Employers in the United States that sponsor foreign nationals for work visas may already be familiar with the various barriers their employees are facing when entering the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 22, 2020, the Trump administration issued a presidential proclamation suspending the entry of individuals to the United States on select nonimmigrant visas, including H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 visa holders, as well as their dependents.
On June 16, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a second extension of its prior guidance relaxing the in-person verification requirements of Form I-9 for employers operating remotely due to COVID-19.
On May 29, 2020, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation suspending the entry of a small subset of Chinese nationals that seek to study or conduct research in the United States, citing a threat to the “long-term economic vitality” of the United States “and the safety and security of the American people.” The accompanying press release notes that the proclamation “will not affect students who come to the United States for legitimate reasons.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing via Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, in phases during the month of June.
Because of travel restrictions, such as canceled flights and stay-at-home orders, the COVID-19 pandemic may have significantly limited a nonresident alien’s ability to leave the United States, regardless of whether the individual contracted the COVID-19 virus. An unexpected extended stay in the United States, however, could affect an individual’s tax residency classification or eligibility for certain tax treaty benefits. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released Revenue Procedure 2020-20 to address the potential tax consequences for eligible individuals impacted by the COVID-19 travel restrictions.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will reopen some domestic offices to resume non-emergency services on June 4, 2020. USCIS suspended routine in-person services on March 18, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its ongoing response to the COVID-19 health crisis, the United States has announced travel restrictions for Brazil. President Donald Trump’s proclamation suspends the entry of all immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present in Brazil during the 14-day period before seeking to enter the United States.
Following the March 10, 2020, decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in ITSERVE Alliance, Inc. v. Cissna, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has agreed in a settlement to rescind the 2018 third-party worksites memorandum (PM-602-0157) in its entirety no later than October 13, 2020.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently asked Congress for $1.2 billion in emergency funding in order to continue operations. USCIS also intends to impose a 10 percent surcharge on new immigration applications to repay U.S. taxpayers for this emergency funding.
On May 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced an extension of its prior guidance relaxing the in-person verification requirements of Form I-9 for employers operating remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 11, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy update in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that provides H-1B physicians holding J-1 foreign medical graduate waivers some limited flexibility in readjusting their hours and placement sites.
On May 12, 2020, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, the latest effort to respond to the ongoing coronavirus health care crisis. Among other provisions, the $3 trillion relief package would provide $1 trillion in aid to states, $75 billion for coronavirus testing and related healthcare measures, and another round of direct stimulus payments to individuals.
On May 5, 2020, a bipartisan group of senators, including Senator David Perdue (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (Senate Bill 3599). The goal of the proposed legislation is to temporarily address the country’s shortage of doctors and nurses, strengthen the healthcare workforce, and improve healthcare access during the COVID-19 crisis.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies and employees to adjust to new work arrangements, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also reacted by temporarily relaxing a few of the I-9 verification requirements.
On May 1, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a policy update regarding assisting applicants and petitioners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the press release, USCIS is extending the deadline to respond to certain agency requests.
Two federal courts recently issued decisions in favor of H-1B employers that could have an impact on the adjudication of H-1B petitions, especially information technology (IT) firms and those that seek to place employees at third-party worksites.
On April 24, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it intends to reopen field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) beginning on or after June 4, 2020.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will consider granting a second 30-day period of Satisfactory Departure to Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers who were already granted Satisfactory Departure but who are unable to return to their home countries due to COVID-19.
On April 22, 2020, the Trump administration issued an executive order suspending the entry of individuals seeking entry to the United States on an immigrant visa.
On April 13, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data entry and the generation of receipt notices would be delayed until at least May 1, 2020, for fiscal year (FY) 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions.
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.
On April 2, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is holding off on plans to issue additional H-2B visas. DHS had previously agreed to make an additional 35,000 visas available to seasonal employers after the visa quota (or cap) had been met for the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2020.
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.
On March 30, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the following policy updates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 23, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published answers to frequently asked questions by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) stakeholders about the impact of COVID-19 on SEVP-certified schools and students on F and M visas.
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.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices will remain closed to the public until at least April 7, 2020. The closure applies to routine in-person services at USCIS field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers (ASCs), although emergency services may be available in limited circumstances.