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Even during normal times, immigration law is complex and ever-changing. In the COVID-19 age, laws and protocols are constantly being developed to adapt to the challenges facing employers and in accordance with government dictums. As a leader in immigration law, GoffWilson is continuously updating the Resources section of its website to keep clients and interested parties informed with the most current information available. 
 
One recent update to know about is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) COVID-19 Temporary Policy for List B Identity Documents, which offers guidance for the temporary acceptance of expired List B documents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
This policy is in response to the difficulty many people may have renewing state driver’s licenses, ID cards, and other included List B documentation because of stay-at-home orders and online renewal restrictions. Under this policy, beginning May 1, List B identity documents set to expire on March 1, 2020, or after are valid as an acceptable document for Form I-9 purposes. 
 
Employers need to enter the word “COVID-19” in the Additional Information Field. The employee is required to present a valid—unexpired—document to replace the expired one within 90 days after the USCIS terminates the temporary policy. When presented with an unexpired document, employers should record the document information in Additional Information, Section 2 under List B, along with initialing and dating the change. 
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law is committed to being a reliable resource to the immigrant community and the employers, organizations, and committees that support them during these uncertain times. Stay up to date with the latest immigration news, forms, and guidance on the Resource page of our website and make sure to follow our blawg. If you have a question you’re struggling to answer yourself, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion.
 

 

Immigration laws are constantly in flux; for example, just the other day, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) updated M-274, Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9—an essential reference for maintaining I-9 compliance—and it’s vital that deadlines, requirements, and protocols are met.
 
With this in mind, GoffWilson is continuously updating the employer, employee, and family resource pages of our website, along with our blawg, to ensure our clients have access to the most up-to-date forms and information available. Of course, immigration law is complex and ever-evolving, if you find yourself unable to find the answer you’re searching for, our attorneys are here to help. 
 
At GoffWilson, immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion. With decades of experience solely practicing immigration law, GoffWilson is an invaluable resource for the immigrant community and the businesses that depend on their contributions. If you have any questions about what the updated M-274 Handbook means for your business, or any other immigration-related questions, contact GoffWilson today.

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation suspending the entry of certain legal immigrants for 60 days, effective as of April 23. Although the order is only effective for 60 days, there is the potential for it to get extended. Researchers at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI)—a non-partisan think tank working to improve immigration and integration policies—estimated that 52,000 individuals will lose their chance at a green card over the proclamation’s initial time span. Furthermore, the MPI approximates that if the proclamation were to remain in place for a year it could affect as many as 350,000 green card-seeking immigrants, about a third of the roughly one million foreign nationals that obtain lawful permanent residence annually. 
 
Who is Affected By the Immigration Proclamation?
 
The people primarily impacted by this order are immigrants who are currently outside of the United States and seeking to obtain a visa for lawful residence; it does not apply to immigrants currently in the U.S. Those in the U.S. on employment-based visas are unlikely to be directly affected. However, family immigration to the U.S. is essentially eliminated for everyone but spouses and children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens for as long as the order remains in place. It also pauses the diversity lottery. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), about 45% of the approximately one million immigrants that obtained permanent residence last year entered as new arrivals. 
 
For example, a foreign national with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen is still eligible to apply for a green card. Also able to receive an immigrant visa or green card is any child (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen. Who isn’t able to receive a visa per the proclamation is the parents of that U.S. citizen. Conversely, the proclamation prohibits a resident alien from obtaining a visa for their spouse.
 
Exceptions to the Immigration Proclamation
 
While the scope of the White House’s immigration order is broad, there are a considerable number of exceptions. Those not impacted by the proclamation include lawful permanent residents, certain investors (EB-5), members of the military and their families, those deemed to be in the national interest, those assisting law enforcement, and immigrants who obtained permanent residence through asylum and refugee programs. 
 
Also excluded from the proclamation are foreign nationals seeking to enter on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional working to alleviate the effects of COVID-19. This is particularly important, as the more than three million immigrants working in healthcare fill one in four positions in the field. 
 
Temporary Workers and the Immigration Proclamation
 
Foreign nationals participating in guest worker programs such as the H-1B and L-1—visas that allow high-skilled workers, students, and agricultural labor to stay in the U.S. for a limited amount of time—are not immediately affected by the proclamation. If you are working in the U.S. on a visa like the H or L, once your green card application is filed we advise you to stay in the U.S. until Advanced Parole is secured. 
 
Other non-Immigrant visa holders not affected by the recent proclamation include O, P, TN, B, E, H-2A, H-2B, F-1, and all other temporary visas. If you possess a temporary visa and are traveling outside of the U.S., you should not have a problem re-entering the country; however, we suggest carrying copies of your last several paychecks and a letter verifying your employment from your employer with you. 
 
It’s important to note that after 30 days, the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Homeland, and Secretary of State will review the nation’s  nonimmigrant programs and recommend measures to “stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring and employment of United States workers.” Consequently, restrictions for temporary workers are potentially looming in the near future. 
 
The Importance of Immigrants
 
On the immigration order, Trump said, “Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens, and crucially it also preserves healthcare resources for our patients.” However, this view is flawed according to a National Foundation for American Policy study which states: “The results of the state-level analysis indicate that immigration does not increase U.S. natives’ unemployment or reduce their labor force participation… Instead, having more immigrants reduces the unemployment rate and raises the labor force participation rate of U.S. natives within the same sex and education group.” 
 
While the White House’s proclamation will have an enormous impact on immigrants, it will make a miniscule amount of difference on unemployment. The 52,000 immigrants affected by this represent an infinitesimally small percentage of the 26 million Americans currently out of work.
 
GoffWilson 
 
A lot remains uncertain about the recent immigration proclamation—it’s likely to get challenged in court and even if it stays in place, the future of guest worker programs and overall duration of the order remains in flux. GoffWilson solely practices immigration law and is closely monitoring the proclamation. With over three decades of experience practicing immigration law, GoffWilson is your go-to resource in times like these. If you have any questions about your status, the status of an employee, or need clarification of this order, contact us today!
 

So many things have changed during the coronavirus pandemic, from social distancing and stay-at-home/shelter-in-place orders to many businesses transitioning to remote work—and the handling of Form I-9 has changed as well. In response to the current situation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced an increase in flexibility regarding I-9 requirements. 
 
Changes in I-9 Protocol 
 
First and foremost, it’s extremely important to note that an employee must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 by the end of their first day of employment—there is no change to this requirement. Likewise, if an employee is physically at the place of employment, there are no changes to the requirement for Section 2—it must be completed within three days of the employee’s hire date. 
 
However, employers with remote workplaces may inspect the work authorizations necessary for the completion of Section 2 through video link, fax, email, or another format. When completing Section 2 remotely, it still needs to be completed within the same three-day period following the date of hire and the employer is required to retain copies of the Section 2 documentation. When completing Section 2 remotely, employers must enter “COVID-19” in the Additional Information section. 
 
A physical inspection of the documents is still required and it’s imperative this is done within three days when business returns to normal operation. At that time, the date the psychical inspection is made must get recorded in the Additional Information field—the DHS suggests marking “documents physically examined.” Additionally, the date of the original inspection of the documentation and the initials of the person who performed it should be present in the Additional Information section. 
 
Other I-9 Items
 
Many of the “relaxed” regulations of Section 2 also apply to Section 3, Reverification and Rehires. According to the “relaxed” regulations, if an employee presents an expired document, but the document’s expiration has been extended, this would qualify as a List B document. For example, an expired driver’s license is an acceptable List B document, provided its expiration date was extended by the issuing state. If an employer encounters this situation, they’re advised to attach a copy of the rule that allows this. 
 
GoffWilson and I-9
 
GoffWilson is a leader in Form I-9 training and compliance and has been assisting businesses to remain in compliance for decades. During these ever-changing and uncertain times, we’re committed to being a resource for our business community. If you have any questions about what the current changes to I-9 protocol mean for you or your business, contact GoffWilson today. We will schedule our next I-9 training seminar as soon as we can, hopefully later this summer. Check back with us for any updates on that!
 

COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus) has upended the lives of millions of people in the U.S. and across the world—affecting everything from schools to sports. Even Tax Day has been pushed back. Like other government services, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has made changes to normal operating procedures in response to COVID-19, and there is a high probability we’ll see more in the coming days and weeks. We’re here to help by providing the information you need.  
 
In times of uncertainty like these—with dates, policies, and regulations in flux—we expect everyone has a lot of questions. We’re deeply committed to keeping everyone updated with the latest immigration happenings through our Blawg, or directly via phone and email. With that in mind, here are a few recent USCIS changes to be aware of.
 
Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing for All I-129 and I-140 Petitions  
 
Effective as of March 20, USCIS has suspended premium processing service for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions until further notice. This suspension includes petitions filed for the following categories:
 
  • I-129: E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1, and TN-2
  • I-140: EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3
 
Any applications submitted to USCIS for premium processing that were accepted before March 20 will get processed within the premium processing service criteria. Applications received on March 20 or later will not get processed within the 15-calendar-day period and the $1,440 filing fee will get refunded. As of this writing, USCIS has not yet confirmed when premium processing for I-129 and I-140 petitions will resume. 
 
Flexibility in Submitting Required Signatures
 
Another change to normal USCIS protocol is that for all petitions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond, a reproduced original signature is acceptable for all applications and documents—this includes forms that require an original “wet” signature, per their instructions (such as Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker). The change in signature policy will last for the duration of the National Emergency.
 
According to the announcement, USCIS will accept documents that have been “scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature.” Note, it’s vital to retain copies of the original documents with “wet” signatures, as USCIS may later request the original documents. Failure to produce the original documents with “wet” signatures could have negative consequences. 
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law
 
At GoffWilson we like to say, “immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion”—and in unsettled times, we want to provide a steadying hand to the immigrant community, along with the businesses dependent on their contributions. We are a resource, so please reach out if you need help.

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation continues to develop, our primary concern remains the health and safety of attendees as well as everyone in our community. At this time, we have determined that it is in the best interests of all those that have registered or were planning to do so for our I-9 Workshop scheduled for April 9, 2020, to be postponed until the COVID-19 is no longer a concern. All those that have registered will be notified once the new date has been established which will be as soon as practical. Thank you for your understanding.

 
On February 19, 2020, Judge Loretta Biggs, a federal district court judge, issued a permanent injunction against the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), blocking their August 2018 policy memorandum Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants along with the same-titled, corresponding memo from May 2018. The result of the ruling is that USCIS must revert to using the prior guidance based on its May 2009 memo. The injunction is a big win for foreign-born students and exchange visitors studying in the U.S. on F, J, and M visas.
 
What the Injunction Means for F, J, and M Nonimmigrants
 
The injunction is extremely important for F, J, and M nonimmigrants, as it prevents a vast number of them from suffering a three- or ten-year ban from the U.S. for unknowingly violating their duration of status. For the moment, F, J, and M nonimmigrants will only accrue unlawful presence as defined by the past guidance—after notification from USCIS or an immigration judge. However, it remains unclear what this injunction means for those already found unlawfully present under the August 2018 guidance. 
 
What the Lawsuit Was Over
 
The injunction comes as the result of a decision in the case Guilford College, et al v. Wolf, and is in response to the aforementioned August 2018 memorandum from USCIS changing the interpretation of “unlawful presence,” in which they would find F, J, and M nonimmigrants that had violated the terms of their status to be unlawfully present beginning the day after the status violation occurred.  
 
What the Injunction Means 
 
The upholding of the prior interpretation of “unlawful presence” by Judge Biggs means that nonimmigrants holding an I-94 with a “duration of status” (D/S) admission will not accrue unlawful presence until they have been notified by USCIS or an immigration judge that they’re in violation of their status. Once a D/S nonimmigrant is notified that they’ve violated their status, they have 180 days to leave the country—the penalty for failing to leave the country in that time is a three- or ten-year bar from the U.S.
 
According to Paul Hughes, the lead attorney for Guilford College, “The August 2018 Policy Memorandum would have turned an inadvertent error or omission into the basis for being expelled from the country for 10 years, disrupting essential academic, employment, and family relationships. Now, DHS is obligated to use the same policy that had prevailed for more than two decades, across administrations of both political parties. That rule is one of common sense: international students are first provided notice of an alleged status violation, and then the individual may rectify the issue or timely depart, thus avoiding a reentry bar.”
 
The Importance of the Guilford College Decision 
 
The U.S. is a leader in global education, attracting a large number of the world’s best and brightest minds. Historically, the United States has been the top destination for international students. In the 2018-2019 academic year, the U.S. hosted 1,095,299 international students—those students contributed $44.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018. 
 
Summed up by Guilford College attorney Paul Hughes, “Recent immigration policies by the Trump Administration have created a climate of fear among international students, to the detriment of not just our colleges and universities but the economy as a whole. This decision is one step in ensuring the United States remains an attractive destination for the world’s best and brightest international students to pursue their studies.”
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law
 
GoffWilson has decades of experience solely practicing immigration law. Over the years, we’ve represented numerous colleges, universities, research institutions, hospitals, and individuals. If you have a question about this recent ruling, unlawful presence, or any other immigration matter, contact us today—immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion.
 

Did you know that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a new Form I-9 which must be used starting no later than May 1, 2020? Businesses may begin using the new form now, and it can be found on our web site and by also by clicking here.
 
Our next Form I-9 Workshop will be held April 9, 2020 in Manchester, NH, at Waterworks Café, 250 Commercial Street. This event will be led by Attorneys John Wilson and Autumn Tertin, as well as other members of our I-9 Team, and will utilize the new Form I-9 throughout the workshop and the new and revised Workbook. This workshop will include:
  • Understanding new regulations and current enforcement trends surrounding Form I-9 and identifying the roles and responsibilities of employers and HR Professionals;
  • Intensive, interactive training (limited registration ensures each participant receives close attention);
  • Review of multiple work authorization documents with hands-on completion of I-9s with critique;
  • Identifying form requirements, challenges, and common errors—and learning the consequences for noncompliance.
GoffWilson Form I-9 workshops are recognized for 3.5 credits for the HR Professional.
 
Save the date of April 9th from 7:30 am to 12 noon for the next Form I-9 workshop and stay tuned for more information and registration.


 

H-1B visas loom large in the minds of many of our clients, and this year is no exception. The H-1B visa has been at the forefront of our clients’ thoughts even more this year, due to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announcing plans to implement an electronic registration process in the next H-1B visa lottery. Although plans for transitioning the H-1B registration process have long been known—we wrote about it back in December 2018—until recently, details about the new process have been thin. 

 

On January 9, 2020, the USCIS began filling in some of the important details about the online process and offering some guidance to employers when it formally announced the new H-1B registration process, publishing Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens in the Federal Register.  

 

What We Know About the New H-1B Process

 

One of the most valuable pieces of information gleaned from the USCIS publishing is the dates of the initial registration period—March 1 through March 20, 2020. During this time, H-1B cap-subject visa petitioners, including those eligible for an advanced degree exception, can register electronically through an online portal on USCIS.gov. Petitioners, or their authorized representatives, are required to fill out a separate registration for each alien they’re seeking a cap-subject H-1B petition for. 

 

Two important things to note about the new electronic process is that there is a non-refundable $10 fee per registration (payable via bank account, credit card, or debit card) and registering the same petitioner multiple times is forbidden. 

 

To register for through the USCIS online portal, some basic information is required about both the employer and prospective employee. Before beginning the registration process, you’ll want to know the employer’s name, address, and employer identification number (EIN), along with the employee’s name, degree, and country of birth. 

 

After the registration window closes, the USCIS will conduct a lottery, selecting 85,000 registrants. Those selected will be alerted via email or text message no later than March 31, 2020. The USCIS will accept completed petitions by April 1, 2020, although selected petitions will have at least 90 days from the date of registration to submit a complete petition. 

 

What We’re Waiting to Learn About the New H-1B Process

 

The USCIS’s initial notice about the new online registration process has cleared up some gray areas, but there is still a lot of information left unconfirmed. For example, they have not yet unveiled details on how to create an account on their portal or provided instructions on how to register an employee, and they have only hinted at the information required to register for a cap-subject H-1B petition. The USCIS states that it will conduct outreach—such as hosting in-depth webinars—in advance of the registration process to allow users the chance to familiarize themselves with the process, but with the registration process a little over a month away, it's going to be a tight window. 

 

What You Can Do to Prepare for the Online H-1B Process 

 

In the past, employers filed complete H-1B petitions in advance of the USCIS H-1B visa lottery. One of the challenges with the new online process is that it only requires basic information during the registration process. This makes it easy to register cap-subject H-1B petitioners, but if the person doesn’t merit a visa, they’ll only get denied further along in the process. Consequently, if you’re planning on registering for an H-1B visa petition, it’s important to vet the person being put forth and ensure they’ll qualify for one of these highly sought-after visas, as well as identify potential issues such as missing evidence. 

 

Why GoffWilson

 

GoffWilson’s sole focus is on immigration law, and we've prepared thousands of H-1B visa applications in our 30+ years of practice. There is still some ambiguity in the new online registration process, but that shouldn’t mean inaction. Using our years of experience, we help clients create strategies custom-tailored to the needs of their organizations and navigate the complex and ever-changing immigration system.

 

If you have questions about the new online H-1B registration process or are ready to begin preparing for another H-1B season, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion.


The United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a change to the process of filing H-1B cap-subject petitions, including petitions for those eligible for the advanced degree exception.
 
The Change 
 
The major diversion from the process of selecting cap-subject H-1B applicants is that they’re now required to register online during an initial registration period. For the upcoming year, the registration period is between March 1st and March 20th. If the number of applicants exceeds the cap, the USCIS will randomly select H-1B recipients from the pool of registered online applicants. Ultimately, only those people who have registered electronically—and, in the event of a lottery, have been selected—will qualify to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. 
 
The move to online registration comes as no surprise; we wrote about it first back in December 2018 and again in February 2019
 
The Registration Process
 
The new online registration process will only require basic information about the worker and the company requesting a visa for the worker. The USCIS is charging a non-refundable $10 fee to register for a cap-subject H-1B visa. It’s worth noting that an applicant selected through the electronic H-1B registration process is not immediately awarded a visa. If selected, they’re still required to go through the application process. 
 
A Quick Guide to the Electronic H-1B Registration Process 
 
  • The USCIS opens initial online registration (requiring just basic information) between March 1, 2020 and March 20, 2020
  • Lottery for H-1B applicants who registered electronically (if needed)
  • Employers of chosen applicants are eligible to file cap-subject petitions 
 
Former H-1B Process
 
If you’re unfamiliar with the way the USCIS managed cap-subject H-1B petitions formerly, every cap season, employers filed full petitions for sponsored applicants. If the number of applicants exceeded the cap, visa beneficiaries were chosen through the H-1B visa lottery. In fiscal year 2020, the USCIS received 201,011 H-1B petitions to fill the congressionally mandated cap, along with the 20,000 additional H-1B visas available through the US advanced degree exemption, sometimes called the master’s cap.
 
Why the Change
 
Many immigration professionals are dubious of the change in the H-1B process. Their primary concern is that the USCIS requirement for only basic information about the candidate and business will flood the system with non-meritorious applications. The USCIS disagrees; according to USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans, “By streamlining the H-1B cap selection process with a new electronic registration system, USCIS is creating cost savings and efficiencies for petitioners and the agency, as only those selected will now be required to submit a full petition.” 
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law
 
With over 30 years of practicing immigration law—and having processed thousands of H-1B visas over that time—GoffWilson is the go-to source for immigration information. Although we’re still waiting for the USCIS to release information on key dates, timelines, and how to register electronically, we encourage our clients to contact us immediately if they’re planning on filing for any H-1B visas, either new or in OPT. Let us help you strategize the best way to find and keep your professional employees in a tight labor market. GoffWilson solely practices immigration law—contact us today and let us put our passion to work for you.
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