Immigration Updates 2020
Dev Banad Viswanath, Esq.
Since President Trump took office there have many changes in the way United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operates and to the practice of immigration law as a whole. This year brings many more changes to immigration specifically as it relates to employment visas, DACA holders, and immigrants in the U.S. under Temporary Protective Status (TPS).
Receiving approval for an H-1B and L-1 visa without getting a Request for Evidence (RFE) has been difficult, and it does not seem like it will get easier any time soon. In March, USCIS will begin an electronic registration system for employers who wish to obtain H-1B visas for their employees. This system will require petitioning companies to submit information on the company and professionals they want to apply for in the H-1B lottery for the following fiscal year. There is a $10 fee for each employer during registration.
The new electronic registration system is expected to cause some confusion and possibly hysteria because this is the first year of implementation and most, including some in government don’t really understand the process and how it will work in practical terms. Congress has mandated a cap of 65,000 for the number of H-1B visas that may be granted every year, but there is also an addition to the H-1B cap for beneficiaries who have a U.S. master’s degree or higher with 20,000 more visas available to them. There is one exception that applies to the 65,000 cap, 6,800 visas are set aside from the 65,000 each fiscal year for the H-1B1 program for individuals from Chile and Singapore. For any of those visas not used for H1B1s they are added to the general H1B general cap. However, in practice because H1B1 visas can be used throughout the year, and the announcement for H1Bs comes usually within the first three months after the April first filing date, these extra visas unused rarely get utilized and are ultimately lost.
As it relates to employment visas USCIS plans to announce a new rule that defines what qualifies as a “specialty occupation” and what “employment” and “employer-employee relationship” means.
In March 2020 a proposed rule is set to come out which will change an existing regulation that gives permission for many spouses of H-1B visa holders, who have permanent resident applications pending or approved but waiting for visas numbers to become available to have employment authorization documents and be allowed to work.
In additional the Trump administration is proposing to add more restrictions on international students. They are looking into revising the Optional Practical Training program and instead establishing a set maximum period of authorized stay for students as opposed to the current “duration of status.” There has already been a 10% decrease in the number of international students who enrolled into schools here in the U.S. between the 2018-2019 academic year and if the new restrictions go into effect that percentage is likely to increase.
Applicants applying for citizenship and other immigration benefits should be prepared for significant fee increases. There has also been a new rule and definition of what qualifies as “Good Moral Character”. Potential citizenship applicants should seriously consider consulting a qualified immigration attorney if they have any doubts on eligibility.
In addition, the wait time for an immigrant visa interview continues to increase, depending on which embassy an applicant must go to for their interview there may be a wait of several months until the next available interview date. However, DACA applications are being processed quicker and some applicants receive decisions within four weeks.
This year brings lots of changes and speculation, but with the right observations and some strategic planning, US immigration and visa applications are viable options for individuals seeking to come and stay.