COVID-19 Immigration Agency Suspensions and Cancellations 3/29/2020 Update

The Duane Morris Immigration Team is dedicated to providing the most up to date information and zealous advocacy on behalf of our clients during the COVID-19 emergency.  Below we have compiled information from various U.S. agencies on all aspects of travel, USCIS appointments, ICE activities and Removal Proceedings. This post will be updated as changes develop. Duane Morris has developed a COVID-19 Strategy Team which is providing regular updates on all business and employment related matters impacted by the COVID -19 pandemic. A second webinar on Business Continuity Planning for a Pandemic will be held on Wednesday, March 18. To register, click here.

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USCIS Announces I-9 and E-Verify Timing Waivers and Modifications in the wake of COVID-19

COVID-19 social distancing directives, State and Federal agency closures and remote work requirements have made it impossible for employers to comply with the normal I-9 and E-Verify regulations on timing and review of employee documents. To address these concerns, USCIS has announced several measures to extend time frames and loosen its normally strict requirements. In this blog, we discuss USCIS suspension of the I-9 requirement to review physical documents,  an automatic 60 day extension for all I-9 audit responses, acceptance of expired documents for new hires who are unable to update driver licenses and state IDs, as well as E-verify suspension of the 8 day response time for responding to Tentative Nonconfirmations. Continue reading “USCIS Announces I-9 and E-Verify Timing Waivers and Modifications in the wake of COVID-19”

South Africa Bans Tourists and Implements Immigration Procedures for those Unable to Leave the Country in wake of COVID-19

The South Africa Minister of Department of Home Affairs released a Directive clarifying the implementation of COVID-19 Epidemic travel ban and associated restrictions.  Tourist visas normally issued upon entry have been suspended,  visas of Chinese and Iranian nationals revoked, and most travelers banned. For those unable to leave the South Africa, visas will be extended until July 31, 2020. Continue reading “South Africa Bans Tourists and Implements Immigration Procedures for those Unable to Leave the Country in wake of COVID-19”

Switzerland Responds to COVID-19; Travel Restrictions and Immigration Processing Limitations

In order to maintain Switzerland’s capacity to cope with the COVID 19 epidemic, and in particular to guarantee the conditions for an adequate supply of care and therapeutic products to the population, the Federal Council issued exceptional entry restrictions at the border on 13 March 2020 and has updated these on 25 March 2020. In this connection, and in light of the fact that several airlines have in between ceased operations on certain routes, the State Secretariat for Migration has issued instructions to the cantonal migration authorities, Swiss representations abroad and the border security authorities. Continue reading “Switzerland Responds to COVID-19; Travel Restrictions and Immigration Processing Limitations”

Luxembourg COVID-19 Travel Ban and Entry Restrictions

Third-country nationals are no longer permitted to enter the territory of the Grand Duchy. The restriction was put in place, initially, for a one month period starting on March 18, 2020.  There are several exemptions from this ban, which are discussed below, including for  Belgian, French, and German cross-border workers. Continue reading “Luxembourg COVID-19 Travel Ban and Entry Restrictions”

Australia Announces Unprecedented Travel Ban for Citizens and Permanent Residents in the wake of Covid-19

The Australian government has announced on March 25, 2020 that a travel ban has been introduced   which will prevent Australian citizens and permanent residents from departing Australia, except in exceptional circumstances. This is in addition to the recently announced entry bans applicable to any non-Australian citizens or permanent residents who have not been granted prior permission to enter Australia on exceptional circumstance grounds. Continue reading “Australia Announces Unprecedented Travel Ban for Citizens and Permanent Residents in the wake of Covid-19”

Canada Immigration Information on Closure of Land Border with the United States

  • Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT last night, the Canada-U.S. land border closed to all non-essential travel. This closure will initially be in effect for 30 days. Non-essential travel includes travel for tourism or recreational purposes. Trade and commerce will continue. The definition of what constitutes “essential” travel remains open to interpretation. Minister Blair today referred to “essential” as serving and keeping Canadians healthy and safe. If you are concerned as to whether your employees’ upcoming travel would be considered “essential”, please contact us to discuss. Please also refer to 2. below for details about further developments which are expected to become effective next week. The official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office can be found at https://bit.ly/2J0DJiD

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USCIS Suspends Premium Processing for all I-129s and I-140s

USCIS announced at 2:19 PM on 3/20/2020 that Premium Processing services for I-129 (E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2.) and I-140 (EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3) is suspended temporarily.  Like many of us, USCIS service center operations have gone remote, so it is impossible for the agency to keep up with the demand for premium processing of applications. Continue reading “USCIS Suspends Premium Processing for all I-129s and I-140s”

Premium Processing Resumes for FY2019 Cap Subject H-1B Petitions

By:  Valentine Brown

On January 26, 2019, USCIS announced that Premium Processing will resume on January 28, 2019 for all cap-subject FY2019 H-1B petitions;  in other words, for any H-1B lottery application filed last April that is still pending with the agency. But shouldn’t all of those petitions have already been approved? Well, um…. yes. But wasn’t the employment start for all of those petitions October 1, 2018? Another, Yes. In spite of these facts there are several thousand  H-1B cap-subject petitions still un-adjudicated or waiting for a decision months after employers responded to USCIS requests for additional information. Better late than never, as the old adage goes.

The announcement means that employers who have any of those thousands of petitions still at the agency can upgrade them to premium processing and receive a decision or a request for additional information within 15 days. Employers who are currently compiling responses to requests for information can also submit their response with a premium processing upgrade and $1410 to obtain a decision on their petition within 15 days.

The USCIS announcement is only applicable to cap-subject FY2019 H-1B applications. Premium processing remains suspended for the following H-1B categories, at least until February 19, 2019.

  • H1B Extension Petitions that include changes to the original position
  • H1B Petitions where there is a change of employer
  • H1B Petitions that request amendments with changes to the original petition

The continued ban on premium processing, especially for petitions where there is a change of employer is burdensome to both employers and H-1B status holders. With current adjudications taking as long a six months and denial rates higher than ever, it is often too risky for an H-1B nonimmigrant to make an employer switch until the H-1B petition is approved, and for employers waiting six months or more for a new hire to start is untenable.

Premium processing continues to be available for H-1B cap exempt petitions filed by institutions of higher education, government research entities and some qualified non-profit organizations that file petitions at the California Service Center.  It is also still available for H-1B extension petitions where there are no changes or amendments. These are applications that are filed with the Nebraska Service Center.

USCIS states that the agency will update the availability of premium processing for other categories once the workload of the agency permits. It is unclear whether the original deadline for the lifting of the premium processing ban of February 19, 2019 will be honored, or whether the ban will be further extended.