In this issue
- SSA Resumes Issuing No-Match Letters
- USCIS and CBP Extend I-129 Pilot Program to Canadian L-1 Nonimmigrants
- President Issues Memo on Combating Nonimmigrant Overstay Rates
- Visa Bulletin Shows Slight Forward Progress in Some Backlogged Preference Categories
- New USCIS Policy Guidance Clarifies Marijuana-Related Activities Bar on Naturalization
- USCIS Completes H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY 2020, Reaches Advanced Degree Exemption Cap
- Some POEs Refusing Canadian L-1 Renewal/Extension Petitions Under NAFTA
- DHS Increases Greece's ESTA Validity Period to Two Years
- U.S. Embassy in Israel to Accept E-2 Visa Applications Based on Investment
- Appeals Court Temporarily Blocks Order to Stop Trump 'Remain in Mexico' Policy for Asylum Seekers
- USCIS Reaches FY 2020 H-1B Regular Cap
- New Study Shows Companies Pay Billions in Job Training, Scholarships for U.S. Students Through H-1B Fees
- USCIS Launches Data Hub on H-1B Employers
- USCIS Outlines Changes in InfoPass Appointment Process, Reducing In-Person Support
- New Publications and Items of Interest
SSA Resumes Issuing No-Match Letters
In March 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) resumed mailing notifications to employers identified as having at least one name and Social Security Number (SSN) combination submitted on the wage and tax statement (Form W-2) that do not match SSA's records. The purpose of the letter is to advise employers that corrections are needed.
A no-match letter is not necessarily an indication that a person is unauthorized to work in the United States. SSA noted that there are a number of reasons why reported names and SSNs may not agree with SSA's records, such as typographical errors, unreported name changes, and inaccurate or incomplete employer records.
Details: Click here for SSA information for employers, click here for sample response forms
USCIS and CBP Extend I-129 Pilot Program to Canadian L-1 Nonimmigrants
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that they are extending the joint agency pilot program for Canadian citizens seeking L-1 visa status under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through April 30, 2020.
The pilot program allows Canadian citizens to request that USCIS adjudicate their employer's individual L-1 petition, or petition based on blanket L petition, before their arrival or when they arrive at the Blaine, Washington, port of entry.
Details: Read the USCIS announcement
President Issues Memo on Combating Nonimmigrant Overstay Rates
On April 22, 2019, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum on "Combating High Nonimmigrant Overstay Rates." Many of the measures mentioned in the memo are not law yet.
Among other things, the memo states:
- Visa overstay rates are "unacceptably high for nationals of certain countries."
- The Secretary of State will "engage with the governments of countries with a total overstay rate greater than 10 percent in the combined B-1 and B-2...visa category," with a goal of identifying conditions that contribute to "those overstay rates and methods to address those conditions."
- Recommended measures to combat visa overstay include:
- "Suspending or limiting entry of nationals of those countries who hold B-1 or B-2 visas;"
- Imposing "targeted suspension of visa issuance for certain nationals; limits to duration of admission;" and
- Enforcing "additional documentary requirements."
- Measures may be developed for imposing "admission bonds" to improve compliance with the terms/conditions of visas.
Details: Read the Presidential memo
Visa Bulletin Shows Slight Forward Progress in Some Backlogged Preference Categories
The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for May 2019 shows slight forward progress for EB-1 for all chargeability areas except China and India, EB-2 for China and India, EB-3 and Other Workers China, India, and the Philippines, and EB-5 China and Vietnam. The remainder of the priority dates remain current with per-country quotas not reached.
Regarding EB-1 for China and India, the bulletin notes a continued "extremely high rate of demand" that may require temporary retrogression until October.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the agency will follow the "Final Action Dates" chart for the month for accepting I-485 Adjustment of Status applications.
Details: Click here for the Visa Bulletin for May 2019, Read the USCIS announcement
New USCIS Policy Guidance Clarifies Marijuana-Related Activities Bar on Naturalization
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently issued policy guidance to clarify that certain marijuana-related activities generally bar naturalization even if they are decriminalized under applicable state laws. Such an applicant may be deemed to lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, the guidance states.
Federal law classifies marijuana as a "Schedule I" controlled substance whose manufacture (which includes production, such as planting, cultivation, growing, or harvesting), distribution, dispensing, or possession may lead to immigration consequences. Some practitioners are advising clients not to work for or invest in marijuana-related companies. Reportedly, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is also checking social media accounts.
Details: Read the announcement, click here for the policy manual update, watch the video warning immigrants co-produced by Servicios De La Raza and the Marijuana Industry Group
USCIS Completes H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY 2020, Reaches Advanced Degree Exemption Cap
On April 10, 2019, USCIS used a computer-generated random process to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally mandated regular cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption for fiscal year (FY) 2020.
USCIS received 201,011 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 1, 2019, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption.
Details: Read the USCIS announcement, click here to read Foster LLP blogs
Some POEs Refusing Canadian L-1 Renewal/Extension Petitions Under NAFTA
According to reports, contrary to previous practice, various U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ports of entry (POEs) and preclearance locations have begun to refuse to process L-1 renewal and extension petitions from Canadians pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Anecdotally, the affected POEs include Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Pearson, Edmonton, Seattle, Pembina, Warroad, Pt. Roberts and Sumas.
Some practitioners have sent their Canadian L's to consular posts instead to file their I-129S (Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition).
Details: Read the Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. report (report prepared with the assistance of the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers)
DHS Increases Greece's ESTA Validity Period to Two Years
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has increased Greece's Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) travel authorization validity period for travel by nationals of Greece under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to two years, following a reduction in 2016 from two years to one year due to identified shortcomings in meeting VWP requirements. In November 2018, DHS determined that Greece has satisfied the requirements for normalizing Greece's ESTA validity period to two years again.
Details: Read the Federal Register notice
U.S. Embassy in Israel to Accept E-2 Visa Applications Based on Investment
The U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, Tel Aviv Branch, has confirmed that E-2 visa applications based on investment are now being accepted. The Israel-America Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first U.S. and Israel Treaty Investor Seminar immediately following a convocation, with participation from the U.S. Consul, Tel Aviv Branch, and Director of the Israel Population and Immigration Authority.
This development resulted from a reciprocal agreement under which Israelis and Americans can invest in the other country and obtain a visa based on the investment.
Details: Read the U.S. Embassy announcement, click here for the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem application requirements, read the Israeli news report
Appeals Court Temporarily Blocks Order to Stop Trump 'Remain in Mexico' Policy for Asylum Seekers
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has temporarily blocked an order that would have stopped the Trump administration's "remain in Mexico" policy for asylum seekers while they await processing of their U.S. asylum claims. Arguments by advocates on why the policy should not be in effect were due April 16 and the government's arguments on why it should continue were due April 17, the three-judge panel ruled. An earlier order by a judge in San Francisco was set to temporarily halt the change in U.S. asylum policy.
Kirstjen Nielsen, then-Secretary of Homeland Security, directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to immediately expand the "remain in Mexico" policy for asylum seekers and other migrants during a border visit in early April. She directed CBP to return hundreds of additional migrants per day above current rates to Mexico, including individuals apprehended or encountered at or between ports of entry, and to plan for further expansion of the program, called the Migrant Protection Protocols, "beyond the locations in which it currently operates in California and Texas," according to a DHS statement. Ms. Nielsen has since left her position.
Details: Read the Ninth Circuit order, read the San Francisco order, click here for the Trump administration statement on policy, read the DHS statement
USCIS Reaches FY 2020 H-1B Regular Cap
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received a sufficient number of petitions projected as needed to reach the 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020. USCIS said it will next determine if the agency has received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.
The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not prohibited multiple filings. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.
Details: Click here for the USCIS news alert
New Study Shows Companies Pay Billions in Job Training, Scholarships for U.S. Students Through H-1B Fees
New research shows H-1B fees paid by companies have funded approximately $5 billion since 1999 in training and scholarships for U.S. students and teachers to enter science fields and have funded nearly 90,000 college scholarships in tech fields for U.S. students, as well as about $2.5 billion in job training through the Department of Labor. The study by the National Foundation for American Policy also details how expensive it has become to petition for an H-1B professional.
Although critics have argued H-1B visa holders represent "cheap labor," employers pay government-imposed fees and attorney costs of up to $16,560 for an initial H-1B petition and $28,620 for the combined cost of an initial H-1B petition and an extension.
Details: Read the study
USCIS Launches Data Hub on H-1B Employers
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched an H-1B Employer Data Hub to provide information on employers petitioning for H-1B workers. The data hub will allow the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year (back to FY 2009), NAICS code, employer name, city, state, or zip code.
The new hub gives the public the ability to calculate approval and denial rates and to review which employers are using the H-1B program.
Details: Read USCIS news alert, click here for the H-1B Employer Data Hub, read the data broken down by fiscal year; click here for the summary and description.
USCIS Outlines Changes in InfoPass Appointment Process, Reducing In-Person Support
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently explained changes in the way it provides support services to applicants under an initiative called the "Information Services Modernization Program" (InfoMod). A goal is to limit in-person support to those who truly need assistance that can be provided only in person, such as issuing emergency documents, providing ADIT stamps, and conducting in-person interviews, the agency said.
InfoMod will enable USCIS to shift applicant support services from self-scheduled InfoPass appointments toward support services provided online or through USCIS Contact Centers. The agency encouraged users to visit myUSCIS, an online public portal.
Details: Read the USCIS teleconference summary
New Publications and Items of Interest
Advisories and tips:
- Community Advisory: Social Media, Criminalization, and Immigration has been published by the National Lawyers Guild's National Immigration Project. This advisory summarizes ways in which immigration agents may use social media against those in removal proceedings or involved in criminal cases.
- How to safeguard your data from searches at the border is the topic of several recent articles and blogs. See examples here and here.
- Listings and links to cases challenging executive orders, and related available pleadings
Government Agency Links
Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of State's latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers: