State Dept. Releases Guidance on Immigrant Visa Prioritization
The Department of State (DOS) released guidance on how its embassies and consulates are prioritizing immigrant visa applications and making “difficult decisions” as they work to reduce the backlog “resulting from travel restrictions and operational constraints caused by the global COVID pandemic.”
DOS said the guiding principle is family reunification: “Specifically, the Department’s prioritization relie[s] on clear direction from Congress that the Department must adopt a policy of prioritizing immediate relative visa applicants and K-1 [fiancé(e)s] of U.S. citizens, followed by family preference immigrant visa applicants.”
Immigrant visas are prioritized over nonimmigrant visas. U.S. embassies and consulates are using a “tiered approach to triage immigrant visa applications based on the category of immigrant visa as they resume and expand processing.” Consular sections are scheduling some appointments within all four priority tiers every month. The following lists the main categories of immigrant visas in priority order:
· Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government), and emergency cases as determined on a case-by-case basis.
· Tier Two: Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
· Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
· Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas
Also, U.S. embassies and consulates were instructed that they may “prioritize as emergencies on a case-by-case basis the immigrant visa cases of certain healthcare professionals who will work at a facility engaged in pandemic response,” the guidance states.
· “Immigrant Visa Prioritization,” Dept. of State, Aug. 30, 2021, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/immigrant-visa-prioritization.html
DHS Extends I-9 Flexibility to End of December
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an extension until December 31, 2021, of the flexibility in complying with certain requirements related to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, due to continuing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary guidance previously was set to expire on August 31, 2021.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) release from March 2020 provides information on how to obtain, remotely inspect, and retain copies of the identity and employment eligibility documents to complete Section 2 of Form I-9. DHS said employers must monitor DHS’s and ICE’s Workforce Enforcement announcements for information on when the extensions will end and normal operations will resume. E-Verify participants who choose the remote inspection option “should continue to follow current guidance and create cases for their new hires within three business days from the date of hire,” DHS said.
· ICE announcement, Aug. 31, 2021, https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-announces-extension-new-employee-guidance-i-9-compliance-flexibility-1 · ICE news release, Mar. 31, 2021, https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/dhs-announces-flexibility-requirements-related-form-i-9-compliance · DHS releases, https://www.dhs.gov/ · ICE releases, https://bit.ly/2Ycd6Sw · Temporary policies related to COVID-19, USCIS, Aug. 31, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/covid-19-form-i-9-related-news/temporary-policies-related-to-covid-19
USCIS Requests Public Comments on Revision of H-1B Registration Tool
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requests public comments on a revision of the H-1B Registration Tool. This includes changes associated with a final rule USCIS published on January 8, 2021, “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions.”
USCIS said the hour and cost time burden estimates also include the time and cost burden estimates associated with the final rule. On February 8, 2021, USCIS published a rule delaying the effective date to December 31, 2021.
· Federal Register notice, Sept. 1, 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-09-01/pdf/2021-18850.pdf · Final rule, USCIS, Jan. 8, 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-01-08/pdf/2021-00183.pdf
· Final rule, delay of effective date, USCIS, Feb. 8, 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-02-08/pdf/2021-02665.pdf
House Budget Reconciliation Bill Includes Immigration Provisions
The proposed House of Representatives’ budget reconciliation bill includes language that would allow eligible persons to pay a fee to be exempted from numerical limits, among other provisions. Selected highlights include:
· Those in four categories who are eligible would be able to adjust status to permanent residence by paying a supplemental fee of $1,500 and passing security checks and a medical exam, including certain DREAMers, essential workers, temporary protected status beneficiaries, and deferred enforced departure beneficiaries.
· Unused immigrant visa numbers from certain date ranges would be recaptured, including family and employment visas that went unused and diversity visas if a person was refused a visa solely due to a Trump visa ban or slowdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Adjustment applications may be submitted without regard to visa availability with a fee of $1,500 plus $250 for each derivative beneficiary.
· Adjustment applicants would be exempted from family numerical limits if they have a priority date more than two years old and are:
– Applying for FA-1, FA-3, or FA-4 immigrant visa categories and pay a fee of $2,500
– Applying for EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 categories and pay $5,000
– Applying for EB-5 and pay $50,000
· House bill, https://judiciary.house.gov/uploadedfiles/judiciary_committee_print.pdf
· Siskind Summary, House Reconciliation Bill Immigration Language (as of 9/11/2021), https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:62f5de78-38e0-42b8-8d70-18ccb238e006#pageNum=1