Articles Posted in Policy

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A new policy memorandum will change the way the accrual of unlawful presence is calculated for F, J, and M non-immigrant visa holders, and their dependents, beginning August 9, 2018, and onwards. The accrual of unlawful presence may lead to a bar preventing the foreign national from re-entering the United States.

In 1997 Congress began implementing a policy that governed the admissibility of individuals in F, J, and M non-immigrant visa status. Pursuant to that policy, nonimmigrants who overstayed their visa for more than 180 days could be subject to a 3-year bar, while individuals who overstayed for more than one year could be subject to the 10-year bar, for violating the terms of their visa status.

However, this class of individuals only began to accrue unlawful presence, where an immigration judge ordered the applicant excluded, deported, or removed from the United States, or where USCIS formally found a nonimmigrant status violation, while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit, such as adjustment of status. This policy applied to all non-immigrants who were admitted or present in the United States in duration of status (D/S).

New Policy

On August 9, 2018, USCIS released a policy memorandum entitled “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants,” superseding the previous 1997 policy, in order to reduce the number of overstays, and implement a new policy regarding how to calculate unlawful presence for F, J, and M non-immigrants and their dependents.

Pursuant to the new policy, from August 9th onwards, “F, J, and M nonimmigrants, and their dependents, admitted or otherwise authorized to be present in the United States in duration of status (D/S) or admitted until a specific date (date certain), start accruing unlawful presence,” as follows:

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Earlier this year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suddenly changed the regulations governing the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT). According to the USCIS website, a U.S. employer who has hired an international student under the STEM OPT program may not assign, or delegate training responsibilities to a non-employer third party such as a consulting company. This policy change has proven controversial since its sudden appearance on the USCIS website during the month of April. The policy greatly restricts the employment of international students and exposes “noncompliant” students from being found inadmissible to the United States for a 5-year period or more and makes such students subject to deportation.

Per the USCIS website:

“…a STEM OPT employer may not assign, or otherwise delegate, its training responsibilities to a non-employer third party (e.g., a client/customer of the employer, employees of the client/customer, or contractors of the client/customer). See 8 C.F.R. 214.2.(f)(10)(ii)(C)(7)(ii) and 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule (pp. 13042, 13079, 13090, 13091, 13092, 13016).”

A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas seeks to challenge this new provision on the ground that USCIS unlawfully began implementing this new policy change, in contravention of federal law.

According to the lawsuit, ITServe Alliance v. Nielsen, USCIS circumvented federal procedural rules which require public notice and the opportunity for public comment, before such a federal policy is put in place. The lawsuit alleges that since the sudden appearance of these additional terms and conditions of employment, USCIS has unlawfully issued hundreds of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs), without first following the formal rulemaking process mandated under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

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Return of Unselected H-1B Petitions

H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the fiscal year 2019 visa lottery have been returned to unlucky applicants. If you filed a petition between April 2 and April 6 and you did not receive a receipt notice for your application, you will be receiving your returned petitions in the mail by August 13. If you do not receive a returned petition by this date, you should contact USCIS.

Updated NTA Policy

On June 28th USCIS issued a policy memorandum providing updated guidance for the referral of cases and issuances of notices to appear (NTAs) in cases involving inadmissible and deportable aliens. The policy memorandum outlines the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities for removal as well as guidelines for referring cases and issuing NTAs.

Under the updated policy the following classes of aliens are prioritized for removal, aliens who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal,” as well as alienswho, regardless of the basis for removal:

(a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;

(c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;

(e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

(f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or

(g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security”

Today, USCIS announced that it is postponing implementation of this policy guidance because operational guidance has not yet been provided to immigration officers. The policy memorandum gave USCIS 30 days to implement proper protocols for NTA issuance consistent with the updated policy memorandum. We will notify our readers once we receive information about when the NTA policy will be implemented.

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A new report by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) released this month indicates that the number of H-1B denials and Requests for Evidence (RFEs) increased significantly during the fourth quarter of 2017 which began on July 1, 2017, following the implementation of Presidential Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American” in April 2017. Among other things, the Executive Order targeted the H-1B visa program calling on the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to suggest reforms to the H-1B program and “ensure that H-1B visas are awarded the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” Data obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates that “the proportion of H-1B petitions denied for foreign-born professionals” applying for H-1B visas, “increased by 41% from the 3rd to the 4th quarter of FY 2017, rising from a denial rate of 15.9% in the 3rd quarter to 22.4% in the 4th quarter.”

The NFAP also discovered that the number of requests for evidence issued during the 4th quarter of fiscal year 2017 “almost equaled the total number issued by USCIS adjudicators for the first three quarters of FY 2017 combined (63,184 vs. 63,599).”

The number of requests for evidence “more than doubled between the 3rd and 4th quarter of FY 2017, rising from 28,711 to 63,184.”

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Indian Nationals

According to the report, “USCIS adjudicators were much more likely to issue a Request for Evidence for applications for Indians than for people from other countries.” For example, “In the 4th quarter of FY 2017, 72% of H-1B cases for Indians received a Request for Evidence, compared to 61% for all other countries.” Data over the years confirms that applications filed by Indian nationals result in higher rates of denials and requests for evidence, not just for H-1B applications but also for L-1 visa applications.

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a new policy memorandum that will have wide ranging implications for immigrants. Beginning September 11, 2018, USCIS will use their discretion to deny an application, petition, or request filed with USCIS without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), if insufficient evidence is sent with the initial filing of the application or if the evidence provided does not establish the applicant’s eligibility for the benefit requested.

The new policy memorandum “Issuance of Certain RFEs and NOIDs; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 10.5(a), Chapter 10.5(b)” supersedes the 2013 policy memorandum titled “Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny” which previously governed an officer’s discretion to deny an application, petition, or request without first issuing a request for evidence. Previously, the 2013 memo required requests for evidence to be issued where the initial evidence was unsatisfactory or did not establish the applicant’s eligibility for the benefit requested.

As of September 11, 2018, USCIS now has the power to deny petitions lacking initial evidence without sending a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny to cure the defect. This is bad news for applicants of immigrant and non-immigrant visa types, because applicants who have not provided sufficient evidence to USCIS to establish that they are eligible for the benefit requested can be denied without having the opportunity to cure the defect.

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DHS Statement on Family Reunification

The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a statement outlining the administration’s four-point plan to reunite minor children separated from their parents at the border. Beginning July 10, 2018, HHS and DHS will coordinate the reunification of children under 5 years of age currently in the custody of HHS, with parents who are in DHS custody.

#1 Verification of Parental Relationship

The administration will first ensure that a parental relationship with the child has been verified before reunifying the child with his or her parent. In addition, the parent must undergo a background check to ensure that reunification will not compromise the safety and welfare of the child. If a parent is found unsuitable for reunification purposes, in the course of a background check, the child will not be reunified with the parent. Parents who are in the custody of the U.S. Marshall or in a state or county jail for other offenses may not be reunified with their child.

#2 Transportation of Parents to ICE custody

Parents separated from their children will be transported to ICE custody where they will be reunited with their parents. Beginning July 10, 2018, DHS will coordinate physical reunification of minor children under 5 years of age with parents transported to ICE custody, provided the parent has been cleared for parentage and poses no danger to the child.

#3 Preparation of Children under Five Years of Age for Transportation

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will coordinate transportation of minor children under the age of five for reunification purposes. Children will be transported under supervision and their possessions will be brought with them to ICE custody.

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In this post, we bring our readers important information regarding revisions to the Notice to Appear “NTA” policy guidelines. On June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new policy guidance outlining the Department’s priorities for enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants from the United States.

Form I-862 also known as a Notice to Appear is a document that is given to an individual to initiate removal proceedings. The Notice to Appear instructs the individual of a date and time to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings.

To better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” USCIS has revised its NTA policy expanding the class of individuals who may be referred to ICE and issued a Notice to Appear. Under the revised policy, USCIS may now refer cases “with articulated suspicions of fraud to ICE prior to adjudication,” of cases filed with USCIS. The revised policy does not apply to recipients and requestors of Deferred Action (DACA) when (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA. For this class of individuals the 2011 NTA guidelines will apply.

The President’s Executive Order 13768 specifically calls on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order prioritizes the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision upholding the President’s latest travel ban in the case Trump, President of the United States, Et Al. v. Hawaii Et Al. The 5-4 decision reflected a deeply divided court, but ultimately the conservative justices on the court banded together ruling in favor of the Trump administration.

Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, ruled that the latest travel ban was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority.” Justices Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg dissented. Despite concurring with the majority opinion Justice Kennedy added, “An anxious world must know that our Government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward, and lasts.”

As you may recall in September of 2017 the President issued Executive Order No. 9645, entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats.” The purpose of this executive order was to identify any deficiencies from several foreign countries needed to adequately assess whether nationals from particular countries seeking to enter the United States presented security or safety threats to the United States. The order specifically called for global requirements for information sharing among these countries, and increased immigration screening and vetting of individuals from particular countries of concern. The President exercised his broad authority under the constitution to place entry restrictions on nationals of eight foreign countries whose information systems for managing and sharing information about their nationals was deemed inadequate by the current administration. These countries included—Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia.

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Today, Monday June 11, 2018, in an unprecedented move, the Trump administration announced that it would be dropping asylum protection for survivors of domestic violence. The announcement was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions this afternoon in the case Matter of A-B- 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018), which explained that victims of domestic violence would no longer be eligible to receive asylum in the United States.

Matter of A-B- 27 effectively reverses a decision formerly made by the Department of Justice immigration appellate court which granted asylum to a woman from the country of El Salvador on the basis of allegations of rape and abuse by her husband.

In his decision, dated June 11, 2018, the Attorney General overruled a separate but similar decision in Matter of A-R-C-G-, stating that the case was “wrongly decided” by the appellate court and should not have become precedent. The Attorney General was able to make such a binding decision on immigration courts across the country because their authority derives directly from the Department of Justice, instead of the judiciary branch.

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H-1B Update: Return of Unselected Petitions

USCIS has now completed data entry for all fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap-subject petitions that were selected in this year’s H-1B visa lottery. USCIS will begin the lengthy process of returning thousands of H-1B cap-petitions that were not selected in the lottery. Although USCIS has not provided a time frame on when they will begin returning unselected petitions, in previous years, our office began receiving unselected petitions in mid-June. All unselected petitions will include an official hard copy rejection notice from USCIS.

Updated Policy Guidance regarding Adjustment of Status interviews.

USCIS has revised its policy for adjustment of status interviews. All adjustment of status applicants must be interviewed by an officer unless USCIS determines that the interview is unnecessary. The decision to waive the adjustment of status interview is determined on a case-by-case basis.

In the following circumstances the adjustment of status interview may be waived:

  1. General Waiver Categories

“USCIS officers may determine, on a case-by case-basis, that it is unnecessary to interview certain adjustment of status applicants. The following list includes, but is not limited to, categories of cases where officers may decide to waive an interview: 

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