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The latest USA Visa Bulletin contains new and important information that will be of particular interest to anyone considering travelling to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program. This latest bulletin highlights the fact that the date of application for a new visa is no longer applicable. There are a number of reasons why this date was discontinued but two main factors were identified as the main driving force behind this move. First, US immigration authorities became aware that many visa applications submitted by persons living in other countries were being approved on the basis of old and incorrect data. Second, the US government realised that continued failure to implement stronger controls would leave the door wide open for abuse by fraudulent visa applicants who were later found to have fraudulently obtained their benefits.

The new visa bulletin also features new and important information relating to the Green Card application process. The green card is an essential tool that helps people from certain categories around the world to obtain permanent resident status in the USA. As previously noted, visa applications submitted on or before the green card date cannot be processed anymore. Applicants will need to submit new visa applications by the relevant date to ensure that their application is approved for consideration.

The new visa bulletin does not change the fact that you need to apply for a green card even if you have already entered the USA. The only exception to this is if you are eligible to apply for an adjustment to your status due to a past wrong doing of which you did not become aware. If you fall into this category, then you may proceed to file for an adjustment. For your information, both spouses of American citizens are now required to apply for green cards using the new visa bulletin.

Two further significant changes made in the new visa bulletin are the introduction of Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefits and the extension of the emergency child travel benefit provisions. Both are intended to allow immediate family members of green card applicants to accompany them if required to do so by any reason whatsoever other than serious health issues or financial hardship. In addition to these two specific areas, the Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefit has been extended to include child transportation. However, as per the current rules, children cannot be entitled to such benefits from any point in time prior to the submission of the application for permanent residence.

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The introduction of Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefits is aimed at reducing the backlogs of immigration applicants in the USA as well as of processing green card applications from outside the USA. As reported by the USCIS, there are currently about three thousand applications pending for green card and about four thousand on backlog. The reduction in backlogs is expected to reduce processing time for all applicants including foreign guest workers and their families. In this respect, the Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefit will enable eligible non-immigrant spouses of US citizens to accompany them if they are eligible to obtain a US visa. The revised visa regulations and accompanying forms are available online.

Another important initiative taken by the USCIS is to change the fee structure for the Permanent Residence (PR) program starting with the current month of April 2021. Starting with this new fee structure, applicants will be charged for three stages of visa processing based on the number of family members included in the application: the initial application (Form I); the application for the first family member who must receive a visa (Form II); and the applicant's eligibility for the reconsideration of a denied application (Form III). The revised PR fee schedule also provides for an additional administrative charge for processing visa numbers that are delinquent beyond the normal thirty days notification period. There is a revised fee structure for the initial six month period beginning with the April 2021 fee schedule.

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On the whole, the Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefit has been designed to be a more convenient, streamlined process for many potential visa applicants in the USA and for foreign skilled workers in India on temporary assignments in the USA. For the applicant, the new system promises greater opportunities for timely visa approvals and better salary and benefit packages. For the foreign skilled worker in India on a temporary assignment in the USA, the Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefit will help them attain the status of permanent resident in the USA quickly and easily. The Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefit offers two types of benefits: a skill limited non-immigrant visa and a non-immigrant skill limited visa. Each benefit has been designed to allow the eligible applicant to apply for immigration status in either principal or derivative status as soon as possible in accordance with the terms of the new Mexico Visa Bulletin.

The revised visa bulletin also incorporates a new section on how consular officers determine the eligibility of an applicant to proceed with the visa interview. In addition, the Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefit now has a streamlined processing process for qualified applicants to meet the cut-off date for the first priority date listed in the calendar. This increase in priority dates will make it easier for the applicant to meet his or her intended outcome of receiving an immigrant visa and permanently residing in the USA. To receive this new benefit, please visit the nearest American Consulate or send a mail to the Secretary of State stating your intent to receive the Statutorily Limited Skilled Guest Haltip Benefit.

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