Our CCIU April 5th Edition covers news on the H-1B Cap Season, a bipartisan senate bill, an I-9 requirement flexibility extension, and more.

Enjoy the updates! We’ll soon be providing these posts as part of the WR Immigration family. You’ll be able to find weekly immigration news updates here.    

USCIS Completes Initial FY 2022 H-1B Cap Season Selections; Petitions May Be Filed Now

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on March 30, 2021, that it received enough electronic registrations during the initial registration period to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B numerical allocations (H-1B cap), including the advanced degree exemption (master’s cap).

The agency notified all prospective petitioners with selected registrations that they are eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for the named beneficiaries. We will begin the process of filing selected cases.

Details: FY 2022 H-1B Cap Season Updates, USCIS, Mar. 30, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/fy-2022-h-1b-cap-season-updates

Bipartisan Bill Introduced in Senate Would Provide Up to 40,000 Unused Immigrant Visas for Doctors, Nurses

New legislation introduced on March 29, 2021, by Democratic and Republican senators would provide unused employment-based immigrant visas for up to 25,000 foreign nurses and 15,000 foreign physicians and their family members. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S. 1024) is intended to beef up the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are highlights:

  • The visas would be made available from a pool of recaptured visas that were unused in fiscal years 1992 through 2020, and would not be counted against the total number of immigrant visas reserved for professional nurses and physicians.
  • The visas would be exempt from per-country numerical limits and would be issued in order of the priority date assigned at the time the visa petition was filed.
  • The petitioner would need to attest that the hiring would not displace a U.S. worker.
  • Processing would be expedited.
  • The filing period would be limited to 90 days following the termination of President Biden’s COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration.

The bill is supported by several dozen organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the National Rural Health Association, and others.

Details: Bill text, https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1024?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S.+1024%22%5D%7D&s=3&r=1

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DHS Extends I-9 Requirement Flexibility Until May 31, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an extension until May 31, 2021, of the flexibility in complying with requirements related to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic precautions. The temporary guidance had been set to expire March 31. The flexibility applies only to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely.

Details: DHS announcement, Mar. 31, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/form-i-9-related-news/dhs-extends-form-i-9-requirement-flexibility-effective-mar-31-2021

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“Blank Space” Criteria Eliminated for Rejection of Forms

Finally, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has eliminated “blank space” form rejection criteria introduced in 2019 and reverted to the criteria it applied before October 2019.

USCIS will no longer reject the following forms based solely on whether an applicant leaves a blank space anywhere on the form: Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal; Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (under Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as Amended); and Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. However, USCIS said it may reject these forms, or delays might be created, if an applicant leaves required spaces blank, fails to respond to questions related to filing requirements, or omits any required initial evidence.

Details: USCIS announcement, April 1, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-confirms-elimination-of-blank-space-criteria

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ICE Announces New SEVIS Process for Cap-Gap Extensions

On March 26, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to remove the cap-gap extension link. This link allowed designated school officials (DSOs) to temporarily apply cap-gap relief to the record of an eligible F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a filed H-1B petition but is awaiting confirmation from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that their petition was selected for processing. USCIS implementation of the H-1B Electronic Registration Process in 2020 eliminated this need, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said. SEVIS will automatically add the cap-gap extension to the record of an eligible F-1 student who is a beneficiary of a pending cap-subject H-1B petition according to ICE. If the cap-gap extension notation is missing from an eligible student’s record or other changes are needed, DSOs must contact the SEVP Response Center (SRC) at 703-603-3400 or 800-892-4829 (email: SEVP@ice.dhs.gov) and request a data fix.

Details: “New SEVIS Process for Cap-Gap Extensions,” SEVP Broadcast Message, Mar. 29, 2021, https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/bcm2103-02.pdf

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State Dept. Issues Update on Suspension of Entry for Certain Nonimmigrants

As reported in our most recent Client Alert, the Department of State issued an update on Presidential Proclamation 10052, which temporarily suspended the entry of certain H-1B, H-2B, J (for certain categories within the Exchange Visitor Program), and L nonimmigrants. That proclamation expired on March 31, 2021. The Department said that applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications prioritized and processed in accordance with existing “phased resumption of visa services” guidance. Visa applicants who were previously refused visas due to the restrictions “may reapply by submitting a new application including a new fee.” The resumption of routine visa services, prioritized after services to U.S. citizens, is occurring on a post-by-post basis. Applicants may check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on the services that post is currently offering.

Details: Update on Presidential Proclamation 10052, Dept. of State, Apr. 1, 2021, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/update-on-presidential-proclamation-10052.html

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