Over the past week, we have continued to see a significant number of processing changes with respect to U.S. immigration largely in response to the coronavirus pandemic. I will be addressing many of those changes along with other attorneys in a webinar this Thursday hosted by the Employment Law Alliance, the world’s largest network of employment, labor, and immigration lawyers. The webinar will provide perspective on how to manage a global workforce during the pandemic, with a focus on U.S. immigration law. It runs from 1:00 to 2:15 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 2. You can register here.
Here is a look at U.S. immigration highlights from the past week that impact businesses:
- On March 30, the U.S. State Department updated sections of the Foreign Affairs Manual, including the procedure for issuing blanket petition L visas for executive, manager, or specialized knowledge professional employees. Through this change, the State Department clarified instructions to consular officers regarding how to consider “clearly approvable applications” for individuals under an approved company blanket petition. Companies will need to be prepared to present more evidence with each submission as a result.
- On March 30, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced an update to a temporary measure to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to requests for evidence (RFEs) and notices of intent to deny (NOIDs) that are dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020. On March 27, USCIS announced that it would consider submissions by respondents who have received RFEs or NOIDs during this window for an additional 60 calendar days beyond the deadline they received in the relevant request or notice. The update confirmed that this flexibility would also apply to certain notices of intent to revoke (NOIR), notices of intent to terminate (NOIT), regional investment centers, and certain filing date requirements for Form I-290B (notice of appeal or motion).
- On March 30, USCIS announced that it would continue to process extensions of valid Forms I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (“EAD”) despite the suspension of in-person services at its local office. Instead, USCIS will use previously submitted biometrics. This consideration will remain in effect until the application support centers are again open to the public for appointments, but in the interim may help with some of the backlog and processing delays that many individuals have experienced with these EADs.
- On March 27, USCIS announced that it had received sufficient submissions to reach the allocated number of H-1Bs (temporary professional work visas) for the fiscal year starting October 1, 2020. USCIS further confirmed its intent to notify petitioners with selected registrations no later than March 31. Petitioners with selected registrations will have 90 days to submit an H-1B petition for consideration. Registrations submitted, but not selected or denied, will remain in consideration for selection through September 30, 2020 at which point all cases will be noted as either “selected,” “not selected,” or “denied”.
- On March 26, the State Department confirmed that it would continue to process H-2 (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural) cases to the extent possible with consular post resources and local country government restrictions. This is because, despite the continued suspension of routine visa services at many consular posts, the H-2 program is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority.
- On March 25 and updated on April 1, USCIS extended the temporary suspension of in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) through at least May 3, 2020 unless the public closures are extended further. Limited emergency services are still available on a case-by-case basis.
As many companies are forced to confront difficult choices with respect to ongoing business needs and employment, please remember that any changes to the employment terms and conditions of your foreign workforce could have additional consequences on their legal status in the United States.
For more information, please contact us or your regular Parker Poe contact. You can find the firm's additional COVID-19 alerts here.