U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 1st that they will extend closures of their offices to the public until May 4th. You may not receive cancellation notices at this time, but you should receive new appointment notices from USCIS field offices when normal operations resume.
Closures of U.S. Consular Offices Abroad
The Department of State announced on March 19, 2020, that all U.S. consular posts abroad are closed for routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa issuance. All scheduled appointments are canceled and will be rescheduled for a future date. Individuals should check the guidelines for their specific consular post to understand options around emergency situations.
Some are wondering about the expiration of current immigrant visas for those that have not entered the U.S. due to COVID-19. Under current regulations, entry to the U.S. is valid for six months. For those that cannot enter due to the travel restrictions, the consular post may be able to reprint the visa once restrictions are removed.
Until at least April 20, 2020, travel at the borders of the U.S. and Canada and Mexico is restricted to “essential travel”. Examples of essential travel include permanent residents returning home, traveling for essential work, or for educational purposes. Tourism or recreation is considered non-essential travel.
Employers and employees who are taking physical proximity precautions (i.e. working from home) due to COVID-19 will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in-person during this time. Employers are now permitted to review these Section 2 documents remotely (e.g. via webcam, fax, email, etc.) within 3 business days of hiring, but are still required to physically examine the documents once normal business operations resume.
Read: COVID-19 and Flexible Requirements for I-9 Compliance
If your company is experiencing layoffs during this time, it is crucial to alert your immigration team to understand the impact on your employees’ immigration process, specifically PERM.
Generally, if there is an involuntary layoff or termination in the area of intended employment within 180 days prior to the filing of the ETA 9089 labor certification ("PERM"), then notice of the job has to be provided to all permanent residents who have been laid off in a related occupation within the area of intended employment. If qualified applicants are found, the PERM process may need to be paused for 180 days. Please reach out to your immigration team to learn more.
ETA 9089: Electronic Approvals
Effective through June 30, 2020, the Atlanta National Processing Center (NPC) will issue ETA 9089 certification letters electronically due to the pandemic. Upon email receipt of an electronic copy of the certified Form ETA-9089, the form must be printed, signed and dated by the international employee, company representative, and attorney prior to filing Form I-140 with USCIS. USCIS may consider this printed Form ETA-9089, containing all signatures, as satisfying the requirement provided that petitioners provide evidence of an original labor certification issued by the Department of Labor.
ETA 9089: Filing Extensions
The Department of Labor has extended the 180-day PERM recruitment process by 60-days for many applications filed by May 12, 2020. This means there is now a 240-day recruitment window that applies to recruitment occurring between September 15, 2019, and March 13, 2020. Automatic extensions are also granted for audit responses and reconsiderations of prevailing wage determinations.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.