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Articles Posted in Employment Based Petitions

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post we bring you the latest immigration updates.


Naturalization Ceremonies

Great news for naturalization applicants waiting for an oath ceremony. On July 1, 2020, USCIS issued an announcement notifying the public that it anticipates that it will complete nearly all postponed administrative naturalization ceremonies by the end of July of 2020.

USCIS has been prioritizing the scheduling of oath ceremonies for all naturalization applicants who were approved following their interviews. As we previously reported, USCIS is also exploring options to bypass the formal oath ceremony process in the future, and administer the oath immediately following a successful naturalization applicant’s interview. This will help move cases along quickly during the pandemic and limit further exposure.

USCIS remains committed to being as flexible as possible to welcome new citizens to the United States as fast as possible. We are glad that in the very least, naturalization applicants are being accommodated by the agency during this difficult time.

If you have not yet received your naturalization oath ceremony notice, you should be receiving one very soon. As always, we recommend calling USCIS to expedite the process.


Calls to Extend TPS for Yemen and Somalia due to COVID-19

Dozens of organizations are calling on the government to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for at least 180 days to all current Yemen and Somalia TPS holders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A letter was issued in early April by interested organizations urging USCIS and DHS to automatically extend work authorization and TPS for all current Yemen and Somalia TPS holders, or at the very least extend the re-registration period for TPS holders from Somalia and Yemen for a total of 180 days.

The letter emphasizes the importance of granting relief for Yemeni and Somalia TPS holders stating, “While states across the country are rightfully taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, these measures and the subsequent loss of income and freedom of movement establish insurmountable barriers for TPS holders to renew their status before the rapidly approaching re-registration deadline. TPS holders should not have to choose between missing a deadline and violating health directives that keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.”

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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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Great news for our loyal followers! The time has come – today the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that premium processing services will resume.

Beginning June 1, 2020, premium processing services for all Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers will be resumed.

What about other types of petitions?

Premium processing service will be resume for other types of petitions in phases as follows:

-Beginning June 8th USCIS will accept premium processing requests for:

  • H-1B petitions filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication and are cap-exempt (for example, petitions filed by petitioners that are cap-exempt and petitions filed for beneficiaries previously counted toward the numerical allocations).
  • All other Form I-129 petitions (non H-1B petitions) for nonimmigrant classifications eligible for premium processing filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication.

-Beginning June 15th USCIS will resume premium processing for:

  • H-1B petitions requesting premium processing where Form I-907 was filed concurrently with Form I-129 (or request for a petition filed on or after June 8) and the beneficiary is exempt from the cap because:
    • The employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity or organization (such as an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization); or
    • The beneficiary is cap-exempt based on a Conrad/IGA waiver under INA section 214(l).

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The economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt by nearly all sectors of the economy, but perhaps the most unexpected victim has been the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Unlike many other government agencies, USCIS does not depend on government funding to survive. Instead, the agency primarily relies on fees, charged to applicants and petitioners applying for immigration benefits, to remain in operation.

A spokesman for the agency recently revealed that the agency is strapped for cash. Americans nationwide have had to cut back on spending during this coronavirus pandemic, leaving little money to spare on the very expensive filing fees required for various types of immigration benefits, such as citizenship and green card applications. The agency is in such a precarious position that it has now asked the United States government for a $1.2 billion bailout to remain in operation.

USCIS has said that its revenue could plummet by more than 60 percent by the end of the fiscal year which ends on September 30, 2020. If the agency does not receive additional funding from the government, it will run out of money by the summertime.

In anticipation of its decreased revenue, USCIS is preparing to take drastic measures to stay afloat, such as adding a 10 percent “surcharge” to applications, on top of proposed filing fee increases. These additional fees could be imposed within the coming months.

Of course, an increase in fees is bad news for non-citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Many have blamed President Trump’s restrictive policies on immigration for the decrease in revenue. The President’s most recent proclamations coupled with his restrictive immigration policies have made it more difficult for immigrants and non-immigrants alike to obtain immigration benefits. These policies have been designed to discourage foreign nationals from seeking immigration benefits because of the high rate of visa denials. In addition, the most recent proclamation has kept consular immigration at a standstill.

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We are pleased to report the introduction of a brand-new Senate bill called the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, sponsored by Senators David Perdue, Todd Young, Dick Durbin, and Chris Coons. The purpose of the bill is to increase the number of health care workers available to meet the demand of the COVID 19 pandemic.

If passed, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, would allow nurses and physicians with approved immigrant visas the ability to adjust their status, so that they can help our nation fight the coronavirus and have a durable immigration status.

As you know, there are currently thousands of nurses and doctors stuck overseas waiting in line for green cards to become available, despite a grave need for their services during this public health crisis. What’s worse is that many of these workers already have approved immigrant petitions but are prevented from serving our communities due to the long visa backlogs.

The bill would authorize the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to “recapture” up to 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 immigrant visas for physicians. USCIS would also recapture immigrant visas for the families of these medical professionals.

These recaptured visas would be drawn from the pool of unused employment-based visas that Congress has previously authorized. These visas would be issued in order of priority date and would not be subject to the country caps. To facilitate timely action, premium processing would be applied to qualifying petitions and applications. Furthermore, the bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to prioritize visa appointments for fully qualified nurses and physicians to enter the United States as fast as possible.

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


Please note:

Unless otherwise indicated on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo, individuals seeking to file applications for adjustment of status with USCIS in the Department of Homeland Security must use the “Final Action Dates” charts below for determining when they can file such applications. When USCIS determines that there are more immigrant visas available for the fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, USCIS will state on its website that applicants may instead use the “Dates for Filing Visa Applications” charts in this Bulletin. 


May Visa Bulletin Cutoff Dates


According to the Department of State’s May Visa Bulletin, the following cutoff dates will apply for the issuance of an immigrant visa:

  • EB-1: All countries except for China and India will become current on May 1. China will advance by five weeks to July 15, 2017, while India will advance by three months to August 1, 2015.
  • EB-2: China will advance by one month to October 1, 2015, and India will advance by one week to June 2, 2009. All other countries will remain current.
  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: All countries except India and China will remain retrogressed at January 1, 2017. Cutoff dates for China and India will advance, with China moving ahead by one month to May 15, 2016, and India moving ahead by more than five weeks to March 1, 2009.
  • EB-5: Most countries will remain current. China will advance by more than six weeks to July 1, 2015; India will advance by nine months to October 1, 2019; and Vietnam will advance by just under two months to April 1, 2017.

Employment-Based Priority Cut-off Dates for May 2020


USCIS recently announced that it will honor Final Action dates for adjustment of status filings in May. In order to file an employment-based adjustment of status application next month, employer-sponsored foreign nationals must have a priority date that is earlier than the date listed below for their preference category and country. This is the second consecutive month that USCIS has chosen the Final Action Dates chart, after several months of honoring the Dates for Filing chart.

The May Final Action Dates chart is current for EB-1 countries worldwide, after several months of retrogression.


How will the President’s Executive Order affect immigrant visas?


The President’s executive order will temporarily suspend and limit the entry of foreign nationals seeking an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Although the order will apply for the next 60 days, the order will have little practical effect on immigration, given that U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide have suspending the issuance of all visas until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

If U.S. Consulates and Embassies resume operations within the next 60 days, the executive order will prevent foreign nationals from obtaining immigrant visas at U.S. Consulates worldwide. The suspension will apply to individuals who, as of Wednesday, were outside of the United States, do not have an immigrant visa, do not have official travel documents other than visas, and have not been exempted by the executive order.

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UPDATE: Green card interviews are being waived for at least some applicants during COVID-19


Unprecedented times call for unusual measures. Recently USCIS announced the closure of field offices nationwide—until May 3rd–to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

This announcement was immediately concerning given that green card applicants (family and employment-based) must attend in-person interviews at USCIS field offices to establish green card eligibility before their green cards can be approved.

USCIS indicated in their announcement that all impacted interviews would be rescheduled at a future time when offices re-open to the public. Of course, the decision to reschedule interviews at a future time would create a backlog, delaying the adjudication of thousands of green cards.

As it appears, to avoid a drastic backlog, USCIS is relaxing the green card interview requirement for employment-based green card applicants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there is no official policy or memorandum waiving the interview requirement for employment-based green card applicants, USCIS has been doing just that.

We can report that certain employment-based green card applicants who had their interviews canceled as a result of the COVID-19 office closures, have seen their green card “case status” change to “approved” and have received their green cards in the mail shortly thereafter.

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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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