In this issue
- Initial H-1B Registration Period Runs Through Noon AT March 20, 2020
- President Adds Iran to Entry Suspensions Related to Coronavirus
- USCIS, DOS Implement Public Charge Rule After Supreme Court Decision Staying Preliminary Injunction
- Immediate Three-Year Backlog Imposed on EB-3 and EB "Other Workers" Visa Categories in March; China-Mainland Born EB-5 Category Advances Rapidly
- USCIS Suspends Use of Pre-Paid Mailers for FY 2021 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions
- Trump Administration Quietly Uses Technicalities to Delay New Visa Applications
- ICE Ramps Up Efforts to Police STEM OPT Program
- Trump Administration Attempts Crackdown on ‘Sanctuary' Policies
- USCIS Releases Revised Forms and Updates Policy Manual on Public Charge Inadmissibility Final Rule
- USCIS Releases Statement in Response to Coronavirus Epidemic
Initial H-1B Registration Period Runs Through Noon AT March 20, 2020
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a reminder that the initial registration period for the fiscal year (FY) 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions opened at noon ET on March 1 and runs through noon ET on March 20, 2020. During this period, USCIS said, prospective petitioners and representatives can submit basic information to register.
Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives must use a myUSCIS online account to: (1) register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and (2) pay the associated $10 fee for each H-1B registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary. Prospective petitioners or their representatives can submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit, and store draft registrations before final payment and submission of each registration, USCIS said.
If USCIS receives enough registrations by March 20, the agency will randomly select registrations and send notify users via their USCIS online accounts by March 31, 2020.
Read USCIS reminder
President Adds Iran to Entry Suspensions Related to Coronavirus
President Trump issued a proclamation, effective as of 5 p.m. March 2, 2020, suspending the entry of immigrants or nonimmigrants who were present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This is in addition to China restrictions ordered under a proclamation issued on January 31, 2020.
The suspensions do not apply to U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs), spouses of U.S. citizens or LPRs, parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizens or LPRs (provided the U.S. citizen or LPR is unmarried and under 21 years of age), or siblings of U.S. citizens or LPRs (provided both are unmarried and under 21 years of age), along with several other categories.
During recent remarks, President Trump was asked whether he had plans to expand the suspensions to other countries, such as Italy, that have reported coronavirus cases. He responded, "Well, we're looking at that right now and we're looking at a couple of countries – a few countries that have a little bit disproportionately high number. And we're going to make that decision very soon." In response to a question, Mr. Trump also said he was "very strongly" considering new travel restrictions along the southern border to contain the coronavirus. He later appeared to change his position, saying "this is not a border that seems to be much of a problem right now."
Read Presidential Proclamation
USCIS, DOS Implement Public Charge Rule After Supreme Court Decision Staying Preliminary Injunction
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented the public charge rule nationwide on February 24, 2020, following a Supreme Court ruling issued February 21, 2020, staying a preliminary injunction in Illinois. USCIS will only apply the final rule to applications and petitions postmarked (or submitted electronically) on or after February 24, 2020. The Department of State (DOS) also implemented public charge requirements for overseas applications on the same date, including the new DS-5540, DOS Public Charge Questionnaire. DOS has indicated that it may apply the DS-5540 to applicants who have previously been found documentarily qualified for a visa before February 24.
The final rule, issued in August and originally scheduled to take effect in October, prescribes how the Department of Homeland Security will determine whether a person is inadmissible to the United States based on a "likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future," USCIS noted. The final rule also addresses USCIS's "authority to issue public charge bonds in the context of applications for adjustment of status," and includes a requirement that those seeking an extension of stay or change of status "demonstrate that they have not received public benefits over the designated threshold since obtaining the nonimmigrant status they seek to extend or change."
- Supreme Court opinion issued February 21, 2020, including a dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor
- Department of State's interim final rule published in October 2019
- DS-5540, DOS Public Charge Questionnaire
- Updated DOS Foreign Affairs Manual section on public charge
- USCIS revised forms and updated policy guidance
- USCIS policy alert
- USCIS announcement
- Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Public Charge Toolkit, including a "Totality of the Circumstances Worksheet" with ideas for positive evidence
- National Immigration Law Center, Protecting Immigrant Families page and find a summary of developments here
- News article
Immediate Three-Year Backlog Imposed on EB-3 and EB "Other Workers" Visa Categories in March; China-Mainland Born EB-5 Category Advances Rapidly
The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for March 2020 announced several notable developments:
- An immediate three-year backlog on EB-3 and EB "Other Workers" categories worldwide as of March, with implications for those with pending labor certifications and those whose status is expiring. The final action date listed is January 1, 2017, imposed immediately as of March for all future requests for visa numbers. "No forward movement of this date is expected in the foreseeable future," the bulletin notes.
- A "very rapid" advancement of the final action date for the EB-5 category, China-mainland born. The bulletin notes that despite a large number of registered China fifth preference demand, there are not enough applicants actively pursuing final action on their cases to fully use the numbers expected to be available under the annual limit.
USCIS Suspends Use of Pre-Paid Mailers for FY 2021 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on February 14, 2020, that it will not use pre-paid mailers to send out any communications or final notices for fiscal year 2021 cap-subject H-1B petitions, including those requesting consideration under the advanced-degree exemption.
USCIS noted that the process of printing and mailing the cap-subject H-1B petition approval notices by first-class mail is fully automated. "Using pre-paid mailers requires a separate, more time-consuming manual process. The existing automated process is more time efficient for both petitioners and USCIS. Because of this, we will use first-class mail as we work to process all cap-subject petitions in a timely manner," the agency said.
Read USCIS announcement
Trump Administration Quietly Uses Technicalities to Delay New Visa Applications
According to a recent report, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun automatically returning asylum applications and visa applications for certain categories if any fields are not filled in, whether or not the applicant has any information to put in the field. The resulting delays in some cases can lead to documents expiring or people losing their eligibility for immigration benefits.
Applications reportedly have been returned at least in part because a person had no middle name and thus did not fill in the middle-name field; because a person did not fill in a field for "Apt. #" even though they lived in a house; because a person left a "prior spouses" field blank since they were never married; because a child left a dates of employment field blank after entering "none" for employment history; and because a person had only three siblings so left the fourth-sibling field blank.
In response to queries from a reporter, USCIS said applicants "must provide the specific information requested for all the questions asked." USCIS said that if there is no information to put in a field, the applicant should mark it "none," "not applicable," or "unknown." This note is included on page 5 of the instructions for the asylum application, for example. This requirement was first applicable to asylum applications and more recently was extended to U visa applications.
ICE Ramps Up Efforts to Police STEM OPT Program
According to reports from the field, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increased audits of employers who hire STEM OPT (science, technology, engineering, and math optional practical training) students. The audits are being conducted to verify that students are being employed in a manner consistent with the minimum requirements of the STEM OPT program. Audits are occurring in the form of onsite inspections, often conducted on short notice.
Eligible F-1 nonimmigrant students with STEM degrees from Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified and accredited U.S. colleges and universities may apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension. Interested F-1 students must apply for and receive an employment authorization document from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To employ a STEM OPT student, employers must agree to a training plan that describes how the employment will further the foreign national's skills in their academic discipline. The training plan must be completed on Form I-983, Training Plan for STEM OPT Students. Form I-983 includes a list of obligations to which, upon signing, an employer is bound to obey. Once completed, Form I-983 is submitted to the foreign national's university for approval. If approved, the foreign national may apply to USCIS for a work permit.
Trump Administration Attempts Crackdown on ‘Sanctuary' Policies
The Trump administration has launched several efforts in an attempt to crack down on "sanctuary" policies.
For example, the Trump administration is challenging the state of New Jersey and King County, Washington (the county that includes Seattle) with lawsuits against their sanctuary policies. Among other things, the Department of Justice objects to King County's policy of preventing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from using King County International Airport (Boeing Field) to fly out people being deported. In 2017, Seattle sued the Trump administration over its threat to withhold federal money from "sanctuary cities."
The Trump administration also plans to deploy 100 tactical U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers from February to May in 10 U.S. cities, to work with ICE. The cities include Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Detroit; Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey; New York City; Los Angeles; and San Francisco. According to a CBP spokesperson, the officers will "enhance integrity of the immigration system, protect public safety, and strengthen our national security." Among other things, CBP agents will support immigration-related arrests.
The latest efforts come on the heels of the Trump administration's suspension of New Yorkers' eligibility to enroll in "trusted traveler" programs like Global Entry, over which the New York attorney general has filed suit.
- Read about the New York lawsuit
- DOJ statement on King County lawsuit
- Trump admin sues New Jersey Washington State County over Sanctuary
- Seattle files lawsuit over Sanctuary Cities funding threat
- Trump administration to deploy Border Patrol officers to sanctuary cities
- Border Patrol will deploy elite tactical agents to sanctuary cities
- Trump administration suing King County to allow deportation flights from Boeing Field
USCIS Releases Revised Forms and Updates Policy Manual on Public Charge Inadmissibility Final Rule
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published revised forms related to the final rule on the public charge ground of inadmissibility, which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including USCIS, implemented on February 24, 2020. Beginning on that date, applicants and petitioners must use new editions of the forms listed in a USCIS announcement.
In addition, except in Illinois, applicants for adjustment of status subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility and the final rule must submit Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency.
Certain classes of aliens (such as refugees, asylees, petitioners under the federal Violence Against Women Act, and certain T and U visa applicants) are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility and therefore are not subject to the final rule.
USCIS Releases Statement in Response to Coronavirus Epidemic
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released a statement summarizing its response to the worldwide spread of COVID-19, popularly known as the "coronavirus." Concerns about the virus have led to massive efforts to contain it, including quarantines and lockdowns.
Among other things, USCIS said it is temporarily closing its offices in Beijing and Guangzhou. "We will reschedule all affected appointments and will send new appointment notices to applicants," the agency said. Interested persons can check USCIS's Beijing and Guangzhou webpages for status updates (see links below).
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: