By: Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Robert J. Dupont
In a significant change of policy the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will no longer refuse immigration benefits to V-2 and V-3 visa holders who have reached the age of 21. V-2 visas are awarded to children under the age of 21 who have had immigrant petitions pending for more than three years. V-3 visas are awarded to derivative children of either V-1 or V-2 visa holders. The USCIS change of policy is the direct result of orders from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which declared the “age out” provisions of USCIS regulations invalid stating they were “contrary to congressional intent and frustrate congressional policy.”
Reeves & Associates filed the V-visa lawsuit in August 2002 in response to the refusal of the USCIS to renew V-visas or issue work authorizations to V-2 visa holders who reached 21 years of age. Now, following the ruling of the court USCIS has issued a instructions to the National Benefits Center directing USCIS officers to grant extensions V-2 or V-3 benefits even if the individual is 21 years of age or older. This policy will be applied “nation-wide immediately.” It is expected that this change of policy will bring relief to thousands of individuals nationwide who have been denied work authorization, as well as hundreds of V-2 visa holders who unwittingly left the United States for travel and have been denied re-entry into the United States.
Prior to this lawsuit which was filed by Reeves & Associates, the USCIS was denying work authorization to V-2 visa holders who had reached the age of 21. In addition to refusing the work authorization USCIS was informing V-2 visa holders that they were no longer in lawful status and should return to their home country. V-2 visa holders who left the United States and then reached 21 years of age were not being re-admitted. USCIS issued regulations denying these benefits despite the fact that the V-visa was created for purposes of family re-unification and eliminating backlogs with overseas embassies and consulates.
Reeves & Associates recognized that sending V-2 visa holders back home broke up families the V-visa statutes were intending to re-unite, and increased workload and backlogs for the embassy who would ultimately have to process that persons immigrant visa overseas. Attorney Robert Dupont, of Reeves & Associates, presented clear and convincing evidence to the court that the regulations issued by the USCIS lead to unreasonable and absurd results. Contrary to the express intent of Congress children who were issued a V-visa at the U.S. embassy were being admitted to the U.S. only up to their 21st birthday and in some cases this was as little as one day.
Attorney Dupont also showed the hardship of leaving one’s home country, including a job, school, and community to go to the United States, and then being forced to abandon family career or schooling in the United States to return to their home country. The Court found the USCIS policy of revoking their visas and once again separating petitioners from their families to be “particularly illogical when we consider” “that part of the same Act (LIFE ACT) explicitly allows petitioners for Permanent status to stay in this country while they await their visa processing.”
Any V-2 visa recipient who has reached 21 years of age can and should immediately file for extension of his V-2 visa. This extension should be applied for regardless of when their V-2 visa term or I-94 has expired. Reeves & Associates has posted on its website (“rreeves.com”) under the success stories section a copy of the USCIS’ Interoffice Memorandum dated January 10, 2005 showing the nationwide change of policy. Reeves & Associates will also monitor the drafting of new regulations by the USCIS and provide its input and objections to any further provisions which may unduly limit the benefit of this important non-immigrant visa category.
If you have any questions regarding this important development in the law and the significance and effect of the USCIS memorandum regarding this fundamental policy change towards V-visa holders, it is important that you contact qualified immigration attorney.