On Friday, May 29, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced plans for the phased-in resumption of premium processing for eligible I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker petitions and eligible I-129 Nonimmigrant Worker petitions. (See USCIS website at https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-resumes-premium-processing-certain-petitions.)

USCIS temporarily suspended premium processing availability for all eligible Form I-129 and I-140 petitions on March 20, 2020, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) national emergency.  After nearly two months without premium processing, this is welcome news. Of course, the announcement includes a caveat–USCIS may change its phase-in plans as needed based on the circumstances.

An appropriately prepared and filed Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service packet continues to be the means for upgrading a pending petition or to concurrently request premium processing for an upcoming filing.

According to USCIS’s announcement, the resumption of Premium Processing is planned to occur in phases during the month of June and USCIS will accept I-907s as follows:

  • Effective Monday, June 1:  I-907s accepted for all eligible Form I-140 petitions.
  • Effective Monday, June 8:  I-907s accepted for certain I-129 petitions filed before June 8 and pending, including:
    • Cap-Exempt H-1B petitions (e.g., those filed by cap-exempt petitioners and for beneficiaries previously counted toward the numerical limits); and
    • All other (non H-1B) I-129 petitions for eligible nonimmigrant classifications such as for L-1 Intracompany Transferees, E Treaty Traders and Investors, O-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability, etc.
  • Effective Monday, June 15:  I-907s accepted for Cap-Exempt H-1B petitions filed after June 8 with a concurrently filed request for premium processing, including those exempt from the H-1B Cap because:
    • The employer is cap-exempt or the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity or organization (such as an institution of higher education, a non-profit research organization or a governmental research organization); or
    • The beneficiary is cap-exempt based on a J-1 Physician Conrad/IGA waiver under INA section 214(l).
  • Effective Monday, June 22:  I-907s accepted for all other I-129 petitions, including: 
    • All FY-2021 H-1B Cap-Subject petitions (e.g., including change of status from F-1 nonimmigrant status, for both premium processing upgrades and concurrently filed I-907s.)
    • All other I-129 petitions for eligible nonimmigrant classifications with a concurrently filed I-907.
  • Pre-March 20, 2020 Premium Processing Requests:
    • Petitioners whose pre-March 20 premium processing requests relating to eligible I-129 and/or I-140 petitions received no action and for which the premium processing fee was refunded may refile their Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service following the announced timings—and keeping in mind that USCIS may announce date changes at any time in the future.
    • For Petitioners whose pre-March 20 premium processing requests otherwise remain pending, the USCIS announcement states that the Agency will continue “to process any petition with a previously accepted Form I-907, in accordance with the premium processing service criteria.”

Now is the time to prepare, file, etc.  As mentioned, the dates set forth are subject to change so it’s important to watch for updates as USCIS takes on more premium processing requests. USCIS will announce date changes accordingly.

Ms. Wadhwani is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  For nearly 25 years, her practice has focused on business immigration law and compliance, primarily in the health care, general corporate and academic sectors.  Ms. Wadhwani’s practice covers the United States and Consulates worldwide.  She is based in our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office.  Please contact Ms. Wadhwani at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com or at 412-394-5540.

 

 

On May 27, 2020 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it is preparing some domestic offices to reopen and resume non-emergency public services on or after June 4.  Routine in-person services at USCIS field offices, asylum offices and application support centers (ASCs) has been suspended since March 18 to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).  USCIS is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to protect our workforce and the public.  As services begin to reopen, offices will reduce the number of appointments and interviews to ensure social distancing, allow time for cleaning and reduce waiting room occupancy.

Appointment notices will contain information on safety precautions that visitors to USCIS facilities must follow.  The status of any particular office may change at a moment’s notice, so USCIS recommends that you check their USCIS Office Closings and Field Offices pages for up to date information about office closures or changed hours.  Specifically, USCIS requests that all applicants check these pages on the day and before visiting a USCIS office for a scheduled appointment.  USCIS also requests that any applicants who feel sick do not attend a scheduled appointment.  Instead, applicants should follow the instructions on the appointment notice to reschedule the appointment.  There is no penalty for rescheduling an appointment due to illness.  All individuals who appear at a USCIS office are required to follow all safety precautions (see below).  While certain offices are temporarily closed, USCIS continues to provide limited emergency in-person services.  Individuals may locate USCIS contact information on the USCIS Contact Center page to obtain emergency services.

Interviews and Appointments

USCIS will send notices to applicants and petitioners with previously scheduled appointments and interviews.  Those attending appointments must follow the safety guidelines outlined below.  Any individual with an appointments should confirm that the USCIS where they plan to appear remains open and available for the appointment immediately before appearing.  Visitors are limited to the applicant, one representative, one family member and one individual providing disability accommodations. The applicant should arrange to have their interpreter available by phone.

Application Support Centers

USCIS will automatically reschedule any necessary ASC appointments that were cancelled due to the temporary office closure.  Those attending appointments must follow the safety guidelines outlined below.  Individuals who appear at a date or time other than what is listed on the ASC appointment notice may encounter significant processing delays, except for military members.

 Naturalization Ceremonies

USCIS will send notices to applicants to reschedule postponed naturalization ceremonies.  The ceremonies will be shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance, but all legally required portions of the ceremony will take place.  Instead of playing videos during naturalization ceremonies, attendees will receive a flyer with information and links directing them to the videos on the USCIS Naturalization Ceremonies page for advance viewing.  Attendance will be limited to the naturalization candidate and individuals providing assistance to disabled persons.

Asylum Offices

USCIS asylum offices will automatically reschedule asylum interviews that were cancelled during the temporary closures.  When USCIS reschedules the interview, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date, and location for the interview and information about safety precautions.

In accordance with social distancing guidelines, and due to the length of asylum interviews, asylum offices expect to conduct video-facilitated asylum interviews, where the applicants sit in one room and the interviewing officer sits in another room.  Asylum offices will use available technology, including mobile devices provided by the agency, to ensure that the officer, applicant, interpreter, and representative can fully and safely participate in the interview while maintaining social distancing.

For affirmative asylum interviews, applicants must bring all immediate family members listed as dependents on the application and an interpreter, if the applicant does not speak English.  Additionally, a representative, witness, individual providing disability accommodations, or “trusted adult” if an applicant is a minor, may attend the interview.

For non-detained credible or reasonable fear interviews, individuals must bring any family members listed on the interview notice.  Representatives may attend credible and reasonable fear interviews but are encouraged to participate telephonically.  USCIS will provide contracted, professional interpreters for credible and reasonable fear interviews.

SAFETY GUIDLINES FOR ENTERING USCIS 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.  Visitors may be directed to briefly remove their face covering to confirm identity or take their photograph.  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 are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

See uscis.gov/visitorpolicy and uscis.gov/coronavirus for more information.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide.  You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

 

On May 11, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a Policy Memorandum relating to certain J-1 waivered foreign medical graduates during the COVID-19 national emergency. The memo, captioned “Temporary Policy Changes for Certain Foreign Medical Graduates During the COVID-19 National Emergency” was issued solely as guidance to USCIS officers with regard to H-1B physicians who received and are fulfilling either an Interested Government Agency (IGA) waiver or Conrad 30 waiver. Relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the memo addresses two issues: (1) failure of these physicians to maintain a full-time work schedule, and/or (2) their provision of telehealth services.

More specifically, the temporary policy changes include the following:

  • Effective January 27, 2020 – end of the Public Health Emergency
    • “USCIS officers will not consider…a failure [of the physician] to work full-time to be a failure to fulfill” the contractual full-time work requirement if the physician is “temporarily unable to work full-time due to quarantine, illness, travel restrictions or other consequences of the pandemic during the declared Public Health Emergency period…”
      • The memo notes that this temporary flexibility is limited and “only relates to the [physician’s] eligibility for future immigration benefits that would be affected by the re-imposition of the 2-year home residence requirement” resulting from a contract violation.
      • The memo does not grant a reprieve to employers with regard to H-1B requirements; these responsibilities remain in effect even during the effective dates of the temporary flexibility policy. As such, affected employers should consult qualified legal counsel before making any material changes in the terms and conditions of the physician’s employment, including but not limited to a COVID-19 related reduction in hours below full-time.
  • Effective May 11, 2020 (i.e., the publication date the memo) – end of the Public Health Emergency
    • USCIS will allow IGA and Conrad waivered physicians to provide “telehealth” services during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (but see below).
    • Other than VA physicians, affected physicians must continue to provide medical services (even if telehealth) “through their contracting facility” located in the shortage area or, under the Flex 10 program, to patients who reside in a designated area.
    • Only affected VA physicians may “provide telehealth services to patients outside of the state of their contracting facility”(!)
    • USCIS “will not interpret the provision of such telehealth services to be a failure to fulfill” the terms of the employment contract under the statutory section–which is good because telehealth is still patient care and likely much-needed in shortage areas, especially now due to social-distancing measures.
    • An employer that offers an affected foreign medical graduate the option to provide telehealth services from home, must offer the same option to its similarly employed US workers.

While the memo may seem straightforward, it raises questions. As such, affected employers and/or physicians should seek fact-specific legal advice to address their issues at the earliest possible time.

Ms. Wadhwani is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  For nearly 25 years, her practice has focused on business immigration law and compliance, primarily in the health care, general corporate and academic sectors.  Ms. Wadhwani’s practice covers the United States and Consulates worldwide.  Ms. Wadhwani is based in our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office.  She can be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com or at 412-394-5540.

On Thursday, May 14, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a 30-day extension to its previously announced temporary flexibility provisions relating to I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification compliance during the COVID-19 national emergency. Extension of the flexibility provisions is the result of “continued precautions related to COVID-19”. The COVID-19 I-9 flexibility provisions were originally valid for only 60 days and were set to expire on May 19, 2020.

For eligible employers, the temporary flexibility measures defer the statutory physical presence requirements for the in-person review of an employee’s identity and work authorization documentation in the employee’s presence.

In addition, the notice granted an additional 30-day extension, to the prior 60-day extension, to employers who received notices of inspection (NOIs) in March 2020 and had not already responded.

Ms. Wadhwani is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  For nearly 25 years, her practice has focused on business immigration law and compliance, primarily in the health care, general corporate and academic sectors.  Ms. Wadhwani’s practice covers the United States and Consulates worldwide.  Ms. Wadhwani is based in our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office.  She can be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com or at 412-391-1334.

On April 27, 2020 United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new version of the Handbook for Employers, Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274).  The M-274 is an essential compendium of I-9 compliance information and instruction, and is designed to supplement employ­ers’ understanding and knowledge of the various employment eligibility verification obligations.

The new version of the M-274 was released in connection with its release of the new version of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (rev. 10/21/19 on bottom left), which became mandatory on May 1, 2020.  See our post on this topic for additional information.  Here we will highlight some of the most import­ant changes to the M-274.

Automatic EAD Extensions

The most significant change to the M-274 revolves around the process for documenting the automatic extension of Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) for certain foreign national employees working in the U.S.  An automatic EAD extension is a fairly new concept, which was brought about by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule that provides additional benefits and flexibility to high-skilled nonimmigrant workers in the U.S.  Under this rule, EADs can be automatically extended for up to 180 days for certain individuals who timely filed to renew an EAD that is in the same category as the previous EAD.

The updated M-274 describes the various categories of foreign nationals currently eligible for these auto-extended EADs and sets out the process for reviewing the appropriate documentation and recording the information on the Form I-9, which involves updating both sections 1 and 2 to reflect the auto-extended date.  The review process has been outlined in further detail than previously, requiring employers to more carefully review the underlying documentation (both the EAD and the receipt notice showing the renewal filing) to make sure the individual fully qualifies.  There is also a description of how auto-extended EADs should be completed on the Form I-9, including the auto-extended EAD rule on reverification, refugees and asylees, nonimmigrants requesting extensions of stay, accepting an expired document and when employment authorization expires.

Additional I-9 Rules for Certain Foreign National Employees

In addition to the automatic EAD provisions, the updated M-274 features several other changes that will impact employers when hiring foreign national employees that have temporary work authorization.

  1. E-Verify STEM: The USCIS now explicitly notes (in keeping with its recent guidance) that employers must use E-Verify at the specific hiring site where it employs an F-1 STEM student who received a 24-month extension of their optional practical training.
  2. F-1 students in CPT:An acceptable Form I-20 for F-1 students in curricular practical training (CPT) must have all employment authorization fields completed. These fields include employment status, employment type, start and end date of employment, and the employer’s name and location.
  3. H-1B extensions:In the context of documenting an H-1B extension and the 240-day automatic work extension, the updated M-274 also indicates the following that, “your employee may update Section 1 by crossing out the expiration date of their employment authorization noted in the attestation. Write in the new date that the automatic extension of employment authorization ends.  Initial and date this update in the margin of Section 1.”
  4. Extensions of stay:The updated M-274 also includes new instructions relating to documentation that must be maintained when filing an extension of stay for a qualifying employee. Specifically, it indicates: “After you receive the I-797C, Notice of Action, which bears the amount of the filing fee submitted and acknowledges USCIS’ receipt of the new Form I-129 petition, it is not necessary to maintain a copy of the Form I-129 application, proof of payment, and mailing receipt for Form I-9 purposes.  You should retain the I-797C, Notice of Action to show that you filed for an extension of stay on the employee’s behalf.”

Form I-9 Retention

The updated M-274 also includes a new provision relating to the retention of I-9s for employees who never started work for pay.  Specifically, the USCIS indicates:

“Employers must retain a Form I-9 for each person hired. This requirement applies from the date of hire, even if the employment ends shortly after hired, the hired employee never completes work for pay, or never finishes the Form I-9.” (emphasis added)

Based on this new information in the M-274, USCIS appears to be stating that employers need to retain I-9 forms for all employees, re­gardless of whether or not they ever start work or receive a paycheck.  This new instruction, however, is at odds with the regulations at 8 CFR 274a.2, which define an employer’s I-9 obligation limited to indi­viduals who provide services or labor for wages or remuneration.  An individual who never starts work for pay would arguably not fall into this category (and thus no I-9 obligation exists).  Moreover, officials from Immigration and Cus­toms Enforcement (ICE) have previously noted that an employer is not required to retain a Form I-9 for an individual who never starts work for pay, and thus would not be required to produce the I-9 in the event of an inspection.

Given the apparent contradiction between this new guidance and the regulations, employers are advised to work with their legal counsel before adopting any strategies regarding the retention (or destruction) of I-9s for individu­als who never started to work for pay.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide.  You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

This is a reminder that employers are required to use the new version of the Form I-9 as of May 1,2020.  As noted in our prior post, USCIS announced the publication of the new version of the Form I-9 on January 31, 2020, with a 60-day grace period for its mandatory use.  Accordingly, the new version of the went into effect on May 1, 2020 and all prior versions of Form I-9 are no longer be valid for use and are obsolete.

It is important that employers do not lose track of the requirement to use the new edition of the Form I-9 among the myriad of DHS announcements regarding changes or relaxation of requirements relevant to completing the Form I-9 and verifying identity and employment eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new edition of the form is available in fillable PDF format, print format and in Spanish on USCIS’ I-9 Central website.  (Note that the Spanish form may only be executed by employers in Puerto Rico; Employers in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories may use the Spanish version of the Form as a translation guide only but must complete the English version of the Form.)  The associated instructions and the Form I-9 Supplement, Preparer and/or Translator Certification, have both also been updated.

Employers can confirm that they are using the current and correct edition of the form by checking the form date in the lower left corner, which should read 10/21/2019, and the expiration date in the upper right corner, which should read 10/31/2022.

In addition, on April 27, 2020, USCIS released a revised M-274, Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9, with expanded information on properly completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.  The M-274 is an essential compendium of I-9 compliance information and instruction, and is designed to supplement employ­ers’ understanding and knowledge of the various employment eligibility verification obligations.  Please refer to my upcoming post on this topic for additional information.

As a reminder, as noted in my prior post on this topic, on March 20, 20 DHS Announced Flexibility in Requirements Related to Form I-9 Compliance, allowing employers to inspect Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) for purposes of completing Section 2.   Employers must continue to adhere to the three business day requirement and also conduct a physical inspection of the original documents once normal operations resume.  This flexibility policy is currently in effect until May 19, 2020, at a minimum (and may be extended), or within three business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first.

Also, on May, 1, 2020, DHS announced Temporary flexibility for List B documents for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification and in E-Verify, allowing identity documents found in List B set to expire on or after March 1, 2020, and not otherwise extended by the issuing authority, to be treated the same as if the employee presented a valid receipt for an acceptable document for Form I-9 purposes.  See my prior post on this topic for additional information.

All U.S. employers are required to complete a Form I-9 for every employee hired in order to verify that the individual is authorized for employment in the United States under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).  Beginning May 1, 2020, employers must use the new edition of the Form for all new hires and for re-verifying current employees with expiring employment authorization documentation.  Employers should not complete new Forms for existing employees who do not require re-verification.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide.  You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

USCIS extends immigration related deadlines:

On March 30, 2020, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced an extension of the flexibility it announced to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to the following types of requests, with deadlines:

  • 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; and
  • filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

 Notice/Request/Decision Issuance Date

This flexibility applies to the documents listed above if the issuance date listed on the request, notice, or decision is between March 1 and July 1, 2020, inclusive.

Response Due Date

USCIS will consider a response to a request or notice listed above received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking action.  USCIS will also consider a Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before it takes any action.

For More Information

USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance.  You may visit uscis.gov/coronavirus for the latest facts and other USCIS updates.

Temporary flexibility for List B documents for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification and in E-Verify:

On May 1, 2020, DHS issued a temporary policy regarding expired List B identity documents used to complete Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification in light of stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 creating challenges renewing a state driver’s license, a state ID card, or other Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, List B identity documents.

Beginning on May 1, identity documents found in List B set to expire on or after March 1, 2020, and not otherwise extended by the issuing authority, may be treated the same as if the employee presented a valid receipt for an acceptable document for Form I-9 purposes.

When an employee provides an acceptable expired List B document that has not been extended by the issuing authority you should:

  • Record the document information in Section 2 under List B, as applicable; and,
  • Enter the word “COVID-19” in the Additional Information Field.

Within 90 days after DHS’ termination of this temporary policy, the employee will be required to present a valid unexpired document to replace the expired document presented when they were initially hired.

Note:  It is best if the employee can present the replacement of the actual document that was expired, but if necessary, the employee may choose to present a different List A or List B document or documents and record the new document information in the Additional Information Field. 

When the employee later presents an unexpired document, you should:

  • In the Section 2 Additional Information field:
    • Record the number and other required document information from the actual document presented;
    • Initial and date the change.

Procedure for List B Documents extended by an Issuing Authority

If the employee’s List B identity document expired on or after March 1, 2020, and the issuing authority has extended the document expiration date due to COVID-19, the document is acceptable as a List B document for Form I-9 (not as a receipt) during the extension timeframe specified by the issuing authority.

When your employee provides an acceptable expired List B document that has been extended by the issuing authority you should:

  • Enter the document’s expiration date in Section 2; and,
  • Enter “COVID-19 EXT” in the Additional Information Field

Employers may also attach a copy of a webpage or other notice indicating that the issuing authority has extended the documents.  Employers can confirm that their state has auto-extended the expiration date of state IDs and driver’s licenses by checking the state Motor Vehicle Administration or Department of Motor Vehicles’ website.

Note:  For extended documents, the employee is not required to present a valid unexpired List B document later. 

E-Verify participating employers should use the employee’s expired List B document number from Section 2 of the Form I-9 to create an E-Verify case as usual within three days of the date of hire.

DHS continues to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 national emergency and will provide updated guidance as needed.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide.  You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

As some U.S. states are starting to re-open parts of their state, this alert is a reminder that the U.S. border with both Mexico and Canada remains closed for non-essential travel and will remain so until at least May 21st.

Federal Regulations state that individuals traveling for tourism purposes (sightseeing, recreation, gambling or attending cultural events) do not fall within the definition of “essential travel”.

On April 20, 2020, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf made the announcement as follows:  “In close collaboration, the US, Mexico, and Canada have each agreed to extend restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for 30 additional days. As President Trump stated last week, border control, travel restrictions and other limitations remain critical to slowing the spread and allowing the phased opening of the country.”

“Essential travel,” includes the following:

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel);
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies);
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo);
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.

Individuals traveling for work should check with their immigration lawyer before making any cross-border travel plans since “essential travel” has been prone to different interpretations by CBP officials.

Mr. Harley is a Partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  Mr. Harley’s practice covers the United States and Consulates worldwide.  Mr. Harley is based in our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office.  He can be reached at mharley@foxrothschild.com or at 412-391-2418.

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).  This closure was scheduled through May 3.  Today, April 24, 2020, USCIS is announced that it will reopen on or after June 4. Employees in these offices are continuing to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public while the offices are closed.  During the temporarily closure, USCIS continues to provide limited emergency in-person services.

USCIS field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by the extended temporary closure.  USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews.  When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location of the interview.  When USCIS again resumes operations for in-person services, USCIS will automatically reschedule ASC appointments due to the temporary office closure. Individuals will receive a new appointment letter in the mail.  Those who had InfoPass or other appointments must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public again.  P

You may also visit uscis.gov/coronavirus and visit https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-office-closings for updates and latest information on the status of a USCIS office.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide.  You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

On April 22, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending the entry of any individual seeking to enter the United States as an immigrant who:

  • Is outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation;
  • Does not have a valid immigrant visa as of April 23, 2020; and
  • Does not have a valid official travel document as of April 23, 2020, or issued on any date thereafter.

The proclamation went into effect at 11:59 pm (ET) on April 23, 2020 and will last for at least 60 days. It can be extended and modified. The following categories are exempt from the proclamation:

  • Lawful permanent residents (green card holders)
  • Individuals, and their spouses and children, seeking to enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other work essential to combatting COVID-19 (as determined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS))
  • Individuals applying for a visa to enter the U.S. pursuant to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program
  • Spouses and children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens, including prospective adoptees on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa
  • Individuals who would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives (as determined by DHS and DOS)
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children
  • Afghan and Iraqi nationals who were translators/interpreters or employed by the U.S. government and their spouses or children seeking entry pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by DHS and DOS)

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

Nonimmigrant Visa Holders (H, L, O, E, TN, etc.) and Asylum Seekers Are NOT Prohibited from Coming to the U.S. by the Proclamation.

Additional Considerations

  • Routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consular posts around the world remain suspended since March 20, 2020. U.S. embassies and consulates continue to provide urgent and emergency visa services as resources allow. DOS intends to continue to process visa applications for farm workers and medical professionals assisting with COVID-19.
  • S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has temporarily suspended in-person services through at least May 3, 2020, but continues to accept and process applications and petitions, including applications requesting an extension or change of status.
  • The U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico are closed for non-essential travel until at least May 20, 2020.
  • With some exceptions, the entry of individuals who were present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the U.K., and Ireland, during the 14-day period before their attempted entry into the United States has also been suspended.
  • The Proclamation requires a review of temporary visa programs within 30 days and recommendations to stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure “the prioritization, hiring and employment” of U.S. workers.

 We are closely monitoring the situation and will provide further updates as soon as we know more about the implementation of this Proclamation.

Thank you to the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association for their summary of the proclamation, on which this post is based.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, specializing in corporate immigration law and compliance.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide.  You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.