As several provisions of the CARES Act are being implemented and more states are putting shelter in place orders into effect, the past week has been less active with respect to further guidance and accommodation impacting business immigration in the U.S. Employers must still be vigilant with respect to compliance with immigration laws and regulations, unless a specific exemption or extension has been issued.
- On April 3, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services clarified in an FAQ release that many of the Form I-9 and E-Verify requirements with respect to timing and documentation to verify employment eligibility remain in place despite the pandemic. Certain employers who are working remotely, however, may inspect documents remotely but must then also conduct a physical inspection once normal operations resume. The FAQs also provide further guidance on how to notate the accommodation on the Form I-9, as well as how to handle certain state-issued forms of ID expiring on or after March 1, 2020 that have been extended by the state as a result of COVID-19.
- On April 3, the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed a lawsuit against USCIS seeking “the immediate suspension of immigration benefit deadlines and the maintenance of status for nonimmigrants in the U.S.,” according to a press release. AILA points out that many front-line health care workers are immigrants, and it argues that immigrants and their attorneys are in some cases having to choose between missing a filing deadline and violating a stay-at-home order.
- On April 1, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a second round of FAQs for processing of certain immigration related labor applications, specifically addressing questions for H-2A visas. The guidance touches on whether employers need to amend their applications if employees’ start date changes and whether employees are permitted to perform other agricultural labor or services that were not initially disclosed in the H-2A job order.
- On April 1, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it would temporarily suspend daily mail operations at the Atlanta and Chicago processing centers, and it encouraged employers to take advantage of electronic submission of applications. USDOL will still monitor paper filings once a week to check for time sensitive documents, but this change will make vigilance to processing deadlines and strategies more important.
- Anecdotally, we have heard that several clients with visa appointments in late April have been notified in the last couple of days to reschedule (again). We have also started to see some of the applications for which biometrics were pending being issued. This demonstrates that USCIS is beginning to apply the policy it announced last month to use previously submitted biometrics while in-person services are suspended.
You can learn more about the myriad processing changes that have occurred in recent weeks in a webinar I was part of hosted by the Employment Law Alliance, the world’s largest network of employment, labor, and immigration lawyers. The webinar provided perspective on how to manage a global workforce during the pandemic, with a focus on U.S. immigration law. It is available to watch here.
For more information, please contact us or your regular Parker Poe contact. You can find the firm's additional COVID-19 alerts here.