Immigration News for August 2020

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DHS to Raise Fees Significantly for Many Immigration Benefits

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final rule, to be published on August 3, 2020, and take effect 60 days later, that will increase significantly many immigration and naturalization fees charged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and reduce some others. It also removes certain fee exemptions; changes fee waiver requirements; establishes multiple fees for nonimmigrant worker petitions; alters premium processing time limits; and makes changes related to setting, collecting, and administering fees, among other things. Overall, DHS said it is increasing USCIS fees by a “weighted average” of 20 percent.

The Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, which formerly had no fee, will now have a fee of $50. The Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (non-DACA) fee is increased 34 percent, to $550. The Biometric Services (non-DACA) fee is reduced from $85 to $30. There are increases in some Form I-129 Petitions for a Nonimmigrant Worker, such as the I-129H1 (to $555), the I-129H2A (to $850), the I-129H2B (to $715), the I-129L (to $805), and the I-129O ($705). The Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, has increased to $1,160 (online filing) or $1,170 (paper filing). The Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship (online and paper), has decreased by 15 percent, to $990 and $1,000, respectively.

Additional fees and changes are listed in the final rule. Kuck Baxter  recommends filing applications for which fees will increase before the effective date, when possible. Contact your KBI attorney for help in specific situations.

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Judge Orders Inquiry Into DHS False Statements in Trusted Traveler Case

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ordered a “limited inquiry” to address “deeply troubling revelations” about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) false statements in court related to a lawsuit New York Attorney General Letitia James filed to prevent the Trump administration from excluding New York applicants from the Trusted Travelers Program. DHS admitted that its statements were inaccurate, for example, a claim that New York’s Green Light Law was the only such state law in the country that shielded information about driver’s licenses from the federal government.

The Department of Justice reinstated New York to the program and apologized for the misleading statements, asking to have the case dismissed as moot, but Judge Furman ordered the additional inquiry for “the sake of ensuring an accurate record and to help the court in deciding how to proceed down the line.” Judge Furman said that “it is necessary for defendants to make a comprehensive record of any and all ‘inaccurate’ or ‘misleading’ statements in their prior submissions, adding that even if the case is dismissed as moot, “the court would retain jurisdiction to pursue such an inquiry and take appropriate action.” The judge therefore ordered DHS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan to detail all such statements in a report to be filed by August 12, 2020.

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Justice Dept. Settles Claim Against Staffing Company for Favoring Temporary Visa Workers Over U.S. Workers

The Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement agreement on July 27, 2020, with ASTA CRS Inc., a provider of IT staffing and consulting services with offices in Ashburn, Virginia, and Greenbelt, Maryland. This is the ninth settlement under the Civil Rights Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which the DOJ said is “aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa workers.”

The settlement resolves a claim that ASTA’s Maryland office discriminated against U.S. workers because of their citizenship status when it posted a job advertisement specifying a preference for non-U.S. citizens who held temporary work visas. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, ASTA will train its employees on the antidiscrimination requirements, change its policies and procedures to comply with the law, and be subject to two years of monitoring requirements, including providing regular reports to the DOJ.

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OFLC Site Transitions to New Web Domain

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) announced that it is transitioning to a new web domain as of August 3, 2020. As of that date, the OFLC website will become part of the main DOL website. The visual display will change, but the content will remain the same, OFLC said.

Users who try to access OFLC website pages at the current URL will be automatically redirected to the new location and should encounter no service disruptions, OFLC said. After the transition, the agency encourages users to update their bookmarks and documentation with the new URL, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/foreign-labor-certification.

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SEVP Issues ‘Clarifying’ Q&A for Foreign Students re Online-Only Coursework Visa Ban

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) released new guidance dated July 24, 2020, in the form of “clarifying” questions and answers regarding the Trump administration’s shifting policy on foreign students taking online coursework in the fall. The guidance follows the Trump administration’s agreement on July 14, 2020, to rescind a new policy to bar all 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. The bar now applies to certain new students.

Below are selected highlights of the new guidance from SEVP:

  • One question asks whether F or M students outside the United States obtain a visa to study in the United States if their program of study will be fully online for the fall 2020 session. Noting that individual eligibility determinations for F and M visas are made by the Department of State, ICE responds that new or initial nonimmigrant students who intend to pursue a full course of study conducted completely online “will likely not be able to obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa to study in the United States.” If a nonimmigrant student was enrolled in a course of study in the United States on March 9, 2020, but subsequently left the country, “that student likely remains eligible for a visa since the [SEVP] March 2020 guidance permitted a full online course of study from inside the United States or from abroad.” The Q&A notes that the SEVP March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and otherwise are complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status.
  • The Q&A also states that nonimmigrant students seeking to enroll in a “hybrid” program of study that includes both in-person and online components may maintain F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status if pursuing such programs during the fall 2020 school term. Nonimmigrant students in new or initial status after March 9, 2020, will not be able to enter the United States to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online. The Q&A notes that nonimmigrant students who have remained in the United States engaged in a full course of study and whose study will be fully online in the fall may remain in the United States, including “students who have remained in the U.S. in active status and are starting a new program of study that is 100 percent online.”
  • SEVP-certified schools that have not yet filed procedural change plans and have active nonimmigrant students enrolled in programs of study this fall should submit a procedural change plan, detailing any changes to existing procedures necessitated by COVID-19, the Q&A states.

COVID-19-related travel bans remain in place for several countries and regions. However, the Department of State released guidance on July 22, 2020, indicating that students may qualify for national interest exceptions in some cases. For example, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas “do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.”

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USCIS Postpones Staff Furloughs After ‘Surplus’ Memo Surfaces

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on July 24, 2020, that planned furloughs of more than 13,000 of its employees have been postponed for a month to allow Congress to move on the agency’s emergency funding request for $1.2 billion. Jessica Collins, a USCIS spokesperson, said that recent assurances from Congress and an “uptick” in receipts allowed the agency “the flexibility to responsibly delay the start date” of the furlough until August 30, 2020.

Regarding the previously projected USCIS deficit, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said that he is “committed to addressing this issue in the next coronavirus supplemental so that USCIS can continue accomplishing its missions without a furlough.” He noted that new revenue estimates show the agency could end the fiscal year with a surplus rather than a deficit, based on an internal staff memorandum. Shortly before USCIS announced the one-month delay in furloughs, Sens. Leahy and Jon Tester (D-MT) had called for the Trump administration to call off the furlough plans in light of the new estimates. Ms. Collins said the funding request remains unchanged “and the agency is depending on Congress to provide emergency funding to ensure agency operations continue uninterrupted.”

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State Dept. Issues Guidance on National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers From the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

COVID-19-related travel bans remain in place for several countries and regions. The Department of State released updated guidance on July 22, 2020, stating that certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for national interest exceptions. Below are highlights:

  • Business travelers, investors, academics, J-1 students, and treaty traders who have a valid visa or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) issued before Presidential Proclamation 9993 or 9996’s effective date or who are seeking to apply for a visa and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling.
  • The Department of State also continues to grant national interest exceptions for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.
  • As noted above, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.

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State Dept. Issues One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Exams

On July 24, 2020, the Department of State announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a one-month extension for medical examinations conducted between January 1 and June 30, 2020.

The announcement notes that immigrant visas are limited to the validity of the medical exam for a maximum of six months. Those who were unable to travel on their issued visa, or obtained their medical exam but did not receive their visa, should contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. embassy or consulate that issued or is adjudicating the visa application to determine whether they may be issued or reissued a visa for one additional month. “If you are not able to travel within the one additional month, consider waiting until you are able to travel and obtain a new, full validity medical examination and visa,” the announcement states.

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USCIS Issues Clarifying Guidance on EB-5 Deployment of Investment Capital

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy alert on July 24, 2020, that provides “clarifying guidance” included in the USCIS Policy Manual regarding the deployment of investment capital, including further deployment after the job creation requirement is satisfied. USCIS said the clarifications apply to all Form I-526 and I-829 petitions pending on or after July 24, 2020. The guidance:

  • Clarifies requirements for deployment of capital generally, including providing new language regarding the deployment of capital through any financial instrument that meets applicable requirements as well as explaining how the purchase of financial instruments on the secondary market will generally not satisfy such requirements.
  • Clarifies that capital may be further deployed into any commercial activity that is consistent with the purpose of the new commercial enterprise to engage in the ongoing conduct of lawful business. USCIS said this clarification “is meant to address potential confusion among stakeholders regarding prior language about the ‘scope’ of the new commercial enterprise while remaining consistent with applicable eligibility requirements.”
  • Provides that further deployment must be through the same new commercial enterprise.
  • Provides that further deployment must be within the geographic area of the same regional center, including any amendments to the regional center’s geographic area approved before the further deployment.
  • Explains that, based on an internal review and analysis of typical EB-5 capital deployment structures, USCIS generally considers 12 months as a reasonable amount of time to further deploy capital, but will consider evidence showing that a longer period was reasonable.

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USCIS Releases Visitor Policy re COVID-19 Restrictions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released guidance on face masks and social distancing for visitors to its facilities.

Among other things, the guidance states that all applicants, petitioners, and visitors over the age of two must wear face coverings while in a USCIS office until further notice. USCIS notes that social distancing requirements are also in place. The guidance restricts who may accompany applicants with scheduled appointments or those who are attending naturalization ceremonies.

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USCIS Ombudsman Assists With, Reports on Card Delays

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ombudsman recently reported on the agency’s delays in printing lawful permanent resident (LPR) cards (green cards), employment authorization documents, and other secure documents, and offered help.

The Ombudsman noted that the reduced capacity followed USCIS’ ending of a contract with an outside company responsible for printing the cards. USCIS said it intended to hire federal employees to replace the contractors, but its financial situation resulted in a hiring freeze.

The Ombudsman said that USCIS “expects these backlogs will continue for the foreseeable future” and that stakeholders are submitting requests for case assistance to the Ombudsman, which is assisting. Specifically, for those whose applications have been approved but whose cards have not yet been produced, the Ombudsman is sending weekly spreadsheets to USCIS to verify that card requests are in line to be processed. Such requests may be submitted at https://www.dhs.gov/topic/cis-ombudsman/forms/7001.

The Ombudsman also noted that LPRs may obtain proof of their status by requesting a stamp of temporary evidence in a valid passport. “Please reach out to USCIS’ Contact Center (800-375-5283) to make an appointment at your local USCIS field office,” the Ombudsman said.  The Ombudsman has no idea that that USCIS is literally refusing to make appointments for this. Litigation is pending!

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Trade Associations Sue Trump Administration to Stop Restrictions on Nonimmigrant Visas

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the National Retail Federation, and several others sued the Trump administration on July 21, 2020, seeking an injunction to block President Trump’s recent proclamation suspending new nonimmigrant visas.

Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO, said the lawsuit ” seeks to overturn these sweeping and unlawful immigration restrictions that are an unequivocal ‘not welcome’ sign to the engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other critical workers who help drive the American economy.” He said that left in place, the restrictions would “push investment abroad, inhibit economic growth and reduce job creation.” Linda Kelly, NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel, said the visa restrictions would “hand other countries a competitive advantage because they will drive talented individuals away from the United States.” Marcie Schneider, President of Intrax, another party to the lawsuit, noted that J-1 cultural exchange programs “contribute more than $1.4 billion to the American economy each year.”

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

The Trump administration agreed on July 14, 2020, to rescind a new policy to bar 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, Massachusetts, by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which have about 9,000 international students between them.

The policy, against which numerous entities had also filed lawsuits, declared that students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester would not receive visas or be allowed to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs were told they must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators welcomed the decision to rescind the new policy, saying the organization was “heartened to see the guidance put to rest.” However, NAFSA said it “cannot ignore the damage inflicted by the perception of the July 6 guidance” that would have “force[d] international students to choose between maintaining legal immigration status and what is best for their health and safety.” NAFSA noted that regardless of the rescission, international student confidence in studying in the United States “has been lagging as shown by three straight academic years of declining new international student enrollment (nearly 11% since fall 2016).” 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.

The controversy may not be fully over. Reportedly, the Trump administration is considering applying the new policy to new students only rather than to those already in the United States. For now, according to reports, the administration will revert to its policy guidance issued in March. As of press time, the Trump administration had not issued any official communications related to the rescission of the policy.

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State Dept. Lists Exceptions Under 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 exceptions for H-1B, H-2B, H-4, L-1, L-2, J-1, and J-2 visas.

DOS said that travelers who believe their travel falls into one of the excepted categories (see link below) 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. Travelers are encouraged to refer to the embassy/consulate website for detailed instructions on what services are currently available and how to request an appointment.

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

Details:

  • “Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak,” Department of State, https://bit.ly/2ZH079H
  • “National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland,” Department of State, https://bit.ly/3jgQxSF

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Phased Resumption of Services Begins for Visa and Passport Processing; MRV Fees Paid During Suspension Remain Valid

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. 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, noting that machine-readable visa (MRV) fees that expired while routine services were suspended remain “valid and may be used to schedule a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.”

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

Several lawsuits were 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.

  • Kuck Baxter Immigration, along with collegues from two other immigration law firms, on July 16, 2020, and on behalf 149 diversity visa (DV) lottery selectees from 14 countries sued the Trump administration and the Department of State seeking immediate relief from a June 22, 2020, Presidential Proclamation that effectively bars them from entering the United States. Some have immigrant visa stamps, were interviewed before being issued visa stamps, or were waiting for their final interviews. We argue that President Trump acted illegally when he ended the 2020 DV lottery program, and that he does not have the authority to interrupt the statutory scheme of immigration created by Congress.  We are waiting now on word from the District Court about our Temporary Restraining Order.

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OFLC Releases Public Disclosure Data and Selected Program Statistics for Third Quarter of FY 2020

The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has released a comprehensive set of public disclosure data through the third quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2020 drawn from employer applications requesting prevailing wage determinations and labor certifications for the PERM, H-1B, H-1B1, E-3, H-2A, H-2B, CW-1, and Prevailing Wage programs.

The public disclosure files include all final determinations OFLC issued for these programs during the third quarter. OFLC has also released third-quarter selected program statistics for these programs.

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USCIS Consolidates Policy Guidance on Applying Discretion in Agency Adjudications

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently consolidated existing policy guidance regarding agency officers’ application of discretion in adjudications.

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Proposed Rule Would Include Pandemic-Related “Emergency Public Health Concerns” for Consideration in Asylum/Withholding of Removal Eligibility Determinations

The Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review issued a proposed rule on July 9, 2020, that would amend existing regulations to clarify that the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice may consider emergency public health concerns based on communicable disease due to potential international threats from the “spread of pandemics” when deciding whether there are reasonable grounds for regarding a person as a danger to the security of the United States and, thus, ineligible for asylum or withholding of removal.

The proposed rule provides that this application of the statutory bars to eligibility for asylum and withholding of removal would be effectuated at the credible fear screening stage for those in expedited removal proceedings “to streamline the protection review process and minimize the spread and possible introduction into the United States of communicable and widespread disease.” The proposed rule also would allow DHS to exercise its prosecutorial discretion regarding how to process individuals subject to expedited removal who are determined to be ineligible for asylum in the United States on certain grounds, including “being reasonably regarded as a danger to the security of the United States.” Finally, the proposed rule would “modify the process for evaluating the eligibility of aliens for deferral of removal who are ineligible for withholding of removal as presenting a danger to the security of the United States.”

Jennifer Minear, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, called the proposed rule “an unconscionable attempt to scapegoat vulnerable people who are seeking humanitarian protection under the pretextual ruse of safeguarding the public health.”

Comments on the proposed rule are due by August 10, 2020.

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DOJ Settles With Florida Company Re Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims

The Department of Justice announced that it reached a settlement with Bel USA LLC (Bel USA), an online distributor and retailer of customized promotional products located in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The settlement resolves claims that Bel USA discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens by requiring them to provide specific and unnecessary immigration documents when verifying their work authorization, because of their citizenship or immigration status.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Bel USA will pay a civil penalty of $100,000, train its employees about the antidiscrimination requirements, and be subject to reporting and monitoring.

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President Trump Alludes to New Plans for DACA

After President Trump’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) through the Supreme Court failed, at least in the short term, he gave an interview on July 10, 2020, to Telemundo in which he referred to an “executive order” and a “bill” interchangeably that would make unspecified reforms. Congress has not passed a bill related to DACA, but he said he planned to sign “an immigration bill that a lot of people don’t know about.” He said he would “be signing a major immigration bill as an executive order, which the Supreme Court now, because of the DACA decision, has given me the power to do that.”

Legal commenters noted that immigration law cannot be changed through executive order. Several immigration-related bills are floating around, including a 600-page merit-based proposal supported by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, and a bill passed by House Democrats, but any chances of passage of immigration reform appear dim before the presidential election in November.

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GLOBAL IMMIGRATION: Germany

The COVID-19 pandemic thwarts a new skilled immigration law.

When Germany agreed to change its skilled immigration laws in 2019 to facilitate the immigration of skilled employees from abroad, its economy was thriving and the labor market was robust and on the edge of turning into an employee market. IT professionals, engineers, and health care workers were difficult to find and in high demand. Plumbers, mechanics, and many other trades also reported skills shortages. Accordingly, Germany adjusted its immigration laws to allow the migration of professionals with vocational training to Germany and implementing a new fast-track option.

With the new law taking effect on March 1, 2020, all was set to enhance employment-related immigration to Germany. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all immigration came to a sudden halt in mid-March. Schengen borders closed, visa application centers went into lockdown, and many government authorities began working from home offices. Travel was suspended across the globe.

An immigration lawyer’s nightmare of ceasing travel turned quickly into an immigration lawyer’s challenge when many clients needed support, with employees stranded abroad or foreign staff in Germany needing extensions when authorities were hardly accessible. The government issued new laws and regulations to address the COVID-19 crisis frequently, with lawyers slogging behind in the attempt to stay on top, interpret the hastily issued rules, and find reliable angles for their clients. The unpredictability of the situation added to the general disturbance.

But some of the most interesting and moving cases also occurred during the pandemic: With attorney support, the employer of a person who had terminal cancer managed to assist her Chinese parents with visiting their daughter in Germany—in the midst of the pandemic—with the support of the local health department, the airline, the German immigration authorities, and the hospital all working together in an act of humanity.

Three months later, with infection numbers dropping in Germany and throughout Europe, the economy began a slow rebound, although things are far from normal. The new immigration law technically took effect, albeit in most parts of Germany it remained suspended until the end of the travel restrictions. When on July 1, 2020, the borders were cautiously opened for skilled professionals (those with either a recognized university degree or vocational certificate), they became eligible to travel to Germany for local employment or intracompany transfer if they were urgently required for economic development, needed to be present in Germany to perform their work, and could not do so remotely. All persons originating from a “risk country” must present extra documentation to enter the Schengen Area and are subject to quarantine regulations. (Currently only European Union/Schengen countries as well as Australia, Canada, Georgia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay are considered safe countries.) Certain regions renounced lengthy quarantines if regular COVID-19 testing was being done to ensure that assignees could start to work as soon as possible. Employees may be accompanied by their family members, and those who had a valid permit and returned to their country of origin may come back to Germany now.

While many open questions regarding travel options remain, the immigration system is becoming more predictable each day. Germany seems to be developing into an attractive destination country for Indian IT specialists especially, who suffer from the H-1B travel ban in the United States and the lockdown in India. And while the German missions in India resume their operations only slowly, the backlog of waiting applicants grows.

What does the future hold for immigration to Germany?

The country will still need skilled immigration because of its peculiar demographics and strong economy. Nevertheless, the German labor market took a COVID-19 blow and, for the first time in years, shows rising unemployment. It is thus to be expected that the new immigration-friendly law—while not a turncoat—will show some teeth when it comes to issues like comparable salary, labor market tests, and compliance. Already the labor authority has tightened the rules and increased scrutiny when dealing with applications. Thus, the future will again be challenging for immigration lawyers, and immigrants.

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New Publications and Items of Interest

USCIS redesigns website. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently redesigned its website with input from applicants, petitioners, and the public. USCIS said that in addition to “a new look and feel, we have improved the website to help web visitors better navigate our existing online tools and resources, as well as to file and manage applications and petitions online. For details, see https://bit.ly/3g0rhhFSurvey of changing USCIS practices re U.S. citizenship. The Migration Policy Institute has released a webinar video, “A Bumpy Path to U.S. Citizenship: A Survey of Changing USCIS Practices,” and a related report, “A Rockier Road to U.S. Citizenship? Findings of a Survey on Changing Naturalization Procedures.” See https://www.migrationpolicy.org/events/bumpy-path-us-citizenship-survey-changing-uscis-practices (video) and https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/changing-uscis-naturalization-procedures (report). Immigrant and Employee Rights Section webinars. The Department of Justice’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section, of the Civil Rights Division, is offering free webinars June through August for workers, employers, and advocates. For more information or to register, see https://www.justice.gov/crt/webinars (scroll down for the listings by date).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.

General Information

Immigration Agency Information

Department of Homeland Security: DHS.gov/coronavirus

  • CBP:

Department of Labor:

  • Office of Foreign Labor Certification:

State Department: https://www.state.gov/coronavirus/

Justice Department

Agency Twitter Accounts

  • EOIR: @DOJ_EOIR
  • ICE: @ICEgov
  • Study in the States: @StudyinStates
  • USCIS: @USCIS

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 the public in April, May, and June. These include 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 April 2020 calendar of webinars at https://www.e-verify.gov/calendar-field_date_and_time/month/202004.

 

Government Agency Links

Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, and the Department of State’s latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers:

USCIS case processing times online: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/

Department of State Visa Bulletin: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html

 

 

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