UPDATES as of July 1, 2020: Please see our new piece, Entry Ban Update, for additional information that has become available about how the proclamation is being enforced for Canadians, visa renewals, and exceptions.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, US immigration agencies have continued offering minor, but welcome, accommodations to individuals affected by COVID-19 who rely on immigration programs. While there are no groundbreaking changes, here is a roundup of the most notable changes in the last two months.
Continue Reading COVID-19: Updates on Operational Changes at US Immigration Agencies
After suspending all “premium processing” for more than two months during the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS today announced it will again accept premium fees (currently, $1,440 per form) and requests for expedited adjudication (currently, 15 calendar days) for Forms I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) and I‑140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker).
Continue Reading COVID-19 UPDATE: USCIS Premium Processing Returns Beginning June 1, 2020
On March 25, we reported that US Citizenship and Immigration Services had closed all local domestic offices, including asylum offices, field offices, and application support centers, due to COVID-19 contagion risks. Those closures, while initially short term, have been extended several times and remain in effect as of today.
Continue Reading COVID-19 UPDATE: USCIS To Reopen Certain Local Offices on June 4
As of May 1, 2020, when employers verify identity and employment authorization for their employees, they must use the October 21, 2019, edition of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.
Continue Reading USCIS Updates M-274 Handbook for Employers for I-9 Verification
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).
Continue Reading COVID-19: Are Nonimmigrants Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?
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:
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.
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.
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.
Continue Reading USCIS Will Not Close All International Offices as Previously Announced; Seven to Remain Open