The USCIS has announced that its offices would re-open to the public on June 4,2020. We are hopeful that other services including premium processing availability will shortly follow.
In a recent stakeholder message, a copy of which can be found here, USCIS has confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause delays in data entry and notice generation for CAP cases. Even though cases could be filed starting April 1, 2020, USCIS does not expect to be able to get notices out for cases filed until May 1, 2020. Cases will still retain their original receipt date for petitions that have time sensitive issues and USCIS notes that they are mindful of these time sensitive cases. However, USCIS still expects this to cause a delay in adjudication of CAP cases this year. USCIS will not extend the original filing window in the registration notice and there is no new update on when premium processing will be reinstated. As more updates become available we will share with our clients.
Yesterday, the USCIS announced that it was extending the closure of its offices to in person interviews or appointments until May 3rd. If you had an I-485 interview scheduled, you will receive a new notice with a new date. Earlier this week, the USCIS also announced that for EAD renewals, they will use previously submitted fingerprints instead of requiring new fingerprints (sounds like they watched an episode of Law and Order and realized that fingerprints do not change). We applaud the accommodations the USCIS is making during this crisis.
The US has announced agreements with both Mexico and Canada to close the border for all but essential travel. Read the Fact Sheet and announcements here. All non-essential travel has been prohibited. We believe this prohibits the issuance of new TN's for Canadians. For Mexican nationals, a new TN requires a visa issued from a US Consulate which are all closed at present. For persons who already are in possession of a TN or other working status, for example, an L visa, it is not clear whether you would be permitted to re-enter the US after a trip to Canada but, we are advising you not to travel unless you are prepared to remain in Canada until the border is opened again.
Effective today, the USCIS has suspended premium processing for I-129 and I-140 petitions. Cases previously filed as premium will continue to be adjudicated under the premium guidelines. Cases filed yesterday to be received today by the USCIS will have their premium filing fee returned.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing in the U.S., the USCIS has closed its offices to the public until at least April 1, 2020. For legal immigrants, the major impacts are the cancellation of I-485 interviews and I-539 biometric appointments for family members. Until the offices are reopened to the public, no rescheduling will be done. If you have an I-485 interview scheduled and were holding off on filing for a renewal of your EAD/AP in anticipation of an approval, I'd recommend you file the extension.
In response to the COVID-19 virus, many US Consulates have closed for visa services and are not conducting interviews or issuing non-immigrant or immigrant visas. The press release from the US Consulate in India can be found here and from the US Consulate in Mexico here. This is a very fluid situation so please check with your Consulate if you have an appointment scheduled. It is expected that these closings will significantly disrupt the operations of many IT companies. Here is a nice summary article. In addition, many H-1b and L-1 workers may be stranded abroad unable to get new visas issued and return to their US based jobs.
On March 12th, President Trump imposed a ban on any person with a visa from traveling into the U.S. if they are from or have been in a Schengen country in the 14 days prior to their attempted entry to the U.S. Schengen countries include 26 European countries. There are a number of exceptions to the entry ban (including all persons who have had at least a 3 night stay at a Trump resort and/or played a round of golf or at least I think that is in there). The ban applies to all non-immigrant visas and new immigrant visas and is expected to last 30 days. A copy of the proclamation can be found here. Update 3-16-2020 UK and Ireland have been added to the entry ban.
For those of you who need a bid of levity this morning and a break from the news of coronavirus, stock market plunging, retrogression, and shortened H-1b approval notices, take a look at this decision A U.S. Federal Court declared the appointment of acting USCIS Director, Ken Cuccinelli illegal and referenced Dwight of The Office. Judge Moss pointed out that “there may well be a difference between one who serves as ‘the assistant regional manager’ and ‘the assistant to the regional manager.’ But either way, that person is, at best, second in command. Here, the acting secretary created a position that is second in command in name only.” In keeping with their philosophy for an outright disregard for the rule of law, the administration is ignoring this ruling and Cuccinelli remains. Policy memos and directives put into effect during the Cucinnelli tenure may all be at risk of being struck down.
On Jan. 31, 2020, USCIS published the Form I-9 Federal Register notice announcing a new version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. This new version contains minor changes to the form and its instructions. Employers should begin using this updated form as of Jan. 31, 2020. Employers may continue using the prior version of the form (Rev. 07/17/2017 N) until April 30, 2020. After that date, they can only use the new form with the 10/21/2019 version date. The version date is located in the lower left corner of the form. The major changes are to the form's instructions, which include: 1. Clarified who can act as an authorized representative on behalf of an employer 2. Updated USCIS website addresses 3. Provided clarifications on acceptable documents for Form I-9 4. Updated the process for requesting paper Forms I-9 5. Updated the DHS Privacy Notice