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President Trump signed an executive order, “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” to pause for 60 days the issuance of new immigrant visas to applicants who are outside the United States.  The order, which takes effect at 11:59 pm Eastern

Employers who employ international talent, including graduates of US university programs, have been preparing for the annual H-1B “cap subject” petition filing process since early this calendar year.  H-1B petitions for specialty occupation workers who are graduating from university programs, moving to the United States for the first time, or transitioning from a different visa category to the H-1B, are subject to an annual quota of 65,000, with an additional pool of 20,000 reserved for graduates of US advanced degree (master’s or higher) programs.

This year, USCIS launched an Electronic Registration Process for the first time, requiring employers to pre-register their H-1B candidates and pay a $10 per-candidate registration fee. The registration period opened on March 1, and will close at noon ET on March 20, 2020. By this point in the process, with only two working days before the close of the period, employers need to verify and check that their H-1B registrations all reflect the status of “submitted” in the government database.
Continue Reading As March 20 Fast Approaches, Where Do Your H-1B Cap Cases Stand?

As of February 24, 2020, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is free to impose the regulation it unveiled in August 2019, which gives its officers significantly expanded authority to deny visas and green card applications from immigrants and prospective immigrants whom the government determines rely, or could rely, on certain public benefits like food stamps and government housing programs.  A narrowly divided Supreme Court lifted the nationwide injunction in January 2020, ruling 5-4 that the administration could begin enforcing the controversial policy, leaving lower courts to wrestle with multiple lingering legal actions challenging the rule.  On February 21, 2020, the Supreme Court lifted the last remaining injunction, which had applied to Illinois residents.

As a result, USCIS has reissued new versions of existing application and petition forms which include attestations regarding the redefined public charge policy.  USCIS has also issued a new form, “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency” (Form I-944), which requires comprehensive information about a beneficiary and accompanying family’s assets, resources, and financial status, including liabilities, debts, credit report and credit score, health insurance, and public benefits. Form I-944 also requires information about the beneficiary’s educational history and skill level.
Continue Reading The Top Issues For Global Employers as Nationwide “Public Charge” Rule Affects Millions of Visa and Green Card Applicants

On April 22, 2019, the Department of State published a final rule setting out procedures that allow consular officers to discontinue granting visas to nationals of a country subject to sanctions under § 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Section 243(d) provides that—when notified by the Secretary of Homeland Security that a foreign country government has denied or unreasonably delayed accepting an alien who is the citizen, subject, national, or resident of that country and is subject to a final order of removal from the United States— the Secretary of State shall order consular officers in that foreign country to “discontinue granting” immigrant visas, nonimmigrant visas, or both to citizens, subjects, nationals, or residents in that country. The Secretary of State imposes these visa sanctions by issuing an order to consular officers that describes the category or categories of visas and applicants subject to discontinuation of visa grants.


Continue Reading New Department of State Rules Empower Consulates to Discontinue Visa Issuance to Nationals of Countries Sanctioned under INA 243(D)

On January 25, 2019, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency would reinstate premium processing for H-1B petitions filed last April under the FY 2019 annual quota (the “cap”), including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption (i.e., holders of US master’s degrees or higher). This reinstatement of premium processing is only available for pending petitions and will not apply to new submissions, as the FY 2019 cap quota has already been met.

The premium processing service permits employers to pay an additional fee of $1,410 to have an immigration benefit adjudicated within 15 days, and USCIS will return the additional fee to the employer if the benefit application is not timely adjudicated.
Continue Reading USCIS to Resume Premium Processing for H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions Filed in April 2018 That Remain Pending

For the second year in a row, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for the upcoming fiscal year’s H-1B petitions, for which filings may be accepted as of April 2, 2018:

Starting April 2, 2018, USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 cap. We will temporarily suspend premium processing for all FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

USCIS’s premium processing service guarantees 15 calendar day processing to those petitioners or applicants who choose to use this service, or USCIS will refund the Premium Processing Service fee. If the fee is refunded, the relating case will continue to receive expedited processing.
Continue Reading USCIS Suspends Premium Processing for H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions Twelve Days before Annual Lottery Commences