At Brown Immigration Law, we strive to be your company’s partner in growth and innovation, on a global scale. We continue our commitment to demystifying the complex immigration laws of the United States and Canada to provide efficient and effective immigration and global mobility support. Please find this month’s business immigration news below.
As CBP continues to roll out its Simplified Arrival program, which provides stamp-less entry at all 238 arriving airports, at 34 seaports, and at all southern pedestrian and most northern secondary land ports, we have seen an uptick in the number of I-94 errors. As such, we want to remind all our clients to check their online I-94 record when re-entering the United States to verify that the CBP officer has entered the correct status type and correct expiration date. If you notice an error, please reach out to your Brown Immigration Law attorney ASAP.
U.S. BUSINESS IMMIGRATION UPDATES
DOL Liaison Committee Provides User Feedback Testing for New PERM Module in FLAG System
Last month, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) held a session with AILA’s DOL Liaison Committee and other stakeholders to gather feedback on the new PERM module to be incorporated in the FLAG system. AILA believes rollout of the PERM module is imminent and will require significant user training to become accustomed to the module. Additionally, the Liaison Committee shared a few observations on the features of the PERM module:
- Form ETA 9089 will be on the same platform as labor condition applications and prevailing wage applications.
- Form ETA 9141 look-up feature will allow auto-population of data from certified ETA 9141s created on the same network of accounts as Form ETA 9089.
- Auto-population fields include employer information, attorney information, worksites, and job description information.
- After auto-population, fields may be changed.
- Employer and attorney contact information from Form ETA 9141 can be updated once populated into Form ETA 9089, while other changes could require further analyst review and cause delays.
- Form ETA 9089 is a “smart application” where responses to questions dictate which subsequent questions will need to be answered.
- Certain questions offer employers an additional 1,500 characters to provide explanations.
- Built-in warnings alert users when labor market test efforts are beyond the 180-day limit.
- Built-in warnings alert users where wage fields are below the prevailing wage determination.
- Form ETA 9089 preview will be similar to the current preview format of Forms ETA 9035 and ETA 9141
USCIS Announces Additional Mail Delivery Process for Receiving ADIT Stamp
Lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”) may now receive their Alien Documentation, Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp by mail. LPRs with expired Green Card and extension notice who 1) do not yet have their Green Card or 2) have a pending Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, or Application for Naturalization are entitled to evidence of status and may require an ADIT stamp. LPRs may call the USCIS Contact Center to request an ADIT stamp by providing a physical mailing address. An officer will verify the identity and the address. If the officer determines an interview is not required, USCIS will mail the applicant a Form I-94 with an ADIT stamp typically valid for less than a year, a DHS seal, and a printed photo of the LPR.
USCIS Concludes COVID-19-Related Flexibilities for Responses
Consistent with its announcement in January 2023, USCIS has ended COVID-19-related deadline extensions for responses to agency notices or requests, including Requests for Evidence, Notices of Intent to Deny, Notice of Appeal or Motion, etc. As such, requests or notices from USCIS dated after March 23, 2023, must once again be timely filed per the deadlines listed on such documents. However, as before, USCIS retains its discretionary authority to exclude certain applicants or petitioners, on a case-by-case basis upon request, who are affected by an emergency or unforeseen circumstances, such as natural catastrophes, national emergencies, or severe illness.
As a reminder, flexibilities regarding reproduced signatures have been incorporated into the Policy Manual as of July 25, 2022. Therefore, the regulations no longer require that the person signing submit an “original” or “wet ink” signature and a signature is valid even if the original signature on the document is photocopied, scanned, faxed, or similarly reproduced, unless otherwise specified.
USCIS Permits Self-Identified Gender Markers
In line with increasing implementation of self-certification policies for gender marker designations on certain state government issued documents such as driver’s licenses and identification cards, USCIS revised its Policy Manual on March 31, 2023, the International Transgender Day of Visibility, to include measures to better serve all stakeholders, regardless of their gender identity. Benefit requestors may select their gender on USCIS applications, petitions, and requests, except for the Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (Form N-565). This means that neither the initial selection nor any later change in gender selection requires supporting documentation. Additionally, the gender selected does not need to match the gender listed on other immigration documents nor does it need to match other supporting identity documents, such as a birth certificate, a passport, or state identification. Currently, the only gender markers available on USCIS forms are Male (M) or Female (F). The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), however, plans to add an additional gender marker (“X”) for another, or unspecified, gender identity in late 2023. Until then, benefit requestors seeking to change their gender selection after the initial filing should refer to the “Updating or Correcting Your Documents” section on the USCIS website.
We welcome this change and hope that USCIS continues to accommodate the public’s input on progressive policies to remove barriers in all aspects of the U.S. immigration process.
HART Service Center
USCIS has unveiled the Humanitarian, Adjustment, Removing Conditions, and Travel Documents (HART) Service Center, a new center within its Service Center Operations (SCOPS) directorate, specifically designed to focus on humanitarian and other workload cases. HART will improve the quality and efficiency of the processing of vulnerable noncitizens’ cases, initially operating as a hybrid center with virtual adjudication capabilities and collaboration with existing service centers. It will ultimately become a 100% virtual service center across multiple time zones. HART will process both digital and paper-based applications and petitions and will initially concentrate on the following: Applications for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers (Form I-601As), Bona Fide Determinations for Petitions for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918s), Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions (Form I-730s), and VAWA-based Petitions for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360s.) The transition will not affect current filing instructions and current customer service channels will continue to be operational during this transition. HART leadership and staff will also focus on increased public engagement, with the first national webinar overview of the new HART Service Center being on Thursday, April 20, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Update on J-1 Exchange Students from the Ukraine
On April 5th, 2023, the Department of State (DOS) published a notice extending Special Student Relief (SSR) to Ukrainian J-1 exchange students in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Individuals eligible for Special Student Relief must have continuously resided in the United States since April 11, 2022. SSR does not apply to Federal Work-Study jobs. 22 CFR § 62.23, which states the conditions students must meet to become employed, is temporarily waived for those eligible. § 62.23(h)(1)(i)(A) has been modified as well, to allow eligible Ukrainian students to pursue course work equivalent to half of the full course of study requirement as defined in § 62.2. This action was effective on August 18, 2022, and will remain in place until October 23, 2023.
CBP Terminates Negative COVID-19 Test Requirement for Passengers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau
On March 14, 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it will no longer require negative pre-departure COVID-19 test results for aircraft passengers traveling to the United States from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. The requirement that passengers transiting Incheon International Airport (South Korea), Toronto Pearson International Airport (Canada), and Vancouver International Airport (Canada) on their way to the United States will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test if they have been in the PRC, Hong Kong or Macau in the last 10 days, has also been terminated.
The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rescinded its order implementing the requirements on March 10, 2023. The requirements had been in place since December 30, 2022.
Department of State Fee Increase
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) published a final rule on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 to increase the Fees for Consular Services for several nonimmigrant visa (NIV) application processing fees and the Border Crossing Card (BCC) for Mexican citizens age 15 and over. In essence, if you are applying a NIV at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad, the application fees will increase, starting on May 30, 2023 when the new rule takes effect. To be specific, the fee changes implemented by the new rule are:
- The application processing fee for non-petition based NIVs (except E category) (such as B1/2, C, D, F, I, J, M, TN/TD, T and U visas) will be raised from $160 to $185.
- The application processing fee for H, L, O, P, Q, and R category NIVs will be raised from $190 to $205.
- The fee for E category NIVs will be raised from $205 to $315.
- The processing fee for Border Crossing Cards for Mexican citizens aged 15 and over will be raised from $160 to $185.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) also published an Interim final rule on March 28, 2023 to Allow Digital Signatures for Certificates of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (Forms DS-2019). Specifically, the new rule provides sponsors two new options: 1, using digital signature software to sign the DS-2019 form, and 2, transmit the form electronically. This rule is still in a comment period that ends by May 30, 2023. This new rule can take effect shortly after the conclusion of the comment period.
USCIS Removes “60-Day Rule” for Form I-693
USCIS removed the 60-Day Rule for Form I-693. Originally, it is required that the signature of civil surgeons on the I-693 form (Report of Immigration Medical Examination and Vaccination Record) to be within 60 days before an individual applies for an immigration benefit (including Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). This rule had been subject to a temporary waiver since December 9, 2021. Now, the USCIS has decided to remove it entirely. In essence, this new policy will allow USCIS to accept I-693 forms signed by a civil surgeon within 2 years before filing I-485.
DOS Shares Visa Bulletin for May 2023
On April 7, 2023, the Department of State published the Visa Bulletin for May 2023. Each month, the DOS updates the visa bulletin and USCIS determines whether it will use the ‘Final Action Dates’ or ‘Dates For Filing’ charts for determining when applicants may file an adjustment of status application. In May 2023, USCIS will continue to use the ‘Final Action Dates.’ For the month of May, the final action date for EB-1 applicants from India and China will remain backlogged at February 1, 2022; EB-2 applicants for all countries except India and China retrogressed to February 15, 2022; EB-3 applicants from China advanced to April 1, 2019.
On March 28, 2023, the Department of State published a notice that future Visa Bulletins, beginning with the April 2023 Visa Bulletin, will no longer contain a separate column for employment-based applicants chargeable to El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras in the ‘Final Action Dates’ and ‘Dates For Filing’ charts. As a result of this change, there is no longer a separate column for employment-based applicants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – applicants from these countries should look to the ‘All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed’ column instead. The Department of State made the change after concluding that neither El Salvador, Guatemala, nor Honduras is expected to exceed the per-country annual limit for employment-based preference cases.
USCIS Extends the Suspension of I-539 Biometrics Requirement for Certain Applicants
On April 19, 2023, USCIS announced that the agency is extending the suspension of the biometrics requirement for applicants for a change of status or extension of stay in the following categories: H-4, L-2, or E nonimmigrant status.
The suspension was set to expire on May 17, 2023, but will now expire on September 30, 2023. USCIS noted the following it this update: “We will allow adjudications for those specific categories to proceed based on biographic information and related background checks, without capturing fingerprints and a photograph. However, we retain discretion, on a case-by-case basis, to require biometrics for any applicant, and applicants may be scheduled for an application support center appointment to submit biometrics.”
For any questions on this process or others, please contact your BIL attorney.
CANADIAN BUSINESS IMMIGRATION UPDATES
Ontario to Double Economic Immigration
Under Canada’s Constitution, responsibility for immigration is shared between the federal and provincial/territorial governments. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has agreements with provinces and territories on how they share responsibility for immigration. Each agreement is negotiated separately with the province or territory to address unique needs and priorities.
Pursuant to an agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program allows the Ontario government to nominate individuals for permanent residents to help address labour shortages (e.g., addressing skilled trades, technology, healthcare sectors).
On March 18, 2023, the Ontario government announced an historic increase to their annual targets; the province will be able to nominate up to 18,000 individuals in 2023, compared to around 9000 in 2021. Their nomination quota will further increase to 18, 361 by 2025.
The rise in the number of nominations is expected to help address this shortage, while boosting the province’s economy and cultural diversity.
If you are interested in immigrating to Ontario or are curious to learn more about this program, please contact us for a consultation.
New Learning Opportunities!
What’s the Latest Immigration News? How Does It Affect Me?
Managing Partner, David Brown, will spend 30 minutes providing updates on all the latest immigration news that impacts our business focused immigration clients. He will talk about the state of processing, legislative and regulatory reform and recent news that impacts the programs companies run or the visa status individuals are on. David will also spend a few minutes discussing what’s to be expected this year.
Do not miss this opportunity to stay up to date on key issues impacting the field and ensuring you have the most current information.
The Most Important Immigration Hacks for 2023
The world of business immigration law is an ever changing landscape. Like any large ecosystem, it grows and changes over time, and what worked in 2021 may not work today. We all know the system is in need of fixes, but without a legislative change, we are stuck with what we have. Join Managing Partner, David Brown, for a run through of the hacks Brown is implementing in 2023 to make the system work for our clients. This talk will encompass options for founders, HR Managers, and individuals to take charge of the process and be on the offensive in making our system work for its stakeholders. After an initial 30 minute talk David will spend additional time to answer your questions.
Once registered, you will receive an email with a link to use to join the video chat on the day of the event. Please note: This link should not be shared with others; it is unique to you. If you ever misplace the invitation link, simply visit the webinar schedule on our website.
If you have colleagues who may benefit from our talks, you are welcome to invite them to join by sharing our webinar schedule where they can subscribe for further information.
Don’t miss these opportunities to increase your knowledge on important immigration issues!
Thank you and we look forward to having you at the event.
The Team at Brown Immigration Law
** This newsletter/memo is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It does not act as a substitute for direct legal contact on an individual basis **