USCIS Suspends Premium Processing for H-1B Cap Petitions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has temporarily suspended Premium Processing for fiscal year (FY) 2021 cap-subject H-1B petitions beginning April 1, 2020. The suspension is aimed at reducing processing times for all H-1B petitions.
Similar to last year, USCIS will resume Premium Processing for H-1B cap petitions in two phases:
  • First phase: No later than May 27, 2020, cap-subject petitions including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, requesting a change of status from F-1 status, will be eligible to upgrade to Premium Processing.
  • Second phase: No earlier than June 29, 2020, Premium Processing will resume for all other cap-subject petitions. USCIS will announce the exact date for resuming Premium Processing at a later time.
Premium Processing remains available to cap-exempt H-1B petitions such as extension of stay requests.
For questions on whether Premium Processing is available to your specific case, please contact your Graham Adair attorney. To receive the latest updates on this issue, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Bay Area USCIS Field Offices Impacted by Shelter in Place Rules

Due to the current situation with COVID 19 and the Bay Area’s mandatory shelter in place, local USCIS Field Offices have made adjustments that will impact immigration benefits. Specifically, Adjustment of Status interviews will be impacted, pushing back approvals of Lawful Permanent Residence and issuance of corresponding green cards. Biometrics appointments are also affected, which will delay the issuance of EAD cards and Advance Parole documents for those applying for Adjustment of Status, and will push back approvals for H-4 spouses.

 

Local USCIS Field Offices in the Bay Area are taking the following actions:

 

San Francisco: Cancelling interviews from 3/17 to 4/6. Officers will be attempting to contact all scheduled interviewees and attorneys to advise interviews will be rescheduled.

 

The Appointment Services Center will be closed as of 3/17. USCIS will automatically reschedule Biometric appointments due to the office closure via mail. If a client had an InfoPass appointment they can reschedule by contacting USCIS Contact Center.

 

Requests for Evidence that are due during the closure for the San Francisco Field Offices will have a one-month extension.

 

San Jose: Cancelling interviews from 3/17 to 4/7. Clerks are calling applicants to advise they will be rescheduled. Rescheduled interviews are likely to be in late May or June.

 

The Appointment Services Center will be closed as of 3/17. USCIS will automatically reschedule Biometric appointments due to the office closure via mail. If a client had an InfoPass appointment they can reschedule by contacting USCIS Contact Center.

 

Requests for Evidence that are due during the closure for the San Jose Field Offices will have a one-month extension.

 

Sacramento: Cancelled Naturalization Oath Ceremony scheduled on 3/24 at the McClellan Conference Center. They will mail information regarding the rescheduled ceremony

 

Fresno: Remains open and continues to interview applicants. They are allowing applicants to reschedule without needing to provide documentation for the reason for rescheduling. To postpone an interview in Fresno requests that we please contact the 800 number (800-375-5238) and/or mail a letter requesting rescheduling to the Fresno Field Office at USCIS Fresno Field Office, 744 P Street, Suite 120, Fresno, CA  93721.

 

San Francisco Asylum Office: Closed to the public as of 3/17. Interviews will be rescheduled at a later date.

 

Santa Rosa Appointment Services Center: Closed as of 3/17

 

Oakland Appointment Services Center: Closed as of 3/17

 

Salinas Appointment Services Center: Closed as of 3/17

Graham Adair continues to closely monitor this ongoing situation and will provide updates as they become available. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.

COVID 19 – Global Mobility Impacts and Updates

UPDATE

 

On February 28, 2020 Graham Adair published a Global Mobility per country advisory in light of the Novel Coronavirus. Since then, the virus has significantly spread into Europe and the United States triggering a few countries to significantly change their immigration policies to combat the spread of the virus.

 

UNITED STATES

 

On March 11, 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation suspending the entry of foreign nationals who have been in any European country/Schengen country during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. The proclamation does not apply to US nationals/US residents, immediate family members of US nationals, and other individuals identified in the proclamation.

 

It is expected that the Department of Homeland Security will implement a supplemental Notice of Arrivals Restriction procedures to conduct tests at airports for those traveling from the European countries identified in the proclamation. The supplemental measure will likely apply to all US nationals/residents/exempted individuals and will require them to travel through select airports where the United States Government will have screening procedures.

 

The countries identified in the proclamation include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland

 

ISRAEL

 

Currently, Israel has a ban-on-entry policy of non-Israeli nationals who have visited China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, and Austria.

 

On March 12, 2020, the Israeli government, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, will issued a total ban-upon-entry policy which will prevent all non-Israeli nationals from entering Israel unless they can prove, before entry with a consulate abroad, the location/residence where they will be quarantined. It was advised that “home isolation” cannot be replaced by a stay in a hotel room. If they cannot prove the location where they will be quarantined, they will be sent back – this determination will be at the sole discretion of consular officials.

 

SINGAPORE

 

On March 04, 2020, the Ministry of Manpower (hereinafter MoM) issued a directive requiring all passholders, and their respective dependents, entering Singapore exhibiting a fever, respiratory illnesses, or related symptoms to undergo a COVID-19 swab test at the port of entry regardless of the countries they have visited.

 

Once tested, the entrants may enter Singapore and will be contacted about their results after 3 – 6 hours. Those with positive results will be sent to the hospital.

 

Singapore currently maintains a pre-approval policy which requires pass holders who have traveled to China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, to secure MoM’s approval before entering Singapore. Pass holders with Hubei-issued passports or with recent travels to Hubei should defer their travels to Singapore.

 

If approved, the pass holders will be required to serve a 14-day mandatory home quarantine upon entry.

 

Pass holders who refuse testing and the quarantine policies set out by MoM, may be subject to significant penalties, including, but not limited to, having their work pass privileges revoked and/or face prosecution under the Infections Diseases Act

 

How to Prepare Your Business

 

Given the current trend from the United States, Israel and Singapore, it is highly likely that countries will follow in the same direction imposing either a pre-approval immigration policy, or a total-ban immigration policy, for non-residents. Businesses should be prepared for sudden changes in business and work travel for the time being. Graham Adair is dedicated to ensuring full employer compliance and providing the most up-to-date information on country responses to the Coronavirus. Graham Adair continues to closely monitor global trends and policies for several countries across the globe, since this situation is ongoing, please note that information may change. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any information or with any concerns

Coronavirus – Global Mobility Impacts and Updates

The novel “Coronavirus” has now spread to over 50 countries internationally and certain countries are taking immigration-related measures to attempt to control or slow the outbreak of the virus. The Coronavirus is affecting the ability for people to travel around the globe for business or work purposes, especially those requiring immigration permissions to enter their intended country of travel. This information is quickly changing as more countries start to develop their own in-country immigration policy restrictions and guidance.

UNITED STATES

The United States has issued a directive temporarily barring foreigners from entering the United States if they have been to China within the last 14 days. Exceptions have been made for immediate family members of US nationals and permanent residents. Hong Kong and Macau, however, are excluded from the travel ban. The US consulates in China are currently not processing any visa applications.

UNITED KINGDOM

The UK Government has imposed significant restrictions between the UK and China with many commercial flights to China being suspended. In response to the heightened security measures, employers should forbid work-related travel to China. Employers/sponsors are not required to report absences nor withdraw sponsorship for extended absences stemming from the Coronavirus as it is considered an exceptional circumstance.

In response to the virus outbreak, Visa Application Centers (VAC) operated in China, through VFS, are closed until further notice. Thus, foreigners seeking to enter the UK from China may find it impossible to attend interviews to apply for their visas.

It has been reported that the closed VAC’s hold several individuals’ passports despite their offices being closed. Individuals with passports currently being held at a VAC should contact the authorities, and or, their respective consular authorities to obtain an emergency travel document.

The Home Office issued guidance which indicates that Chinese nationals who are in the UK with upcoming visa expiration dates between now through March 30, 2020 will receive an automatic extension on their visas through March 31, 2020. Depending on the status of the Coronavirus, the extension policy may be revised.

The UK government has advised that foreigners who have returned from the Wuhan or Hubei provinces in China should self-quarantine for 14 days even if they do not show any symptoms of illness. Foreigners who have traveled from other Chinese provinces are advised to closely monitor their heath. Employers who have employees to whom the above directives apply should prevent them from going into work until after the 14 days, and, until after their symptoms subside.

SINGAPORE

The Singaporean Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued an advisory to abandon all travel plans to the Hubei province in China and also to only travel to Mainland China on very selected circumstances.

As of January 31, 2020, until further notice, MOM will reject all new Employment Pass applications (or any work permit applications) for applicants from China. Renewal applications, however, will remain unaffected.

As of February 18, 2020, foreign employees who have traveled to China within the last 14 days from their arrival to Singapore are required to obtain MOM’s pre-approval. Employers are required to submit the online form at least 3 days before the intended date of arrival. The foreign employee must have the approval letter at the time of entering Singapore.

Work Permit holders who successfully enter Singapore from China will be issued a 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN) where they must self-quarantine themselves at their place of residence. During this time, work permit eligible employees who have work permits approved, but must complete the immigration work permit pass process, may not proceed with finalizing their processes until after the 14-day period ends.

MOM will be enforcing strict penalties against employers who attempt to circumvent the above procedures.

INDIA

The Indian authorities issued a directive which restricts any Chinese nationals and foreigners traveling from China to enter India through March 2020. The restrictions apply at all ports of entry, including, air, land, seaport, and land borders with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

Effective immediately, the Indian government has suspended all existing issued visas issued to Chinese passport holders (both regular sticker visas, as well as e-visas), issued prior to February 05, 2020. Any hardship concerns should be brought up to the Indian embassy in Beijing, or consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou for a new visa. This specific policy does not apply to other foreign nationals entering India from China.

ISRAEL

The Israeli authorities have closed land crossings, seaports, and airports to arrivals from China, except to permanent residents and Israeli nationals, who must self-quarantine themselves for 14-days if arriving from China.

More recently, Israel has extended the ban to foreigners entering Israel from Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

VIETNAM

The Vietnamese Embassy in China has stopped issuing all types of visas (Tourist, business, and work) to Chinese nationals and to all other foreign nationals applying for visas in China. Foreign nationals applying for a visa-on-arrival, must have a pre-approval letter and establish they are not coming from China, Hong Kong, or Macau.

JAPAN

The Japanese government (GOJ) has issued a directive which has banned people who have been infected with the Coronavirus from entering the country. As of February 18, 2020, any foreigner who has traveled to China in the last 14 days from the date of entry into Japan, and foreigners who have a Chinese passport issued in the provinces of Hubei and Zhejiang, will not be allowed entry except in special circumstances.

AUSTRALIA

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), has issued a notice to not travel to China. They have issued a directive that Foreign Nationals who are in China will not be granted entry to Australia until 14 days after they have left China.

Australian permanent residents and citizens, as well as their immediate family, will still be allowed to enter China.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The Czech government has suspended flights to and from China and have halted the issuance of visa at Czech visa application centers. An exception to the widespread restrictions are for family members of Czech nationals who may apply for short-term Schengen visas at the consulate in Shanghai.

What Can You Do?

Graham Adair is dedicated to ensuring full employer compliance and providing the most up-to-date information on country response to the Coronavirus. Graham Adair continues to closely monitor global trends and policies for several countries across the globe, since this situation is ongoing, please note that information may change. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any information or with any concerns.

Public Charge Rule – Updated USCIS Forms

New application forms have been released in conjunction with looming Public Charge Regulation implementation. USCIS will have broader authority to examine whether foreign nationals will become a public charge of the United States. Specifically, the form has added sections that ask whether the beneficiary has received, since obtaining the non-immigrant status, certain benefits such as cash assistance for income maintenance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program. If a beneficiary has received or is currently certified to receive any of the public benefits, specific information regarding each public benefit must be provided.

 

As reported previously, this regulation will cause increased information and documentation requirements, as well as more close examination of personal circumstances of beneficiaries. However, non-immigrants who are seeking an extension or a change of status will not be fully impacted by the rule. They will be required to satisfy a new public charge condition to be deemed eligible the associated immigration benefit they are seeking.

 

For adjustment of status applicants, the new regulation will cause cases to be reviewed under a “totality of the circumstances” test which will take into consideration each applicant’s factors such as age, household size, income, and education. Additionally, adjustment of status (green card) applicants will be required to submit a copy of their credit history and credit score, as well as detailed information about their health coverage. If an applicant has certain health issues, this can deem the applicant unable to care for himself, which can be a disqualifying factor for the applicant. Unfortunately, there is currently not a bright line test in regards to what specifically would disqualify someone. We will need to wait and see how USCIS adjudicates such matters as they come through. A new I-485 form will we be used by USCIS starting February 24.

 

The regulation will create new eligibility conditions for those seeking an extension or a change of status from within the United States. Such applicants will be required to disclose if they have ever received or are currently certified to receive certain public benefits on or after February 24, 2020. The foreign beneficiary must have received benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month period to be negatively affected by the regulation.

 

Starting February 24th, non-immigrant changes or extensions of status will need to be filed on updated editions of Form 1-129, which will also include the public charge questions. These will encompass the non-immigrant worker statuses, including, H-1B, L-1, and O-1 status.

 

For questions about whether you might be impacted by the new rule, please contact the Graham Adair attorney overseeing your case, or contact us at info@grahamadair.com.

USCIS Implements New H-1B Registration Requirement

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Friday that it had completed a pilot program to test its new H-1B registration system. We previously reported, that USCIS has been pushing to implement this new process for the upcoming H-1B lottery season. Because of the new technology and potential for issues, USCIS had decided to not implement the registration requirement for the H-1B cap that was run earlier this year. However, USCIS determined that the testing phase was sufficiently successful for implementation in the upcoming FY2021 H-1B cap.

 

Therefore, companies seeking to file H-1B petitions in this year’s H-1B lottery must first pay the required fee and provide basic company information, as well as information about each beneficiary to be included in the electronic lottery.

 

The registration process will go from March 1 through March 20. The lottery selection process will then be run on those electronic registrations. Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. USCIS plans to continue running a separate lottery for those with advanced U.S. degrees as part of this registration system.

 

There are still many uncertainties with how this system will work, including the impact it will have on those individuals who need “cap-gap” coverage to continue working. Graham Adair will be reviewing the potential H-1B cases for our clients and providing specific advice on H-1B cap strategy for this coming fiscal year.

 

In the coming days, USCIS will post additional instructions along with key dates. We will continue to provide updates as they become available. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

 

RELIEF Act Introduction Brings Both Senate Immigration Bills To Standstill

The journey of H.R.1044/S.386 through the Senate hit another roadblock as S.2603, the Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act, was brought up for a vote by unanimous consent. At least one senator objected, blocking the unanimous consent fast-track and stalling both bills for the time being. A unanimous consent vote on H.R.1044/S.386 was originally expected to be held on Thursday, October 17th.

The RELIEF Act was introduced to address the massive green card backlog, with the goal of eliminating the backlog over five years. Building on S.744, the 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, the bill would clarify spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents as immediate relatives and exempt “derivative beneficiaries” of employment-based petitions from the annual caps that contribute to the backlog. It would also protect children who qualify based on a parent’s petition from “aging out” while waiting for approval, helping to keep families together.

We will continue to monitor developments and share updates as more information becomes available. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Amended Public Charge Rule Will Not Go Into Effect on October 15th

Earlier this afternoon, a federal judge in New York issued an injunction against the recently amended “public charge” rule. We discussed the amended public charge rule a few weeks ago. People deemed to be a public charge may be prevented from applying for permanent residency. The amended rule altered the definition of “public charge” to include an individual who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in the aggregate, within any 36-month period. Additionally, it was broadened to include many common services, such as public housing assistance, food stamps, supplemental income, and certain Medicaid costs.

The temporary injunction issued today will prevent the amended public charge rule from taking effect on Oct. 15.

The rule is being challenged in several federal courts by immigrants’ rights groups and more than a dozen state attorneys general. While the public charge requirement has been a long-standing rule, it has not previously been defined this specifically.

As the rule continues working its way through the court system, we will continue to monitor it and provide updates. But for now, people filing for permanent residency will not be subjected to the newly amended public charge rule.

For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

UPDATED: Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act Goes Before Senate

UPDATED 9/20/19
H.R.1044/S.386 went before the Senate on Thursday and was blocked by a Senator who expressed unenumerated concerns about how the new rules would impact specific industries. Leading proponents of the bill say they will work to address those concerns and bring it up for a vote again next week. We will continue to monitor developments and share updates as more information becomes available.

9/19/19
After passing the House with 365 bipartisan votes, H.R.1044, the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act will be brought before the Senate today, September 19, 2019 as S.386. U.S. Senators Mike Lee and Kamala Harris have led negotiations with Senator Rand Paul, who agreed to remove his hold on the bill after reaching a reasonable compromise.

H.R.1044/S.386 would remove the per-country quotas for employment-based immigrant visas, reducing the green card backlog. The per-country quota currently remains at 7% of total annual green cards, meaning Iceland (pop. ~338,000) has the same quota as India (pop. ~1.3 billion). The resultant backlog has resulted in extreme wait times and uncertainty for employers that rely on highly-skilled immigrants. Eliminating the quotas and backlog is intended to ensure that the United States continues to attract top talent from around the world.

The bill is expected to be brought up by Unanimous Consent, expediting the process. We will continue to monitor developments and share updates as more information becomes available.

Plan to Terminate H-4 Work Permit Program Delayed, DHS Seeks to Put Lawsuit on Hold

A memo from the U.S. Department of Justice, dated 9/16/19, has indicated that anticipated changes to the visa program which has allowed H-4 visa holder spouses of H-1B workers to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) will not be issued until the spring of 2020 at the earliest. The plan to eliminate the work authorization for H1-B spouses was formally introduced in February of 2019, with a proposed rule from USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization.” The new regulations, currently under federal review, were initially expected to be published this year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is currently hearing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the H-4 EAD rule. The suit was filed by anti-immigration group Save Jobs USA, arguing that the DHS had no authority to issue the initial H-4 EAD rule, which was introduced in 2015. DHS lawyers maintain that the suit should be put on hold due to the ongoing efforts by the administration to rescind the program. According to the memo …DHS’s intention to proceed with publication of the H-4 EAD proposed rule remains unchanged. At this point, DHS has informed counsel that it believes the earliest possible publication date for that rule would be in spring 2020. Although that timeframe is aspirational, DHS believes that the September 27, 2019 oral argument should be removed from the calendar and postponed…”

We will continue to monitor developments and share updates as more information becomes available. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

 

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