USCIS Alters Form for Change of Immigration Status – Only the New I-539 Can Be Used Starting March 11, 2019
On February 11, 2019, USCIS announced that as of March 11, 2019 it will only accept the new version of Form I-539 (the most often used form to apply for a change of nonimmigrant status, such as switching from B-2 visitor to F-1 student). NOTE: The new version of Form I-539 will not be published until March 11, 2019!
For details, read USCIS to Publish Revised Form I-539 and New Form I-539A
USCIS Moves to Eliminate Work Authorization for H-4 Spouses of H-1B Professionals
On February 20, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) submitted a proposed rule change that would eliminate temporary work permits for the H-4 spouses of certain H-1B workers who are waiting in a multi-year backlog for green cards. More than 90,000 H-4 spouses of H-1B professional workers are benefiting from the existing temporary work permits. The long delays in completing the legal green card process are caused by Congressionally-mandated immigrant visa quota backlogs. The primary beneficiaries of H-4 work permits have been spouses of engineers, IT professionals, physicians, professors, researchers and other professionals from India and China.
For details from NBC News, read After long wait, U.S. moves forward with proposal to end work permits for spouses of H-1B visa holders The rule change would strip the employment authorization from some who are on track for green cards.
Time is Running Out to Apply for New H-1B Work Visas for 2019!
- The H-1B work visa is the most commonly used work visa for newly hired professionals (Bachelor’s degree and above).
- Only 85,000 new cap-subject H-1B work visas are available for all of 2019.
- This year the entire quota for all of 2018 was used just in the first week of April.
After the 2019 H-1B quota is reached, there will be no new cap-subject H-1B work sponsorships available until October 1, 2020. If you have any questions about the H-1B visa category or wish to obtain assistance with applying for any new H-1B work visas, please email us or call us no later than February 15, 2019 at 612.321.0082.
Interested employers should start now in preparing new H-1B petitions for foreign workers, including computer/IT professionals, engineers, scientists, financial analysts, researchers, professors, teachers, accountants, managers, architects, doctors, nurses and many other eligible professionals. The window for H-1B petition filings opens on April 1, 2019, but it takes time to prepare a well-documented H-1B petition for submission. We recommend starting preparation of the petition well in advance to meet the filing deadline and to avoid disappointment.
U.S. Issued 17% Fewer Student Visas in 2017 than in 2016. “Trump Effect” and Increased Competition from Australian and Canadian Universities Cited as Factors Hurting International Student Enrollment at U.S. Universities
In January, the New York Times magazine reported that fewer foreign students are coming to study in the U.S. The drop began in 2016 and doubled in 2017. Students from China have been especially affected.
For details from the New York Times, read One of America’s Most Vital Exports, Education, Never Goes Abroad, but It Still Faces Threats
Government Shutdown Dramatically Worsens Record Immigration Court Backlogs – More than 800,000 Pending Cases, Some Already Waiting more than 4 Years for a “Day in Court”
The 35-day partial shutdown of the U.S. government had an especially adverse effect on backlogs in U.S. Immigration Courts. Thousands of hearing dates had to be canceled and rescheduled to the next available hearing date, which in many cases will not be until 2023. San Antonio, Chicago, Houston and Denver have the longest delays.
For more details from CBS News, read Government shutdown closes immigration courts adding to record-high 800,000 case backlog
From the New York Times, read Government Shutdown May Turn a Day in Court Into a Four-Year Wait
2018 Polls Show Majority of Americans Want Compromise on the Border Wall Issue and 75% Say “Immigration is Good for the Country”
A December poll by HarrisX found that 56% of U.S. voters support a compromise in Congress on immigration, including both a path to citizenship for undocumented children and increased wall and border security funding. Earlier in 2018, Gallup reported that an all-time record high 75% of Americans believe “immigration is good for the country.”
For details from The Hill, read Majority say they support immigration compromise, poll shows
From the The Economist, read America is friendlier to foreigners than headlines suggest
U.S. Department of Labor Requires All Employers to Use New Labor Condition Application (LCA) Form for All New H-1 Work Sponsorships Effective November 19, 2018
On November 8, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that starting November 19, 2018, all employers sponsoring H-1 temporary specialty occupations workers must use the newly revised version of the LCA Form ETA 9035. For a copy of the new form and the DOL announcement
In Election Aftermath, Trump Threatens a Partial Government Shutdown on December 7th if Congress Does Not Fund His Border Wall
While negotiations continue between House and Senate leaders to avoid a government shutdown over border wall funding, prospects of a bipartisan solution remain uncertain. A significant obstacle appears to be lack of money. There may simply not be enough Republican or Democratic votes to support Trump’s multi-billion dollar wall funding demands. For more from Politico, The Hill, The New York Times and the LA Times, click here, here, here and here.
Employer Alert: Consider Using “Premium Processing” Option to Expedite Work Visas
For many temporary and permanent visa petitions, the USCIS offers a way to speed up processing by paying a “Premium Processing” fee of $1,410. Currently many temporary and permanent visa petitions have processing backlogs of 3-6 months or longer. Using Premium Processing, USCIS promises to review the petition within 15 calendar days. For more about the “Premium Processing” option from USCIS, click here and here
Frustrated Legal “Green Card” Holders, Who Have “Followed All the Rules”, Now Face Government Delays of up to Two Years to Get U.S. Citizenship
The long waits to complete the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship have gotten much longer under the Trump Administration. The primary benefits of U.S. citizenship are the right to vote and to have a U.S. passport. During 2016 and prior years, processing delays in most states ranged from 6-12 months. Critics say the increased delays are an indirect method of voter suppression. For more from the Associated Press, click here. For FAQs about U.S. Citizenship/Naturalization, click here.
Trump and Many Republican Candidates Focus Message on Border Security and Immigration Fears in Final Days Before November 6 Midterm Election
As the midterm election approaches, Trump has doubled-down on his anti-immigration message to his political base, decrying undocumented migrants approaching the southern border and calling for harsher enforcement of immigration rules. Many Democratic candidates for Congress have instead focused on healthcare, the economy and the equal treatment of men and women as issues of greater concern to midterm voters. For more details from CNN, click here; from the Washington Post, click here; from the New York Times, click here; from Reuters, click here; and from USA Today, click here.
In September 2018 (for Only the Second Time on Record) Half of Undocumented Entrants on the Southern Border were Children or Families
The U.S. Border Patrol reported that in September 2018, more than half of the people detained at the U.S. – Mexico border were children or families, instead of single adults. This is only the second time since the government began keeping records that families and children outnumbered single adults seeking to enter the U.S. without documents. Fewer undocumented migrants are now coming from Mexico and more are coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. For more from Vox, click here.
2020 Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery (DV-2020) is now in progress. Link to entry available at www.greencard.com
Alert for All Employers: Watch for New Round of Social Security Administration (SSA) “No-Match” Letters
The SSA plans to start sending “no-match” letters to U.S. employers who have submitted information to SSA that does not match SSA databases of names and social security numbers. SSA had stopped sending the letters to employers in 2012. Any employer who receives a “no-match” letter may wish to contact their employment lawyer or immigration lawyer.
For more details from Bloomberg Law, read Mismatched SSNs Could Pave New Path for Immigration Enforcement
U.S. Companies Say Trump Harms Business by Creating Bureaucratic Road Blocks to Limit Legal International Workers – Affected Employers Include Hospitals, Hotels, Technology Companies – (Non-Partisan Group Finds a 41% Increase in Denial Rate for H-1 Professional Work Visa Petitions in 2017)
A recent analysis of government data by the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan research group, found that the denial rate for H-1B professional-level work visa petitions increased dramatically under the Trump Administration rising 41% in the last quarter of fiscal year 2017. The H-1B category is the most commonly-used work visa for newly-hired professional-level international workers such as engineers, physicians, teachers, researchers, executives and managers. Many of the denials appear to be for straight-forward renewal applications involving the same employer, same job and same employee as previously approved.
For more from the New York Times, read Companies Say Trump Is Hurting Business by Limiting Legal Immigration
From National Public Radio (NPR), read High-Skilled Immigrants Call Out The Trump Administration’s ‘Hypocrisy’
From Bloomberg Law, read Immigration Policies Weigh on Indian Workers Seeking Green Cards
New Trump Policy, Effective September 11, Allows Immigration Agency to Summarily Deny Visa Petitions and Green Card Applications With No Chance to Fix Errors
In a significant change from a decades-long government policy, a new USCIS Policy Guidance, effective September 11, 2018, permits USCIS adjudicators to deny an application or petition without first issuing a “Request for Evidence” or “Notice of Intent to Deny” to give the applicant an opportunity to fix what may be a simple filing error by submitting an explanation or additional evidence.
For more from the Miami Herald, read Be careful with your green card or visa application. A mistake can now get you deported
For a copy of the new Policy Memo from USCIS, read Issuance of Certain RFEs and NOIDs; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 10.5(a), Chapter 10.5(b)
Trump Administration Proposes New Rule to Block Visas and Green Cards for Migrants If They or Their Household Members have Used Medicaid, Food Stamps or Housing Aid
On September 22, 2018, the Trump Administration proposed a new 447 page immigration rule intended to reduce the use of many public benefits by prospective immigrants and members of their households. In some cases, even receipt of benefits by household members could result in a denial of green cards or visas to non-citizens.
The new Department of Homeland Security rule entitled “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” is now undergoing a 60-day public comment period before a final rule is issued. The Kaiser Family Foundation says an earlier version of the new rule could adversely affect nearly 20 million children in immigrant families. Almost 90% of the affected children could be U.S. citizens.
For more details from the New York Times, read Trump Administration Aims to Sharply Restrict New Green Cards for Those on Public Aid
U.S. Foreign-Born Population at Highest Level Since 1910 (Recent Arrivals Mostly From Asia); Also New Report Shows Immigrants Accounted for Two-Thirds of U.S. Economic Growth Since 2011
A new Brookings Institution analysis of recent U.S. Census Data shows the U.S. foreign-born population at 13.7% in 2017 (44.5 million people). Other highlights of the report include: 41% of new arrivals since 2010 are from Asia and 39% are from Latin America. About 45% are college-educated compared with just 30% of people who came to the U.S. from 2000 to 2009.
A new report from Citigroup and Oxford University finds that two-thirds of U.S. GDP Growth since 2011 was “directly attributable to migration” to the U.S. and that cuts to immigration would hurt economic growth and slow innovation.
For more from the New York Times, read U.S. Has Highest Share of Foreign-Born Since 1910, With More Coming From Asia
From National Geographic, read Asian-Americans Make Up Most of the New U.S. Immigrant Population
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Issues New Overview of I-9 Inspection and Enforcement Process Against Non-Compliant U.S. Employers
Since November 6, 1986, all U.S. employers have been required to verify the identity and employment authorization of all newly-hired employees, including U.S. citizens. An employer’s failure to comply with the I-9 rules can result in substantial fines and even criminal penalties.
For details from the Department of Homeland Security, read Form I-9 Inspection Overview
Under Trump Administration, Already Long Waits for Legal Green Card Holders to Become Citizens Get Much Longer; Trump Also Plans New Rule That Could Further Delay or Prevent up to 20 Million Permanent Residents Becoming U.S. Citizens
In 2014, it took the average naturalization applicant about 5 months to complete the citizenship process. Now, in some areas of the U.S. including Washington, D.C., delays can exceed 16 months. NBC News also reports that the Trump administration plans to issue a new rule that could further delay or prevent more than 20 million Lawful Permanent Resident immigrants (also known as “green card” holders) from obtaining U.S. citizenship based on past legal use of certain public benefits for themselves or U.S. citizen members of their households.
This new restriction, delaying or preventing millions of Lawful Permanent Residents from obtaining U.S. citizenship using the existing process that has been in place for more than 60 years, is being promoted by White House Senior Adviser, Stephen Miller, as part of a plan to drastically reduce the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. and to reduce the number of new U.S. citizens. The proposal is controversial. If implemented as planned, it could be the “biggest change to the legal immigration system in decades” and may not require any Congressional approval.
For more from NBC News, read Now the Trump administration wants to limit citizenship for legal immigrants
From the Washington Post, read Under Trump, there’s a growing wait to become a U.S. citizen
CEO’s of Top U.S. Employers (Including Apple, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and PepsiCo) Push Trump to Ease Immigration Restrictions on High-Skilled Workers; CEO’s Say Trump’s Immigration Policy Threatens the Whole U.S. Economy
In a letter sent August 22, 2018 from the CEO members of the Business Round-table addressed to Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the business leaders decried the sharp increase in delays, requests for additional evidence and denials of H-1B professional work visa petitions under the Trump administration.
The H-1B is the most frequently used U.S. work visa for employers sponsoring professional level and highly skilled workers. Read Frequently Asked Questions About H-1B Temporary Work Status
For details from the New York Times, read Top C.E.O.s Denounce Trump Immigration Policy as Threat to U.S. Economy
From CNN, read Over dinner, CEOs press Trump on Immigration
USCIS Issues New Policy Imposing Harsh Penalties on F-1 and J-1 International Students and Scholars for Violations of Newly Redefined, Complex “Immigration Status” Rules
Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS issued a new Policy Memorandum redefining what it considered “unlawful presence” in the U.S. for F-1, J-1 and M-1 visa holders. F, J and M are the most commonly used visa categories for foreign students studying in the U.S. and for post-doctoral researchers at U.S. colleges and universities, and international medical residents and fellows. The new penalties could cause many F, J and M students, researchers and scholars to become ineligible for certain non-immigrant benefits and may cause them to become inadmissible to the U.S. if they fail to strictly comply with the complex “maintenance of status” immigration regulations that apply to them.
For more from Bloomberg Law, read Government Cracking Down on Student Visa Violators
For more details about the new policy from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) read USCIS Issues Revised Final Guidance on Unlawful Presence for Students and Exchange Visitors
and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), read Policy Memorandum: Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants
USCIS Announces New Stricter Policy for Adjudications of Work Permission Applications, Immigrant Visa Petitions and Other Applications for Immigration Benefits
On July 13, 2018, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revoked a 2013 policy to regularly give applicants for work authorization or other immigration benefits an opportunity to respond to a written Request for Evidence (RFE) before denying such applications or petitions. The new policy is expected to lead to an increase in outright denials of many applications and petitions. Critics described it as a return to the “culture of no” that characterized much of the immigration decision-making in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. The effective date of the new policy is September 11, 2018. For more information on the new policy:
Trump Administration Adopts New Stricter Screening Policy for Asylum Seekers – Many More Applications Expected to be Summarily Denied Without a Full Hearing
On July 12, 2018, the Trump Administration issued new policy guidance that is expected to result in potentially thousands of people, seeking refuge in the U.S., being summarily refused entry into the country. Under the new harsher policy, persons seeking refuge or temporary asylum in the U.S. based upon fears of gang violence and domestic violence may be summarily rejected at the border with no opportunity for any trial or full hearing of their claims. Implementation of the new stricter asylum-screening policy is expected to be challenged in the federal courts, as cases are denied.
USCIS Announces New Policy Affecting More Than One Million F-1 and J-1 Students and Researchers – New “Unlawful Presence” Memo Creates Harsh Penalties for Non-Compliance with Complex Rules
On May 10, 2018, USCIS issued a far-reaching new Policy Memo, effective August 9, 2018, that will directly affect more than 1 million current and former F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors and their spouses and children. The new policy imposes harsh new penalties, including possible 3 or 10 year bars, on individuals who commit even minor violations of the complex and vaguely defined “maintenance of status” rules for F-1 and J-1 students and scholars.
For more about the new policy from the American Immigration Council, read New USCIS Policy Places Certain Students and Exchange Visitors at Serious Risk of Being Barred from the United States.
For more from USCIS, read USCIS Policy Memorandum: Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants.
USCIS Completes Data Entry on H-1B Work Visa Petitions Selected in the April 2018 Lottery – Petition Adjudication Process Begins Now
On May 15, 2018, USCIS announced that it had completed data entry on all H-1B petitions selected in the lottery. 190,098 petitions were submitted for the 85,000 available new H-1 cap-subject work visas. No more new cap-subject H-1B work visa petition approvals will be available until 2019. The H-1 is the most commonly used temporary work visa for newly-hired professional workers. H-1 workers are generally required to have at least a four-year degree in a specific field and a job offer that requires such a degree.
For more from USCIS, read USCIS Completes Data Entry of Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Subject Petitions
For FAQ’s about H-1 work visas, read Frequently Asked Questions About H-1B Temporary Work Status
H-1B Work Visa Cap is Reached in 5 Days – No More New Quota-Subject H-1B Work Visas Available Until 2019
USCIS received 190,098 new petitions from employers for H-1B work visas to become effective October 1, 2018. By Congressional mandate, only 85,000 new cap-subject H-1B petitions are permitted each fiscal year. “Winners” of the H-1B work visa lottery were selected randomly by computer for further processing and adjudication. The H-1 is the most commonly used temporary work visa for newly-hired professional workers. H-1 workers are generally required to have at least a four-year university degree in a specific field and a job offer that requires such a degree.
For more details from USCIS, read USCIS Reaches FY 2019 H-1B Cap
For FAQ’s about H-1 work visas, read Frequently Asked Questions About H-1B Temporary Work Status
Trump Establishes New National Vetting Center to Further Increase Screening of Individuals Seeking to Enter the U.S.
On February 5, President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum creating a new National Vetting Center to more aggressively and thoroughly screen all non-citizen individuals seeking visas or immigration benefits. The National Vetting Center will coordinate information about non-citizens who may present a threat to national security, border security or public safety. The new center will have access to extensive information from law enforcement agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department and the U.S. intelligence community. Further operation plans for the new Vetting Center are expected after August 15, 2018.
For details from DHS, read Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on the National Vetting Center
and from the Washington Post, read Trump is creating a vetting center. Is it ‘extreme’ enough to end his travel ban?
USCIS Expands Credit Card Payment Option for Filing Fees
On February 14, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will now accept credit card payments for filing fees for most forms.
For more details from USCIS, read USCIS Expands Credit Card Payment Option for Fees
Free Online Feature that Allows Visa Waiver Travelers to Track Departure Date
Visa Waiver travelers (90 day visitors for business or pleasure) can use a free online service from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to track how many days longer they may stay in the U.S. on each visit.
For details from CBP, read CBP Reminds Travelers of Departure Date with New I-94 Website Feature
For FAQ’s on the Visa Waiver Program, read Frequently Asked Questions about the Visa Waiver Program