The COVID-19 pandemic is a dynamic and ever-changing situation. We’ll be updating you every week with the most recent information on its impact on your immigration program. Here’s what we learned this week:
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
On April 1, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s paid leave provisions will go into effect, and apply to any leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. According to our partner attorneys, as long as leave, such as FMLA, is provided to all employees, this should not impact those in non-immigrant statuses. For more information, please review the Department of Labor’s FAQs, or reach out to counsel.
USCIS Closures: Effective March 18th, 2020
Effective, March 18th, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a response to suspend in-person services at its offices and Application Support Centers (ASC) at least until April 7th. USCIS says applicants and petitioners can expect to receive notices with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies that have been impacted.
On March 30th, USCIS also announced that they will re-use previously submitted biometrics in order to process Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization extensions, despite Application Support Center closures.
Update: As of April 1, 2020, USCIS office will suspend in-person services until May 4, 2020. We'll keep you up to date if the offices are extending their closures further.
Premium Processing Suspension: Effective March 20th, 2020
As of March 20, 2020, USCIS will not accept any new requests for premium processing. Petitioners who have already filed a premium processing request for Form I-129 and Form I-140 will receive a refund if they have not received a reply within 15 calendar days from submission. USCIS will reject premium processing requests and return the $1,440 filing fee for all petitions mailed before March 20 but have not been accepted yet.
The temporary suspension includes petitions filed for the following categories:
- I-129: E-1, E-2, H-1B Cap, 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, TN-2.
- I-140: EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3.
Working from Home Policies
Since most non-essential employees are now expected to work from home, we want to ensure that employers are aware of the actions needed for compliance.
Here are some quick tips from our partner attorneys:
- For employees with an employment-based visa who are working within normal commuting distance (less than 50 miles), an amendment is not required.
- It is recommended to post Labor Condition Applications at home office locations and supply them electronically (Find out how)
- If employees are on furlough, their nonimmigrant visa status is not being maintained, and can lead to liability. If the employee is terminated there is a 60-day grace period to leave the U.S. If this applies to your employees, please reach out to counsel.
I-9 and e-Verify
On March 20, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced some flexibility related to Form I-9 compliance. 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, but will still be required to physically examine the documents once normal business operations resume.
According to our partner attorneys, if there is a reduction in salary, hours or work location, an amendment petition may need to be filed. For more information on how this applies to you and your employees, please contact your immigration team.
As most U.S. Consulates and Embassies are closed, travel is not advised. Unless you are required to leave the U.S, expect that there may be difficulty obtaining visa stamping appointments and re-entering the U.S. until further notice.
Request for Evidence and NOID due dates
USCIS announced on March 27th that requests for evidence (RFEs) and notices of intent to deny (NOIDs) dated between March 1st and May 1st, 2020, will be considered before any action is taken within 60 calendar days after the response deadline has been set forth.
On March 30th, they extended this flexibility to Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIR), Notices of Intent to Terminate (NOIT) regional investment centers, as well as certain filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
Please visit uscis.gov/coronavirus for the latest facts and other USCIS updates, or https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus for updates to ICE.
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.