Administration Releases Conflicting Information on Scope of New Immigration Ban
Less than a week after issuing an immigration ban restricting entry into the United States of certain H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrants, the Trump administration amended the order to further limit the entry of foreign nationals. Although the language of the initial order suggested that individuals who are outside the US but possessed a valid visa in another non-immigrant visa category (such as a tourist visa, student visa, or another qualifying working visa), would be eligible to receive a new visa in one of the restricted categories, the new amendment clarifies that this is not the case.
It remains unclear whether individuals who were in the US in H, J, or L status on June 24, 2020 (the effective date of the order) will be subject to the ban if they travel internationally. Although the State Department provided answers to some questions in a recent series of tweets, much of the information conflicted with the plain language of the proclamation or raised other questions about the scope of the order. For the time being, we urge our clients to avoid traveling internationally if at all possible. If international travel is essential, please contact us first to discuss the risks.
We will update you as additional information becomes available.
USCIS Furloughs Over 13,000 Workers
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun the process of furloughing more than 13,000 employees for up to 3 months in response to a budget crisis. As a fee-funded agency, USCIS’ budget has been hit especially hard by the steep decline in immigration applications resulting from the pandemic and the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies. In response, the agency has requested $1.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress before August 3, 2020. If these funds are not granted, more than 60% of the agency’s employees will be furloughed, likely exacerbating existing backlogs and resulting in a substantial increase in processing times.
Postponed Naturalization Ceremonies to be Completed by the End of July
After temporarily canceling naturalization ceremonies due to the pandemic, USCIS has resumed holding shorter, socially distanced ceremonies. Yesterday, the agency announced that it expects to complete nearly all postponed naturalization ceremonies by the end of July.
USCIS Extends Flexibility on RFE Response Times
USCIS has implemented a policy update, effective immediately, for applicants and petitioners who received, or who will receive, Requests for Evidence (RFEs), Notices of Intent to Deny, or certain other agency requests between March 1, 2020 and September 11, 2020. These applicants and petitioners will automatically receive a 60-calendar day extension of the deadline listed on the notice. This policy was previously announced in March and also applies to filing date requirements for certain appeals and motions.