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

In 2019, the large policy and enforcement shifts signposted in 2017 and 2018 continued to play out with stricter immigration enforcement across the board. While we don’t expect to see seismic shifts in the coming year, there are a few issues to watch for in 2020.

(1) H-1B “Specialty Occupation” Definition Change Likely to Stall in Court

USCIS has indicated it will be announcing an official change to the definition of “specialty occupation.” While we have already seen a detrimental shift in the H-1B adjudication process, this would be an official regulatory change. We expect that any attempt to re-interpret the H-1B statute as narrowly as possible will face a lengthy court battle.


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When traveling abroad for business, there are many things to remember – meeting schedules, presentation materials, business cards, dress clothes, etc. While immigration requirements can get lost in the shuffle, immigration documents should be on any business traveler’s pre-trip checklist. Forgetting required documentation can result in experiences that range from slightly inconvenient to potentially disastrous.
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