October 21st, 2020
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced, effective October 19, 2020, an increase in fees for premium processing (Form I-907) to $2,500 from $1,440 except for those requesting H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant status. The premium processing fee for petitioners filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant status is increasing to $1,500. Premium processing requests postmarked on or after October 19th must include the new fee amount or they will be rejected and returned.
The USCIS premium processing service allows petitioners to pay an additional filing fee to expedite the adjudication of certain forms, generally within 15 days.
On September 30, the President signed into law an appropriations bill that allowed USCIS to increase the premium processing fee. This change was reported in the press, though the government did not make clear when change would take effect. On October 16, USCIS announced that cases not filed that same day would be rejected if not submitted with the new fee (giving petitioners less than 8 hours’ notice to comply).
In positive news, it is expected that USCIS will begin offering premium processing for other categories such as changes of status to student visas and NIV dependents (like O-3s, H-4s, etc) soon.
Lawsuits Mount Against New DOL Prevailing Wage Rules
On October 8th the Department of Labor (DOL) issued an Interim Final Rule that made dramatic changes to the way the prevailing wage is determined for H-1B visas and PERM Labor Certifications. As anticipated, lawsuits are already mounting against the Rule, which substantially raises the required pay for foreign workers (more than 50% in some cases).
In the less than two weeks since the Rule was published, several federal lawsuits have been filed.
IT companies that employ US workers and H-1B skilled nonimmigrant workers in computer occupations in New Jersey and other parts of the country filed a complaint seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the Interim Final Rule from imposing the (ITServe Alliance, Inc., et al. v. Scalia, et al., 10/16/20).
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and AILA member attorneys also filed suit against the DOL changes arguing “the poorly-drafted, improperly-issued rule did not comply with the procedural rules for rule-making and is substantively arbitrary, incorrect, and irrational.”
DHS and DOJ Restrict Asylum Eligibility for Immigrants Convicted of Certain Criminal Offenses
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Oct. 20th the publication of a Final Rule that prevents immigrants with certain categories of criminal convictions from obtaining asylum in the United States. The new restrictions apply to foreign nationals convicted of:
- A felony under federal or state law.
- An offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A) or § 1324(a)(1)(2) (Alien Smuggling or Harboring).
- An offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1326 (Illegal Reentry).
- A federal, state, tribal, or local crime involving criminal street gang activity.
- Certain federal, state, tribal, or local offenses concerning the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.
- A federal, state, tribal, or local domestic violence offense.
- Certain misdemeanors under federal or state law for offenses related to false identification; the unlawful receipt of public benefits from a federal, state, tribal, or local entity; or the possession or trafficking of a controlled substance or controlled-substance paraphernalia.
In addition to individuals convicted of the crimes above, the Rule also applies to applicants who are found by an adjudicator to have engaged in acts of battery or extreme cruelty in a domestic context, even if no conviction resulted. Applicants who have committed certain domestic violence offenses, even if not convicted, will also be barred from asylum.
The rule takes effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 21st.
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