• Ashenberg Law Group

August 2020 Newsletter

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IMMIGRATION UPDATES

1. Continuation of EB-1 Worldwide Backlog, Mainland China Moved Forward 5.5 Months; EB-2 Rest of the World (ROW) Continues to be “Current”, Mainland China Moved Forward 2 Months

The U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) most recently released Visa Bulletin for August 2020 shows a continuation of worldwide backlog for EB-1, and cutoff dates for issuance of an EB-1 immigrant visa for Mainland China born applicants moved forward 5.5 months to February 8, 2018.


On the other hand, the Visa Bulletin for August 2020 shows that EB-2 for Rest of the World (ROW) is “current”, and cutoff dates for issuance of an EB-2 immigrant visa for Mainland China born applicants moved forward 2 months to January 15, 2016.


USCIS will accept Mainland China born adjustment of status applications for all employment-based cases and F2A Spouses and Minor Children of Green Card Holders based on the “Final Action Dates” charts, and all other family-based cases based on the “Dates for Filing” charts. 

The August 2020 Visa Bulletin can be found here.


2. SEVP Continues Guidelines Issued in March 2020 for Fall Term


On July 24, 2020, SEVP announced that schools and active F and M students should abide by the guidelines it issued on March 9, 2020 to ensure that schools and students are able to continue to engage in distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guideline applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and who are otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status. SEVP will not issue a temporary final rule impacting nonimmigrant students for the fall term.


SEVP’s alert can be found here.


Below is a list of frequently asked questions and answers related to this announcement:


Q1. I am an F-1 university student currently abroad, and my course of study in Fall 2020 is fully online. Can I obtain an F-1 visa to enter the U.S. for the fall semester?


If you are enrolling for the first time in Fall 2020 (i.e. you were not enrolled as of March 9, 2020), you are not qualified for an F or M student visa. If you were enrolled in a course of study in the U.S. on March 9, 2020, but subsequently left the country, you remain eligible for a student visa since the March 2020 guideline permitted a full online course of study from inside the U.S or from abroad.


Q2. My course of study in Fall 2020 is hybrid in-person / online. Can I obtain an F-1 visa to enter the U.S. for the fall semester?


Yes, if you are enrolling in a course of study that includes in-person and online components in Fall 2020, you are eligible for a student visa.


Q3. Can I remain in the U.S. if I am engaged in a fully online program of study?


Yes. As long as you have not otherwise violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status since March 9, 2020, you may remain in the U.S. to engage in a full course of online study.


Q4. My school is switching from a hybrid instruction to fully online instruction. Can I remain in the U.S.?


Yes. As long as you have not otherwise violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status since March 9, 2020, you may remain in the U.S. to engage in a full course of online study.


If you have any immigration questions related to this alert, please do not hesitate to contact us!


3. One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations


On July 24, 2020, DOS announced that CDC has approved a one-month extension (on top of the normal six-month validity) of medical examinations conducted between January 1 to June 30, 2020. 


If you are affected, please contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the relevant embassy/consulate to determine whether you may be issued or reissued a visa for one additional month.


DOS’s alert can be found here.


4. USCIS Adjusts Fees for Certain Immigration and Naturalization Benefit Requests


On July 31, 2020, DHS announced a final rule that adjusts USCIS fees for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests.  DHS is adjusting USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 20% to help recover its operational costs. This final rule will be effective starting October 2, 2020. 


In addition to adjusting fees, the final rule removes certain fee exemptions, limits fee waivers, alters premium processing time limits, and modifies certain intercountry adoption processing. 


USCIS’ alert can be found here

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS & UPDATES

ALG’s Free Webinars


Webinar “International Students: F-1 Status Countermeasures and Future Planning Amid Pandemic” A Success


On July 14, 2020, ALG hosted a free 1-hour online webinar on the topic “International Students: F-1 Status Countermeasures and Future Planning Amid Pandemic”, where ALG’s experienced immigration attorneys Tzu-Hui (Olivia) Chien, Esq. and Zhixian (Jessie) Liu, Esq. discussed issues related to: 1) the maintenance of F-1 student status amid the updated, then later rescinded, ICE and DHS policy that barred international students attending a full online course load from staying in the U.S.; 2) regulations and requirements of OPT and CPT; and 3) alternative visas and solutions.


During the webinar, many international students actively asked questions and interacted with our attorneys. Our attorneys addressed their concerns and provided answers to their inquiries.


Upcoming Webinar “Green Card Holders/Dual Citizens: Guide To Immigration and Tax Compliance” on August 12, 2020


ALG will be hosting another free webinar “Green Card Holders/Dual Citizens: Guide To Immigration and Tax Compliance” on August 12, 2020. ALG’s experienced immigration attorneys Tzu-Hui (Olivia) Chien, Esq. and Chun-Chang (Edward) Su, Esq. will cover topics related to the maintenance of permanent residency status, and eligibility and processes for naturalization; ALG’s Managing Attorney and C.P.A. Eric Ashenberg, Esq. will cover tax concerns, including FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) for Dual Citizens, Permanent Residents and Resident Aliens. Stay tuned for more details!


Further Extension of Restrictions on US-Canada and US-Mexico Borders Until August 21, 2020


In order to limit the further spread of the coronavirus, on March 21, 2020, the U.S. reached agreements with both Canada and Mexico to limit all non-essential travel across borders. These joint initiatives were originally set to be in place for 30 days, subject to reevaluation and further extension in light of coronavirus pandemic developments. “Non-essential” travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.


On July 16, 2020, these measures were further extended until August 21, 2020, which marks the fourth extension since implementation. These restrictions do not apply to entry through U.S. airports.


Government official’s twitter updates can be found here and here.


CBP Extends Closure of Trusted Traveler Program Enrollment Locations to September 8, 2020


CBP previously temporarily closed Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) enrollment centers to help slow the spread of COVID-19 beginning March 18, 2020. The temporary closure applies to all public access Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST enrollment locations. Global Entry mobile enrollment events are also paused until further notice. Despite these closures, CBP’s Enrollment on Arrival program continues to remain operational.


On July 20, 2020, these closures were further extended until September 8, 2020, which marks the fourth extension since implementation. 


In this announcement, CBP further extended the period of time that TTP applicants remain active, where each applicant now has 545 days (previously extended to 485 days) from the date of conditional approval to complete the enrollment process. Conditionally approved TTP applicants seeking an interview at an enrollment center will need to reschedule using the online scheduling tool on or after September 8, 2020.


In addition, CBP is still extending for up to 18 months the TTP benefits of members who apply for renewal before their current membership expires.


DHS’ alert can be found here.


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