DHS Extends TPS for Haiti, but Only for Six Months

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti through January 22, 2018 – a much shorter period than the normal 18-month extension. This announcement allows qualifying individuals to reapply for TPS and work authorization during a 60-day period starting May 24, 2017. If TPS designation for Haiti is allowed to expire in January 2018, as DHS warns may happen, the nearly 60,000 persons enrolled in the program will be forced to return to Haiti, change to another status if eligible, or remain in the United States unlawfully.

TPS allows qualifying persons inside the United States to remain temporarily until conditions in their home countries improve following civil war, natural disaster or similar extraordinary situations. Haiti’s initial TPS designation was granted within days of the devastating earthquake the country experienced in January 2010. [1] It was unclear whether the latest extension would happen at all, despite pleas by Haitian government officials, bipartisan members of Congress and others that an 18-month extension was the minimum time needed to plan for the safe and orderly return of citizens to Haiti. Advocates for a longer extension argued that Haiti continues to struggle to rebuild its infrastructure and economy after the 2010 earthquake and subsequent natural disasters, and that the relocation of such a large number of individuals will further erode economic and living conditions in Haiti.

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Individuals in TPS are only allowed to remain in the United States until DHS decides the temporary designation is no longer warranted. However, persons in TPS are permitted to change to another temporary status or seek permanent residence if they meet the relevant eligibility requirements. Citizens of Haiti who are in TPS should begin to plan for a return to Haiti in the event their TPS ends in 2018, or speak with an immigration attorney to determine if they qualify for a change to nonimmigrant status or obtain permanent residence.

Haitian TPS employment authorization documents that expire on July 22, 2017 are automatically extended through January 22, 2018, but only if applicants have timely filed to extend their TPS and employment authorization during the 60 day re-registration period. As explained in the Federal Register, employers are required to inspect several documents in order to complete or update their Form I-9 based on the automatic extension.

It is anticipated that DHS Secretary John F. Kelly will decide in late 2017 whether further extensions of TPS for Haiti are warranted. Hunton & Williams attorneys will continue to share information about this issue, in addition to monitoring the TPS for the nine other designated countries, many of which are up for review in late 2017 and early 2018.


Footnote:
[1] A team of Hunton & Williams lawyers, including Suzan Kern, were instrumental in obtaining TPS benefits for Haitian citizens in the United States immediately following the 2010 earthquake.

“Hire American, Buy American” Executive Order Not Likely to Change H-1B Landscape Significantly

The Trump Administration’s April Executive Order, “Buy American, Hire American,” puts the H-1B visa program under increased scrutiny, but is not likely to have significant, if any, impact on the program for the foreseeable future.
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June 2017 Visa Bulletin—Significant EB-1 Retrogression for China and India

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the June Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China EB-1 retrogresses to January 1, 2012, EB-2 continues a slow forward march advancing to March 1, 2013, and EB-3 is stalled at October 1, 2014
  • India EB-1 retrogresses to January 1, 2012, EB-2 moves ahead slightly to July 1, 2008 and EB-3 advances six weeks to May 15, 2005
  • Philippines EB-3 jumps ahead four months to May 1, 2013
  • Worldwide EB-3 moves forward one month to April 15, 2017

China EB-1 and India EB-1 are expected to become current again in October 2017.

PLEASE NOTE: USCIS has not yet announced if it will accept I-485 applications in June based on the Department of State’s Dates for Filing chart. However, the trend over the last several months has been to NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart, and instead only accept I-485 applications based on the Final Action Dates as listed above.

The Future of the H-1B Visa Program Under The Trump Administration

There has been a flurry of activity and uncertainty related to immigration issues since President Trump took office. Hunton & Williams partners Adam Rosser and Emily Burkhardt Vicente discuss the concerns faced by the business community and the future of the H-1B visa program in the US.

View the 5-minute video here.

FY2018 H-1B Lottery Held for 199,000 Petitions

The USCIS received 199,000 petitions for the FY-2018 H-1B visas that will become available on October 1, 2017.  The lottery was held on April 11, 2017, for both the master’s cap cases (20,000 H-1B visas) and the regular cap cases (65,000 H-1B visas).  The USCIS is in the process of sending receipt notices by regular mail to those whose petitions were selected in the lottery.  We expect that the process to mail all of the notices will take several weeks to complete.  Petitions that were not selected in the lottery will be returned (with the uncashed filing fee checks) over the next few months.

May 2017 Visa Bulletin—Little Movement in All Employment-Based Categories, Except Philippines EB-3

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the May Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

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FY2018 H-1B Cap Reached

Not surprisingly, the USCIS announced today that the FY2018 H-1B cap has been met.  The USCIS will hold a lottery for the H-1B visas as early as next week.  Those selected will receive receipt notices in the mail; those rejected will have their filings returned, along with the filing fee checks.   We expect that the receipt notices for those selected will begin to trickle in later this month through most of May; the rejected petitions will take longer to return.  The USCIS has not yet released the number of petitions it received.  Please check back for updates.

USCIS Rescinds Old Guidance on H-1B Computer Programmers and Announces Targeted Scrutiny of IT Contractors

On, March 31, 2017, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services rescinded a 17-year-old memorandum issued by the Nebraska Service Center regarding computer-related positions as H-1B “specialty occupations.”  For the last 10 years, all H-1B petitions have been processed at the Vermont and California Service Centers, so the memo has not been in use.  Since NSC recently began accepting H-1B extension petitions again, USCIS has rescinded the memo, stating it is outdated and inconsistent with the agency’s current approach to H-1B petitions for computer jobs.

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USCIS’s Nebraska Service Center Announces Delays In Adjudication of H-4 and H-4 EAD Applications Concurrently Filed with Premium H-1B Petitions

Due to the upcoming temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions on April 3, 2017, USCIS has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of premium processing cases it has received.  The Nebraska Service Center, which processes all H-1B extension petitions for non-cap exempt employers containing no changes to the beneficiary’s terms of employment, has announced that it will focus its resources on processing H-1B petitions in accordance with premium processing requirements.

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