Department of Homeland Security

In anticipation of the 10/21/19 version of the  Form I-9 becoming mandatory for use, on May 1, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) released the new M-274, Handbook for Employers. The M-274 is the handy companion to the Form I-9, and its importance should not be understated. The Handbook contains critical guidance on I-9 compliance, designed to supplement an employers’ understanding of its employment eligibility verification responsibilities and obligations. The M-274 contains 96 pages and should be used in conjunction with the Form I-9 instructions.
Continue Reading The Form I-9 & the New M-274- Handbook for Employers: Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

On April 24, 2020, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a targeted reopening date of June 4, 2020 for offices that are currently closed in response to COVID-19.

What is impacted by this reopening announcement?

This impacts offices that provide in-person services, including field offices, asylum offices and application support centers (ASCs).  On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at these offices to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Continue Reading USCIS to Reopen Offices on June 4th

Seyfarth Synopsis:  The President’s Proclamation will pause the issuance of immigrant visas for those seeking lawful permanent residence (Green Card) status through consular processing at posts outside of the U.S. for the next 60 days.  This order is limited in scope and should not have a significant impact on the transfer of global talent.

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation to pause the issuance of new Immigrant Visas outside the U.S. for an initial period of 60 days, taking effect at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, 2020.
Continue Reading It Shall be Tweeted, It Shall be Written: Temporary Suspension of Immigrant Entry

Late Friday afternoon, April 3, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security posted the following questions and answers in response to stakeholders queries on Form I-9 obligations in the midst of COVID-19.  We applaud the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for taking the lead on coordinating these responses and anticipate they will continue to be responsive to employer queries. The Q&A reiterates the original Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance, including confirming a hard deadline on timing- three days to complete the I-9 initially via a virtual/remote method and then three days to update with an in-person inspection once the business resumes normal operations. The Q&A also provides clarification on how to complete a Form I-9 with an expired driver’s license (sneak peek: use the actual expired date and write COVID-19 on the Form). Curiously the Q&A references electronic systems that don’t offer an additional information box field but suggests attaching a note to the I-9. The Q&A also confirms our suggestion, the person who views the documents  in -person should enter their name and date in the Additional Information Box.
Continue Reading New COVID-19 Q&As Related to Form I-9 and E-Verify

In-Person Services Suspended Until At Least May 3

In response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) developments, as of April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its office closures suspending routine in-person services until May 3rd.

What does this mean for cases in progress?

USCIS will reschedule appointments for applicants with permanent resident (green

Updated on March 30, 2020. USCIS has now clarified that the response date flexibility also applies to certain Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) and Notices of Intent to Terminate (NOIT) regional investment centers, as well as certain filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.  In summary, the USCIS announcement applies to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, NOIT or appealable decision within AAO jurisdiction and the issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision is between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020, inclusive. Unfortunately this guidance still does not address the issues relating to requests, dated prior to March 1st, but due now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seyfarth will keep you updated with any further clarifications.

Posted on March 27, 2020. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the difficulties applicants and petitioners are facing in meeting immigration related deadlines, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has extended response deadlines by 60 days for certain types of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs). It is important to note that this accommodation does not change individual status expiration dates, or auto extension dates for employment authorizations.
Continue Reading A Step in the Right Direction: USCIS announces RFE AND NOID Extensions

Seyfarth Synopsis: E-Verify has offered guidance to employers to address concerns with expiring State Drivers’ Licenses and Identification Documents. The guidance, though, fails to address the situation where states have not granted temporary Driver’s Licenses or IDs extensions.

In response to queries sent by Seyfarth and other groups, E-Verify provided additional guidance addressing the COVID-19 National Emergency. We expect E-Verify to release a full  FAQ in the next week. Today’s guidance addresses the expiration of State Drivers’ Licenses and Identification Documents where employees are unable to renew these documents because of closures or limited services at Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs).  In light of the National Emergency many states have extended the validity of these documents.
Continue Reading E-Verify COVID-19 Guidance on Expired Driver’s Licenses and State IDs

Seyfarth Synopsis: The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in unprecedented travel restrictions, U.S. consular appointment cancellations, and changes to USCIS operations. To help navigate these challenges, Seyfarth is providing a brief summary of recent developments from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of Labor.

Updates from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Continue Reading COVID-19 Immigration Updates From the Agencies

Seyfarth Synopsis: On March 20, 2020 USCIS announced that the agency will temporarily suspend premium processing for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions beginning on March 20, 2020 and until further notice due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Effective today, March 20, 2020, USCIS will not accept any new requests for premium processing for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions. USCIS will process any petition with a previously accepted Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service. However, USCIS also announced that the agency would refund the $1,440 filing fee if the agency does not take action on a petition previously filed via premium processing within the 15-calendar-day period, thus leaving open the possibility that even those already in queue for adjudication may not receive premium treatment.

Please find below a list of frequently asked questions with our insights.

1. What is the effective date of the suspension?

The premium processing suspension is effective on March 20, 2020.

2. How long will the suspension last?

USCIS states that the suspension will last until further notice, and that the agency will notify the public with a confirmed date for resuming premium processing service.  In the past, premium processing suspensions have lasted up to six (6) months.

3. Does the suspension apply only to H-1Bs or other visa categories?

The suspension includes petitions filed for the following nonimmigrant categories:  E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ (blanket), O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2.

The suspension also includes all types of I-140 petitions, including EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3.

4. How does this affect the H-1B cap lottery?

 USCIS indicates that it will still notify registrants selected in the lottery by March 31.  However, in the absence of premium processing, petitioners will likely not receive decisions on petitions filed on behalf of selected registrants until late May at the earliest, assuming a filing in early April.  In addition, companies that filed H-1B petitions with premium processing were able to easily communicate with USCIS representatives regarding case status updates and corrections to errors on the approval notice.  The suspension of premium processing will prevent companies from leveraging this benefit.

5. I am in F-1 status, my Optional Practical Training (OPT) will expire before October 1st, and I require H-1B cap gap to extend my work authorization through October 1st. What happens if I do not receive a decision on my H-1B cap case by October 1st?

If you will rely on H-1B cap gap and USCIS has not issued a decision on your H-1B petition as of October 1st, you may continue to remain in the U.S. until USCIS issues a decision.  However, you will not possess work authorization from October 1st until USCIS ultimately approves the H-1B petition.  If USCIS lifts the premium processing suspension early, which may occur prior to the six-month mark, your employer will have the option of submitting a premium processing request to accelerate processing of your H-1B petition.

6. Can a premium processing request be submitted for a pending I-129 or I-140 petition once the suspension is lifted?

Yes, once the suspension is lifted, a premium processing request may be submitted at any time.

7. I am currently in a nonimmigrant status (e.g. H-1B, L-1, TN, E-3) status and my status will expire this summer/fall. My employer will file an extension on my behalf.  How will the suspension of premium processing affect my work authorization and ability to travel internationally?

If you are in the U.S. in a valid nonimmigrant status and your company seeks to extend your status, you will remain eligible for an up to 240-day extension of your status beyond the date of your I-94 admission record.  Therefore, the premium processing suspension should not affect your continued work authorization.  However, if you have international travel plans after the expiration of your current status and/or your visa stamp is expired, you will need your new approval notice to apply for a visa stamp before returning to the U.S.  In this case, the premium processing suspension may require you to delay your travel plans or remain abroad until USCIS approves your petition and you secure a new visa stamp.

8. Are there any other issues that may come up?

Yes, in some states, you may have an issue renewing your driver’s license.  Some states will allow you to extend your license by presenting evidence of a timely filed extension while other states require evidence confirming that your nonimmigrant status has been approved.  You will need to check with your local motor vehicle department to explore this issue.


Continue Reading USCIS Suspends Premium Processing For I-129 and I-140 Petitions Beginning March 20, 2020

By Dawn Lurie, Mark KatzoffAngelo A. Paparelli and Randy Johnson

Seyfarth Synopsis: On July 24, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the immigration-benefits component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),   published a final regulation on “EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization” (the “Rule”) to reform the EB-5 program in the Federal Register.  Absent successful court challenges, or the passage by Congress of EB-5 legislation, the Rule will take effect on November 21, 2019.  The Rule makes pronounced changes to the EB-5 program, including a significant increase in the investment threshold, conferral of exclusive authority to USCIS to designate Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs), and retention of priority dates for petitioners. The text of the Rule can be found here.


Continue Reading USCIS Publishes EB-5 Modernization Rule: the Impact on the EB-5 Program