(Via AILA.org) Major Settlement Changes How USCIS Adjudicates Work Permits for [H-4 and L-2 ] Nonimmigrant Spouses
AILA and its litigation partners entered into a settlement agreement with DHS that provides structural changes for H-4 and L-2 spouses suffering from long delayed processing times for the processing of applications for employment authorization. (Shergill, et al. v. Mayorkas, 11/10/21)
Within 120 days of the Effective Date, USCIS will amend the receipt notice currently issued to applicants to detail the EAD auto-extension eligibility for those holding H-4 status based on the validity period provided on a Form I-94 in combination with a facially expired EAD and the Form I-797C receipt notice for a timely-filed I-765 EAD renewal application.
USCIS will issue policy guidance that states that L-2 spouses are employment authorized incident to status and, in cooperation with CBP, change the Form I-94, within 120 days of the Effective Date, to indicate that the bearer is an L-2 spouse so that it can be used as a List C document for Form I-9 purposes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and its litigation partners Wasden Banias and Steven Brown, celebrate the historic settlement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Shergill, et al. v. Mayorkas, which provides structural changes for nonimmigrant H-4 and L-2 spouses suffering from long delayed processing times for the processing of applications for employment authorization. The litigation successfully achieved the reversal of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy that prohibited H-4 spouses from benefiting from automatic extension of their employment authorization during the pendency of standalone employment authorization document (EAD) applications. Although this is a giant achievement, the parties’ agreement will further result in a massive change in position for USCIS, which now recognizes that L-2 spouses enjoy automatic work authorization incident to status, meaning these spouses of executive and managers will no longer have to apply for employment authorization prior to working in the United States.
Jesse Bless, AILA Director of Federal Litigation stated, “Today marks a historic change for L-2 spouses who will now enjoy work authorization incident to status. AILA’s membership has long advocated for the correct statutory interpretation and we’re delighted to have reached this agreement, which includes relief for H-4 spouses, through our litigation efforts with Wasden Banias and Steven Brown. It is gratifying that the administration saw that settling the litigation for nonimmigrant spouses was something that should be done, and done quickly.”
Jon Wasden stated, “After years of outreach to the agency, it became clear that litigation was unfortunately necessary. Despite the plain statutory language, USCIS failed to grant employment authorization incident to status for L-2s. The other issue relates to H-4s whose work permits expire prior to their H-4 status; this is a group that always met the regulatory test for automatic extension of EADs, but the agency previously prohibited them from that benefit and forced them to wait for reauthorization. People were suffering. They were losing their high-paying jobs for absolutely no legitimate reason causing harm to them and U.S. businesses. So, while I’m glad the agency finally followed the law, it is frankly frustrating that an easily fixable issue took this long to address.”
See this op-ed from Forbes for more information
Read the Decision: Shergill, et al. v. Mayorkas, 11/10/21 [PDF]
UPDATE: AILA REPORTS VSC OPEN — ORIGINAL POST: AILA Reports that USCIS’s Vermont Service Center Is Temporarily Closed on April 10, 2020 due to COVID19
Via AILA.org – April 13, 2020
“Last week, USCIS informed employees about a presumed positive COVID-19 case in the Vermont Service Center (VSC), but the test results came back negative. The VSC is now able to accept files and/or any other form of correspondence.”
Via AILA.org – April 10, 2020
“AILA has received reports from various members that the Vermont Service Center (VSC) has been closed due to a potential COVID-19 exposure.
VSC will likely be closed at least until Wednesday April 15, 2020, for cleaning. During this time, it appears that mail cannot be delivered to the VSC. AILA National has reached out to USCIS for confirmation and further guidance on how filings should be handled in the interim. Updates will be provided as soon as more information is available.”
On behalf of myself and other Immigration Lawyers across the US: our prayers are with the VSC Staff. The volume of complex cases they assess and adjudicate every day is underappreciated, as is the critical importance of their work. We hope this issue is cleared up soon, and that the people at VSC are safe.
USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions – Could Earn Approx. $330,000,000 in PP Fees This Year
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing for all H-1B petitions beginning today, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. This is welcome news for many petitioners and beneficiaries who have been subjected to significant delays in processing, and certainly, great news for USCIS itself. There is no doubt that Premium Processing fees, increased to $1,410.00 per petition last year, are an important source of revenue for USCIS, given that is “funded primarily by immigration and naturalization benefit fees charged to applicants and petitioners.”
Premium Processing fees are technically optional, but frequently paid to increase the speed of adjudication from several months to potentially as little as two (2) to four (4) weeks. This program was suspended and unavailable for many H-1B categories over the last 6-12 months during which time such professionals and their employers nervously witnessed (or were impacted by) adjudication delays of approximately 4-12+ months, as well as USCIS’s frequent internal changes to its adjudication criteria which allowed it to issue bizzare numbers of queries and denials of H-1B petitions in 2018.
On March 1, 2019, USCIS held a teleconference to discuss revised Form I-539 and new Form I-539A. USCIS provided the following updates during the engagement, among others:
- An official copy of the revised Form I-539 and new form I-539A will be published on the USCIS website on March 8, 2019.
- New rollout period:
- USCIS will continue accepting Form I-539 with an edition date of 12/23/16 until March 21, 2019, as long as it is received by USCIS by that date.
- USCIS will reject any Form I-539 with an edition date of 12/23/16 that is received by USCIS after March 21, 2019.
- Starting on March 22, 2019, USCIS will only accept the revised Form I-539 with an edition date of 02/04/19.
This information is currently posted on the I-539 page of the USCIS website.
DHS Appears to Be Contemplating a Major Change to 6+ Year H-1B Extensions under AC21: Up to 1 Million H-1B Holders Could Be Affected
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appears to be contemplating a major change to 6+ year H-1B Extensions, an act that would have major implications in the lives of the approximately 1 Million H-1B holders in the U.S. who are waiting for a green card. To effect such a change, all DHS would need to do is continue its policy of reinterpreting any language and/or guidance it considers imprecise in a way that negatively affects the H-1B visa program. And in this case it apparently seeks to reinterpret the words “may grant” in AC21 Section 104(c), a provision that allows for up to three (3) year H-1B Extensions for certain I-140 holders (mainly Indian nationals, coincidentally). Such a reinterpretation would allow DHS to effectively neuter H-1B extensions under AC21 Section 104(c), however, because DHS does not currently appear to be able to reinterpret the word “shall” in AC21 Section 106(a), one (1) year H-1B Extensions should remain untouched and available.
A reinterpretation of AC21 Section 104(c) by DHS, if undertaken, would align harmoniously amongst its other recent attempts to make H-1Bs prohibitively complicated, expensive and more frequently subject to DHS’ scrutiny (i.e. the trending query of the month). That stated, please note that the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA.org) has indicated that DHS has not issued a formal announcement about any such change, that such a change would require a formal rulemaking procedure, and lastly, that such changes could be subject to litigation.
Ultimately, instead of scapegoating Srinivas from Hyderabad for daring to fill one of the 480,000 open computing jobs nationwide, we should be asking ourselves why Suzy from Ohio is majoring in Italian Art History instead of Computer Engineering. There is a very real and obvious problem with education in our country, but it is not the H-1B Program or H-1B workers, rather, the issue is that We. Are. Not. Producing. Enough. STEM. Workers.
BELOW VIA AILA.ORG
Under current law, the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21) has two provisions, section 104(c) and section 106(a), which enable DHS to grant an H-1B extension to an H-1B worker who has reached the six-year limit if certain milestones in the LPR process have been met. These two provisions are summarized below:
H-1B EXTENSION BEYOND SIX-YEAR LIMITATION UNDER AC21 AC21 Provision Section 104(c) Section 106(a) Requirements for an H-1B Extension beyond the Sixth-Year Enables a three-year H-1B extension beyond the six-year maximum period if an H-1B worker:
(i) has an approved employment-based immigrant visa petition (I-140 petition) under the EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 visa category, and
(ii) is eligible to be granted lawful permanent resident status but for per country limits on visa availability.
Enables a one-year H-1B extension beyond the six-year maximum period if:
(i) 365 days or more have passed since the filing of a labor certification application on the H-1B worker’s behalf, or
(ii) 365 days or more have passed since the filing of an I-140 petition.
Relevant Statutory Language Section 104(c) provides that the DHS Secretary (formerly the Attorney General) “may grant” such an extension to an eligible H-1B worker who meets the requirements of this section until the adjustment of status application has been adjudicated. Section 106(a) provides that the maximum six-year limit “shall not apply” to an H-1B worker who meets the requirements of this section and that the DHS Secretary “shall extend” the stay in one-year increments until such time as a final decision is made on the H-1B worker’s adjustment of status application.
DHS is reportedly looking at whether it can stop approving H-1B extensions for H-1B workers who meet the requirements of section 104(c), by reinterpreting the “may grant” language as discretionary, and therefore that DHS may, but is not required to, approve such H-1B extensions.
Notably, as outlined above, section 106(a) of AC21 provides that the maximum six-year period of H-1B status “shall not apply” to H-1B workers who qualify for an H-1B extension under section 106(a) and that the DHS Secretary “shall extend” the stay of H-1B workers who meet the requirements in one-year increments until such time as a final decision is made on the H-1B worker’s adjustment of status application. This provision, with its use of the word “shall,” should be read as mandatory, and thus DHS would be required to approve the extension for those H-1B workers who met the requirements of section 106(a). As such, H-1B workers who could potentially be impacted by the reported proposed changes to AC21 section 104(c) should be able to continue to extend their H-1B status under section 106(a) of AC21, provided they have met the required milestones in the LPR process. This is even true for H-1B workers who initially did not meet the requirements of section 106(a) but who now, through the passage of time, qualify for the one-year extension.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Trump signed his latest Executive Order “Buy American and Hire American.” The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) observed that while today’s announcement reflects the administration’s desire to move toward reforms to the H-1B program, there will be no immediate changes or impacts on H-1Bs. Simply put, it appears that the agencies are asked to review policies related to all visa programs and recommend changes to root out “fraud and abuse,” and to propose additional reforms so that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid applicants.
WASHINGTON, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) denounced President Trump’s rewritten Executive Order, which is again based on the false premise that barring Muslims and refugees from coming to America will make the country safer. The ban was revised in an effort to get around the court orders that blocked the Administration from implementing the original order after it had wrought havoc throughout U.S. airports and around the world. Under the rewritten order:
- The ban will be effective March 16, 2017.
- Refugees are banned for a 120-day period, an effective chokehold that snuffs out the US refugee program.
- The travel ban still impacts only individuals from predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen), and still targets people based on their religion and nationality, though Iraq has been removed from the list of banned countries.
- The ban does not apply to lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and dual nationals when traveling on a passport issued by a non-designated country. Those holding select other visas and statuses will not be affected, and waivers may be granted to others on a case-by-case basis.
William A. Stock, President of AILA noted, “Despite the administration’s assurances, this ban on refugees and nationals of these predominantly Muslim countries will not make America safer. Once again President Trump is elevating a xenophobic campaign promise over true national security protections and implementing a policy that national security professionals think is unnecessary and counterproductive. Further, refugees, other than those already approved and in transit, will remain locked out of the United States for at least 120 days, despite being extremely vulnerable and the most stringently vetted group of immigrants. Blocking thoroughly vetted families from seeking help does not befit our nation’s proud and long history of humanitarian protection and welcoming those fleeing persecution.”
Benjamin Johnson, AILA Executive Director stated, “Exempting lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and dual nationals will hopefully mean that these irrational policies will hurt fewer people, but the fact remains that this is bad policy, motivated by unfounded fear. Just like the last ban, this executive order will disrupt the lives of foreign nationals that live, work, and contribute to the U.S. and the citizen family members, community members, and businesses that depend on them. Many have already curtailed travel for scholarly research, to visit family abroad, attend a wedding, or see someone graduate because they are afraid they won’t be allowed to return. This new ban will hurt American families and businesses, and does not advance the promise of a better future for our nation.”
The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.
On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” People all over the United States are rallying in opposition to this EO and showing their support for all of those individuals affected by President Trump’s EOs. AILA lawyers across the country are showing up en masse to provide legal support to those detained, as well as to families and friends waiting for their loved ones to be released.
Last night, lawyers filed actions across the country to halt the January 27 EO. A federal judge in the Eastern District of New York issued the first order, granting a nationwide stay of removal preventing deportation for individuals with valid visas and approved refugee applications affected by the EO. The next decision came out of a federal court in Massachusetts – it went a bit further and barred federal officials from detaining or removing individuals subject to the EO. Two other courts also issued rulings. In a case filed in Virginia, the court ordered federal officials to provide lawyers access to “all legal permanent residents being detained at Dulles International Airport” and barred officials from deporting covered individuals for the next seven days. In the case out of Washington State, the federal judge barred the federal government from deporting two unnamed individuals from the United States.
Lawyers in the New York case are seeking clarification from the court.
The Department of Homeland Security put out a statement early today stating only that the agency “will comply with judicial orders.”
More clarity was provided by Secretary Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security, who released a press statement this evening clarifying how the EO applies to LPRs: “I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest.”
American Immigration Lawyers Association asks Secretary of State John Kerry and other Officials to restore the dates in the September 9, 2015 Visa Bulletin
Earlier today, the American Immigration Lawyers Association indicated that it had sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz expressing great disappointment in the September 25, 2015, changes to the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, and asking that the dates published in the September 9, 2015, Visa Bulletin be restored. The revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin rolls back the “Dates for Filing” for several visa categories, and will force many individuals and families to continue to face lengthy wait times before they can submit their applications for permanent residence.
AILA’s recommendations on filing H-1B, PERM and other applications while DOL’s iCERT and PERM Websites are Shutdown
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has indicated that they are trying to obtain guidance from USCIS and US Department of Labor (DOL) about how attorneys should move forward in filing applications like the H-1B and PERM/Labor Certifications which have been affected by the DOL’s shutdown (resulting from the Federal Government’s Shutdown).
AILA does not have official guidance from the USCIS and DOL yet and indicates that there are “conflicting reports” regarding DOL’s ability to even accept mail. For now, however, AILA recommends the following:
Dept. of Labor indicates that “Unusually High Number of Cases Filed”: Issuing Generic LCA Certification Notices
http://www.ashwinsharma.com, VIA AILA.org
More indications of the impending avalanche of H-1B cases set to be filed for the quota which opens April 1, and of the problems caused by DOL’s iCERT website. According to AILA, The U.S. Department of Labor has been sending the following e-mail to many LCA submitters: “Due to an unusually high volume of submitted cases, one or more Labor Condition Application cases you submitted recently was certified but the courtesy email informing you of the certification was not generated. Please log into the iCERT Visa Portal System to review your recently submitted cases and retrieve the certification(s).”
American Immigration Lawyers Association: Immigration Quicktake: House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on High-Skilled Immigration