Friday, June 26, 2015

UPDATE: Visa Systems Issues (165 Posts Restored)

From Travel.State.Gov, 06/25/2015

The Bureau of Consular Affairs reports that 165 posts, representing more than 85 percent of our nonimmigrant visa demand worldwide, are now online and issuing visas. 

Posts overseas issued more than 82,000 visas on June 24. 


Posts overseas have issued more than 238,000 non-immigrant visas this week. For context, if systems had been operating normally, posts would have issued approximately 540,000 visas since the outage started. 


We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored. All posts worldwide are now scheduling interviews with applicants, including with those who applied after the systems problems began on June 9.


We deeply regret the inconvenience to travelers who are waiting for visas, as well as their families and U.S. businesses that have been affected.


·    We continue to post updates to our website, travel.state.gov.

Q: Reports indicate that your backlog is 700,000 visas. Is this accurate?

·    No. While there is a large backlog of cases to clear, it never approached that level, and we have already made good progress issuing those visas. Many posts are working overtime this week and during the upcoming weekend, and we expect to eliminate the backlog in a week or less.
Q: How old is this equipment? And does the age of the equipment and the need to have so many repairs to the hardware mean that this equipment should have been replaced? Is this a funding issue at the base of it?
The hardware that impacted the biometrics system is several years old. The Department was working to move the biometrics system off of this hardware.

The operational requirements to keep this database running for domestic and overseas passport and visa issuances caused delays in upgrading the database according to our planned maintenance schedule.

We have been working to upgrade our systems over the past year.

We will move ahead with planned migration and systems upgrades as soon as we fully restore service.

Q: How did you restore service?
We restored service using a redundant, secondary backup system and other sources. That data allowed us to begin to re-connect posts to the affected portion of the system and synchronize biometric data. This system is running on newer hardware, and has a synchronized standby system in a different Department data center.

In parallel, we are continuing to restore data from backups and overseas post databases. This process is ongoing.
Q: Do you know whether this is equipment that was acquired directly by the State Department, or was this acquired through a third-party contractor?
The equipment was acquired by the Department of State.
Q: What does this mean for travelers seeking visas?
All posts are now interviewing applicants. Please check the website of the nearest embassy or consulate for interview appointment availability and up-to-date messages.

Q: How many people were affected by this outage?
During the past two weeks, consular sections have continued to interview travelers who applied June 8 or earlier. Those posts reconnected to our system are now issuing visas for those applicants.

Q: How are cases being prioritized?
We continue to facilitate urgent cases for those individuals who need to travel imminently, and will continue to do so until the systems are normal.

We apologize to travelers and recognize that this has caused hardship to some individuals waiting for visas as well as families and employers.

Q: What about the foreign agricultural workers (H2A visa holders?)
More than 2,500 temporary or seasonal workers have been issued new visas in Mexico since last week.

We will continue to prioritize H-2 applicants as our systems return to normal, and issue as many approved cases as possible. However, we will not be able to process these as quickly as we typically do until our systems are functioning normally. We continue to ask that any employers with urgent needs contact the post which is processing their applicants and we will do everything we can to facilitate the cases.

We are no longer asking CBP to provide Port of Entry waivers, as we have now begun issuing visas at border posts.

Visa applicants, including agricultural workers, who have not received a visa should not report to the border. Please contact the nearest embassy or consulate.

Q: What about domestic passports?
Domestic passport operations are functioning, with some processing delays.

The technical problems have affected the intake of some mailed applications and same-day service at our passport agencies; however, we continue to issue routine and expedited passports to U.S. citizens for all overseas travel needs.

Q: What about overseas passports?
Overseas passport applications are being processed. There have been delays in some cases, but posts overseas are able to issue emergency passports in urgent cases.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

UPDATE: Visa Systems Issues (39 posts restored)

From Travel.State.Gov, 06/23/2015

The Bureau of Consular Affairs reports that the database responsible for handling biometric clearances has been rebuilt and is being tested.  39 posts, representing more than two-thirds of our normal capacity, are now online and issuing visas. We are working to restore full biometric data processing.
  • We issued more than 45,000 visas yesterday.  Beijing alone issued nearly 15,000 visas. 
  • Our team continues to work 24/7 to restore the systems to full functionality. 
  • We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored. 
  • We deeply regret the inconvenience to travelers waiting for visas.
  • We continue to post updates to our website, travel.state.gov.
  • Q: How long before you restore full system functionality? 
  • We anticipate that the system will be fully reconnected this week.  We plan to work over the weekend to clear our backlog.
  • As of noon today, 39 posts have been reconnected, representing more than two-thirds of the global nonimmigrant visa volume.  All our servers appear to be stable. 
  • There is a large backlog of cases to clear, but we have already made good progress.  We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored. 
  • Q: What does this mean for travelers seeking visas?
  • Many posts are now rescheduling interviews.  In some cases, interviews will be available as soon as June 24.  Please check the website of the nearest embassy or consulate for interview appointment availability and up-to-date messages.    
  • Q: How many people were affected by this outage?
  • We handle an average of 50,000 applications daily worldwide.  During the past two weeks, consular sections have continued to interview travelers who applied June 8 or earlier.  Interviews will now be available for those who applied after June 8.  Visa issuance has been delayed by the systems outage and the backlog will be addressed.
  • Q: Once operational, how will cases be prioritized?
  • We are already prioritizing urgent humanitarian cases and temporary agricultural workers.  We are working as quickly as possible to clear the backlog of pending visa cases.
  • We apologize to travelers and recognize that this has caused hardship to some individuals waiting for visas. 
  • Q: What about the foreign agricultural workers (H2A visa holders?)
  • Nearly 1,700 temporary or seasonal workers have been issued new visas in Mexico.  These are applicants whose biometric data was captured before the systems went down.  
  • An additional 250 received Port of Entry waivers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  We are no longer asking CBP to provide port of entry waivers, as we are now able to issue visas at border posts. 
  • Based on our systems progress, we are currently rescheduling more than 1,500 H-2 visa applicants who were unable to be interviewed last week because of systems problems.
  • Visa applicants, including agricultural workers, who have not received a visa should not report to the border.  Please contact the nearest embassy or consulate.  
  • Q: What about domestic passports?
  • Domestic passport operations are functioning, with some processing delays.  
  • The technical problems have affected the intake of some mailed applications and same-day service at our passport agencies; however, we continue to issue routine and expedited passports to U.S. citizens for all overseas travel needs.
  • Q: What about overseas passports?
  • Overseas passport applications are being processed.  There have been delays in some cases, but posts overseas are able to issue emergency passports in urgent cases.
*Connected Posts

1. Paris
2. Monterrey
3. Ciudad Juarez
4. Guangzhou
5. Beijing
6. Shanghai
7. Tijuana
8. Nuevo Laredo
9. Mexico City
10. Guadalajara
11. Mumbai
12. New Delhi
13. Sao Paolo
14. Chennai
15. Manila
16. Bogota
17. Buenos Aires
18. Rio de Janeiro
19. Tel Aviv
20. Merida
21. Hermosillo
22. Karachi
23. Seoul
24. Lima
25. Santo Domingo
26. Kingston
27. Shenyang
28. Chengdu
29. DPT
30. Lagos

31. Guayaquil
32. London
33. Brasilia
34. Moscow
35. San Salvador
36. Quito
37. Ho Chi Minh
38. Hanoi
39. Kyiv

USCIS Tool Makes It Easier to Find a Doctor


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched an enhanced tool to find local doctors authorized to perform medical examinations for green card applicants.

The improved Find a Doctor locator lets you enter your address or ZIP code to search for a doctor based on distance. You can also look up directions and find local transportation. And we have added a helpful checklist of what to bring with you to your doctor visit.



All of this can be accessed online at any time using any device.

Only doctors authorized by USCIS, known as civil surgeons, may perform the exams that are usually required as part of the process for obtaining permanent resident status.

For more information, visit my.uscis.gov.

Your feedback helps us improve our services. Send comments to myuscissupport@uscis.dhs.gov or through the USCIS Idea Community. We also encourage you to register to receive email updates and find out about opportunities to test new features.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

UPDATE: Visa Systems Issues (22 posts restored)

From Travel.State.Gov, 06/22/2015


  • The Bureau of Consular Affairs is in the process of resolving technical problems with our visa systems. Though some progress has been made, biometric data processing has not been fully restored.
  • Our team continues to work on this 24/7 to restore the systems to full functionality.
  • As of noon today, 22 posts have been reconnected, representing about half of the global nonimmigrant visa volume.
  • We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored.
  • Last week, nearly 1,250 temporary or seasonal workers who had been issued visas in the past were issued new visas in Mexico, and we have issued more than 3,000 visas globally for urgent and humanitarian travel.
  • We deeply regret the inconvenience to travelers and recognize the hardship to those waiting for visas, and in some cases, their family members or employers in the United States.
  • We continue to post updates to our website, travel.state.gov.
Q: How long before you restore full system functionality?
  • Public and private sector experts are making progress in correcting the visa problem, and we are striving to have the system fully reconnected sometime this week.
  • As of noon today, 22 posts have been reconnected, representing about half of the global nonimmigrant visa volume. All our servers appear to be stable. There is a large backlog of cases to clear, but we have already made good progress. We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored.
  • Overseas and domestic passports are being issued.
Q: How many travelers are affected by this outage?
  • Most posts were able to handle visa interviews and some visa printing as usual through the end of last week. This week, many posts have rescheduled visa appointments.
  • • We handle an average of 50,000 applications daily worldwide. Many applicants do not have immediate travel plans, and will receive visas in time for planned trips. We are prioritizing urgent medical and other humanitarian cases.
Q: Once operational, how will cases be prioritized?
  • We are already prioritizing urgent humanitarian cases and temporary agricultural workers. Once the systems are fully operational, we will work as quickly as possible to clear the backlog of pending visa cases.
  • We apologize to travelers and recognize that this has caused hardship to some individuals waiting for visas.
Q: What about domestic passports?
  • Domestic passport operations are functioning, with some processing delays. These technical problems have affected the intake of some mailed applications and same-day service at our passport agencies; however, we continue to issue routine and expedited passports to U.S. citizens for all overseas travel needs.
Q: What about overseas passports?
  • Overseas passport applications are being processed. There have been delays in some cases, but posts overseas are able to issue emergency passports in urgent cases.
Q: What about the foreign agricultural workers (H2A visa holders?)
  • We issued nearly 1,250 H-2 visas for agricultural and temporary workers last week. These are applicants whose biometric data was captured before the systems went down.
  • Additionally over the weekend we worked with DHS/CBP to facilitate the entry of more than 250 H-2 workers to travel to their places of employment in the United States.
  • CBP has agreed to give cases processed through the U.S. Department of State due consideration. However, no visa applicant, including agricultural workers, should report to the border without first having applied for a visa and having been processed through an embassy or consulate.  
  • Based on this weekend’s systems progress, we are currently rescheduling more than 1,500 H-2 visa applicants who were unable to be interviewed last week because of systems problems.

July 2015 Visa Bulletin

EB-3 Philippines Unavailable; Advancements for EB-2 and EB-5 China, EB-3 Worldwide and India

According to the State Department’s July Visa Bulletin, the EB-3 subcategory for professionals and skilled workers will become unavailable for the Philippines next month.  EB-3 will advance one week for India, to February 1, 2004; will remain unchanged for China, at September 1, 2011; and will advance by six weeks for all other countries, to April 1, 2015.

The EB-3 other worker subcategory will advance one week for India, to February 1, 2004, and by six weeks for most countries, to April 1, 2015. It will remain unchanged for China, at January 1, 2006, and will become unavailable for the Philippines.

EB-2 China will advance by four months, to October 1, 2013, and EB-2 India will remain at October 1, 2008. 

EB-5 China – which became subject to a cut-off date for the first time earlier this year – will advance by four months, to September 1, 2013.

Employment-Based Immigrant Visa Projections for the Coming Months
State Department officials project that EB-2 India will not advance further this fiscal year.  Because immigrant visa demand from other countries has doubled, it is unlikely that unused visa numbers from other categories will be available for application to EB-2 India, as had been the case in prior years.  Priority date advancements for EB-2 China will be slow for the remainder of this fiscal year.

EB-3 China is likely to remain at its current cut-off date for the rest of the year, while EB-3 India will remain at its current pace of one to two weeks of advancement per month.  EB-3 Philippines could become available again in September if unused visa numbers from other Philippines subcategories become available. For all other countries, EB-3 is likely to advance by several months through this summer.

EB-5 China is expected to advance further over the coming months.

July 2015 Priority Date Cut-Offs
In July 2015, EB immigrant visa priority date cut-offs will be:
EB-1
Current for all countries.
EB-2
China: October 1, 2013
India: October 1, 2008
All other countries: Current
EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers
China: September 1, 2011
India: February 1, 2004
Philippines: Unavailable
All other countries: April 1, 2015
EB-3 Other Workers
China: January 1, 2006
India: February 1, 2004
Philippines: Unavailable
All other countries: April 1, 2015
EB-5
China: September 1, 2013
Current for all other countries and subcategories

Thursday, June 18, 2015

UPDATE: DOS Announces System Failures, Causing Passport/Visa Delays Worldwide

From GreenbergTraurig, 06/17/2015

The DOS Bureau of Consular Affairs in its efforts to address the technical problems with the visa systems states that the issue is not specific to any particular country or visa category and they do no expect the system to be fully online and operational before next week. They further state that they intend to work as efficiently as possible to clear the backlog of pending cases affected by the technical issues.
The DOS has issued updates regarding the following:
  • Passport Applicants: issues affecting passport operations have been resolved and overseas passports are being issued;
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants: the DOS is unable to print most nonimmigrant visas approved after June 8, 2015. Further, the DOS is currently unable to process DS-160 online applications submitted on or after June 9, 2015. They recommend that if you completed and submitted Form DS-160 on or after June 9, 2015, you continue to monitor the DOS website and only attend the appointment if the situation has been resolved. However, if you submitted your DS-160 online application prior to June 9, 2015, you should plan to attend their scheduled appointment.
  • Immigrant Visa Applications: the DOS is still currently unable to print most immigrant visas, including fiancĂ©(e) visas, approved after June 8, 2015. Additionally, they are aware that some applicants continue to experience technical difficulties accessing Form DS-260.  The issues are intermittent,  therefore DOS  suggests that you return to the Consular Electronic Application Center periodically to try to complete Form DS-260.
While the DOS Bureau of Consular Affairs is apologetic and recognizes the hardship the technical issues this has created, they stress that border security is their main concern and they cannot circumvent any legal requirements to screen applicants prior to issuing visas for travel.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

USCIS Discontinues Electronic Form I-539, Form I-526, and Regional Center Document Library

From USCIS, 06/16/2015

On June 15, 2015, USCIS stopped accepting electronically filed Forms I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and Forms I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. USCIS also discontinued the Regional Center Document Library.

This change will not adversely affect customers who have pending or draft cases that were created before June 15. We will adjudicate those cases to completion and allow the standard 30 days for customers to complete and submit their draft cases.

Recently, USCIS updated the Form I-539 and Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative. To ensure that the paper and electronic versions of these forms are consistent with each other, we must temporarily remove the current electronic versions until we develop these updated forms in our new USCIS online filing system, which launched in March 2015.

Filing a Form I-539 or Form I-526
Customers who need to file a Form I-539 or Form I-526 must now file the paper version of the form. If you already started an electronic Form I-539 or Form I-526, you will have 30 days from the day you began your application/petition to complete and submit it online. If you are unable to complete your electronic form within this 30-day time period, you will need to file a new paper application or petition.

For instructions on how to file a paper Form I-539, please visit our Form I-539 page.

For instructions on how to file a paper Form I-526, please visit our Form I-526 page.

If You Filed Electronically Before June 15, 2015
If you filed a Form I-539 or Form I-526 electronically, you will still be able to access your account to check your case status, change your address, and respond to requests for evidence while USCIS processes your case. If you filed a Form I-526 electronically, you will still be able to review and attest existing deal packages created by the Document Library Manager. However, Document Library Managers will not be able to create new document libraries or deal packages.

For More Information
If you have any questions about filing a Form I-539 or Form I-526 or accessing a Regional Center Document Library, please contact us through our online help form or call customer service at 1-800-375-5283 (1-800-767-1833 (TDD)). If you have questions about filing Form I-526 or accessing a Regional Center Document Library, you can also email us at USCIS.ImmigrantInvestorProgram@uscis.dhs.gov.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter(@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), and the USCIS blog The Beacon.

For more information, visit our website.

Technological Systems Issue: Passport/Visa Systems Errors

From travel.state.gov, 06/16/2015

The Bureau of Consular Affairs continues to address technical problems with our visa systems.  Some visa applicants will experience delays in receiving visas.  Others will be contacted directly to reschedule their appointments.  Passports are still being processed.

This issue is not specific to any particular country or visa category; this is a global issue.  We do not believe these problems stem from any cyber-security hacking issues.

Our border security responsibilities are critical to the visa process.  We cannot bypass the legal requirements to screen visa applicants before we issue visas for travel. We are assisting visa applicants with urgent humanitarian travel, and adoption cases are being processed.  Individuals with humanitarian travel needs should contact their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • What caused this outage?  Was it a malicious action or hack? There is no evidence the problem is cyber security related. 
  • How long before you restore full system functionality? Overseas passports are being issued.  Public and private sectors experts are working around the clock to correct the problem, but we do not expect the system will be online before next week.
  • How many travelers are affected by this outage? This is a global issue and is having impact on our consular operations.  We are in daily communication with consular operations worldwide to assess the evolving impact and provide guidance, including information for the traveling public.
  • Once operational, how will cases be prioritized? Once the systems are fully operational, we will work as quickly as possible to clear the backlog of pending visa cases. We apologize to applicants and recognize that this may cause hardship to applicants waiting for visas.  

Friday, June 5, 2015

New YouTube Videos, Online Resources Help Taxpayers Abroad

From the IRS Newswire, 06/04/2015

With the June 15 filing deadline for Americans abroad fast approaching, the Internal Revenue Service is launching three new online videos and expanding other online resources designed to help taxpayers, especially those living abroad, meet their U.S. tax obligations.

By law, Americans living abroad, as well as many non-U.S. citizens, must file a U.S. income tax return. In addition, key tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion, are only available to those who file a U.S. return. These online resources are designed to help affected taxpayers understand how these rules apply to them.


Three new videos are now available on the IRS YouTube page, and several more of interest to taxpayers abroad will be released in coming weeks. Now available are:
Upcoming videos will deal with the foreign tax credit, filing status for a U.S. taxpayer married to a foreign spouse and an introduction to the IRS web site for international taxpayers.

The IRS has also added two new international tax topics to Tax Trails, the agency’s interactive online tool that helps taxpayers get answers to their general tax questions.

The new topics are:
The InternationalTaxpayers page on IRS.gov is packed with information designed to help taxpayers living abroad, resident aliens, nonresident aliens, residents of U.S. territories and foreign students. Among other things, the website features a directory of overseas tax preparers.

In addition, the IRS uses a variety of social media tools to share the latest tax information with interested taxpayers both in the United States and around the world. These include the IRS2Go phone application, YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter. A listing of IRS social media tools is available on IRS.gov.

To protect taxpayer privacy, the IRS only uses social media tools to share public information, not to answer personal tax or account questions. It advises taxpayers to never post confidential information, like a Social Security number, on social media sites.


Reminder
Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to complete and attach Schedule B to their tax return. Part III of ScheduleB asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.

In addition, certain taxpayers may also have to complete and attach to their return Form8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets.  Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain non-resident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on this form if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds. See the instructions for Form 8938.

Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) certain U.S. taxpayers holding financial assets outside the United States must report those assets to the IRS on Form 8938. Reporting thresholds vary based on whether a taxpayer files a joint income tax return or lives abroad. See Form 8938 instructions for more.