Monday, September 18th, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) resumed premium processing for all H-1B Petitions that were selected in the 2018 Cap. This means that H-1B cap petitions may now convert a pending petition to the expedited review process by paying an extra $1,225 for each petition. This recent development adds H-1B cap cases to the list of Petitions that are able to premium process and include Conrad J-1 Waiver Physicians and Cap-Exempt employers. USCIS indicated that it will resume premium processing for all other H-1B petitions as its workload permits.
Please contact SPS Immigration if you have questions on how this may impact your case.
In a much expected announcement, Tuesday morning, September 5th, Attorney General (“AG”) Jeff Sessions announced that President Trump is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or, DACA. AG Sessions announced that DACA recipients whose EAD expires before March 2, 2018 will be allowed to apply for a two-year renewal, if submitted by October 5th, 2017. Today marks the last day that USCIS will consider new DACA applications.
The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has released a memorandum providing details on the way in which it will “wind down” the DACA program. Under the terms of the memorandum:
Previously issued EADs and grants of deferred action will remain valid for their full validity period, and DHS will not terminate deferred action or revoke EADs solely on the basis of the DACA program rescission.
Requests for deferred action under DACA and related EAD applications that are currently pending will be adjudicated. No new initial requests for DACA or new DACA EAD applications will be accepted after today.
Requests for renewal of DACA that are already pending will be adjudicated.
DACA beneficiaries who have a grant of deferred action or an EAD that is expiring between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 can file renewal applications. Applications for renewal must be filed by October 5, 2017. It is not yet known how what validity period will be issued for renewals when they are adjudicated.
Effective immediately, no new DACA advance parole applications will be approved. All pending advance parole applications will be administratively closed and filing fees will be returned. Individuals with a currently valid DACA advance parole document can travel, although DHS retains the authority to deny admission and/or revoke or terminate parole where it deems appropriate. Despite the continued validity of a DACA advance parole, departing the country is likely not advisable at this time.
Please contact SPS Immigration should you have questions on how this announcement impacts your immigration status.
A Federal District Court in Texas granted the request for a preliminary injunction on Texas Senate Bill 4 (“SB4”), which means the law will not take effect September 1, 2017. SB4 is a ban on Sanctuary Cities and also uses local and state law enforcement to question the immigration status of residents, among other provisions. The court blocked the following provisions: the polices ability to question immigration status, mandatory ICE detainers in local jails, and the restrictions on the free speech of local officials.
Please contact SPS Immigration if you have questions on how this may impact your immigration situation.
On August 23, 2017, nonimmigrant visa (“NIV”) operations were suspended throughout Russia for eight days. Starting September 1, NIV operations will resume “on a greatly reduced scale” and applicant interviews will be conducted solely at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. NIV interviews at the U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok are “suspended until further notice.” In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg will no longer accept new visa applications for residents of Belarus. The suspension and reduction in services comes after the Russian government imposed a personnel cap on the U.S. mission in Russia in July which ordered the U.S. to cut two-thirds of staff at its embassy and consulates. If you have questions on how this may impact your international travel plans, please contact SPS Immigration.
Officials announced Friday that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) will begin requiring in-person interviews for all employment-based applicants seeking permanent resident status, or, a green card. This announcement is a continuation of President Trump’s “extreme vetting” initiative, and is to take effect starting October 1, 2017.
In-person interviews are a part of the permanent resident process, but have long been waived for employment-based applicants. Permanent Residence is a process that takes at least 18-24 months for most employment-based applicants and involves detailed background checks through over 50 federal agencies. This new mandate on an already-overworked USCIS means that the permanent residence process for employment-based cases will likely slow down significantly.
It is too early to fully understand the impact of this announcement and SPS Immigration will continue to post updates as appropriate. If you have questions on how this change in policy might impact you, please contact SPS Immigration.
The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has made several revisions to the Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) directly reflecting the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order (“EO”) 13788 that was signed by President Trump in April 2017. The FAM is the authoritative source containing policies and procedures to guide DOS consular officers to effectively carry out their responsibilities in accordance with their statutory, executive, and Department mandates.
The new FAM language guiding the adjudication of all Nonimmigrant Visa categories (E-1, E-2, H-1B, L-1, O-1, P) reiterates the protection of U.S. workers “in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse” and instructs consular officers to adjudicate cases under each of these visa categories “with this spirit in mind.” In addition, the FAM has also been updated with additional language in the chapter concerning F-1 student visas. The added language provides consular officers even more discretionary power to deny a student’s visa application simply because an officer was not “satisfied” with the applicant’s evidence.
Overall, all of the changes made appear to instruct officers to apply a more rigorous approach to determining whether an applicant meets the requirements of the visa category in question. It remains to be seen how these FAM changes will impact the adjudication of nonimmigrant visas, and SPS Immigration will provide updates as available. If you have questions about how these changes may impact your upcoming visa appointment, please contact SPS Immigration.
Recently, USCIS has been inconsistently denying Advance Parole requests in instances when the applicant leaves the U.S. before USCIS approves the Advance Parole document. If USCIS denies the request, applicants can refile to USCIS the request for Advance Parole. If you have questions about how this policy will impact your situation, please contact SPS Immigration.