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USCIS Re-Opening June 4th

Posted May 27, 2020Stephanie Wedel - Sr. AssociateArticles

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended in-person services provided at its field offices, asylum offices and application support centers (ASCs) due to COVID-19.  USCIS is now preparing to re-open these facilities to the public on June 4. You can check the status of the individual offices on USCIS’ office closures page.

When offices reopen, USCIS will reduce the number of appointments and interviews to ensure that social distancing guidelines can be followed. Appointment notices will include additional safety precautions that individuals will need to follow.

USCIS requests that if you are feeling sick, you do not attend your appointment.  There will be no penalty for rescheduling appointments for when you are feeling healthy.  Instructions for rescheduling are located on the appointment notice.

USCIS will automatically reschedule naturalization ceremonies, previously scheduled appointments and interviews, as well as ASC appointments.

USCIS has also issued guidelines for entering USCIS facilities:

  • Visitors may not enter a USCIS facility if they:
    • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
    • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
    • Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
  • Visitors may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to their appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided for visitors at entry points. 
  • Members of the public must wear facial coverings that cover both the mouth and nose when entering facilities. Visitors may be directed to briefly remove their face covering to confirm identity or take their photograph. There will be markings and physical barriers in the facility; visitors should pay close attention to these signs to ensure they follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

Please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney with any questions.

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Travel Restrictions to Enter the U.S. - Brazil

Posted May 26, 2020Lana Lee - ParalegalArticles

President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation suspending entry for all foreign nationals of all nationalities who have been present in Brazil within the past 14 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This suspension goes in effect at 11:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time on 5/26/2020. 

This travel restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens, or the following groups:

  • Lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders)
  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Children, foster children, or wards of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Individuals traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • C (transit) or D (air or sea crewmember) nonimmigrants
  • Individuals whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the CDC Director, or his designee;
  • Individuals who are members of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as spouse and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Individuals whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

This travel restriction is expected to last up to 30 days, but the proclamation does state that it shall remain in effect until terminated by the president.

Additionally, as this travel restriction does not cancel any flights, regular commercial flights to the U.S. are still available from Sao Paulo and Campinas.   

Please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung Attorney if you have any questions.

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U.S. Closing Canadian and Mexican Borders to Tourism and Recreational Travel Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Posted May 22, 2020Kyle RobyArticles

On March 20th, President Trump and Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard announced that the U.S.-Mexico border will close to non-essential travel in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The closing became effective on March 21 and has been extended through June 22nd. The move followed a similar announcement earlier last week between the U.S. and Canada, limiting travel between the borders.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines "non-essential travel" as travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. 

"Essential" travel includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the U.S.
  • Travel to work in the U.S.
  • Travel for medical, emergency response, and public health purposes.
  • Travel to attend educational institutions.
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade.
  • Individuals engaged in official government or diplomatic travel.
  • Travel by members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses/children returning to the U.S.
  • Other forms of travel as determined by the CBP on a case-by-case basis.

While individuals with any valid U.S. travel document (i.e. U.S. visa or advance parole document) will be exempt from the restriction, it is possible that travelers could face additional scrutiny at the border while the new policy is being implemented. Foreign national travelers entering the U.S. should be prepared for the possibility of additional screening and questions from the CBP regarding their employment or reasons for business travel into the U.S.

Meltzer Hellrung LLC will continue to monitor U.S. travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 outbreak and provide updates as available. If you have any questions or concerns on the above or regarding how COVID-19 may impact U.S. immigration or foreign national employees, please contact your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney or reference our COVID-19 FAQ here.

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ICE Announces Extension of Form I-9 Rule Flexibility

Posted May 15, 2020Kristen Kellar - Sr. Paralegal - Team LeadArticles

On May 14, 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") announced it would extend Form I-9 rules flexibility. ICE previously announced that it was allowing the physical presence requirements associated with the Form I-9 to be deferred until May 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy has now been extended for another 30 days.

Companies with employees working remotely due to the pandemic do not need to review the documents with the employee physically present, but instead must review the documents remotely within three days of the employees start date. Employers should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 Additional Information field once physical inspection takes place after normal operations resume. Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 additional information field on the Form I-9, or to section 3 as appropriate.

This provision only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

The flexibility in rules also relates to notices of inspection ("NOIs") served by ICE. Employer's served with NOIs in March were automatically given a 60 day extension. These employers will now have an additional 30 days to respond.

If you have any questions about these extensions, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney.

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H-2B Updates for Food Supply Chain Security and Stability

Posted May 13, 2020Stephanie Wedel - Sr. AssociateArticles

In an effort to mitigate the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a temporary final rule to update certain H-2B requirements.  The H-2B visa is typically used for temporary work authorization in non-agricultural fields, which lasts for no more than 1 year, and where there are no available U.S. workers.

The temporary final rule does not increase the number of H-2B visas above the mandated 66,000 cap through the remainder of FY2020, and will only apply to individuals who are already present in the U.S. in H-2B status.

The temporary final rule will allow employers some additional flexibility for employing workers essential to the U.S. food supply chain.  There are two temporary updates in the final rule:

  1. H-2B employers can employ an H-2B employee physically present in the U.S. while the H-2B petition is still pending before USCIS, only if the employer attests that the worker will perform work that is essential to the U.S. food supply chain. This authorization will last for 60 days.
  2. H-2B workers who are essential to the U.S. food supply chain can stay beyond the 3-year maximum allowable period. This applies to petitions filed by current as well as potential future new employers, so long as it is for essential positions in the U.S. food supply chain.

In order to take advantage of these new updates, employers will need to submit an attestation, swearing under penalty of perjury, that the H-2B worker(s) will be performing temporary, non-agricultural services or labor that is essential to the U.S. food supply chain.

This rule is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.

Please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney if you have any questions.

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