Categories Department of State News & Updates USCIS

Employment for spouses gets major win today

Today, fifteen nonimmigrant plaintiffs reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Homeland Security in a putative class action over long-delayed processing of H-4 and L-2  employment authorization documents (EADs).

 

The settlement agreement contains two key changes for H-4 and L-2 work authorization:

 

The first major victory is for automatic extension of EAD based on a timely filed extension. Qualifying H-4 nonimmigrants who timely file I-765 extension applications and will continue to have H-4 status beyond the expiration date of their EADs will now have their employment authorization automatically extended. The auto-extension of employment authorization will end once the nonimmigrant’s H-4 status expires according to their Form I-94; once the I-765 application is approved or denied; or 180 days from the expiration date on the face of the EAD.

 

To complete the I-9, qualifying H-4 nonimmigrants may provide a combination of documents in lieu of an unexpired EAD, including an expired EAD, I-765 receipt notice evidencing timely filed application, and unexpired Form I-94.

 

Within 120 days, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will amend I-765 receipt notices to detail the EAD auto-extension eligibility for qualifying H-4 nonimmigrants.

 

The second major victory is that USCIS will issue guidance stating that L-2 spouses will have work authorization incident to status. Within 120 days, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will change the Form I-94 to mention L-2 spouse where appropriate. Once CBP updates the Form I-94, it will be available for use as a List C document for I-9 purposes.

 

Further, L-2 spouses who timely file I-765 extension applications and will continue to have L-2 status beyond the expiration date of their EADs will have their employment authorization automatically extended. The auto-extension will end once the nonimmigrant’s L-2 status expires according to their Form I-94; once the I-765 application is approved or denied; or 180 days from the expiration date on the face of the EAD.

 

To complete the I-9, L-2 spouses may provide a combination of documents in lieu of an unexpired EAD, including an expired EAD, I-765 receipt notice evidencing timely filed application, and unexpired Form I-94.

 

USCIS will issue further guidance to employers and benefit granting agencies. Graham Adair will monitor the situation closely for developments. If you are an L-2 or H-4 spouse with a pending I-765 application and you have questions about the implications of the settlement agreement on your EAD processing, please reach out to the Graham Adair attorney handling your case.

 

Please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any specific questions, or contact us at info@grahamadair.com; +1 408 715 7067.

Categories Department of Labor Department of State News & Updates USCIS

Looming government shutdown’s anticipated impact on immigration

The Senate failed on Monday to pass a key procedural FY 2022 federal budget vote to advance the House-passed short-term government funding bill. If lawmakers fail to reach an agreement, U.S. government funding could expire and lead to a full federal government closure on 12:01 am on October 1, 2021.

What impact does this have on immigration processing? Each federal agency would have its own shutdown plan, which will coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget. However, based on prior shutdowns in previous years, the following should be expected:

Immigration operations that should remain in operation:

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP): CBP is likely to continue processing immigration applications at the border and performing inspection functions.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement: ICE enforcement activities and operations of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) should continue.
  • SAVE System (USCIS database used by government agencies such as state motor vehicle departments to verify an applicant’s immigration status when processing applications for benefits).

Immigration operations that will likely be suspended:

  • Department of Labor (DOL): As the DOL would likely be categorized as a non-essential function, DOL immigration functions will likely be suspended. No PERM applications, labor condition applications (LCAs), prevailing wage determinations (PWDs) or applications for temporary labor certification would be processed. The agency would not accept PERM applications or audit responses, LCAs or prevailing wage requests either online or by mail.
  • E-Verify: Employers should expect to be unable to initiate E-Verify queries or resolve tentative non-confirmations, and would not be expected to meet the usual E-Verify deadlines until the program is reauthorized. Please note, employers should not take any adverse action against any employee whose employment eligibility verification cannot be confirmed in E-Verify due to the shutdown. All employers will remain subject to Form I-9 obligations and deadlines as usual.
  • Conrad 30 Program

Immigration operations that will be potentially experience further processing delays:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): The USCIS should continue to process applications but processing delays, already widespread, would continue or worsen. Appointments at USCIS local offices and Application Support Centers should not be affected by the shutdown, though COVID-19 precautions are still in place.
  • Department of State: Some passport offices may be affected if they are located in federal buildings that are closed due to the shutdown, but if not, should continue operations. Although the State Department’s visa processing and U.S. citizenship document functions are not expected to be suspended, they may be further affected by reduced staffing and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available. In the meantime, please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any questions.

Categories News & Updates USCIS

USCIS To Suspend Biometrics Requirements for Certain I-539 Applicants

From May 17, 2021, USCIS will suspend the biometrics requirements for the H-4, L-2, E-1, E-2 and E-3 categories of Form I-539 applications. The suspension will be for at least 2 years. USCIS will retain the discretion to require biometrics on a case-by-case basis.

The suspension will apply if: 1) the application is pending as of May 17, 2021 and a biometrics appointment notice has not been received; or 2) the application is received by USCIS between May 17, 2021 and the expiration date of the suspension.

USCIS has expressed an intention to eliminate the current backlog and to significantly reduce delays in processing times for these applications. The proposal came in a declaration from USCIS Service Center Operation Directorate Associate Director Connie L. Nolan in the pending federal case Edakunni v. Mayorkas.

If you have any questions, please contact your Graham Adair attorney.

Categories News & Updates USCIS

USCIS Announces End of Enforcement of Public Charge Rule

USCIS has advised that it will immediately stop applying the Public Charge Final Rule to all pending applications and petitions. The previous public charge rule regarding inadmissilbity, in accordance with the 1999 Interim Field Guidance, remains in place.

USCIS will no longer apply public benefits conditions to applications or petitions for extension of non-immigrant status or change of non-immigrant status. USCIS will no longer consider an applicant’s receipt of Medicaid (except for long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination.

In addition, USCIS has removed Form I-944 from its website. Information provided on Form I-944 with currently pending applications will not be considered by the officer adjudicating the case.

If you have any questions, please contact your Graham Adair attorney.

Categories News & Updates USCIS

USCIS Announces the H-1B Lottery Registration Procedures for this Year

Today, USCIS announced the H-1B lottery registration window and process for the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B lottery that will take place on or before March 31, 2021. Registration for the electronic lottery will be open from March 9 – March 25, 2021. Registration will open at noon Eastern time on the 9th and close at noon Eastern time on the 25th.

As in last year’s lottery, the registration fee is $10. USCIS has indicated that those selected in the lottery will be notified on or before March 31, 2021, and will be eligible to submit applications as early as April 1, 2021.

USCIS has also announced that the selection of H-1B cases in this year’s lottery will be completely random. A rule previously published that would have ranked cases for selection based on their prevailing wage level has been postponed until at least December 31, 2021. It is yet to be seen whether this rule will be modified or withdrawn before it goes into effect next year. For this year, the process will remain the same as in previous years.

If you have a case that you would like to get registered in the H-1B lottery, please reach out to your attorney at Graham Adair.