Department of Homeland Security

By: Dawn M. Lurie

Seyfarth Synopsis: On April 25, ICE announced its 13th extension, this time for a six-month period (until October 31, 2022), of the I-9 compliance flexibility rules relating to Form I-9. There is no substantive change in this extension of the policy, allowing for the “in-person” exemption (of identity and work authorization document review), benefiting certain employees and offering flexibility for companies that are phasing back in employees. While we are confident that the government is considering a permanent virtual option, we continue to advise employers to work under the assumption that anyone initially verified using the virtual flexibility will be required to conduct an in-person update as employees return to the workplace, especially in cases where identity was not verified (i.e. those that used the fax/email option). 

Lucky #13 – Extension of the COVID I-9 Flexibility

In a thirteenth extension, ending on Halloween 2022, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) posted an unprecedented (it’s been a while since I said that word) six (6) month extension of the flexibilities in rules related to Form I-9 compliance, initially granted in March 2020. These flexibilities are now extended until October 31, 2022.  The posting on the website is a bit confusing, as it just updates the December 2021 announcement, and includes an alert attached to the top of the page which indicates the new deadline.

ICE’s announcement affirms that employers who are taking COVID-19 related precautions and offering working in remote or hybrid environments, may continue inspecting I-9 documents virtually for newly hired employees as well as for reverification of work authorizations.  See our prior blog for the guidance and discussion on its forward-facing application, noting that ICE will evaluate a company’s situation “on a case-by-case basis” should a company have used virtual without the workforce being 100% remote from March 20, 2020 to March 31, 2021. Given the confusion and lack of guidance surrounding the directive, we remain optimistic that the government will show leniency for early misunderstandings and misapplications of the original policy.

Continue Reading Trick or Treat: I-9 Flexibilities Extended until October 31, 2022

Late in the day, on May 26, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a 90-day extension for remote Form I-9 inspection, allowing flexibilities to continue through August 31, 2021.

While the U.S. appears to have turned a corner in the fight against COVID-19, most companies have yet to formulate and implement back to work policies. Thank you to ICE and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), for allowing these employers to head into the holiday weekend without having to worry about the fate of this anticipated extension.  And thank you for the 90 days, rather than the shorter 30 or 60-day extensions issued previously.

The Devil is in the Details

It would not be a exciting blog post, if we didn’t have something interesting to point out. The ICE announcement includes two confusing items:
Continue Reading Nothing “new” Other Than a 90 day Extension of Virtual I-9s

This blog was updated on July 8th to reflect the Harvard and MIT lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a policy change on July 6 that will substantially disrupt higher education for the fall semester. This major change in policy was issued without any opportunity for notice and comment by the public.

Despite the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, ICE announced that it will no longer continue to allow 100% online studies programs for F-1 (academic) and M-1 (vocational) students. ICE has directed international students who presently participate in 100% online studies programs must either (1) transfer to an ICE-approved educational institution that allows hybrid (online and in-person) or fully on-campus, in-person courses, or (2) leave the U.S. or (3) remain in the U.S. without the underlying support of the school and suffer the possible initiation of removal (deportation) proceedings. ICE also indicated that it would publish a temporary or interim final regulation to a similar effect.
Continue Reading ICE Gives the Cold Shoulder to Foreign Students

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

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

President Trump’s October 9, 2019 overtures landed as music to the ears of many a grizzled immigration lawyer who persistently suffers battle fatigue from the culture of virtually never.  On that day the President released a double album, each with artfully penned liner notes:

The songs of TAFCAEA and IAGD,  resonating beautifully, and soothing frazzled heartstrings, make clear that in adjudicating and enforcing federal laws all covered Executive-Branch agencies must:

  • publish clear guidance rules that spell out permissible and prohibited conduct by regulated parties;
  • eliminate instances of “unfair surprise” so that members of the public (the regulated community) are not blindsided by unforeseen changes in how the agencies interpret federal laws;
  • place any purportedly binding agency rules not published in the Federal Register (known as sub-regulatory guidance) into an indexed and searchable section of each agency’s website (or else, the “rules” go away); and
  • soon announce rules of procedure governing administrative inspections and then be held accountable to comply with the published ground rules.


Continue Reading The Trump Administration Releases a New Hymnal to Curb the Administrative State; Immigration Lawyers Erupt in Rapturous Song

By Randy Johnson and Dawn Lurie

Seyfarth Synopsis: On July 10, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1044 – the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019,” on the Suspension Calendar[1] with a bipartisan vote of 365-65. The legislation, originally introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), would eliminate the existing “per-country cap” for employment-based immigrants while also increasing the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas.

The current employment-based system for immigrant visas (i.e. “green cards”) is based on “per-country caps” which set a cap, or quota, per-country at 7% of the total amount of employment-based green cards issued annually by the United States.[2] As one employer-based coalition put it, “[t]his means that India and China, which account for over 40% of the world’s population are allowed the same number of visas as Greenland, a country that accounts for 0.001% of the world’s population.”  For more information on the operation of the per-country caps, see the Congressional Research Service’s December 2018 analysis here.

Continue Reading Houses Passes Bill Lifting “Per-Country Caps”

By: Dawn M. Lurie and Greg Morano*

On March 1, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced that it would continue to preserve the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador. As we have previously written, to comply with the federal court order in Ramos et al. v. Nielsen et al, DHS’s Federal Register Notice (“Notice”) yet again protects the TPS designation for each country and provides automatic extensions to existing work authorization documents. TPS and related documentation for Nicaragua, Sudan, Haiti, and El Salvador are now automatically extended through January 2, 2020.

Continue Reading TPS Update: Last Minute Automatic Extensions For El Salvador and Three Other Countries

By: Dawn Lurie

Seyfarth Synopsis: The government has temporarily been reopened and E-Verify is back in business, at least until February 15th.  The President and Congress have until that time to provide long term funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Our friends over at the Verification Division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) have been very busy preparing for the onslaught of E-Verify activity that began early this morning, after the very long 35-day government shutdown.  USCIS issued E-Verify guidance yesterday, January 28, 2019, outlining what employers need to do and when they need to do it.  We expect additional guidance to be posted today in an effort to clarify some of the confusion caused by the government’s initial directives.  

With all of those E-Verify queries sitting in cyberspace or on your desk, let’s start with the basics.  Be warned – if you sleep easily at night without thoughts of E-Verify invading your dreams, this blog post is likely not for you.

Hopefully, during the 35 day shutdown you were able to follow the advice provided in Seyfarth’s previous blog Government Shutdown = E-Verify Shutdown.  If so, your company has been stockpiling E-Verify queries while completing and retaining Forms I-9 in the requisite time frames.  For those companies using electronic I-9 providers, your vendor should have been doing the same through their systems.  Your vendor should also now be providing guidance on how to process those E-Verify queries queued up in their system, and should also be addressing the likely delays, backlogs and TNC related issues.
Continue Reading E-Verify Thawed: The Government Reopens but Guidance is Messy

Over the past few days, I’ve received a large number of emails and calls from stressed out clients asking about the lack of access to E-Verify. Do not panic, employers will not be penalized as a result of the E-Verify operations shutdown.

E-Verify is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) records to confirm employment eligibility.

Since E-Verify is not fee based, the current lapse in appropriated government funding affects the program. Employers will not be penalized for any delays in creating E-Verify cases.  However, employers are reminded that they must continue to complete I-9s in compliance with the law, and when E-Verify becomes available, create cases in the E-Verify system. We expect USCIS to issue guidance—as they have during prior shutdowns— suspending the “three-day rule”  which mandates creating a query within three day of starting work for pay, for any case affected cases.  Historically, employees caught in the Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) process were also provided an extended period to resolve any issues; the same is expected this time.
Continue Reading Government Shut Down= E-Verify Shut Down