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!

President Biden Suspends Entry of Noncitizens/Non-LPRs Traveling From India; U.S. Mission in India Announces Limits on Visa Services

President Biden has issued a proclamation suspending the entry of non-U.S. citizens who were physically present within India during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, with some exceptions. The proclamation takes effect May 4, 2021, and will remain in effect until terminated by the President.

The proclamation states that India "is experiencing widespread, ongoing person-to-person transmission of the virus" that causes COVID-19 and its variants. The proclamation cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has concluded that proactive measures are required to protect U.S. "public health from travelers entering the United States from that jurisdiction."

The ban on entry does not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs), noncitizen nationals of the United States, noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens or LPRs, noncitizen members of the U.S. armed forces, noncitizens whose entry is in the national interest; noncitizens traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the coronavirus, and several other categories.

The White House has alerted U.S. airlines and Congress. Also, the U.S. embassy and consulates in India announced significant temporary limitations on visa and other services.

Read "A Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019"

Read "Biden Administration to Restrict Travel From India Starting Tuesday"

Click here for the announcement, U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India

State Dept. Announces Global National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

On April 27, 2021, the Department of State (DOS) announced national interest exceptions to all regional travel restrictions currently in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DOS said that students seeking to start studies in the fall, certain academics, journalists, and individuals who provide critical infrastructure support in countries affected by a geographic COVID-19 restriction may now qualify for a national interest exception. This includes qualified applicants who have been in Brazil, China, Iran, or South Africa.

DOS also said that the pandemic "continues to limit the number of visas our embassies and consulates abroad are able to process," and that visa applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for the latest information about visa appointment availability.

Read "Uniform Global National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions"

USCIS Reverses Trump Policy, Instructs Adjudicators to Resume Granting Deference to Prior Determinations in Petition Validity Extension Requests

Effective immediately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy guidance on April 27, 2021, to generally restore its 2004 instructions directing officers to defer to prior determinations of eligibility when adjudicating petition extensions involving the same parties and facts as the initial petition. USCIS had rescinded the 2004 guidance in 2017.

The updated policy clarifies that USCIS will once again give deference unless there was a material error, material change in circumstances or eligibility, or new material information that adversely impacts the petitioner's, applicant's, or beneficiary's eligibility. The updated policy also affirms that USCIS "considers, but does not defer to, previous eligibility determinations on petitions or applications made by other U.S. government agencies," and that "officers make determinations on the evidence of record in the petition or application under adjudication."

Read "Deference to Prior Determinations of Eligibility in Requests for Extensions of Petition Validity"

Read "USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on Deference to Previous Decisions"

State Dept. Announces Tiered Immigrant Visa Prioritization

On April 30, 2021, the Department of State (DOS) announced a tiered prioritization approach to "triage" immigrant visa applications in light of reduced operating capacity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main categories of immigrant visas in priority order are:

  • Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), and certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government)
  • Tier Two: Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
  • Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
  • Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas

Read "Immigrant Visa Prioritization"

SSA Ends "No-Match" Letters

According to reports, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has ended the practice of sending employers "no-match" letters, called Employer Correction Request Notices. SSA said it will instead work to make it "better, easier and more convenient" for employers to report and correct wages electronically. The letters, which inform employers when W-2 information doesn’t match SSA’s records, were discontinued in 2012 but resurrected in March 2019.

Advocates had asked the agency to eliminate the letters, which they said caused problems such as workers losing their jobs due to mistakes in the database.

Read "Immigration Advocates Say End of ‘No-Match Letters’ a Victory for Workers"

Read " ‘No-Match’ Letters Are Back: What Employers Need to Know"

President Biden Orders CBP, ICE to Change Terminology

According to reports, under orders of the Biden administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued memoranda to their employees to stop using certain terms and replace them with others.

Examples include:

  • "alien"—use "noncitizen" or "migrant"
  • "alienage—use "noncitizenship"
  • "illegal alien"—use "undocumented noncitizen," "undocumented individual," or "migrant"
  • "unaccompanied alien children"—use "noncitizen unaccompanied children"
  • "assimilation"— use "integration" or "civic integration"
  • "immigrant assimilation"— use "immigrant integration"

Read "U.S. Under Biden Will No Longer Call Migrants ‘Illegal Aliens’"

Read "Under Joe Biden, United States Will No Longer Use the Term ‘Illegal Aliens’ to Describe Migrants"

Read "ICE to Stop Using the Term ‘Illegal Alien’ Referring to Immigrants"

State Dept. Updates Travel Advisories Due to Ongoing Pandemic

The Department of State expanded its travel advisories to warn U.S. citizens not to travel to many areas due to ongoing "unprecedented risks" posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department is warning travelers against going to "approximately 80% of countries worldwide." 

Click here for State Dept. tweet on updated travel advisories

Read the State Dept. Travel Advisories

Click here for the color-coded map showing travel advisory levels worldwide

State Dept. to Issue Travel Warnings Amid ‘Unprecedented’ COVID-19 Risks"

F-1 Students Seeking OPT Can Now File Form I-765 Online

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 12, 2021, that F-1 students seeking optional practical training (OPT) can now file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, online if they are filing under one of these categories:

  • (c)(3)(A), Pre-Completion OPT
  • (c)(3)(B), Post-Completion OPT
  • (c)(3)(C), 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students

USCIS emphasized that the option to file Form I-765 online is only available to F-1 students filing Form I-765 for OPT, noting that "[i]f an applicant submits Form I-765 online to request employment authorization on or after April 15, but is eligible for a different employment authorization category, USCIS will deny the application and retain the fee. As USCIS continues to transition to paperless operations, the agency will work to expand online filing for Form I-765 to additional categories."

To submit a form online, an individual must first create a USCIS online account at myaccount.uscis.gov. The free account allows people to submit forms, pay fees, track the status of their case, communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox, and respond to requests for additional evidence. USCIS continues to accept the latest paper versions of forms by mail.

Read USCIS release

State Dept. Releases FAQ on Immigrant Visa Backlog and Consular Processing

On April 13, 2021, the Department of State released frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the immigrant visa backlog and consular processing. The FAQ notes that the immigrant visa interview backlog has developed "because of limitations in staffing and other COVID-related operational constraints preventing us from processing the same volume of applicants as pre-pandemic." In addition, the FAQ cites previous presidential proclamations that "restricted visa processing for many immigrants for nearly a year." The Department said it would take time to process the cases affected by these travel restrictions.

The Department said it is committed to decreasing the backlog by "prioritizing certain visas, creating efficiencies in the visa process, and utilizing all available resources until our task is accomplished." Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for updates on currently available visa services, the FAQ states. Virtual interviews are not available because current regulations "require all immigrant visa applicants to appear in person before a consular officer," the FAQ states.

Click here for "Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Immigrant Visa Backlog"

State Dept. Updates Visa Services Guidance, Policy on National Interest Exceptions for Regional COVID Proclamations

The Department of State recently released several updates on visa services and national interest exception policy for regional COVID proclamations:

Visa Services Guidance

Referring to continued restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, the Department announced on April 6, 2021, that U.S. embassies and consulates that process nonimmigrant visa applications "are prioritizing travelers with urgent needs, foreign diplomats, mission-critical categories of travelers (such as those coming to assist with the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and workers who are essential to the American food supply), followed by students, exchange visitors, and some temporary employment visas."

With respect to visa services, for consular sections that have the capacity, "the processing of immigrant and [fiancé(e)] visas, particularly for immediate relatives and other family-sponsored applicants, is our highest priority. U.S. Embassies and Consulates are also prioritizing the processing of immigrant visa cases previously refused under the rescinded Presidential Proclamations 9645 and 9983," the Department said.

The Department noted that as a result of the pandemic, appointment capacity continues to be reduced, which "has created a significant backlog of both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants awaiting a visa interview." The Department said it is working to reduce the backlog.

National Interest Exceptions

The Department announced on April 8, 2021, that the travel of immigrants, fiancé(e) visa holders, certain exchange visitors, and pilots and aircrew traveling to the United States for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance is in the national interest for purposes of approving exceptions under the "geographic" COVID Presidential Proclamations (9984, 9992, and 10143).

The Department noted that these proclamations "restrict the entry of individuals physically present, within the 14-day period prior to their attempted entry into the United States, in the People’s Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Federative Republic of Brazil, or Republic of South Africa." 

Read "Visa Services Operating Status Update"

Read "Updates to National Interest Exceptions for Regional COVID Proclamations"

OFLC Announces New Application for Prevailing Wage Determination

The Department of Labor's Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) revised its Form ETA-9141, Application for Prevailing Wage Determination, for use beginning May 3, 2021.

As of 8 a.m. on May 3, 2021, OFLC will only accept prevailing wage applications submitted using the new form. OFLC will reject, without further review, prevailing wage paper applications submitted using the current version of the form. A stakeholder webinar will be held on April 27, 2021, at 2 p.m. ET (2 hours). 

Read OFLC announcement (scroll down to announcement on April 2, 2021) 

Click here for the Webinar meeting link, (click here for more information, including alternative ways to join the webinar)

CBP Reminds Carriers of LPR Boarding Policy

U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued guidance on March 5, 2021, for its Carrier Liaison Program on the current policy for boarding of lawful permanent residents (LPRs): 

Unexpired Valid Permanent Resident Card

  • Passengers with a valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card (PRC or "green card") may be boarded without any additional documentation.

Re-Entry Permit (I-327): Valid and Unexpired

  • Passengers with valid, unexpired re-entry permit are permitted to board without additional documentation.
  • The document must be the original re-entry permit. Copies are not accepted.

Expired Permanent Resident Cards: Ten-year validity

  • Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) with an expired I-551 may be boarded without penalty, provided the card was issued with a 10-year expiration date.

Expired Permanent Resident Cards: Containing Extension Sticker/Form I-797

  • Starting in January 2021, the sticker that is currently issued to LPRs to extend the validity of their PRC (placed on the back of the card) has been discontinued.
  • The revised I-797 receipt notice, together with an applicant’s PRC, will serve as temporary evidence of lawful permanent resident status for 12 months from the expiration date on the front of the green card.
  • PRCs that contain the extension sticker will remain valid until the expiration date.
  • The document must be the original I-797 permit. Copies are not accepted.

Expired Conditional Resident: Two-year validity

  • A Conditional Resident with an expired PRC (with a two-year expiration date) may be boarded if also in possession of a Notice of Action (Form I-797).
  • The Notice of Action extends the validity of the card for a specified length of time, generally 18 months.
  • Do not board the traveler if they are not in possession of Form I-797.

SB-1 Visas: Valid and Unexpired

  • Travelers in possession of a valid, unexpired SB-1 visa in their passport may be boarded without additional documentation.

The guidance notes that "[a]irlines should not be determining admissibility of a [traveler] outside the parameters.

Read "Expansion of Interview Waiver Eligibility"

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