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Articles Posted in Coronavirus

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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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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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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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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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As the impact of COVID-19 grows, we think it is important that you hear directly from us about the mitigation efforts that we the Sapochnick Law Firm have enacted to reduce the risk of infection to our clients, attorneys, and valued staff members.

At this critical juncture, our focus remains providing the highest quality of service to our clients, while at the same time preserving the health, safety, and wellbeing of all those we come in contact with.

To that end, our Firm is hard at work to avoid critical disruptions in service from the COVID-19 outbreak, while at the same time acting responsibly to do what we can to prevent further spread of this virus. We continue to closely monitor and assess this evolving situation and are diligent about communicating with affected clients regarding delays or other issues resulting from this evolving situation. In recognizing the fluidity of this situation, we have engaged our executive staff to meet regularly to monitor activities and amend our policies accordingly.

Our approach to COVID-19

In meeting the needs of our clients while complying with government directives, our Firm has established an Alternate Work Schedule Program that incorporates business continuity for all critical and essential services, especially those in which time is of the essence. In part, our Firm will engage the use of sophisticated and effective remote working software that will allow non-essential employees to work from the comfort of their homes to promote social distancing and reduce transmission. Essential employees in good health will continue to work in office, however every effort will be made to limit client meetings to only those that are essential and cannot be carried out through online platforms.

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In the midst of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic, USCIS reminds applicants and petitioners impacted by the pandemic that they can seek certain types of discretionary relief on a case-by-case basis.

Relief for Individuals Seeking Extensions/Change of Status

Special relief is available to individuals who were unable to file an extension or change of status petition before the end of their authorized stay expired, if a special situation prevented the individual’s departure and/or filing.

According to USCIS, “when applying for an extension or change of status due to a special situation that prevented your planned and timely departure,” the agency “may take into consideration how the special situation prevented your departure.”

In addition, if an applicant was not able to apply for an extension or change of status before their authorized period of admission expired, USCIS in their discretion may excuse the delay if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. An applicant in such a situation should be prepared to provide documentary evidence of those extraordinary circumstances. Depending on the applicant’s situation, the types of evidence that can be provided will vary.

Relief for F-1 Students Based on Severe Economic Hardship Caused by Unforeseen Circumstances

F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control (such as those impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic) may request employment authorization to work off-campus (if they meet certain regulatory requirements) by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization along with Form I-20, and supporting materials. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9).

The student’s Form I-20 must include the employment page completed by your Designated School Official, certifying your eligibility for off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.

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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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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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