Immigration Considerations due to COVID-19 for E-1/2, L-1, O-1, TN and F-1 Student workers

As employers work through issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to evaluate the immigration considerations for employees on various work visas. Some of the most common alternatives to H-1B visas include foreign nationals who hold E-1, E-2, L-1, O-1, TN, and F-1 visas. While these types of work visas do not have the same legal requirements relating to prevailing wages and changes in work locations as H-1B visas, there are important considerations for these employees as well.

CARES Act: Foreign National and Immigrant Eligibility for Paid Leave, Unemployment Benefits, and Stimulus Rebates

On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, intended to stimulate the national economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act provides $2 trillion in direct financial assistance, including paid leave, unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, and rebates to eligible individuals. Immigrants and foreign nationals in the United States may be eligible for some or all of the listed benefits, depending on the circumstances.

USCIS Completes FY 2021 H-1B Selection Process

On March 27, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has completed the initial H-1B selection process for fiscal year (FY) 2021. This was the first time USCIS used an electronic registration system to conduct the selection lottery. USCIS plans to notify petitioners with selected registrations by March 31, 2020.

H-1B Considerations in Context: COVID-19, Remote Work, Office Closures, Furloughs, and Layoffs

Employers are facing numerous issues in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including remote work, temporary office closures, furloughs, and layoffs. These issues may have particular implications for U.S. employees holding H-1B specialty occupation visas, as they are typically required to remain productive in order to maintain their legal status.

DHS Relaxes I-9 Verification Requirements During COVID-19 National Emergency

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on March 20, 2020, that it will relax the in-person verification requirements of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification for employers operating remotely due to COVID-19. Beginning March 20, 2020, employers will not be required to review an employee’s identity and/or employment authorization documents while in the employee’s physical presence.

USCIS Suspends Premium Processing

On March 20, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the immediate and temporary suspension of premium processing services for all Forms I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Forms I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers due to COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension includes new premium processing requests for H-1B petitions, including cap-subject petitions for fiscal year (FY) 2021, and supersedes the FY 2021 premium processing schedule announced on March 16, 2020.

CBP Updates Satisfactory Departure Process for Travelers Forced to Remain in the United States Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Beginning March 16, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began allowing certain travelers the opportunity to make a Satisfactory Departure request directly at a port of entry if, due to COVID-19–related travel issues, a traveler is unable to depart the United States before his or her period of admission expires.

Immigration Considerations for Coronavirus Response Plans: Key Questions and Answers

The continuing spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the United States has caused employers to consider implementing contingency plans to help curb the spread of the disease and protect their workforces. Many companies are now restricting nonessential travel outside of the United States. Companies are also increasingly instructing their employees to work from home.

UK Government Releases Policy Statement on Points-Based Immigration System

The United Kingdom (UK) formally left the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020, and entered a transition period that will officially end on December 31, 2020. The UK and EU have agreed that EU nationals who move to the UK before January 1, 2021, will be permitted to remain in the UK. However, they must apply under the EU Settlement Scheme by June 30, 2021, to secure confirmation of their immigration status.

USCIS Reaches H-2B Cap for Second Half of Fiscal Year 2020; Lawmakers Request Additional Visas

On February 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached the H-2B cap for the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2020. USCIS received significantly more petitions than there were H-2B visas available for the remainder of the fiscal year, requiring the agency to conduct a computer-generated lottery to select a sufficient number of H-2B petitions for adjudication.

Supreme Court Clears Department of Homeland Security’s Public Charge Rule to Go Forward Nationwide; Department of State Follows Suit

In a 5–4 decision on February 21, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Wolf v. Cook County, Illinois (No. 19A905) in favor of staying an Illinois district court’s injunction blocking the Trump administration’s public charge rule. This injunction had been limited to Illinois residents only—a distinction that initially kept it in place when the Supreme Court overturned a nationwide injunction issued by a New York federal court in January.

DHS Restricts New York Residents’ Enrollment and Renewal Eligibility for Trusted Traveler Programs

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has suspended New Yorkers’ eligibility to apply for or renew their enrollment in four Trusted Traveler Programs (TTPs) administered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The suspension went into effect on February 5, 2020, in response to New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, commonly called the “Green Light Law.”

USCIS to Begin Implementing Public Charge Rule as of February 24

On January 30, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin implementing the new public charge regulations on February 24, 2020. The regulations broadly expand the list of public benefits that can be considered, as well as the discretion given to immigration officers when deciding whether someone is “more likely than not” to become a public charge.