On Friday, May 29, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that it will resume premium processing in phases for the following two forms:
Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker: Effective in Phases as detailed below, and,
Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers: Effective June 1, 2020
On March 20, USCIS announced the temporary suspension of premium processing for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
For H-1B Petitions, this is the phase-in dates, which USCIS indicated that these dates may change and that it will announce any updates accordingly.
Effective June 8, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for:
H-1B petitions filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication and are cap-exempt (for example, petitions filed by petitioners that are cap-exempt and petitions filed for beneficiaries previously counted toward the numerical allocations).
All other Form I-129 petitions (non H-1B petitions) for nonimmigrant classifications eligible for premium processing filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication.
Effective June 15, USCIS plans on resuming premium processing for:
H-1B petitions requesting premium processing by filing an I-907 concurrently with their I-129 (or request for a petition filed on or after June 8) and are exempt from the cap because:
The employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity or organization (such as an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization); or
The beneficiary is cap-exempt based on a Conrad/IGA waiver under INA section 214(l).
Effective June 22, USCIS plans on resuming premium processing for all other Form I-129 petitions, including:
All H-1B cap-subject petitions (including those for fiscal year 2021), including change of status from F-1 nonimmigrant status, for both premium processing upgrades and concurrently filed I-907s.
All other Form I-129 petitions for nonimmigrant classifications eligible for premium processing and requesting premium processing by filing an I-907 concurrently with their I-129.
Please contact SPS Immigration should you have questions.
This USCIS memo addresses a few of the many issues currently facing International Medical Graduates (“IMG”) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
In situations in which an H-1B foreign medical graduate is temporarily unable to work full-time due to quarantine, illness, travel restrictions, or other consequences of the pandemic during the declared Public Health Emergency period, USCIS officers will not consider such a failure to work full-time to be a failure to fulfill the terms of the contract under INA 214(l)(2)(B), as a matter of policy.
For those foreign medical graduates currently employed by an IGA or through the Conrad State 30 program, USCIS interprets current regulations to allow those physicians to provide telehealth services during the Public Health Emergency.
Provisions relating to the full-time work requirement will apply to any lapse in full-time employment related to COVID-19 that occurred from the beginning of the Public Health Emergency on January 27, 2020, through the end of the Public Health Emergency. Telehealth services provisions will be effective from the publication date of this policy memorandum through to the end of the Public Health Emergency.
However, this memo is strictly limited to 214(l)(2)(B) compliance (or, the three year, full-time compliance requirement of most J-1 waivers) so Employers may still be required to amend an H-1B Petition accordingly if there are wage/hour changes. USCIS very clearly clarifies that despite changes having no impact on the fulfillment of the three year service obligation, “It [the memo] does not affect a petitioning employer’s responsibilities under the statutes and regulations relating to H-1B nonimmigrants.”
USCIS also addresses a critical component of not only our current COVID-19 reality, but the reality of the provision of medicine generally, moving forward: Telemedicine. However, the telemedicine portion is also limited specifically to the provision of telemedicine in the designated area and only became effective May 11, 2020. USCIS states, “In no instance should the foreign medical graduate, other than a graduate employed by the VA, provide telehealth services to patients outside of the state of their contracting facility.”
Employers and practitioners should be aware that, despite this easing of two aspects of the J-1 waiver compliance, H-1B Petition amendments may be required if hours drop less that F/T and/or there are salary changes that impact the H-1B Petition. It also remains unclear if this memo will apply affirmatively to J-1 waiver cases moving forward as there are additional government agencies involved in the J-1 waiver process including the state departments of health and the DOS.
If you have questions on how this memo may impact your pending case, please contact SPS Immigration using our online contact form. Stay safe!
On March 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced the following relaxation of I-9 document inspection protocols by permitting Employers with employees self distancing/remote working due to COVID-19 to not require review of the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence.
DHS provided this additional clarification:
Employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2. Employers also should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 Additional Information field once physical inspection takes place after normal operations resume. Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 additional information field on the Form I-9, or to section 3 as appropriate. These provisions may be implemented by employers for a period of 60 days from the date of this notice OR within 3 business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first.
Employers who avail themselves of this option must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee. This burden rests solely with the employers.
Once normal operations resume, all employees who were onboarded using remote verification, must report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 additional information field on the Form I-9, or to section 3 as appropriate.
This provision only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I- 9, Employment Eligibility Verification. However, if newly hired employees or existing employees are subject to COVID-19 quarantine or lockdown protocols, DHS will evaluate this on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, employers may designate an authorized representative to act on their behalf to complete Section 2. An authorized representative can be any person the employer designates to complete and sign Form I-9 on their behalf. The employer is liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations of the employer sanctions laws committed by the person designated to act on the employer’s behalf.
Please contact SPS Immigration if you have specific questions in this regard.
UPDATE: Late in the day Tuesday, March 18th, 2020, USCIS announced that it has has suspended all in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. USCIS confirmed that staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public, which for now, includes services provided at its regional service centers (including but not limited to nonimmigrant filings including H-1B’s, TN’s, L-1B’s, O-1’s, EAD’s and immigrant petitions, including I-140’s and I-130’s) Additionally, USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations.
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We are starting to see USCIS offices and Consulates suspend services due to COVID-19. Because local USCIS offices act independently, there are currently different policies nationally. We will continue to update clients as USCIS announces ongoing closures, so please check back frequently. As of Tuesday, March 17th, we know of the following closures:
Late in the day Tuesday, March 18th, 2020, USCIS announced that it has has suspended all in-person services until at least April 1.
Wednesday, March 18th, in Minneapolis, ASCs will be closed and fingerprint appointments will be canceled through April 1st.
Beginning Wednesday, March 18th, in Minneapolis, all in-person interviews are canceled through April 3rd and will be rescheduled.
Beginning Friday, March 13, 2020 at 11:59EST, all travel to and from Europe’s Schengen Area by foreign nationals will be suspended until further notice. This is an effort by President Trump to control the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. United States citizens, lawful permanent residents, and their spouses and children are exempt from this restriction. Parents, guardians and minor siblings (under 21) of U.S. citizens or permanent residents under the age of 21 are exempt as well. For a full list of exemptions please see the Europe Proclamation Text.
Foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area (an area of Europe comprising 26 states) at any point during the preceding 14 days before their scheduled arrival to the United States will not be allowed entry into the United States after this proclamation comes into effect. This includes:
This new ban is in addition to the existing travel restrictions, which prohibit foreign nationals who have visited China or Iran in the past 14 days from entering the United States. For a list of exemptions please see the China and Iran Proclamation Text.
For more information about COVID-19 generally, please see the CDC’s website. If you have any questions about how this impacts your immigration case, please contact SPS Immigration.
SPS Immigration understands that clients immigration deadlines do not disappear even with current COVID-19 public health concerns. SPS Immigrations Preparedness Plan ensures that clients can continue to rely on SPS Immigration for the best legal services, without interruption.
Parts of our Preparedness Plan include:
Monitoring of CDC announcements regarding best practices.
Using Clorox wipes to ensure workstations and public areas are sanitized.
Team members are required to wash their hands using CDC-recommended protocols.
CDC-compliant hand sanitizers at all workstations and public areas.
We are asking all clients to mail or courier documents to our office.
We are conducting all client consultations via Microsoft Teams, to provide seamless, face-to-face consultations.
Team members who are sick will not come into the office.
SPS Immigration invests in technology that permits us to work remotely, if necessary.
If you have questions about our Preparedness Plan or how the current COVID-19 developments impact your immigration case, please let us know. Stay healthy, and wash your hands!
On January 31, 2020 President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation expanding Travel Ban 3.0 to include certain foreign nationals of the following six countries: Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. The ban on these additional countries becomes effective February 21, 2020.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, these additions were based on an assessment from the Department of Homeland Security after reviewing updated security assessment criteria first established after the first iteration of the travel ban. Curiously, restrictions have only been placed on those seeking immigrant visas from the newly added countries. Individuals from these countries seeking nonimmigrant visas should not be restricted.
The following table reflects the countries added to Travel Ban 3.0 on January 31, 2020. All individuals are subject to exceptions and waivers set forth in in the original Proclamation.
Unless an exemption applies or the individual is eligible for a waiver, the travel restrictions apply to foreign nationals of the designated countries who: (i) are outside the U.S. on the applicable effective date; (ii) do not have a valid visa on the applicable effective date; and (iii) do not qualify for a reinstated visa or other travel document that was revoked under Presidential Executive Order 13769.
The travel restrictions in the proclamation do not apply to:
lawful permanent residents;
foreign nationals who are admitted to or paroled into the U.S. on or after the applicable effective date;
foreign nationals who have a document other than a visa (e.g., transportation letter, boarding foil, advance parole document) valid on the applicable effective date or issued on any date thereafter;
Dual nationals of a designated country who are traveling on a passport issued by a non-designated country;
Foreign nationals traveling on a diplomatic visas, NATO visas, C-2/U.N. visas, or G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visa; or
Foreign nationals who have been granted asylum in the U.S., refugees who have been admitted to the U.S.; or individuals who have been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.
While waivers may be available, the U.S. Department of State has issued very few waivers for individuals from the countries listed in the initial travel ban.
If you have any questions about how this may impact your immigration case, please contact SPS Immigration PLLC.