On October 24, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) published a rule in the Federal Register establishing a new filing fee structure for applications and petitions processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency almost entirely funded by petition and application filing fees. In announcing the new fee structure, DHS explained that the prior fees no longer recovered the cost of services provided and that the new fee structure was necessary to fully recover costs and maintain adequate service. The new few structure increases filing fees by an average of 20%.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced it will negotiate with 11 airports, located in Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Edinburgh, Milan, Rome, Keflavik, Osaka, and St. Maarten, to open preflight inspection offices. At these “preclearance” locations, Customs & Border Protection agents inspect travelers for immigration, customs and agriculture requirements before they board U.S.-bound flights. With successful preflight screening, a foreign traveler normally avoids all screening at his or her U.S. destination airport. In 2015, DHS opened preclearance negotiations, which are still underway, with 9 European countries and the Dominican Republic. See our earlier blog entry. Only 15 preclearance locations currently exist: in Canada, the Caribbean, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers rule was published in the Federal Register today. This significant rule codifies long-standing but unofficial agency practices under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (“AC21”) and establishes a variety of new provisions to further streamline business immigration processes, including the following:
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) released the new version of Form I-9 today, a week earlier than previously announced. As a reminder, all U.S. employers are required to use the new version by January 22, 2017, to verify the employment eligibility of new hires and to reverify continued employment eligibility of employees, when necessary. Employers may continue to use the version dated 03/08/2013, through January 21, 2017.
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 December 2016 Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:
- China continues to move forward at a slow pace, and the EB-3 cut-off date (July 1, 2013) remains ahead of the EB-2 date (September 22, 2012)
- India EB-2 jumps ahead three months to February 1, 2008, while EB-3 only advances one week to March 15, 2005
- Philippines EB-3 advances two months to June 1, 2011
- Worldwide EB-3 remains stalled at July 1, 2016.
DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Nepal who already hold TPS. TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve. The new extension allows qualifying individuals from Nepal to reapply for TPS and work authorization that will be valid until June 24, 2018. The re-registration period ends on December 27, 2016. Employment authorization documents held by qualifying individuals already set to expire on December 24, 2016, are automatically extended through June 24, 2017. Employers can rely on the DHS announcement for I-9 employment verification and reverification purposes.
Donald Trump’s statements about the U.S. immigration system were a main feature of his presidential campaign. Now that he has been elected, many are questioning whether and how those statements might become actual policies. We have already begun fielding questions from clients asking how new policies, regulations and laws will affect their businesses, their employees, their families, and themselves.
On November 22, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will publish a revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Employers must use the revised Form I-9 by January 22, 2017, but may continue to use the current Form I-9, dated 03/08/2013, through January 21, 2017. We will post an update as soon as the revised Form I-9 is published.
The USCIS announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia will end as of May 21, 2017. TPS for these countries was set to expire on November 21, 2016. The Secretary of DHS has determined that conditions in these countries have improved, so that TPS benefits are no longer required. To make the transition easier for TPS beneficiaries, the program will end six months after the current designation expires. Those affected will retain their TPS-based employment authorization documents through May 20, 2017, and must depart the United States by that date. Employers can rely on the Federal Register notices for I-9 compliance.
Links to the Federal Register notices can be found here:
- Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Sierra Leone
- Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Guinea
- Temporary Protected Status Designated Country: Liberia
The State Department registration period for the Congressionally mandated 2018 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery begins October 4, 2016, and ends on November 7, 2016. The DV lottery allows nationals from certain countries to apply for immigrant visas (“green cards”) outside of the normal immigrant visa process. Individuals already being sponsored for immigrant visas by family members or employers may participate as well. Requirements include being a national of an eligible country (although an applicant may qualify based on his or her spouse’s nationality) and high school education or work experience. The online registration period begins Tuesday, October 4, 2016, at noon EST, and ends on Wednesday, November 7, 2016, at noon EST. Complete eligibility requirements and filing instructions can be found here.