WEEKLY IMMIGRATION UPDATE – April 27, 2021
- SSA Ends “No-Match” Letters – The Social Security Administration has ended the practice of sending employers “no-match” letters, called Employer Correction Request Notices.
- State Dept. Updates Travel Advisories Due to Ongoing Pandemic – The Department is warning travelers against going to “approximately 80% of countries worldwide.”
- State Dept. Releases FAQ on Immigrant Visa Backlog and Consular Processing – The Department said it is committed to decreasing the backlog by “prioritizing certain visas, creating efficiencies in the visa process, and utilizing all available resources until our task is accomplished.”
- CBP Extends Temporary Travel Restrictions Between the U.S. and Canada/ Mexico – Land border ports of entry crossings remain limited to essential travel through at least May 21, 2021.
- DHS to Make Additional 22,000 Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Visas Available – In light of increased labor demands, the Department of Homeland Security announced a supplemental increase of 22,000 visas this fiscal year for the H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker program. DHS said the additional visas will be made available in the “coming months” via a temporary final rule.
- President Biden Orders CBP, ICE to Change Terminology – According to reports, under orders of the Biden administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued memoranda to their employees to stop using certain terms (e.g., “illegal alien”) and replace them with others.
- DHS Provides Relief for Venezuelan and Syrian F-1 Students – The Department of Homeland Security has suspended certain regulatory requirements for F-1 nonimmigrant students whose country of citizenship is Venezuela or Syria.
- State Dept. Issues Final Rule Changing Certifying Authority for Graduate Medical Education – Effective May 19, 2021, the Department of State is changing the certification authority for noncitizen physicians from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
- DHS Rescinds Civil Penalties for Failure to Depart – A DHS statement said the fines “were not effective and had not meaningfully advanced the interests of the agency.”
1. SSA Ends “No-Match” Letters
According to reports, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has ended the practice of sending employers “no-match” letters, called Employer Correction Request Notices. SSA said it will instead work to make it “better, easier and more convenient” for employers to report and correct wages electronically. The letters, which inform employers when W-2 information doesn’t match SSA’s records, were discontinued in 2012 but resurrected in March 2019.
Advocates had asked the agency to eliminate the letters, which they said caused problems such as workers losing their jobs due to mistakes in the database.
- “Immigration Advocates Say End of ‘No-Match Letters’ a Victory for Workers,” Chicago Sun-Times, Apr. 22, 2021, https://chicago.suntimes.com/2021/4/22/22397663/chicago-immigration-no-match-letters-social-security-administration-victory-workers
- “ ‘No-Match’ Letters Are Back: What Employers Need to Know, Watchdog, CalChamber, Apr. 25, 2019, https://hrwatchdog.calchamber.com/2019/04/no-match-letters-are-back-what-employers-need-to-know/
2. State Dept. Updates Travel Advisories Due to Ongoing Pandemic
The Department of State expanded its travel advisories to warn U.S. citizens not to travel to many areas due to ongoing “unprecedented risks” posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department is warning travelers against going to “approximately 80% of countries worldwide.”
- State Dept. tweet on updated travel advisories, https://bit.ly/2S02m6O
- State Dept. Travel Advisories, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/
- Color-coded map showing travel advisory levels worldwide, State Dept., https://travelmaps.state.gov/TSGMap/
- State Dept. to Issue Travel Warnings Amid ‘Unprecedented’ COVID-19 Risks,” National Public Radio, Apr. 19, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/04/19/988940638/state-department-to-issue-travel-warnings-amid-unprecedented-covid-19-risks
3. State Dept. Releases FAQ on Immigrant Visa Backlog and Consular Processing
On April 13, 2021, the Department of State released frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the immigrant visa backlog and consular processing. The FAQ notes that the immigrant visa interview backlog has developed “because of limitations in staffing and other COVID-related operational constraints preventing us from processing the same volume of applicants as pre-pandemic.” In addition, the FAQ cites previous presidential proclamations that “restricted visa processing for many immigrants for nearly a year.” The Department said it would take time to process the cases affected by these travel restrictions.
The Department said it is committed to decreasing the backlog by “prioritizing certain visas, creating efficiencies in the visa process, and utilizing all available resources until our task is accomplished.” Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for updates on currently available visa services, the FAQ states. Virtual interviews are not available because current regulations “require all immigrant visa applicants to appear in person before a consular officer,” the FAQ states.
- “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Immigrant Visa Backlog,” Dept. of State, Apr. 13, 2021, https://www.facebook.com/travelgov
4. CBP Extends Temporary Travel Restrictions Between U.S. and Canada/Mexico
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that temporary travel restrictions between the United States and Canada, and between the United States and Mexico, at land ports of entry along the border (including passenger ferry services and pleasure boat travel) will remain in effect through May 21, 2021, and may be extended thereafter. Travel continues to be limited to that deemed “essential.”
- Temporary Travel Restrictions to Land Border and Ferries Between the United States, Canada and Mexico, https://help.cbp.gov/s/article/Article-1694?language=en_US
5. DHS to Make Additional 22,000 Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Visas Available
In light of increased labor demands, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a supplemental increase of 22,000 visas this fiscal year for the H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker program. DHS said the additional visas will be made available in the “coming months” via a temporary final rule. Six thousand of these visas will be reserved for nationals of the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, DHS said.
The additional visas will only be made available to employers that attest that, if they do not receive workers under the cap increase, they are likely to suffer irreparable harm, DHS said. Additionally, the temporary final rule “will allow employers to immediately hire H-2B workers who are already present in the United States without waiting for approval of the new petition. This portability provision is a critical safeguard that protects both U.S. and H-2B workers, while also providing flexibilities to employers during a time when travel remains challenging,” the agency said. The supplemental increase “is based on a time-limited statutory authority and does not affect the H-2B program in future fiscal years.”
- DHS announcement, https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/04/20/dhs-make-additional-22000-temporary-non-agricultural-worker-visas-available
6. President Biden Orders CBP, ICE to Change Terminology
According to reports, under orders of the Biden administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued memoranda to their employees to stop using certain terms and replace them with others.
- “alien”—use “noncitizen” or “migrant”
- “alienage—use “noncitizenship”
- “illegal alien”—use “undocumented noncitizen,” “undocumented individual,” or “migrant”
- “unaccompanied alien children”—use “noncitizen unaccompanied children”
- “assimilation”— use “integration” or “civic integration”
- “immigrant assimilation”— use “immigrant integration”
- “U.S. Under Biden Will No Longer Call Migrants ‘Illegal Aliens’,” U.S. News, Apr. 19, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2021-04-19/us-under-biden-will-no-longer-call-migrants-illegal-aliens
- “Under Joe Biden, United States Will No Longer Use the Term ‘Illegal Aliens’ to Describe Migrants,” South China Morning Post, Apr. 20, 2021, https://www.scmp.com/news/world/united-states-canada/article/3130203/under-joe-biden-united-states-will-no-longer-use
- “ICE to Stop Using the Term ‘Illegal Alien’ Referring to Immigrants,” ABC News, Apr. 19, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ice-stop-term-illegal-alien-referring-immigrants/story?id=77165043&cid=clicksource_4380645_5_three_posts_card_hed
7. DHS Provides Relief for Venezuelan and Syrian F-1 Students
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has suspended certain regulatory requirements for F-1 nonimmigrant students whose country of citizenship is Venezuela or Syria.
DHS said it took this action for Venezuelan students who are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, and for Syrian students who are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the civil unrest in Syria since March 2011.
DHS said that affected Venezuelan and Syrian lawful F-1 nonimmigrant students may request employment authorization, work an increased number of hours while school is in session, and reduce their course loads while continuing to maintain F-1 status.
DHS will deem an F-1 nonimmigrant student who receives employment authorization by means of the notice to be engaged in a “full course of study” for the duration of the employment authorization if the student satisfies the minimum course load requirement as described in the notices, which will remain effective for Venezuelan students until September 9, 2022, and for Syrian students until September 30, 2022.
- Venezuela notice, Apr. 22, 2021, https://www.justice.gov/eoir/page/file/1388716/download
- Syria notice, Apr. 22, 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-04-22/pdf/2021-08302.pdf
8. State Dept. Issues Final Rule Changing Certifying Authority for Graduate Medical Education
Effective May 19, 2021, the Department of State is changing the certification authority for noncitizen physicians from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
The Department explained that ABMS no longer produces the publication, Marquis Who’s Who, referenced in 22 CFR Part 62. Furthermore, ABMS has confirmed that it is also no longer the appropriate organization to comment on programs of graduate medical education. The Department said it has confirmed that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) has responsibility to accredit and recognize institutions offering programs of graduate medical education, and the agency therefore is replacing the reference to the ABMS with the ACGME in 22 CFR § 62.27.
- State Dept. notice, Apr. 19, 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-04-19/pdf/2021-07537.pdf
9. DHS Rescinds Civil Penalties for Failure to Depart
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on April 23, 2021, that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has rescinded two orders related to the collection of civil financial penalties for noncitizens who fail to depart the United States.
A DHS statement said the fines “were not effective and had not meaningfully advanced the interests of the agency.” ICE intends to work with the Department of the Treasury to cancel the existing debts of those who had been fined, DHS said. “There is no indication that these penalties promoted compliance with noncitizens’ departure obligations. We can enforce our immigration laws without resorting to ineffective and unnecessary punitive measures,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The DHS statement said that this rescission “marks ICE’s latest move toward focusing its limited resources on those posing the greatest risk to national security and public safety.”
- DHS statement, April 23, 2021, https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/04/23/dhs-announces-rescission-civil-penalties-failure-depart
Immigrant and employee rights webinars. The Department of Justice’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), of the Civil Rights Division, is offering a number of free webinars for workers, employers, and advocates. For more information, see https://www.justice.gov/crt/webinars.
E-Verify webinar schedule. E-Verify has released its calendar of webinars at https://www.e-verify.gov/calendar-field_date_and_time/month.
AGENCY PROCESSING TIMES
USCIS case processing times: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/
US Department of Labor: https://flag.dol.gov/processingtimes
Department of State Visa Bulletin: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html
COVID-19 resources. The response of the U.S. immigration agencies to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is constantly evolving, making it difficult to report relevant information that is not rendered immediately obsolete. The list of online resources below is intended to serve as a quick reference to the most current available agency information.
Coronavirus.gov: Primary federal site for general coronavirus information
USA.gov/coronavirus: Catalog of U.S. government’s response to coronavirus
CDC.gov/coronavirus: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information
American Immigration Lawyers Association: (links to practice alerts on this site are restricted to members)
Immigration Agency Information
Department of Homeland Security: DHS.gov/coronavirus
– Overview and FAQs: https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus
– Requirements for ICE Detention Facilities: https://www.ice.gov/doclib/coronavirus/eroCOVID19response
– Updates and Announcements: https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/coronavirus
– Accessing I-94 Information: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
Department of Labor:
– OFLC Announcements (COVID-19 announcements included here): https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/
– COVID-19 FAQs:
Round 1 (Mar. 20, 2020): https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/DOL-OFLC_COVID-19_FAQs_Round%201_03.20.2020.pdf
Round 2 (Apr. 1, 2020): https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/DOL-OFLC_COVID-19_FAQs_Round%202_04.01.2020.pdf
Round 3 (Apr. 9, 2020): https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/DOL-OFLC_COVID-19_FAQs_Round%203.pdf
State Department: https://www.state.gov/coronavirus/
Country-specific information: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html
J-1 exchange visitor information: https://j1visa.state.gov/covid-19/
Executive Office for Immigration Review: https://www.justice.gov/eoir/eoir-operational-status-during-coronavirus-pandemic
AGENCY TWITTER ACCOUNTS
Study in the States: @StudyinStates
I-9 AND E-VERIFY WEBINARS
USCIS and Immigrant and employee rights webinars. The Department of Justice’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section, Civil Rights Division,has joined with USCIS to present webinars on employee rights during the E-Verify and Form I-9 employment eligibility verification processes. For more information or to register, see: https://www.justice.gov/crt/webinars.
E-Verify webinar schedule: https://www.e-verify.gov/calendar-field_date_and_time/month/202004.
This newsletter was prepared in collaboration with ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, comprised of twenty U.S. immigration lawyers who head some of the top immigration practices in the country. Larrabee Albi Coker LLP is an active member of ABIL.
Legal Disclaimer: This newsletter is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute for legal advice based on the circumstances of a specific matter.