How Will the Government Shutdown Impact Immigration? It Depends on the Federal Agency and Program Involved

As negotiations in Congress continue towards resolving the shutdown of the federal government, individuals and companies that interact with the various federal agencies that administer immigration programs are naturally wondering how they might be affected. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued information about its operations, but until we hear from other agencies, we can look to prior shutdowns in 2011 and 2013 to better understand what to expect.

As a general matter, only “essential” employees will continue to work until funding is restored. The following is what we anticipate with respect to the various agencies Hunton & Williams deals with on behalf of our clients:

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Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador to End

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that because the conditions in El Salvador  no longer support its designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the designation set to expire on March 9, 2018, will terminate on September 9, 2019.  This conclusion is at odds with the State Department travel advisory, which says that travelers should reconsider travel to El Salvador due to violent crime (murder, assault, rape, armed robbery, gang activity, etc.).  The travel advisory can be found here.

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February 2018 Visa Bulletin – Slow Advancement in Every Category and Projections for Future Movement

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

  • China: EB-1 remains current, EB-2 advances nearly two months to October 1, 2013, and EB-3 jumps forward five months to September 15, 2014
  • India: EB-1 remains current, EB-2 continues a slow forward crawl –advancing 16 days to December 8, 2008, and EB-3 leaps forward an entire month to December 1, 2006
  • Philippines: EB-2 remains current and EB-3 advances two weeks to March 1, 2016
  • All Other Countries: All EB categories are current

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Hunton & Williams LLP Introduces New and Improved Cloud-Based Immigration Management System for Clients

Hunton & Williams LLP’s immigration practice will introduce a new and improved immigration management system to its clients on January 16, 2018. For fifteen years, our group has used Immigration Tracker as a critical tool to manage our practice and serve our clients. The latest version of Tracker will offer a host of significant improvements that allows our practice group to work more efficiently through increased collaboration with clients and sponsored employees. Some of the key improvements are:

  • More powerful and easier to use management tools for Human Resources personnel to manage active sponsorships, including automatic delivery of custom reports, more detailed and transparent case status information, and viewing documents
  • Sponsored employees enjoy simplified yet more effective questionnaires that auto populate information previously provided, the ability to scan and upload documents directly from any mobile device, and more detailed case status information at their fingertips – including milestones completed for each process
  • Hunton team members will have more powerful tools available to prepare forms more quickly and accurately, manage active cases and expirations, and share critical information and documents with clients and sponsored employees
  • Improved security and accessibility through the latest in cloud-based database technology

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DHS Announces End to TPS for El Salvador

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that because the conditions in El Salvador no longer support its designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the designation set to expire on March 9, 2018, will terminate in 18 months.  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 18 months of designation gives those unable to acquire another legal status time to prepare to depart the United States by the TPS termination date.

USCIS will issue a notice in the Federal Register with the exact dates for re-registration and employment authorization document (EAD) renewal.  We expect that EADs set to expire on March 9, 2018, will be automatically extended for 6 months.  We will update this entry as soon as the Federal Register notice is released.

Buckle Your Seatbelts: 2018 Will Be a Watershed Year in Business Immigration

If 2017 is any indication, the new year will bring a fresh cascade of changes – both announced and unannounced, anticipated and unanticipated – in the business immigration landscape.  Few, if any, of these changes are expected to be good news for U.S. businesses and the foreign workers they employ.

In 2017, while much of the news media focused on the Trump Administration’s draconian changes to practices and policies that affected the undocumented – including ending the DACA Dreamer program, shutting down Temporary Protected Status for citizens of countries ravaged by war and natural disaster, and aggressively enforcing at the southern border and in “sensitive” locations such as churches, courthouses, and homeless shelters – relatively less attention has been paid to the steady, incremental erosion of rights and options for legal immigrants, particularly those who are sponsored for work by U.S. employers, under the Administration’s April 2017 “Buy American / Hire American” executive order.  There is no doubt that such restrictions to the legal immigration system will continue to cause business uncertainty and disruption in 2018.  Here’s what to expect:

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New California Law Imposes Additional I-9 Requirements on Employers

Effective January 1, 2018, AB-450, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 5, 2017, imposes the following requirements on public and private employers in California:

  • Except as otherwise required by federal law, an employer or other person acting on the employer’s behalf is prohibited from providing voluntary consent to an immigration enforcement agent to enter nonpublic areas of a place of labor unless the agent provides a judicial warrant, except as specified
  • Except as required by federal law, an employer or other person acting on the employer’s behalf is prohibited from providing voluntary consent to an immigration enforcement agent to access, review, or obtain the employer’s employee records without a subpoena or court order, subject to a specified exception
  • Requires an employer to provide current employees notice containing specified information, by posting in the language the employer normally uses to communicate employment information, of an inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other employment records conducted by an immigration agency within 72 hours of receiving the federal notice of inspection
  • Requires an employer, upon reasonable request, to provide an affected employee* a copy of the notice of inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms.
  • Prohibits the reverification of the employment eligibility of a current employee, except when required by federal law

Violations of each of the above provisions will subject employers to civil penalties ranging from $2,000 up $5,000 for a first violation and $5,000 to $10,000 for subsequent violations.

Employers in California should make sure to have in place an internal I-9 compliance policy and that employees who are responsible for administering the program and those who are the employers’ first points of contact to the general public are trained on AB-450’s new requirements.

* Employee identified by the immigration agency’s inspection results to be an employee who may lack work authorization or whose documentation has deficiencies.

USCIS Issues New Guidance Restricting who Qualifies as a TN Economist

On November 20, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issued a policy memorandum restricting TN nonimmigrant classification under the profession of Economist, to those who will primarily engage in activities consistent with the profession of Economist and specifically excluding those employed as Financial Analysts, Market Research Analysts, and Marketing Specialists. USCIS explains that the policy memorandum was necessary, because the lack of an in-depth description of the Economist profession in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which created the TN nonimmigrant classification, has led to inconsistent adjudications regarding which positions are encompassed under the Economist profession.

In its memorandum, USCIS explains that Economists generally specialize in either the analysis of individuals or firms to better understand the relationship between supply and demand or in the analysis of aggregated indicators to determine how different sectors of the economy are related to each other.  USCIS adds that Economists may apply economic analysis to issues in a variety of fields including labor, international trade, development, econometrics, education, health, and industrial organization.

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DHS Extends TPS for Honduras for Only 6 Months

DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Honduras 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 Honduras to re-register for TPS by  February 3, 2018.  Employment authorization documents held by qualifying individuals who timely re-register are automatically extended through July 5, 2018 (the USCIS web page indicates July 4, but the Federal Register notices indicates July 5). Employers can rely on the Federal Register notice for I-9 employment verification and re-verification purposes, which can be found here.

TPS typically is extended in 18-month increments, but the Secretary has the discretion to extend TPS for shorter periods.  Because the Secretary did not make a determination on Honduras’ designation by the statutory deadline (November 6, 2017), the extension was automatically extended for 6 months.  While DHS can still extend TPS further for Hondurans, it seems unlikely since DHS is ending TPS for other countries.  If TPS for Hondurans is not extended further, those unable to acquire another legal status will need to prepare to depart the United States by July 5, 2018.

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