June 2021 Newsletter
1. June 2021 Visa Bulletin: 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 June 2021, which shows 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 5 months to May 1, 2017; India advanced 4 months to December 1, 2010. All other countries are current.
EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: China advanced 3.5 months to September 1, 2018; India advanced 9 months to November 1, 2011. 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 June 2021 Visa Bulletin can be found here.
2. DOS Adopting a Four-Tiered Approach for Immigrant Visa Prioritization at Consulates and Embassies Worldwide
On April 30, 2021, the State Department announced the details of how embassies and consulates worldwide are prioritizing immigrant visa applications as the Department works to reduce the backlog of such applications resulting from travel restrictions and operational constraints caused by the global COVID pandemic.
U.S. embassies and consulates, where possible, will be using a tiered approach to triage immigrant visa applications, scheduling appointments within all four priority tiers every month while following the below priority order:
Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas; age-out cases; and certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI Visas for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government)
Tier Two: Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas; and SE Special Immigrant Visas (certain employees of the U.S. government abroad)
Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas
Many embassies and consulates continue to have a significant backlog of all categories of immigrant visas; however, the prioritization plan instructs posts to schedule and adjudicate some cases in Tier Three and Tier Four each month. DOS recognizes that visa applicants, particularly those in Tiers Three and Four, will face continued delays.
In line with safety protocols, embassies and consulates will resume providing routine visa services only when it is safe to do so in that particular location.
DOS’ alert can be found here.
3. DOL Extends Delay of Prevailing Wage Rule Increasing PERM and H-1B Wage Minimums
On May 13, 2021, DOL published in the Federal Register that it will extend the delay of a prevailing wage rule that raises prevailing wages for H-1B, E-3 and H-1B1 nonimmigrant cases and the PERM labor certification program.
The rule, which was set to take effect on May 14, 2021, will be delayed by 18 months until November 14, 2022.
The start of the transition period will also be delayed from July 1, 2021 until January 1, 2023, and the transition period will extend from 18 months to 3 years. The transition period is intended to give employers time to meet the wage increases and make certain accommodations for H-1B workers who are pursuing employment-based permanent residence.
DOL’s alert can be found here.
4. USCIS Temporarily Suspends Biometrics Requirement for Certain Form I-539 Applicants
USCIS announced that it will temporarily suspend the biometrics requirement for certain applicants filing Form I-539 requesting an extension of stay in or change of status to H-4, L-2, E-1, E-2, and E-3 nonimmigrant status, effective May 17, 2021, through May 17, 2023.
Also effective May 17, 2021, Form I-539 applicants who meet the criteria are not required to submit the $85 biometrics services fee. USCIS will reject paper Form I-539 applications postmarked May 27, 2021, or later, if applicants meeting the criteria submit a single payment covering both the filing fee and the biometrics services fee.
This suspension will apply to the above-mentioned categories of Form I-539 applications that are either pending as of May 17, 2021, and has not yet received a biometrics services appointment notice, or new applications postmarked or submitted electronically on or after May 17, 2021.
USCIS’ alert can be found here.
5. USCIS Eases Visitor Restrictions for Fully Vaccinated Individuals
On May 27, 2021, USCIS announced that it is easing visitor restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals. Fully vaccinated visitors no longer have to wear a face covering.
To be considered fully vaccinated, it must be at least 2 weeks after receiving a second dose in a two-dose series (e.g. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna) or at least 2 weeks after receiving a dose of a single-dose vaccine (e.g. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen).
Individuals who have returned from domestic air, international air or cruise ship travel in the past 10 days may enter USCIS facilities if fully vaccinated. Individuals who have been in close contact with anyone known to have COVID-19 in the previous 14 days may also enter USCIS facilities if fully vaccinated.
USCIS’ alert can be found here.
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS & UPDATES
ALG’s Free Webinar “Seeing the Light at the End of the COVID-19 Tunnel: Outlook and Options for Students and Working Visa Holders” A Success
On May 26, 2021, ALG successfully hosted a free 1-hour online webinar on the topic “Seeing the Light at the End of the COVID-19 Tunnel: Outlook and Options for Students and Working Visa Holders”. ALG’s experienced immigration attorneys Olivia Chien, Esq. and Zhixian (Jessie) Liu, Esq. discussed the outlook and options for working visa holders and F-1 students as the U.S. continues on the road to ending the pandemic, covering topics including policy flexibilities and the online application process for F-1 students applying for OPT and STEM OPT; H-1B visa alternatives: how to plan and continue staying in the U.S.; H/J/L visa travel ban expires: visa applications and consulate visa processing status analysis.
During the webinar, many attendees actively asked questions and interacted with our attorneys.
ALG is closely monitoring changes in U.S. immigration and will provide further updates and webinars on this and other topics as developments occur.
Further Extension of Restrictions on US-Canada and US-Mexico Borders Until June 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 May 20, 2021, these measures were further extended until June 21, 2021, which marks the fourteenth extension since implementation. These restrictions do not apply to entry through U.S. airports.
DHS’ twitter update can be found here.