Employers Should Take the Necessary Steps to Prepare for Increased Worksite Inspections

This week, Tom Homan, acting Director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced that he has instructed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative branch of ICE, to quadruple the number of worksite inspections.  Danielle Bennett, spokeswoman for the agency, confirmed this directive and added “ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy continues to address both employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and the workers themselves.”

What does this mean for U.S. employers? This means that employers should expect to see increased HSI visits during which HSI will conduct not only I-9 audits to ensure that employers are complying with established employment eligibility verification requirements, but also other investigations related to compliance with immigration and labor regulations.

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November 2017 Visa Bulletin – Very slow forward movement in most categories

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 November Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China: EB-1 remains current, EB-2 moves ahead 24 days to June 15, 2013, and EB-3 only advances one month to February 1, 2014
  • India: EB-1 remains current, EB-2 advances 23 days to October 8, 2008, and EB-3 remains stalled at October 15, 2006
  • Philippines: EB-2 returns to current and EB-3 moves ahead one month to January 15, 2016
  • All Other Countries: All EB categories are current

PLEASE NOTE:  USCIS has announced that in November it will accept employment-based I-485 applications based only on the Department of State’s Final Action Dates chart.  As in past months, USCIS will NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart

Diversity Visa Update – New DV-2019 Entry Period Announced; Resubmissions Required

The Department of State has announced that due to technical issues the initial DV-2019 entry period of October 3, 2017, to November 7, 2017, has been closed.  The new DV-2019 entry period will begin at noon (EST) on October 18, 2017, and will remain open until noon (EST) on November 22, 2017. All entries received prior to October 18, 2017 will be cancelled and excluded from the system.  Applicants who submitted entries during that timeframe are advised to submit new entries to be considered in the DV 2019 lottery.

Temporary Protected Status for Sudan to End

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that because the conditions in Sudan no longer support its designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the designation set to expire on November 2, 2017, will terminate on November 2, 2018.  TPS allows qualifying persons inside the United States to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve following civil war, natural disaster or similar extraordinary situations.  The final year of designation gives those unable to acquire another legal status time to prepare to depart the United States by the TPS termination date.

Nationals of Sudan holding TPS status have until December 11, 2017, to re-register to extend their status through the designation end date of November 2, 2018.   Employment authorization documents held by qualifying individuals already set to expire on November 2, 2017, are automatically extended through May 1, 2018. Employers can rely on the DHS announcement for I-9 employment verification and re-verification purposes.

Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Suspended at US Consular Posts in Turkey; Turkey Responds

Following the arrest of a US consular employee by Turkish authorities, the United States has suspended the issuance of nonimmigrant visas at the US Embassy in Ankara and the US Consulate General in Istanbul.  This is not a travel ban on Turkish nationals, as those with nonimmigrant visas can continue to use them, and those wishing to apply for nonimmigrant visas can do so at other US consular locations outside of Turkey.  The processing of immigrant visas will continue without interruption.

In response, the government of Turkey announced the immediate suspension of visa services to US citizens.  This suspension includes the issuance of physical sticker visas issued at border posts, as well as the online “e-visa”.  US citizens planning to visit Turkey should contact the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or a Turkish Embassy or Consulate in the United States, before travel.

UPDATE – USCIS Reinstates Premium Processing for All H-1B petitions

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has announced that premium processing has been reinstated for all H-1B cases.   As of today, petitioners may file H-1B petitions requesting premium processing and may upgrade currently pending H-1B petitions to premium processing.

USCIS Expects to Reinstate Premium Processing for All H-1B petitions on or Before October 3, 2017

Although no official statement has been issued, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced during a call with the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Service Center Operations Liaison Committee that it expects to resume premium processing for all H-1B cases on or before October 3, 2017.   We will update this post as soon as USCIS makes an official announcement.

DHS Extends TPS for South Sudan

DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of South Sudan 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 South Sudan to reapply for TPS and work authorization that will be valid until May 2, 2019. The re-registration period ends on November 20, 2017. Employment authorization documents held by qualifying individuals are automatically extended through May 1, 2018. Employers can rely on the DHS announcement for I-9 employment verification and re-verification purposes.  Please note that this does NOT apply to nationals of Sudan.

 Click here for additional information.

New Presidential Proclamation Modifies Travel Ban; SCOTUS Reacts

On Sunday, September 24, 2017, the White House identified eight countries as inadequately managing identity and security risk information for their citizens who seek admission to the United States or other U.S. immigration benefits and established the following restrictions for those countries:

  • North Korea / Syria:  All immigrant and nonimmigrant visas are suspended.
  • Chad / Libya / Yemen:  All immigrant visas and all B-1 business and B-2 tourist visas are suspended.
  • Iran:  All immigrant visas are suspended, as well as all nonimmigrant visas except F and M student visas and J exchange visitor visas, for which additional screening is required.
  • Venezuela:  All official and B-1/B-2 visas for employees of certain government agencies and their dependents are suspended.  These agencies include the Ministry of the Popular Power for Interior, Justice and Peace; Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration; Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation Service Corps; Bolivarian National Intelligence Service; and Ministry of the Popular Power for Foreign Relations.  Additional screening is required for all other types of visas.
  • Somalia:  All immigrant visas are suspended.  Additional screening is required for all other types of visas.
  • Iraq:  No suspensions, but additional screening is required for all visas and entries.

The proclamation exempts the following classes of individuals, among others, from the above restrictions:

  • Those who seek, or have already been granted, asylum or withholding of removal
  • Those who seek admission, or have already been admitted, as refugees
  • Those who already held valid visas on September 24
  • Those who hold other travel documents – such as transportation letters, boarding foils, or advance parole documents – that were valid on September 24 or are issued after that date
  • Those whose visas were marked canceled or revoked under the initial Travel Ban (January 27, 2017)
  • Nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity, but only until October 18, 2017
  • Dual nationals who are traveling on a passport from a non-designated country

Individual waivers are available if the restrictions cause “undue hardship,” if the waiver is in the national interest, and if the iindividual poses no national security or public safety risk.  Subject to those criteria, the proclamation lists examples of potential waiver-worthy cases, including individuals who happened to be outside the United States on September 24, but had previously been admitted on long-term work or study visas and seek reentry to resume those activities; individuals who seek entry to visit or reside with an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or lawful nonimmigrant; infants, young children, adoptees, or individuals who need urgent medical care; dual nationals who hold Canadian permanent residence and apply for admission or visas inside Canada; and others.

Reacting to the proclamation on September 24, the Supreme Court announced that oral arguments on the Travel Ban cases, scheduled for October 10, 2017, were canceled.  SCOTUS also set a deadline of October 5 for the parties in those cases (primarily the state of Hawaii and the International Refugee Assistance Project) to file legal briefs addressing the question of whether their challenges are now moot because of (a) the new travel ban; and (b) the upcoming expiration, on October 24, of the total refugee ban.  SCOTUS could hear oral arguments at a later date or could decide the case on briefs only.

State Department Diversity Visa Lottery Begins October 3, 2017

The State Department online registration period for the Congressionally mandated 2019 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery begins October 3, 2017 (at noon EST), and ends on November 7, 2017 (at noon EST). 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. Complete eligibility requirements and filing instructions can be found here.

Before taking office, President Trump said that he would end the DV lottery and that the upcoming lottery may be the last.  We will update this blog if there are any changes to the DV lottery program

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