In this issue
- State Dept. Notes Continued Heavy Demand, Retrogressions in Several Employment-Based Visa Categories
- USCIS Requests Info on EB-5 Experience
- Online Visa, ESTA Applications Include New Social Media Question
- State Dept. Introduces New 'K' Risk Indicator for Travelers
- Regulatory Agenda Includes Stripping Employment Eligibility From H-4 Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders, Other Actions
- USCIS Accelerates Transition to Digital Immigration Processing, Announces I-539 Online Filing
- Trump Proposes Merit-Based Immigration Plan
- USCIS Clarifies Period of Authorized Stay for P-1S Essential Support Personnel of Individual Athletes
- New Publications and Items of Interest
State Dept. Notes Continued Heavy Demand, Retrogressions in Several Employment-Based Visa Categories
The Department of State's (DOS) Visa Bulletin for the month of June 2019 notes heavy demand in several employment-based visa categories:
- There continues to be an "extremely high rate of demand" for India employment first preference (E-1) visa numbers, which has resulted in retrogression of the final action date for the month of June to October 1, 2017. This action will be temporary.
- Continued heavy applicant demand is expected to result in the India employment fifth preference (E-5) category approaching the per-country annual limit during July. This is likely to result in the imposition of a July final action date in 2017. This action will be temporary, with the E-5 date for India "most likely" advancing to the summer or fall of 2017 for October.
- High demand also is expected to result in the Vietnam employment fifth preference (E-5) category reaching the per-country annual limit in July. This action will be temporary, with the Vietnam E-5 date "most likely" advancing to the fall or early winter of 2016 for October.
USCIS Requests Info on EB-5 Experience
On May 30, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) emailed a request for information, titled "Help Shape the EB-5 Digital Experience," from attorneys, accredited representatives, regional center owners, and petitioners about their experiences filing for regional center designations under the Immigrant Investor Program (I-924), annual certifications of regional centers (I-924A), or petitions by alien entrepreneurs (I-526). USCIS said it aims "to understand challenges and pain points of the application or petition process."
USCIS said it specifically wants feedback from representatives who have filed petitions or applications related to the EB-5 program in the last 12 months and work for a law firm with five or more employees; regional center owners who have filed regional center applications or annual certifications in the last 12 months; and petitioners who have filed a petition related to the EB-5 program in the last 12 months.
USCIS said that those with questions or who are interested should email and include the emailer's experience with EB-5 filings and role in the submission process; case-specific information should not be included. Some may be asked to participate in a group discussion.
Online Visa, ESTA Applications Include New Social Media Question
The Department of State's (DOS) online visa application (Form DS-160) now includes a new question about social media. The applicant is instructed to provide the names of each social media platform used within the last five years and the "username or handle you have used on that platform."
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application also has a social media question, although providing this information is optional, reportedly.
Click here for the DOS online visa application
Click here for the ESTA application
State Dept. Introduces New 'K' Risk Indicator for Travelers
The Department of State (DOS) has announced a new "K" risk indicator added to its travel advisories for U.S. citizens, to communicate "the risks of kidnapping and hostage-taking by criminal and terrorist actors around the world."
Travel advisories for 35 countries have been updated to include the "K" indicator: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russian Federation, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine (in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine), Venezuela, and Yemen.
Read the DOS announcement
Read the travel advisories
Regulatory Agenda Includes Stripping Employment Eligibility From H-4 Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders, Other Actions
The Trump administration recently announced its spring 2019 regulatory agenda.
On the list for the Department of Homeland Security are proposals (not final yet), among others, to:
- Revise the definition of "specialty occupation" to "increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest" foreign nationals via the H-1B program, revise the definition of "employment" and "employer-employee relationship" to "better protect U.S. workers and wages," and add requirements to "ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders"
- Increase monitoring and oversight of the EB-5 program and encourage investment in rural areas, including soliciting feedback on proposals for redefining components of the job creation requirement and defining conditions for regional center designations and operations
- Remove employment eligibility for H-4 spouses of H-1B workers
- Withdraw a regulatory provision stating that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must grant or deny an asylum applicant's application for employment authorization within 30 days
- "Promote greater accountability in the application process for requesting employment authorization and...deter the fraudulent filing of asylum applications for the purpose of obtaining Employment Authorization Documents"
- Raise fees for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program
USCIS Accelerates Transition to Digital Immigration Processing, Announces I-539 Online Filing
On May 22, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new strategy, eProcessing, to accelerate USCIS's transition to a "digital business model." USCIS said eProcessing "will be a complete digital experience, from applying for a benefit, to communicating with USCIS, through receiving a decision on a case."
- As a first step, certain visitors for business, visitors for pleasure, and vocational students can now file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, online. Additional visa classifications are coming soon, USCIS said.
- Included are single applicants (without co-applicants or legal/accredited representation) wishing to extend their stay who hold status as B-1 temporary visitors for business, B-2 temporary visitors for pleasure, F-1 academic students with a specific status expiration date, F-2 spouses or children of academic students with a specific expiration date, M-1 vocational students, and M-2 spouses or children of M-1 students.
Trump Proposes Merit-Based Immigration Plan
President Donald Trump proposed an immigration plan on May 16, 2019, that shifts the emphasis to a merit-based system to admit highly educated, high-skilled immigrants.
In a speech announcing the proposal on May 16, 2019, President Trump said the biggest change would be to "increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 percent to 57 percent," and possibly higher. Immediate family of new U.S. citizens, defined as spouses and children, would go "right to the front of the line."
President Trump also said the plan makes no change to the number of green cards allocated each year, but will "establish simple, universal criteria for admission to the United States," to be accomplished by an "easy-to-navigate points-based selection system." A would-be immigrant "will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs," he said.
Reaction to the proposed plan was mixed, according to reports. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) quickly proclaimed the plan "dead on arrival." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), minority leader in the Senate, said the White House plan was "a political document that is anti-immigration reform." Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), majority leader, said he "look[s] forward to reviewing the President's proposal."
Click here for the video and transcript
USCIS Clarifies Period of Authorized Stay for P-1S Essential Support Personnel of Individual Athletes
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its Adjudicators Field Manual to emphasize that, under current regulations, the periods of initial authorized stay are different for individual athletes (P-1A visa) and their essential support personnel (P-1S visa).
The P-1S classification is for "Essential Support Personnel" who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1 individual athlete, and who perform support services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker.
- Under existing DHS regulations, P-1A individual athletes have an initial period of authorized stay of up to 5 years, while their P-1S essential support personnel have an initial authorized stay limited to the period of time necessary to complete the sporting event, but not to exceed 1 year.
- USCIS also may authorize visa extension petitions for P-1S essential support personnel for a period necessary to complete the event, not to exceed 5 years, for a total period of stay not to exceed 10 years.
New Publications and Items of Interest
Advisories and tips:
- Community Advisory: Social Media, Criminalization, and Immigration has been published by the National Lawyers Guild's National Immigration Project. This advisory summarizes ways in which immigration agents may use social media against those in removal proceedings or involved in criminal cases.
- How to safeguard your data from searches at the border is the topic of several recent articles and blogs. See examples here and here.
- Listings and links to cases challenging executive orders, and related available pleadings
Government Agency Links
Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of State's latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers: