Biden Administration Issues Restrictions on Travel From India

On April 30, 2021, the Biden administration issued a proclamation that implements restrictions for travelers from India, due to concerns regarding COVID-19. Pursuant to the proclamation, noncitizens who have been physically present in India within 14 days of travel to the United States will be barred entry, unless eligible for an exception. The restrictions are scheduled to take effect on May 4, 2021, at 12:01 am eastern daylight time.

District Court Invalidates New DOL Wage Regulations for a Third Time in December 2020

On December 14, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a motion for partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs to invalidate recent regulations from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which dramatically increased the prevailing wage methodology that is commonly used for various types of immigration applications. This ruling is the third such loss for the agency in December 2020.

State Department Issues Guidance on National Interest Exceptions to Proclamations Suspending Entry of Certain Foreign Nationals

On August 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued guidance on scenarios that may qualify for a “national interest exception” under Presidential Proclamation 10052 of June 22, 2020 (“Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak”) and Presidential Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020 (“Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak”). Citing economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump issued the proclamations and temporarily suspended the entry of certain foreign nationals into the United States. Although both proclamations referenced exceptions for individuals “whose entry would be in the national interest,” formal guidance had not been released prior to this announcement.

New Executive Order Calls for Review of Federal Contracts and Directs Agencies to Take Action to Protect U.S. Workers

On August 3, 2020, the Trump Administration issued an executive order  (EO) directing the secretaries of the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to “take action … to protect United States workers from any adverse effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B [workers].”

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.

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.

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.