On January 13, 2020, the Trump administration filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court to lift a nationwide temporary injunction on the DHS “public charge” rule that was upheld by the Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit) last week.  The public charge rule, published in August 2019, expands the grounds on which the government can deny immigration benefits to various applicants seeking permanent residence (green card) status or work authorization to include those who have received certain public benefits, such as Medicaid, CHIP, and SNAP (see article, “DHS Reinterprets Public Charge”).  The rule gives the government broad discretion to deny an applicant if “at any time”, the applicant would “likely” become a public charge.  A medical condition alone could be enough for an immigration officer to exercise discretion to deny the application.

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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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Congress created temporary protected status (TPS) as part of the Immigration Act of 1990.  TPS allows qualifying persons inside the United States to remain and work lawfully until conditions in their home countries improve following civil war, natural disaster or similar extraordinary situations.  DHS has the discretion to determine when the circumstances in a particular country merit TPS designation.  Nationals of those countries already present in the United States can apply for TPS, along with permission to work lawfully.  TPS is usually granted in 6, 12, or 18 month increments, and can be renewed.  Haiti received the most recent TPS designation for a natural disaster, following the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation.

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In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will terminate the temporary protected status (TPS) program for nationals of El Salvador on September 9, 2019.  Employment authorization documents (EADs) held by qualifying individuals that expired on March 9, 2018, were automatically extended through September 5, 2018, providing applicants time to apply for

In what seems to be a continuing effort to limit legal immigration, DHS issued a final rule that reinterprets “public charge” as a ground of inadmissibility. The new interpretation is scheduled to take effect October 15, 2019, but has already been challenged in several federal courts, which may delay the effective date.

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Even though the United States ended the compulsory military draft on January 27, 1973, it maintains a database of eligible men used to provide “trained and untrained manpower to the Department of Defense in a national emergency.” The agency that manages this database, the “Selective Service System”, is alive and well, as is the requirement

Applicants for US visitor, student, and work-related nonimmigrant visas, as well as family-based and employment-based immigrant visas (“green cards”), now have to provide information about the social media platforms used over the preceding 5-year period.  The updated visa application forms seek information about the most popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. 

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will terminate the temporary protected status (TPS) program for nationals of El Salvador on September 9, 2019.  Employment authorization documents (EADs) held by qualifying individuals that expired on March 9, 2018, were automatically extended through September 5, 2018, providing applicants time to apply

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that because the conditions in Nepal no longer support its designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the designation set to expire on July 24, 2018, will now terminate on June 24, 2019.  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.

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