New Administration Halts Implementation of Pending Regulations, Withdraws Travel Ban

The incoming administration has issued an order halting the implementation of all proposed rules that are not yet final for 60 days (so until March 20, 2021). This includes the DOL wage change rules as well as the USCIS changes to the H-1B process (see a description of these rule changes here). Hopefully, the rule changes will be withdrawn, but we will keep you updated on that.

Another USCIS change in terms of H-1B’s is now withdrawn. USCIS had a proposed amendment that had not yet been published in the Federal Register, which would have changed the rules in terms of the employer-employee relationship and third party placements (a description of the rule can be found here). However, the executive action by the Biden administration has automatically withdrawn all rules not yet published. Hence, this rule will not be implemented.

Additionally, through an executive order, the Biden administration has withdrawn the executive order and Proclamations that banned the entry of people from certain countries (mostly Muslim) and allowed for heightened scrutiny in many cases. In addition, the order has also included a provision requiring the Embassies to re-open cases denied because of these Executive orders and re-adjudicate them as well as ordering the Embassies to clear out their backlogs quickly. However, as of yet, the ban on issuance of immigrant visas and some temporary visas because of the Covid pandemic is still in place, as are the travel restrictions from Europe and other countries with high infection rates. If you have any specific questions about whether a particular order affecting your immigration or a family member is still in effect please contact me and I am happy to help.

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.

Executive Orders relating to Limiting the entry of Immigrants and Non-immigrants Extended through March 31, 2021

Yesterday, on the last day that the executive orders limiting the entry of Immigrants and Non-immigrants were in force, the President extended both orders through March 31, 2021.

The orders limited US Consulates and Embassies’ ability to issue immigrant visas and certain non-immigrant visas, including H-1Bs, some J-1s, and other visa types (See this article for a full discussion).

Those who were waiting for the orders to expire so that Parents and others could get immigrant visa interviews or so that they could enter the US on an H-1B or another non-immigrant visa will have to wait a little longer. The hope is that the Biden administration will revoke the executive order upon getting sworn in, but we will have to see. Hopefully, the orders will be rescinded by the end of the month. We will keep you posted.

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.

Biden wants to Roll Back the Immigration Policy changes made by Trump. Will that be possible in his first four years?

There was a recent, very interesting article published by NPR that highlighted the problems that may be faced by the Biden administration (if he wins the election) in rolling back the changes implemented by the Trump administration. You can read the full article here.

While there were several possible barriers raised by the article that could stand in Biden’s way of changing such immigration policies, the biggest, and hardest barrier to break through, in my mind, is the culture that has been created at USCIS, ICE, CBP and other related agencies. According to the article:

“That isn’t something that’s a light switch. You can’t change culture within an organization that vast overnight,” says Angela Kelley, senior adviser to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “So I agree that it’s going to be a long, long road.” 

CBP produced an ominous, fictionalized video on the Border Patrol’s YouTube channel that depicts a Latino migrant who had just escaped from agents, attacking and knifing a man in a dark alley. The video was released at a time when Trump has been stoking fears about violent immigrants at his campaign rallies. For an example of how the Border Patrol is marching lockstep with the White House, look to a video titled “The Gotaway,” posted earlier this month. 

NPR inquired why the video was made and why it was removed a week later before being re-posted. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said in a statement that the video was produced “to enhance awareness that effective border security helps keep all Americans safe,” and it was briefly pulled because they misused copyrighted materials.

NPR, Morning Edition, September 14, 2020

Changing such a culture will take time. While changing those at the top will help change the policies the officers act under, getting those changes to be implemented by officers, and getting them to change their attitudes will take quite a while, especially at ICE and CBP. USCIS may be somewhat easier to crack as the officers there are not dealing with deportation or apprehending people on a daily basis and are not necessarily as hard lined (although, most likely, some are as well). Changing the policies at USCIS may be enough to allow officers to change the way they adjudicate cases without to much time passing.

Again, according to the article:

“I don’t think it’s realistic that Biden in four years could unroll everything that Trump did,” says Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. 

“Because of the intense volume and pace of changes the Trump administration enacted while in office, even if we have a new administration, Trump will continue to have had an impact on immigration for years to come,” Pierce says.

NPR, Morning Edition, September 14, 2020

While, overall, it may take a long time to affect all these changes, I do think, that there are some basic policies that could be changed much quicker (in terms of USCIS). First, the requirement of an interview for all cases – that could be changed very quickly. In addition, some of the more hardline looks at H-1Bs could also be changed rather quickly, as could the removal of harmful Executive Orders that limit immigration. So there is a lot that could be done relatively quickly as well.

We must also remember, that, if Biden is able to get Congress on his side as well, and a new immigration law is passed, that could significantly increase the rate at which changes can be made both inside USCIS as well as inside ICE and CBP (if such a law limits their jurisdicition and ability to act inside the law).

Overall, it could take longer for many changes, especially those at the border to be fully put in place. While some changes, those that primiarily are implemented by USCIS, may be able to be implemented earlier. We shall see what happens in November and what happens in January, should there be a change of administration.

New Executive Order and Possible Furloughs at USCIS

executive_order__1_The US President issued a new executive order on Monday evening.  The order did several things.  First, it extended the April 22, 2020 order limiting the ability for those overseas to get immigrant visas.  Second, it expanded that order to include certain non-immigrant visas as well.  Lastly, it required USCIS and DOL to review processes and procedures regarding EB-2 and EB-3 cases.    Before providing a summary of the provisions, there are a couple points to highlight.

First, and most importantly, the non-immigrant visa suspensions affect only those NOT IN THE United States.  This is also true of the immigrant visa suspension.  Second, the J-1 visa suspension does NOT include all categories of J visas.  For example, the Research Scholar category, and the Visiting Scholar categories are NOT included in the suspension.  Lastly, those outside the US with a currently VALID H-1B visa may still be able to return on that visa as the suspension only halts the issuance of new visas.  Here is a slightly more expansive summary of the provisions:

On June 20, 2020, President Trump has issued a proclamation that suspends the entry of foreign nationals on certain employment-based nonimmigrant visas into the United States.

This Proclamation also extends, effective immediately, Presidential Proclamation 10014 issued on April 22, 2020 which suspended the entry of certain immigrants into the United States.

The Proclamation suspends the issuance of visas for those seeking entry pursuant to a(n):

  • H-1B visa and any foreign national accompanying or following to join them;
  • H-2B visa and any foreign national accompanying or following to join them;
  • J visa, to the extent the foreign national is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and any foreign national accompanying or following to join them; and
  • L visa, and any foreign national accompanying or following to join them.

The Proclamation will only apply to an individual identified above if they are:

  • Outside the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation;
  • Do not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of the Proclamation; and;
  • Do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document), valid on the effective date of the Proclamation or issued thereafter permitting the individual to be admitted to the United States.

Exemptions:

The Proclamation will not apply to the following individuals:

  • lawful permanent residents;
  • spouse or child of a U.S. citizen;
  • any individual seeking entry to provide temporary labor essential to the U.S. food supply chain;
  • any individual whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

For the purposes of determining who is covered under the “national interest” exemption, the Proclamation directs the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security to determine standards for those to whom such an exemption would be available, including any individuals who:

  • are critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of the United States;
  • are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized;
  • are involved with the provision of medical research at U.S. facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19;
  • are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States; or
  • are children who would age out of eligibility for a visa because of this proclamation or Proclamation 10014.

Discretion: The consular officer has discretion to determine if an individual is within one of the exempted categories outlined above.

Asylum Seekers: Asylum seekers are not included in the ban. The Proclamation states that it does not limit the ability of individuals to apply for asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture.

Fraud: Individuals who circumvent the application of the Proclamation through fraud, willful misrepresentation or illegal entry will be prioritized for removal.

Additional Review: Within 30 days of this Proclamation’s effective date, and every 60 days after, while it and Proclamation 10014 are in effect, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and State will make a determination as to any need to modify either proclamation.

COVID-19 Prevention: The Secretary of Health and Human Services will provide guidance to the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security concerning measures that will reduce the risk of those seeking admission to the United States introducing or spreading COVID-19 within the country. It is our understanding that this means individuals will be subject to a COVID-19 test before arrival.

Additional Measures:

  • Issue regulations or take additional actions to ensure that those who have already been admitted, or are seeking admission, on an EB-2 immigrant visa, EB-3 immigrant visa, or H-1B nonimmigrant visa do not limit opportunity for U.S. workers.

 

In addition to the above, USCIS announced that their revenues are down over 50% and that, unless Congress allocates more funding to the agency they will be required to furlough almost 70% of their staff, causing huge delays in adjudications if it were to occur.

If you have any questions, or wish to discuss the above, please do not hesitate to call or email me. 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.

President Issues New Travel Restrictions

imagesOn September 24, 2017, the President issued a new Executive Order (“EO”) entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public Safety Threats”.  This new EO builds upon the last order, which was only valid for 90 days.  However, part of the old EO directed DHS to do a worldwide review to determine what additional information is needed from each foreign country to assess whether foreign nationals who seek to enter the United States pose a security or safety threat.  DHS completed that review and gave the President a list of seven countries that had “inadequate” information sharing practices.  The new EO implements certain types of restrictions against nationals of these seven countries (plus one additional country that the President felt posed security risks) in terms of their ability to get certain visas.

Who Does the Ban Affect?

The countries that are part of this new Executive Order are:

  1. Chad
  2. Libya
  3. Iran
  4. North Korea
  5. Syria
  6. Venezuela
  7. Yemen
  8. Somalia

As stated, the restrictions are not uniform for all the above countries.  The following table lays out what restrictions are placed on immigrant and non-immigrant visas for each country:

Country Non-Immigrant Visas Immigrant Visas
Chad No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Iran No non-immigrant visas except the F, M and J student visas No Immigrant or diversity visas

 

 

Libya No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

North Korea No nonimmigrant visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Syria No nonimmigrant visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Venezuela No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas of any kind for officials of the following government agencies: Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration; the Corps of Scientific Investigations, Judicial and Criminal; the Bolivarian Intelligence Service; and, the People’s Power Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their immediate family members.

 

No Restrictions

 

Yemen No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Somalia No nonimmigrant visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Dual Nationals:  Dual nationals can still travel and get visas based upon another nationality besides the ones listed above (So, for example, a national of both Iran and Canada can still get any nonimmigrant visa or immigrant visa based upon their Canadian Nationality).

Those in the US at the time the travel ban takes effect:  They are not affected by the travel ban as they are already in the US.

Those Outside the US with valid visas:  Exempt from the restrictions

Permanent Residents of the US:  These people are exempt from the Travel Ban

There are other certain exemptions as well, please make an appointment if you feel you may be affected by the travel ban and we can review the waivers and exemptions with you.

When will the Ban take effect?

From 3:30 pm on September 24, 2017, until 12:01 am on October 18, 2017, Nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria Yemen and Somalia will remain under the previous Travel Ban (i.e. only those with close family ties can get visas).  Sudanese national will no longer be subject to any ban as of that date and time.

From 12:01 am on October 18, 2017, forward the above travel restrictions will be in force and will replace the previous Executive Order Travel Ban.

If you feel you may be affected by the new travel ban, please do call our office.  We can assess your case and let you know if the travel ban does affect you, and if you are eligible for any of the waiver/exemptions.

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.

Supreme Court partially lifts Travel Ban Injunction

images-1Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from the US Government arguing that the injunction placed on the Executive Order that banned travel from 6 majority muslim countries was should be lifted.  In agreeing to take the case, the Supreme Court also looked at whether the current temporary injunction should stay in effect.  The Court determined that the injunction on the travel ban and the refugee ban should stay in effect insofar as it affected people who were similarly situated as the Plaintiff’s in the case – that is to say foreigners with familial or other ties to the US (through organizations or companies).  However the Supreme Court lifted the injunction (allowing the travel ban to be put into place) for everyone else, that is to say those with NO such ties to the US.  Why did the Court lift the ban in certain cases? Basically, the Court weighted the harm to persons affected by the travel ban and refugee ban with the interests of our Government as described by the current administration.  The Court agreed with the lower Courts that the interests of the Plaintiff’s and those similarly situated to the Plaintiff’s, outweighed the interests of the Government.  But for those with no ties to the US, the Court found that the interest of our Government outweighed the interests of those individuals.

I think that there are two additional questions to ask here:  First, what does the above mean and how will it be implemented?  The second question is, does this ruling allow for any indication of how the Court will rule on the injunction itself?

To answer the first question, it is a little hard to say how the Department of Homeland Security will read the decision, however it appears that the Court only meant to narrowly lift the injunction.  Anyone who has relatives in the US or a job in the US, or a job offer, or other relationship with an organization or business in the US is still covered by the injunction.  It is only those people who have no relationship with any person or organization for whom the Ban can now be put into place.  This is a narrowly drawn exception to the injunction currently in place, and many people will not be covered by the Travel Ban.

In terms of whether or not this tips the hand of the Court in terms of  how they may rule on the case when it comes before them, I think it shows that a majority of the Court will, most likely, uphold the injunction.  But this is just my opinion, and we will have to see what happens.

Lastly, for those who are from one of the six named countries, please, please, please, call your immigration attorney before traveling outside the US so that they can discuss any potential issues with you.

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.

New Presidential Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American”

Many of you know that yesterday President Trump signed a new executive order.  The idea of this order was to ensure that Federal grants and procurements go, first and foremost, to American companies and that the government focuses on ensuring that qualified Americans are hired prior to foreigners.  In terms of Immigration consequences, the executive order says the following:

Sec. 5. Ensuring the Integrity of the Immigration System in Order to “Hire American.” (a) In order to advance the policy outlined in section 2(b) of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, and consistent with applicable law, propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse.

(b) In order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most- skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.

In other words, at this time there is no effect on the H-1B program.  However, in the future, after the proposed suggested changes are given to the President, there is the possibility that some changes could be made.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that most changes would require congressional approval, meaning that it could take a while, if they are approved at all.  Changed that do not require congressional approval would need to go through the rule making process, meaning that they would take several months  for those to be sent out and to go through the rule making process.  We will keep you updated on any proposed changes.

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.

More Explanation of the Executive Order of January 27, 2017

What_Is_An_Executive_Order__0_7133975_ver1.0_640_360.jpgOn Friday, January 27, 2017 President Trump signed an executive order on immigration restricting travel to the United States from citizens of seven countries – namely, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia & Libya. The initial interpretation and implementation of this order led to confusion among U.S. border agents and others placed with admitting individuals to the United States. This included a period of time over the weekend when returning permanent residents (green card holders) were subject to the order, denying them admission to the United States. There are now lawsuits that have been filed and we are hopeful that there will be additional judicial review and clarification of this order in due course.

In the short term, here are some points to consider:

  1. On Sunday night (January 29, 2017), the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, General John Kelly, confirmed that “I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest.” This statement means that green card holders are now (absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare), exempt from the travel ban and can be admitted.  However, keep in mind that they will still put you in secondary and you will still need additional time at the airport.
  2. If you are from one of the seven countries affected and are residing in the United States in a temporary (or non-immigrant status) you should not currently make plans to travel outside the United States even if you hold a valid visa in your passport.  (there are some exceptions to this, but they are narrow.  Please contact us if you have questions).
  3. There seem to be conflicting reports as to how this affects dual nationals (so if you are in fact a dual national of a country other than the United States and of one of the seven countries) you should probably err on the side of caution until this is clarified.
  4. Individuals from countries other than those listed (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia & Libya) are eligible to continue to travel, obtain visas and reenter the United States.
  5. This does not affect the current and ongoing status of individuals from the seven countries listed who are currently inside the United States in a valid non-immigrant status.
  6. With regards to social media postings, The Department of Homeland Security has a wide amount of discretion in terms of what they review and how they interpret that information in terms of a person’s eligibility for admission to the United States. Remember – a valid visa essentially provides you with the opportunity to be reviewed and admitted. It does not guarantee admission, so political postings and similar information could be reviewed and utilized by DHS in the context of a person’s admission to the United States.

As this is a fluid and changing situation we will continue to monitor this and provide updated relevant information as needed.

President Trump’s First Two Executive Orders Regarding Immigration: What do They Mean For You?

what_is_an_executive_order__0_7133975_ver1-0_640_360While the Executive Order President Trump signed on January 27, 2017 affecting refugees and those from certain countries has come front and center, there were two other Executive Orders that Trump signed earlier last week.

 

Border Security and Enforcement Improvements

The first of these, the Border Security and Enforcement Improvements focuses on two things:

  1. Building a wall between the US and Mexico:  While the law states that all available funding should be put towards this (that is, all funding that can be re-allocated according to law), it will take an act of Congress to allocate the funds necessary to finish its construction.
  2. In conjunction with the above the Executive Order also requires the building of additional detention facilities and the allocation of additional asylum officers and immigration Judges to the Border.  Again, this will certainly require additional resources from Congress as the current number of asylum officers and immigration Judges is inadequate for the current number of detainees.
  3. Terminate Catch and Release:  This refers to a policy that was already stopped by the Obama administration of releasing those caught at the Border instead of keeping them in detention facilities.  As this practice was already stopped, except for those qualifying for certain relief, it should have little impact.
  4. State Partnerships:  The Order also tries to push the expansion of state assistance in enforcing immigration laws
  5. Parole and Asylum:  The Order tightens expectations for asylum review and parole reviews at the Border.  It basically pushes the officers at the Border to use available expedited procedures when applicable.  Likewise, Parole should only be given when statutory standards are met.

While there are some other provisions, the above are the main provisions of this order.

Enhancing Public Safety In the Interior of the United States

The second order is called Enhancing Public Safety In the Interior of the United States. This Order focuses on:

  1. So-called “Sanctuary Jurisdictions”:  Sanctuary Jurisdictions are those jurisdictions that actively do not cooperate with the Federal Government in the enforcement of Immigration Issues and will not share or collect immigration information about persons who utilize local and/or state government services.  The Order seeks to force these jurisdictions to comply and provide such information or face a cessation of all Federal Aid (except for law enforcement).  This section appears to violate several Court cases that require any such cessation of aid to be tied closely to the purpose of the statute.
  2. The Order also re-institutes the so-called “Secure Communities” enforcement model.  This model is based upon local and state authorities helping with immigration enforcement.  However, it should be noted that much of that program was decreed unconstitutional by the Courts already.
  3. Enforcement Priorities:  The Order also sets enforcement priorities, which focuses on criminal conduct,  but includes in that criminal conduct, those who have violated immigration laws, which basically includes everyone in the US illegally.  We have to wait and see how this is interpreted by officers to see what it will mean in practice.
  4. Recalcitrant Countries:  The Order also seeks to negotiate with Countries that refuse to take their citizens that we try to deport to get them to accept such persons.
  5. Additional Immigration Officers:  The Order also states that 10,000 new immigration officers should be hired – again, this will require additional allocations by Congress.
  6. Civil Fines and Penalties:  The Order requires officers to try and get all fines and penalties allowed under the INA for immigration violations.
  7. Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens:  The Order also requires USCIS to start keeping track of crimes committed by removable aliens and to release such reports to the public.
  8. Privacy Act:  The Order requires all agencies to ensure that only US Citizens and Permanent Residents are included in Privacy Acts – removing both illegal aliens AND those in the US on temporary visas.  For those people, their personally identifiable information will not longer be covered by any Federal Privacy policy.

I have tried to give you an idea of what all the major provisions of both orders are, but have just summarized them.  If you have any questions, please let me know.