August 2019 Visa Bulletin Shows Extensive Retrogression Across Employment-Based Categories

The August 2019 Visa Bulletin, released by the U.S. Department of State earlier this month, shows substantial retrogression affecting employment-based categories worldwide. The State Department expects the retrogression to be short lived and anticipates that the final action dates should return to those listed in the July 2019 Visa Bulletin by the start of fiscal year 2020 in October 2019.

Congress Considers Removing Country Caps for Employment-Based Immigrant Visas and Proposes Changes to H-1B Visa Program

On July 10, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, by a vote of 365 to 65. The bill is intended to reduce lengthy immigrant visa (green card) wait times by eliminating per-country caps for employment-based green cards. In addition, senators have reportedly reached an agreement on a version of a companion bill (S. 386) in the U.S. Senate that presently includes an amendment imposing tighter restrictions on recruitment and creating new reporting requirements for H-1B visa sponsors.

Supreme Court to Hear DACA Appeal

The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the appeals over the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during its next term. In its order, the Court consolidated three pending DACA appeals and granted one hour for oral argument. The Court is expected to decide, once and for all, whether the Trump administration can end the DACA program.

USCIS Caseload Redistribution May Mean Shorter Processing Times but More Travel for Green Card and Naturalization Applicants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be redistributing certain naturalization and green card cases to field offices with lighter caseloads for processing. In its announcement, the agency said that since the end of 2015, it has received more green card and naturalization applications than expected.

Dreamer Bill Passed by House, Not Expected to Advance in Senate

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would cancel and prohibit removal proceedings and provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 2.5 million immigrants. The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which passed by a vote of 237 to 187, is geared toward protecting foreign nationals who entered the United States when they were under 18 (often referred to as “Dreamers”) and those granted humanitarian protections under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

New State Department Social Media Requirement Expected to Cause Delays

Foreign nationals are now required to provide a five-year history of social media usernames, telephone numbers, and email addresses when applying for U.S. nonimmigrant or immigrant visas. The plan to require more information from visa applicants has been in the works since 2017, when President Donald Trump called on the U.S. Department of State to enhance the vetting of individuals seeking immigration benefits from the United States. The State Department already requires social media histories from visa applicants deemed to present a heightened security risk to the United States, but this new requirement will greatly expand the number of applicants subjected to enhanced vetting.

DHS Spring Regulatory Agenda Projects Changes to H-1B Visas, the Rescission of H-4 Work Authorization, Increased Fees, and More

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released its spring 2019 regulatory agenda, highlighting the agency’s rulemaking priorities through 2019. While many of the agenda items appear to be carryovers from agendas past, they serve as continuing reminders of the Trump administration’s immigration-related goals.

USCIS Provides Updates Regarding Premium Processing for FY 2020 Cap Cases

Premium processing has historically been available for all H-1B applications filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, from time to time, USCIS has suspended premium processing. On March 19, 2019, USCIS announced that it would use a staggered approach to premium processing for the fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap filing season, with two distinct phases for those cases filed in the lottery conducted in April 2019.

Changes Ahead for H-1B Cap Season

Next year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is likely to implement its new electronic H-1B cap registration process, and the H-1B cap season as we know it will end. No longer will employers and attorneys be required to prepare entire petitions for every case submitted in the lottery.

Representatives Raise Concerns About Low Staffing at Canadian Border

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a plan to temporarily transfer approximately 750 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers from the Canadian border to the Mexican border to help address the influx of asylum seekers from Central America. The transferred officers are being reassigned from their posts along the 5,525-mile Canadian border, creating worries about the potential for travel delays at busy ports of entry.

President Proposes New Merit-Based Green Card System

On May 16, 2019, President Donald Trump outlined, in broad strokes, his new immigration plan. The proposal delineates two primary goals: securing the U.S. border and protecting American workers. Most notably, the plan includes the introduction of a new “Build America” visa that would replace existing green card preference categories and limit family-based immigration in favor of a merit-based points system.

DHS Announces That It Will Issue 30,000 Additional H-2B Visas in Response to High Demand

After a tumultuous filing period for the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2019, employers that rely on H-2B seasonal workers received some good news. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has agreed to issue up to 30,000 additional H-2B visas for the second half of FY 2019, which runs through September 30, 2019.

Judge Orders Nationwide Preliminary Injunction Blocking Enforcement of Automatic Accrual of Unlawful Presence

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the Trump administration’s August 2018 policy memorandum that changed when “unlawful presence” accrues for foreign students and exchange visitors.

President Trump Nominates New Director of ICE

President Donald Trump has nominated Mark Morgan to serve as the new director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Morgan spent 20 years in the Federal Bureau of Investigation before being appointed chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection during the final months of the Obama administration.

Trump Administration Focuses on Deterring Visa Overstays

President Donald J. Trump has issued a memorandum aimed at reducing the number of visa overstays in the United States. The administration says those overstays undermine the integrity of the immigration system and harm the national interest. The memorandum calls on the secretaries of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to propose a plan to address and reduce the number of foreign nationals who remain in the United States beyond their period of authorized stay.

Now We Wait: What to Keep in Mind After Filing an H-1B Petition With USCIS

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has completed the selection process for H-1B cap subject petitions filed for fiscal year (FY) 2020. On April 10, 2019, the agency ran computerized lotteries for both regular cap petitions and those subject to the U.S. advanced degree exemption after determining it had received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the congressionally mandated quota for each category.

DOL Issues Guidance on H-1B Notice Requirements

The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has published a bulletin highlighting the H-1B notice and posting procedures with which employers must comply if they elect to provide electronic notice of their intent to hire H-1B nonimmigrant workers. The bulletin places particular emphasis on compliance issues when third-party worksites are involved.