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March 2019 Visa Bulletin, New Form I-539, Proposed Rescission of H-4 EAD & Form G-1530
 
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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

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently sent the long-anticipated proposal to rescind the H-4 spousal employment authorization (EAD) regulation to the White House of Management and Budget (OMB) for review – the next step in the termination of the program. Once cleared, details of the proposal will be published in the Federal Register for public comments during which time stakeholders will have the opportunity to submit comments to DHS.

The proposed regulation would not have an immediate impact on H-4 spouses. Eligible H-4 spouses can still apply for new or renewed EADs under the current rules until further notice. DHS has not yet indicated whether the rule will allow for a transition period for current H-4 EAD holders to continue working. H-4 holders should be aware that the termination of the program could come within months of the release. 

4. Form G-1530 - USCIS Tip Form

USCIS recently submitted Form G-1530 USCIS Tip Form for comment in the Federal Register, a form that would enhance agency information collection activities. Form G-1530 would affect both employers and individuals and would facilitate the collection of information from the public regarding credible and relevant claims of immigration benefit fraud impacting both pending adjudications as well as previously approved benefits where the benefit remains valid.   


For additional information on these developments, please contact me at shaune@fraserpllc.com

The information provided herein is for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice for any particular situation nor presumed as indefinitely up to date.

Copyright © 2019, FRASER IMMIGRATION LAW, PLLC. All Rights Reserved.

 
Changes in U.S. Immigration Policies & Delays in Adjudication
 
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By: Shaune D. Fraser, Esq.

In recent months, processing delays by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and changes in U.S. Immigration policies have had profound effects on foreign national students and professionals.

Key points:

  1. The Impact of the USCIS Unlawful Presence Policy on Students (F, M visas) and Exchange Visitors (J visas). In August 2018, USCIS drastically altered its policy on the calculation of unlawful presence for F (student) and M (vocational student) visa holders, and J exchange visitors. Those in F, M and J status are typically admitted for a period of authorized stay known as duration of status (D/S), rather than up to a specific date. Under previous longstanding policy, a violation of status (early termination of studies, unauthorized activities, etc.) did not render such individuals unlawfully present. The unlawful presence calculation only began after a formal determination by the government that the individual was out of status (if admitted in D/S). However, under this new USCIS policy, calculation of unlawful presence automatically begins the day after any violation or the day after completion of the course of study or program, including any authorized practical training and grace period. Those in F, J and M status should exercise caution to avoid all unlawful presence triggers and track all time where they failed to maintain lawful status. Failure to do so could subject these foreign nationals to the 3-year, 10-year, or permanent bars to re-entry.

  2. The transformation of USCIS into an extension of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Traditionally, USCIS has been the federal agency charged with the adjudication and granting of immigration benefits (citizenship, green cards, visas), while ICE is the agency that enforces immigration laws, including orders related to deportation. The functions of these two agencies have generally been kept separate based upon the premise that a foreign national should be able to apply for an immigration benefit without fear of being deported. However, through the release of a recent policy memo, the functions of USCIS now overlap with those of ICE such that the processing of a visa or citizenship application could result in the issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) for those foreign nationals who have failed to maintain legal status. An NTA is a charging document that compels a foreign national to appear in Court for removal proceedings.

  3. USCIS Processing Delays. According to the January 2019 report by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the average case processing time increased by 46% over the past two fiscal years (FY), and by 91% since FY 2014. Additionally, case processing times continued to increase in FY 2018, despite sizeable decreases in case receipt volume.

  4. USCIS now accepting both Negative O & P Consultations. In September 2018, USCIS began accepting copies of unfavorable/negative consultation letters directly from labor unions for O.1 visas (individuals of extraordinary ability). On February 8, 2019, USCIS announced an extension of this practice to include P visas (artists, athletes, and entertainers). Consultation letters are listed among the initial evidentiary requirements for P and O visas, failure to include such documentation could prolong processing or result in a case denial.

  5. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announces Final Rule for H.1B Cap & Lottery Cases. On January 30, 2019, DHS published the final rule (effective April 1, 2019) to amend the process for selection of H-1B visa petitions subject to the annual numerical “cap”. Pursuant to this rule and in furtherance of the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order (April 2017), USCIS will first conduct the general lottery sufficient to meet the regular 65,000 annual cap, which will include individuals eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will then conduct a second lottery for the remaining eligible petitions, which will be limited only to those U.S. advanced degree holders seeking one of the 20,000 cap exemptions.


For more Information, please contact me at shaune@fraserpllc.com

The information provided herein is for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice for any particular situation nor presumed as indefinitely up to date.

Copyright © 2019, FRASER IMMIGRATION LAW, PLLC. All Rights Reserved.