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US Immigration Policy

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mr. Mulvaney Meet Mr. Miller

In remarks that can only be described as bizarre, White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney has declared that America needs more immigration. I realize the White House is a really big building and so he and Stephen Miller may not have met but, since the beginning of the Trump Administration, Miller and his cronies have imposed restrictions on legal immigration that has reduced the number of persons coming to the US on legal visas by almost 16% and the number of individuals coming on legal immigrant visas (green cards) by over 25%. The attacks and restrictive policies have been targeting high demand occupations such as registered nurses and software engineers. Maybe when Mr. Mulvaney gets back into DC, the WH can get their storylines and strategies straight. I’d like to view this as a positive development but, given the track record of this administration, it is more likely that Mulvaney will next be seen as a contributor on a news talk show.

Retrogression Strikes Hard at EB3 !

The Department of State (DOS) has released the March Visa Bulletin and as predicted, the Final Action Date for EB3 for all countries has retrogressed back to Jan 1, 2017 (aside from India and China which are at 2009 and 2016 respectively). The Dates for Filing chart remains unchanged at Jan 1, 2019. The USCIS has declared that they will accept I-485 filings in March using the Dates for Filing chart. Retrogression occurs when there is an oversubscription (demand exceeds supply) for a particular category. The DOS went on to state that they do not expect any forward movement in the EB3 category in the foreseeable future meaning that we may get no forward movement until Oct 2020, the beginning of the new fiscal year. New legislation is the only remedy.

New USCIS Forms !

Following its Supreme Court victory, the White House has begun the implementation of the new public charge rules, which will have far-reaching implications for both employment and family based cases. The new forms to be used in all USCIS filings as of Feb 24, 2020 have been released and can be reviewed here.

Travel Ban Explained

On Friday, January 31, 2020, President Trump issued a new set of travel restrictions for nationals of certain foreign countries. This is an expansion of the “travel ban” issued in 2017, as both draw their power from the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(f).
The foreign nationals affected are those from Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria.
This does not affect nationals of those countries if they are already present in the U.S. For example, if you have a Nigerian employee on H-1B, they may remain employed. You are also perfectly fine to start or continue a permanent residency case (PERM, I-140, I-485) via employment-based sponsorship.
Non-immigrant visas, such as H-1b, TN, L-1, O, etc are not impacted.
Students are also unaffected. For example, you may continue to employ a Kyrgyzstani student on Optional Practical Training. Nationals from affected countries are also permitted to extend or change status in the U.S.—they may apply for a STEM OPT extension, and/or you may place them into the H-1B lottery.
The most heavily affected are those candidates who are outside of the United States and going through National Visa Center processing for an immigrant visa. Nationals of those four countries are no longer able to seek immigrant visas through U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, regardless of the location of the post. If you have candidates who are currently part of the offshore immigrant visa process, you need to inform the candidate as soon as you can that their case may continue to be processed, but that their case will be placed into administrative processing or outright denied if this ban remains in effect.
Dual citizens are unaffected so long as they seek an immigrant visa on their non-affected passport.
This set of restrictions will affect your employees’ family members who are not in the United States and seeking to immigrate under the follow to join rules. Permanent resident or U.S. citizen employees who are attempting to bring their family members—spouses, parents, siblings, and the like—are now unable to bring them here on an immigrant visa if the family member is a national of one of those four countries. H-1B or L-1A/L-1B employees may still bring their spouses and Under-21-Children on H-4/L-2 visas.
If you have specific cases, please contact your HLG atty. to discuss.

Trump Immigration Policy Cheered in Toronto !

With the denial rate of H-1b visas in the mid 30% over the past 2 quarters and inching closer to 40%, ever wonder where all of those talented engineers and computer professionals are going ? Looks like they are landing nicely in Canada. Check out this latest article from NPR.

S. 386 On Hold

Late last week, it was announced by the Senate that S. 386 is on hold and will not be brought up for consideration because it was assured to fail. Whether it will be revived before the fall 2020 election remains to be seen but, it is doubtful. It remains disturbing that Senator Durbin continues to allege that there are widespread abuses in the H-1b program. If there is major abuse in the program now, it is the USCIS that are the perpetrators. With a denial rate that has soared to 35% with no changes in the law, who is most apt to be ignoring the law and abusing the program ?