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Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the extension of the guidance increasing flexibility in I-9 compliance and relaxing in-person verification requirements. This marks the third time the policy, which was established in late March, has been extended—preceding this action, it had been extended for 30 days on May 19 and another 30 days on June 19. For the moment, the policy is slated to run through August 19. 
 

I-9 Extension and Employers

 
The extension of the guidance applies to employers operating 100% remotely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It also covers newly hired and existing employees who are subject to quarantine or lockdown protocols. Our blawg, I-9 in the Age of COVID-19, thoroughly explains the details of the original DHS and ICE guidance. 
 

What’s New in the Extension

 
While the announcement extended the increased I-9 flexibility, it ended ICE’s policy granting extensions to employers who were served notices of inspections (NOIs). Prior to the recent announcement, employers served with NOIs were granted an additional 30 days to respond.  
 

The Extension Going Forward 

 
As previously stated, this extension is set to expire on August 19. Over that time, DHS and ICE will monitor the pandemic and provide updated guidance when necessary. Employers are required to monitor both the DHS and ICE websites for when normal operations will resume. Another website to keep current on is GoffWilson.com.  
 

GoffWilson Immigration Law

 
GoffWilson is committed to being a go-to resource for the immigrant community and those who employ and support them. We regularly update the resources page of our website to ensure easy access to the most recent forms, while our blawg is a reliable source for keeping informed of the latest in immigration law. 
 
Immigration law is a complex and ever-changing field, which can leave many businesses flustered. If you have questions about the latest extension or any other immigration subject, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion!


 

On Tuesday, the Trump administration rescinded a policy that would have forced international students on F-1 and M-1 visas to either leave the U.S. or transfer to another school if their classes are held entirely online in the fall. The decision to revert back to a March guidance—which allows for flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic—was made as the administration faced eight federal lawsuits and intense opposition from entities such as cities, states, and colleges and universities.
 

Ordered Back to Class 

 
The policy directive reversed on Tuesday was only issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a little over a week ago, on July 6. The guidance was immediately met with resistance—students expressed concern that it failed to consider their well being and colleges and universities were sent scrambling to readjust their fall plans, many of which were the result of months of preparation. In a statement to students, Harvard President Larry Bacow said that the policy “came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness.”
 

What the Rescission Means for International Students 

 
For the moment, international students on F-1 and M-1 visas are able to study in the U.S. even if the institution they’re attending has moved exclusively online as the result of the pandemic. This is in line with the temporary suspension limiting online education available to international students instituted in March. While students and institutions of higher education can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment, it’s important to note that there is nothing to stop the administration from trying again with another directive. 
 

Opposition from Harvard & MIT 

 
The administration’s abandonment of their planned policy comes in response to a federal lawsuit brought by Harvard and MIT. While the two Boston-area schools were the first to challenge the policy, they were not alone; more than 200 universities signed briefs backing the legal challenge. According to Larry Bacow, “The ICE directive sought to force each of us to choose between the health of our communities and the education of our international students—a false and dangerous choice which we rejected.”
 
The administration’s walking back of their policy was applauded by the American Council on Education (ACE), a group that represents university presidents. Terry Hartle, ACE’s senior vice president said about the collective disapproval of the guidance by the college community, “There has never been a case where so many institutions sued the federal government.” 
 

Additional Opposition

 
Colleges and universities were joined in their objection to the policy by a coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia, who collectively filed another federal lawsuit against the administration calling the policy “a cruel, abrupt, and unlawful action to expel international students.” 
 
The coalition of states represents a broad swath of the U.S., including states on both coasts and the midwest. The states in the coalition were: 
 
  • Connecticut
  • Maryland
  • Illinois
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Nevada
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Oregon
  • New Mexico
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin
  • Vermont
  • Michigan
 
There are also 26 cities and counties that were vocal about their disapproval of the White House’s policy, voicing concern over the damage it will do to their economies. The cities range from major metropolises like New York City—where international students contribute $3 billion per year to its economy—to more average American cities such as Iowa City, whose 2,500 international students contribute millions of dollars per year. 
 
Briefs supporting the Harvard and MIT lawsuit were also filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with companies including Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.
 

GoffWilson Immigration Law

 
GoffWilson exclusively practices immigration law and has helped numerous colleges and universities bring the world’s brightest minds to their campuses. If you have a question about what the latest policy directive means for your institution or have any other inquiries about international students, contact us today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion!

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will extend the remote I-9 policy—with further extensions possible—that was implemented in March. The policy allows flexibility in the completion of Form I-9 for employers and employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the details of which we covered thoroughly in our blawg, “I-9 in the Age of COVID-19.”
 

Guidance on Processing Form I-9 

In addition to the extension of the remote I-9 policy, the DHS has provided updated guidance on how to remotely process I-9s and handle identity documents, as well as the procedure for the physical inspection required at a later day. They also published Form I-9 examples demonstrating how employers should complete and update the form upon reopening. The examples show how to:
 
The published I-9 examples specifically cover how an employer should:
  • Complete Section 2 remotely
  • Update the I-9 when normal operations resume
  • Proceed if the person who performed the remote inspection cannot also perform the physical inspection
  • Properly enter an expired-but-extended List B document in Section 2
  • Update Section 2 once the employee presents the renewed, unexpired document when normal operations resume

GoffWilson Immigration Law

We encourage employers to review the published examples and use them as guidance when completing/updating Forms I-9 for affected employees. GoffWilson has decades of experience in I-9 compliance and is a go-to resource for any Form I-9/E-Verify questions. Contact us today for assistance.

 
 
The Trump administration took another step to limit legal immigration in the U.S. this week when the President signed the Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak, which halts a variety of visas for foreign-born workers and their dependents from June 24 through December 31, 2020.

Which Visas are Affected?

The proclamation suspends the issuance of the following temporary employment visas:
  • H-1B: Individuals in “specialty occupations” 
  • H-2B: Temporary, seasonal labor in non-agricultural industries
  • L-1A:  Managers and executives from companies operating in the U.S. 
  • L-1B: Employees from companies operating inside the U.S. with specialized knowledge 
  • J-1 (certain): Those coming to the U.S. to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills, or receive on-the-job training
The proclamation also suspends corresponding visa types such as the H-4 (given to the spouse of an H-1B visa holder) and the L-2 (for the spouses of L-1A and L-1B visa holders).  
 
Unfortunately for many foreign nationals with plans to work in the U.S. on these visas, they’ll likely be unable to enter the U.S. until the end of the year, unless they obtain a waiver or a court intervenes.  

Who is Exempt?

There are some temporary work visas that are exempt from the recent proclamation. The three most notable exceptions are J-1 visas for physicians, foreign nationals essential to the food supply (such as H-2B workers employed in seafood or food processing), and the spouses and children of U.S. citizens. Other exempt visa categories include O-1, E-2, E-3, P, H-1B1, and TN. Another noteworthy absence from the list of impacted visas is the H-2A, which is used to hire foreign, temporary agricultural workers. 
 
The order also grants the Secretary of State and acting Secretary of Homeland Security the power to admit anyone who is determined to be in the national interest. For example, researchers working on diagnosing, preventing, and treating COVID-19; clinical care workers; and those critical to national security. 
 
Lastly, the proclamation does not affect existing visa holders, those who have applied for status changes or stay extensions, and those who are visa-exempt. 

Preceding Proclamation

The recent order also extends through the end of the year the Trump administration’s April 22, 2020 Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak, which paused issuing green cards to applicants outside of the U.S. For a more detailed expansion of the previous proclamation, read our blawg The White House Immigration Proclamation: The Invisible Wall.

Tightening Regulations 

The proclamation also orders a review of the country’s nonimmigrant programs such as the H-1B visa—a long-time target of the Trump administration—making it likely that tougher standards and increased restrictions will be proposed.

GoffWilson Immigration Law

GoffWilson is an ally of immigrants and employers—we’re monitoring the proclamation closely to best advise everyone affected by it. We’ll post updated information and guidance as we learn more. For over 30 years, we’ve proudly practiced immigration law and we are here to answer any questions about how you, your employer, or your business is affected by the recent immigration proclamation. Contact GoffWilson today—immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion! 

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin reopening certain field and asylum offices and resume non-emergency, in-person services on June 4th. The reopening is a fluid situation and USCIS is encouraging visitors to check their office closures webpage on the day of their appointment in the event of an office closure or temporary change of hours. 
 
Increased Health Precautions 
 
USCIS is taking steps to increase the safety of office visitors and working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through their reopened offices. With this in mind, visitors may not enter a USCIS facility if they have symptoms of COVID-19—such as coughing, fever, or difficulty breathing—have been in contact with anyone known or suspected of having COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or have been directed by a healthcare provider or public health official to self-quarantine or self-isolate within the past 14 days. 
 
Other safety precautions being taken by USCIS include: 
 
  • Visitors may not enter a facility more than 15 minutes before their appointment and 30 minutes before naturalization ceremonies 
  • Hand sanitizer is provided at entry points 
  • Visitors are required to wear a face covering that encloses both the mouth and nose; however, they may be asked to briefly remove their covering to confirm their identity or to take their photograph
  • Establishment of signs and barriers to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed
  • Visitors are encouraged to bring their own black- or blue-ink pens 
 
USCIS Interviews and Appointments
 
Applicants and petitioners who had previously scheduled appointments and interviews disrupted by COVID-19 closures will receive notices from USCIS. Those who had other appointments must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center. In addition to the aforementioned precautions, there are additional health measures visitors attending in-person interviews and appointments must follow: 
 
  • Visitors are limited to the applicant, one representative, one family member, and one individual providing disability accommodations
  • If an interpreter is required, the applicant must arrange to have their interpreter available by phone
 
Naturalization Ceremonies
 
USCIS is sending notices to applicants to reschedule postponed naturalization ceremonies. Naturalization ceremonies will be adapted to promote the health and well-being of attendees. Changes include: 
 
  • Ceremonies will be shorter in length
  • In place of playing videos at ceremonies, attendees will receive flyers with information and links directing them to videos on the USCIS website
  • Attendance is limited to the naturalization candidate and individuals providing assistance to disabled persons
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law 
 
As USCIS begins to reopen, GoffWilson remains a resource to the immigrant community and employers, organizations, and committees that support them. We will continue to post current information on our blawg and keep our resource center up to date with the latest forms and guidance. If you have a question or simply need one-on-one assistance, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion!
 

Even during normal times, immigration law is complex and ever-changing. In the COVID-19 age, laws and protocols are constantly being developed to adapt to the challenges facing employers and in accordance with government dictums. As a leader in immigration law, GoffWilson is continuously updating the Resources section of its website to keep clients and interested parties informed with the most current information available. 
 
One recent update to know about is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) COVID-19 Temporary Policy for List B Identity Documents, which offers guidance for the temporary acceptance of expired List B documents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
This policy is in response to the difficulty many people may have renewing state driver’s licenses, ID cards, and other included List B documentation because of stay-at-home orders and online renewal restrictions. Under this policy, beginning May 1, List B identity documents set to expire on March 1, 2020, or after are valid as an acceptable document for Form I-9 purposes. 
 
Employers need to enter the word “COVID-19” in the Additional Information Field. The employee is required to present a valid—unexpired—document to replace the expired one within 90 days after the USCIS terminates the temporary policy. When presented with an unexpired document, employers should record the document information in Additional Information, Section 2 under List B, along with initialing and dating the change. 
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law is committed to being a reliable resource to the immigrant community and the employers, organizations, and committees that support them during these uncertain times. Stay up to date with the latest immigration news, forms, and guidance on the Resource page of our website and make sure to follow our blawg. If you have a question you’re struggling to answer yourself, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion.
 

 

Immigration laws are constantly in flux; for example, just the other day, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) updated M-274, Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9—an essential reference for maintaining I-9 compliance—and it’s vital that deadlines, requirements, and protocols are met.
 
With this in mind, GoffWilson is continuously updating the employer, employee, and family resource pages of our website, along with our blawg, to ensure our clients have access to the most up-to-date forms and information available. Of course, immigration law is complex and ever-evolving, if you find yourself unable to find the answer you’re searching for, our attorneys are here to help. 
 
At GoffWilson, immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion. With decades of experience solely practicing immigration law, GoffWilson is an invaluable resource for the immigrant community and the businesses that depend on their contributions. If you have any questions about what the updated M-274 Handbook means for your business, or any other immigration-related questions, contact GoffWilson today.

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation suspending the entry of certain legal immigrants for 60 days, effective as of April 23. Although the order is only effective for 60 days, there is the potential for it to get extended. Researchers at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI)—a non-partisan think tank working to improve immigration and integration policies—estimated that 52,000 individuals will lose their chance at a green card over the proclamation’s initial time span. Furthermore, the MPI approximates that if the proclamation were to remain in place for a year it could affect as many as 350,000 green card-seeking immigrants, about a third of the roughly one million foreign nationals that obtain lawful permanent residence annually. 
 
Who is Affected By the Immigration Proclamation?
 
The people primarily impacted by this order are immigrants who are currently outside of the United States and seeking to obtain a visa for lawful residence; it does not apply to immigrants currently in the U.S. Those in the U.S. on employment-based visas are unlikely to be directly affected. However, family immigration to the U.S. is essentially eliminated for everyone but spouses and children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens for as long as the order remains in place. It also pauses the diversity lottery. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), about 45% of the approximately one million immigrants that obtained permanent residence last year entered as new arrivals. 
 
For example, a foreign national with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen is still eligible to apply for a green card. Also able to receive an immigrant visa or green card is any child (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen. Who isn’t able to receive a visa per the proclamation is the parents of that U.S. citizen. Conversely, the proclamation prohibits a resident alien from obtaining a visa for their spouse.
 
Exceptions to the Immigration Proclamation
 
While the scope of the White House’s immigration order is broad, there are a considerable number of exceptions. Those not impacted by the proclamation include lawful permanent residents, certain investors (EB-5), members of the military and their families, those deemed to be in the national interest, those assisting law enforcement, and immigrants who obtained permanent residence through asylum and refugee programs. 
 
Also excluded from the proclamation are foreign nationals seeking to enter on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional working to alleviate the effects of COVID-19. This is particularly important, as the more than three million immigrants working in healthcare fill one in four positions in the field. 
 
Temporary Workers and the Immigration Proclamation
 
Foreign nationals participating in guest worker programs such as the H-1B and L-1—visas that allow high-skilled workers, students, and agricultural labor to stay in the U.S. for a limited amount of time—are not immediately affected by the proclamation. If you are working in the U.S. on a visa like the H or L, once your green card application is filed we advise you to stay in the U.S. until Advanced Parole is secured. 
 
Other non-Immigrant visa holders not affected by the recent proclamation include O, P, TN, B, E, H-2A, H-2B, F-1, and all other temporary visas. If you possess a temporary visa and are traveling outside of the U.S., you should not have a problem re-entering the country; however, we suggest carrying copies of your last several paychecks and a letter verifying your employment from your employer with you. 
 
It’s important to note that after 30 days, the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Homeland, and Secretary of State will review the nation’s  nonimmigrant programs and recommend measures to “stimulate the U.S. economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring and employment of United States workers.” Consequently, restrictions for temporary workers are potentially looming in the near future. 
 
The Importance of Immigrants
 
On the immigration order, Trump said, “Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens, and crucially it also preserves healthcare resources for our patients.” However, this view is flawed according to a National Foundation for American Policy study which states: “The results of the state-level analysis indicate that immigration does not increase U.S. natives’ unemployment or reduce their labor force participation… Instead, having more immigrants reduces the unemployment rate and raises the labor force participation rate of U.S. natives within the same sex and education group.” 
 
While the White House’s proclamation will have an enormous impact on immigrants, it will make a miniscule amount of difference on unemployment. The 52,000 immigrants affected by this represent an infinitesimally small percentage of the 26 million Americans currently out of work.
 
GoffWilson 
 
A lot remains uncertain about the recent immigration proclamation—it’s likely to get challenged in court and even if it stays in place, the future of guest worker programs and overall duration of the order remains in flux. GoffWilson solely practices immigration law and is closely monitoring the proclamation. With over three decades of experience practicing immigration law, GoffWilson is your go-to resource in times like these. If you have any questions about your status, the status of an employee, or need clarification of this order, contact us today!
 

So many things have changed during the coronavirus pandemic, from social distancing and stay-at-home/shelter-in-place orders to many businesses transitioning to remote work—and the handling of Form I-9 has changed as well. In response to the current situation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced an increase in flexibility regarding I-9 requirements. 
 
Changes in I-9 Protocol 
 
First and foremost, it’s extremely important to note that an employee must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 by the end of their first day of employment—there is no change to this requirement. Likewise, if an employee is physically at the place of employment, there are no changes to the requirement for Section 2—it must be completed within three days of the employee’s hire date. 
 
However, employers with remote workplaces may inspect the work authorizations necessary for the completion of Section 2 through video link, fax, email, or another format. When completing Section 2 remotely, it still needs to be completed within the same three-day period following the date of hire and the employer is required to retain copies of the Section 2 documentation. When completing Section 2 remotely, employers must enter “COVID-19” in the Additional Information section. 
 
A physical inspection of the documents is still required and it’s imperative this is done within three days when business returns to normal operation. At that time, the date the physical inspection is made must get recorded in the Additional Information field—the DHS suggests marking “documents physically examined.” Additionally, the date of the original inspection of the documentation and the initials of the person who performed it should be present in the Additional Information section. 
 
Other I-9 Items
 
Many of the “relaxed” regulations of Section 2 also apply to Section 3, Reverification and Rehires. According to the “relaxed” regulations, if an employee presents an expired document, but the document’s expiration has been extended, this would qualify as a List B document. For example, an expired driver’s license is an acceptable List B document, provided its expiration date was extended by the issuing state. If an employer encounters this situation, they’re advised to attach a copy of the rule that allows this. 
 
GoffWilson and I-9
 
GoffWilson is a leader in Form I-9 training and compliance and has been assisting businesses to remain in compliance for decades. During these ever-changing and uncertain times, we’re committed to being a resource for our business community. If you have any questions about what the current changes to I-9 protocol mean for you or your business, contact GoffWilson today. We will schedule our next I-9 training seminar as soon as we can, hopefully later this summer. Check back with us for any updates on that!
 

COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus) has upended the lives of millions of people in the U.S. and across the world—affecting everything from schools to sports. Even Tax Day has been pushed back. Like other government services, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has made changes to normal operating procedures in response to COVID-19, and there is a high probability we’ll see more in the coming days and weeks. We’re here to help by providing the information you need.  
 
In times of uncertainty like these—with dates, policies, and regulations in flux—we expect everyone has a lot of questions. We’re deeply committed to keeping everyone updated with the latest immigration happenings through our Blawg, or directly via phone and email. With that in mind, here are a few recent USCIS changes to be aware of.
 
Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing for All I-129 and I-140 Petitions  
 
Effective as of March 20, USCIS has suspended premium processing service for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions until further notice. This suspension includes petitions filed for the following categories:
 
  • I-129: E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1, and TN-2
  • I-140: EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3
 
Any applications submitted to USCIS for premium processing that were accepted before March 20 will get processed within the premium processing service criteria. Applications received on March 20 or later will not get processed within the 15-calendar-day period and the $1,440 filing fee will get refunded. As of this writing, USCIS has not yet confirmed when premium processing for I-129 and I-140 petitions will resume. 
 
Flexibility in Submitting Required Signatures
 
Another change to normal USCIS protocol is that for all petitions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond, a reproduced original signature is acceptable for all applications and documents—this includes forms that require an original “wet” signature, per their instructions (such as Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker). The change in signature policy will last for the duration of the National Emergency.
 
According to the announcement, USCIS will accept documents that have been “scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature.” Note, it’s vital to retain copies of the original documents with “wet” signatures, as USCIS may later request the original documents. Failure to produce the original documents with “wet” signatures could have negative consequences. 
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law
 
At GoffWilson we like to say, “immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion”—and in unsettled times, we want to provide a steadying hand to the immigrant community, along with the businesses dependent on their contributions. We are a resource, so please reach out if you need help.
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