NEWS HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2020
November 13, 2020. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has updated its Policy Manual to reflect changes to the Civics Test for purposes of Naturalizing (obtaining U.S. Citizenship). Specifically, the policy increases test questions to a pool of 128 questions, with the number of exam questions being 20, and the total number of correct answers needed to pass to 12. The new policy applies to Naturalization applications filed on or after December 1, 2020.
October 16, 2020. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it will increase the filing fee amount for premium processing (15 day processing), effective October 19, 2020 from $1,440 to a whopping $2,500, for all existing filings eligible for premium processing (except those requesting H-2B or R-1, which will increase to $1,500).
Notably, Public Law No. 116-159 also provides the USCIS with the ability to expand premium processing to additional forms and benefit requests, however, USCIS has not yet taken action to expand the premium processing program to other types of benefits.
October 1, 2020. President Trump has signed a temporary spending measure that will fund the U.S. government, which includes immigration operations, through December 11, 2020. Among other things, the spending measure extends several immigration programs that were set to expire, for example, the e-Verify Program and EB-5 Regional Center Program.
Notably, the spending measure includes a permanent expansion of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Premium Processing program that increases the government filing fee from $1,440.00 to $2,500.00 for certain types of applications, while providing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) discretion to designate other types of applications and benefits for premium processing. Under the new rule, H-4 dependent applications, as well as EAD applications will become eligible for premium processing, along with I-140 Immigrant Petitions in the EB-1 category.
Although the new premium processing rule took effect immediately, it will likely take the USCIS several weeks to implement the new rule. We expect the USCIS to issue a public announcement once the new expanded premium processing program becomes available. In the meantime, only the existing premium program for certain I-129 and I-140 petitions remains available.
August 12, 2020. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has received reports that the USCIS may select more H-1B registrations for the fiscal year 2021. If so, a new H-1B filing period may open as early as August 17 through mid-November 2020. We will continue to closely monitor this development.
June 24, 2020. Since Canadian citizens are generally exempt from the visa requirement, they should be considered exempt from the June 22, 2020 Presidential Proclamation, as they are not "seeking entry pursuant" to an H, J, or L visa. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) issued a practice alert on June 24, 2020, confirming that its CBP-OFO Liaison Committee verified this interpretation with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Guidance has been provided to local CBP ports on this issue.
June 22, 2020. In response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation which temporarily suspends the entry of any individual seeking entry into the U.S. pursuant to any of the following nonimmigrant (temporary) visa categories:
The nonimmigrant ban will take effect at 12:01am EDT on June 24 and will remain in place until December 31, 2020. The ban may be extended or broadened.
June 19, 2020. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has received reports that a general agreement was reached on June 16th regarding a proposed update to Presidential Proclamation 10014, and that this agreement could be finalized by the end of this week, Friday June 19, 2020. AILA believes that any extension or expansion of the Proclamation must happen before it expires at 11:59 pm on June 22, 2020 and that reports seem to confirm that nonimmigrant visa categories (H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J-1) will be impacted.
June 9, 2020. Rumor or real? The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has been closely monitoring Presidential Proclamation 10014, since its April 22, 2020 announcement, and what this will mean for the H-1B program, as well as other work visa categories.
According to AILA, here is what we know in terms of timing: The proclamation could be issued as early as mid-June and the proclamation could potentially be in effect for as long as 90 to 180 days. In terms of substance, AILA notes, that the Proclamation could bar entry to the U.S. for H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and J-1 for a temporary period, with a possible exemption for L-1A multinational executives and managers. The proclamation will provide a temporary ban on the entry of nonimmigrant workers, accordingly will not affect those already in the U.S. Exceptions will be carved out for COVID-19 related exemptions, such as for health care workers and food supply related exemptions.
Other areas of potential rulemaking surround the F-1 OPT (student) and H-4 (spousal work authorization) categories, which could take place as early as July, according to AILA. It is also unclear whether the formal rule making processes of public notice and public comment will be adhered to. If implemented, such rulemaking could rescind the 24 month STEM OPT regulation and add additional requirements to the 12 month post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) program; as well as rescind the H-4 EAD for spouses of H-1B holders.