Unemployment insurance, as described in a recent blog post by our Labor and Employment colleagues, is a “joint federal-state program, administered separately by each state following guidelines established by federal law.”  While the requirements of these programs vary from state to state, eligibility criteria generally exclude nonimmigrants whose work authorization is tied to a specific position with a specific employer (e.g., TN, H-1B, and L-1 workers).

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted travel across the globe.  Many US travelers who entered under the Visa Waiver Program (commonly called “ESTA,” the acronym for the online pre‑authorization system) now find themselves on the horns of a dilemma:  leave at the end of their 90-day authorized stay and thus endanger their own health and potentially that of others, or overstay due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, US authorities are announcing a number of significant changes that impact everyone who relies on immigration programs to operate businesses or to live and work in the United States. Companies and their sponsored employees should be aware of the following changes announced within the past week:


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UPDATE: Law360 posted a version of this article as Expert Analysis on March 31, 2020.

As employers throughout the United States increasingly move to remote work arrangements for employees, they are confronted with challenges in completing Form I-9.  An employer must inspect an employee’s original identity and employment authorization documents in the physical presence of the employee within 3 business days after employment begins.  For remote hires, and for reverification of current employees working remotely, government agencies have relaxed some I-9 requirements and companies are developing temporary procedures to ensure compliance during the COVID-19 crisis.


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UPDATE – Thursday March 20 – Department of State Officially Announces the Suspension of ALL Routine Visa Appointments WORLDWIDE

Effective today, Friday March 20, the US Department of State is suspending routine visa services at all embassies and consulates worldwide. All routine (non-emergency) visa appointments will be cancelled until normal operations resume.  If applicants whose appointments are cancelled have already paid the MRV application fee, that fee will remain valid for a future appointment within one year.


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Overview

As of mid-March 2020, countries are responding in various ways to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Concerning immigration and movement of people around the world, these responses generally fall into a few categories, including travel warnings, travel restrictions, health screenings and quarantines, and extensions of immigration status for impacted individuals.

This article addresses the impact of the outbreak on international travel, with specific information from several countries. In a separate article, we addressed how the outbreak affects immigration workplace compliance. All of our COVID-19 articles will be updated as new information becomes available.


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Employers face many urgent issues in responding to the US outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID‑19.  The disease has forced employers to develop and implement workplace safety, mitigation, and business continuity plans.  These may include allowing employees to work from home or from alternate unaffected worksites, as well as outsourcing I-9 document reviews to agents in remote locations. Economic slowdowns have occurred in some sectors due to the global pandemic, requiring some companies to consider or implement temporary employee furloughs or even reductions in force.

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On January 31, 2020, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation amending Presidential Proclamation 9723, commonly called the “Travel Ban.”  This new proclamation imposes travel restrictions on certain nationals of countries the administration has determined to have inadequate identity-management practices, national security and public safety information practices, and otherwise pose a national security or public-safety risk.

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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, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

Below is a summary of the February Visa Bulletin, including Final Action