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Articles Posted in Work Visas

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In this post we would like to address some of our clients frequently asked questions regarding the Payment Protection Program, a loan forgiveness program created by the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the United States government recently passed a bill providing emergency financial relief to individuals, families, and small businesses. As you know, the majority of states nationwide have issued stay-at-home orders requiring the public to avoid all nonessential outings and stay at home as much as possible. Non-essential businesses have also been ordered to close their facilities to the public until further notice. Essential businesses have been allowed to continue to operate such as grocery stores, pharmacies, health care facilities, banking, law enforcement, and other emergency services.

One of the main provisions of the bill, known as the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), allocates billions of dollars in loans to small businesses who are feeling the economic impact of the stay-at-home orders. The CARES Act specifically authorized the Small Business Administration (SBA) to create the Payment Protection Program for the purpose of providing financial assistance to small businesses nationwide that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. SBA lenders began accepting loan applications from small business owners on April 3, 2020. Applications will continue to be accepted until June 30, 2020. It is important for business owners to apply for these loans as soon as possible.

  1. What is the Payment Protection Program?

In a nutshell, the Payment Protection Program is a loan forgiveness program that allows small businesses (of 500 or fewer employees) to apply for loans of (1) $10 million or (2) 2.5x the average total monthly payments of the company’s payroll costs, whichever is less.

Loans under this Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will be 100 percent guaranteed by SBA, and the full principal amount of the loans will qualify for loan forgiveness provided that:

(1) the business was in operation on February 15, 2020 and either had (a) employees for whom you paid salaries and payroll taxes or (b) paid independent contractors as reported on Form 1099;

(2) all employees are kept on the payroll for 8 weeks and;

(3) the money is used for payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities (at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll).

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! As you all know, USCIS recently announced that it has completed the selection process to meet the 65,000/20,000 annual numerical limitations for H-1B fiscal year 2021.

All accountholders should have been notified of selection via their USCIS online accounts by March 31,2020. We can confirm that our office received all notices of selection before March 31, 2020.

If you were selected, the following status will appear on the petitioner’s USCIS online account:

Selected: Selected to file an FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petition.

What’s Next?

Now that the selection process has been completed, petitioners who properly registered the beneficiary through the mandatory H-1B electronic registration process and were selected in the lottery are eligible to file a FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petition with USCIS.

Petitioners who were not selected cannot file a petition with USCIS.

Please note that selection does not mean that an H-1B petition has been approved. The petitioner must still establish eligibility for petition approval at the time of filing and the application must go through adjudication based on existing statutory and regulatory requirements.

When can I file?

H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2021, including those petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may now be filed with USCIS if based on a valid selected registration (as of April 1st). 

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In this post, we summarize all of the major and recent developments taken by USCIS, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These developments directly impact immigration in significant ways that will be discussed in further detail below.

As this situation evolves, we will continue to update this post for your benefit. You may also read all of our COVID-19 related posts here.


USCIS Field Offices, ASCs, and Asylum Offices Temporary Closed to the Public

To combat the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, on March 18th USCIS announced the temporary closure of field offices, application support centers, and asylum offices, to the public until at least May 3rd.

We suspect that this closure will be further extended given the current public health crisis we are experiencing nationwide.

Applicants who were scheduled to appear for an interview, biometrics, or asylum interview from March 18 to May 3rd will receive a notice in the mail regarding impacted services, as well as a notice rescheduling the appointment.

ASC appointments will be rescheduled once offices are re-opened to the public.

At this time, please continue to be patient and monitor your mail closely.


USCIS Field Office and Service Center Operations Continue

Although USCIS is closing field offices to the public, the agency has stated that office employees will continue to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public.

Furthermore, USCIS service centers and facilities continue to operate and will continue to adjudicate petitions filed nationwide.


USCIS Expands RFE/NOID/NOIR/NOIT/I-290B Deadlines

On March 30, 2020, USCIS announced that it will consider any response to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before any action is taken by USCIS.

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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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In this post we bring you the latest immigration related COVID-19 updates. During this difficult time, we would like to extend our heartfelt regards to you and your families. We hope you are staying safe and taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The sooner we abide by government measures, the sooner we can overcome this pandemic as a Nation. Additionally, please remember that although our office is closed to the public, we continue to function behind the scenes to file your petitions on a timely basis. If you have any questions regarding your immigration options, or your currently pending case, we would be glad to assist you by telephone, Zoom, or Skype.

President Extends Federal Social Distancing Guidelines to April 30

This past Sunday, March 29, 2020, the President of the United States extended the Nation’s social distancing guidelines for another 30 days, following warnings from health advisers of the serious consequences that could result if Americans were allowed to return to normal life. Pursuant to this order, social time will continue to be limited only to necessary outings such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, etc. until April 30.

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Great news! Today, March 27, 2020, USCIS announced that it has received enough electronic registrations to reach the FY 2021 H-1B cap—just 7 days after the registration period closed on March 20, 2020.

USCIS randomly selected from among registrations that were properly submitted to meet the 65,000/20,000 annual numerical limitations for the regular cap and advanced degree exemption.

Petitioners who have been selected will be notified of their selection no later than March 31, 2020 (4 days). Only petitioners with selected registrations will be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary named in the applicable selected registration.

How will I be notified?

Now that the selection process has been completed, USCIS will send electronic notices to all registrants with selected registrations that are eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition on behalf of the individual named in the notice within the filing period indicated on the notice.

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It has been nearly two weeks since the President of the United States declared a public health emergency for COVID-19, forcing the American economy to come to a screeching halt. Thereafter, states enacted their own measures requiring non-essential businesses across the country to shutter temporarily until the virus has been contained. Although these measures have been undoubtedly necessary to prevent the rapid spread of the virus, the majority of Americans nationwide have lost their livelihoods overnight.

This past week lawmakers have been busy drawing up legislation that would provide emergency financial assistance for individuals, families, and businesses in the United States.

This afternoon Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), and the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

Although this legislation is sweeping in scope, this post will specifically discuss financial relief for individuals and families, and more importantly which individuals will qualify to receive financial assistance.

What does the CARES Act do for individuals and their families?

Under the Act, most single individuals earning less than $75,000 can expect to receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Married couples filing jointly (earning less than $150,000), would each receive a check ($2,400) and families would receive $500 per child. For example, a family of four earning less than $150,000 can expect to receive $3,400.

Rebates would begin to phase out at $75,000 for singles, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for joint taxpayers at 5 percent per dollar of qualified income, or $50 per $1,000 earned. Rebates phase out completely at $99,000 for single taxpayers with no children and $198,000 for joint taxpayers with no children.

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Great news for FY 2021 H-1B registrants! USCIS has published step-by-step video instructions showing you how you can submit an electronic registration on the USCIS website without the use of an attorney or representative. It is not too late to register. The registration period closes noon ET on March 20, 2020.

USCIS Adds FAQs to Website

USCIS has also included a helpful and detailed FAQ section about the H-1B electronic registration process on its website addressing various topics regarding the H-1B registration process and filing process itself.

We have included these FAQs in this post for your convenience. Questions marked in red are those that we consider to be of most interest to petitioners.

For further information about the H-1B electronic registration process please click here.

Q: What happens if the prospective beneficiary does not have a last name? What do you enter into the system?

  • A: If there is only one name for a beneficiary, it should be entered as the last name. The first and middle name fields will have check boxes that indicate “Beneficiary does not have a first name” or “Beneficiary does not have a middle name.” These boxes should be checked in these instances. Do not enter placeholders, such as “FNU”, “LNU”, “Unknown”, or “No Name Given.

Q: Is there an appeal process for registrations determined to be invalid duplicates?

  • A: Registrations that are determined to be duplicates will be invalid. A registrant who submits duplicate registrations will not be able to appeal the invalidation.

Q: If you are registering for the master’s cap based on the expectation that the beneficiary will earn a qualifying advanced degree, and you are actually selected under the master’s cap, but, the beneficiary does not obtain their qualifying advanced degree, is there a risk that the cap-subject H-1B petition for that beneficiary will be denied?

  • A: If a registration is submitted requesting consideration under the INA 214(g)(5)(C) advanced degree exemption because the beneficiary has earned, or will earn prior to the filing of the petition, a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education, and the registration is selected under the advanced degree exemption, the beneficiary must be eligible for the advanced degree exemption at the time of filing the I-129 petition. If the beneficiary is selected under the advance degree cap and has not earned a qualifying master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education at the time the petition is filed, the petition will be denied or rejected.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we cover the latest immigration news of the week.

USCIS Launches Online Form to Report Fraud

On March 3rd USCIS announced the launch of a new online form available on the USCIS website that can be used to report suspected immigration fraud and abuse including asylum/refugee fraud, religious worker visa fraud, employment-based visa fraud, investor visa fraud (EB-5 program), student visa fraud, marriage or fiancé visa fraud, unauthorized practice of law (notarios), and other types of immigration fraud.

This “USCIS tip form” provides space for the form user to describe alleged fraud or abuse in detail. According to USCIS, the tip form was created to make the tip process more effective and efficient, so that the agency can better collect information and make an assessment regarding the credibility of tips sent to the agency.

Previously fraud reporting was done by email, making it difficult for USCIS to respond and investigate tips.

This new online system for reporting fraud represents the Trump administration’s commitment to crack down and prevent various forms of visa fraud.

Over the years, the Trump administration has signed various directives and executive orders such as “Buy American, Hire American” aimed at rooting out fraudulent H1B, asylum/refugee, and EB-5 investor visas. The Trump administration has also worked to limit or slow down the issuance of these visas by issuing aggressive requests for evidence in the case of H1B visas and increasing the minimum investment amount for EB-5 investors.

Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain Immigrants and Nonimmigrants who Pose a Risk of Transmitting the Coronavirus

On February 3rd the Department of State issued an important announcement reminding travelers of a Presidential proclamation signed on January 31st barring entry to the United States of immigrants or nonimmigrants who traveled to China within the 14 days immediately prior to arrival in the United States.

The proclamation went into effect on Sunday, February 2.

Travelers should note that the proclamation does not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States.  Foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas are excepted from this proclamation.  Other exceptions include certain family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, including spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21).  There is also an exception for crew traveling to the United States on C, D or C1/D visas.

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H-1B season has officially kicked off!

The new mandatory H-1B electronic registration system for fiscal year 2021 opened yesterday at noon ET on March 1, 2020 and will remain open until noon ET on March 20, 2020.

In order to have a chance of being selected, from now on all prospective petitioners and their authorized representatives seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2021, including for beneficiaries eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first register during the registration period (March 1, 2020 to March 20, 2020) and pay the associated $10 registration fee for each beneficiary.

Only petitioners with a selected registration may participate in the H-1B filing process.

Registering is Easy

Petitioners and their authorized representatives must create a myUSCIS online account and submit registrations for each beneficiary via their online account during the registration period.

Per USCIS:

Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to: 1) register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and 2) pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary. Prospective petitioners or their representatives will be able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit and store draft registrations prior to final payment and submission of each registration.

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