Issue 129 June 2019

Chin & Curtis, LLP Merges with Ditrani Law

We are very pleased to announce the merger of Ditrani Law with Chin & Curtis, LLP.  The merger took place on June 1, 2019.  Our combined firm will operate as Chin & Curtis, LLP.

Ditrani Law is a team of strategic, creative experts who are passionate about solving immigration challenges.  In addition to a dynamic U.S. business immigration practice, Ditrani Law has specialized in family-based immigration law as well as humanitarian immigration relief.  Leslie Ditrani, who will join as Co-Managing Partner of Chin & Curtis, has been practicing immigration law for more than 20 years, and has a broad expertise in business and family immigration matters.  Leslie is on the Board of Directors of the American Immigration Council, and is Chair of the Annual AILA New England Immigration Law Conference.  We are excited to welcome Ditrani Law’s exceptional lawyers and support staff to our practice.

USCIS Completes Data Entry for FY 2020 H-1B Cap-Subject (Lottery) Petitions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has completed data entry for all fiscal year 2020 H-1B lottery petitions, including those under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.

The agency will begin returning all unselected H-1B lottery petitions and will announce when notifications are completed. USCIS did not provide a specific timeframe but said, "We ask petitioners to wait to inquire about the status of their cap-subject petitions until they receive a receipt notice or an unselected petition that we have returned."

Details: USCIS announcement, https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-completes-data-entry-fiscal-year-2020-h-1b-cap-subject-petitions

Online Visa, ESTA Applications Include New Social Media Question

The Department of State's (DOS) online visa application (Form DS-160) now includes a new question about social media. The applicant is instructed to provide the names of each social media platform used within the last five years and the "username or handle you have used on that platform."

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application also has a social media question, although providing this information is optional, reportedly.

The ESTA should not be confused with the DS-160 process. The ESTA is an electronic authorization required of citizens from “visa waiver” countries who are traveling to the U.S. for business and/or leisure. The DS-160 is for foreign nationals who are required to apply for a visa at a U.S. Consulate/Embassy before traveling to the U.S.

Details: DOS online visa application, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/forms/ds-160-online-nonimmigrant-visa-application.html; ESTA application, https://www.esta-visaform.us/; list of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html

State Dept. Notes Continued Heavy Demand, Retrogressions (Visa Unavailability) in Several Employment-Based Immigrant Visa Categories

The Department of State's (DOS) Visa Bulletin for the month of June 2019 notes heavy demand in several employment-based visa categories:

  • There continues to be an "extremely high rate of demand" for India employment first preference (EB-1) visa numbers, which has resulted in retrogression of the final action date for the month of June to October 1, 2017. This action will be temporary.
  • Continued heavy applicant demand is expected to result in the India employment fifth preference (EB-5) category approaching the per-country annual limit during July. This is likely to result in the imposition of a July final action date in 2017. This action will be temporary, with the EB-5 date for India "most likely" advancing to the summer or fall of 2017 for October.
  • High demand also is expected to result in the Vietnam employment fifth preference (EB-5) category reaching the per-country annual limit in July. This action will be temporary, with the Vietnam EB-5 date "most likely" advancing to the fall or early winter of 2016 for October.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also announced that the agency will follow the “Final Action Dates” chart for the month for accepting I-485 Adjustment of Status applications.

Details: DOS Visa Bulletin for June 2019, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin/2019/visa-bulletin-for-june-2019.html; USCIS announcement, https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/visa-availability-priority-dates/when-file-your-adjustment-status-application-family-sponsored-or-employment-based-preference-visas-june-2019

Regulatory Agenda Includes Stripping Employment Eligibility From H-4 Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders, Other Actions

The Trump administration recently announced its spring 2019 regulatory agenda.

On the list for the Department of Homeland Security are proposals (not final yet), among others, to:

  • Revise the definition of "specialty occupation" to "increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest" foreign nationals via the H-1B program, revise the definition of "employment" and "employer-employee relationship" to "better protect U.S. workers and wages," and add requirements to "ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders"
  • Increase monitoring and oversight of the EB-5 program and encourage investment in rural areas, including soliciting feedback on proposals for redefining components of the job creation requirement and defining conditions for regional center designations and operations
  • Remove employment eligibility for H-4 spouses of H-1B workers
  • Withdraw a regulatory provision stating that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must grant or deny an asylum applicant's application for employment authorization within 30 days
  • "Promote greater accountability in the application process for requesting employment authorization and…deter the fraudulent filing of asylum applications for the purpose of obtaining Employment Authorization Documents”
  • Raise fees for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program

 

Details: Announcement, https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaMain; Department of Homeland Security list, https://bit.ly/2C3E1nU; Department of State list, https://bit.ly/2YOBwfS

USCIS Accelerates Transition to Digital Immigration Processing, Announces I-539 Online Filing

On May 22, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new strategy, eProcessing, to accelerate USCIS's transition to a "digital business model." USCIS said eProcessing "will be a complete digital experience, from applying for a benefit, to communicating with USCIS, through receiving a decision on a case."

  • As a first step, certain visitors for business, visitors for pleasure, and vocational students can now file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, online. Additional visa classifications are coming soon, USCIS said.
  • Included are single applicants (without co-applicants or legal/accredited representation) wishing to extend their stay who hold status as B-1 temporary visitors for business, B-2 temporary visitors for pleasure, F-1 academic students with a specific status expiration date, F-2 spouses or children of academic students with a specific expiration date, M-1 vocational students, and M-2 spouses or children of M-1 students.

Details: USCIS announcement regarding eProcessing, https://www.uscis.gov/news/news- releases/uscis-accelerates-transition-digital-immigration-processing-0; online I-539 filing, https://www.uscis.gov/i539online; USCIS announcement regarding I-539 online filing, https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/certain-nonimmigrants-can-now-file-form-i-539-online