Articles Posted in DHS

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The start of the FY 2020 H-1B cap season begins on April 1, 2019. This year, USCIS will offer premium processing services in a two-phased approach to avoid temporary suspension of the service.

Change of Status H-1B Cap Petitions

Starting April 1, FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

However, to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions immediately.

USCIS will begin premium processing for these petitions no later than May 20, 2019 and will notify the public before premium processing begins for these petitions.

If a petitioner does not file Form I-907 concurrently with an FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status, the petitioner must wait until premium processing begins to submit Form I-907.

All Other FY 2020 Cap-Subject Petitions

Premium processing services for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not begin until at least June 19, 2019. Cap-subject petitioners who are not requesting a change of status may not submit their premium processing request concurrently with their H-1B petition. These petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing once premium processing begins for this group. USCIS will notify the public with a confirmed date for premium processing for cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status. Continue reading

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USCIS Issues Notice Extending TPS Designation for Beneficiaries from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador

In compliance with a court ordered preliminary injunction issued in the case Ramos v. Nielsen, USCIS has issued a notice formally announcing the automatic extension of TPS documentation for beneficiaries from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador until January 2, 2020.

Beneficiaries under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador will retain their TPS while the preliminary injunction remains in effect, provided that an individual’s TPS is not withdrawn under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 244(c)(3) or 8 CFR 244.14 because of ineligibility.

DHS has further announced that it is automatically extending through January 2, 2020, the validity of TPS related Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), Forms I–797, Notice of Action (Approval Notice), and Forms I–94 (Arrival/Departure Record) (‘‘TPS-Related Documentation’’), for beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador, provided that the affected TPS beneficiaries remain otherwise eligible for TPS.

TPS for these countries will not be terminated unless and until any superseding, final, nonappealable judicial order permits such terminations.

Venezuelan Immigrant Visa Processing

The Department of State recently announced that the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia is now the designated primary site to process immigrant visas for residents of Venezuela. Beginning April 2019, the National Visa Center will begin scheduling Venezuelan immigrant visa interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. Appointment notices for all future immigrant visa interviews will take place at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.

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The Trump administration is making another bold move, this time the target is H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers seeking permanent residence.

The Department of Homeland Security has published a notice of proposing rule-making (NRPM) to rescind an Obama era rule extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B workers seeking permanent residence.

We are awaiting publication of the proposed rule in the federal register. At this time, the regulation has preliminarily appeared on the government website reginfo.gov.

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A new policy brief published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) analyzing USCIS processing times reveals that the agency has reached “crisis” level delays in processing immigrant and non-immigrant petitions. These delays have worsened during the Trump administration.

According to the report the most vulnerable populations include immigrant families, domestic abuse survivors and their children, traumatized and threatened persons seeking humanitarian aid, and U.S. businesses.

Specifically, the report finds that USCIS data released for fiscal years 2014 through 2018 reveals that USCIS is failing to adjudicate cases in a reasonable and timely manner:

  • The overall average case processing time surged by 46 percent over the past two fiscal years and 91 percent since FY 2014.
  • USCIS processed 94 percent of its form types—from green cards for family members to visas for human trafficking victims to petitions for immigrant workers—more slowly in FY 2018 than in FY 2014.
  • Case processing times increased substantially in FY 2018 even as case receipt volume appeared to markedly decrease
  • Data revealed a “net backlog” exceeding 2.3 million delayed cases at the end of FY 2017
  • DHS identified a net backlog of 2,330,143 USCIS cases as of the end of FY 2017.7
  • DHS observed that USCIS’s “net backlog has been as high as 1.7 million in FY 2004 and 1.5 million in FY 2008”—suggesting that USCIS’s net backlog at the conclusion of FY 2017 was its highest on record
  • the FY 2017 net backlog more than doubled from 1,047,751 cases at the conclusion of FY 2016—despite only a four percent increase in case receipts during that one-year period

What is to blame?

According to the report the following decisions made under the Trump administration have exacerbated delays and slowed the level of immigration to the United States:

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The government shutdown has now entered its 13th day with no agreement in sight between the President and lawmakers to settle government funding for the President’s wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

Today, January 3, 2019, the President awoke to a newly convened House of Representatives, now controlled by the Democratic party. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is now seeking to pass legislation to re-open the government but will be unable to do so without support from the Republican-led Senate.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the Senate would not vote to pass any legislation that did not concede to the President’s demands to fund the wall.

The President tweeted Wednesday evening his willingness to continue talks with Democrats “to pass a bill that secures our borders, supports the agents and officers on the ground, and keeps America safe.”

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Photo credit: Scott Kirkwood/NPCA

Today marks the fifth day of a partial government shutdown that began on Saturday. The government was forced into a shutdown after Democrats refused to concede $5 billion dollars to fund the President’s wall along the southwest border.

Since then, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have not opened negotiations to appease the President. If a resolution is not reached before the end of December, it is highly unlikely that the President will receive the money demanded to fund the border wall. When the new House of Representatives convenes after the holidays, the Democrats will command a majority in the House of Representatives, making it more difficult for the President to obtain the necessary funding.

The government shutdown will affect various government entities including the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor.

Here’s how it will affect immigration:

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program:

Without congressional authorization to continue the EB-5 Regional Center Program beyond December 21, 2018, USCIS will not accept new Forms I-924, Application for Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program. Any Form I-924 applications that are pending as of December 21, 2018, will be placed on hold until further notice.

Per the USCIS Website:

“We will continue to receive regional center-affiliated Forms I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, and Forms I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, after the close of business on Dec. 22, 2018. As of Dec. 22, 2018, we will put unadjudicated regional center-affiliated Forms I-526 and I-485 (whether filed before or after the expiration date) on hold for an undetermined length of time.

All Forms I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, filed before or after the expiration date, will not be affected by the expiration of the program.”

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The House Proposes to Extend the E-3 Program to Irish Nationals

On November 20, 2018, the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 7164, a bill proposing to add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program. Currently, the E-3 visa program is available to American employers seeking to hire Australian nationals to perform services in a specialty occupation for a temporary period of time.

The E-3 visa program functions much like the H-1B program. The program is governed by the same labor certification standards that apply to the H-1B visa program, and much of the same evidence is required. The E-3 visa classification is numerically limited, with a maximum of 10,500 visas available annually for Australian nationals.

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Today, November 30, 2018, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to impose a registration requirement for H-1B petitioners seeking to file an H-1B petition on behalf of beneficiaries under the regular cap and advanced degree exemption.  An unpublished version of the proposed rule has been made available in the federal register.

Under the proposed rule H-1B Petitioners would be required to electronically register with USCIS during the designated registration period, in order to file a H-1B cap-subject petition on behalf of a foreign worker. In addition, DHS is proposing to change the order in which H-1B cap-subject registrations would be selected to meet the annual H-1B regular cap and advanced degree exemption. This change would increase the odds of selection for H-1B beneficiaries who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution.

Under the proposed rule, all petitioners seeking to file an H-1B cap-subject petition on behalf of a foreign worker would be required to submit to a mandatory registration process. Only those whose registrations are selected, would be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition during the associated filing period.

The mandatory Internet-based registration process for petitioners seeking to file H-1B petitions for beneficiaries to be counted under the regular cap or advanced degree exemption, would begin before April 1st, in advance of the period during which H-1B petitions can be filed for a new fiscal year. An H-1B cap-subject petition would not be considered properly filed unless the petition is based on a valid registration selection for that fiscal year.

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Photo by bbcworldservice

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recently announced that in anticipation of the migrant caravan, lane closures will begin on November 13, 2018 at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry.

At least three northbound vehicle lanes at San Ysidro and one lane at Otay Mesa will be closed. CBP will be installing pre-position port hardening infrastructure equipment to increase security in preparation for the arrival of the caravan.

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The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has spoken. In their unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of judges held that the President’s decision to rescind the DACA program by way of executive order was arbitrary and capricious.

After a long and contentious hearing in the case, Regents of the University of California v. the United States Department of Homeland Security, the judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, were ultimately convinced that the government’s decision to rescind the DACA program, “was motivated by unconstitutional racial animus in violation of the Equal Protection component of the Fifth Amendment.”

The Court further decided to leave a preliminary injunction in place to give the district court an opportunity to consider whether the Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their Equal Protection claim against the government.