FAQ on the New Department of State
Is your marriage ending, and you wonder if you can still get a green card? Starting May 1, 2021, even undocumented immigrants can get a driver’s license in New Jersey.
I’ve talked about how slow visa processing has been. Now there’s a lawsuit regarding the suspension of visa processing that I think you’ll want to know about. And the State Department just did a FAQ to update everyone on US Immigration, so keep reading.
Driver’s License for Undocumented Immigrants
You probably know that undocumented immigrants can get a driver’s license in New York. That went into effect on December 14, 2019.
Connecticut had passed the law four years before, and it reduced hit and run accidents and unlicensed driving tickets. More states are starting to see giving undocumented immigrants a driver’s license as a win all around.
We knew this was coming to New Jersey, and now it is here. Starting May 1, 2021 you do not need to prove your immigration status get an NJ’s drivers license.
Prior to the Presidential elections, we were worried this new driver’s license might get blocked. The last presidential administration suggested that any state that allowed undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license might violate certain obligations and lose federal funding. But the new administration ended that concern.
Let me be clear upfront, the standard driver’s license that you can get from May 1, 2021, is NOT A REAL ID, but a specific statutorily created ID. The standard driver’s license is only for driving automobiles. If you want to enter a federal facility, like a prison or airport you will still need a valid (meaning not expired) passport.
Initially, the REAL ID was going to be required in October 2020. Due to the pandemic that was changed to October 2021. Now it has been moved to October 2023.
How to Get A New Jersey Driver’s License
In order to get a New Jersey license, you must prove:
- your age,
- that you are who you say you are, and
- that you are a New Jersey resident.
You will also need an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer ID Number) or a Social Security Number. I know you’re probably wondering if how you can get that if you’re undocumented.
Anyone can get an ITIN, regardless of your immigration status. You need to contact the IRS, and they’ll send you one after you comply with their requirements.
What if I don’t have a Social Security Number or an ITIN?
If you don’t have a social security card or an ITIN, order an ITIN quickly because it can take 4-6 weeks for it to arrive. Remember earlier when I said I’d tell you which documents you’ll need? I’m going to do that now.
The state had a six-point system in place for the documents you need – this should be changing somewhat because they all require you show you have a legal status and this won’t be the case after May 1. Keep in mind that if you use anything from a foreign country not in English, it must be translated by a professional.
A valid foreign passport will prove who you are. You can also show them a marriage certificate (not a photocopy) and many other documents. The list is quite long to go through, so I’ll put a link to the site so you can go there and see what documents you have that they say are acceptable.
If you have questions, you can also call their phone number, which is: (609) 292-6500
Proof of Address
You must show proof of address (this confirms you are a New Jersey resident). Some things that prove you live in New Jersey include:
- A utility bill from the last 90 days
- A bank account showing your address in the last 60 days
- Or a current lease or mortgage with the address and your name on it.
You must also prove your age, so they know you are over 18 years old. You can do that with a foreign ID and/or a birth certificate.
The fee for this license will be $24.00.
Is there a risk of getting found by ICE?
Now, I’m sure some people who are undocumented immigrants are worried about getting a driver’s license and opening themselves up to ICE finding them.
If you’re ever worried about ICE and how to respond – you should be carrying our RED CARD. It tells you how to react and what to do if ICE starts talking to you. If you want, send us a message, and someone in my office will get back to you so we can send it out for free.
I can’t guarantee that ICE won’t find you because you put your address with the DMV. However, I can tell you that if you are caught driving without a valid license – or even worse, a suspended license – in New Jersey, you could be put in jail,, where you could be interviewed by ICE. Driving without a license is more dangerous than applying for a license.
However, my advice changes if you already have an order of removal or you have pending orders of the arrest. Today, MVC is not sharing your information with ICE. With a different governor, that could change. If you have an order of arrest or an order of removal, call us, and let’s see if we can help you fix it.
So, if you were my immigration client – I would tell you to do everything legally and by the book.
- If you can get a driver’s license. Do it.
- If you need car insurance (which you do), buy it.
- If you want to know if you qualify for a legal status, call us.
Get everything in your life in order, and it will be much easier to show USCIS you are a good moral person who should be allowed to get a green card and become a citizen.
As of January 2021 – 16 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license.
Refugees under the Biden Administration
You may have heard through an executive order that the Biden administration said they would not raise the cap that the Trump administration had set on refugees. There was outrage.
We know that the Trump administration reduced the cap on refugees to unprecedented low levels – 15,000! After everyone was expecting a more welcoming President when Biden said the number would remain the same, it was a big disappointment. Especially since in February, he had said he would increase the number by four times to 62,500. By the next day, the Administration back-tracked and said they would increase the number.
He hasn’t said what he’ll raise it to or when but we look forward to finding out what that number is and will let you know as soon as we do.
Months ago, I talked about how people from the Schengen region and several other countries were not able to enter the US due to COVID. When that proclamation went out, the consulates and embassies stopped processing visa applications for people in those countries. That should never have happened. Because it did happen, there is now a lawsuit against the State Department. The lawsuit is Kinsley v. Blinken.
Way back several months ago, we had a person who asked us if they could stay in, say, Mexico for 14 days after coming from Europe so they could enter the US. I told them that would be a good workaround for people coming from the Schengen region. And it might have been EXCEPT the State Department decided to stop issuing visas for people from these countries.
What the lawsuit is saying is that the presidential proclamations only had a 14-day ban. But since the State Department stopped issuing visas to people in those regions, it is now – essentially – a permanent ban on getting a visa.
CBP said that if you have a K1 visa and it says “subject to a proclamation,” you should still be able to enter the US because a K1 visa is part of an exception to that ban.
Getting a green card if your marriage ends
So, those who work in US Immigration know that though people should be able to get a green card even if their marriage ends, it is not very likely.
We heard a story recently where someone had an interview at USCIS. During the interview, the officer said that when he asked the USC if she wanted to sponsor her spouse, the USC replied NO. Generally, that results in a denial of the Green Card application.
Our office has been able to help people in that situation get a green card through a U Visa or VAWA, but you must meet certain criteria. We have videos on that subject on our youtube page and website.
However, if you got your conditional green card (which is valid for two years) then filed to remove the conditions on the Green Card the outcome could be different. Because removing the conditions on your Green Card has a waiver that covers this situation.
If you haven’t gotten a green card yet and you don’t qualify for a U-visa or VAWA application, you might not be eligible for any relief. I highly recommend that you talk to an immigration attorney and probably hire one if you are in a similar scenario.
Recent FAQ on Department of State Facebook Page
The final thing I’m going to talk about in this article is a recent FAQ that was released on the Facebook page of the Department of State. I thought you might be interested in this information, so I’m going to review the questions that were asked and the responses ,given.
I have abbreviated some of the responses because they were quite long.
Why are there still immigrant visa interview backlogs?
Our number one priority is the safety of our staff, and the proclamations with travel restrictions have slowed us down, but we are doing everything we can to speed back up.
What is the Department of State doing to decrease the backlog of applications?
We are prioritizing certain visas, creating efficiencies, and utilizing all available resources. (This one doesn’t really give specifics.)
Are virtual/zoom appointments available for immigrant visa interviews?
No. All current regulations require in-person interviews.
What are the regional covid-19 restrictions?
The answer the State Department gave said that Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 10143 suspended entry of people who have been in certain geographic locations like China, Iran, Schengen Area, UK, etc. for the past 14 days. Those are still in effect. As of April 8, 2021, all Immigrant Visa Applicants and K fiancée visa applicants are exempt from these proclamations and may be processed.
I have been waiting for my immigrant visa interview – what can I do now?
You will be phased in for an interview based on the guidance to your local embassy. You can check the website of your local embassy for more specific questions. You sometimes can request an expedited review but be careful because you will only get one opportunity to make such a request, don’t waste it.
If you have been waiting for a long time, talk to an immigration attorney as you may be able to apply for a national interest exemption to speed your case up. Call us if that is something you want us to determine if you’re eligible for.
How are they going to prioritize immigrant visas?
Posts that process immigrant visa applications are prioritizing them based on our phased resumption of visa services guidance.
You may be able to see more information at travel.state.gov/visa-services
They are supposed to be priority processing C1 (transit visa) and K1 visas (fiancé visas), but you’ll need to check with your local embassy to see where they are on processing.
What if I was refused a visa due to the Muslim ban?
On January 20, 2021, this was ended by the President. You must reapply for a visa and pay a new processing fee. Immigrant Visa applicants who were refused won’t need to reapply or submit a new fee – their application will be processed.
When can I schedule my K fiance visa interview appointment?
Your application (and all K visa applications) will be prioritized in accordance with the prioritization guidance found on the Department of State website. Check the website of your local embassy or consulate to determine if routine visa services are being provided. If you have already submitted all the necessary documents, watch your email for an appointment and further instructions.
So even though the State Department is saying they are prioritizing the K1 visas we don’t see that in practice because many of the consulates and embassies aren’t even open to process them.
I am a plaintiff in Milligan v. Pompeo. Can I schedule my K visa interview?
K1 Applicants who are named plaintiffs in this lawsuit should contact their nearest embassy or consulate for guidance on scheduling a visa interview. The court order does not require that plaintiffs be given special priority ahead of other K1 applicants.
This litigation (Milligan v. Pompeo) began last year and was started by a USC who had filed a K1 visa application for a foreign fiancé, and it was not processed. I would let the embassy know if you are part of this litigation and see if they will schedule an interview ASAP.
I was issued a Diversity Visa in FY 2020, but my visa expired, and I was not able to travel to the US. What can I do?
Individuals who were issued a DV that has expired may not be issued a new visa. However, by virtue of the court’s order in Gomez v. Trump, individuals who received DVs in FY2020 may travel to the US on an expired visa. You are encouraged to travel on that expired visa asap.
I was selected in the DV2020 lottery but was not able to schedule my interview. Can I schedule my interview?
Unfortunately, DV2020 selectees who were not issued visas before the end of FY2020 cannot be interviewed, scheduled, or reconsidered for visas now, by law, those selectees were only eligible for the issuance of a visa through the end of FY2020, which ended on September 30, 2020. You may enter to be selected for a future DV program.
When can I schedule my employment-based immigrant interview? Is my application being prioritized?
All immigrant visa applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications processed according to their existing phased resumption of visa services framework.
Call our Trusted Immigration Lawyer in New Jersey!
That was a lot of questions, and the answers may not have made you feel any better than you did before reading them.
If you need help getting a legal status, call us. Our experienced New Jersey immigration lawyer can provide legal assistance to make your immigration dreams come true. If we can’t help you, we won’t take your money.