On October 17, 2017, federal judge Derrick Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, issued a temporary restraining order preventing the government from enforcing Sections 2(a), (b), (c), (e), (g), and (h) of the Presidential Proclamation 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public-Safety Threats” signed by the President on September 24, 2017. These sections of the Presidential Proclamation were to be enforced at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on October 18, 2017.

As a result, foreign nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia will NOT be affected by the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation and may continue to travel freely to the United States. Visa applications for these countries will continue to be adjudicated in accordance with existing immigration law, and visa processing standards, irrespective of the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation.

However, the court order does not prevent the government from implementing restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela. In addition, the order does not prevent the government from scrutinizing the adjudication of visas for Iraqi nationals and their admittance to the United States. Sections (d) and (f) of the Proclamation, outline the provisions that remain in force. Restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq began on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 and will continue until further notice. The restrictions on Venezuela as you will see below are the most lenient of the restrictions. 

Restrictions on North Korean nationals: Entry of foreign nationals from North Korea has been suspended for all immigrants and non-immigrants (including diversity visa holders).

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Just one day before Presidential Proclamation No. 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” was set to go into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a ruling blocking portions of the Presidential Proclamation from being enforced on a majority, but not ALL, of the countries, listed in the Proclamation.

The Presidential Proclamation, commonly referred to in the media as ‘travel ban 3.0’ set out to suspend the entry of foreign nationals from eight “countries of identified concern,” and the admission of foreign nationals from those countries was to remain limited until further notice.

The countries to be affected by travel ban 3.0 included: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. A federal judge from the state of Hawaii by the name of Derrick Watson has granted a temporary restraining order preventing the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from the following countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, but DOES NOT prevent the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela, and from imposing stricter screening standards on Iraqi nationals. The restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq will continue to be enforced according to the Proclamation, beginning today, Thursday, October 19, 2017. Restrictions on North Koreans and Venezuelans will likely remain indefinitely, given that the U.S. government has no formal diplomatic avenues for communication with those countries.

Judge Derrick Watson wrote in his opinion that the latest revision of the ban, “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor,” and “lacks the sufficient finds that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from [the] specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,” and “plainly discriminates based on nationality.”

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As the March 5th deadline approaches for Congress to pass legislation protecting Dreamers from deportation, new information has emerged providing insights into the President’s plans to shield Dreamers from deportation, should Congress fail to act by the March 5th deadline.

Republican Senator James Lankford recently told the press that if Congress does not act by the March 5th deadline, the President is willing to give lawmakers more time to pass legislation that would create a more permanent solution for DACA recipients to remain lawfully present in the United States.

Although the President has generally been sympathetic to the plight of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, the President has made clear that any legislation that would protect Dreamers from deportation, would not include a path to permanent residency. In addition, the President recently issued a list of demands that must appear on any such legislation in order to receive his support. Some of these demands include Congress’ support for the construction of a border wall along the Southern border, cracking down on illegal immigrants, withdrawing federal funding from sanctuary cities, and cutting back on legal immigration by restricting the family based immigration system. Without these concessions, the President has stated that he will not throw his support behind the bill. It is still unclear how flexible the President’s list of demands will be. Of course, even if the President were to veto a bill that would not meet his demands, Congress can override a presidential veto by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

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Supreme Court Dismisses One of Two Travel Ban Cases

On October 10, 2017, in a one-page order, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the Maryland case, Trump, President of U.S., Et Al. v. Int’l Refugee Assistance, Et Al.,  which sought to block a key provision of Executive Order No. 13,780 temporarily suspending the entry of aliens outlined under Section 2(c). The Supreme Court has dismissed the case because the provision at issue expired on September 24, 2017 and no longer presents a “live case or controversy” for the court to resolve. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment and sent the case back to the lower courts to dismiss the case as moot.

However, the Supreme Court did not act to remove the case, Trump, President of U.S., Et Al. v. Hawaii, Et Al., from its docket, in which the state of Hawaii joined by other states, called on the court to issue an injunction, stopping the federal government from enforcing a travel ban on individuals from six Muslim majority countries as well as refugees. The travel ban at issue, in that case, began on June 29, 2017 and expired on September 27, 2017. The refugee provision of the act however will not expire until October 24, 2017. Given the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the Maryland case, it is likely that the Court will also dismiss the Hawaii case once the refugee provision has expired.

On September 24, 2017, the President revised Executive Order No. 13,780 for a third time adding Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela to its travel ban, and removing Sudan. The third revision of the travel ban will go into effect on October 18, 2017. The Supreme Court did not address the administration’s newly revised travel ban in its order.

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Yesterday, October 8, 2017, the United States and Turkey announced the mutual suspension of all non-immigrant visa services, putting a damper on travel between the two nations, following the arrest of a Turkish citizen, employed at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, on suspicion of espionage.

A statement released by John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, explained the reasons for the United States government’s decision to suspend non-immigrant visa processing for Turkish citizens. According to the ambassador the suspension will allow the United States, “to minimize the number of visitors to our embassy and consulates while we assess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of our diplomatic facilities and personnel.” He continued, “last week, for the second time this year, a Turkish staff member of our diplomatic mission was arrested by Turkish authorities. Despite our best efforts to learn the reason for this arrest, we have been unable to determine why it occurred or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee. . . our colleague has not been allowed sufficient access to his attorney.”

The actions taken by the government are thus in response to Turkish hostility toward U.S. consular employees and an ongoing rift between the two countries regarding U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, accusations of U.S. involvement in a coup against President Erdogan, and the U.S. government’s refusal to extradite former Turkish minister Fethullah Gulen, accused of masterminding the Turkish coup.

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In 2013, as a Polish citizen who worked in Ireland, I started very seriously considering going to the United States to become a student and receive education to excel at my job. Little did I know how difficult it could actually be to cross the doorstep of the US embassy and go through the interview process. My heart broke when I experienced denial. I remember walking out of the building crying and then running through the rain towards the bus station. It felt like some horrific movie scene. 

I wanted to give up and never try again. I went back to work and tried my hardest not to think about it. Within a few days, however, my friend and I, found Jacob Sapochnick’s website. I looked up reviews instantly, and I became very excited about the idea of talking to him and his team about my situation. 

My consultation was over the phone, but Jacob did a marvelous job outlining details, and, in fact, his prognosis was very positive. I couldn’t believe that I could still be able to fulfill my dreams and, perhaps, reapply. In 2014, while I was visiting the US on a tourist visa, I met with Jacob and his team in person and decided to file a change of status application. I didn’t think twice, and we gave it a go. Everyone did an incredible job filling out all the necessary paperwork. Whenever I was worried or felt down, I could call them and get a prompt calming answer. I still remember talking to Inese, one of Jacob’s employees, and hearing how positive she was about the outcome of my case.  

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Premium Processing Resumes for all H-1B Petitions

Today, October 3, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made an official announcement letting the public know that premium processing service has resumed for all types of H-1B petitions including H-1B extension of stay petitions.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing service refers to an optional premium processing service offered by USCIS to employers filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker) or Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker). Premium processing guarantees 15 calendar day processing to petitioners who make use of the service. Applications that are not processed within 15 calendar days, receive a refund of the $1,225 premium processing fee. To make use of the service, petitioners must file Form I-907 with their application and include the appropriate fees. The I-907 request for premium processing service can be filed together with an H-1B petition or separately pending a decision. This service has now resumed for all types of H-1B petitions.

For more information on premium processing please click here.

New I-765 Form Allows Applicants to Apply for SSN without visiting SS Office

On October 2, 2017, USCIS announced a new partnership with the Social Security Administration which will allow certain foreign nationals to apply for employment authorization and a social security number using the updated Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, without having to visit the Social Security office. In order to obtain lawful employment in the United States, foreign nationals are required to apply for an employment authorization card from USCIS, and a Social Security number with the Social Security Administration. Both are required to engage in lawful employment in the United states. Employment Authorization Cards are accepted as valid employment documentation by U.S. employers, the Social Security Administration, and all federal agencies including the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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In a continuing saga, the President is maintaining his hardline stance on immigration, this time expanding into the realm of legal immigration. Earlier this month, the Department of State released an amended version of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) used by governmental agencies and other federal agencies as a manual, which directs and codifies information that must be carried out by respective agencies “in accordance with statutory, executive and Department mandates.”

The new amended version of the manual expands the definition of misrepresentation, the types of activities that may support a presumption of fraud, and establishes changes to existing policies that federal agents must follow in making assessments of fraud or material representation.

The manual sets out a list of activities which may support a presumption of fraud or material representation by an individual applying for any immigration benefit:

  • Engaging in unauthorized employment;
  • Enrolling in a course of academic study, if such study is not authorized for that nonimmigrant classification (e.g. B status);
  • A nonimmigrant in B or F status, or any other status prohibiting immigrant intent, marrying a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident and taking up residence in the United States; or
  • Undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or an adjustment of status would be required, without the benefit of such a change or adjustment.

Old Rule: Previously, the rules set out by the Foreign Affairs Manual and USCIS imposed a presumption of fraud on persons who entered the United States with a non-immigrant visa type (e.g. as a tourist, business visitor, student, trainee etc.) and subsequently married a U.S. Citizen and applied for adjustment of status within the first 30 days of entering the United States.

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On September 24, 2017, the President issued a Presidential Proclamation expanding the list of countries subject to the travel ban outlined in Executive Order 13780 entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” As you may recall, as part of that executive order, in March 2017, the President had asked the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General to conduct a worldwide review to assess the dangers that foreign nationals from designated countries of concern pose to the national security of the United States. Under Executive Order 13780, DHS was directed to implement additional security mechanisms and vetting procedures for countries identified as potential threats to national security.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, and Attorney General identified 16 additional countries which “remain deficient . . . with respect to their identity-management and information-sharing capabilities, protocols, and practices,” and as a result pose a potential threat to our country’s national security.  By proclamation, the entry of foreign nationals from eight of these countries will remain suspended and limited for the time being.

The President has determined that the immigrant and non-immigrant entry of foreign nationals from the following countries would be detrimental to the national interests of the United States, at least until increased security mechanisms can be implemented, and identity and information-sharing capabilities can be improved.

Per Section 2 of the Proclamation

Suspension of Entry for Nationals of Countries of Identified Concern

“The following countries continue to have “inadequate” identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices, and risk factors . . . such that entry restrictions and limitations are recommended:”

The entry of foreign nationals from the designated countries listed below will be suspended and limited to a few exceptions and case-by-case waivers beginning October 18, 2017.

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On September 19, 2017, the American Immigration Council in cooperation with Mayer Brown LLP, filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of the National Venture Capital Association (National Venture Capital Association, et.al. v. Duke, et. al.) challenging the President’s postponement of the International Entrepreneur Rule. The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit collectively argue that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), unlawfully delayed enforcement of the International Entrepreneur Rule by circumventing key provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act.

In order for a federal rule to become effective, the Act requires federal agencies to abide by a notice-and-comment rule making procedure, a process by which the government invites the public to comment on a proposed version of a government rule published in the Federal Register. After the comment period has ended, the government responds to comments, considers feedback, and decides whether such feedback will have any influence on the content of the rules. The Supreme Court has ruled that the notice-and-comment procedure is required for “legislative” or “substantive” rules that intend to “bind” the public, and that similar to a statute, these types of rules have the “force and effect” of law. The notice-and-comment rule making requirement, however does not apply to interpretive rules, which are rules that do not bind the public or have the “force” of law in the same way that legislative or substantive rules do. The National Venture Capital Association argues that the government unlawfully invoked the “good cause” exception of the APA to postpone the Rule, and that the Rule was unlawfully halted under the pretext that doing so would prevent harm to the public interest, when no emergency situation existed which would allow such a delay.

The International Entrepreneur Rule was first published in the Federal Register on January 17, 2017, and the notice-and-comment period was set to begin 30 days from the date of the rule’s publication in the federal register. However, the government never announced a comment period for the Rule. On July 13, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the implementation of the rule would be delayed to March 14, 2018, at which time the government would seek comments from the public, with a plan to rescind the rule.

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