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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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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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In this post, we will discuss Form DS-5540, a mandatory public charge questionnaire that must be completed by all foreign nationals seeking an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and some non-immigrant visa applicants.

What is Form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire?

Shortly after the publication of the public charge rule in the Federal Register, the government published a separate rule requiring applicants seeking immigrant visas, including diversity visas, at a Consulate abroad, to complete Form DS-5540, except for certain types of immigrants exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility such as self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Afghan and Iraqi interpreters applying for special immigrant visas.

In addition, the government has given consular officers broad discretion to require nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540, if for example the officer determines more information is needed regarding the applicant’s ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on the government’s assistance, or if the consular officer is not satisfied with the information provided by the applicant.

Therefore, consular officers have the power to request nonimmigrant visa applicants to complete DS-5540.

The DS-5540 solicits information that helps consular officers determine whether applicants are subject to the public charge visa ineligibility ground (section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) and will not rely on certain specific public resources upon entering the United States.

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In light of the global Coronavirus pandemic, on March 11, 2020, the President signed a presidential proclamation suspending and limiting the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present within the Schengen Area (most EU states) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, effective 11:59 eastern time Friday, March 13, 2020.

The proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by the President at his discretion based on recommendations by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 eastern time on March 13, 2020.

Who is exempted from the Proclamation?

The proclamation will not apply to the following categories of people:

  • lawful permanent resident of the United States;
  • any alien who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • any alien who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • any alien who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • any alien who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • any alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • any alien traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any alien otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;

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Great news for FY 2021 H-1B registrants! USCIS has published step-by-step video instructions showing you how you can submit an electronic registration on the USCIS website without the use of an attorney or representative. It is not too late to register. The registration period closes noon ET on March 20, 2020.

USCIS Adds FAQs to Website

USCIS has also included a helpful and detailed FAQ section about the H-1B electronic registration process on its website addressing various topics regarding the H-1B registration process and filing process itself.

We have included these FAQs in this post for your convenience. Questions marked in red are those that we consider to be of most interest to petitioners.

For further information about the H-1B electronic registration process please click here.

Q: What happens if the prospective beneficiary does not have a last name? What do you enter into the system?

  • A: If there is only one name for a beneficiary, it should be entered as the last name. The first and middle name fields will have check boxes that indicate “Beneficiary does not have a first name” or “Beneficiary does not have a middle name.” These boxes should be checked in these instances. Do not enter placeholders, such as “FNU”, “LNU”, “Unknown”, or “No Name Given.

Q: Is there an appeal process for registrations determined to be invalid duplicates?

  • A: Registrations that are determined to be duplicates will be invalid. A registrant who submits duplicate registrations will not be able to appeal the invalidation.

Q: If you are registering for the master’s cap based on the expectation that the beneficiary will earn a qualifying advanced degree, and you are actually selected under the master’s cap, but, the beneficiary does not obtain their qualifying advanced degree, is there a risk that the cap-subject H-1B petition for that beneficiary will be denied?

  • A: If a registration is submitted requesting consideration under the INA 214(g)(5)(C) advanced degree exemption because the beneficiary has earned, or will earn prior to the filing of the petition, a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education, and the registration is selected under the advanced degree exemption, the beneficiary must be eligible for the advanced degree exemption at the time of filing the I-129 petition. If the beneficiary is selected under the advance degree cap and has not earned a qualifying master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education at the time the petition is filed, the petition will be denied or rejected.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we cover the latest immigration news of the week.

USCIS Launches Online Form to Report Fraud

On March 3rd USCIS announced the launch of a new online form available on the USCIS website that can be used to report suspected immigration fraud and abuse including asylum/refugee fraud, religious worker visa fraud, employment-based visa fraud, investor visa fraud (EB-5 program), student visa fraud, marriage or fiancé visa fraud, unauthorized practice of law (notarios), and other types of immigration fraud.

This “USCIS tip form” provides space for the form user to describe alleged fraud or abuse in detail. According to USCIS, the tip form was created to make the tip process more effective and efficient, so that the agency can better collect information and make an assessment regarding the credibility of tips sent to the agency.

Previously fraud reporting was done by email, making it difficult for USCIS to respond and investigate tips.

This new online system for reporting fraud represents the Trump administration’s commitment to crack down and prevent various forms of visa fraud.

Over the years, the Trump administration has signed various directives and executive orders such as “Buy American, Hire American” aimed at rooting out fraudulent H1B, asylum/refugee, and EB-5 investor visas. The Trump administration has also worked to limit or slow down the issuance of these visas by issuing aggressive requests for evidence in the case of H1B visas and increasing the minimum investment amount for EB-5 investors.

Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain Immigrants and Nonimmigrants who Pose a Risk of Transmitting the Coronavirus

On February 3rd the Department of State issued an important announcement reminding travelers of a Presidential proclamation signed on January 31st barring entry to the United States of immigrants or nonimmigrants who traveled to China within the 14 days immediately prior to arrival in the United States.

The proclamation went into effect on Sunday, February 2.

Travelers should note that the proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States.  Foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas are excepted from this proclamation.  Other exceptions include certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, including spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21).  There is also an exception for crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas.

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H-1B season has officially kicked off!

The new mandatory H-1B electronic registration system for fiscal year 2021 opened yesterday at noon ET on March 1, 2020 and will remain open until noon ET on March 20, 2020.

In order to have a chance of being selected, from now on all prospective petitioners and their authorized representatives seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2021, including for beneficiaries eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first register during the registration period (March 1, 2020 to March 20, 2020) and pay the associated $10 registration fee for each beneficiary.

Only petitioners with a selected registration may participate in the H-1B filing process.

Registering is Easy

Petitioners and their authorized representatives must create a myUSCIS online account and submit registrations for each beneficiary via their online account during the registration period.

Per USCIS:

Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to: 1) register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and 2) pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary. Prospective petitioners or their representatives will be able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit and store draft registrations prior to final payment and submission of each registration.

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Applying for adjustment of status just became a lot more difficult.

After announcing the nationwide implementation of the final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” on February 24, 2020, USCIS unveiled a brand-new form (Form I-944) that must be filed with all applications for adjustment of status postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

What is Form I-944?

This new Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, will be used by USCIS to determine whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge at any time in the future based on several factors including receipt of public benefits, as well as the applicant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills, prospective immigration status and period of stay, and the petitioner’s Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.

In general, a person is inadmissible based on public charge grounds if he or she is more likely than not at any time in the future to receive one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Who is Exempt from Filing this Form?

Certain special classes of immigrants are not required to file the new Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency with an adjustment of status application such as: VAWA self-petitioners, special immigrant juveniles, certain Afghani or Iraqi nationals, asylees, refugees, victims of qualifying criminal activity (U Nonimmigrants), victims of human trafficking (T nonimmigrants), applicants applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act, Haitian Refugee Fairness Act, certain Parolees, Nicaraguans and other Central Americans of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), and other special classes of immigrants.

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On February 21, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States by a vote of 5-4 stayed the remaining statewide injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which prevented the government from enforcing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds rule also known as the “public charge” rule in the State of Illinois. A “stay” is a ruling made by a court to stop or suspend a proceeding or trial temporarily.

What this means

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the government may now enforce the “public charge” rule in the state of Illinois, while it appeals the District Court’s decision.

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In this blog post, we discuss visa bulletin trends and projections for the month of March. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently released the March 2020 Visa Bulletin revealing some good and bad news for employment based categories and family preference categories.

Adjustment of Status Filing Charts March 2020:

For Family-Sponsored Filings:
In the F2A category, there is a cutoff date on the Dates for Filing chart.  However, the category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart.  Accordingly, applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for March 2020.

For all other family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for March 2020.

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
For all employment-based preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for March 2020.

Employment-based Categories: The Highlights

China: This month, employment based categories for China experienced varying degrees of forward movement, with EB-3 experiencing the most advancement.

  • EB-1 China advanced ten days to June 1, 2017
  • EB-2 China advanced one month to August 15, 2015
  • EB-3 China advanced nearly three months to March 22, 2016

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