By: Shaune D. Fraser, Esq.
1. March 2019 Visa Bulletin: USCIS extends use of Final Action Dates chart for Employment-Based Preference Filings
The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will continue to use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State (DOS) March 2019 Visa Bulletin for all employment-based (EB) Adjustment of Status filings in the month of March, as opposed to the Dates for Filing Chart used in previous months. According to this Visa Bulletin, the final action dates for EB1 India and China will advance slightly to Feb. 22, 2017, while EB1 Worldwide will move to Jan. 1, 2018. In the EB2 categories, China will advance 3 months to Jan. 1, 2016, India will advance 3 days to Apr. 9, 2009, and EB2 Worldwide will remain current. The EB5 category remains current for India and EB5 worldwide, while China and Vietnam advance to Sept. 8, 2014 and Jul. 15, 2016. The Dates for Filing Chart in each Visa Bulletin are a projection of where the Final Action Date is expected to be 8-12 months in the future.
Just a few days ago, the DOS Liaison Committee provided a report of its monthly check-in with Mr. Charlie Oppenheim, DOS Chief of Visa Control and Reporting Division. Mr. Oppenheim emphasized that due to the continuing high level of demand for the EB1 category, minimal if any movement is expected in the month of March for EB1 categories, especially EB1 China and India. During the first 3 weeks of February, the level of demand for EB1 exceeded that received for all of February 2018. In January, following the publication of the February 2019 Visa Bulletin, demand increased by over 50%. Due to the oversubscription of these EB1 categories, current/future applicants with expiring nonimmigrant status or immediate work assignments should seek legal advice.
2. USCIS releases new Form I-539 Application to Change/Extend Status
Effective March 11, 2019, USCIS will require all applicants requesting an extension or change of status to submit the revised Form I-539 and Form I-539A. USCIS will only accept the revised edition of the form and will reject all prior versions. Historically, USCIS has implemented reasonable transition period during which time it has accepted prior form editions. However, applicants now run the risk of having their applications rejected for failure to submit the updated forms or new fee, which could jeopardize eligibility for future immigration benefits.
Form I-539 is used by a wide variety of nonimmigrant foreign nationals to change or extend their underlying nonimmigrant status, including those changing to F, J or M status, B.1/B.2 visitors, and dependents in O, E, L, and H classifications. The revised Form I-539 has two significant changes: (1) a new signature requirement for all applicants, including minor children; and (2) a mandatory biometrics requirement (fingerprints and photo) for all applicants.
A Form I-539 application to extend or change status is only valid if nonfrivolous and timely filed while the applicant still holds valid nonimmigrant status. During the pendency of application, the individual remains in a period of authorized stay until USCIS adjudicates the pending form. Once approved, the decision applies retroactively and any lapse in status is cured. If the application was untimely and subsequently denied, unlawful presence begins accruing on the date the I-94 expired, regardless of the reason for the denial. Similarly, if denied because the application was frivolous or due to unauthorized employment, any and all time after the Form I-94 expiration date will count towards the unlawful presence calculation.
3. Proposed Rescission of H-4 Employment Authorization (EAD) under Federal Review