As a result of the expanding COVID-19 virus, Hodkinson Law Group is taking extra measures to ensure the safety of all staff while we simultaneously strive to provide a high level of service to our clients. 

In an effort to maintain this balance we have altered our schedules to allow staff to work remotely.  Our response times may be slower than normal, as we may be working with limited staff and resources. Your understanding is greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

DHS Sends H-1B, Work Authorization Rules to OMB for Review Before Publication

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has sent two rules to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review before publication:

  • An interim final rule on the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program. The rule is expected to redefine what constitutes an H-1B specialty occupation and an employer-employee relationship. In addition, DHS will propose additional requirements "to ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders." The rule has been listed in DHS's regulatory agenda since 2017.

Some observers see this rule as yet another pre-election move by the Trump administration to restrict immigration. Lawsuits are likely to follow the interim rule's publication, as there will be no notice-and-comment phase before the rule takes effect.

  • A proposed rule to eliminate eligibility for employment authorization for certain people who have final orders of removal but are temporarily released from custody on an order of supervision, with limited exceptions. DHS said it will also make other proposals related to eligibility and factors DHS will consider when adjudicating discretionary employment authorization applications filed by those who have been convicted of aggravated felonies or who have committed "violent or dangerous" crimes.

It is unclear when the rules will be published in the Federal Register. 

Read DHS description of H-1B rule

Read DHS description of work authorization rule

Read the "Proposal to Overhaul H-1B Visa Program Under White House Review," Bloomberg Law

Read "H-1B Visa Denials Continue to Mount for Companies," Forbes

DHS To Propose Major Expansion of Biometrics Collection and Use

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expected to publish a proposed rule on September 11, 2020, to expand the collection and use of biometrics by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Based on an advance copy of the notice of proposed rulemaking, DHS is expected to propose:

  • That any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or individual filing or associated with an immigration benefit or request, including U.S. citizens, must appear for biometrics collection without regard to age unless DHS waives or exempts the biometrics requirement.
  • To authorize biometrics collection, without regard to age, upon arrest, for purposes of processing, care, custody, and initiation of removal proceedings.
  • To define the term "biometrics."
  • To increase the biometric modalities that DHS collects, to include iris images, palm prints, and voice prints.
  • That DHS may require, request, or accept DNA test results, including a partial DNA profile, to prove the existence of a claimed genetic relationship, and that DHS may use and store DNA test results for the relevant adjudications or to perform any other functions necessary for administering and enforcing immigration and naturalization laws.
  • To modify how Violence Against Women Act and T nonimmigrant petitioners demonstrate good moral character, and remove the presumption of good moral character for those under the age of 14.
  • To further clarify the purposes for which biometrics are collected from individuals filing immigration applications or petitions to include criminal history and national security background checks; identity enrollment, verification, and management; secure document production; and administering and enforcing immigration and naturalization laws.

Read Advance copy of proposed rule

Read "Homeland Security Proposes Expanded Biometric Collection, Including DNA for Family Relationships," CNN

USCIS Issues New Policy Guidance on Final Fee Rule

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued guidance on the final fee rule that was published on August 3, 2020. The new policy guidance describes the final rule's adjustments in fees for specific forms. It also provides guidance on fee exemption and waiver policies, new premium processing time limits, and other changes made by the fee rule. 

Read USCIS announcement

Read USCIS policy alert

Read USCIS final rule

USCIS Policy Manual

USCIS Cancels Planned Furloughs But Predicts Further Backlogs and Slowdowns; House Passes Related Bill

Just five days before furloughs were set to begin for more than 13,000 employees of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency announced that it was canceling those plans. USCIS said it now expects to be able to maintain operations through the end of fiscal year 2020 due to a combination of "unprecedented" spending cuts and a "steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts."

USCIS said, however, that averting the furlough will come at a "severe operational cost" that will "increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs." The agency pled for congressional interventional "to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021" and return it to normal operating procedures.

Specifically, USCIS said it will achieve additional cost savings through "descoping" federal contracts that assist USCIS adjudicators in processing and preparing case files as well as myriad other support activities. USCIS did not detail what it meant by "descoping," but often that means reducing the deliverables due without terminating a contract, so the contractor is performing less work and getting paid less. USCIS anticipates that these cost-cutting actions will lead to "increased wait times for pending case inquiries with the USCIS Contact Center, longer case processing times, and increased adjudication time for aliens adjusting status or naturalizing. Naturalization ceremonies will continue."

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a related bill, H.R. 8089 (the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act). Among other things, the bill would increase premium processing fees for certain visa applications from $1,440 to $2,550 and extend premium processing service to other visa categories. Consideration or passage of this bill in the Senate is uncertain. 

Read USCIS news release

Read Text of H.R. 8089

Read Summary of H.R. 8089

State Dept. Expands Interview Waiver Eligibility for Certain Nonimmigrants

The Department of State (DOS) has temporarily expanded the ability of consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for nonimmigrant visas in the same classification.

Previously, only those applicants whose nonimmigrant visas expired within 12 months were eligible for interview waivers. DOS has temporarily extended the expiration period to 24 months. This policy is in effect until December 31, 2020. DOS said this change "will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff." 

Read DOS news release

EAD Printing Delays Lead to USCIS I-9 Policy Flexibility

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has acknowledged production delays in printing Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, USCIS said, foreign nationals may use Form I-797, Notice of Action, with a notice date "on or after December 1, 2019, through and including August 20, 2020," informing the applicant of approval of Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, as a Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) List C #7 document that establishes work authorization, even though the notice states it is not evidence of that. "Employees may present their Form I-797 Notice of Action showing approval of their I-765 application as a List C document for Form I-9 compliance until December 1, 2020," USCIS said.

For I-9 completion, employees who present a Form I-797 Notice of Action described above for new employment must also present their employer with an acceptable List B document that establishes identity. By December 1, 2020, USCIS said, employers must reverify employees who presented the I-797 Notice of Action as a List C document. "These employees will need to present their employers with new evidence of employment authorization from either List A or List C," USCIS said.

This flexible policy is part of a proposed settlement to resolve a proposed class action lawsuit challenging delays in the printing of EADs. The lawsuit claims the agency has a printing backlog of approximately 75,000 EADs. 

Read USCIS notice

USCIS Reminds F-1 Nonimmigrants in Post-Completion OPT and DSOs of Severe Consequences for Not Entering Employer Info in SEVIS

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a reminder on August 18, 2020, to

F-1 nonimmigrant students and their designated school officials (DSOs) that they must update the employer information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), including unemployment data, because "exceeding unemployment limits can result in a loss of status." USCIS said that SEVIS "will count each day without employer information toward the total number of unemployment days allowed."

F-1 nonimmigrants must notify their DSOs within 10 days of any changes in their personal or employment information. In turn, DSOs must update SEVIS with the F-1 nonimmigrant's information within 21 days. USCIS said that in addition to a possible loss of status, failure to timely update employer information in SEVIS and thus exceeding unemployment limits could result in USCIS's initiating revocation proceedings for the F-1 nonimmigrant's employment authorization document or negatively affect the F-1 nonimmigrant's future benefit requests filed with USCIS.

Read USCIS notice

State Dept.'s Visa Bulletin Includes Info on Employment Limit for FY 2020 and DV-2021 Results and Timetable

The Department of State's (DOS) Visa Bulletin for the month of September 2020 includes modest forward movement in the family-based immigration categories. There was no movement in the employment-based preference categories, with the exception of a slight move forward for India and China in the EB-1 category. September’s bulletin includes the following information:

  • The employment preference numerical limit for fiscal year (FY) 2020 is 156,253. For FY 2020, the per-country limit is 26,758. The dependent area annual limit is 7,645.
  • The Kentucky Consular Center in Williamsburg, Kentucky, has registered and notified the winners of the DV-2021 diversity visa lottery. Approximately 132,404 applicants have been registered and notified and may now make an application for an immigrant visa from among the 55,000 permanent resident visas available under this program for the fiscal year. Selected applicants who do not receive visas by September 30, 2021, will derive no further benefit from their DV-2021 registration. The bulletin also includes a country-by-country breakdown of those registered for the DV-2021 program.

Dates for the DV-2022 program registration period will be widely publicized in the coming months.

Read September Visa Bulletin

USCIS Suddenly Begins Selecting New H-1B Lottery Winners

According to reports, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) experienced an unexpected decline in H-1B filings and therefore is selecting additional H-1B lottery winners. Some immigration attorneys say they are suddenly receiving email notifications from USCIS. The reports say that the selections are being made from previous H-1B submissions.

Those who applied for the H-1B lottery in the spring are being advised by practitioners to log in to their USCIS online accounts now to check status for new H-1B selections. Reportedly, the new notices say "August 2020 Selection of Reserve Registration" with a filing period of August 17, 2020, to November 16, 2020. Petitions must include a start date of October 1, 2020.

Contact your Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers attorney for advice in specific situations.

Read "FY 2021 Cap-Subject H-1B Filing Season," In the Spotlight, American Immigration Lawyers Association

Read "Second Round H-1B Lottery Expected to Occur This Week?", Wolfsdorf Rosenthal

Watch "Second Round H-1B Lottery Results FY 2021 Season," RedBus2US

Executive Order Heightens Scrutiny of Contractors Employing Foreign Workers

President Donald Trump issued a new executive order on August 3, 2020, "Executive Order on Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers." The order instructs the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security to take action to protect U.S. workers from "any adverse effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa holders at job sites (including third-party job sites), including measures to ensure that all employers of H-1B visa holders, including secondary employers, adhere to the requirements of section 212(h)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(n)(1))."

The order, which makes no immediate changes, also instructs the heads of each executive department and agency that entered into contracts in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to assess whether contractors (including subcontractors) used temporary foreign labor for contracts performed in the United States. The order further asks for information on:

  • The nature of the work performed by temporary foreign labor on such contracts; whether opportunities for U.S. workers were affected by such hiring; and any potential effects on national security;
  • Whether contractors (including subcontractors) performed in foreign countries services previously performed in the United States and, if so, whether opportunities for U.S. workers were affected; whether affected U.S. workers were eligible for assistance under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program; and any potential effects on national security; and
  • Any negative impact of contractors' and subcontractors' temporary foreign labor hiring practices or offshoring practices on the economy and efficiency of federal procurement and on national security.

Among other things, the order also asks the heads of each agency that enters into contracts to "propose action, if necessary and as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to improve the economy and efficiency of Federal procurement and protect the national security." 

Read Executive Order

Court Extends Temporary Restraining Order in Case Challenging EAD Delays

On August 3, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio extended a temporary restraining order (TRO) in a case challenging delays in issuance of employment authorization documents (EADs). On August 6, the court extended the TRO to August 24, 2020. The latest extension is intended to allow the parties time to negotiate a consent decree to resolve the plaintiff's claims.

The plaintiff, arguing on behalf of approximately 75,000 putative class members, sought emergency relief requiring USCIS to print and issue EADs immediately. The plaintiff stated that USCIS significantly slowed and/or stopped printing EADs, which are essential for those with work authorization to obtain or keep their jobs. The plaintiff noted that USCIS had not provided the EADs to which the plaintiff and class members were legally entitled because the agency terminated its contract with a third party without any intention or plan to replace that contract with another contract or method to print and issue EADs in a timely manner.

Click her to see Subramanya v. USCIS

Read August 6, 2020, order

Read August 3, 2020, order

Courts Rule, Agencies Issue Guidance on Public Charge Rule Injunction

On August 4, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit extended a temporary restraining order in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont, upholding a prior injunction against the public charge final rule implemented by the Trump administration in February 2020.

Also, on July 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) issued a nationwide injunction barring the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective the public charge final rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stated that as long as the SDNY decision is in effect, the agency will apply the 1999 public charge guidance that was in place before the public charge rule was implemented on February 24, 2020, to the adjudication of any application for adjustment of status on or after July 29, 2020. In addition, USCIS said it will adjudicate "any application or petition for extension of nonimmigrant stay or change of nonimmigrant status on or after July 29, 2020, consistent with regulations in place before the Public Charge Rule was implemented; in other words, we will not apply the public benefit condition."

USCIS noted:

For applications and petitions that USCIS adjudicates on or after July 29, 2020, pursuant to the SDNY injunction, USCIS will not consider any information provided by an applicant or petitioner that only relates to the evidence required by the Public Charge Rule, including information provided on the Form I–944 or any supporting documentation included with that form, or information on the receipt of public benefits in Part 5 on Form I–539, Part 3 on Form I–539A, Part 6 on Form I–129, or Part 6 on Form I–129CW, or any additional documentation pertaining to the public benefit condition. Applicants and petitioners whose applications or petitions are postmarked on or after July 29, 2020, should not include the Form I–944 or provide information about the receipt of public benefits on Form I–485, Form I–129, Form I–129CW, Form I–539, or Form I–539A.

USCIS will issue guidance regarding the use of affected forms. In the interim, USCIS will not reject any Form I–485 on the basis of the inclusion or exclusion of Form I–944, nor Forms I–129 and I–539 based on whether Part 6, or Part 5, respectively, has been completed or left blank.

In any public charge inadmissibility determination, USCIS said, it will consider the receipt of public benefits consistently with prior public charge guidance.

The Department of State (DOS) also issued a statement on August 7, 2020, in relation to the SDNY ruling. DOS said it is complying with the order and is updating its guidance to consular officers on how to proceed under the preliminary injunction. In the interim, DOS said:

[V]isa applications that appear to be ineligible under INA 212(a)(4) will be refused for administrative processing to allow for consultation with the Department, including legal review to ensure compliance with applicable court orders. Visa applicants are not requested to take any additional steps at this time and should attend their visa interviews as scheduled. Applicants are not required to complete nor should they present the DS–5540, Public Charge Questionnaire.
Read "Injunction of the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule," USCIS

Read USCIS Policy Manual, Alert, Part G—Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

Read Public Charge page, USCIS

Read "Update on Public Charge," DOS

Read Prior public charge guidance, Federal Register notice (March 28, 1999)

"Featured Issue: Public Charge Changes at USCIS, DOJ, and DOS,"

State Dept. Issues Additional Guidance on National Interest Exceptions

COVID-19-related travel bans remain in place for several countries and regions. The Department of State (DOS) released guidance on July 22, 2020, stating that certain travelers may qualify for national interest exceptions. Subsequently, DOS updated its guidance on July 30, 2020, on national interest exceptions.

The July 30 guidance lists exceptions for certain H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, J-2, L-1, and L-2 visas, and for those aging out of their current immigrant visa classifications.

Read "National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak," DOS, issued July 30, 2020

Read "National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland," DOS, issued July 22, 2020

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:

Attorneys at Hodkinson Law Group

Kehrela Hodkinson

Principal/Immigration Lawyer - California State Bar, 1980

Since 1994, Mrs. Hodkinson has exclusively practiced U.S. immigration law in London. She represents a broad range of corporate and individual clients in connection with temporary (non-immigrant) visas and both employment and family-based permanent (immigrant) visa petitions.

She also provides advice relating to complex issues of waivers on grounds of inadmissibility, maintenance, and abandonment of permanent resident status, and renunciation (expatriation) of U.S. citizenship.

Publications

Kehrela Hodkinson's
Publications

Kehrela Hodkinson quoted in Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, regarding potential issues of inadmissibility resulting from arrest of professional golfer, Thobjorn Olesen.

August 6th, 2019

Discussion Leader on Panel entitled Consular Processing: What Things go Wrong”, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Orlando, FL

June 1st, 2019

Renunciation of US Citizenship – Why Would a Client “Give It All Up”.

April 15th, 2019

Invited to serve on the Editorial Board of the AILA Law Journal which will cover current and pragmatic topics related to the rapidly changing immigration law landscape and will be produced biannually, commencing 2019.

December 1st, 2018

Discussion Leader for an American Lawyers Association teleconference on the topic of visa processing in London.

December 1st, 2018

Kehrela Hodkinson, US immigration lawyer and founder of Hodkinson Law Group, told The Independent any presidential order over birthright citizenship would face “many constitutional challenges”, including requests for an injunction against implementation, much like what happened with Mr Trump’s initial travel ban on a number of Muslim-majority countries.

October 30th, 2018

Interviewed by The Independent, a UK newspaper, regarding the immigrant visa category by which Melania Trump’s parents obtained their permanent resident status.

February 22nd, 2018

A chapter The Waivers Book, 2nd Edition, published by American Immigration Lawyers Association

December 1st, 2016
Memberships and affiliations

Kehrela Hodkinson's
Memberships and affiliations

ABIL (Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers)

Founding member of ABIL, which is comprised of 19 of the top U.S. business immigration law firms, has over 140 attorneys devoted to business immigration in 21 major U.S. cities, plus Cologne, Hong Kong, London, Monterrey, Mumbai, Shanghai, Tokyo, Toronto, and Vancouver. Founding member and first Chair of Rome District Chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association.


Multiple leadership roles in the American Immigration Lawyers Association

  • 2011-2012 B-1 in lieu of H-1 Task Force
  • 2011-2012 Department of State Liaison Committee
  • 2011-2012 Military Assistance Program Task Force
  • 2011-2012 Rome District Chapter Pro Bono Committee Chair
  • 2010-2011 Department of State Liaison Committee
  • 2010-2011 Distance Learning Committee
  • 2010-2011 Rome District Chapter Pro Bono Committee Chair
  • 2009-2010 Midyear Conference Committee
  • 2009-2010 Department of State Liaison Committee
  • 2008-2009 Chair Rome District Chapter
  • 2007-2008 Interim Chair Rome District Chapter

American Bar Association


International Bar Association


American Women Lawyers in London


Society of English and American Lawyers


Nominated by peers to the International Who’s Who of Business Immigration Lawyers

Sharon L. Noble

Of Counsel

Sharon Noble has exclusively practiced U.S. immigration law since 1996, concentrating on business-related immigration matters with an emphasis on both non-immigrant visa petitions for corporate employees, individual investors and entrepreneurs as well as employment based immigrant petitions, extraordinary ability petitions and outstanding researcher petitions. Ms. Noble worked with Ms. Hodkinson in London for seven years before returning to the United States in 2003. She is now Of Counsel to Hodkinson Law Group, working remotely from California. Prior to 1996, Ms. Noble practiced corporate real estate and health care law in Los Angeles. With Ms. Noble’s prior corporate experience, she possesses a strong business background and exceptional writing skills, both of which have proven invaluable to her immigration practice.

Publications

Sharon L. Noble's
Publications

A chapter The Waivers Book, 2nd Edition, published by American Immigration Lawyers Association

December 1st, 2016

Tasha N. Cripe

Of Counsel

Tasha Cripe continues to assist our clients in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications of waivers of grounds of inadmissibility. She is a member of the Illinois State Bar and is actively involved in The American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program.

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