugees, Asylees not subject to the bar, Amerasian immigrants, Afghani, Iraqi Special Immigrants, Cuban Adjustment Act immigrants, Central Americans adjusting status under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, Haitians adjusting status under Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, Special Immigrant Juveniles, people applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
3. Effective March 28, 2018- USCIS Raises the Minimum Income Level Family Sponsors of Immigrants Must Have
The minimum income level for a family of 4 increased from $30,750 to $31, 375. For a household of 2, the minimum amount has increased from $20,300 to $20,575.
This update to family immigration ensures that a sponsor will not need to rely on welfare to support their family members once they enter the U.S. This update is meant to prevent any chance of the immigrating family members becoming a public charge.
A sponsor, (also known as the U.S. permanent resident or citizen who requests to immigrate family members), makes a contract with the U.S. government agreeing to support the immigrant for 10 years and to pay back all need-based assistance that is supplied to the immigrant for during the duration of the contract.
4. Effective April 2018: Zero Tolerance for Illegal Entrance at Southern Border Begins
This new immigration law is known for having zero tolerance for illegal entry to the United States. Under this law, prosecuted adults are separated from minor children while they face trial and serve their sentences. Parents being detained were denied the right to speak with their children. Parents were also not informed of their child’s location. Ultimately, some parents were already deported without their children. As a result of this law, many children have been lost in the system and may be permanently separated from their parents.
Children that are separated from parents are being categorized as though they arrived at the border alone, also known as undocumented alien children (UAC’s). All UAC’s are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement. Eventually, UACs are transferred to temporary shelters.
Zero Tolerance law eventually is no longer solely applied to those immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally. Now Zero Tolerance law affects those immigrants who entered the U.S legally. Immigrants were threatened with separation from their children, regardless of whether they were granted asylum or waiting to hear a verdict on their asylum case. Parents were told to choose between leaving the country with their children and leaving without their children so their children may have a chance to grow up in the U.S. These actions go against the rights of those seeking asylum, especially of those who have already been granted asylum status.
As of June 20, 2018, the Family Separation Executive Order passed, which is an unclear executive order about whether or not family separation should be legal, and comes to no real conclusion. It blames Congress for the family separation but does not straight out say that family separation should end. In fact, it leaves the door open to continue separating children from families.
On June 26, 2018, a federal judge blocked April’s immigration law allowing separation of families. It orders the U.S. to reunite families before the end of July 2018.
5. Effective May 15, 2018- ALL Adjustment of Status Applicants will be Interviewed
A new immigration law passed in May states that all adjustment of status applicants must be interviewed unless USCIS waives the interview. However, NO waiver will be granted to employment-based and fiancé(e)-based adjustment cases.
This interview policy creates delays for people waiting for adjustment of status.
6. Effective May 17, 2018- Administrative Holds Repealed
Under May’s immigration reform, immigration judges will no longer be able to place cases on Administrative Hold. In the past, a judge would place immigration cases on Administrative Hold to give time for USCIS to reach a decision on other forms filed by or on behalf of the immigrant. By repealing Administrative Holds, a judge is now forced to make decisions on cases without hearing the results from other possible legal courses of action. This affects all non-citizens who may be waiting for a decision on different paperwork. This law also ensures that the immigration courts are constantly backed up.
7. Effective June, 2018- Changes to NTAs
NTA stands for Notice to Appear and is a notice to appear in court. It usually starts the deportation process against the immigrant. In the past, NTAs were only issued if there was no other legal method for the immigrant to remain in the United States. Now, NTAs are issued as soon as USCIS denies an application or petition. USCIS can order an NTA for suspected fraud cases or for certain criminal convictions.
As a result, the Supreme Court passed a decision stating that starting June 29, 2018, a time and date for the hearing MUST be specified in the NTA. If the NTA does not have a time or date, it is considered invalid. Now, if your case is already closed, but your NTA does not have a time or date of your hearing, and you have been in the U.S. for 10 years, then you may be able to reopen your case to apply for cancellation of removal.
Since June 29th, it has been discovered that NTAs are being issued with mistaken dates and times to prevent the NTA from being considered invalid due to June’s Supreme Court decision. Some examples of fake dates and times that were actually assigned on an NTA is November 31st, 2018 and midnight. Other dates and times seem to be correct, but when the immigrant shows up to their hearing, they discover the NTA was never officially filed by USCIS.
If you receive an NTA, call 1-800-898-7180 to verify your hearing date and time. You will need to enter your alien number or A-number. If the hotline does not have information on your case, it could mean that while you were issued an NTA, it was never actually filed with the Court. If the hotline is able to give you a date and time for your hearing, please do not miss your hearing as it can lead to you being ordered to be removed at your very first hearing.
*An attorney can always question the validity of any NTA with an incorrect time and date
8. Effective July 13, 2018- Immigrant Applications May Be Denied without Warning (RFE or NOID)
Starting in July 2018, the law requiring an immigrant to receive an RFE or NOID before having their application denied is repealed. Under the 2013 law, a USCIS officer needed to send an RFE (Request for Evidence) or a NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny) before denying an application. An RFE would be issued if the officer required more evidence to make a decision on the immigration case. A NOID informed the immigrant of USCIS’ intent to deny their application and allowed the immigrant 30 days to respond.
Under July’s new immigration law, USCIS officers now have the ability to deny an immigration application without first sending a warning or a request for more information from the applicant. USCIS may also deny an application if the applicant fails to submit a required form.
*The only exception to this law is Form I-693, which is for the medical assessment, which can be submitted at a later date to avoid applicants paying additional fees for a second exam.
9. Effective August 8 2018- Student Visas: USCIS changed what unlawful presence means for student visas
In the past, students were given a duration status (also known as a DS) based on their studying and visa associated activities. The student would not receive the status of unlawful presence until USCIS made an official ruling. Afterward, they would have 180 days to remove their unlawful presence status or to leave the country. If the immigrant did not change their status or leave the country before the 180-day deadline, then the immigrant faced the possibility of being banned from the US for 3 or 10 years.
Starting August 8, 2018, immigration law states that unlawful presence begins the day after studying has stopped. If a student finds themselves in unlawful presence, they have 5 months to file an application to have the status of unlawful presence reversed. As the application is pending, the student will not be under unlawful presence, which will buy them time to resolve their issue.
10. Effective October 12, 2018- New Rules for Applicants seeking Naturalized Citizenship through a U.S. Citizen
It is common in family immigration for a U.S. Citizen to request naturalization for their spouse. After marriage to an American citizen, an immigrant may apply for a green card. If accepted, the green card holder can request naturalization after 3 years of marriage. While this part of the process remains the same, there is a new immigration law regarding when the green card holder can receive citizenship if the marriage ends in divorce.
The new law requires that the couple must remain married and living together through the oath and swearing-in ceremony of the green card holder. If the couple divorces or separates before the oath/swearing-in ceremony, then the immigrant must wait an additional 2 years before they can receive citizenship.