On October 8, 2020 DHS and DOL will publish new rules that will alter the definition of “Specialty Occupation” for foreign employees and increase the prevailing wage levels that will impact the H-1B visa program. The rule on the “Specialty Occupation” definition will become effective within 60 days of being published and the rule on the prevailing wage levels will become effective as soon as it is published on October 8.
On September 30, 2020, President Trump signed the Continuing Appropriations Act 2021 and Other Extensions Act, which intends to fund USCIS through December 11, 2020. This bill focuses on allowing USCIS to use premium processing fees for operational services and to allow them to increase the premium processing fees appropriately.
A district court has ordered that the DOS save around 9,000 unused visas for the diversity lottery winners from FY2020. These visas are to be saved even after the September 30, 2020 deadline awaiting final judgement on the case Gomez v. Trump. If plaintiffs win the case, those 9,000 visas will be issued to various individuals selected in the visa lottery and who did not get their visas issued on or before April 30, 2020.
On September 29, 2020, a district court has ordered an injunction on the final fee rule, which would have increased multiple form fees and changed form editions. This halt comes just days before the fee rule was supposed to take effect on October 2, 2020. It is unknown how long this injunction will last, but until then there will be no fee increase or form changes made.
The CBP has announced that they will further extend travel restrictions to land ports of entry between the borders of Canada and Mexico to the United States. Due to COVID-19 these travel restrictions will continue through at least 10/21/2020.
As of September 14, 2020, CBP and TSA announced that they will no longer be conducting COVID health screenings at the 15 designated airports that were required to receive flights with passengers from China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil. Please note, this does NOT affect or change the current travel bans in place from the Presidential Proclamations.
Due to the pandemic, USCIS announced that it is extending it’s previous flexibility from March 30, 2020 of responding to agency requests. The flexibility will now apply to notices dated between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021. USCIS will accept responses received within 60 days after the response due date.
From an order on September 4, 2020, a US District court ruled that all DV-2020 visa lottery winners must have their applications processed by the Department of State no later than September 30, 2020. Applicants will need to locate a US embassy or consulate that will allow for interview appointments. For more information please go to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/diversity-visa-DV-2020-update.html
Due to the EAD production delays, USCIS announced that they will allow individuals to use their EAD approval notices (Form I-797) as valid work authorization. This applies to individuals with approval notices dated from 12/1/2019 to 8/20/2020. These individuals will be allowed to use their approval notices as valid work authorization until 12/1/2020, at which time they will be required to provide their employers with new evidence of work authorization.
On July 31, 2020, USCIS announced the final ruling that will increase certain immigrant and non-immigrant filing fees. These adjusted fees will go into effect starting on October 2, 2020. For more information, please visit https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-adjusts-fees-to-help-meet-operational-needs
On July 21, 2020, the dean of Harvard University sent an announcement to its students stating that although the foreign student ban has been rescinded by ICE, this will not apply to incoming foreign freshman who will be attending online only schools in the Fall. A decision is still pending in the US District Court as to whether new foreign students will be allowed entry into the US. ICE has yet to clarify or comment on this issue.
Since the reopening of USCIS field offices, the agency has continued to work through the naturalization oath ceremonies that were put on hold during the pandemic. To meet social distancing guidelines, certain states are now offering drive-thru naturalization oath ceremonies as an alternative during COVID-19.
DHS has announced that they will be rescinding ICE’s guidance on international students who will be taking all online only classes during the Fall semester. This news comes after many schools, including Harvard and MIT, filed a complaint against the foreign student guidance. As of July 14, 2020, the guidance from March 13, 2020 will remain in effect.
The Department of State tweeted on July 11 that some embassies and consulates will begin phased reopening on July 15, 2020. For more information on specific consulate details, please visit the consulate website for more updates and information on the status of their visa services.
On July 1, CBP announced it will postpone the reopening of Trusted Traveler Programs Enrollment Centers until at least August 10, 2020. Anybody with scheduled interviews in July and early August must reschedule their appointments. For more information visit: https://ttp.dhs.gov/
USCIS announced it is extending its flexibilities, which applies to Requests for Evidence, Notices of Intent to Deny, Notices of Intent to Revoke, and more. This applies to documents issued between March 1 and September 11, 2020. USCIS will consider a response received within 60 calendar days after the due date before taking action.
On June 22, Trump issued a proclamation that suspends entry of certain non immigrants to the US. Additional information provided shows Canadians entering as H, L or J non immigrants and those with valid visas issued prior to the effective date, regardless of previous entry, are exempt from this proclamation.
The DV-2021 entrant status check is now available for applicants to check their case information on the Department of State website. Applicants can use their confirmation number and go to https://dvprogram.state.gov/ to check their status. They should keep their confirmation number until September 30, 2021.
On June 4, 2020, USCIS offices reopened throughout the nation providing non-emergency in-person services like interviews and oath ceremonies. Although offices are reopening, USCIS will continue to only schedule InfoMod appointments for emergencies only. To schedule an emergency appointment, visit the USCIS Contact Center.
PREMIUM PROCESSING RETURNS! Beginning June 1, 2020, premium processing will resume in phases. By June 22, 2020 all premium processing services will be back in place.
President Trump’s proclamation suspending entry into the United States now applies to foreign nationals from Brazil. All aliens who were physically present within Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is suspended and limited. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-certain-additional-persons-pose-risk-transmitting-novel-coronavirus/
California’s District 43 will be conducting limited naturalization ceremonies only in LOS, LAC, and SFV Field Offices beginning June 27 through June 28. Preliminary interviews will start on June 16, prioritizing social distancing. This does not apply to other interviews or ASC appointments.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that non-essential travel along the US-Canada border and the US-Mexico border is not permitted due to the impact of COVID-19. This temporary travel restriction has been extended until June 22, 2020.
USCIS announced they accidentally rejected some I-140 Forms including e-certified ETA-9089s with electronic signatures, which should have been accepted. Due to this mistake, USCIS will accept the refiling of Form I-140 with the ETA Form 9089s as well as a copy of the rejection notice. For more news please visit https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-covid-19
The Department of State has postponed the announcement of the Entrant Status Check for DV-2021 applicants from May 5 to June 6, 2020. For further information, please visit: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/dv2021-entrant-status-check-announcement.html
The National Visa Center (NVC) will no longer accept or respond to correspondence through mail beginning on June 1, 2020. The only paper correspondence that will be accepted is if explicitly instructed by the NVC through email, telephone call, or letter. For more information visit: https://nvc.state.gov
USCIS announced that they will extend the flexibility deadlines for applicants or petitioners responding to certain agency requests. The flexibility applies to notices or requests with the issuance date between March 1 and July 1, 2020. USCIS will consider a response received within 60 days after response due date.
USCIS has once again announced that they are further extending their office closures until at least June 3, 2020. USCIS offices will reopen on the following day, June 4 unless public closures are extended further. For more information visit https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-covid-19
USCIS announced that petitioners should expect delays in data entry and receipt notices for FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions until at least May 1, 2020, due to the impacts of COVID-19. Due to delayed data entry and notice generation, there will be a general delay in processing FY 2021 cap-subject petitions.
Due to COVID-19, the National Visa Center (NVC) has had to reduce its staff. This reduction will impact its ability to respond to inquiries made via the “Ask NVC” form. NVC advised that only urgent humanitarian or medical inquiries should be submitted, stating the urgent nature of the request clearly.
USCIS has once again announced that they are extending their office closures until at least May 3, 2020. USCIS offices will reopen on the following day, May 4 unless public closures are extended further. For more information visit https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-coronavirus-2019-covid-19
USCIS announced today they will reuse previously submitted biometrics to process Form I-765 extension requests. This applies to applicants who had an appointment scheduled with ASC on or after the March 18 closure or has filed an I-765 extension. This will remain in effect until ASCs are open for appointments to the public.
For applicants and petitioners who receive an RFE or NOID dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, any responses submitted within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set forth in the RFE or NOID will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken.
USCIS has now extended the date of office closures to last until at least April 7, 2020. USCIS field offices will reopen on that date unless public closures are extended. For more information visit https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
On March 20, 2020, USCIS announced that premium processing for all I-129 and I-140 petitions will be temporarily suspended until further notice. Click here to learn more.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released that as of March 18, 2020 they will be temporarily closing offices across the United States. For more information please visit https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
Travel bans with Europe are increasing. Restrictions on travel from Europe including UK (starting Monday March 16). There are exceptions to this ban for US citizens and others. Read “European Travel Bans Put Into Place”
Starting on February 24, 2020 USCIS will implement revised forms based on the new Public Benefits Inadmissibility Final Ruling. All old edition forms must be postmarked before February 24, 2020 to still be accepted by USCIS! If you’re filing with USCIS, do it NOW!
NEW WAY TO FILE H1BS COMING STARTING MARCH 1, 2020. The initial H-1B registration period will begin on March 1, 2020 and end approximately March 20, 2020. CONTACT US immediately if you are thinking of applying. Be prepared!
Starting on December 2, 2019 USCIS is increasing the premium processing fee from $1,410 to $1,440. This is just the start of further increases set to start asap.
The new policy for “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which appeared Monday on the Federal Register’s website and will take effect in two months, sets new standards for obtaining permanent residency and U.S. citizenship.
U.S. State Department announced that the family 2A category (spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents) will become current for the first time in many years. Currently, this category is backlogged approximately 2 years so this is HUGE NEWS! CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY SO YOU DON’T MISS THE OPPORTUNITY BEFORE IT GOES AWAY!
On April 5, 2019, USCIS reached the 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020. On April 10, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the regular cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption for fiscal year 2020. After completing the random selection process for the regular cap, USCIS also determined that it has received a number of petitions projected as sufficient to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap. Now we wait to see who was picked!
Starting March 12, 2019 Premium Processing resumes for all H1b petitions. If you have an Request for Evidence that you are responding to best to include the request for premium processing with the response.
USCIS has revised the form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status starting March 11, 2019. This new form will now require almost everyone who files this form to pay the additional $85 fee and have biometrics taken. A huge set back for combined filing with a premium processing case.
“These simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency. We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process. As a result, U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”
Now that E-Verify operations have resumed, employers who participate in E-Verify must create an E-Verify case by February 11, 2019 for each employee hired while E-Verify was not available. You must use the hire date from the employee’s Form I-9 when creating the E-Verify case. If the case creation date is more than three days following the date the employee began working for pay, select “Other” from the drop-down list and enter “E-Verify Not Available” as the specific reason.
USCIS will resume premium processing on Monday, Jan. 28, for all fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption (the “master’s cap”). Petitioners who have received requests for evidence (RFEs) for pending fiscal year 2019 cap petitions should include their RFE response with any request for premium processing they may submit.
Buy American Hire American (BAHA) and its effect over the past couple years is something to be aware of. USCIS has a page dedicated to BAHA that should be looked at in detail. Click here to read the page. BAHA has caused changes but not as dramatically as we feared.
The following emails will be discontinued as of January 21, 2019 The service center e-mail addresses being discontinued are: California Service Center: email@example.com Vermont Service Center: firstname.lastname@example.org Nebraska Service Center: NCSC@uscis.dhs.gov Potomac Service Center: email@example.com Texas Service Center: firstname.lastname@example.org Try using contact center for more information.
Even though the government is shutdown the border will remain secure.
The government shutdown has put a halt on immigration proceedings. Immigration courts have been frozen since the shutdown began, with all scheduled hearings canceled except for those immigrants in detention centers. According to a report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, 42,726 immigration hearings have been canceled as of Jan. The Pentagon is directing additional funds to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border, extending troop deployment.
Due to the shutdown foreign nations trying to open US businesses cannot get Federal tax ID numbers (FEIN) because there is no staff to support the processing of the applications. Even though others can still apply online foreign nationals need to apply with a paper application.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a written statement on Thursday that migrants who arrive at the border “illegally or without proper documentation” could be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings. “Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into […]
USCIS has proposed a registration system prior to submission. Therefore, petitioners would have to register with USCIS during a registration period and then if chosen by the lottery they would be able to submit the petition for adjudication. Not sure if it will be able to be implemented this year.
In a report released on Tuesday November 27 2018 by Pew Research Center, research shows that there were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants living in the US in 2016, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007.
On November 9, 2018, President Trump issued a proclamation that bars from seeking asylum any individuals who enter the United States from Mexico between ports of entry.
Beginning today, the Infopass appointment online scheduling system will be down in preparation for the roll out of the Modernization Program which will replace self-scheduling online appointments. Forcing people to look online for answers and only if USCIS determines you need an in person appointment will they contact you to schedule.
Starting November 1, 2018 the validity of the required medical exams that must be submitted to USCIS is extended to 2 years. However, the medical exam must be taken within 60 days of submission. Click here to read new policy.
This is an entirely new era for individuals seeking employment based work visas. It is a struggle that US companies are facing to our country’s detriment. Forbes “New Evidence USCIS Policies Increased Deinals of H-1B Visas“.
Remember to always check your digital I-94 each time you come in at the Digital I-94 CBP website. The date you must leave is not always going to be the same as the one on your visa. DON’T FORGET TO ALWAYS CHECK IT OR CALL US TO CHECK IT FOR YOU!
Starting Oct. 1, 2018 USCIS will begin implementing policy on issuing NTAs (Notice to Appear) for certain denied applications
IF YOU HAVE A PRIORITY DATE BEFORE JUNE 1, 2018 – USCIS HAS ANNOUNCED THAT APPLICANTS FOR ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS MAY FILE THEIR I-485 ACCORDING TO FILING DATE!
USCIS just announced that starting immediately labor unions will now be able to send a copy of a negative consultation letter to USCIS so that it can be compared to the consultation letter submitted to USCIS by the petitioner.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced an enhancement to the I-94 website, which will allow group payments for I-94 applications for travelers entering the U.S. at land ports of entry.
Premium Processing Fees Increasing starting Oct 1, 2018! Get your visas processed asap to avoid the increase!