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Articles Posted in Embassies

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We have great news for visa applicants regarding the public charge rule. On August 7, 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued an important update explaining that the agency will be complying with the July 29th injunction issued by a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York which temporarily blocks the government from “enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective,” the public charge rule known as “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which was implemented on February 20, 2020.

As a result, effective June 29th (the date of the Judge’s order) neither Consular officials nor the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can enforce any part of the public charge rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and for as long as the injunction remains in place.

In other words, visa applicants applying for both immigrant and non-immigrant visas at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad, can rest assured that Consular officials will not enforce the public charge rule known as “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” in any way pursuant to the Court’s ruling on June 29th.

In their statement the Department of State made clear, “the Department is complying with the court’s order and is in the process of updating its guidance to consular officers on how to proceed under the preliminary injunction. In the interim, visa applications that appear to be ineligible under INA 212(a)(4) will be refused for administrative processing to allow for consultation with the Department, including legal review to ensure compliance with applicable court orders.  Visa applicants are not requested to take any additional steps at this time and should attend their visa interviews as scheduled.  Applicants are not required to complete, nor should they present the DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire.”

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In this blog post we share with our readers several new developments in immigration relating to COVID-19.

At a Glance: What’s in This Blog?

  • DOS Announces One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations
  • Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services
  • DOS Releases SEVP Online Course Guidance for F and M Students for Fall 2020
  • When will the Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry for the Schengen Countries be Lifted?
  • Are there any National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland?
  • Are there any National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market?

DOS Announces One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations


We are pleased to report that on July 24, 2020, the Department of State issued an important announcement confirming that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved a one-month extension for medical examinations conducted between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020. As many of you know, medical examinations for immigrant visa applicants are valid for a maximum of six months.

The Department of State has advised applicants (1) who were unable to travel on an issued visa, or (2) who obtained a medical examination but did not receive a visa, to contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that issued or is adjudicating your visa application to determine whether you may be issued or reissued a visa for one additional month. Applicants who are unable to travel within one additional month, should consider waiting until they are able to travel to obtain a new, full validity medical examination and visa.


Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services

In March 2020 the Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. On July 14, 2020 the Department of State released information on its webpage notifying the public that resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by post basis, in coordination with the Department’s Diplomacy Strong framework to safely return personnel to Department facilities. With that being said, the Department of State cannot provide a specific date for when each Consular post will return to processing at pre-Covid workload levels. Applicants are advised to monitor each individual U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status, and updates on which services they are currently offering.

As always, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will continue to provide emergency and critical visa services.

The DOS has also stated that MRV fees are valid and may be used to schedule a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.

  • For more information about this announcement and FAQs please click here.
  • For a list of Embassies and Consular webpages click here.

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We have news that may be some relief to international students across the United States.

Today, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit in District Court in Boston against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), challenging new guidelines that prohibit international students from taking online classes during the upcoming fall semester.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief to bar the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, from enforcing recent federal guidelines just announced on Monday, that prohibit international students from attending U.S. colleges and universities offering only online instruction during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester.

As our loyal followers know, early this week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a news release introducing a new set of guidelines for international students who will take courses in the U.S. during the upcoming fall semester.

Among the new guidelines, we learned that F-1 and M-1 students will be prohibited from taking courses entirely online during the fall semester. The announcement stated that the Department of State would not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs operating entirely online, and Customs and Border Protection would not allow such students to enter the United States.

International students in the United States enrolled in schools and/or programs operating entirely online were only given two options (1) depart the United States or (2) take other measures such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest immigration news for the week.

K-1 Fiancé Visa Blunders

The news of the June 22nd presidential proclamation has caused great confusion among U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide regarding whether K-1 fiancé visas are subject to the current presidential proclamation suspending the entry of certain immigrants to the United States. We have received information from our readers that Embassies have incorrectly stated in emails that K-1 fiance visas are subject to the presidential proclamation. We would like to make clear that K-1 fiance visas are non-immigrant visas and are therefore exempt from the proclamation altogether, because the proclamation only suspends the entry of those seeking immigrant visas from outside the United States.

We are aware that the Embassy in London has been disseminating emails initially stating that K-1 fiance visas were impacted by the proclamation. The Embassy has now retracted this information and written on their webpage that K visas are not subject to the current presidential proclamation, although fiance visa holders may be prevented from entering the U.S. due to current U.S. travel restrictions against nationals of the Schengen countries during the pandemic.

The Embassy in Manila has also confirmed on its website that K visas are not impacted by the presidential proclamation.

Therefore, the only obstacle for K-1 fiance visa applicants to receive their visas is the Embassy closures occurring because of the pandemic. The only other obstacle to traveling to the United States depends on the fiance’s country of nationality. The entry of some nationals has been restricted due to high rates of Coronavirus in those regions (such as the Schengen countries, China, Iran, Brazil, etc). To find information about these travel restrictions please click here.

If you have received incorrect information from your Embassy or Consulate telling you that K-1 fiance visas are subject to the proclamation, we encourage you to copy the information provided on the Manila and London Embassy webpages confirming that K-1 visas are not impacted. Alternatively, you can email your examples to jacob@h1b.biz and we will reach out to the Consulate/Embassy directly to seek clarification.

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UPDATE: Today, Monday June 22, 2020, President Trump signed a new executive order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak,” extending the April 22nd Presidential Proclamation and adding new restrictions for nonimmigrant workers who “pose a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the coronavirus recovery,” including H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant workers.

According to the executive order, the entry of these nonimmigrants “presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.”


When does the order apply?


The order is effective at 12:01 am eastern daylight time on June 24, 2020 and will last through December 31, 2020, suspending the entry of certain immigrant and nonimmigrant aliens as outlined here. Within 30 days of June 24, 2020 (on July 24th), and every 60 days thereafter while the proclamation is in effect, the Secretary of Homeland Security will, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend any modifications to the order.


When does the order terminate?


The proclamation terminates on December 31, 2020 and can be continued by the government as necessary.


Will the April 22nd Proclamation Be Extended?


Yes, the second paragraph of the new executive order states, “In Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020, …I determined that …the United States faces a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand.  Consequently, I suspended, for a period of 60 days, the entry of aliens as immigrants, subject to certain exceptions… Given that 60 days is an insufficient time period for the United States labor market …to rebalance… considerations present in Proclamation 10014 remain.” This means the April 22nd proclamation will continue until at least December 31st and all conditions subject to that proclamation will continue to remain in place.

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UPDATE: Please see our blog post here for the complete details of the newly released order. 

Today, Monday June 22, 2020, President Trump is expected to sign a new executive order that will extend his previous April 22nd order set to expire today, and will extend restrictions to apply to H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J foreign workers to protect American jobs as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 lockdowns nationwide. The new executive order is expected to pause new H-1B visa petitions for foreign workers, H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, certain J work and education exchange visitor visas, and L executive transfer visas for managers of multinational corporations. The President confirmed issuance of the order in a recent interview with Fox News.

The executive order is expected to be in effect until at least the end of the year and will not impact those who have already been issued or approved an H, L, or J visa.

Although the executive order has not yet been released to the public, a senior official from the Trump administration has spoken to the media on condition of anonymity confirming the issuance of the order. The official stated that the administration has justified issuance of the new order as a way to eliminate competition with foreign workers and make jobs available to American workers during this pandemic.

To read the April 22nd proclamation click here.


Are there any exemptions?


Yes. The order will include a number of exemptions for food processing workers seeking H-2B visas, H-2A agricultural workers, health care professionals working to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, J-1 medical physicians, cases that are deemed in the national interest, as well as all other exemptions originally included in the April 22nd Presidential proclamation which are as follows:

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The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for July 2020 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts July 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.  This means that applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart for July 2020.

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

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:For all employment-based preference categories, you must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for July 2020.


July Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


Employment Based Categories

According to the Department of State’s July Visa Bulletin, the following cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa for employment-based categories:

  • EB-1: All countries remain current during the month of July except for China and India. EB-1 China will advance by one week to August 22, 2017, while EB-1 India will advance by 11 months to May 8, 2017.
  • EB-2: All countries except EB-2 China and India remain current. EB-2 China will advance by one week to November 8, 2015, and EB-2 India will advance by just under four weeks to July 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries except EB-3 India and China will advance by almost five months to April 15, 2018. Cutoff dates for EB-3 China will advance by one week to June 22, 2016, and for India by two months to June 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: EB-5 India will become current, joining all other countries except for EB-5 China and Vietnam.  China’s cutoff date will advance by one week to July 22, 2015, while Vietnam’s cutoff date will advance by three weeks to May 15, 2017.

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New rumors are yet again circling regarding the possibility of a future executive order banning the entry of certain non-immigrants from the United States. An official speaking on condition of anonymity has fueled these rumors divulging information that the Trump administration is getting ready to issue a new executive order that would temporarily suspend the entry of L-1, H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 non-immigrants for a period lasting several months.

A copy of the executive order has allegedly been leaked to the media; however, our office has not been able to find a draft copy of such an order. It is also important to note that even if a version of the executive order has been leaked, the official version of a future executive order banning non-immigrants might look substantially different.


What is being said about the potential executive order?


The order is rumored to suspend the entry of L-1, H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 non-immigrants for a temporary period lasting several months.

Like previous executive orders suspending immigrant and non-immigrant entry, the order will contain numerous exceptions, although these exceptions have not yet been made clear. We believe exceptions will likely apply to essential workers such as health professionals, those working to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, and essential workers in food-related industries.

As it relates to J-1 visas, it is rumored that only summer workers, camp counselors, trainees, and interns will be impacted, not medical physicians.

TAKEAWAY: If you have a valid L-1, H-1B, H-2B, or J-1 non-immigrant visa and you are abroad, you should consider returning to the United States as soon as possible.


Who will the order likely impact?


The order is rumored to impact only those in L, H, and J non-immigrant status outside the United States, however, the Trump administration is considering adding regulatory changes to the order that would impact OPT students and new H-1B applicants in the United States. This includes provisions that would end the STEM OPT program, and provisions tightening H-1B visa requirements to narrow the definition of “specialty occupation,” require higher wages, and increase H-1B filing fees.

TAKEAWAY: STEM OPT applications and extensions should be submitted as early as possible to avoid a negative impact.

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A brand-new bill called the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2020 (S. 3770) sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has recently surfaced. As you might have already guessed, the bill seeks to make changes to the current H-1B and L visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse within the H-1B and L visa programs, provide protections for American workers, and enforce stricter requirements for the recruitment of foreign workers. The H-1B visa program is aggressively targeted in this new piece of legislation.


Proposed Changes to the H-1B visa program


First, as it relates to the H-1B visa worker program, the bill proposes changes to existing wage requirements.

The law would require employers to pay the highest wage from three categories:

1) the locally determined prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment

2) the median average wage for all workers in the occupational classification in the area of employment; or

3) the median wage for skill level 2 in the occupational classification found in the most recent OES survey.

Second, the bill would make changes to current law and require U.S. employers seeking to hire H-1B workers to publish job postings on a website established by the Department of Labor. After filing the labor condition application, the employer would be required to post the job on the website for at least 30 calendar days. The job posting would have to include a detailed description of the position, including the wages and other terms and conditions of employment, minimum education, training, experience, and other requirements for the position, as well as the process for applying for the position.

Third, all H-1B employers would be required to prove that they have tried to recruit American workers for jobs offered to H-1B workers. Under current law, only H-1B dependent employers (those with more than 50 full time employees of which at least 15% are H-1B employees) are required to recruit American workers for H-1B positions. This would be a drastic change in the law creating additional burdens for U.S. employers seeking to hire foreign workers with specialized skills.

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We have received an outpouring of emails, comments, and messages from our loyal followers asking when Consular posts and Embassies worldwide will reopen. We understand the frustration that our readers feel and sympathize with the world situation.

While USCIS has announced that in person appointments will resume on June 4th, the Department of State has not yet released any updates regarding procedures for reopening Consulates and Embassies nationwide. Given that the pandemic is a fluid situation and travel restrictions vary from country to country, each Consulate and Embassy will reopen for in person services at a different pace.

For the moment, emergency consular services continue to be available and appointments can be scheduled for emergency related issues by contacting the US Consulate or Embassy directly. Click here for a complete list of US Consulate and Embassies including their contact information.

Outside of emergency services, the vast majority of consulates and embassies will continue to remain closed for in-person appointments for the time being. Most consulates and embassies have provided the following message on their webpage regarding availability of visa appointments:

We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time. The MRV fee is valid and may be used for a visa application in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment. If you have an urgent matter and need to travel immediately, please follow the guidance provided at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/ to request an emergency appointment or contact AIS by phone by dialing the local number: +374 60 465 986. If calling from the U.S. dial +1-703-520-2525 or contact by email weeac_contactus+gb+info+en@visaops.net to request an emergency appointment.

You can find the local AIS number by clicking on your country on the AIS website then scrolling to the bottom of the website and clicking on “Contact Us” under the “Help” section.

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