Immigration Blog

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

U.S. Department of State to Waive In-Person Interviews for F, M and Academic J Visas

Consular officers at the U.S. Department of State have recently been authorized to adjudicate visa applications for F, M and academic J visas applicants (students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars or specialists) without conducting an in-person interview for these applicants. Specifically, Consular officers may waive the visa interview requirement for F, M and academic J visa applicants who have: 1) previously been issued any type of visa to the U.S. and; 2) who have never been refused a visa unless that refusal has been overcome. Consular officers may additionally waive the interview requirement for first time F, M and academic J visa applicants of Visa Waiver Program participating countries who are otherwise admissible and approvable. This new student interview waiver policy is scheduled to remain in effect through the end of the 2021 calendar year.

F and M visa applicants from countries who are subject to a travel ban due to COVID-19 will automatically be considered for a National Interest Exception (NIE) waiver as part of their student visa application process. Alternatively, J visa applicants should contact their local consulate or embassy for instructions regarding how to apply for an NIE. Please note that consular processing procedures and availability varies significantly from post to post. Visa applicants are encouraged to consult the website of the relevant U.S. consulate or embassy in advance of applying for a visa.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

Senate Parliamentarian to Decide Whether to Include Immigration Reform in Budget Reconciliation Bill

On Friday September, 9, 2021, Democrats provided arguments to Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough urging her to allow the inclusion of immigration reform legislation in the Budget Reconciliation Bill. Democrats are pushing for the inclusion of provisions that would provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, undocumented farmworkers, temporary protected status holders and essential workers. If the parliamentarian agrees that the immigration provisions can be included in the budget reconciliation bill, it could be the best shot at immigration reform in decades. Meanwhile, on Monday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up its portion of the reconciliation bill text, including immigration provisions.

by Sarah Collins Sarah Collins No Comments

DHS Extends TPS for Six Countries

At least 400,000 individuals from six countries, including Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, will have their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) automatically extended for 15 months. The order is a result of DHS’ compliance with various federal district court orders from three separate federal lawsuits that were filed in response to the Trump Administration’s attempt to end the designations for the Central American nations. The automatic extension decision was announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday and will be filed in the Federal Registrar.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

Proof of COVID Vaccination Required for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence

Starting October 1, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and the U.S. Department of State (“USDOS”) will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all applicants applying for lawful permanent residence.  Specifically, all applicants who complete heir medical examinations on or after October 1, 2021, must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination. This change will impact anyone who completes Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, on or after October 1, 2021. If Form I-693 is completed before October 1, 2021, and remains valid, the COVID-19 vaccine will not be required. Waivers are available for applicants who are too young to receive the vaccine, have a medical contraindication to the vaccine, or who do not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in their countries. In addition, individuals may apply for an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions with USCIS.

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

USCIS Extends Validity of Medical Exam

On August 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services made the announcement that it is temporarily increasing the validity of the medical examination that is submitted in conjunction with an application for permanent residence. Specifically, the Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record is a document required as part of the process to apply for permanent residency in the United States. Previously, this form was valid for two years after the date of the U.S. civil surgeon’s signature so long as the medical form was submitted not more than 60 days before the applicant submitted their application for permanent residence. Now, this new rule extends this two-year validity to four years. Driven by COVID-related processing delays, this extension will prevent applicants from having to request a costly new medical examination before their application can be approved. Although temporary and only applicable to applications that are approved on or before September 30, 2021, this change will enable more streamlined processing of applications and will hopefully help in clearing out the processing backlog caused by COVID-19.

by Caroline Lee Caroline Lee No Comments

New I-485 Form Required Soon; Updated Form Allows Applicants to Request a New or Replacement Social Security Card

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that starting Oct. 13, 2021, it will only accept the 03/29/21 edition of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Additionally, USCIS announced that applicants filing for lawful permanent resident status are now able to apply for a Social Security number (SSN) or replacement card as part of the adjustment of status application process. Previously, these individuals had to apply for a Social Security number at a Social Security office. The revised form now includes the additional questions needed to apply for an SSN or replacement card.

Following approval of Form I-485, USCIS stated that in most cases it will electronically transmit the data to the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration will then automatically assign an original SSN or issue a replacement card, as appropriate. The filing fee for form I-485 will not increase as a result of this change.

by Sarah Collins Sarah Collins No Comments

USCIS Conducts Second Random Selection for H-1B Cap Registrations

On July 28, 2021, USCIS announced that there was a second random selection of H-1B cap-subject registrants to reach the FY2022 numerical allocations. Selected registrants will have their myUSCIS accounts updated with a selection notice. The filing period for the new H-1B cap selections will begin on August 2, 2021, and close on November 3, 2021. Curray York & Associates will be in contact with any of our registrants who have been selected in the second round.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

Canada Reopening the Border to Vaccinated U.S. Travelers

On July 19, 2021, Canada announced that starting on August 9, 2021, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents will be allowed to visit Canada, as long as they have been vaccinated for at least 14 days. Canada also announced that it hopes to be able to welcome visitors from other countries starting on September 7, 2021 depending on conditions at that time.

by Lisa York Lisa York No Comments

Federal Judge in Texas Rules DACA Program Illegal

On Friday, July 16, 2021, U.S. Federal Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas ruled that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is illegal and barred new DACA requests not approved by July 16, 2021.  The ruling bars future applications.  It does not immediately cancel current permits for hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients.  The Biden administration will appeal the decision and is urging Congress to enact legislation to protect DACA recipients. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will continue to accept the filing of both initial and renewal DACA requests, as well as accompanying requests for employment authorization. However, DHS is now prohibited from granting initial DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization. DHS will continue to adjudicate DACA renewals and accompanying requests for employment authorization.

by Breanne Johnson Breanne Johnson No Comments

Staying on Top of Form I-9 Compliance during a Global Pandemic

The COVID pandemic has shaken up the traditional workforce. Delays in the issuance of USCIS receipt notices and other pandemic-related modifications to immigration law and policy have had an impact Form I-9 completion and have made this two-page form even more challenging to complete.

Form I-9 is used to verify the employment authorization and identity of individuals offered employment in the United States and is one of the shortest yet most complicated forms required by the U.S. government from U.S. employers. U.S. employers must properly complete the Form I-9 for each individual hired.

In response to more and more newly hired noncitizen employees presenting receipt notices as part of the I-9 verification process USCIS has provided updated guidance for employers completing Form I-9 when an employee presents a receipt notice. This updated guidance can be found here in the I-9 Central portal.

In another update, as previously reported in the Curray York and Associates blog, on May 25, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor jointly authorized the release of 22,000 additional H-2B visas to help businesses affected by COVID that will suffer irreparable harm if they cannot hire H-2B workers.  As part of this increased allotment the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor also enabled portability for H-2B workers already located in the United States. The principle of portability allows H-2B workers who are already located in the United States to begin work immediately with a new employer after their H-2B petition is received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services but before the petition is adjudicated.  Under this flexible policy H-2B workers may immediately begin work for employers hardest hit by the COVID pandemic. Under the portability guidance the new employer may employ the H-2B worker for a period not to exceed 60 days beginning on May 25, 2021 or the employment start date, whichever is later. Or, the H-2B noncitizen worker is able to begin employment with a new employer for a period not to exceed 60 days beginning on the received date of their USCIS receipt notice. The employee’s employment authorization must be reverified in Section 3 by the end of the 60-day period.

These complex rules of portability create challenges for employers trying to complete Form I-9 upon hiring new workers.  In this portability scenario, the H-2B employee’s unexpired Form I-94 along with his or her foreign passport qualify as a Form I-9 List A Document for Form I-9 verification purposes.

Each immigration status and class of employment authorization carries unique implications for Form I-9 completion. For advice regarding how to complete the Form I-9 in various and ever-changing hiring scenarios a Curray York and Associates attorney for a consultation.