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MikeHammond

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So far Mike Hammond has created 445 entries.

Emergency Visa Appointments for RN’s

The Department of State issued a directive last week to provide for emergency visa appointments for medical professionals. The original directive has been modified to include RN’s with approved I-140’s and current priority dates. They may bypass the NVC process and complete visa issuance at the U.S. Consulate. Contact your HLG attorney for assistance.

H-1b Cap Lottery Update

With all of the news about COVID-19; and, with Consulates, USCIS offices and borders closing, it was easy to miss that the H-1b cap lottery registration ended last week. The USCIS has indicated that registrants who are chosen in the lottery will be notified by March 31st and then be given at least 90 days to file their H-1b cap petition. There is some speculation that the 90 day filing window may be expanded due to the effects of COVID-19. Please note that persons who are going to take advantage of the cap-gap rules must still file before the expiration of their EAD and may not have the full 90 days.

Borders Closed Due to COVID-19

The US has announced agreements with both Mexico and Canada to close the border for all but essential travel. Read the Fact Sheet and announcements here. All non-essential travel has been prohibited. We believe this prohibits the issuance of new TN’s for Canadians. For Mexican nationals, a new TN requires a visa issued from a US Consulate which are all closed at present. For persons who already are in possession of a TN or other working status, for example, an L visa, it is not clear whether you would be permitted to re-enter the US after a trip to Canada but, we are advising you not to travel unless you are prepared to remain in Canada until the border is opened again.

Premium Processing Suspended

Effective today, the USCIS has suspended premium processing for I-129 and I-140 petitions. Cases previously filed as premium will continue to be adjudicated under the premium guidelines. Cases filed yesterday to be received today by the USCIS will have their premium filing fee returned.

USCIS Cancels Interviews Due to COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing in the U.S., the USCIS has closed its offices to the public until at least April 1, 2020. For legal immigrants, the major impacts are the cancellation of I-485 interviews and I-539 biometric appointments for family members. Until the offices are reopened to the public, no rescheduling will be done. If you have an I-485 interview scheduled and were holding off on filing for a renewal of your EAD/AP in anticipation of an approval, I’d recommend you file the extension.

US Consulate Closures

In response to the COVID-19 virus, many US Consulates have closed for visa services and are not conducting interviews or issuing non-immigrant or immigrant visas. The press release from the US Consulate in India can be found here and from the US Consulate in Mexico here. This is a very fluid situation so please check with your Consulate if you have an appointment scheduled. It is expected that these closings will significantly disrupt the operations of many IT companies. Here is a nice summary article. In addition, many H-1b and L-1 workers may be stranded abroad unable to get new visas issued and return to their US based jobs.

April Visa Bulletin

The Department of State (DOS) has released the April Visa Bulletin There was no forward movement in the Dates for Filing chart and there was very limited movement in the Final Action date chart and when I say limited movement, I mean 3 days forward for India EB2 and up to a few months for EB1 all others. The EB3 all others category remained unmoved. The USCIS has not yet announced which chart they will use for I-485 filings. We will update this post when they announce.

Stuck in Europe

On March 12th, President Trump imposed a ban on any person with a visa from traveling into the U.S. if they are from or have been in a Schengen country in the 14 days prior to their attempted entry to the U.S. Schengen countries include 26 European countries. There are a number of exceptions to the entry ban (including all persons who have had at least a 3 night stay at a Trump resort and/or played a round of golf or at least I think that is in there). The ban applies to all non-immigrant visas and new immigrant visas and is expected to last 30 days. A copy of the proclamation can be found here.

Update 3-16-2020 UK and Ireland have been added to the entry ban.

Federal Court Victory for Staffing Firms

A Federal Court in DC has handed the USCIS a stinging defeat saying that its employer-employee definition and practice of issuing shortened approval notices is illegal. Congrats to attorney Jonathan Wasden for his fighting this battle. Read a copy of the decision here. If you have an H-1b petition that was illegally shortened by the USCIS, we may be able to obtain relief for you via this case. Please email me directly at mfh@hammondlawgroup.com We will work with Mr. Wasden to have your case added to this litigation, if appropriate.

Cuccinelli compared to Dwight from The Office

For those of you who need a bid of levity this morning and a break from the news of coronavirus, stock market plunging, retrogression, and shortened H-1b approval notices, take a look at this decision A U.S. Federal Court declared the appointment of acting USCIS Director, Ken Cuccinelli illegal and referenced Dwight of The Office. Judge Moss pointed out that “there may well be a difference between one who serves as ‘the assistant regional manager’ and ‘the assistant to the regional manager.’ But either way, that person is, at best, second in command. Here, the acting secretary created a position that is second in command in name only.” In keeping with their philosophy for an outright disregard for the rule of law, the administration is ignoring this ruling and Cuccinelli remains. Policy memos and directives put into effect during the Cucinnelli tenure may all be at risk of being struck down.