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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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 – 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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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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USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli announced today, via Twitter, that USCIS will close all but seven of its international field offices, leaving only the offices in Beijing, Guanghzou, Guatemala City, Mexico City, Nairobi, New Delhi and San Salvador to service the many US citizens and permanent residents who reside abroad. USCIS has also made the official announcement on their website. The decision leaves the entire continents of South America and Europe without a USCIS office.  Although not ideal, this announcement still marks a welcome change from USCIS’s prior announcement, in March 2019, by then-Director Francis Cissna that all twenty international offices would be closed and their workload shifted to domestic offices.

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Since March 2019, all applicants who file Form I-539 Application To Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status have been required to appear for biometrics appointments so that US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) can compare their biometric data against their identity documents and forward the data to the FBI for security screenings.

Why Is USCIS Taking

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published revised Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.  Applicants may continue to file the current Forms I-539 and Supplement A until March 21, 2019; as of March 22, 2019, only the revised I-539 and I-539A will be

On February 11, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a revised Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Status.  The revised form will publish and become effective on March 11, 2019.  As of the effective date, USCIS will only accept the revised Form I-539.  Affected foreign nationals include spouses and children of H-1B and L

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced today that the final rule amending DHS regulations governing H-1B cap-subject petitions will be published in the Federal Register on January 31, 2019, and will become effective on April 1, 2019.

The new rule implements the electronic registration requirement, but suspends it for the FY2020 H-1B cap season.

In August 2017, rumors began circulating that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was denying applications for advance parole if the applicant had departed the US before the application was approved.

Soon after these reports surfaced, USCIS officially confirmed the change, which was implemented without formal announcement or advance notice of any kind.  Since then, USCIS