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USCIS Confirms SAVE Program is Operational During Shutdown

Posted January 24, 2019Kristen KellarArticles

USCIS has confirmed that its SAVE Program is available during the government shutdown. The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program is used by government agencies to verify immigration status when offering government benefits. Examples of agencies that may use the program are a state's department of motor vehicles, department of human services, and department of employment security. Agencies using the program will continue to be able to use the system during the shutdown. The SAVE CaseCheck system is also still available for individuals looking to follow the status of their verification case.

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USCIS Updates Guidance on Traveling with Advance Parole

Posted January 3, 2019Articles

USCIS updated its form instructions for when the agency will deny pending Form I-131 applications for advance parole for applicants who travel while the application is  pending. Previously, USCIS has denied all advance parole petitions when an individual traveled while the application was pending. 

USCIS indicates that when an applicant applies for advance parole, and the applicant travels internationally without the advance parole document that is valid for the entire period of travel, USCIS will consider the pending Form I-131 to be abandoned.

Further, USCIS notes that an applicant may have an approved advance parole document while a second one is pending. Individuals can travel while a new advance parole petition is pending as long as a previously approved advanced parole document is valid for the entire time spent abroad. In this situation, the pending application for advance parole will not be considered abandoned.

USCIS indicates that when an applicant applies for advance parole, and the applicant travels internationally without the advance parole document that is valid for the entire period of travel, USCIS will consider the pending Form I-131 to be abandoned.

We will continue to update this practice alert as more information becomes available. If you have any questions, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney. 

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Effect of the Government Shutdown on Employment-Based Immigration

Posted December 26, 2018Articles

With the government partially shut down as of December 22, 2018, many agencies are still operating, but other services will be unavailable until a new spending bill is signed. Here is an overview of how some of the immigration related agencies and services are being affected.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services budget is fee based and generally is not affected by a government shutdown. USCIS offices will be open and interviews and appointments should be attended.

The following USCIS programs are affected:

  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program

EB-5 applications are on hold due to a lapse in congressional authorization for the program. Forms I-526 and I-924 can be submitted but will not be adjudicated until congressional authorization is received. Forms I-829, submitted to remove conditions to remove conditions on permanent resident status for entrepreneurs are not affected.

  • E-Verify

E-Verify services are unavailable. During this time, the following policies have been implemented to assist employers:

  1. The 'three-day rule" for creating cases is suspended for cases affected by the unavailability of E-Verify.
  2. The time period which employees may resolve tentative nonconfirmations (TNCs) will be extended. Additional guidance will be provided by E-Verify when operations resume.
  3. Employers may not take adverse action against employees because the E-Verify case is in an interim case status, including while the employee's case is in an extended interim case status due to the unavailability of services.
  4. Federal contractors with the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause should contact their contracting officer for information on extending deadlines.
  • Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 medical doctors

Conrad 30 waivers are not being granted.

  • EB-4 Non-Minister Religious Workers

The non-ministerial special immigrant religious worker program is currently on hold.

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor has been funded through October 2019 so it is not affected by the shutdown.

Department of State

The State Department has announced that it will continue to provide scheduled passport and visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates during the shutdown, however delays may occur.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Ports of entry are open and Customer and Border Protection will continue to work. CBP is affected by the shutdown but employees with be working without pay.  

If you have any additional questions about how the shutdown could affect you or your employees, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung LLC attorney.

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USCIS Issues Updated Guidance on I-751 Interview Waivers

Posted December 5, 2018Kristen KellarGreen Card

USCIS recently issued a policy memorandum revising guidance for Form I-751 interview waivers. Form I-751 is filed to removed conditions on permanent residents whose lawful permanent residence is based on a qualifying marriage that is less than two years old at the time of admission or adjustment of status.

Generally, individuals who file a Form I-751 must appear for an interview with a USCIS officer. All I-751s filed on or after December 10, 2018 are subject to the new policy memorandum. The new guidance states that officers may waive the interview if the following conditions are met:

  • The officer can make a decision on the record because it contains sufficient evidence about the bona fides of the marriage and that the marriage was not entered into for the purpose of evading the immigration laws of the United States;
  • For Form I-751 cases received on or after December 10, 2018, USCIS has previously interviewed the I-751 principal petitioner (for example, for a Form I-485 or Form I-130);
  • There is no indication of fraud or misrepresentation in the Form I-751 of the supporting documentation; and
  • There are no complex facts or issues that require an interview to resolve questions or concerns.

If you have any questions about the policy memorandum and how it could affect your application, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung LLC attorney.

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Proposed Changes to H-1B Cap Lottery

Posted December 3, 2018H-1B, Monthly Newsletters

In accordance with the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, DHS announced on November 30, 2018 a proposal that would require petitioner’s seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with USCIS during a designed registration period. USCIS would also reverse the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions, increasing the number of beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected for an H-1B cap first.

Currently, once the H-1B cap and advanced degree exemption petitions are met, the advanced degree exemption is selected prior to the H-1B cap. Once there are sufficient petitions selected for the H-1B cap, USCIS would select the petitions towards the advanced degree exemption. This would increase the chances that beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S institution of higher education would be selected under the H-1B cap, and that the H-1B visa would be awarded to the highest-paid and most-skilled beneficiaries. Further, the proposed process would increase the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries who hold a U.S. institution master’s degree or higher by 16 percent.

Due to the expected technical challenges to this proposed H-1B registration process and new electronic system, USCIS could temporarily suspend the registration process during any fiscal year. This suspension would allow USCIS to up-front delay the implementation of the H-1B registration process past the fiscal year 2020 cap season. Yet, USCIS expects that this electronic system would reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for USCIS. This would also help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications, as well as limit the filings of H-1B cap-subject petitions to the beneficiary named on the original selected registration, which would protect the integrity of this registration system.

We do not yet know the procedures for registration and how long USCIS will provide to submit complete petitions selected in the lottery. We will continue to monitor the situation and advise clients appropriately.

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