USCIS to Transfer Cases for Interviews Outside of Normal Jurisdictions

USCIS announced that it will implement a national strategy to decrease differences in processing times based on location for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This will include transferring cases to other jurisdictions.

As USCIS shifts caseloads between field offices, USCIS may schedule applicants to appear for an interview at a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction. Applicants may also receive an interview appointment notice or other types of notices (such as a Request for Evidence) from a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction. However, these caseload changes will not affect where applicants attend their biometrics appointments. USCIS will still direct them to the nearest application support center.

Applicants should follow the instructions on any notices they receive from USCIS.

Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division Announces Movement Toward More Rigorous Enforcement of H-1B and H-2B Programs

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has disclosed that there is an active movement towards more rigorous enforcement of the H-1B and H-2B Programs. This follows the recent publication of Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2019-3 (detailed in our previous Immigration Alert).

WHD reiterated LCA posting notices cannot be “confusing, buried among other notices, unclear, or too stale” and that notice must be made to all affected workers at the site who share similar responsibilities to the H-1B worker (not just limited to the SOC occupational classification).

E-Verify Warns Employers Not to Accept Restricted Social Security Cards for I-9 Verification

E-Verify recently reminded employers not to accept restricted Social Security cards as List C documents on the I-9 work authorization verification form. Form I-9 List C documents verify an employee’s authorization to work. Employers should not accept a restricted Social Security card that is stamped with one of the following annotations: “Valid for Work Only with DHS Authorization,” “Valid for Work Only with INS Authorization,” or “Not Valid for Employment.”

DHS Increases Fees for International Students, Exchange Visitors, and SEVP-Certified Schools

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has finalized changes to fees charged by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to international students, exchange visitors and SEVP-certified schools. These new fees took effect on June 24, 2019.

Fee increases applicable to students and exchange visitors include:

  • The I-901 SEVIS Fee for F and M international students has increased from $200 to $350.
  • DHS will maintain the $35 I-901 SEVIS Fee for J exchange visitors in the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work travel program participant categories, but increase the full I-901 SEVIS Fee for other J exchange visitors from $180 to $220.

Supreme Court to Review Legality of the Termination of DACA Program

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will hear arguments over the legality of the Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.

The DACA policy was implemented in 2012 to allow some individuals with unlawful presence in the United States after being brought to the country as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S. In 2017, the Administration announced its decision to end the DACA Program.

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari to hear three (3) cases on this matter next term. A decision is expected around June 2020. All three (3) cases challenge the Administration’s authority to terminate the program based on the Administrative Procedure Act and 5th Amendment due process concerns.

United States Supports Extension of Validity for Venezuelan Passports

The Venezuelan opposition-controlled National Assembly recently acknowledged the significant obstacles for Venezuelans in extending or obtaining new passports, and issued a decree extending the validity of already issued Venezuelan passports for five (5) years.

The U.S. Department of State announced on June 7th that it will recognize the decree and accept Venezuelan passports accordingly. This is positive news for Venezuelans applying for U.S. visas and seeking entry into the United States, as their passports will now be considered valid for an additional five (5) years beyond the printed date of expiration.

USCIS Expands ‘FIRST’ Digital FOIA System

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is expanding its digital Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Immigration Records System, FIRST. USCIS said FIRST is the only system in the U.S. government that allows users to submit and track FOIA requests and receive documents digitally. FOIA entitles every person access to certain information from the federal government. FOIA requestors with a USCIS online account can submit requests online for their own records.

Acting CBP Commissioner to Step Down After Two Months

John Sanders, Acting Commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), announced that he is resigning effective July 5, 2019, after only two (2) months on the job. He took on the role in April after Kevin McAleenan, former CBP Commissioner, became Acting Secretary of Homeland Security after Kirstjen Nielsen’s departure. The announcement follows reports of substandard conditions for migrant children being held in detention.

Acting Commissioner Sanders reportedly is expected to be replaced by Mark Morgan, who has been directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for several months. He was formerly Chief of the Border Patrol.

USCIS International Offices No Longer Accept Form I-407 Starting July 1st, 2019

Starting July 1, 2019, international offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer accept Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence Status. On that date and going forward, all Forms I-407 must be sent by mail to the address below. USCIS anticipates that processing of the form, from receipt to completion, will take 60 days or less, not including the mailing time to and from outside the United States (and please note that given the below address is a post office box, these notices cannot be sent via courier services like FedEx and UPS).

USCIS Eastern Forms Center Attn: I-407 Unit 124 Leroy Road PO Box 567 Williston, VT 05495

For various reasons, foreign nationals who have obtained Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) status in the United States sometimes choose to voluntarily abandon their LPR status. When these individuals choose to live in another country and maintain residency there, it is a best practice to submit a Form I-407 so that a record of their abandonment of LPR status is filed with USCIS. Once the Form I-407 has been accepted and the abandonment is recorded and acknowledged by USCIS, the former LPR-status individual no longer has to be concerned about certain tax requirements to file.

Update: July 2019 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State released its Visa Bulletin for July 2019. There was no advancement in the EB-1 category (with the exception of China, which advanced approximately two (2) months). The Department of State does not expect advancement in the EB-1 India category through end of the fiscal year, and predicts that there will be regression in the EB-1 Worldwide category as early as August 2019.

The Department of State also predicts that the EB-2 and EB-3 Worldwide categories will not remain current through FY2019 and will probably have a Final Action Date as early as August 2019. Any eligible individuals in this category should file their Adjustment of Status applications before the end of July (to the extent possible). EB-2 China will advance three (3) months and EB-3 China advanced 3.5 months. EB-2 India is expected to continue advancing at a pace of up to one (1) week per month until the limit for the fiscal year is reached. Little advancement is expected in EB-3 India in the immediate future.

USCIS determined that for adjustment of status filings for July 2019, the Dates for Filing chart must be used for family-based preference filings and the Final Action Dates chart must be used for employment-based preference filings. For family-sponsored filings for July 2019, applicants in the F2A category may file using the Final Action Dates chart in the July 2019 Visa Bulletin.