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.

USCIS to Begin Accepting Electronic Registrations on March 1, 2020

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it would begin accepting electronic registrations for H-1B candidates subject to the annual quota for fiscal year (FY) 2021 on March 1, 2020. The registration period will run through at least March 20, 2020. USCIS intends to notify selected registrants no later than March 31, 2020.

USCIS Proposes Significant Fee Hikes

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a new fee schedule designed to mitigate an approximate $1.3 billion shortfall in the annual budget of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). According to DHS, immigration fees would increase by a weighted average of 21 percent across the board. In reality, however, the fee changes would not affect all immigration benefits equally. Fees for some commonly used classifications are set to go up significantly.

Public Charge Rule Update: Making Sense of All the Moving Pieces

The Trump administration’s public charge rule is on hold, at least temporarily. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State each introduced a version of the rule. Both versions were scheduled for implementation on October 15, 2019, and would have established expansive new tests to be used by those agencies when determining if certain visa applicants were likely to become public charges—a determination that would generally make them inadmissible to the United States.

DHS Promulgates Public Charge Rule to “Promote Self-Sufficiency,” Penalize Reliance on Public Benefits

On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the final version of its public charge rule in the Federal Register. According to a statement by DHS, the rule is intended to formalize the way in which the agency determines if an individual applying for a nonimmigrant visa or adjustment of status (to obtain a green card) is likely to become a public charge—a determination that would generally make the person inadmissible to the United States.

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.

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.

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.

Executive Order Leaves Current H-1B System in Place, But Calls for Reforms

On April 18, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order (EO), “Buy American and Hire American,” which aims to “stimulate economic growth” and “ensure the integrity of the immigration system.”  Although this action provides impetus to federal agencies to propose changes to the U.S. immigration system, the EO itself does not present an immediate impact to immigration programs.