Premium Processing Resuming

UnknownUSCIS announced last week that it was resuming premium processing as of June 1, 2020.  However, USCIS stated that it would phase in the ability to file premium processing on cases in order to ensure that the office was not inundated with new premium processing cases before it was fully up and running again.  To that end, USCIS announced the following schedule for getting Premium Processing back up and running:

June 1:   Premium Processing for all I-140s will begin

June 8:   All non-H-1B I-129 application filed prior to June 8th that are eligible for premium processing can be upgraded as well as cap-exempt H-1Bs filed prior to June 8th.

June 15:   All statutorily cap-exempt application filed on or after June 8th

June 22:   All I-129 and I-140s eligible for premium processing (i.e. normal premium processing resumes)

So, as of today, I-140s can be upgraded to premium processing (or I-140s just being filed can be filed as premium processing).  Please do remember that not all I-140s are eligible for premium processing. Specifically those filed as a National Interest Waiver, or as an Intra-Company transferee are NOT eligible for premium processing.

In terms of I-129 application, there are more exceptions there as well.  If you are unsure if your application is eligible for premium or if you require assistance in upgrading your application, please do not hesitation on contactingour office.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

USCIS Update on Office Closures due to Covid-19

960x0USCIS has issued an update regarding office closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  USCIS is preparing to reopen CERTAIN offices starting June 4, 2020.  To see if your local office is opening you can go to this page.

As USCIS re-opens they have put out a list of precautions they are taking:

Beginning June 4, 2020, certain USCIS field offices and asylum offices will resume non-emergency face-to-face services to the public. Application support centers will resume services later. USCIS has enacted precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in reopened 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. If they do not have one, USCIS may provide one or the visitor will be asked to reschedule their appointment.
  • 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 may also have to answer health screening questions before entering a facility.
  • Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

Appointment notices will include further instructions for visiting USCIS facilities. For more information, see the web alert.

Please note, not all offices will be re-opening at once, and, as the above mentions, Application Support Centers, where most biometrics are taken, will be opening at a later date.

Any questions, please call our office.  Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

HHS expands J-1 Waivers for Clinical Care Physician

Doctor and patient high fiving in officeThe Department of Health and Human Services has a program to grant J-1 2 year home residency waivers for clinical care physicians.  Under this program, the physician must be working in a Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (CHC), as designated by the government.  Because of the current pandemic, however, and the great need for primary care physicians, HHS has decided to expand the pool of doctors eligible to apply for a waiver through HHS (this does NOT affect eligibility for such a waiver through a state HHS agency).

Under the revised rules, any facility, such as a hospital or private practice, can apply for an HHS waiver as long as they have an HSPA score of at least 7 and the physician will provide primary care treatment. HPSA scores are developed by the National Health Service Corps to determine the areas in most need of assigned physicians. The higher the score, the greater the need. Primary care and mental health clinicians are scored between 1-25. The waiver is not available for specialists but for extremely limited exceptions for those with a 1 year fellowship in a primary care field, such as geriatrics.

Those interested in the requirements for a clinical care waiver request, they can be found under the Supplement B section on the HHS website here.  If you are interested in determining if you would qualify for such a waiver, or to get more information, you can also contact me at adam.frank@fdimmigration.com.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

May 2020 Visa Bulletin and Guidance from Mr. Oppenheim are out

UnknownThe biggest news this month is that the EB-1 category came current for Most Countries (but not all).  Additionally, the EB-2 category remained current.  Otherwise, there was movement but not much in terms of surprises.  Mr. Oppenheim did ensure us that the Visa Bulletin is being processed based upon the same infomration in the past during this difficult time.  However, as he is working remotely, he did not have access to the necessary databases when talking with AILA this month, so was unable to make precise predictions.  Details are below:

Family Based Categories

F1: Moved forward almost three months to March 22, 2014 for most of the World EXCEPT  Mexico (moved forward about 1 month October 22, 1997) and the Philippines (moved forward 6 months to September 1, 2010).

F2A: Remained Current for the World.

F2B: Moved forward two and a half months to January 15, 2015 for most of the World EXCEPT  Mexico (moved forward about one and a half months to January 15, 1999) and the Philippines (moved forward 4 months to June 1, 2010).

F3: Moved forward about one and a half months to March 15, 2008  for most of the World EXCEPT  Mexico (moved forward one month to June 8, 1996) and the Philippines (moved forward 6 months to November 15, 2000).

F4: Moved forward about three weeks to July 22, 2006 for most of the World EXCEPT  India (moved forward about 2 weeks to January 8, 2005), Mexico (moved forward about 1 month to April 15, 1998) and the Philippines (moved forward 5 months to October 1, 2000.

UPDATE FROM DOS:

Mr. Oppenheim stated that all family categories should continue to move forward consistent with his projections last month.

Employment-Based Preference Categories

EB-1:  is now CURRENT for most of the world EXCEPT China (moved forward about 1 month to  July 15, 2017) and India (moved forward about three months to August 1, 2015).

EB-2:  Stayed Current for most of the world EXCEPT China (moved forward about 1 month to September 15, 2015) and India (moved forward about one week to June 2, 2009).

EB-3:  Stayed BACKLOGGED to January 1, 2017 for most of the world EXCEPT China (moved forward one month to May 15, 2016) and India (moved forward over one month to March 1, 2009).

UPDATE FROM DOS:

No further predictions were given this month. Hopefully Mr. Oppenheim can get us this information next month.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns.  And please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

How does the new Proclamation from the President Affect you?

On April 22, 2020. President Trump issued a proclamation “Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.”

This proclamation is effective at 11:59 pm (ET) on April 23, 2020. The proclamation will expire 60 days from its effective date and may be continued.

Per the proclamation, the suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation applies to individuals who:

  1. are outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;
  2. do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and
  3. do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

Exclusions include:

(b) The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:

(i) any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii) any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees; and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;

(iii) any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;

(iv) any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;

(v) any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;

(vi) any alien 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;

(vii) any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;

(viii) any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or

(ix) any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

By the above terms, the proclamation only affects those coming to the US as “immigrants”, not those coming as non-immigrants.  It also only affects those not in the United States, so it does not affect the adjustment of status process either.

We are happy to answer any additional questions about the application of the above, but please do understand, as of this writing, no formal guidance has been released so we can only base our answers on what is written in the above proclamation, and that may change once USICS, DOS and ICE issue their guidance documents.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

Upcoming Executive Order Regarding Immigration

images-1_FotorAs most, if not all, of you, have heard, our President is preparing an executive order to limit immigration into the United States.  At this time, as the order has not been finalized, we cannot say what the impact will be on individual cases.  Below is a list of what we have heard may, or may not, be included in the order:

  1. The reports are that it will only place limits on immigrant visas (definitely affecting consular processing and, maybe affecting the adjustment of status in the US as well).  It is reported that it will not affect non-immigrant visa issuance.
  2. The reports are that the immigration halt will be in place for 60 days and then will be re-evaluated.
  3. There have been reports that it will only apply to employment-based cases and will not affect family-based cases.
  4. There have been reports that there will be other exceptions as well for essential employees, which could include health care workers, researchers, farmworkers, and, perhaps, others.

So far, the above is all we know, and even that is not certain because there is no actual draft of the order as of yet.  We will update you once the order is finalized and we have more facts.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

Update on USCIS, DOS, SEVP and Covid-19

This is just an update on what is and is not happening with USCIS, DOS and SEVP during the Covid-19 pandemic. First, it is important to remember that things are changing so current USCIS policy may change very soon. To keep updated with current policies, you can go to the USCIS homepage at http://www.uscis.gov.

USCIS

Field Offices:

All USCIS field offices are closed to the public. This means that no biometrics appointments or interviews are being made at this time. This is in force through at least May 3, 2020 (we do not yet know if USCIS will extend this or not).

However, USCIS has made two important concessions during this period. First, they are allowing offices to reuse old biometrics for those who have applied to renew their EAD and AP status (Employment Authorization Documents and Advanced Parole). Second, USCIS has extended the time allowed to respond to Requests for Evidence (RFEs), Notices of Intent to Deny, Notices of Intent to Revoke, as well as the time to appeal decisions (this applies to all such notices with an issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision is between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020, inclusive.). USCIS policy now states:

Any response to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken. Any Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision will be considered by USCIS before it takes any action.

Service Centers:

USCIS service centers are open and adjudicating cases. Currently all service centers are open. However, it should be noted that some centers have closed temporarily in the past when a suspected case of Covid-19 has appeared in one of the employees. However, they have reopened the service centers within days.

Any applications that require biometrics appointments or interviews are on hold, however as the field offices are closed to the public (as are the biometrics centers). The only exception are EAD and AP applications for those who have had biometrics in the past. USCIS has issued a policy allowing those applications to go forward based upon the previous biometrics.

As stated above, USCIS has automatically extended the time to respond to requests for evidence, etc. for an additional 60 days after the due date.

Overseas Offices

Currently overseas offices are being closed on an as needed basis. Offices in Rome and Nairobi are currently closed, other offices are open if the Embassy itself is open. However, as most embassies are closed to the Public, so to are the USCIS offices at such embassies. They will continue to work and adjudicate cases as they can as long as in person interviews are not needed.

Department of State

Embassies

The Department of State has suspended routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services at all Embassies and Consulates until further notice (No specific date was given). Here is a copy of their announcement:

A. Suspension of Routine Visa Services.

– In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

– In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

This does not affect the Visa Waiver Program. See https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/faq?focusedTopic=Schengen%20Travel%20Proclamation for more information.

– Although all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments are cancelled, the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee is valid and may be used for a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.

We are aware of the importance of the H-2 program to the economy and food security of the United States and intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible.  For further information about the H-2 program, please visit: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/important-announcement-on-h2-visas.html

– Applicants with an urgent matter and need to travel immediately should follow the guidance provided at the Embassy’s website to request an emergency appointment. Examples of an urgent matter include air and sea crew, and medical personnel, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

J-1 Program

DOS has extended (automatically) the end date for certain J-1 non-immigrants in the United States. According to their memo DOS:

will now push a two-month extension to program end dates in SEVIS on active records with a program end date between April 1 – May 31, 2020 in order to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to complete either their educational or training programs, or continue to finalize travel plans to return home.”

Please remember this ONLY applies to programs with end dates between April 1 and May 31, 2020.

ICE AND SEVP (F-1 and M-1)

Here is a Link to SEVP policies for students at schools that have closed/moved to online coursework.

In summary, they have loosened rules in this regard to protect the status of those on F-1 and M-1 visas in the US whose schools have closed or are now just offering online classes. SEVP has stated that, under the circumstances outlines in the linked document, the status of such students will remain current and active as long as the procedures are followed. We urge you to review their guidance carefully if you are in such a situation.

As more changes are made we will update you as soon as possible.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

USCIS Closes all Field Offices to the Public until atleast April 1, 2020

USCIS has closed all its field offices to the public until at least April 1, 2020 as of today.  Any appointments or biometrics scheduled today through April 1, 2020 are canceled and will be rescheduled once USCIS starts interviews and biometrics again.

Please call us or email us if you have any questions!  Our office is still open and we are available.

March Visa Bulletin Update – EB2 Remains current but EB3 Backlogged

UnknownThis past month’s Visa Bulletin had some bright spots and not so bright spots.  The biggest news is that the EB-2 category remained current and most likely will remain current next month as well.  Additionally, the EB-3 category was backlogged worldwide – and will most likely remain that way for the rest of the fiscal year (and, hopefully come back to current in October of this year).  Details are below:

Family Based Categories

F1: Moved forward almost a month and a half to October 8, 2013 for most of the World EXCEPT  Mexico (moved forward about 3 weeks to September 15, 1997) and the Philippines (moved forward 5 months to September 1, 2009).

F2A: Remained Current for the World.

F2B: Moved forward just over three weeks to September 15, 2014 for most of the World EXCEPT  Mexico (moved forward about 1 month to October 15, 1998) and the Philippines (moved forward 5 months to October 1, 2009).

F3: Moved forward about 3 week to December 15, 2007 for most of the World EXCEPT  Mexico (moved forward about 2 weeks to April 8, 1996) and the Philippines (moved forward 5 months to October 1, 1999).

F4: Stayed at July 1, 2006 for most of the World EXCEPT  India (moved forward about 2 weeks to December 8, 2004), Mexico (moved forward about 1 month to February 15, 1998) and the Philippines (moved forward 5 months to December 1, 1999).

UPDATE FROM DOS:

F2A demand has evened out and a cutoff is no longer certain – this category may just continue to remain current.

F4 While the Philippines has seen rapid forward movement in this category (as well as all others) Charlie believes it will not last and more demand will materialize requiring a halt to progress and perhaps a retrogression as well (in ALL categories for the Philippines).

Employment-Based Preference Categories

EB-1:  Moved forward about 3 months to March 1, 2019 for most of the world EXCEPT China (moved forward about 1 week to  June 1, 2017) and India (moved forward about 2 months to March 1, 2015).

EB-2:  Stayed Current for most of the world EXCEPT China (moved forward about 1 month to August 15, 2015) and India (moved forward 3 days to May 22, 2009).

EB-3:  BACKLOGGED to January 1, 2017 for most of the world EXCEPT China (moved forward almost 2 months to March 22, 2016), India (moved forward 1 week to January 15, 2009) and the Philippines (is now at worldwide levels).

UPDATE FROM DOS:

EB-1:  Based on currently available information, it remains possible–yet too early to confirm–that this category could become current in the summer of 2020.  According to Charlie as long as usage remains steady in March, there will be a sizable jump in April.

EB-2:  Charlie notes that demand for EB-2 Worldwide numbers continues to trend in such a way that a final action date may be imposed at some point during the second half of FY2020.  Charlie believes that this will be necessary by June of 2020, if not earlier.

EB-3:  This category has now retrogressed for worldwide numbers – there is not much chance that it will move forward much until the new fiscal year in October of 2020.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns.  And please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.