• Posts by Suzan  Kern
    Posts by Suzan Kern
    Counsel

    Suzan’s practice focuses exclusively on immigration and nationality law. Suzan represents businesses and individuals in administrative proceedings before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and ...

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State in collaboration with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.  The Bulletin is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

Below is a summary of the May Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates. (Spoiler alert: there are no changes from April.)

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

Below is a summary of the April Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month.

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

Below is a summary of the March Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month.

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

Below is a summary of the February Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month.

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

Below is a summary of the November Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month.

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The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process, or if already pending, when the final step can be adjudicated.

Below is a summary of the September Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month.

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Seasoned business immigration attorneys recall “visa revalidation” with great fondness.  It is hard to imagine now, with visa appointment backlogs of months and even years at U.S. consulates all over the world, but it was once possible to send a passport to the Department of State’s Revalidation Division in St. Louis, Missouri, along with a few simple supporting documents, and within 10 to 12 weeks, get the passport back with a renewed visa in it.  Those were the days!

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A new rule, “Implementation of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act,” published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2022, will open the popular USCIS “premium processing” service to new categories of immigration filings that are currently subject to extraordinarily long backlogs.  USCIS will roll out the expansions in stages.

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In the newest sequel to the Shergill v. Mayorkas settlement, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has now updated its Policy Manual to address documents that E and L nonimmigrant spouses may show their employers to prove their work eligibility.

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On November 12, 2021, in settling a federal lawsuit pending since March, US Citizenship & Immigration Services agreed to two significant changes that will have a major impact on the lives of nonimmigrant workers and their families in the US.

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As we previously reported, President Biden is rescinding the international travel restrictions that have drastically hindered US business and tourist travel for almost 2 years.  Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday, November 8, 2021, travelers will no longer need a valid National Interest Exception if they have been in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, or India within the past 14 days.  Instead, they – and all air travelers to the US, with some very limited exceptions – will have to prove they are “fully vaccinated” before boarding a US-bound flight.

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On October 15, the White House and State Department announced that, beginning November 8, foreign travelers may board US-bound flights or cross US land borders without first obtaining National Interest Exceptions, as long as they can prove they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

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In a move reflective of the agency’s current approach to rulemaking and policy changes, US Citizenship and Immigration Services has provided less than one business day’s notice that it is almost doubling the popular “premium processing” fee that allows US employers to receive decisions on their petitions to sponsor foreign workers in a matter of days, instead of waiting the many months these petitions currently take to be processed at USCIS without the premium fee.

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Foreign nationals are experiencing delays of more than a month in receiving approved work permits and green cards that are normally issued and mailed within days of approval.  Applicants are also experiencing extended delays in the time it takes USCIS to adjudicate these applications.  These delays have a major impact on foreign nationals and their US employers.

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As we explained on May 4 and March 12, the Department of Homeland Security has relaxed normal in-person verification requirements for Form I-9 during the pandemic.

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In the ten days since we reported on presidential Proclamation 10052, certain questions we and other immigration attorneys had about the proclamation have been clarified.  The proclamation established a ban on admission to the United States for people in the H, L, and J nonimmigrant visa categories for the rest of calendar year 2020.  We now have the following additional answers to the questions we asked on June 23:

If I am Canadian and do not require a U.S. visa, am I banned from entering?

No.  Canadian citizens are not subject to the ban.  The pretext for the proclamation is preventing entry ...

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UPDATES as of July 1, 2020:  Please see our new piece, Entry Ban Update, for additional information that has become available about how the proclamation is being enforced for Canadians, visa renewals, and exceptions.


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After suspending all “premium processing” for more than two months during the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS today announced it will again accept premium fees (currently, $1,440 per form) and requests for expedited adjudication (currently, 15 calendar days) for Forms I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) and I‑140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker).

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On March 25, we reported that US Citizenship and Immigration Services had closed all local domestic offices, including asylum offices, field offices, and application support centers, due to COVID-19 contagion risks.  Those closures, while initially short term, have been extended several times and remain in effect as of today.

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On May 24, 2020, the White House added Brazil to the list of countries triggering denial of admission to the US if travelers have been physically present in those countries for the preceding 14 days.  The presidential action cited “widespread, ongoing person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2” as the reason for the ban, listing the WHO’s ranking of Brazil with the “third highest number of confirmed cases in the world.”

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As of May 1, 2020, when employers verify identity and employment authorization for their employees, they must use the October 21, 2019, edition of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

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On March 12, we recommended that employers designate authorized representatives to complete and reverify Forms I-9 in person during COVID-19 closures and furloughs.  On March 24, we updated our guidance in detail because, in response to COVID-19, USCIS began allowing employers and employees to complete Forms I-9 remotely.  The agency has now further relaxed I-9 verification requirements.

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On the night of Monday, April 20, 2020, the President tweeted that he would “protect” American jobs during the COVID-19 crisis by issuing an Executive Order that would “temporarily suspend immigration.”  After several uncertain days of conflicting information, reported in the media, about how sweeping the scope of the order would be, it turns out to affect a very small subset of intending US immigrants:  those who are outside the United States and will immigrate here by obtaining an immigrant visa.

On April 22, 2020, the White House issued the order, entitled “Proclamation ...

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On March 23, 2020, we wrote about the impact of the global pandemic on travel between the United States and neighboring countries, in COVID-19: How Does the Outbreak Affect Travel Between the United States and Mexico or Canada?  We explained that the US, Mexican and Canadian governments had agreed to close their contiguous borders between March 20 and April 20, 2020, and then reassess whether borders should be reopened depending on the progress of the pandemic.

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On March 30, 2020, we wrote about “satisfactory departure” in COVID-19:  How Does the Outbreak Affect Visa Waiver (ESTA) Travelers?  As we explained, visitors to the US who arrive under the Visa Waiver program who cannot depart within 90 days due to the pandemic may request a 30-day “satisfactory departure” period from US Customs & Border Protection by email.

On April 13, 2020, US Citizenship & Immigration Services announced it would begin taking requests for satisfactory departure by phone while its local field offices remain closed during COVID-19.  Visa Waiver travelers ...

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President Trump signed the eagerly awaited Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, 2020.  What does it mean for people who are affected by COVID-19 and living here on work-authorized visas?  They, like their colleagues who are US citizens and permanent residents, have also been furloughed without pay, laid off, and affected by university closures.  But, unlike their colleagues, nonimmigrant workers are also at risk of involuntarily violating or even losing their US immigration status during COVID-19.  To understand why, see our earlier blog, COVID-19: How Do Furloughs Affect Nonimmigrant Workers?  Unfortunately, the Act is silent on the fate of these workers.  While it provides general relief that may also aid nonimmigrants, their eligibility for that relief is not entirely clear.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted travel across the globe.  Many US travelers who entered under the Visa Waiver Program (commonly called “ESTA,” the acronym for the online pre‑authorization system) now find themselves on the horns of a dilemma:  leave at the end of their 90-day authorized stay and thus endanger their own health and potentially that of others, or overstay due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, US authorities are announcing a number of significant changes that impact everyone who relies on immigration programs to operate businesses or to live and work in the United States. Companies and their sponsored employees should be aware of the following changes announced within the past week:

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UPDATE: Law360 posted a version of this article as Expert Analysis on March 31, 2020.

As employers throughout the United States increasingly move to remote work arrangements for employees, they are confronted with challenges in completing Form I-9.  An employer must inspect an employee’s original identity and employment authorization documents in the physical presence of the employee within 3 business days after employment begins.  For remote hires, and for reverification of current employees working remotely, government agencies have relaxed some I-9 requirements and companies are developing temporary procedures to ensure compliance during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Employers nationwide are implementing work reductions, closures and furloughs in order to reduce costs during the COVID-19 economic slowdown in the United States.  When employees are put on reduced hours or furloughed, employers face changing legal obligations in multiple areas of labor and employment law.  Companies that employ nonimmigrant workers should not overlook the additional legal obligations they have toward these employees, especially those who are on visas that have prevailing wage requirements.

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In response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, multiple travel restrictions are in effect for travel in and out of the United States and its neighboring countries.

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Employers, already dealing with a chaos of urgent-action items caused by COVID-19, must not overlook the stringent posting requirements under US Department of Labor (DOL) regulations for employees in H‑1B, H-1B1, and E-3 status, and for all employees, regardless of status, who are being sponsored for green cards through labor certification (“PERM”).

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As reported in the Hunton Labor & Employment blog, COVID-19 has disrupted the global economy and employers may soon face the need to reduce expenses associated with exempt employees. Employers can place exempt employees on furlough, or, in some cases, reduce salaries and hours, without jeopardizing the FLSA exemption, but exceptions may need to be made for certain employees on work-authorized visas.

Continue Reading

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Employers face many urgent issues in responding to the US outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID‑19.  The disease has forced employers to develop and implement workplace safety, mitigation, and business continuity plans.  These may include allowing employees to work from home or from alternate unaffected worksites, as well as outsourcing I-9 document reviews to agents in remote locations. Economic slowdowns have occurred in some sectors due to the global pandemic, requiring some companies to consider or implement temporary employee furloughs or even reductions in force.

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Reacting to the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan City in Central China, the Trump Administration has issued a proclamation prohibiting anyone from entering the United States who has been physically present anywhere in China within 14 days of seeking US entry.  The prohibition has no fixed end date, but is to be reviewed every 15 days by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The prohibition does not apply to US citizens or lawful permanent residents, their spouses, or their minor children.  If the citizen or permanent resident is a child under age 21, the prohibition does not apply to the child’s parents, guardians, or minor siblings.  It also does not apply to anyone who is traveling on a diplomatic or crewmember visa or to a handful of additional, unusual situations.

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As Forbes has reported, US Immigration & Customs Enforcement has begun visiting the work sites of foreign students with employment authorization based on STEM degrees and employment with E-Verify employers (commonly known as “STEM OPT”).  While authority to conduct such site visits was part of regulations issued more than 3 years ago, during the Obama administration, this is the first time ICE has exercised its authority.

Although STEM OPT work permits do not require employer sponsorship, employers must develop a 2‑year training program that is kept on file with the ...

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In October 2017, the Department of Homeland Security implemented Trump’s Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry,” by requiring all applicants sponsored for green cards by their employers to be interviewed in person at a US Citizenship & Immigration Services office.  The first batch of interviews were scheduled quickly, but over the last year, wait times have skyrocketed, now reaching 1 to 2 years in large metro areas.  Waits for family-based applicants (who have always been interviewed) have steadily climbed also, as a result of the growing ...

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has just announced that it has completed what is commonly known as the “master’s cap” H-1B lottery.  The agency confirmed, as was widely anticipated, that sufficient petitions were received during the first five business days of April 2019 to satisfy this additional pool of 20,000 H-1B numbers, which are set aside for workers who possess an advanced degree from a U.S. college or university.  As we previously reported, the “regular cap” of 65,000 numbers was also met during the 5-day filing window.

USCIS also just released the total ...

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reported receiving enough petitions during the first five business days of April 2019 to meet the congressionally mandated 65,000 H-1B regular cap for fiscal year 2020.  USCIS will next determine if it has received enough petitions to meet the 20,000 U.S. advanced degree exemption or “master’s cap.”

This year, for the first time, the agency ran the regular lottery first, with the stated purpose of ensuring that more of the limited annual H-1B numbers went to those with advanced U.S. degrees.  We will provide an update once the agency ...

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Foreign Students Will Face New Threats

 DHS’s Fall 2017 regulatory agenda proposed “comprehensive reform” to practical training programs, which allow foreign students to obtain paid work after graduation – a pathway that often leads to H-1B and green card sponsorship by a U.S. employer.  Although no final rule has yet been published, ICE is still expected to end an Obama-era provision that extended practical training from one to three years for graduates in STEM fields who work for employers enrolled in E-Verify. ICE may also be looking at ways to restrict the standard ...

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A year ago, we blogged about the changes we saw coming in 2018 for U.S. employers and their employees under the April 2017 Buy American / Hire American executive order.  Though widespread across visa and green card categories, those changes have all amounted to increasing obstacles for U.S. companies to hire, retain and sponsor foreign nationals.  H‑1B workers, their H‑4 spouses, F‑1 students, TN professionals under NAFTA (to be replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, once approved by Congress), and L‑1 managers and specialists who transfer into U.S ...

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In August 2017, rumors began circulating that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was denying applications for advance parole if the applicant had departed the US before the application was approved.

Soon after these reports surfaced, USCIS officially confirmed the change, which was implemented without formal announcement or advance notice of any kind.  Since then, USCIS has indiscriminately applied the policy, including to those who traveled with their existing valid advance paroles (for example, while their renewals were pending) or on valid “dual intent” visas ...

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On October 3, 2018, California U.S. District Judge Edward Chen granted a preliminary injunction in the case of Ramos v. Nielsen, preventing the Department of Homeland Security from terminating Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador (scheduled to end on 9/9/19), Haiti (7/22/19), Nicaragua (1/5/19), and Sudan (11/2/18).  The injunction remains in place until the Court lifts it or the lawsuit ends.

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On June 28, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a policy memo telling adjudicators when they are required to issue Notices To Appear after denying or while processing a petition or application for benefits.  The NTA is the charging document that, once filed with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice), puts an individual into formal removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

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U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced today that it has now completed returning all petitions that were not selected in the Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B lottery.  Employers who filed petitions should now have received either a Form I-797 receipt notice with assigned receipt number, or the original rejected petition including filing fees.  USCIS will take inquiries if employers believe they filed during the required period – April 2 to April 6, 2018 – and have not received a receipt notice or rejected petition by August 13, 2018

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In a closely watched asylum appeal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a decision that will adversely affect the ability of victims of domestic and gang violence to find protection in the United States.

Matter of A-B- was originally decided, in December 2016, in favor of the asylum seeker by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  The BIA is an administrative branch of the US Department of Justice.  It accepts appeals, filed by either government attorneys or immigrants, of decisions made by civil immigration courts throughout the country.

In late 2016, the BIA overturned the 2015 ...

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On May 18, 2018, after receiving a notice from the Government of Ecuador terminating that country’s bilateral investment treaty with the United States, the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Trade Representative announced the termination in the Federal Register.  The treaty has been in force since 1997.

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If 2017 is any indication, the new year will bring a fresh cascade of changes – both announced and unannounced, anticipated and unanticipated – in the business immigration landscape.  Few, if any, of these changes are expected to be good news for U.S. businesses and the foreign workers they employ.

In 2017, while much of the news media focused on the Trump Administration’s draconian changes to practices and policies that affected the undocumented – including ending the DACA Dreamer program, shutting down Temporary Protected Status for citizens of countries ravished by war and natural disaster, and aggressively enforcing at the southern border and in “sensitive” locations such as churches, courthouses, and homeless shelters – relatively less attention has been paid to the steady, incremental erosion of rights and options for legal immigrants, particularly those who are sponsored for work by U.S. employers, under the Administration’s April 2017 “Buy American / Hire American” executive order.  There is no doubt that such restrictions to the legal immigration system will continue to cause business uncertainty and disruption in 2018.  Here’s what to expect:

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On December 4, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two orders that allow the Presidential Proclamation of September 24, 2017, otherwise known as the “Travel Ban,” to go into effect while appeals continue in the lower courts.  The practical effect of SCOTUS’s actions is to reinstate this version of the Travel Ban fully.  See our earlier blog entry, New Presidential Proclamation Modifies Travel Ban; SCOTUS Reacts, for a full explanation of which countries are targeted in the revised Ban and which citizens of those countries are subject to U.S. travel restrictions under the Ban.

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On Sunday, September 24, 2017, the White House identified eight countries as inadequately managing identity and security risk information for their citizens who seek admission to the United States or other U.S. immigration benefits and established the following restrictions for those countries:

  • North Korea / Syria:  All immigrant and nonimmigrant visas are suspended.
  • Chad / Libya / Yemen:  All immigrant visas and all B-1 business and B-2 tourist visas are suspended.
  • Iran:  All immigrant visas are suspended, as well as all nonimmigrant visas except F and M student visas and J exchange ...
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Despite earlier hints that the “Dreamers” – undocumented youth who were brought to the United States illegally or lost their status while they were underage – might be allowed to retain their work permits and reprieve from deportation, Attorney General Sessions announced today that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will end on March 5, 2018.  The six-month lag time is intended to allow Congress to codify DACA-like provisions into law.

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U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced today that it has now completed returning all petitions that were not selected in the Fiscal Year 2018 H-1B lottery.  Employers who filed petitions should now have received either a Form I-797 receipt notice indicating the petition was assigned a receipt number, or the original rejected petition including filing fees.  USCIS will take inquiries if employers believe they filed during the required period – April 3 to April 7, 2017 – and have not received either the receipt notice or the rejected petition by July 31 ...

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U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) is scheduled to release a revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17, 2017. The previous version, dated 11/14/16 N, remains valid, but only through September 17, 2017. On September 18, 2017, employers must use the new form.

The new form changes the name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices to its new name, the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.  In addition, several key changes have been made to the List C, Acceptable Documents to Prove Employment ...

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The Trump Administration’s April Executive Order, “Buy American, Hire American,” puts the H-1B visa program under increased scrutiny, but is not likely to have significant, if any, impact on the program for the foreseeable future.

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On, March 31, 2017, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services rescinded a 17-year-old memorandum issued by the Nebraska Service Center regarding computer-related positions as H-1B “specialty occupations.”  For the last 10 years, all H-1B petitions have been processed at the Vermont and California Service Centers, so the memo has not been in use.  Since NSC recently began accepting H-1B extension petitions again, USCIS has rescinded the memo, stating it is outdated and inconsistent with the agency’s current approach to H-1B petitions for computer jobs.

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The Ninth Circuit has just issued a unanimous opinion upholding the Temporary Restraining Order against the Trump Administration’s Executive Order known as the “Travel Ban.” The 3-judge panel unanimously recognized that without the TRO, the states of Minnesota and Washington were likely to be harmed as parens patriae (i.e., legal protector) for their citizens, and also by damage inflicted on “operations and missions of their public universities and other institutions of higher learning,” and their “operations, tax bases, and public funds.”

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We have learned that, as of the evening of January 27, 2017, all U.S. embassies and consular posts have been instructed to immediately suspend the issuance of both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas and cancel currently scheduled visa interviews for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Some diplomatic visa categories are exempt.

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The Administration has now signed the Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals,” with immediate effect. Individuals from the designated countries should strongly consider not traveling outside the United States during the periods mentioned below. Key provisions are as follows:

1. The Order prohibits the “immigrant or nonimmigrant entry” into the United States by nationals of Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Libya for the next 90 days – until April 27, 2017.

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A draft of President Trump’s Executive Order banning Muslims and Refugees has surfaced.  While the final Order may be different, we expect most of what is in the draft to remain.  The draft Order provides for:

  • 120-day suspension and “realignment” of the refugee admissions program to determine what additional procedures are necessary to ensure the security and welfare of the United States
  • Indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee program
  • 30-day suspension of visa issuance to nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen
  • 30-day suspension of “other” immigration benefits for nationals of those countries
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On December 27, 2016, the Administrative Appeals Office of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a far-reaching decision, Matter of Dhanasar, that sets a new legal framework for approval of National Interest Waiver (NIW) petitions and is likely to greatly increase the value of this green card category.  The newly designated precedent decision also vacates Matter of New York State Department of Transportation, a 1998 case that has severely limited the usability of the NIW petition for almost 20 years.

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The Department of Homeland Security has announced it will negotiate with 11 airports, located in Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Edinburgh, Milan, Rome, Keflavik, Osaka, and St. Maarten, to open preflight inspection offices.  At these “preclearance” locations, Customs & Border Protection agents inspect travelers for immigration, customs and agriculture requirements before they board U.S.-bound flights.  With successful preflight screening, a foreign traveler normally avoids all screening at his or her U.S. destination airport.  In 2015 ...
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U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced today that it has now completed returning all petitions that were not selected in the Fiscal Year 2017 H-1B lottery.  Employers who filed petitions should now have received either a Form I-797 receipt notice indicating the petition was assigned a receipt number, or the original rejected petition including filing fees.  USCIS will take inquiries if employers believe they filed during the required period – April 1 to April 7, 2016 – and have not received either the receipt notice or the rejected petition by July 22 ...
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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) determines employers’ appeals of prevailing wage determinations and labor certification (“PERM”) denials during sponsorship of foreign nationals for employment-based green cards.  In a recently decided case, BALCA upheld a PERM denial because the employer failed to interview a potentially qualified U.S. worker during the mandatory labor market test for the sponsored position.  BALCA said that employers have a duty to investigate further when the resume raises a "reasonable ...

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According to the January 2016 edition of “All Aboard,” the National Labor Relations Board’s in-house newsletter, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has recently granted U status for the first time to victims of unfair labor practices in cases in which the NLRB’s General Counsel served as law enforcement certifier.

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After more than 15 years since the statutes were enacted, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will finally publish its proposed regulations implementing the American Competitiveness in the Twenty‑First Century Act of 2000, known as “AC21,” and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998, known as “ACWIA.”

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This information updates our original post of April 9, 2015.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), which controls admission of travelers to the United States, maintains more than 70 “Deferred Inspection” offices where travelers may request correction of  I-94 Arrival Records they believe were issued incorrectly.

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The U.S. Department of State has announced it will suspend all consular services, worldwide, on Friday, October 9, 2015, due to a consular systems upgrade. Application Service Centers (ASCs) that provide biometrics and fingerprinting services to U.S. consulates will also close that day. Appointments that have already been scheduled for that day will be rescheduled. Each individual consular post will provide instructions for expedited or emergency rescheduling on its website.
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The Department of Homeland Security today announced it will negotiate with ten airports in Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom to open preflight inspection offices, where U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents will inspect travelers for immigration, customs and agriculture requirements before they board U.S.-bound flights.  After a year-long analysis by DHS, the Department of State, and the Transportation Security Administration, these ten airports were selected, from more than twenty that ...
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On April 15, 2015, the day its previous order was due to expire, the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Florida extended its permission for the Department of Labor to process H-2B wage and labor certification applications for another month, through May 15, 2015.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), which controls admission of travelers to the United States, maintains more than 70 “Deferred Inspection” offices where travelers may request correction of  I-94 Arrival Records they believe were issued incorrectly.

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On March 20, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor issued new FAQs providing more details on the latest developments in the ongoing federal court case challenging DOL's authority to issue and implement regulations for the H-2B temporary worker program.

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On March 17, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services announced it will resume H-2B processing, but will continue to suspend premium (expedited) processing until further notice.

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On March 16, 2015, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Homeland Security jointly announced that they intend to release a joint Interim Final Rule by April 30, 2015, to resolve the agencies’ suspension of H-2B processing following a Florida federal court decision in Pérez v. Pérez.  See our blog entry of March 9, 2015, for details on that decision.  DOL also announced it will seek interim relief from the decision so that it may continue H-2B processing in the interval before the Interim Final Rule is promulgated.

In the joint statement, DOL and DHS acknowledged that “hardship” has ...

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The U.S. Department of State has announced that, as of November 12, 2014, the National Visa Center ceased collecting original civil documents – birth and marriage certificates, police clearance certificates, etc. – from applicants for immigrant visas.  From now on, applicants will submit only photocopies of these documents to the NVC and take the originals to their visa interviews at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide.

The NVC’s practice of requiring original documents is a long-standing one that has caused applicants additional stress, worry and expense in the ...

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As widely anticipated, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced yesterday that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet both the regular cap (65,000) and the advanced degree cap (20,000) for Fiscal Year 2015.  USCIS received a total of 172,500 petitions during the FY2015 filing window, which ran through the first five business days of April.

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The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has now issued FAQs for handling of same-sex spouses in both the immigrant (green card) and nonimmigrant (temporary visa) categories, following the Supreme Court’s finding, in Windsor v. United States, that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.  Effective immediately, DOS will treat same-sex spouses and their children identically to opposite-sex spouses and their children.  This means that same-sex spouses whose marriages, whether foreign or domestic, are legally recognized where they occurred are now ...

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Last month, the Homeland Security Investigation Worksite Enforcement Unit of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a significant change in policy regarding use of electronic I-9 software.

Many such systems integrate data from other HR databases in order to prepopulate information on Section 1 of Form I-9, the section employees fill out during the employment eligibility verification process.

In an April 11, 2013, meeting with the Verification and Documentation Liaison Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), ICE has now confirmed its ...

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On April 30, US Customs & Border Protection began a phased elimination of the paper I-94 Admission/Departure Record that visitors to the United States have become so familiar with.

By May 5, CBP will no longer issue paper I-94s at airports in Charlotte, Orlando, Las Vegas, Chicago (O’Hare), Miami, and Houston (IAH).  By May 21, I-94s at all other air and sea ports will be systematically phased out, per the schedule in CBP’s Travel Advisory.  Paper I-94s will continue to be issued at all land ports of entry.

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On March 8, 2013, USCIS issued a major revision of its Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, pursuant to a Federal Register announcement.

The newly revised Form I-9 adds data fields, including the employee’s foreign passport information, telephone and email address; improves and expands the form's instructions (now six pages); and revises the form layout to two pages, one for the employee and one for the employer.

Employers should begin using the new Form I-9 immediately, but are required to use it beginning May 7, 2013.  On that date, all prior versions of Form I-9 – ...

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Starting today, March 4, 2013, USCIS will begin accepting applications for “provisional waiver” of unlawful presence from spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens on Form I-601A.

As we explained in more detail in a previous post, these “immediate relatives” who qualify for the provisional waiver may now apply while they are still in the United States, and before they depart for their immigrant visa interviews at U.S. embassies and consulates in their home countries.  Before the provisional waiver process was established, they were required to travel abroad and be ...

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On January 3, 2013, DHS announced publication of its final rule for certain spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens to obtain provisional waivers of unlawful presence from within the United States, prior to leaving in order to apply for required immigrant visas at US consulates in their home countries.  The new rule and procedures will become effective on March 4, 2013.

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The USCIS California Service Center recently changed the way it interprets H-1B requirements when job location changes, but duties and all other employment terms remain the same.

Previously, according to a 2003 USCIS memo, a simple change in job location did not require that a new petition be filed with USCIS.  The employer was required to analyze prevailing wage for the new location, file a new Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor, and post the required LCA notice at the new work site, but did not have to file an amended petition with USCIS.

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On October 5, 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) issued additional criteria  for determining when individuals who are in committed, long-term, same-sex partnerships may avoid removal (i.e., deportation) from the United States.  According to the memorandum, the following factors are relevant (though not sufficient) in exercising favorable prosecutorial discretion:

  • The partners are each other’s sole domestic partner and intend to remain so indefinitely;
  • The partners are not in a marital or other domestic relationship with anyone else; and
  • The ...
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On August 7, 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection posted a Travel Update to its website, confirming that CBP agents will systematically stop issuing paper Forms I-94 (Arrival/Departure Records) at all airports and some sea ports of entry in the very near future.  Travelers who enter at land ports of entry will continue to receive paper Forms I-94, until further notice.

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The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has announced that, as of July 1, 2012, individuals seeking to renew their visas at the embassy and consulates in Mexico no longer must attend a visa interview appointment, as long as their current visas are still valid or expired within the past 48 months. Previously, only those whose visas had expired within the past 12 months were exempt from interview.

Note that even those applicants who are exempt from interview under the new policy must still attend an appointment at the Applicant Service Center ("ASC") for biometrics and fingerprinting. Additional ...

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DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that undocumented youth who were brought here as children and who meet certain criteria are now eligible for "deferred action," a form of long-term relief from deportation that allows employment authorization and college attendance, but does not lead to a green card.  Known as DREAMers (after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which Congress has failed to pass each time it has been introduced since 2001), these young people have become increasingly vocal and visible in public protests and in the media.

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The serious immigrant visa retrogression we notified you about recently has worsened for Indian and Chinese nationals, and is now affecting previously unaffected visa categories, including EB-1 and EB-2 "Worldwide".

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Under its Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) program, through a data partnership with Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), USCIS verifies "business existence" for each US employer who files a petition for a foreign-national employee.

If data on the employer is unavailable in D&B, or does not match data in the employer's petition, USCIS sends the employer a Request for Evidence, asking for additional documentation of the company's business existence, which delays approval of the petition.  Although a single employer is not supposed to receive a VIBE Request for Evidence more ...

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Department of State Managing Director for Visa Services, Ed Ramotowski, announced yesterday that, due to their robust economies and currency strength against the U.S. dollar, 44% more U.S. visas have been issued in Brazil this year than last year and 35% more in China.  DOS described its efforts to keep up with this skyrocketing demand.

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On September 22, 2011, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced HR 3012 in the House.  The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act would eliminate the annual cap on green card numbers for employment-based immigrants and increase the cap for family-based immigrants.  Currently, foreign nationals who are sponsored by their employers for permanent jobs in the US wait up to 8 or 9 years for a green card because per-country allocations -- originally set by Congress decades ago -- have never been raised to keep pace with changing economic and technological needs.  The long waiting lists create ...
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In late July 2011, the US Department of Labor's National Prevailing Wage Center temporarily suspended processing of Prevailing Wage Requests (PWRs) in connection with labor certification applications. The suspension also affects redeterminations and Center Director Reviews. DOL has not announced how long the suspension will last or how long it will take to clear the PWR backlog once the suspension is lifted.

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USCIS has announced a range of benefits that may be available to Japanese nationals following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Those who are here on Visa Waiver, which requires departure within 90 days, may visit a local USCIS office (see USCIS Office Locator) for help in remaining longer. Those who are at US airports may visit the office of US Customs and Border Protection there. USCIS will approve changes of status and extensions that might not otherwise be approvable due to untimely filing or failure to maintain status. USCIS will also renew grants of parole, expedite ...
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Hunton & Williams LLP has received The National Law Journal's 2011 Pro Bono Award, recognizing six law firms that "best reflect the pro bono tradition"  The firm was lauded as one of three law firms that led the profession's response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Representing Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, a Hunton & Williams team -- including attorney Suzan Kern and senior professional assistant Carol Schlenker of the immigration practice group -- urged the Department of Homeland Security to extend the deadline for Haitians in the United States to apply ...

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USCIS recently announced how the agency will implement the Help HAITI Act of 2010, which authorizes lawful permanent resident status (a "green card") for orphaned children from Haiti who were paroled into the United States after the January 12, 2010, earthquake under the "Haitian Orphan Parole Program."
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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently issued a new Form I-129, effective December 23, 2010.  Part 6, "Release of Controlled Technology or Technical Data to Foreign Persons in the U.S.," requires an employer to certify it will not "release" controlled technology or data to an H-1B, L-1 or O-1 worker without the appropriate "export license," if one is required.  Under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), a "deemed export" occurs when controlled technology or technical data is "disclosed" or "transferred" to ...

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Beginning January 10, 2011, applicants for nonimmigrant visas at the U.S. embassy and consulates in Mexico must visit an Applicant Service Center (ASC) for biometrics (digital photos and fingerprints) before their visa interviews.  Applicants will no longer pay separate fees to schedule an appointment, apply for a visa, and have a courier service deliver their passports.  Instead, one fee will cover everything:  USD140 for tourist visas, USD150 for petition-based visas (H, L, O and P), and USD390 for E treaty/trader visas.  An applicant with a Mexican passport who is renewing a visa in ...
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On August 11, 2010, the State Department published its final revised rule on J-1 Interns and Trainees.  The revised rule makes 3 key changes.  First, host companies no longer must provide a Dun & Bradstreet report  Second, program sponsors may interview candidates by phone rather than only in person or by videoconference.  And third, both interns and trainees may participate in unlimited J-1 programs as long as they will develop more advanced skills or train in a different field of expertise in each new program.  Interns must still be enrolled full-time in a foreign college or university or ...

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