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Possible Impact of Suspension of Consular Processing Green Cards

Posted May 4, 2020Stephanie Wedel - Sr. AssociateGreen Card

On April 22, 2020, President Trump signed a presidential proclamation suspending green card applications directly from the consulates.  This proclamation does not impact applications for adjustment of status to legal permanent residence from within the United States.

The majority of consular issued green cards during FY2019 were for the family-sponsored preferences, while the majority of employer-sponsored green cards are issued as adjustment of status applications. For family-sponsored categories (excluding immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens), there are at least 226,000 visas available, and for employer-sponsored green cards there are at least 140,000 immigrant visas available. As unused visas for either employer-sponsored or family-sponsored are rolled over to the other category, this order could positively impact the availability of employment-based green cards this fiscal year.  Typically, this spill-over is minimal, however, last year nearly 500,000 individuals were issued green cards abroad (this includes individuals such immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens who are not counted against the available visa numbers), and  as the suspension appears to affect primarily family-sponsored immigration, there is a chance we could see a larger proportion of employer-sponsored green cards issued through USCIS.

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

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Temporary Policy for I-9 List B Identity Documents

Posted May 4, 2020Stephanie Wedel - Sr. AssociateArticles

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a temporary policy regarding expired List B identity documents given the challenges of renewing driver’s licenses, state ID cards, and other identity documents with the current shelter-in-place orders.

Effective May 1, 2020, List B documents that are set to expire on or after March 1, 2020 (and not extended by issuing authority) may be treated the same as if the employee has provided a valid for receipt for an acceptable document for Form I-9 purposes.

When completing the Form I-9 and presented with an expired List B document, the employer should list the document information in Section 2 under List B, and record “COVID-19” in the additional information field.  Within 90 days of the termination of this policy, the employee will need to provide a valid unexpired document for the I-9.

Once presented with the unexpired document, the employer should record the number and other required document information from the actual document under Section 2 additional information field and initial and date the change.

For those List B documents that have been extended by the issuing authority, employers should enter the documents expiration date in Section 2 and enter “COVID-19 EXT” in the additional information field.  Employers may also attach a webpage printout or copy of another notice that indicates the issuing authority has extended the expiration dates.

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

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USCIS Continuing Extension of Deadlines due to COVID-19

Posted May 4, 2020Stephanie Wedel - Sr. AssociateArticles

On March 30, USCIS announced it would provide extensions for applicants and petitioners responding to Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs).  On May 1, USCIS announced it was continuing deadline extensions for these requests:

  • Requests for Evidence
  • 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
  • Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion

USCIS will now grant a 60 day extension for all RFEs issued between March 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020. Any response received by USCIS within 60 days of the deadline for an RFE initially issued between March 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020 will be considered timely filed. USCIS will consider Form I-290Bs received within 60 days of the issuance of the decision.  This extension does not apply to RFE's and NOID's issued previously that are coming due during this period.

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

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Important global updates on travel bans, entry/exit restrictions, and suspension of immigration services during COVID-19

Posted May 4, 2020Cheryl Kilborn - Sr. AssociateArticles

Australia: Limitations on Australian Embassies and Consular services; online citizenship ceremonies (!); visa extensions (or the lack thereof); and flexibility for laid off foreign nationals working in a critical sector.

Columbia: Suspension on all international flights into Columbia until May 21, 2020; temporary extensions for entry permit holders; temporary suspension on visa registration requirement; and temporary suspension on validity period for some visa categories.

Poland: Suspension on all international flights into Poland, restrictions on who may enter Poland, and 14-day self-quarantine period; implementation of special laws related to COVID-19 including immigration regulations stating that work and resident permit visas are automatically extended; and special provisions for Schengen visa holders.

Russia: Inbound travel limited to Russian citizens and residency permit holders until June 15, 2020; automatic extension of expired visas; and the possibility of in-country renewal of business visas.

Important Updates

Australia

  • Limitations on Australian Embassies and Consular services: On March 26, 2020, the Australian Foreign Affairs Administrator directed the departure of all non-essential staff working at Australian Embassies and Consulates abroad, back to Australia. Consular Services within Australia are operating but with limited services and focused specifically on visa applications for healthcare workers, medical researchers, age care workers, and agricultural workers.
  • Online citizenship ceremonies: Citizenship applicants are currently able to take the pledge of allegiance online to complete the citizenship process.
  • Visa extensions: Under Australian law, there is no legislative authority for extending visas. For foreign nationals in Australia with expiring visas must apply for a new visa. This would not be an extension and must be done before the current visa expires.
  • Flexibility for laid off foreign nationals working in a critical sector: The Australian government has created a Pandemic visa (408) that allows laid off foreign nationals working in Australia in a critical sector (healthcare, age care, agriculture) to be self-employed (i.e. not require employment sponsorship) to continue to provide critical services. All other laid off foreign nationals must department if a new sponsor is not found within 60 days of termination of employment or obtain a new, valid visa. Employers are still required to give notification of termination within 28 days of the last date of employment and pay the equivalent of a one-way ticket for travel back to the foreign workers passport country.

Columbia

  • Inbound travel restrictions: Columbia has implemented a ban on all international flights into Columbia until May 21, 2020. This applies to entry of Columbian nationals as well as residents (there are some exceptions for repatriation for humanitarian reasons). There is also a ban on the entry of all foreign nationals (except those who hold migrant or resident visas) until May 30, 2020. There is also a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all persons entering Columbia after those dates, including Columbian nationals and residents.
  • Temporary extension for entry permit holders: Entry permit expiration dates have been extended until the health emergency has ended (TBD) plus an additional 30 days. Foreigners from visa waiver countries are reminded that depending on the activity (tourism, business, seminar, etc.) they may enter Columbia without a visa for up to 90 days which can be extended an additional 90 days for a total of 6 months per calendar year. Holders of entry permits that are not able to return to Columbia are not subject to revocation for remaining outside the country for more than 90 days. There is also a special measure for those who do not have all of the paperwork required to apply for a visa (if required) until May 13, 2020. During that time visitors are considered legal under the Safe Conduct status.
  • Temporary suspension on visa registration requirement: Immigration Columbia, the entity that administers all immigration matters, has suspended until May 30, 2020, the registration requirement for foreign nationals that have visas with a validity of more than 3 months. Typically, this process must be done within 15-days of entering Columbia if the visa was issued abroad, or within 15 days of visa issuance if issued in Columbia.
  • Temporary suspension on validity period for some visa categories: Validity periods are currently suspended until the health emergency has ended, for visas for the provision of temporary services, intracompany transferees, and migrant visas. Migrant and resident visa holders abroad who are unable to return to Columbia during the state of emergency are not be subject to penalties or revocation for remaining outside of Columbia longer than is permitted under the visa classification.

Poland

  • Inbound/outbound travel restrictions: All international flights into Poland are suspended. LOT airlines, with government approval, is organizing return flights for Polish citizens. Currently, only a limited group of people may enter Poland. There is no restriction on departure. Those who can enter include Polish citizens and their spouses and children, holders of post cards (documenting Polish roots), permanent and temporary permit holders, and persons having a right to work in Poland. Persons who cannot enter include those intending to transfer through, and family members of foreigners in Poland holding permits (exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis). Anyone entering Poland is subject to a 14-day self-quarantine which is monitored by home checks.
  • Automatic extension of work and resident permits: As of March 20, 2020, Poland declared that the country is in an epidemic state. As of April 1, 2020, all Immigration Offices have been closed. All work and resident permits that have expired during the epidemic state are automatically extended for 30 days after the end of the epidemic state. It is still possible during this time to submit applications for work permit extensions and indeed is recommended given processing time. The extension of work and resident permits is automatic. The Immigration Office will not issue a confirmation of extension or stamp to evidence the automatic renewal.
  • Automatic extension of visa/authorized period of stay for Schengen (and visa free) visa holders: Holders of short-term Schengen visas or those who entered visa free, who were physically present in Poland on March 14, 2020, will have their visas/authorized period of stay automatically extended for 30 days after the end of the epidemic state. Holders of short-term Schengen visas or those who entered visa free who entered Poland after March 14, 2020, can also benefit from this same 30-day provision but would be required to submit a residence permit application before the end of the extension period. It is not currently possible to submit a resident permit application.

Russia

  • Inbound travel restrictions: There is currently a ban on entry to Russia except for Russian citizens and residency permit holders (i.e. foreign nationals married to Russian citizens that have applied for and received residency permits). Regular work permit holders cannot enter Russia.
  • Automatic visa extension: Foreign nationals stuck in Russia who entered with valid visas or with visa free entry are allowed to stay in Russia lawfully until June 15, 2020, even if the visa or period of authorized stay has expired. Such persons are not required to apply for an extension.
  • Uncertainly about business visas: Business visas are not normally extendible within the country. Without further guidance, there is currently a presumption that business visa holders will need to depart Russia within 7 days after June 15, 2020. Because there is no way to extend a business visa in country, however, there is talk of not requiring departure to renew because of the need for a new invitation letter to re-enter, thus possibly allowing for an extension without having to depart Russia.

These alerts are for informational purposes only. Please contact your designated Meltzer Hellrung professional if you have questions.

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USCIS Offices Preparing to Reopen on June 4

Posted April 27, 2020Lana Lee - ParalegalGreen Card, Visa Bulletin

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services suspended in-person services provided at its field offices, asylum offices and application support centers (ASCs) on March 18. The ASC offices handle biometric appointments for dependent visa cases (such as H-4, L-2, etc.) and pending green card applications. On April 24th, USCIS announced that the offices will remain closed until June 4th. USCIS will still provide limited emergency in-person services under special circumstances.

Any previously scheduled asylums, biometrics, InfoPass, naturalization and interview appointments are cancelled at this time. Once the USCIS resumes its processes, it will send out new appointment letters and notices to reschedule ASC appointments, including biometrics appointments. The asylum offices will send out cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. Additionally, naturalization interviews and ceremonies will be rescheduled, and the applicants will be notified with new dates and locations.

Individuals with previously scheduled InfoPasss or other appointments will need to reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once the field offices re-open.

We will continue to provide updates to clients as they become available. If you have any questions about how COVID-19 may affect your immigration process, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung LLC attorney.

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