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.

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.

USCIS Revises Form I-9: What’s New?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a new edition of the I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form on July 17, 2017. Employers may now use the revised version, dated 07/17/17 N, or continue using the Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 N through September 17, 2017.

STEM OPT 7-Month Extension Application Deadline Coming Up on Monday, August 8

On March 11, 2016, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule pertaining to optional practical training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). This rule permits employers to retain, for a longer period, the talents of individuals currently dependent on an F-1 nonimmigrant student visa. As a transitional measure, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has provided certain students currently holding 17-month employment authorization documents (EADs) under the STEM OPT provision with a limited window in which to apply for the additional 7 months of OPT.

USCIS Announces Date for Start of H-1B Cap Premium Processing

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that on May 12, 2016, it will it will begin the 15 calendar day processing timeline for cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting premium processing. USCIS provides an expedited “premium processing” service for certain employment-based petitions. For non-cap-subject petitions, including H-1B and other nonimmigrant visa classifications, the 15-day processing period typically begins on the date USCIS receives the request. However, for cap-subject H-1B petitions filed in April, USCIS has historically taken additional time to complete intake and computerized random selection of the petitions for further processing prior to starting the 15-day adjudication period.

USCIS Reaches FY 2017 H-1B Cap

As of April 7, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reached the H-1B quota or “cap” limitation for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has not yet confirmed the total number of petitions received for the 65,000 “general” quota or the 20,000 “advanced degree” quota but will likely confirm the total number in the following weeks. Due to the high number of petitions received, USCIS has not yet confirmed the date it will complete its computerized random selection or “lottery” of H-1B petitions for further processing.

New STEM OPT Extension Rule Brings Welcomed Relief to Employers and International Students

On March 9, 2016, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an advance copy of the final rule pertaining to optional practical training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). The official version of the final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2016. The new rule will permit employers to retain the talents of certain individuals currently dependent on an F-1 nonimmigrant student visa for a longer period. USCIS will begin accepting applications under this provision on May 10, 2016. Prior to that date, USCIS will continue to accept applications per the existing 17-month STEM OPT procedures.

DHS Proposes New STEM OPT Extension Rules

On October 16, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) concerning new rules for extending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for international students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The notice will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, October 19, 2015, and will likely be subject to a 30-day comment period.

West Virginia Amends State Rule Verifying Legal Employment Status of Workers

A new legislative rule amending the procedures required for West Virginia employers to verify the legal employment status of their workers went into effect in West Virginia. Pursuant to section 21-1B-4 of the West Virginia Code, all employers are required to keep “records of proof of the legal status or authorization to work of all employees.” However, the state of West Virginia has now amended this rule in a number of ways that may conflict with federal Form I-9 employment eligibility verification requirements.

Temporary Suspension of USCIS ‘Premium Processing’ for H-1B Extensions

On May 19, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a temporary suspension of its “premium processing” program as it relates to H-1B extensions in the United States. The suspension will be in effect from May 26, 2015, until July 27, 2015. Premium processing is an optional USCIS program whereby, for an additional government fee of $1,225, the USCIS will adjudicate petitions in 15 calendar days instead of the usual time period of several months.