1. August 2021 Visa Bulletin: Huge Advancement in Most Employment-based Categories; Slow Advancement in Family-based Categories
The U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) released the Visa Bulletin for August 2021, which shows huge advancement in most employment-based categories, and slow advancement in family-based categories. The cutoff dates for issuance of employment-based immigrant visas are as follows:
EB-1: All countries are current.
EB-2: China advanced 7 months to July 1, 2018; India advanced 6 months to December 1, 2011. All other countries are current.
EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: China advanced 6 months to July 1, 2019; India advanced 13 months to February 1, 2014. All other countries are current.
USCIS will accept 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 2021 Visa Bulletin can be found here.
2. USCIS Updates Policy Guidance for Applicants for Change of Status to F-1 Student
On July 20, 2021, USCIS announced new policy guidance to eliminate the need for bridge applications when an applicant’s F-1 change of status (COS) application is pending.
Under previous policy, applicants needed to maintain status up to 30 days before the program start date listed on their Form I-20, which required them to file subsequent extensions to ensure they would not have a “gap” in status.
To prevent a “gap” in status, USCIS will grant the change of status to F-1 effective the date of approval of the student’s I-539 application. If the application was approved more than 30 days before the student’s program start date, students must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time.
USCIS’ alert can be found here.
3. DOS Extends Validity to National Interest Exceptions for Regional COVID Travel Bans
On July 6, 2021, DOS issued guidance expanding the validity of National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) granted under the regional COVID-19 Travel Bans. NIEs will now be valid for 12 months from the date of approval and allow for multiple entries. Under prior policy, NIEs were valid for 30 days, and only allows for single entry.
The new 1-year, multiple entry validity policy is effective immediately and also applies to NIEs issued in the last 12 months, provided that the individual’s purpose of travel remains the same.
The new policy does not change NIE categories or criteria. Applicants who are not eligible to benefit from the validity expansion will need to qualify for an NIE under existing standards.
DOS’ alert can be found here.
4. USCIS Conducts Second Random Selection from Previously Submitted FY 2022 H-1B Cap Electronic Registrations
On July 29, 2021, USCIS announced that it has conducted a second random selection of previously submitted FY 2022 H-1B cap registrations on July 28, 2021 in order to reach the FY 2022 numerical allocations. The petition filing period for the registrations selected on July 28, 2021 will begin on August 2, 2021, and close on November 3, 2021.
H-1B cap-subject petitions must be properly filed at the correct USCIS service center and within the period indicated on the relevant registration selection notice.
USCIS’ alert can be found here.
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS & UPDATES
Further Extension of Restrictions on US-Canada and US-Mexico Borders Until August 21, 2021
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 21, 2021, these measures were further extended until August 21, 2021, which marks the sixteenth extension since implementation. These restrictions do not apply to entry through U.S. airports.
DHS’ twitter update can be found here.