News & Resources
Posted July 1, 2020 Articles
On July 1st, USCIS announced that it will further extend selected deadlines for response to certain requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny, and several other revocation and appeals processes in response to COVID-19. (Please find information about the initial announcement here.)
USCIS has extended the deadlines for responding to the following notices by 60 calendar days after the listed due date so long as the request, notice or decision was issued between March 1st, 2020 and September 11th, 2020 (inclusive):
- Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
- Notices of Intent to Deny
- Notices of Intent to Revoke
- Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers
Initial filing date deadlines for the following processes have been similarly extended to be accepted 60 calendar days after the date of adverse decision:
- Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or
- Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion
If you have any questions about deadlines for any of the mentioned items, please contact your Meltzer Hellrung attorney.
Posted June 30, 2020 Articles
Beginning in August, approximately 13,400 employees of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services could be furloughed - a move that will effectively bring the U.S. immigration system gradually to a standstill.
Monday morning, USCIS employees were informed that 78% of the agency is going to be temporarily out of work. The furlough will start on August 3rd, and last for at least 30 days, potentially being extended to 3 months or longer. The reason given for the furlough was the declining revenues because of the COVID-19 ongoing pandemic.
- USCIS has approximately 20,000 employees in total.
- The $14.8 billion operating budget — nearly 97% — comes from filing fees for immigration petitions filed with the agency.
- USCIS experienced a 50% decline in incoming fees starting in March, and is expecting to stay below average until the end of 2020.
- USCIS issues more Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) than previous years. The RFE rate increased from 22.3% in FY 2015 to 40.2% in FY2019 and was 47.2% in just the first quarter of FY2020. In many cases, the RFEs issued are requesting documentation that was already provided or unnecessary to demonstrate eligibility for the immigration benefit.
- Furthermore, President Trump’s presidential proclamation reduced applications in visa categories that generate revenue for USCIS, such as H-1B, L-1, certain J1’s, and green card applications, by suspending consular processing for these categories.
On May 15, USCIS requested a $1.2 billion loan from Congress to be able to carry out their daily tasks and they would pay the money back to the Treasury with a 10% surcharge added to applications. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) would like to see the receipt of funding tied to more transparency and accountability in the use of the funds. USCIS actually held a significant surplus only a few years ago, but due to fiscal mismanagement and policy decisions to increase difficulty for obtaining immigration benefits, this surplus has now been depleted. A decision on this solution will likely not be made until the end of July at the earliest.
We will continue to monitor this situation as it progresses and will provide updates as they are available.
Posted June 28, 2020 Articles
On June 25, 2020, the European Commission issued a recommendation for re-opening its borders to non-essential travel on July 1, 2020. The EU includes all Schengen Member States (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania), as well as the four Schengen Associated Sates (and Ireland and the UK if they decide to align).
The recommendation temporarily restricts travel of third-country nationals from certain high-risk countries that do not meet the following criteria:
- close to or below 16 new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100,000 inhabitants;
- the trend of new cases over the same period in comparison to the previous 14 days is stable or decreasing; and
- the overall response to COVID-19 taking into account available information on aspects such as testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting. Where data on such aspects is unavailable, Member States may use the total average score across all dimensions for International Health Regulations (IHR) when this is above 50. Information provided by EU Delegations based on the checklist annexed to the Communication of 11 June 2020 may also be taken into account.
The United States is currently considered a high-risk area for which entry of residents for non-essential travel could remain restricted.
When deciding whether the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU applies to a third-country national, residence in a third country for which the restrictions on non-essential travel have been lifted should be the determining factor (and not nationality).
(a) Union citizens within the meaning of Article 20(1) TFEU and third-country nationals who, under agreements between the Union and its Member States, on the one hand, and those third countries, on the other hand, enjoy rights of free movement equivalent to those of Union citizens, as well as their respective family members
(b) third-country nationals who are long-term residents under the Long-term Residence Directive27 persons deriving their right to reside from other EU Directives or national law or who hold national long-term visas, as well as their respective family members.
Where the travel restriction continues to apply, EU Member States are directed to ensure that those travelling to study are exempted, together with highly skilled non-EU workers:
- Healthcare professionals, health researchers, and elderly care professionals; Frontier workers;
- Seasonal workers in agriculture;
- Transport personnel;
- Diplomats, staff of international organisations, military personnel and humanitarian aid workers and civil protection personnel in the exercise of their functions;
- Passengers in transit;
- Passengers travelling for imperative family reasons;
- Persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons respecting the principle of non-refoulement;
- Third-country nationals travelling for the purpose of study;
- Highly qualified third-country workers if their employment is necessary from an economic perspective and the work cannot be postponed or performed abroad.
Meltzer Hellrung continues to monitor the gradual lifting of restrictions on non-essential travel at external borders in the EU and will provide updates as they become available.
This alert is for informational purposes only. Please contact your designated Meltzer Hellrung professional if you have any questions or contact us at email@example.com
Posted June 23, 2020 Articles
Given the recent Presidential Proclamation there is some additional travel guidance for foreign nationals in the U.S.:
- Individuals in H-1B, H-2B, H-4, L-1A, L-1B, L-2, J-1, and J-2 status who do not have valid visa stamps should cancel any international travel plans until after the end of the year. Individuals with valid visa stamps in their passports will still be admitted, but new visas stamps will not be issued.
- Due to COVID-19, many consulates are still closed, and visa stamping appointments are not available. As such, we recommend remaining in the U.S. and avoiding international travel in order to obtain a visa stamp.
- Many countries still have a travel ban due to COVID. Admission will not be granted if you have been to these countries within 14 days of your arrival to the U.S. COVID -19 specific information for travel can be found here.
Please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney before making any travel plans.
Posted June 22, 2020 Articles
President Trump has signed the Presidential Proclamation that impacts the ability of nonimmigrant visa holders in H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J-1 status, as well as their dependents (H-4, L-2, J-2 visa holders), to travel internationally effective June 24th until December 31, 2020. There will be a review within 30 days of the initial effective date, and every subsequent 60 days thereafter to determine if any modifications to the order are necessary.
The proclamation extends the current ban on green cards issued at consulates through December 31, 2020. This only affects green card applications directly at the consulates, and does not impact those for individuals who are currently in the U.S.
Who will be impacted by the proclamation
This proclamation applies to the H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J-1 individuals (and their dependents in H-4, L-2 and J-2 status) who are currently outside the U.S. and limits their ability to re-enter. Individuals in these categories who are outside the U.S. and who do not hold a valid visa, advance parole, or other U.S. travel document will not be permitted to enter the U.S.
Specifically, individuals in the following statuses (and their dependents) will be affected:
- H-1B Specialty Occupation Temporary Workers
- H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers
- H-4 Dependents
- L-1A Executives and Managers
- L-1B Specialized Knowledge Workers
- L-2 Dependents
- J-1 interns, Trainees, Teachers, Camp Counselors, Au Pairs and Summer Work Travel Participants
- J-2 Dependents
This will impact all individuals in the above listed categories who are outside the U.S. without a valid visa, including current employees. Individuals who have been approved for these categories, but have not yet obtained a visa stamp will also be impacted, including H-1B lottery applicants abroad.
Currently, the proclamation does not affect Canadian nationals who do not require a visa. We will continue to provide updates as more information is made available.
Who is not impacted by the proclamation
The proclamation does not affect individuals who:
- Are inside the U.S. at the time of the proclamation
- Have a valid nonimmigrant visa, advance parole or other U.S. travel document as of the date of this proclamation
- Are lawful permanent residents of the U.S.
- Are the spouse or child of a a U.S. Citizen
- Are seeking to enter the U.S. to provide temporary labor or services essential to the U.S. food supply chain
This proclamation does not affect those who are in the U.S. and seeking a change of status or extension of status for the above listed visa categories.
Individuals who do not have valid visa stamps should not plan any international travel while the ban is in effect.
For individuals who have approved petitions (including H-1B lottery applicants), but have not yet received the visa stamp, the earliest they will be able to enter the U.S. will be January 1, 2021. U.S. immigration laws do permit telecommuting while abroad if companies would like to have these workers employed prior to January 1, 2021.
Please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney if you have any questions.