Articles Posted in Work Visas

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While the global Coronavirus pandemic rages on, the government is taking careful steps to manage the ongoing health crisis while also opening the country to fully vaccinated international travelers.

Last week, President Biden made the decision to rescind Presidential Proclamation 10315, an order that previously suspended and restricted the entry of foreign nationals, who were physically present within any of the following countries, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States:

  • Republic of Botswana
  • Kingdom of Eswatini
  • Kingdom of Lesotho
  • Republic of Malawi
  • Republic of Mozambique
  • Republic of Namibia
  • Republic of South Africa, and
  • Republic of Zimbabwe

Accordingly, as of December 31, 2021, Proclamation 10315 has been officially rescinded.


Background


President Biden had previously issued Proclamation 10315 to guard against the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United States. Our readers may recall that on November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) first reported the emergence of Omicron as a variant of concern. Thereafter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that the government restrict the entry of foreign nationals from regions where the variant had been reported. The above countries were identified as regions where the variant was spreading, and the government swiftly issued the Proclamation temporarily barring such travelers from entering.

According to the Biden administration, the government has now learned more about the Omicron variant and has taken appropriate mitigation efforts to combat its spread. The CDC has recommended that the government lift the travel restrictions previously imposed by Order 10315, because scientists have determined that vaccination against COVID-19 provides adequate protection against the new variant.

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It’s the start of a brand-new year! On behalf of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we would like to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year. It has been a challenging time in the world of immigration law but we at the Law Office are proud to help you navigate the new normal.

In this blog post we share with you a new proposed rule that has been published in the Federal Register. The new rule seeks to raise certain nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, fees for the Border Crossing Card for Mexican Citizens age 15 and over, and fees to waive the two-year residency requirement (J waiver).


What is this all about?


On December 29, 2021, the Department of State released a new rule proposing the adjustment of various fees for Consular Services.


Non-Petition Based NIVs to Increase to $245 USD for B1/B2, F, M, J, C, D, I, and BCC applicants


Among the proposed fee changes is an increase of “non-petition” based NIV fees from $160 USD to $245 USD per application.

This change would impact a variety of nonimmigrant visas, such as:

  • those for business and tourist travel (B1/B2);
  • students and exchange visitors (F, M, and J);
  • crew and transit visas (C and D);
  • representatives of foreign media (I), and
  • other country-specific visa classes, as well as BCCs for applicants age 15 or older who are citizens of and resident in Mexico.

According to the Department of State, “non-petition” means visas that do not require separate requests known as “petitions” to be adjudicated prior to the visa application to establish that the individual meets certain qualifying criteria for the relevant status ( e.g. , that the beneficiary of the petition has the relevant familial relationship to the petitioner). Non-petition based NIVs make up nearly 90 percent of all NIV workload.

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We have very exciting news for nonimmigrant visa applicants. Today, December 23rd, the Department of State announced that the agency has granted Consular officers the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants, provided such applicants have a petition approved by USCIS.  This new discretionary power will apply to temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.


Interview Waiver Policy for Certain Nonimmigrant Workers


Pursuant to this new policy, Consular officers now have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided that they have no ineligibility issues and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

Interview Waiver Policy for Certain F, M, and academic J visa applicants


At the same time, the Secretary of State has extended a previously approved policy designed to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022.

To be eligible for the interview waiver as citizens or nationals of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, applicants must (1) have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via ESTA and (2) must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.

Additionally, just like the policy applied to certain non-immigrant workers, Consular officers will also have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants that are (1) citizens or nationals of a country that participates in VWP and (2) that have previously traveled to the United States via an ESTA authorization, and that have not had any visa ineligibility issues in the past

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It is that time of the month again! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the January Visa Bulletin 2022 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of January 2022.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart January 2022


For Family-Sponsored Filings:

Pursuant to guidance released by USCIS, 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 only may file using the Final Action Dates Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for January 2022.

For all other family-sponsored preference categories, applicants must use the Dates for Filing Chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for January 2022.


For Employment-Based Preference Filings:

All applicants, except EB-5 Regional Center, falling under employment-based preference categories, must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for January 2022. This means that USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment of status applications (except EB-5 Regional Center) with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the November Visa Bulletin.

NOTE: USCIS will not accept any new employment-based fifth preference adjustment of status applications based on the Regional Center Program until that program is reauthorized by Congress.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some breaking news. On Tuesday, December 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its international travel guidance to require all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States starting today, Monday, December 6, 2021.

The CDC has also published a new webpage that summarizes the international travel requirements and recommendations for U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and Immigrants. Another webpage also provides information for non-U.S. Citizens, non-U.S. immigrants traveling by air to the United States.


International Air Travel Guidance for non-U.S. Citizens and non-U.S. immigrants


Starting today, Monday December 6, 2021, all air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States.

Additionally, non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants (those who are not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States by plane. Only limited exceptions apply.

Travelers are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 when traveling to the United States by air.

Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth are also required in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) traveling into, within, or out of the United States and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports).


What if I am not fully vaccinated?


Non-citizens who are nonimmigrants and seeking to enter the United States by air are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States from a foreign country.

If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will NOT be allowed to board a flight to the United States, unless you meet the limited criteria for an exception under the Proclamation and CDC’s Order.

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Happy Thanksgiving from Sapochnick Law!

This Thanksgiving, we want to share our genuine appreciation for our clients, subscribers, and faithful readers of our blog. Without your trust and support, we would not be where we are today. We’re so thankful for all of your support throughout the year. 

Today, we take time to reflect upon how grateful we are to have amazing clients from all over the world and from all walks of life. Our firm is also reminded of all the wonderful blessings and hard work that goes into making it possible to achieve the dreams of our clients. We’re thankful for our wonderful staff each and every day. We’re also exceptionally thankful to our social media community. You’ve stuck by us and trusted us to bring you the latest in immigration news, through the good times, and the tough times, we will always be here to serve you. You inspire us and challenge us! You are a constant reminder of why we do what we do, and we’re grateful to be able to serve you.

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Did you participate in the H-1B electronic registration for Fiscal Year 2022? If so, we have some exciting news for you.

In this post we share with you some exciting news for individuals who submitted H-1B registrations for the fiscal year 2022 H-1B cap. On Friday, November 19, 2021, USCIS issued a news alert informing the public that they have selected additional H-1B registrations to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption to reach the mandated cap for the H-1B program.

As our readers may recall, USCIS conducted a second lottery on July 28, 2021, making this the third lottery conducted to meet the Congressionally mandated FY 2022 cap.

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We are happy to deliver some amazing news for H-4, E, and L dependent spouses! On November 12, 2021, following a settlement agreement known as Shergill v. Mayorkas, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new Policy Memorandum (Policy Alert PA-2021-25) outlining that the agency will automatically allow for employment authorization for dependent E, L, and certain H-4 spouses of principal visa holders, without requiring spouses to file I-765 application for employment authorization to be eligible to work in the United States.

The new Policy Memorandum also rescinds the agency’s previous 2002 Memorandum which did not allow dependent spouses in E, L and certain H-4 visa holders to automatically qualify for work authorization in the United States.

Following this new settlement, E, L, and certain H-4 spouses will be able to work just by having their valid visas, and they will not need to file any separate applications nor need an employment authorization card (work permit) to lawfully work in the United States.

While some doubt initially arose regarding whether E dependent spouses would qualify for automatic employment authorization, USCIS has now explicitly confirmed that it will indeed consider E and L dependent spouses to be employment authorized incident to their valid E or L nonimmigrant status.

The new November 12, 2021, Policy Memorandum outlines the following:

  • Certain H-4, E, or L dependent spouses to qualify for an automatic extension of their existing employment authorization and accompanying employment authorization document (EAD) if they properly filed an application to renew their H-4, E or L-based EAD before the document expires and they have an unexpired Form I-94 evidencing their status as an H-4, E, or L nonimmigrant;
  • The automatic extension of the EAD will continue until the earlier of: end date on Form I-94 evidencing valid status the approval or denial of the EAD renewal application, or 180 days from the date of expiration of the prior EAD document; Form I-94, evidencing unexpired nonimmigrant status (H-4, E or L), Form I797C receipt for a timely – filed EAD renewal application stating “Class requested as “(a)(17),” “(a)(18) or ((c)(26)”, and the facially expired EAD issued under the same category);

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In this blog post we share amazing news with our readers regarding the settlement of a recent class-action lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The agreement reached under the settlement will immediately allow for automatic renewals of employment authorization for: L-2 spouses of L-1 nonimmigrants and qualifying H-4 dependent spouses who (a) properly file an application to renew their H-4 based employment authorization document before expiration (b) have an unexpired Form I-94 showing their status as an H-4 nonimmigrant and (c) who will continue to have H-4 status beyond the expiration date of their employment authorization document. Shergill v. Mayorkas, No. 21-1296 (W.D. Wash.)


What does this new settlement mean?


 Effective immediately, the Shergill settlement will make it a lot easier for L-2 and H-4 dependent spouses to continue working in the United States without having to apply for a renewal of their employment authorization and without interruptions to their employment. As many are already aware, the processing of I-765 employment authorization applications is currently subject to extreme delays due to the pandemic and burdens on USCIS offices. This new settlement will prevent L-2 and certain H-4 dependent spouses from being stuck in these backlogs. Not to mention L-2 and certain H-4 spouses will no longer have to pay the required $410 filing fee to renew their employment authorization. Following this new settlement, L-2 spouses and certain H-4 spouses will be able to work just by having their valid H-4 and L-2 visas, and they will not need to file any separate applications nor need an employment authorization card (work permit) to work in the United States.


Guidelines for Dependent Spouses under the Settlement Agreement


Under the terms of the Shergill settlement agreement, as it relates to L-2 dependent spouses, USCIS will now interpret 8 CFR § 274a.13(d) to recognize that employment authorization for such spouses is now linked (incident) to their visa status. USCIS will also allow up to 180-day automatic employment authorization extensions when the applicant has already had the H-4 or L-2 status extension granted either through USCIS or through travel.

Automatic Renewals of Employment Authorization for applications that already have valid H-4 status

  • Pursuant to the settlement agreement, USCIS is now interpreting the law so that H-4 nonimmigrants who have timely filed their I-765 EAD renewal applications and continue to have H-4 status beyond the expiration date of their EAD, qualify for the automatic extension based on their (c)(26) EAD.
  • This automatic extension will terminate on the earlier of: the end date of the H-4 status, adjudication of the EAD renewal application, or 180 days from the previous card’s expiration date.

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A new House reconciliation bill adds new language that could open a path to permanent residency for highly skilled immigrants without waiting for their priority date to become current.

The new bill, known as H.R. 5376 “the Build Back Better Act,” is the latest initiative backed by the Biden administration to strengthen the middle class and enhance economic ingenuity.  Interestingly, the bill provides a framework that would improve and reform our immigration system with particular benefits for highly skilled immigrants.

If passed section 60003 of the reconciliation bill would exempt an alien (and the spouse and children of such alien) from the numerical limitations described in the employment-based immigration section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and allow the alien and any follow-to-join dependents to adjust their status to permanent residence provided such alien submits or has submitted an application for adjustment of status and . . . is the beneficiary of an approved petition . . . that bears a priority date that is more than 2 years before the date the alien requests a waiver of the numerical limitations; and pays a supplemental fee of $5,000.” (Emphasis added.)

If passed these legislative measures would be extremely beneficial to highly skilled workers because it would allow employees in the visa backlogs to file for adjustment of status without waiting for a priority date to become available. Following this proposal, once a labor certification application would be approved by the Department of Labor, an employee could be eligible to file his or her I-485 adjustment of status application concurrently with his or her I-140 petition for alien worker and apply for temporary work authorization while the applications would remain pending with USCIS.

The House reconciliation bill would also allow family-based immigrants inside the United States to gain permanent residence outside the numerical limits if their priority date is “more than 2 years before” and the individual pays a $2,500 supplement fee. EB-5 category (immigrant investor) applicants would need to pony up a $50,000 supplement fee. The provisions to pay a supplemental fee to receive a green card outside the numerical limits would expire on September 30, 2031.

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