Biden Administration Lifts Ban on Immigrant Visa Processing

Earlier this week, the Biden Administration lifted a ban that was put in place last year on the processing of immigrant visas (green cards) at U.S. consulates. While lifting this ban is good news for many who are awaiting the processing of their immigrant visa, we anticipate that there will still be delays in processing cases because of backlogs and reduced consular staffing caused by the pandemic.

 

The President has left in place the ban on nonimmigrant visas, such and H-1Bs and L-1s, that is set to expire on March 31, 2021. There are some exceptions to this ban, and it does appear that the ban will not be extended and will expire as scheduled.

 

Looking forward, we anticipate that there will be continued delays in getting visas from U.S. consulates while current pandemic restrictions are in place. However, the lifting of the ban on immigrant visas is good news for those who have been precluded from applying over the past several months. If you have questions about travel or your visa application, please contact your attorney at Graham Adair.

Trump Extends Ban on Certain Immigration Applications

President Trump has extended Presidential Proclamations (P.P.) 10014 and 10052 through March 31, 2021. As previously reported, P.P. 10014 suspends the entry of immigrant visa applicants through consular processing.

 

P.P. 10052 suspends the entry of certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who have been deemed to present a risk to the US labor market during the economic recovery following the pandemic.  Specifically, this suspension applies to applicants for H-1B, H-2B, and L-1 visas; J-1 visa applicants participating in the intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel programs; and any spouses or children of covered applicants applying for H-4, L-2, or J-2 visas.

 

Please contact your Graham Adair attorney for case-specific advice.

UPDATE: October Visa Bulletin Surge Coincides with Increased Fees

As an update to our news alert from yesterday, USCIS initially indicated that it would use the Final Action Dates chart as it normally does. However, later in the day USCIS updated its filing notice website to indicate that it would actually accept cases filed under the Dates for Filing chart.

 

This is significant because many categories surged forward from the Final Action Dates chart in September to the Dates for Filing Chart for October. For EB-3 India, this meant a move of approximately 5 years. EB-1 for China and India moved about 2.5 years.

 

This movement provides many additional applicants to file applications for Adjustment of Status in October. We anticipate that USCIS will receive an unusually high volume of cases within this short 30-day window. This will likely result in processing delays as USCIS assimilates these cases. Of particular consequence, this could mean significant delays in the issuance of cards for EAD work authorization and advance parole for travel.

 

We are in the process of contacting clients who are eligible to file in October. Please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any questions.

October Visa Bulletin Surge Coincides with Increased Fees

This morning, the U.S. Department of State issued the October Visa Bulletin, which shows modest gains under the Final Action Dates chart. China saw the biggest movement in the EB-3 category, a move of 4.5 months. Similarly, India saw its biggest gain of 3 months in the EB-3 category. All other countries, including Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which had retrogression in the EB-3 category, are now current.

 

The primary question is whether USCIS will direct applicants to use the Final Action Dates chart, as they normally do, or the Dates for Filing chart. If it’s the latter, then many additional priority dates will become current, especially in EB-3 for India, which moved more than 5 years from the September Visa Bulletin. EB-1 for China and India also saw significant movement of about 2.5 years. USCIS will advise on which chart to use no later than October 1, 2020.

 

This surge in dates coincides with a significant change in the fee structure for USCIS. The biggest change in the permanent residency process is the unbundling of fees for I-485 Adjustment of Status. Until the end of September, the I-485 filing fee is $1140, which includes applications for an EAD card for work and advance parole for travel. Starting October 1, 2020, USCIS will unbundle that I-485 fee and require additional fees for EAD cards and advance parole. The EAD application will require a $550 government fee, and the advance parole application fee will be $590.

 

If USCIS uses the Dates for Filing chart, there will be a massive surge in applications for Adjustment of Status, many of which will include the additional fees of $550 and $590 for EAD cards and advance parole, respectively. Considering that many thousands of new cases would be filed in a very short period of time, it’s possible future visa bulletins could retrogress many dates that were current under the October Visa Bulletin, which would create a scenario wherein applicants are required to pay those $550 and $590 fees annually to maintain their EAD cards and advance parole.

 

We are watching the visa bulletin closely and will send an announcement once USCIS indicates which chart will be used for permanent residence applications.

New Rule Impacts International Students Who Take Online Courses

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) instituted a temporary exemption for the spring and summer semesters that allowed non-immigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted. On Monday, July 6th, SEVP modified these temporary exemptions; the modifications will be effective for the fall 2020 semester. DHS will be publishing these modifications in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.

 

Beginning in the fall 2020 semester:

 

1. F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not remain the United States. The Department of State will not issue visas to such students, and Customs and Border Protection will not allow them to enter the United States. Active students currently in the U.S. must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to another school that provides in-person instruction. Otherwise, they may face initiation of removal proceedings.

 

2. F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

 

3. F-1 students attending schools?adopting a hybrid model (mixture of online and in-person classes) will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. But the school must certify to SEVP through an I-20 that the program is not entirely online. They must also confirm that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their program.

 

Non-immigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes.
Please contact a Graham Adair attorney with any questions.

New Executive Order Further Restricts U.S. Immigration

Today, President Trump issued an executive order further restricting immigration in light of the current Covid-19 pandemic.? This order extends the previous restrictions on new immigrant visas through the end of the year and adds certain nonimmigrant visa classifications to the list.

 

The new executive order will restrict new H-1B, H-2B, J, or L visas, and any dependents accompanying or following to join individuals in those classifications, which includes H-4 and L-2 spouses.? The order goes into immediate effect.

 

Individuals who hold valid H-1B, H-2B, J, or L visas as of today will be allowed to enter the U.S. This order will not impact our ability to file changes of status, extensions of status, change of employer petitions, adjustments of status, or amendments for those who are currently in the U.S.? Largely, this ban on new visas continues the status quo as U.S. consulates around the world continue to be closed and are not currently issuing new visas.

 

This will have an impact on those who are currently outside the U.S. and waiting for the consulates to reopen so that they can apply for visas, and those individuals will likely have to wait until next year to apply for their visas.? There are some limited exceptions to this rule for those who work in national security, health care or medical research directly related to Covid-19, or those who work in the food supply chain.

 

The order contains additional instructions to the secretaries of Homeland Security and Labor to investigate regulatory options to ensure that H-1B petitions and employment-based green card applications do not negatively impact U.S. workers.? We do not have any indication at this point as to what this would look like or when we can expect to see proposed regulations.

 

For further information please contact your Graham Adair attorney.

Chinese Students and Researchers Suspended from Entry to U.S.

On Friday, May 29, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation entitled, “Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China.” The proclamation suspends the entry of certain Chinese nationals pursuant to an F or J visa to study or conduct research in the U.S.

 

Starting Monday, June 1, 2020, the proclamation will bar entry of students and researchers from China who are associated with an entity in China that implements or supports China’s “military-civil fusion strategy.” According to the proclamation, “military-civil fusion strategy” means actions to acquire and divert foreign technologies to advance China’s military capabilities.

 

Undergraduate students will be exempted from the suspension of entry. The proclamation will also not?apply to lawful permanent residents; spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents; members of the armed forces; spouses and children of members of the armed forces; students and researchers engaging in fields of study and research that do not contribute to “military-civil fusion strategy;” and students and researchers whose entry into the U.S. is in the U.S. national interest.

 

The proclamation shall remain in effect until terminated by the President.

Executive Order Suspending Issuance of Immigrant Visas

Today, President Trump signed an executive order that will temporarily halt the issuance of immigrant visas to individuals outside the United States. The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on April 23, 2020 and will be in effect for 60 days.

 

Immigrant visas are permanent residence visas issued to individuals who are outside of the United States when they apply for permanent residence.? The order is very limited in its scope and only appears to halt the consular processing of immigrant visas.? It does not appear to limit the approval of adjustment of status applications for individuals who are currently in the U.S. and in the green card process.? The order only applies to those who are outside the U.S. and do not currently have a valid immigrant visa or other valid travel document.

 

There are several exceptions to the suspension of issuance of immigrant visas including:

 

  • any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

 

  • anyone seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees; and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old or any such person who are accompanying or following to join the person;

 

  • any person applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;

 

  • any person who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen;

 

  • any person who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;

 

  • any person whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;

 

  • any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;

 

  • any person seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or

 

  • any person whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

 

The order directs the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to advise the President on whether this order should be extended no later than 50 days from now.? Further, they are directed to make other recommendations that the President can take on immigration to help protect U.S. workers.

 

For the time being, this order will largely not impact the clients of Graham Adair.? If you are going through the consular process for your immigrant visa, this will likely mean a delay in the issuance of the visa.? You should check in with your attorney at Graham Adair for further specifics on your situation.

President Trump Provides Additional Details on ?Pause? of Immigration to U.S.

On Tuesday, President Trump announced some details about what will be in an executive order related to U.S. immigration in light of the coronavirus pandemic. While the text of the executive order has yet to be made public, the President indicated that he would “pause” the issuance of green cards for a period of 60 days. This 60-day suspension could be extended depending on conditions at the end of the initial 60-day period.

The action is being described as an attempt to protect U.S. workers from new immigrants taking a diminishing number of open jobs. What is not yet clear is whether this will apply to both consular processing and adjustment of status applications. There also is not any clarity on whether there will be exceptions to the policy. Until we know for certain whether this will apply to would-be immigrants both in as well as outside the U.S., it is difficult to gauge the impact to our clients.

President Trump also indicated that there would be further review into other areas of immigration to determine whether additional restrictions should be implemented. Graham Adair will continue to monitor this situation and assess the impact on our clients. Please check back often for updates. When this policy is made public, we will provide more in-depth analysis.

Trump Announces Plans to Temporarily Stop All Immigration to U.S.

President Trump tweeted late Monday that he will sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States. His announcement cited the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the millions who have become unemployed in recent weeks.? There are significant questions that are yet to be answered around this announcement: exactly when and how this will be implemented, who it will cover, and how long it will be in effect.? It does seem to indicate that the President plans to extend immigration restrictions beyond those already in place to travelers coming from most of Europe, China, Canada, Mexico and Iran.

 

Graham Adair will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates here as they become available.?If you have any questions, please contact your Graham Adair representative.

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