Chin & Curtis Is Moving!

We have spent 23 years at 75 Federal Street, but all good things must come to an end eventually. We are moving next month to 100 High Street, which is just around the corner and still in the heart of Boston’s Financial District. We love the neighborhood, and we are excited about our new space!

USCIS Furlough Plans for August 3 Continue to Move Forward

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is expected to furlough more than two- thirds of its employees beginning August 3, 2020, for at least a month and up to three months or more, if Congress does not pass sufficient emergency funding. The furlough of approximately 13,400 USCIS employees is likely to have a significant impact on the U.S. immigration system.

There are several unknowns, however:

    • The furlough may not go into effect. Congress may yet act to provide USCIS with bridge funding. Reportedly, members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committees are working with USCIS on its funding request. USCIS funding may be provided as part of a “Phase 4” COVID-19 pandemic relief bill, or as a separate appropriation.

    • The furlough may affect some types of applications more than others. Because in- person adjudications, like adjustment of status (I-485) and naturalization, require more staff than paper adjudications like H-1B petitions, the furloughs may hit local offices harder than the regional processing centers where most employment-based adjudications are done.

    • The furlough should not affect the ability to file applications, meaning employees can obtain benefits from timely filed extensions, but furloughs will likely affect processing times, which means that applications will take much longer to be decided.

    • The furlough may affect the Premium Processing service, although USCIS may decide to retain the service due to the extra revenue it brings.

    • Recent reports indicate that USCIS no longer expects to see a budget shortfall this fiscal year, yet the Administration appears to be moving forward with the planned furloughs anyway. We don’t know how this will play out.

State Department and USCIS Clarifies Recent Presidential Proclamations Suspending Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants

On July 17, 2020, the Department of State (DOS) provided a detailed list of exceptions under two recent Presidential Proclamations that suspended the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants into the United States. The list includes, importantly, natural interest exceptions for H-4, L-2, and J-2 dependent visas to allow spouses and children of H-1B, L-1, or J-1 workers currently in the U.S. to join their families here. DOS said that travelers who believe their travel falls into one of the excepted categories or is otherwise in the national interest may request a visa appointment at the closest U.S. embassy or consulate and a decision will be made at the time of interview.

On July 16, 2020, DOS also issued guidance on national interest exceptions for certain travelers from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Other clarifications made by the agencies regarding the June 22 Proclamation regarding nonimmigrant visas include:

    • The Proclamation does not apply to visa-exempt Canadians

    • H-1B1 visas are not subject to the Proclamation

    • If an individual was in the U.S. in valid status on the effective date of the Proclamation (June 24, 2020), but subsequently left the U.S., the individual is not subject to the Proclamation and may renew their visa.

Trump Administration Agrees to Rescind New Foreign Student Online-Only Ban

The Trump administration agreed on July 14, 2020 to rescind a new policy that would have barred nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students taking only online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester from entering into or remaining in the United States. U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs announced the Trump administration’s agreement to rescind the new policy during a court hearing related to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston by Harvard and MIT, which have about 9,000 international students between them.

Although the administration’s rescission of the policy is welcome news, NAFSA: Association of International Educators said it cannot ignore the damage inflicted by the guidance, and pointed out that new international student enrollment has been declining for three straight academic years. According to one analysis, international student enrollment at U.S. universities in the fall semester of the 2020-21 academic year is expected to decline 63 to 98 percent from the levels in the 2018-2019 school year.

Phased Resumption of Services Begins for Visa Processing at U.S. Consulates Abroad

Following the suspension of routine services worldwide in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. embassies and consulates are beginning a phased resumption of routine visa services, although there is likely to be a backlog of appointments. The resumption will occur on a post-by-post basis. Each individual U.S. embassy or consulate’s website should be consulted for information regarding operating status and which services it is currently offering.

The Department of State (DOS) said it is closely monitoring local conditions in each country where the agency has a U.S. presence. Local conditions that may affect reopening of various public services include “medical infrastructure, COVID-19 cases, emergency response capabilities, and restrictions on leaving home,” DOS said.

Plaintiffs Prevented From Entering U.S. Sue Trump Administration, State Department.

Several lawsuits have been filed recently by individuals and organizations affected by the Trump administration’s bans on the entry of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants into the United States. The lawsuits seek to nullify the bans, which according to estimates will block approximately 525,000 people from entering the United States, and will prevent approximately 20,000 employers from bringing needed workers into the U.S. The Supreme Court has taken a broad view of the President’s authority to restrict non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from entering the U.S., so it remains to be seen whether the lawsuits will be successful in challenging the bans.

DHS Extends Border Restrictions with Mexico and Canada Until August 21

DHS has announced the extension of border restrictions with Mexico and Canada until August 21, 2020. The restrictions temporarily limit travel of individuals from those countries into the United States at land ports of entry along the border to “essential travel” as defined in the notices. As we have reported, while “essential travel” certainly excludes tourism, CBP seems to be allowing individuals traveling to the U.S. in TN, H-1B, and other nonimmigrant statuses for work.

August 2020 Visa Bulletin Update

The Department of State has released the August 2020 Visa Bulletin. Cutoff dates for all countries except China and India will remain current in the EB-1 category. China will advance by nearly six months and India will advance by 9 months. In the EB-2 category, most countries will remain current, with modest advancement for China. India will remain at July 8, 2009. In the EB-3 category, there is advancement of several months for both China and India, with all other countries advancing considerably as well.

USCIS has announced that it will continue to require the use of the Final Action Dates chart in August for all employment-based preference categories.

New Blog Posts

The Chin & Curtis team authored several new blog posts over the past month. This month, we examined two starkly different visions for immigration in America, travel ban waivers at Boston Logan Airport, and USCIS furloughs, among others.