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: 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

On May 29, 2019, forty-seven members of Congress wrote a letter to Attorney General Bob Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan registering their disagreement with the application of USCIS policy guidance to those who have been employed in the legal cannabis industry.

The letter’s signatories, led by Reps. Joe Neguse, Kelly Armstrong

Seyfarth Synopsis: As a number of states and the District of Columbia have moved to permit possession, use and sale of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes and the business of legalized cannabis distribution has grown exponentially, federal law banning such activity remains unchanged.  Deeming the trend in state law irrelevant, federal immigration authorities have in fact moved in the opposite direction.  Last month, on April 19, US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced policy guidance “to clarify that violations of federal controlled substance law, including violations involving marijuana, are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law.”

Continue Reading Too Natural for Naturalization: Even Decriminalized Marijuana Can be a Bar to US Citizenship

On July 24, 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release confirming that its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division had completed the second phase of a nationwide operation from July 16-20. HSI served 2,738 I-9 Notices of Inspection (NOIs[1]) to US businesses around the country after serving 2450 during its first phase earlier this year. In sum, HSI has now issued almost 5200 NOIs since the beginning of October 2017. Not only this, but HSI also has made 675 criminal and 984 administrative worksite-related arrests. These numbers clearly indicate that ICE takes worksite enforcement very seriously and companies should prioritize a commitment to compliance. Fines for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized workers start at $559 per employee and can be as high as $22,363 for repeated offenses. Paperwork violations range from $224 to $2236. Companies may also face additional fines, penalties and forfeitures, and government contractors may face debarment from federal contracts.

In ICE’s press release, HSI reminded employers about its “three-pronged approach to worksite enforcement: compliance, form I-9 inspections, civil fines and referrals for debarment; enforcement, through the criminal arrest of employers and administrative arrest of unauthorized workers; and outreach, through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.”

These events have been expected and actually follow prior comments by HSI officials that we previously reported, confirming that 2018 will be a year of increased immigration enforcement.


Continue Reading Baby It’s Cold Outside: ICE I-9 Audits Increase Over 100 Percent

By: Randy Johnson and Walt Mullon

President Trump Signs Executive Order on Workforce Training. Earlier today, President Trump signed an executive order which aims to bolster vocational training, creates a national council for American workers, and establishes a workforce policy advisory board in a push to increase the number of skilled workers in the U.S. Alongside business executives, the President introduced the “Pledge to America’s Workers,” which commits employers to expanding on-the-job training and apprenticeships. The administration expects the pledge to lead to at least 500,000 new career opportunities for students and workers. Earlier this week, Ivanka Trump penned an op-ed in support of the new initiative, declaring that the administration hopes to “create a workforce culture that fosters and prioritizes life-long learning.”


Continue Reading Seyfarth Shaw Policy Matters Newsletter – July 19, 2018

By: Randy Johnson and Walt Mullon

Trump Taps Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Vacancy. On Monday evening, President Trump nominated D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh is considered a reliable member of the Republican legal establishment with a solid record on issues from free speech, to religious liberty, to the Second Amendment. His credentials include clerking with Justice Anthony Kennedy, working for Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater investigation, and spending six years in the George W. Bush White House as a lawyer and eventually staff secretary to the president.

In his 12 years on the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh has cast dozens of votes to roll back rules and regulations. He has often concluded that agencies stretched their power too far and frequently found himself at odds with the Obama administration, including in dissents he wrote opposing net-neutrality rules and greenhouse-gas restrictions.


Continue Reading Seyfarth Shaw Policy Matters Newsletter – July 12, 2018

The 2018 edition of The Legal 500 United States recommends Seyfarth Shaw’s Immigration group as one of the best in the country. Nationally, for the fourth consecutive year, our Immigration practice earned Top Tier.

Based on feedback from corporate counsel, Seyfarth partners Jim King, Russell Swapp, and Angelo Paparelli were ranked in the