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UPDATE—The Latest on DACA: Last summer, the United States Supreme Court accepted the Trump administration’s writ of certiorari, agreeing to review several federal court cases challenging the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA. The Supreme Court could, at any moment, decide the fate of DACA, making this an extremely uncertain time for Dreamers. A decision is expected to be handed down by the Supreme Court in early 2020, just before the 2020 presidential election. In the meantime, given that no final decision has yet been made by the Supreme Court, DACA recipients may continue to submit renewal applications pursuant to three U.S. district court orders that remain in effect. As required by these orders, United States Citizenship and immigration Services (USCIS) resumed accepting renewal requests for DACA, however those who have never before been granted deferred action cannot apply.


DACA FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


USCIS Continues to Accept DACA Renewal Requests

In early January of 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the plaintiffs in the case Regents of the University of California, et al. v. Department of Homeland Security, et al., which challenged the government’s decision to terminate DACA. The preliminary injunction had the effect of temporarily blocking the termination of the DACA program until a final decision is reached on the merits of the case. The injunction applied nationwide and required USCIS to resume accepting DACA renewal applications. Shortly after this court order, USCIS announced that it would resume accepting DACA renewal applications.

The Sapochnick Law Firm has drafted the following answers to your frequently asked questions regarding the current state of DACA, CIS’ announcement informing the public that it will continue accepting DACA requests, and further developments relating to DACA.


WHY YOU SHOULD APPLY FOR YOUR DACA RENEWAL NOW


At this time the fate of the DACA program is extremely uncertain. The United States Supreme Court is set to make a final decision regarding the legality of the DACA program at any time. Given that the liberal justices on the court are outnumbered by 5-4, it is more and more probable that the DACA program will be terminated. Once the Supreme Court casts the final vote, DACA recipients will likely lose the opportunity to apply for renewal of their benefits. Now more than ever DACA holders should take advantage of their ability to apply for a final renewal of their benefits. We hope that the Supreme Court will be on the right side of history, but there can be no guarantees.


1. I have never applied for DACA before, can I still submit an application?

No. The preliminary injunction does not require USCIS to accept DACA applications from first-time applicants. USCIS has made clear that it will not be accepting DACA applications from those who have never before been granted deferred action. The agency will only continue accepting applications to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA.

2. Why did I hear that applications for first-time applicants would be accepted?

In a previous case out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, NAACP v. Trump, federal judge John D. Bates ordered the government to submit additional information to justify its decision to terminate DACA—failure to do so meant that USCIS would be required to accept first-time applications for DACA as well as applications from DACA holders for advance parole.

The government did respond within the required period of time, issuing a memorandum outlining the government’s rationale for terminating the DACA program. Having satisfied the court’s requirement to produce the information, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, “stayed” its previous order requiring that the DACA program be fully reinstated. As a result, the portions of the court order that would have allowed first-time applicants to seek DACA and allowed for DACA recipients to apply for advance parole, were stopped.

Given that the government complied with the court order, at this time, USCIS is not accepting DACA applications from first-time applicants, nor applications for advance parole from DACA recipients.

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In this post we would like to address some of our clients frequently asked questions regarding the Payment Protection Program, a loan forgiveness program created by the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the United States government recently passed a bill providing emergency financial relief to individuals, families, and small businesses. As you know, the majority of states nationwide have issued stay-at-home orders requiring the public to avoid all nonessential outings and stay at home as much as possible. Non-essential businesses have also been ordered to close their facilities to the public until further notice. Essential businesses have been allowed to continue to operate such as grocery stores, pharmacies, health care facilities, banking, law enforcement, and other emergency services.

One of the main provisions of the bill, known as the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), allocates billions of dollars in loans to small businesses who are feeling the economic impact of the stay-at-home orders. The CARES Act specifically authorized the Small Business Administration (SBA) to create the Payment Protection Program for the purpose of providing financial assistance to small businesses nationwide that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. SBA lenders began accepting loan applications from small business owners on April 3, 2020. Applications will continue to be accepted until June 30, 2020. It is important for business owners to apply for these loans as soon as possible.

  1. What is the Payment Protection Program?

In a nutshell, the Payment Protection Program is a loan forgiveness program that allows small businesses (of 500 or fewer employees) to apply for loans of (1) $10 million or (2) 2.5x the average total monthly payments of the company’s payroll costs, whichever is less.

Loans under this Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will be 100 percent guaranteed by SBA, and the full principal amount of the loans will qualify for loan forgiveness provided that:

(1) the business was in operation on February 15, 2020 and either had (a) employees for whom you paid salaries and payroll taxes or (b) paid independent contractors as reported on Form 1099;

(2) all employees are kept on the payroll for 8 weeks and;

(3) the money is used for payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities (at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll).

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! As you all know, USCIS recently announced that it has completed the selection process to meet the 65,000/20,000 annual numerical limitations for H-1B fiscal year 2021.

All accountholders should have been notified of selection via their USCIS online accounts by March 31,2020. We can confirm that our office received all notices of selection before March 31, 2020.

If you were selected, the following status will appear on the petitioner’s USCIS online account:

Selected: Selected to file an FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petition.

What’s Next?

Now that the selection process has been completed, petitioners who properly registered the beneficiary through the mandatory H-1B electronic registration process and were selected in the lottery are eligible to file a FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petition with USCIS.

Petitioners who were not selected cannot file a petition with USCIS.

Please note that selection does not mean that an H-1B petition has been approved. The petitioner must still establish eligibility for petition approval at the time of filing and the application must go through adjudication based on existing statutory and regulatory requirements.

When can I file?

H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2021, including those petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may now be filed with USCIS if based on a valid selected registration (as of April 1st). 

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In this post, we summarize all of the major and recent developments taken by USCIS, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These developments directly impact immigration in significant ways that will be discussed in further detail below.

As this situation evolves, we will continue to update this post for your benefit. You may also read all of our COVID-19 related posts here.


USCIS Field Offices, ASCs, and Asylum Offices Temporary Closed to the Public

To combat the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, on March 18th USCIS announced the temporary closure of field offices, application support centers, and asylum offices, to the public until at least May 3rd.

We suspect that this closure will be further extended given the current public health crisis we are experiencing nationwide.

Applicants who were scheduled to appear for an interview, biometrics, or asylum interview from March 18 to May 3rd will receive a notice in the mail regarding impacted services, as well as a notice rescheduling the appointment.

ASC appointments will be rescheduled once offices are re-opened to the public.

At this time, please continue to be patient and monitor your mail closely.


USCIS Field Office and Service Center Operations Continue

Although USCIS is closing field offices to the public, the agency has stated that office employees will continue to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public.

Furthermore, USCIS service centers and facilities continue to operate and will continue to adjudicate petitions filed nationwide.


USCIS Expands RFE/NOID/NOIR/NOIT/I-290B Deadlines

On March 30, 2020, USCIS announced that it will consider any response to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before any action is taken by USCIS.

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A new decision issued by a federal judge in the case Itserve Alliance Inc., et al., v. L. Francis Cissna, will dramatically change the way that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicates H-1B petitions for Information Technology companies.

The new ruling invalidates key provisions of the CIS 2010 Guidance Memorandum (also known as the Neufeld Memo) and the CIS 2018 Policy Memorandum (PM-602-0157) for two reasons.

Firstly, the court found that the policies outlined in these memorandums were inconsistent with previous regulations that were lawfully passed by the government through the formal notice-and-comment rule-making process, as required by law.

Secondly, the court found that USCIS violated the law when it abandoned previous regulations and began applying their own policies without first going through the required formal notice-and-rulemaking process. Since these policies were not passed through the formal rule-making process, their application was found to be unlawful and unenforceable.

Background

During the start of the Trump administration, USCIS began adopting a narrow policy designed to limit the number of H-1B petitions that would be approved. Throughout this period, our office saw the highest number of requests for evidence and denial rates ever experienced in over a decade in practice. Other immigration attorneys across the country observed the same trends.

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We would like to provide our readers with a quick update regarding the temporary suspension of in-person services at USCIS field offices nationwide.

As first reported, USCIS made the decision to close all offices and application support centers (ASCs) to the public beginning March 18th. USCIS planned to reopen offices on April 7th however today the agency announced that offices will continue to remain closed to the public until May 3rd.

As previously stated on our blog, all applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments who are impacted by this closure will receive notices in the mail with further information.

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Are you a small business owner feeling the pinch of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Have no fear, the newly passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) provides emergency financial relief for small to mid-sized businesses in the United States, to help business owners keep employees on their payroll.

This federal relief package allocates nearly $350 billion in emergency aid for businesses through a small business loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program. This program is separate from existing federal loan programs, including existing Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster relief loans which you may also decide to pursue.

Paycheck Protection Program

What is it about? 

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan forgiveness program (available through June 30, 2020) designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep workers on their payroll.

For small business owners who participate, loans obtained through this program will be fully forgiven if (1) all employees are kept on the payroll for 8 weeks and (2) the money is used for payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities (at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). As an additional incentive, loan payments will be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required to obtain a loan.

According to the SBA, loan forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness is reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

Please note: PPP loans are not grants, instead they are loans—the majority of which can be forgiven if used for payroll costs as outlined above.

Who is Eligible?

Any small business with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors, self-employed persons, private non-profits, and 501(c)(19) veteran’s organizations) affected by the coronavirus pandemic can apply.

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In this post we bring you the latest immigration related COVID-19 updates. During this difficult time, we would like to extend our heartfelt regards to you and your families. We hope you are staying safe and taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The sooner we abide by government measures, the sooner we can overcome this pandemic as a Nation. Additionally, please remember that although our office is closed to the public, we continue to function behind the scenes to file your petitions on a timely basis. If you have any questions regarding your immigration options, or your currently pending case, we would be glad to assist you by telephone, Zoom, or Skype.

President Extends Federal Social Distancing Guidelines to April 30

This past Sunday, March 29, 2020, the President of the United States extended the Nation’s social distancing guidelines for another 30 days, following warnings from health advisers of the serious consequences that could result if Americans were allowed to return to normal life. Pursuant to this order, social time will continue to be limited only to necessary outings such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, etc. until April 30.

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Great news! Today, March 27, 2020, USCIS announced that it has received enough electronic registrations to reach the FY 2021 H-1B cap—just 7 days after the registration period closed on March 20, 2020.

USCIS randomly selected from among registrations that were properly submitted to meet the 65,000/20,000 annual numerical limitations for the regular cap and advanced degree exemption.

Petitioners who have been selected will be notified of their selection no later than March 31, 2020 (4 days). Only petitioners with selected registrations will be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary named in the applicable selected registration.

How will I be notified?

Now that the selection process has been completed, USCIS will send electronic notices to all registrants with selected registrations that are eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition on behalf of the individual named in the notice within the filing period indicated on the notice.

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It has been nearly two weeks since the President of the United States declared a public health emergency for COVID-19, forcing the American economy to come to a screeching halt. Thereafter, states enacted their own measures requiring non-essential businesses across the country to shutter temporarily until the virus has been contained. Although these measures have been undoubtedly necessary to prevent the rapid spread of the virus, the majority of Americans nationwide have lost their livelihoods overnight.

This past week lawmakers have been busy drawing up legislation that would provide emergency financial assistance for individuals, families, and businesses in the United States.

This afternoon Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), and the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

Although this legislation is sweeping in scope, this post will specifically discuss financial relief for individuals and families, and more importantly which individuals will qualify to receive financial assistance.

What does the CARES Act do for individuals and their families?

Under the Act, most single individuals earning less than $75,000 can expect to receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Married couples filing jointly (earning less than $150,000), would each receive a check ($2,400) and families would receive $500 per child. For example, a family of four earning less than $150,000 can expect to receive $3,400.

Rebates would begin to phase out at $75,000 for singles, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for joint taxpayers at 5 percent per dollar of qualified income, or $50 per $1,000 earned. Rebates phase out completely at $99,000 for single taxpayers with no children and $198,000 for joint taxpayers with no children.

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