July 2018 Newsletter

In This Issue

USCIS Recalls 800 Incorrectly Printed Employment Authorization Documents

On June 21, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began recalling approximately 800 employment authorization documents (EADs) that were issued in conjunction with Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, which were granted by USCIS asylum officers. USCIS said the cards contain a production error that transposed the first and last names of the individuals receiving the EADs. USCIS mailed these cards to recipients in April and May 2018.

USCIS said it is sending notices to individuals who received the incorrect EADs, as well as to their attorneys or accredited representatives, if a G-28 was submitted with the corresponding Form I-589. The agency said the affected individuals should return their incorrect EADs to USCIS in the provided pre-paid envelope within 20 days of receiving the notice. Recipients may also return their EADs to a USCIS field office. Replacement EADs will be sent within 15 days of receiving the incorrect card, USCIS said.

USCIS noted that the recall does not affect these individuals' employment authorization because they are authorized for employment without needing an EAD. Affected recipients' Forms I-94 showing that they were granted asylum is also evidence that they are authorized to be employed. USCIS said that any affected individuals who need proof of their employment authorization can notify the USCIS Contact Center.

Read the USCIS notice.

Click here for more information about the USCIS Contact Center, including the telephone numbers to call.

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ICE/SEVP Warns Students about Volunteer Positions

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student and Exchange Visitor Program office broadcast the following on May 18, 2018, to students on optional practical training (OPT):
Volunteer positions that are not directly related to your course of study do not qualify as [OPT] and must not be listed as OPT employment. Reporting non-qualifying volunteer opportunities as OPT employment will be deemed a violation of your reporting requirements and subject you to removal from the United States. 

In addition, non-qualifying volunteer positions do not stop the accrual of unemployment which is limited to a total of 90 days during OPT. Accordingly, if you have been unemployed for more than 90 days, you must leave the United States or be subject to removal even if you have volunteered while unemployed. 

Note: A volunteer position does not meet the conditions of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics OPT extension.
Read the alert.

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USCIS Sends Letter on B-1/B-2 Upcoming Proposed Regulation

On May 30, 2018, L. Francis Cissna, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), sent a letter to Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), who had hosted a May 16, 2018, roundtable on B-1 visa issues. The letter notes that USCIS is reviewing existing regulations, policies, and programs and developing a combination of rulemaking, policy memoranda, and operational changes to implement President Trump's "Buy American and Hire American" executive order. Among other things, the letter states:
One area of focus is the B visa program. As noted in the Spring 2018 Unified Agenda, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working on a proposed regulation pertaining to nonimmigrants admitted to the United States as temporary visitors for business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2). The proposed regulatory revisions will clarify the criteria for according B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant classification to applicants for admission to the United States. As stated in the Unified Agenda, "Such clarification is necessary to ensure fair and consistent adjudication and enforcement, as well as to make the criteria more transparent."
The letter states that this rulemaking is a "priority" and that USCIS is "taking a lead role in drafting the proposed regulation," which will include an opportunity for public comment.

The letter also references discussion of "B-1 in lieu of H" issues during the roundtable:
As explained, USCIS adjudicates applications from individuals who are already here and wish to extend a stay in B status or change to another nonimmigrant status (that is, change either to or from B status). USCIS also adjudicates employer petitions in H nonimmigrant visa classifications. As part of the above-described regulatory process, we are, in coordination with the Department of State and other immigration components within DHS, reviewing existing policy with respect to "B-1 in lieu of H-1," as well as "B-1 in lieu of H-3."
Director Cissna's letter, copied to six Republicans and two Democrats, refers to a meeting "in the near future" with Rep. Mitchell to "discuss our efforts to improve the B visa program, as well as our other regulatory initiatives and statutory suggestions." Read the letter.

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Expect Retrogression of Mexico E-4 and SR Final Action Dates in July, State Dept. Says

The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for the month of June 2018 notes that there continues to be high demand in the Mexico employment-based fourth preference (E-4) and special religious (SR) categories, which is expected to result in the Mexico E-4 per-country limit being reached during June. This means that retrogression of the July E-4 and SR Final Action Dates for Mexico is expected, the bulletin states. "This action will allow the Department to hold worldwide number use within the maximum allowed under the FY-2018 annual limits," the bulletin notes.

Read the Visa Bulletin for June 2018.

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132 Members of Congress Urge DHS to Continue Allowing H-4 Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants to Work

One hundred and thirty-two members of Congress sent a letter on May 16, 2018, to Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, urging maintenance of the current regulation granting work authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers. The letter states that the opportunity for H-4 visa holders to work "has made our economy stronger, while providing relief and economic support to thousands of spouses—mostly women—who have resided in the United States for years." The letter notes that many are on the path to permanent residence and would already be permanent residents if not for decades-long employment backlogs. "Rescinding the rule will hurt the competitiveness of U.S. employers and the U.S. economy, as well as H-4 accompanying spouses and their families," the letter states.

The letter notes that providing work authorization for accompanying spouses helps U.S. employers recruit and retain highly qualified employees, "putting U.S. policy on par with other countries—such as Canada and Australia—competing to attract foreign nationals." The letter notes additional reasons for allowing H-4 spouses to continue to work in the United States.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna responded on May 24, 2018, on Secretary Nielsen's behalf. He stated that the Department of Homeland Security is committed to growing the U.S. economy and creating jobs for U.S. workers, and that the public will be given the opportunity to provide feedback during a notice-and-comment period "on any revisions to regulations that DHS determines appropriate, including revisions relating to the rule providing employment authorization to certain H-4 nonimmigrants."

Read the letter and Director Cissna's response.

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USCIS Announces Launch of Online FOIA Request Processing System

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced the launch of its "Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Immigration Records SysTem (FIRST)," which the agency said "will eventually allow users to submit, manage, and receive FOIA requests entirely online." Before this change, USCIS only accepted FOIA requests by mail, fax, and email, and requestors typically received their documents on a CD by mail.

USCIS is rolling out FIRST's digital delivery of services in phases. Initially, requestors who have an immigration court date pending and file a request for documents can create an account within myUSCIS to receive documents digitally. Through their accounts, requestors can track the status of their FOIA cases and will receive an email notification when USCIS has uploaded their records. In the coming months, USCIS said, this digital delivery option will be expanded to all FOIA and Privacy Act (PA) requestors. When FIRST is fully operational, requestors will be able to use a completely digital FOIA/PA system, from online submission to retrieving and downloading responsive documents. USCIS will notify the public as additional services become available.

USCIS said that FIRST is part of the agency's "ongoing effort to move the nation's legal immigration system away from paper-based services to digital transactions."

Read the announcement.

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SAVE Goes Paperless

As of June 1, 2018, benefit-granting agencies using U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, used to verify a benefit applicant's immigration status, can no longer submit paper versions of Form G-845, Verification Request. Previously, agencies submitted paper forms to request immigration status verification and for additional verification requests. Now all agencies must submit their requests and institute additional verification electronically, which USCIS said would "drastically" reduce case processing time.

"Without the use of paper during the verification process, SAVE will improve its efficiencies by reducing mailroom workloads and the time spent receiving and reviewing paper documents," said Tammy Meckley, associate director of the Immigration Records and Identity Services Directorate (IRIS) at USCIS. "As a result, we will see a faster resolution of cases for both the requesting agency and the intended benefit recipient."

The SAVE paperless initiative is part of a larger effort by USCIS to eliminate paper-based forms, as the agency transitions to online submission of benefit requests. The agency said the SAVE Paperless Initiative "will eliminate 170,000 paper form submissions and returned responses annually, reducing resource costs and postal fees. Additionally, the transition to a paperless environment will reduce case completion time from 20 days to less than five days."

Read the USCIS announcement.

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New Publications and Items of Interest

PERM appeals presentation. "PERM Appeals: Submission and Practice Tips," a webinar presentation hosted on June 13, 2018, is posted in PDF format under the PERM Webinars link on the Office of Foreign Labor Certification's Permanent Labor Certification Program web page.

Webinars for employers and employees. The Immigrant & Employee Rights Section of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division will present a series of webinars for employers and employees.

The latest E-Verify webinar schedule from USCIS is available. Advisories and tips: Back to top

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: Back to top

Hodkinson Law Group News

After ticking a triathlon off her bucket list, Kehrela is using a different approach for her second one. She will be participating as part of a relay team this time, with her husband doing the swim, one of her daughters doing the cycle and Kehrela will run the 5k course. Her other daughter will be cheering from the side line this time around.

Kehrela Hodkinson has been named a leading individual in the field of US immigration law by Who's Who Corporate Legal 2018. She draws praise as "a superb, knowledgeable and personable lawyer with great case-management skills". Kehrela is a founding member of Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL). She has been practising U.S. immigration law since 1980 and has been in London since 1994. Her passion for assisting both individual and corporate clients resolve their US immigration issues has never waned in her 35+ years of practising law.

Sharon Noble has been practicing U.S. immigration law with Hodkinson Law Group since 1996. Her areas of expertise include non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions for corporate employees, individual investors and entrepreneurs. Ms. Noble worked with Ms. Hodkinson in London for seven years before returning to the United States in 2003. She is now Of Counsel to Hodkinson law Group, working remotely from California.

Tasha Cripe continues to assist our clients in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications of waivers of grounds of inadmissibility. She is a member of the Illinois State Bar and is actively involved in The American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program.
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Kehrela Hodkinson has once again been named as a leading individual in the field of US Corporate Immigration in Europe by "Who's Who Legal, Corporate Immigration 2018".

Sharon Noble has been practicing US immigration law since 1996. She is Of Counsel to Hodkinson Law Group, working remotely from California.

Tasha Cripe assists in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications for waivers of inadmissibility.
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