NEWS HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2021
September 20, 2021. The White House today has announced its plans to ease COVID related travel restrictions on all international travelers entering the United States, beginning in November of 2021. In doing so, the White House plans to rescind current country-wide COVID related travel bans that apply to individuals from Iran, China, the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India and replace regional bans with individual proof of vaccination against COVID-19, as well as proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of boarding a flight. The CDC will publish information on which types of COVID vaccines will be accepted. Exceptions will be available for those without access to the vaccine (such as children), humanitarian reasons, and other limited exceptions.
August 25, 2021. Beginning October 1, 2021, the USCIS, along with the U.S. Department of State will require COVID-19 vaccinations for applicants applying for Lawful Permanent Resident Status. All applicants who receive their I-693 Medical Examination on or after October 1, 2021 must comply with this new requirement by providing proof of vaccination. Exceptions will apply to those who are too young to receive the vaccine; those who have a medical contraindication to the vaccine; or those who do not have access to the vaccine in his/her home country. Updates to Form I-693 instructions are forthcoming.
August 24, 2021. In order to clear out backlogs, the American Immigration Lawyers' Association (AILA) has reported that the USCIS will be resuming the scheduling of interviews outside of standard business hours, for example, early in the morning and on Saturdays. Interviews may also be scheduled outside of the jurisdiction (in another County).
June 15, 2021. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) released statistics for the fiscal year 2022 H-1B cap registration (lottery) stating that it received 308,613 lottery registrations and selected 87,500 registrations to meet the annual quota of 85,000. 48% of all lottery registrations requested consideration under the Master’s (advanced degree) quota.
By way of comparison, for fiscal year 2021 USCIS received 274,237 lottery registrations and selected 106,100 registrations to meet the annual quota. USCIS conducted a second lottery in August of 2020 totaling 18,315 additional registrations due to low filing volume from the initial selection. Hence, the overall FY2021 selection resulted in a total of 124,415 cases.
USCIS intends to run a second lottery again this year after the filing period closes. At that point, USCIS will determine how many allocations are unused.
May 12, 2021. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced a new procedure for rescheduling Biometrics appointments at the Application Support Centers. Applicants’ may now call the USCIS Primary Contact Center at (800) 375-5283 to reschedule Biometric services appointments scheduled at a USCIS ASC. Previously, applicants had to submit requests in writing to reschedule appointments.
May 3, 2021. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that it will suspend the Biometrics requirement for certain I-539 applicants for a two-year period beginning on May 17, 2021. This suspension will apply to the H-4, L-2, and E-1, E-2, and E-3 categories that are pending on May 17, 2021, as well as new applications received from May 17, 2021 through May 23, 2022.
This suspension comes as a result of a class-action lawsuit, Edakunni v. Mayorkas, filed by the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) and Wasden Banias, LLP challenging H-4 and L-2 adjudication delays.
April 30, 2021. President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation expanding the COVID-19 Public Health travel ban which prohibits the entry of foreign nationals who have been physically present in certain countries within 14 days of their travel to the United States. India now joins this list, which includes countries in the European Schengen Area, Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. The new India travel ban takes effect on May 4, 2021 and will remain in place until terminated by the President.
The following individuals are not subject to the ban, but may be required to undergo screening and other measures upon arrival:
March 30, 2021. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) announced today that it has received enough electronic registrations to reach the Fiscal Year 2022 H-1B cap. USCIS has completed the random selection process and notified Petitioners.
February 5, 2021. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that the initial registration period for the 2022 fiscal year (FY2022) H-1B cap will open at 12:00 noon eastern time on March 9, 2021 and run through 12:00 noon eastern time on March 25, 2021. During this authorized lottery registration period, Employers will be able to submit their lottery registrations on behalf of prospective H-1B employees. USCIS will not implement its new rule creating a 'wage-based selection process' for H-1Bs for the upcoming H-1B cap season, rather the new rule will take effect December 31, 2021.
February 5, 2021. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued a final rule which delays the newly created "wage-based lottery system" for selecting H-1B applicants. This rule sought to select H-1B lottery recipients based on the highest earning individuals. The rule has been delayed until December 31, 2021, which means that it will no longer impact the upcoming H-1B lottery season (the rule was originally set to go into effect on March 9, 2021).
The delay rule states: “The Department is delaying the rule’s effective date until December 31, 2021, because USCIS will not have adequate time to complete system development, thoroughly test the modifications, train staff, and conduct public outreach needed to ensure an effective and orderly implementation of the H-1B Selection Final Rule by the time the initial registration period will be open for the upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B cap season. During the delay, while USCIS works through the issues associated with implementation, DHS leadership will also evaluate the January 8th rule and its associated policies, as is typical of agencies at the beginning of a new Administration.”
February 2, 2021. The Biden Administration has issued three Executive Orders pertaining to immigration, however, none of these orders address the current ban on H-1B and L-1 visa applicants valid until March 31, 2021. This was a disappointment to many immigration advocates, along with his failure to address the newly created health insurance requirement, as well as the Public Charge rule, both of which remain in effect.
NEWS HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2020
December 28, 2020. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) final fee rule, which sought to significantly increase the filing fees associated with immigration benefits, will remain enjoined in its entirety. This is a result of the government’s filing of an unopposed motion for voluntary dismissal of its appeal in ILRC v. Wolf, a lawsuit filed on behalf of leading immigrant’s rights organizations challenging the final fee rule.
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.
Prior updates have been archived.