• Ashenberg Law Group

March 2021 Newsletter

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IMMIGRATION UPDATES

1. March 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 March 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: China and India advanced 7 months to August 1, 2020. All other countries are current.

  • EB-2: China advanced 1 month to July 15, 2016; India advanced 3 months to January 15, 2010. All other countries are current.

  • EB-3 Professional and Skilled Workers: China advanced 5 weeks to February 8, 2018; India advanced 3 months to July 1, 2010. 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 March 2021 Visa Bulletin can be found here.


2. Rescission of Presidential Proclamation 10014


On February 24, 2021, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation (P.P.) that revoked former President Trump’s P.P. 10014, which suspended the entry of certain immigrant visa applicants into the U.S. in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


DOS has also accordingly laid out a set of guidelines for these immigrant visa applicants as follows:


Not Yet Interviewed: DOS will process immigrant visa applications that have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview according to its phased resumption of visa services framework.


Previously Refused: DOS will reconsider still valid immigrant visa applications that were previously interviewed but refused visas due to P.P. 10014, and will inform applicants if additional information is needed. These applicants should wait for instructions from the U.S. embassy or consulate where they were interviewed.


Diversity Visa 2020 Applicants: DV-2020 applicants holding valid diversity visas issued in 2020 may seek entry into the U.S. immediately. Unless the DV-2020 visa was received as a result of orders in the court case Gomez v. Trump, individuals whose DV-2020 visas have expired may not be issued replacement visas.


Diversity Visa 2021 Applicants: DOS will schedule interviews according to its phased resumption of visa services framework for DV-2021 applicants.


P.P. 10052, which suspended the entry of certain H-1B, L-1, H-2B and J-1 nonimmigrants (and their dependents) into the U.S., and the regional COVID-19 public health bans applicable to certain foreign nationals present in China, Iran, the Schengen Area, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil 14 days prior to entry into the U.S., remain in effect.


White House’s memo can be found here.


3. Updates on the H-1B Program


FY 2022 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period Opens on March 9


On February 5, 2021, USCIS announced that that the initial registration period for the upcoming FY 2022 H-1B visa cap season is open from March 9, 2021 at noon EST to March 25, 2021 at noon EST.


Petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions will be required to pay a $10 fee for each electronic registration they submit to USCIS for the H-1B cap selection process.


Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.


If you are currently a student working on OPT, and are looking to continue working in the U.S. in H-1B status via the FY 2022 H-1B lottery, ALG attorneys urge you to check with your employer soon to see if they can sponsor you on an H-1B visa.


USCIS’ alert can be found here.


DHS Delays Effective Date of H-1B Cap Allocation Final Rule


On February 4, 2021, USCIS announced that DHS is delaying the effective date of its H-1B Selection Final Rule from March 9, 2021 to December 31, 2021.


The final rule originally published on the Federal Register on January 8, 2021 indicates that should USCIS receive H-1B cap-subject petitions that exceed the quota, it would prioritize the selection of H-1B registrations based on corresponding wage levels, by generally first selecting registrations based on the highest Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) prevailing wage level that the proffered wage equals or exceeds for the relevant Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and area(s) of intended employment, which replaces the random selection process with a wage-level-based selection process for H-1B cap-subject petitions.


For the upcoming FY 2022 H-1B cap season, USCIS will apply the current regulations in selecting H-1B registrations via random selection.


USCIS’ alert can be found here.


4. USCIS Reverts to the 2008 Version of the Naturalization Civics Test


On February 22, 2021, USCIS announced that beginning March 1, 2021, it is reverting to the 2008 version of the naturalization civics test.


Applicants who filed their naturalization application between December 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021 will be given the option to take either the 2020 civics test or the 2008 civics test. This transition period where both tests are being offered will be phased out on April 19, 2021.


The 2008 civics test is an oral test. The USCIS officer will ask applicants up to 10 questions from a bank of 100 civics test questions. Applicants must answer 6 questions correctly in order to pass the 2008 civics test.


The naturalization civics test tests the applicant’s knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history, and of U.S. principles and form of government.


USCIS’ alert can be found here.


5. USCIS Expands Premium Processing Service to E-3 Petitions


On February 24, 2021, USCIS announced it is expanding premium processing service to E-3 petitions, effective immediately.


To qualify for the E-3 classification, you must demonstrate that: 1) you are a national of Australia; 2) you have a legitimate offer of employment in the U.S.; 3) you possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials for the position; and 4) you are coming to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation.


Premium Processing Service allows petitioners to pay an additional filing fee to expedite the adjudication of certain petitions and applications, generally within 15 days.


USCIS’ alert can be found here.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS & UPDATES

Further Extension of Restrictions on US-Canada and US-Mexico Borders Until March 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 February 19, 2021, these measures were further extended until March 21, 2021, which marks the eleventh extension since implementation. These restrictions do not apply to entry through U.S. airports.


DHS’ twitter update can be found here.