In this issue
- Commercial Flights Still Available from UK to USA
- NEW Public Health Contact Form Available for Travelers to UK
- Dept. of Transportation Allows Chinese Air Carriers to Enter United States Twice Weekly 'In Aggregate'
- USCIS Resumes Non-Emergency, Face-to-Face Services to Public
- Trump Proclamation Limits Chinese Students and Researchers in the United States
- Premium Processing to Resume for Certain Petitions
- DHS Extends Border Restrictions with Mexico and Canada Until June 22
- Federal Court Rules Against USCIS in H-1B 'Itinerary' Case
- USCIS Introduces New Interactive Voice Response Telephone System
- ICE Extends E-Verify I-9 Requirements Flexibility for 30 Days
- USCIS Introduces Temporary Policy Changes for Certain Foreign Medical Graduates During COVID-19 Pandemic
- House Passes COVID-19 Aid Bill With Immigration Provisions; Bill Expected to Die in Senate
- USCIS Changes E-Verify and I-9 Central Email Addresses
- New Bill Would Reallocate 40,000 Unused Green Cards for Medical Workers
- Are Laid-Off H-1B Workers Entitled to COBRA Coverage?
Commercial Flights Still Available from UK to USA
Subject to the Presidential Proclamation darted 14th March, 2020, International flights from the UK to the United States are departing from London Heathrow Airport (LHR). Four carriers are running daily flights from LHR to the United States. Below is a list of carriers and possible destinations:
- Carriers:American, British, Delta, and United
- Destinations:Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C.
Commercial flights are still available from multiple UK airports connecting to London Heathrow for direct flights to the United States. Trains from Scotland to London are also still available; however, this may change at any moment. Please check the airport and rail websites for the latest information.
NEW Public Health Contact Form Available for Travelers to UK
Beginning June 8, 2020, individuals arriving in the UK must self-isolate for 14 days and may be contacted to verify compliance. All new arrivals will be required to provide UK officials with contact and travel information upon arrival. The public health contact information form must be completed prior to your arrival. The form may be submitted beginning 48 hours before arrival in the UK. The completed form must be presented upon arrival at the UK border, either by printing a copy or showing it on a phone.
Anyone failing to complete the public health contact information form or adhere to the new policy may be denied UK entry or be subject to fines. Transit passengers who have onward travel outside of the UK and who do not pass border control are exempt from self-isolation requirements.
Once the rules come into place you may be fined £100 if you refuse to provide your contact details in England, £1,000 if you refuse to self-isolate in England, or you could face further action. More information on enforcement measures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be posted on the U.S. Embassy London's website as soon as it is available.
Dept. of Transportation Allows Chinese Air Carriers to Enter United States Twice Weekly 'In Aggregate'
The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on June 5, 2020, that it will permit Chinese air carriers, in aggregate, the right to operate two weekly passenger flights to the United States, effective immediately.
DOT said it reversed its June 3, 2020, regulatory action to ban Chinese flights after the Civil Aviation Authority of China responded on June 4 by revising its restrictions to allow U.S. carriers the ability to operate one flight per week each to China. "As a result of China's willingness to permit U.S. carriers the opportunity to operate one weekly passenger flight each, [DOT] revised its June 3rd order today."
USCIS Resumes Non-Emergency, Face-to-Face Services to Public
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that as of June 4, 2020, certain USCIS field offices and asylum offices have resumed non-emergency, face-to-face services to the public. Application support centers will resume services later.
USCIS said it has enacted precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its reopened facilities, including social distancing, hand sanitizers provided at entry points, and mask requirements, among others. Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens. Visitors may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes before their appointments, or 30 minutes before naturalization ceremonies.
Click here for the USCIS notice, which includes additional requirements
Trump Proclamation Limits Chinese Students and Researchers in the United States
President Trump has issued a proclamation limiting Chinese students wishing to study in the United States to undergraduates under certain conditions, and limiting Chinese researchers. The proclamation states that the People's Republic of China (PRC) uses some Chinese students, mostly post-graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, to operate as "non-traditional collectors of intellectual property" in the United States. President Trump said that he therefore has determined that the entry of certain PRC nationals seeking to enter the United States "pursuant to an F or J visa to study or conduct research in the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States."
The proclamation also calls for agency review of "nonimmigrant and immigrant programs" and recommendations for "any other measures requiring Presidential action that would mitigate the risk posed by the PRC's acquisition of sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property."
Premium Processing to Resume for Certain Petitions
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume premium processing for Forms I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) and I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers) soon. Premium processing was suspended on March 20 due to COVID-19 pandemic issues.
The agency said it continues to process any petition with a previously accepted Form I-907 in accordance with the premium processing service criteria. Petitioners who had already filed an I-129 or I-140 form using the premium processing service before the March 20 suspension, but received no action and a refund, may refile their I-907 consistent with the timeline set forth in the notice, barring any changes USCIS may announce in the future.
DHS Extends Border Restrictions with Mexico and Canada Until June 22
On May 19, 2020, Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced the extension of border restrictions with Mexico and Canada until June 22, 2020. The restrictions, which temporarily limit the travel of individuals from those countries into the United States at land ports of entry along the border, limit travel to "essential travel" as defined in the notices.
Federal Court Rules Against USCIS in H-1B 'Itinerary' Case
On May 20, 2020, a U.S. district judge in Atlanta, Georgia, found that no statute or regulation requires a petitioner to submit a detailed itinerary in the way required by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) new interpretive memorandum. The court found no basis in the law or regulations "for requiring a petitioner to submit evidence of specific, qualifying work requirements and micro-location information for every single day of the visa period." Accordingly, the court said, the agency's interpretation of the statute and regulations as applied in this case "is owed no deference." A petitioner may meet its burden of showing non-speculative employment, service in a specialty occupation, and the regulatory requirement of an itinerary, if applicable, "without providing evidence with that level of micro-granularity.
The court noted that if USCIS finds that "there is a policy justification for requesting all of this information, it possesses the authority to promulgate new regulations by notice and comment." Because the court found nothing in the statute or regulations requiring a "detailed itinerary" setting forth everything the prospective visa beneficiary would be doing day by day for three years, there was no interpretive basis for the agency to suggest that such information is necessary or advisable in most cases to include in connection with an H-1B petition. The court determined that the agency had "misconceived the law" and remanded the case to the agency for reconsideration.
USCIS Introduces New Interactive Voice Response Telephone System
On May 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced a new interactive voice response telephone system for English and Spanish callers to the USCIS Contact Center. The new system allows a caller to speak to the system rather than select keypad options; receive links for forms and information by email or text; and provide real-time feedback through an optional survey.
The new system will be implemented in phases, so not all callers will interact with it immediately, USCIS said.
ICE Extends E-Verify I-9 Requirements Flexibility for 30 Days
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has extended temporary guidance that had been set to expire on May 19, 2020, for an additional 30 days.
Due to COVID-19-related precautions implemented by employers and employees, the Department of Homeland Security announced on March 19, 2020, that it would exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with the I-9 employment eligibility verification process.
Employers who were served notices of inspection by ICE during March and had not already responded were granted an automatic extension for 60 days from the effective date. ICE will grant an additional 30 days to these employers.
The notice states that employers are required to monitor the Department of Homeland Security and ICE websites for additional updates regarding when the extensions will be terminated and normal operations will resume.
USCIS Introduces Temporary Policy Changes for Certain Foreign Medical Graduates During COVID-19 Pandemic
On May 11, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced temporary policy changes concerning the full-time work requirement for certain foreign medical graduates and the provision of telehealth services by them in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. A new USCIS policy memorandum provides related guidance to USCIS officers for H-1B foreign medical graduates who have received waivers of the two-year foreign residence requirement through the practice of medicine with or based on the recommendation of an interested government agency (IGA) or through the Conrad State 30 program in response to the public health emergency prompted by the pandemic.
If an H-1B foreign medical graduate is temporarily unable to work full-time due to quarantine, illness, travel restrictions, or other consequences of the pandemic during the declared public health emergency period, USCIS officers will not consider such a failure to work full-time to be a failure to fulfill the terms of the contract under INA § 214(l)(2)(B). This is a limited flexibility and only relates to the foreign medical graduate's eligibility for future immigration benefits that would be affected by the re-imposition of the 2-year home residence requirement as the result of a contract violation. It does not affect a petitioning employer's responsibilities under the statutes and regulations relating to H-1B nonimmigrants.
Also, USCIS noted that the Immigration and Nationality Act, as well as regulations of the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State (DOS), are silent as to whether Conrad State 30 or IGA foreign medical graduates may provide telehealth services to meet their service requirement. Given this silence, USCIS and DOS have decided to interpret the authorities as providing flexibility to these foreign medical graduates during the public health emergency.
House Passes COVID-19 Aid Bill With Immigration Provisions; Bill Expected to Die in Senate
On May 15, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a COVID-19 relief bill (H.R. 6800) that includes immigration provisions. Among them is a provision to allow immigrant physicians battling COVID-19 in the United States reduced waits for permanent residence, and to expedite visas for health care workers applying for U.S. jobs from abroad.
The chances for passage of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act in the Senate appear dim, although some provisions may be considered separately. Some of the House provisions are similar to legislation introduced in the Senate, such as S. 3599, introduced May 5, 2020, which would reallocate previously authorized, unused immigrant visas for 25,000 nurses and 15,000 doctors, and family members, to alleviate shortages. President Trump threatened to veto the House bill if it reaches his desk.
USCIS Changes E-Verify and I-9 Central Email Addresses
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on May 6, 2020, that it recently migrated to Microsoft Office 365 and that, as of April 24, it is no longer able to receive and answer emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Those who sent an email to those addresses on or after April 24 and did not receive a response within 48 hours are asked to resend their messages to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
New Bill Would Reallocate 40,000 Unused Green Cards for Medical Workers
A new bill (S. 3599) introduced May 5, 2020, in the U.S. Senate would reallocate previously authorized, unused immigrant visas for 25,000 nurses and 15,000 doctors, and family members, to alleviate shortages. The filing period under the bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act would be limited to 90 days after termination of the President's COVID-19 emergency declaration.
Such visas, to be processed on an expedited basis, would not be subject to per-country numerical limitations and would be issued in order of the priority date assigned at the time the visa petition was filed.
The bill's final provisions and passage in the short term remain uncertain, as the House of Representatives is not in session.
Are Laid-Off H-1B Workers Entitled to COBRA Coverage?
H-1B workers who are laid off may be entitled to COBRA benefits, which allow an employee who was working for an insured employer group of 20 or more employees to purchase health insurance for up to 18 months after losing their job.
Department of Labor regulations require employers to offer the same benefits to H-1B workers as those offered to similarly employed U.S. workers. This includes insurance plans and means that any employer required to provide COBRA benefits to U.S. workers because it has more than 20 employees must also offer those benefits to terminated H-1B workers.
The Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL) notes that many laid-off H-1B workers do not know they are entitled to COBRA benefits or may be afraid to ask. ABIL recommends that they consult an experienced insurance agent to learn about their rights.
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: