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!

Bipartisan Bill Introduced in Senate Would Provide Up to 40,000 Unused Immigrant Visas for Doctors, Nurses

New legislation introduced on March 29, 2021, by Democratic and Republican senators would provide unused employment-based immigrant visas for up to 25,000 foreign nurses and 15,000 foreign physicians and their family members. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S. 1024) is intended to beef up the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are highlights:

  • The visas would be made available from a pool of recaptured visas that were unused in fiscal years 1992 through 2020, and would not be counted against the total number of immigrant visas reserved for professional nurses and physicians.
  • The visas would be exempt from per-country numerical limits and would be issued in order of the priority date assigned at the time the visa petition was filed.
  • The petitioner would need to attest that the hiring would not displace a U.S. worker.
  • Processing would be expedited.
  • The filing period would be limited to 90 days following the termination of President Biden's COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration.

The bill is supported by several dozen organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the National Rural Health Association, and others.

"Young, Durbin, Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill Addressing Shortage of Doctors, Nurses," Press Release, Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mar. 29, 2021

Read the Bill text

USCIS Completes Initial FY 2022 H-1B Cap Season Selections; Petitions May Be Filed Now

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on March 30, 2021, that it received enough electronic registrations during the initial registration period to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B numerical allocations (H-1B cap), including the advanced degree exemption (master's cap).

The agency notified all prospective petitioners with selected registrations that they are eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for the named beneficiaries. The filing period for petitions began on April 1, 2021. USCIS said that when completing the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker:

[P]lease ensure that the below question is included as Question 5 in Supplement H on page 13. If you have already filled out Form I-129 and this question was not included, you may replace Supplement H in your petition by printing out and completing pages 13 and 14 from the current version of Form I-129 on uscis.gov and including them with your petition. Starting July 1, 2021, we will only accept the 03/10/21 edition of Form I-129. Until then, you can also use the 09/30/20 and 01/27/20 editions.

The question to be included states, "If you selected a. or d. in Item Number 4., and are filing an H-1B cap petition (including a petition under the U.S. advanced degree exemption), provide the Beneficiary Confirmation Number from the H-1B Registration Selection Notice for the beneficiary named in this petition (if applicable)." 

Click here for FY 2022 H-1B Cap Season Updates, USCIS, Mar. 30, 2021

Click here for the H-1B Electronic Registration Process, USCIS, Mar. 4, 2021

Click here for H-1B Cap Season, USCIS, Mar. 31, 2021

DHS Extends I-9 Requirement Flexibility Until May 31, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an extension until May 31, 2021, of the flexibility in complying with requirements related to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic precautions. The temporary guidance had been set to expire March 31.

The flexibility applies only to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. 

Read the DHS announcement, Mar. 31, 2021

"Blank Space" Criteria Eliminated for Rejection of Forms

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has eliminated "blank space" form rejection criteria introduced in 2019 and reverted to the criteria it applied before October 2019.

USCIS will no longer reject the following forms based solely on whether an applicant leaves a blank space anywhere on the form: Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal; Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (under Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as Amended); and Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status.

However, USCIS said it may reject these forms, or delays might be created, if an applicant leaves required spaces blank, fails to respond to questions related to filing requirements, or omits any required initial evidence.

Click here for the USCIS announcement, April 1, 2021

ICE Announces New SEVIS Process for Cap-Gap Extensions

On March 26, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to remove the cap-gap extension link. This link allowed designated school officials (DSOs) to temporarily apply cap-gap relief to the record of an eligible F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a filed H-1B petition but is awaiting confirmation from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that their petition was selected for processing. USCIS implementation of the H-1B Electronic Registration Process in 2020 eliminated this need, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.

SEVIS will automatically add the cap-gap extension to the record of an eligible F-1 student who is a beneficiary of a pending cap-subject H-1B petition, ICE said. If the cap-gap extension notation is missing from an eligible student’s record or other changes are needed, DSOs must contact the SEVP Response Center (SRC) at 703-603-3400 or 800-892-4829 (email: SEVP@ice.dhs.gov) and request a data fix. 

"New SEVIS Process for Cap-Gap Extensions," SEVP Broadcast Message, Mar. 29, 2021

State Dept. Issues Update on Suspension of Entry for Certain Nonimmigrants

The Department of State issued an update on Presidential Proclamation 10052, which temporarily suspended the entry of certain H-1B, H-2B, J (for certain categories within the Exchange Visitor Program), and L nonimmigrants. That proclamation expired on March 31, 2021.

The Department said that applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications prioritized and processed in accordance with existing "phased resumption of visa services" guidance. Visa applicants who were previously refused visas due to the restrictions "may reapply by submitting a new application including a new fee."

The resumption of routine visa services, prioritized after services to U.S. citizens, is occurring on a post-by-post basis, the Department’s said: "Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on the services that post is currently offering." 

Read the update on Presidential Proclamation 10052, Dept. of State, Apr. 1, 2021

Class Action Filed Against DHS for L-2 and H-4 Processing Delays

On March 22, 2021, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and Wasden Banias, LLP, filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), challenging processing delays on extensions of status and employment authorization documents (EADs) for H-4 and L-2 nonimmigrant spouses.

AILA President Jennifer Minear said, "DHS can and must revoke the unnecessary biometrics requirements for H-4 and L-2 nonimmigrants, provide automatic work authorization while DHS processes EAD renewal requests, and allow EAD applicants to file their renewal applications sooner than 180 days prior to EAD expiration to prevent gaps in work authorization.'

Read AILA press release

USCIS Extends Flexibilities for Responding to Agency Requests

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has extended flexibilities in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. USCIS will consider a response to certain requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action. Additionally, the agency will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before taking any action. This flexibility applies to the documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice, or decision is between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, inclusive.

Affected documents include requests for evidence; continuations to request evidence (N-14); notices of intent to deny, revoke, rescind, or terminate regional centers; and motions to reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5.

Click here for the USCIS notice

SEVP Reports 2020 Drop in International Student Enrollment

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) reported a drop of 72 percent in new international student enrollment in U.S. schools in 2020 as compared to calendar year 2019. Decreases were attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era immigration policies. The annual report, which presents data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, also noted that international students chose business administration as a major most often in 2020, followed by second-language learning and computer science.

Also, according to the report:

  • The total number of SEVIS records for active F-1 and M-1 students was 1,251,569 in calendar year 2020, a decrease of 17.86 percent from calendar year 2019.
  • There were 122,699 pre- and post-completion optional practical training (OPT) students with an employment authorization document who reported working for an employer in calendar year 2020, compared to 138,898 in calendar year 2019—a nearly 12 percent decrease.
  • Chinese student enrollment declined in 2020 compared with 2019 (down by 91,936). Indian student enrollment also decreased (down by 41,761 in 2020 versus 2019).

Click here for SEVIS by the Numbers, Mar. 22, 2021

Read the SEVIS report announcement

State Dept. Proposes Increase in Passport Security Surcharge

The Department of State issued a proposed rule on March 26, 2021, to raise the passport security surcharge from $60 to $80.

Comments are due by May 25, 2021.

Click here for schedule of Fees for Consular Services—Passport Security Surcharge, Proposed Rule, Dept. of State

USCIS Issues Guidance on P-1A Internationally Recognized Athletes

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued updated policy guidance on internationally recognized athletes (P-1A nonimmigrants). The update in the USCIS Policy Manual provides more detailed guidance on the required prospective level of performance and provides USCIS's interpretation of, and examples related to, the undefined regulatory phrase, "major United States sports league or team" as it relates to internationally recognized P-1A athletes.

The guidance clarifies that "major United States sports league" is interpreted as "one that has a distinguished reputation commensurate with an internationally recognized level of performance, and "major United States sports team" means "a team that participates in such a league."

Click here for USCIS Policy Alert, PA-2021-04, Mar. 26, 2021

DHS Withdraws Affidavit of Support Proposed Rule

On March 19, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the withdrawal of a proposed rule, "Affidavit of Support on Behalf of Immigrants," published on October 2, 2020. The agency said that by withdrawing the rule, "DHS aims to reduce barriers and alleviate burdens on American families who wish to sponsor individuals immigrating to the U.S. within the legal immigration system." The withdrawal notice will be published in the Federal Register on March 22, 2021.

The proposed rule would have revised DHS regulations governing affidavit of support requirements. The withdrawal follows an executive order President Biden issued on February 2, 2021, "Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans," which revoked a related 2019 presidential memorandum.

Read DHS announcement, Mar. 19, 2021

Click her for unpublished version of DHS withdrawal notice, to be published on March 22, 2021

Read Executive Order 14012

Read Proposed Rule (Oct. 2, 2020)

USCIS Stops Applying Public Charge Final Rule to All Pending Applications and Petitions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stopped applying the public charge final rule to all pending applications and petitions on March 9, 2021. The agency removed content related to the vacated rule from the affected USCIS forms and posted updated versions of affected forms.

Starting April 19, 2021, USCIS will accept only the 03/10/21 edition of these forms: I-864, I-864A, I-864EZ, I-864W; I-539, I-539A; I-129CW, I-129CWR; I-129; I-485, I-485A, I-485J; and I-912. 

Read USCIS alert

Read USCIS final rule, Mar. 15, 2021

Click here for the litigation summary

Click here for USCIS forms

CBP Extends Temporary Travel Restrictions Between U.S. and Canada/Mexico

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that temporary travel restrictions between the United States and Canada, and between the United States and Mexico, at land ports of entry along the border (including passenger ferry services and pleasure boat travel) will remain in effect through April 21, 2021. Travel will be limited to that deemed "essential," due to continued transmission of the virus associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Register notice re U.S.-Canada travel restrictions

Federal Register notice re U.S.-Mexico travel restrictions

DHS Rescinds Public Charge Rule, Withdraws Appeals of Injunctions Blocking It

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rescinded regulations resulting from a final rule issued in August 2019 that was vacated by a federal district court. Under the now-rescinded rule, the government could deny applications for green cards, temporary nonimmigrant status, and naturalization if the government found they relied on—or were at risk of relying on—public benefits. The Biden administration also withdrew the federal government's appeals of injunctions blocking the DHS public charge rule. However, 11 Republican-led states said that they plan to ask courts to continue the litigation.

USCIS will issue updated guidance on affected forms. In the interim, USCIS said it will not reject any Form I-485 based on the inclusion or exclusion of Form I-944, and will not reject Forms I-129, I-129CW, I-539, or I-539A based on whether the public benefits questions (Forms I-129 (Part 6), I-129CW (Part 6), I-539 (Part 5), and I-539A (Part 3)) have been completed or left blank. Those issued Requests For Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) will not need to submit information or documents solely as required by the public charge rule. However, all other requests raised in the RFE/NOID must be answered.

Read DHS Secretary Statement on the 2019 Public Charge Rule," USCIS, Mar. 9, 2021

Read Final Rule: Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds; Implementation of Vacatur

Click here for USCIS guidance

Read Joint Stipulation to Dismiss, DHS v. State of New York

Read "States Seek to Take Over Defense of 'Public Charge' Rule," Reuters, Mar. 11, 2021

State Dept. Releases Guidance for Those Previously Refused Visas Under Travel Bans

On March 10, 2021, the Department of State issued guidance in response to President Biden's signing of two proclamations on January 20, 2021, that ended travel bans on certain nationals, based on visa type, from Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen.

Following the Department's review, eligible immigrant visa applicants whose entry was refused previously under the travel bans and who did not qualify for waivers before January 20, 2020, may submit new visa applications. Those whose entry was refused under the bans and were determined not to qualify for a waiver on or after January 20, 2020, may request their local embassy or consulate to reconsider their cases within one year of the date of waiver refusal without submitting a new application or fee.

Nonimmigrant visa applicants whose entry was refused previously due to the travel bans and who did not qualify for waivers may submit new visa applications.

The Department can immediately process visa applications for eligible individuals from the affected countries. However, local U.S. embassies or consulates may not be able to schedule all affected applicants for visa interviews immediately due to COVID-19-related restrictions. Applicants should consult the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to determine if their cases qualify for expedited processing.

Read Rescission of Presidential Proclamations 9645 and 9983, Dept. of State, Mar. 10, 2021

State Dept. Extends Expansion of Interview Waiver Eligibility

The Department of State, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, extended until December 31, 2021, a temporary expansion of the ability of consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification to those whose nonimmigrant visas expired within 48 months. The temporary policy was due to expire March 31, 2021.

Previously, only those applicants whose nonimmigrant visas expired within 24 months were eligible for interview waivers. 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," the Department of State said. Travelers should review the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for details on available services and eligibility information and instructions on applying for a visa without an interview.

Read "Expansion of Interview Waiver Eligibility," Dept. of State, Mar. 11, 2021

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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Hodkinson Law Group
3 More London Riverside
London
United Kingdom