The USCIS has announced an extension of its accommodations for responding to RFE’s, NOID, etc during this time of COVID-19. As a practical matter, most deadlines have been extended by 60 days. The USCIS has been extremely generous in steps it has taken to serve its customers during this pandemic and they should be saluted for their efforts.
As the White House is contemplating placing a moratorium on the issuance of H-1b visas and the issuance of OPT STEM work permits, it may be helpful for the WH to check DOL data. If they do, they will learn that the unemployment rate of IT professionals, which make up a large percentage of H-1b workers and OPT STEM workers has not been impacted significantly by COVID-19. The unemployment rate for IT professionals was at 2.8% in April. It is true that 30+ million Americans are currently out of work due to the current pandemic, but, the impact on the IT space is nominal. IF the WH cares enough about the economy to actually check out the facts, they will drop their ill-conceived plan that attacks STEM jobs and will instead focus on other areas. For the data, check out the NFAP policy brief.
The USCIS has pleaded to Congress for additional funding due to the implications of COVID-19. Guess they figure everyone else’s hand is out, why not theirs. They have stated that if they do not receive the additional funding, they will add a 10% service charge to applications. Maybe they should consider restoring the premium processing service which generates $1440.00 per petition ? Or maybe they should make their processing of cases more efficient and cost-effective eg. they can stop requesting the annual report for publicly traded cos.; having to receive, scan in and store what is often a 1000+ page document is unnecessary. Or maybe they should stop issuing RFE’s at a rate that is 4x greater than under any other administration. Or maybe they should stop issuing 3 mo. H-1b approval notices when the law supports the issuance of a 3 yr. approval thus eliminating literally tens of thousands of unnecessary filings ? Or maybe they should stop denying H-1b petitions where the law does not support such a decision; as they lose case after case in Federal Court, surely the money they are paying out to the winning plaintiffs and the costs to defend these arbitrary and capricious decisions add up. But, hey those are just my thoughts; I’m no budget expert. Asking Congress for a handout or charging your customer that you are failing to serve is another route to take.
In a recent stakeholder message, a copy of which can be found here, USCIS has confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause delays in data entry and notice generation for CAP cases. Even though cases could be filed starting April 1, 2020, USCIS does not expect to be able to get notices out for cases filed until May 1, 2020. Cases will still retain their original receipt date for petitions that have time sensitive issues and USCIS notes that they are mindful of these time sensitive cases. However, USCIS still expects this to cause a delay in adjudication of CAP cases this year. USCIS will not extend the original filing window in the registration notice and there is no new update on when premium processing will be reinstated. As more updates become available we will share with our clients.
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.
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.
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.
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.