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US agency warns of long waits for immigrant visas, work permits

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Facing severe budget pressures, US Citizenship and Immigration Services cuts operations to avoid furloughs of workers.

The United States agency responsible for granting immigrant visas and “green card” residency permits said on Tuesday that it would avoid a planned furlough of 13,000 employees in two weeks but warned of long wait times for applications.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the US Department of Homeland Security, has seen a 50 percent drop in revenue from immigration applications because of President Donald Trump’s restriction of immigration to the US and the coronavirus.

In a statement, USCIS announced it was undertaking aggressive budget cuts that will allow it to continue to operate through the end of the US fiscal year on September 31.

“However, averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs,” USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said in the statement.

“A return to normal operating procedures requires congressional intervention to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021,” Edlow said.

USCIS, part of the Department of Homeland Security, had warned earlier it would be forced to temporarily layoff large numbers of employees without USD $1.2bn in emergency funding from the US Congress.

A citizen candidate sits socially distanced and wearing a protective face mask, amid the outbreak of COVID-19, during a USCIS naturalisation ceremony in New York City, on July 22, 2020. [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

USCIS is in charge of issuing work permits, so-called “green cards”, and other visas that allow specialised workers like technicians, doctors and nurses to come to the US for jobs.

Leading Democrats wrote to the agency heads last week urging them not to furlough federal workers which would “undermine ongoing efforts and cause severe, possibly irreparable harm to USCIS”.

“As our nation struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, the services that USCIS provides are critical and must be maintained,” Representatives Bennie Thomson and Kathleen Rice, who chair the agency’s oversight committees, wrote in an August 21 letter.

“Struggling businesses are relying on temporary workers, overburdened hospitals are depending on medical professionals, and USCIS is the essential component that makes this activity possible,” the legislators said.

The agency said naturalisation ceremonies for new US citizens would continue although contracted support for USCIS adjudicators would be reduced, resulting in longer processing times for pending applications and cases.

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Armenian Aggression

Prices of Azerbaijani oil continue to grow

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By Trend

The price of Azeri LT CIF Augusta, produced at the Azeri-Chirag-Deepwater Gunashli (ACG) field, increased by $1.14 on Oct.22 compared to the previous price, reaching $42.63 per barrel, Trend reports with reference to the source from the country's oil and gas market.

The price of Azeri LT FOB Ceyhan amounted to $42.13 per barrel in Oct.22, which is up by $1.12 compared to the previous price.

Azerbaijan has been producing Azeri LT since 1997 and exporting it via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and Baku-Supsa Western Export Pipeline, as well as by rail to the Georgian port of Batumi.

Azerbaijan also sells its URALS oil from the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, delivering it through the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline.

The price of URALS with shipment from the port reached $41.85 per barrel in Oct.22, having grown by 98 cents compared to the previous price.

The cost of a barrel of Brent Dated oil, produced in the North Sea, made up $41.52 per barrel, up by $1.05 compared to the previous price.

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Armenian Aggression

Chairman of US Educated Azerbaijani Alumni Association appeals to US Ambassador in Azerbaijan

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Chairman of the U.S. Educated Azerbaijani Alumni Association Nail Akhundzade sent an appeal to US Ambassador in Azerbaijan Lee Litzenberger, Trend reports.

“We the U.S. Educated Azerbaijani Alumni have always taken pride and the pleasure of being ambassadors of the U.S. culture and values in Azerbaijan and unanimously share an uncompromised and strong belief that our voice matters, in both Azerbaijan and the U.S. This belief stems from the dedicated support and encouragement we have always received from the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Baku,” the letter said.

“Confiding in that belief, we decided to write this open letter directly to you.

Mr. Ambassador, as you are aware, as of September 27, 2020 – the day when the Republic of Armenia started its military aggression against the Republic of Azerbaijan – we have to wake up every day with the alarming and saddening news of innocent civilian people losing their lives and being hurt and wounded in Azerbaijan. Additionally, despite the signed humanitarian ceasefire, the Armenian Army continues the shelling of civilian targets in Azerbaijani cities of Ganja, Terter, Fuzuli, Aghdam, and Mingachevir. As a result, civilians, including children and women are being killed, injured and many civilian facilities are being destroyed,” the letter said.

“Sadly, though, this outrageous illegal behavior of Armenia does not get enough coverage in the U.S. media and political circles. Rather, we often see biased, infatuated statements by U.S. media and politicians on the nature of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and on the identification of the true aggressor,” the appeal said.

“Using the opportunity, we wish to ask you to support us with the communication of our position at the U.S State Department and Congress as outlined in the attached Summary. We thank you in advance for your time and efforts in advance and looking forward to hearing from you soon. We wish you a nice week, strength, and inspiration for the noble work you are doing in Azerbaijan!” the letter said.

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Armenian Aggression

Israel sends humanitarian aid to Azerbaijan

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Israel sent humanitarian aid to Azerbaijan. This information was posted on the Twitter page of the Israeli embassy, Trend reports on Oct. 23.

The medical supplies sent from Israel to Azerbaijan have been transferred to the country's clinics. Humanitarian aid is still sent.

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