As part of the Trump Administration’s extreme vetting efforts, certain visa applicants will now be required to complete a rigorous supplemental questionnaire prior to visa issuance. The information requested in the new, supplemental questionnaire is extensive, and includes the applicant’s full travel history for the past 15 years, including locations visited, dates, and source of funds for the visit; all passport numbers; names and dates of birth of all siblings, children, and spouses/partners; complete address and dates of residence for the past 15 years; employment history for the past 15 years; and all social media handles, phone numbers and email addresses for the past five years.

The supplemental questionnaire will not be required of all visa applicants. As part of the visa application interview and screening process, Visa Officers will decide when the individual visa applicant’s background warrants additional security checks. Previous travel by the visa applicant to areas controlled by terrorist groups is expected to make it more likely that the supplemental questionnaire will be requested. The U.S. Department of State estimates that approximately 65,000 people (less than 1% of 13 million visa applicants worldwide) may be requested to complete the supplemental questionnaire each year.

Continue Reading Extreme Vetting Measures To Include Questionnaires Asking for Detailed Travel History and Social Media Information

Seyfarth Synopsis: If Congress fails to pass a funding bill by midnight on Friday, April 28, resulting in a federal government shutdown, it would trigger numerous immigration-related ripple effects on employers, both large and small. The federal government, through its various agencies, plays a key role in authorizing and regulating the employment of foreign citizens in the United States. Employers should be aware of how the federal government shutdown could affect their ability to hire, verify and maintain the status of foreign national employees.

Background

A federal government shutdown could begin at midnight on Friday, April 28 if Congress fails to pass a funding bill. This means that, effective Monday, May 1, only “essential” government workers would report to work until Congress passes a spending bill.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS would be minimally impacted because it is largely a user-fee funded service.  The vast majority of USCIS workers would continue to report to work during a shutdown. This means USCIS would continue to process applications and petitions for immigration benefits, with some processing delays possible. As explained below, however, petitions for which a Department of Labor (DOL) certification is required — such as the H-1B that requires a Labor Condition Application (LCA) -­may be adversely affected. USCIS has not yet announced whether it would temporarily accept extensions without DOL-certified LCAs, although historically USCIS has not.

E-Verify, USCIS’ free, internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States, would be inaccessible during the shutdown. However employers are reminded that they must continue to complete I-9 forms in compliance with the law and when E-Verify becomes available, create cases in the E-Verify system. During a prior shutdown, USCIS  issued guidance suspending the “three day rule”  for any case affected by the shutdown.  Historically employees caught in the Tentative Non-Confirmations (TNCs) process were provided an extended time period to resolve the issue.

Again, employees would still be required to complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 on or before the first day of employment and employers would still need to complete Section 2 of the Form I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee begins working for pay.

Other components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), such as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) are expected to retain most of their essential staff. CBP has not yet indicated whether it would process immigration applications at the border, such as initial TN and Blanket L applications for Canadian nationals, but it is expected that these adjudications would continue.

Department of Labor

Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) employees, who fall under the umbrella of DOL, are considered non-essential and would be placed in furlough status during the government shutdown. OFLC would neither accept nor process any applications or related materials, including LCAs, applications for a prevailing wage determination, applications for temporary employment certification, PERM audit responses or applications for permanent employment certification (.e.g PERM applications).   OFLC’s web site, including the iCERT Visa Portal System, would become static and unable to process any requests or allow authorized users to access their online accounts. Employers with concerns about these deadline-specific functions should consult an immigration attorney with questions about proper maintenance of status during these uncertain times.

Department of State (DOS)

Visa issuance should continue, at least temporarily.  Domestic and overseas Consular operations should remain fully operational as long as sufficient fees exist to support operations. However, if a passport agency is located in a government building affected by a lapse in appropriations, that facility may become unsupported. The continuance of consular operations in such instances would be treated on a case-by-case basis by the Under Secretary for Management.

Department of Justice (DOJ)

DOJ trial attorneys and immigration judges should conduct removal (deportation proceedings) only for individuals in federal custody at least for a short period of time. All other cases would likely be suspended during the shutdown. Similarly, furloughed would be attorneys and staff within the Immigrant and Employee Rights section of DOJ charged with accepting and investigating charges of workplace discrimination arising under the immigration laws.

On March 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a cable to all diplomatic and consular posts worldwide calling for the immediate implementation of heightened screening of visa applications.  Through the cable, Secretary Tillerson instructed consular posts to undertake additional screening measures based on the conclusions of the interagency working groups mandated by the President’s Executive Order.  Visa processing screens at U.S. consular posts will be more invasive and time-consuming for certain individuals, particularly those from the countries listed in the President’s most recent Executive Order and those from Iraq.

Continue Reading New Department of State Cable Implements Extreme Vetting Measures

Seyfarth Synopsis: The UK Parliament has passed the EU Withdrawal Bill, paving the way for the Government to invoke Article 50, the mechanism for leaving the European Union, by the end of March 2017. 

On March 13, 2017, the UK Parliament passed the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.  The Bill’s purpose is to allow the Prime Minister to notify the European Union of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union, through invocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has previously indicated that she wishes to make the notification, triggering such withdrawal, before the end of March 2017.  The passing of this Bill now makes such a timetable likely.

What Will Happen Next?

Once Article 50 has been invoked, the United Kingdom will enter into a period of negotiation with the European Union.  The parties have a period of two years to negotiate an exit agreement for the UK.  If no agreement has been reached by the end of the two year period, all EU Treaties that apply to the UK will be void, unless the European Council (comprised of the Heads of all Member States) agrees to continue the negotiations.

Continue Reading U.K. Parliament Passes Brexit Bill

Seyfarth Synopsis: Immediate Stay of Trump’s Executive Order has been denied and travel ban remains halted for now.

On Friday, February 3, a Federal District Court in Washington issued a temporary restraining order (TRO), which prohibits the federal government from enforcing President Trump’s January 27, 2017 Executive Order that suspended travel to the United States for certain foreign nationals.  This TRO took effect immediately and is in effect nation-wide.  At present, any foreign national who was impacted by the travel ban can be admitted to the United States.  However, this situation remains fluid and can change any day.

Background

On Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an Executive Order which suspended travel into the United States for nationals from certain designated countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This suspension in travel took effect immediately, and was to be in place for at least 90 days.  More information on the Executive Order can be found in Seyfarth’s original alert and our updated alert.

Continue Reading Federal Court Temporarily Halts Suspension of Travel to U.S. for Previously Affected Foreign Nationals