U.S. Immigration Alerts

U.S. Immigration Updates – Week of October 2, 2023 and September 2023 Monthly Review

Updates for October 2, 2023:

Shutdown Averted: DHS Releases Fact Sheet

Shortly before the deadline on September 30, 2023, Congress passed and President Biden signed H.R. 5860, a short-term funding bill to keep the federal government funded for 45 days. A shutdown is still possible after November 17.

On September 28, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security released a fact sheet on the impact of a potential shutdown on its workforce. The fact sheet noted that if there is a shutdown, nearly three in four DHS employees—more than 185,000 people—would be required to continue working through a shutdown without receiving a paycheck during that time. Those working without pay would include law enforcement officers, analysts, investigators, and disaster response officials. DHS said a shutdown would result in, among other things:

  • More than 19,000 unpaid U.S. Border Patrol agents and 25,000 unpaid Office of Field Operations officers, including CBP agents and officers working at more than 300 ports of entry and guarding more than 6,000 miles of border.
  • Stopped funding to border communities and interior cities, including funding to cover costs that border and interior communities incur associated with sheltering migrants in their cities. “Recipients may be unable to draw down on a portion of the funds, and no new awards will be made under a shutdown,” DHS said.
  • Short- and long-term effects on hiring and onboarding, including a pause in processing of nearly 2,500 tentative job offers to DHS candidates for employment.

SOURCE: DHS Fact Sheet (Sept. 28, 2023).

EAD Validity Period Increased for Certain Categories

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on September 27, 2023, that it is increasing the maximum validity period to five years for initial and renewal Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for certain noncitizens who are employment-authorized incident to status or circumstance, including those admitted as refugees, paroled as refugees, and granted asylum, as well as recipients of withholding of removal.

USCIS is also increasing the maximum validity period to five years for initial and renewal EADs for certain noncitizens who must apply for employment authorization, including applicants for asylum or withholding of removal, adjustment of status under INA § 245, and suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal.

The agency noted that its updated guidance also explains the categories of noncitizens who are automatically authorized to work (also known as being employment-authorized incident to status or circumstance) and provides information on who can present a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, to an employer as an acceptable document showing employment authorization under List C of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The guidance also clarifies that certain Afghan and Ukrainian parolees are employment-authorized incident to parole.

USCIS noted that whether the noncitizen maintains employment authorization remains dependent on their underlying status, circumstances, and EAD filing category. For example, USCIS said, “if an individual received an EAD under the (c)(9) category based on a pending adjustment of status application for the maximum validity period of 5 years, and the adjustment application is then denied, their ancillary employment authorization may be terminated before the expiration date listed on their EAD.”

SOURCE: USCIS alert (Sept. 27, 2023)

Biometric Services Fee Exempted for All Form I-539 Applicants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on September 25, 2023, that it is exempting the biometric services fee for Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Beginning October 1, 2023, applicants do not need to pay the $85 biometric services fee.

Certain filers who filed before October 1 will still be scheduled for, and should attend, an ASC appointment. In most cases, after October 1, applicants will not be scheduled to attend a biometric services appointment. However, if USCIS determines that biometrics are required, the applicant will receive a notice with information about appearing for their biometric services appointment, the agency noted.

USCIS warned:

If you mistakenly submit the biometric services fee and the payment is submitted separately from the Form I-539 fee, we will return the biometric services fee and accept the Form I-539. If you mistakenly submit the biometric services fee and the payment is combined with a paper-based Form I-539 filing fee, this is considered an incorrect filing and we will reject the Form I-539. If you mistakenly authorize a credit card payment that combines the biometric services fee with the Form I-539 application fee, we will accept the application, and only charge the application fee.

USCIS said the biometric services fee exemption will apply to all applicants filing on or after October 1, 2023, including those applicants filing Form I-539 requesting an extension of stay in, or change of status to, H-4, L-2, or E nonimmigrant for whom USCIS had previously suspended the biometrics requirement through September 30, 2023.

SOURCE: USCIS alert (Sept. 27, 2023)

Comments Requested on Proposed Revisions to Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers

Comments will be accepted until October 27, 2023, on proposed revisions to Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. Those wishing to review the revisions and submit comments may access the information collection instrument with instructions, or additional information, by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal site at https://www.regulations.gov and entering USCIS–2007–0018 in the search box.

SOURCE:  USCIS notice, 88 Fed. Reg. 66498 (Sept. 27, 2023).

September 2023 Monthly Review:

Department of Homeland Security Proposed Rule to Modernize H-1B Regulations

On September 19, 2023, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) received a proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to amend regulations governing H-1B specialty occupation workers and F-1 students who are beneficiaries of timely filed H-1B cap-subject petitions.

DHS proposes to revise regulations relating to the employer-employee relationship and flexibility for start-up entrepreneurs, implement new requirements and guidelines for site visits in connection with petitions filed by H-1B dependent employers whose basic business information cannot be validated through commercially available data, and provide flexibility on the employment start date listed on the H-1B petition in limited circumstances.

The proposed rule also includes details on addressing cap-gap issues for F-1 students changing to H-1B status, reducing misuse and fraud in the H-1B registration system, and clarifying the requirement that an amended or new petition be filed where there are material changes, including streamlining notification requirements relating to certain worksite changes, among other provisions.

After OMB reviews the proposed rule, it will be published in the Federal Register for public comment.

SOURCE: Reginfo, Proposed Rule (Sept. 19, 2023) · Reginfo, Pending Review (Sept. 19, 2023)

USCIS Updates Policy Guidance for Extraordinary Ability and Outstanding Professor or Researcher EB-1 Immigrant Visas Classifications

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on September 12, 2023, that it is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify the types of evidence the agency will evaluate to determine eligibility for extraordinary ability and outstanding professor or researcher EB-1 immigrant visa classifications.

An extraordinary ability EB-1 immigrant visa classification does not require a job offer, and it is filed by a person who has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, and whose achievements have been recognized in the field through extensive documentation.

An outstanding professor or researcher EB-1 immigrant visa classification is filed by a U.S. employer on behalf of a professor or researcher who is internationally recognized as outstanding in a specific academic area to work in a tenured or tenure-track position or a comparable position to conduct research.

USCIS explained that the new clarifying guidance enumerates and describes the evidence, or qualified comparable evidence, that meets the relevant evidentiary criteria for these petitions. Additionally, USCIS clarified the totality of the circumstances approach used by officers to evaluate the relevant evidentiary criteria, as well as outlined a list of positive factors that officers should consider when adjudicating these matters. While the examples of relevant evidence and factors have a focus on science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields, USCIS states that the list of examples is non-exhaustive and that while the listed factors are more relevant to STEM fields, the guidance applies to all extraordinary ability persons and outstanding professors or researchers.

SOURCE: · USCIS alert (September 12, 2023). · Policy Manual, Volume 6, Part F, Chapter 2 – Extraordinary Ability (Current as of September 12, 2023) · Policy Manual, Volume 6, Part F, Chapter 3 – Outstanding Professor or Researcher (Current as of September 12, 2023)

Department of State Jettisons 2019 Public Charge Restrictions

On September 5, 2023, the Department of State issued a final rule to discard the regulatory amendments included in a 2019 rule regarding ineligibility for immigration benefits based on an applicant’s likelihood to become a public charge. Before 2019, only public cash assistance for income maintenance or long-term institutionalization at government expense was considered in the public charge inadmissibility assessment. The 2019 rule expanded the public charge test by adding several other factors that would be considered in determining whether an individual is likely to become a public charge. The 2019 rule raised concerns about fear and confusion preventing immigrants, including children, from accessing government services and benefits available to them.

This final rule will take effect on October 5, 2023. By abandoning the 2019 amendments, the DOS will continue to apply the regulatory language and Foreign Affairs Manual guidance in use before 2019.

SOURCE: DOS Final Rule (Sept. 5, 2023)

Department of State Conducting Proof of Concept Testing

On September 8, 2023, the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Bureau of Consular Affairs announced it is developing and testing a digital visa authorization (DVA) capability instead of the traditional process of printed visas placed in applicants’ passports. The U.S. Embassy in Dublin is conducting proof of concept testing with a small number of K-1 visas. If successful, DOS plans to expand the DVA to other visa classifications and other posts abroad. There was no timeline indicated in this announcement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Document Validation program will notify airlines digitally when a traveler has valid travel credentials, including a DVA. DOS will provide more information and updates as they become available.

SOURCE: Travel.state.gov Visa News, U.S. Department of State (September 8, 2023)

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