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COVID-19 developments, including the White House ban on green card applications made at US consulates abroad, economic changes, and reduced cross-border travel, reduced the volume of applications for immigrant visas in recent months, creating excess supply in employment-based (EB) immigrant quotas.

As a result, the US Department of State (DOS) adjusted the EB quotas to allow certain individuals who previously faced lengthy waits of up to multiple years to file for adjustment of status (AOS) to US permanent residency in the month of October 2020.


Continue Reading Executive Summary: The Gate to US Permanent Residency Opens in October 2020

USCIS announced last week the implementation of adjustments that will slow the processing of Premium Processing Service cases, as well as increase filing fees for the majority of requests as part of a published Final Rule.

As covered in our previous blog post, a proposed Final Rule was reopened in January and the comment period extended to February 10.  On May 27, 2020, the USCIS Fee Rule went to the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).  OIRA completed its review on July 22, 2020, and the Final Rule was published on July 31, 2020.

In addition to lengthening processing for the Premium Processing Service and adjusting fees for petitions filed with USCIS, the Final Rule removes certain fee exemptions, changes fee waiver requirements, modifies intercountry adoption processing, and makes certain adjustments to filing requirements for nonimmigrant workers.

The Final Rule, including the adjusted fee amounts, is effective October 2, 2020.  Any application, petition, or request postmarked on or after that date must include the new fees under the Final Rule.

Adjustment to Premium Processing Timelines

As part of the Final Rule, USCIS has adjusted the processing time for its Premium Processing Service, which provides accelerated processing of some visa submissions for an additional filing fee ($1,440).  The Final Rule will increase the processing time from fifteen (15) calendar days to fifteen (15) business days.  This change will increase processing times associated with the Premium Processing Service, which will provide less flexibility to employers and lengthen the time required to secure approvals of work authorization.

Changes to Filing Fees for Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Petitions

The Final Rule adjusts the USCIS fee schedule to “provide for recovery of the estimated full cost of immigration adjudication and naturalization services,” according to the language in the published Final Rule.  DHS is adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20 percent, adding new fees for certain immigration benefit requests, establishing multiple fees for nonimmigrant worker petitions, and limiting the number of beneficiaries for certain forms.

Of particular note, USCIS has implemented varying filing fees for Form I-129, petitions with USCIS for H, L, O, E, and TN visas.  Under the Final Rule, each non-immigrant category will be subject to a separate fee rather than the current fee of $460.


Continue Reading USCIS Lengthens Premium Processing Timeline and Implements Fee Increases, Among Other Adjustments

In a media release issued on July 6, 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced a rollback of the protections it afforded to foreign students in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. The July 6 release announced that foreign students will no longer be eligible for F-1 visas or to remain in the United States to participate in online-only courses of study. Coming only six weeks before the start of the fall semester, the guidance has raised serious concerns for premier US universities, for which foreign students provide one of the greatest sources of revenue, already leading Harvard and MIT to file suit challenging the sudden reversal in posture only six weeks before the start of the fall semester. Other major universities, accompanied by business groups and a number of state attorneys general, are considering challenges to the new policy.

The policy change is expected to affect an estimated more than 1 million student visa holders in the United States, as well as others presently outside the United States who have been admitted for the fall semester.  Students currently in the United States and planning to attend schools that have elected to offer online-only classes in the fall 2020 semester “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school offering in-person instruction to remain in lawful status” per the release.


Continue Reading New ICE Directive Threatens Status of More Than One Million Foreign Students and Prompts Immediate Lawsuit

The administration announced expansion of the controversial travel ban to include six more countries, following an almost year-long review by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).  Restrictions on entering the United States will apply to certain travelers and migrants from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, as well as Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan, and Tanzania, ,

A legal battle over the future of hundreds of thousands of individuals presently in the United States based upon Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) continues following the Trump administration’s steps to end TPS for certain individuals.

What is TPS?

The United States provides TPS to nationals of certain countries based upon conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, such as ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. At present, 10 countries are designated for TPS: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A May 2018 report from US Citizenship and Immigration Services noted that 437,402 individuals held TPS status as of December 31, 2017.
Continue Reading Legal Battle Over Temporary Protected Status Continues

Effective May 1, 2019, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv will begin accepting E-2 visa applications filed by Israeli citizens.  This long-awaited announcement comes close to seven years after President Obama signed legislation in 2012 implementing a bilateral investment treaty with Israel on the condition that Israel provide reciprocal immigration status for American investors.  The

On Tuesday, June 19, 2018, President Donald Trump told House Republicans to send him a compromise immigration bill to address border security and other key issues. Within less than 24 hours, in a move designed to stave off the continued public outcry over the separation of children from migrant parents detained at the southern border, on June 20 the president signed an executive order, “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation.” The executive order states that officials will continue to prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally but will find or build facilities to hold families together while the parents’ cases are considered by the courts.

Zero Tolerance Policy Reiterated

The president indicated the border will be “just as tough,” with borders “very strong,” but families will no longer be separated.   In a news conference where he was flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, President Trump indicated, “We are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance.”  The executive order similarly reiterates the administration’s hard-line policy to detain any adults entering the country illegally, a policy that, according to statistics released on June 19, has led to the separation of more than 2,300 children from their parents.  As stated in the order:


Continue Reading President Trump Signs Executive Order to End Migrant Family Separation by Indefinitely Detaining Parents and Children Together at the Border

On Thursday, April 6, 2018, federal and state officials arrested approximately 97 workers at a meat-processing facility in Tennessee.  The charges faced by the individuals primarily relate to immigration-related offenses.

Media reports noted that the federal affidavit submitted in connection with the raid stated that the facility was targeted as a result of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) criminal investigation related to whether the company had been filing false tax returns and avoiding payment of payroll tax.  The company’s bank reported repeated large cash withdrawals to the IRS, which prompted the investigation.  The IRS contends the funds were used to pay undocumented workers.


Continue Reading ICE Collaboration with IRS a Signal of Intra-Agency Cooperation Across Contexts