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Newsletter #2: Leaked USCIS memo, free webinars, & fee hikes

January 23, 2023

It’s been a week since I landed in India, and as you can imagine, it feels like a lifetime has passed. A 21-hour flight changed everything about my life: who I’m around, where I live, what I eat, how I travel.I’m beginning a “Life In India” series where I plan to share observations as an NRI entering her home country after 5 years. I just shared the first one on food and traffic, check it out.Before we jump into the newsletter, I want to welcome 40 new subscribers to our newsletter since last week, including Rathnakumar, Jagrity, & Mayank. Welcome, folks! And thanks to everyone who forwarded this to a dear friend last week. 🙏

Immigration is a complex world. So every Wednesday, I try to simplify that by sharing top stories, curated resources, & fun tweets from the internet. I also sprinkle it with updates on my book, Unshackled, at the end. If you want to get this straight to your email inbox, come sign up! You can read all past editions here. 💃 

📌Stories you should know about

1 Million immigrants granted US Citizentship in 2022The pandemic caused an insane backlog for all of us. You probably lived through this yourself, unable to go back to your home country and not getting any stamping slots. It also affected USCIS deeply, since they get 96% of their funding from application fees, and applications dropped during COVID-19. But, here’s some good news: the folks at USCIS did a good job of re-using all the wasted green cards from the pandemic before they became obsolete. Still, there are 673,000 immigrants waiting to get a green card today.Leaked USCIS memo on improving EB backlogA leaked USCIS memo claims to hold the solution to fix employment-based immigration backlogs. In the 2015 memo, USCIS proposed a change in regulation that would allow everyone who had an approved I-140 to get the privileges that you only get after getting your “adjustment of status.” Privileges such as changing employers easily or starting a business on your own. It's a simple idea, but it could make a big difference in retaining talented workers in the U.S. Even though it was never implemented, at least it getting leaked should spark a conversation now.”Breakdown of the USCIS fee hike in a nice tableJust last week, the USCIS proposed a massive fee hike across most immigration applications. This post on LinkedIn breaks down the fee hike in a simple table if you’re curious to know how your visa is affected. The proposed fee increases will not go into effect until after the 60-day comment period. The comment period hasn’t started yet. I’ll be sure to let you know when it does so you can go share your comment there!

🎁 Resources curated for you

List of upcoming webinars on various topicsLegalpad, a WA-based immigration tech startup that specializes in O-1s & EB-1s has put together several webinars in the upcoming weeks on various immigration topics. Check out the list and see if anything interests you! Also, if you’re looking to apply for an O-1 through Legalpad. I can do a direct intro to my contact there who will give you a free profile evaluation.2023 guide on EB-1A without employer sponsorshipYou probably know about the EB-1A already: it’s a green card given out to the top experts in a field. It’s become very popular the last few years amongst the Indian crowd as an alternative to waiting decades for the GC. This article shares an in-depth overview of the process.Connected papers for researchersOooh if you’re a researcher, you’re gonna love this. I came across something called “Connected Papers” by Google recently — it helps you find all the connected papers to your paper of interest and gives you a nice graph of the end result!

📕What's the latest on Unshackled?

The day after I landed in Delhi, I got a membership at a co-working space to continue making progress on the book. My researcher, Ben, and I are currently hammering through the following chapters:

  • A Deep Dive Into Dependent Visas (where we cover all dependent visas, with a spotlight on H-4, building a company, & support for domestic abuse)
  • A Deep Dive Into H-1B (where we cover how to start a company in-depth!)
  • All Creative Ways To Use Your H-1B (where we cover cap-exempt, concurrent, & part-time H-1B)

My designer, Komal, is creating beautiful illustrations for the very powerful stories we’ll be covering throughout Unshackled. To give you a taste, below is an “idea sketch” for one of the stories. Can you guess the emotion this picture conveys?

Overall, progress is good. I’ll be sending an update email to everyone who pre-ordered the book next week with a surprise announcement! 😉Speaking of which, if you haven’t yet pre-ordered the book, be the 732nd person to do so. 👇Get UnshackledThank you so much for reading till hereUntil next week, stay cozy.Yours truly,Soundarya 💚

👀 Fun corners of the internet

It’s so sad that it’s funny now. Meme credits: Phil Kuck


Unshackled is the name of a book and its accompanying online community. On here, you’ll find articles on everything from building your profile for an O-1A visa to starting a company on your H-1B. Want to get such resources directly in your Inbox? Join 7000 immigrants who hear from us every Wednesday.

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