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

Following the lottery results issued this week, USCIS announced today that H-1B petitioners may begin submitting petitions during the 90 day window noted on the selection notice.  USCIS reported nearly 275,000 unique registrations were submitted during the initial registration period with approximately 46% of all registrations under the advanced degree category. Continue Reading USCIS FY 2021 H-1B Cap Selections & Filing Window

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 card) interviews, naturalization interviews and naturalization ceremonies when local offices resume in-person services.

Applicants requiring biometrics to be completed through Application Support Centers (ASC) will have their appointments rescheduled automatically, rescheduling notices will be sent by mail.

Final decisions in some cases may be delayed for applications that require in-person interviews or the completion of biometrics. While this includes Form I-485 applications for adjustment of status, employment based I-485 applicants have reported receiving approvals of their applications the week of March 28th even though their interviews were cancelled due to COVID-19 USCIS office closures.

Form I-539 applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status (H-4, L-2, etc. for dependent spouse and children), as well as the Form I-765 employment authorization applications for new requests may also be impacted.

USCIS will utilize existing biometrics for Applicants who filed or will file the Form I-765 to extend employment authorization on or after the March 18th when  USCIS closures went into effect. This will remain in effect until ASCs are open for appointments to the public.

What is not impacted by this notice?

As of the date of this posting, operations at USCIS Service Centers where most immigration benefit petitions are adjudicated are not impacted by these changes.

USCIS Premium Processing Suspension

As of March 20, 2020, USCIS will not be accepting premium processing request for any filings.

Seyfarth Shaw is closely monitoring ongoing developments impacting USCIS, DOL and DOS operations as COVID-19 developments continue.

With the closure of Social Security Administration (SSA) offices in the wake of COVID-19, we are receiving questions concerning the impact on work authorization for individuals who may have recently entered the U.S. in a temporary work authorized visa status, i.e. H-1B, L-1, TN, E etc.

While the Social Security Number (SSN) is used and required, in a variety of areas, it is not mandatory to be presented as proof of work authorization. Continue Reading SSA Office Closures and the Impact on SSN Issuance For Foreign Nationals

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

Virtual Coffee on Virtual I-9s: Immigration Compliance in the Wake of COVID-19

Monday, March 30, 2020  at 11am EDT

Hosted by Seyfarth Shaw and the US Chamber of Commerce

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently issued I-9 and E-Verify guidance in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel, which includes a former head of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is moderated by the Executive Director of Immigration Policy at the US Chamber of Commerce, will provide much needed insight and information regarding what employers’ Form I-9 obligations will be as DHS implements this temporary guidance that relaxes certain regulatory requirements in the wake of this emergency. The panel will also discuss the future of worksite enforcement.

Speakers

Dawn M. Lurie, Senior Counsel, Co-Chair Immigration Enforcement & Compliance Practice, Seyfarth Shaw
Jon Baselice, Executive Director, Immigration Policy, US Chamber of Commerce
Julie Myers Wood, CEO of Guidepost Solutions LLC

Register for the webinar here

 

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, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (“OFLC”) issued Frequently Asked Questions in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, providing guidance and extending certain filing, notice, and response deadlines for employers of foreign nationals.

Highlights 

  • Employers will have thirty (30) days to post Labor Condition Application (LCA) notices for employees moving to a different worksite within the same intended area of employment, such as a home office. 
  • For employers unable to physically post LCA notices, DOL reminds employers of the option to electronically post, and the stringent requirements. 
  • Employers will benefit from a sixty (60) day extension of PERM recruitment and Notice of Filing (“NOF”) requirements for PERM applications filed by May 12, 2020, where recruitment began between September 15, 2019 and March 13, 2020. 
  • Employers may respond to DOL requests by May 12, 2020, where the original response deadline falls within the period from March 13, 2020 through May 12, 2020. 

Continue Reading Department of Labor Extends Deadlines during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

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