Since our last newsletter less than two weeks ago, the World Health Organization has indicated that the U.S. may be the next epicentre for Covid-19.  Here are some updates on what’s been happening – most recent news is given first – with links to reliable sources for further information on some topics.

 April 2:  in the wake of U.S. unemployment rising to over 3.5M, USDHS announced they were halting 35,000 extra H-2B guest worker visas for migrant workers, ‘pending review due to present economic circumstances’.  

April 1:  USCIS announces H-1B cap-subject cases which were ‘selected’ in the lottery may be filed from today for up to 90 days. The following link is to an informative and current Forbes article on the H-1B visa: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2020/04/01/h-1b-visa-selection-completed-will-all-companies-follow-through/?utm_source=AILA+Mailing&utm_campaign=3164291667-AILA8_04_01_2020&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0e619096-3164291667-287736577#37898c382520

April 1: USCIS announced that it is extending the temporary suspension of in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers until at least May 3, 2020 and will begin reopening its offices on May 4, 2020, unless the public closures are extended further.

March 31: The deadline for H-1B lottery results is reached. Lucky winners will receive notification that they’ve been ‘selected’. Those whose applications are still recorded as ‘submitted’ may yet be selected, if, for example visa numbers become available as a result of denials, or lack of follow-through by employers. In the few weeks since the lottery closed on March 20, Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the economy and jobs, and some employers may therefore find themselves unable to follow through. Before Covid-19 struck, USCIS had indicated that not following through could result in an audit.

March 27: Due to Covid-19, USCIS announces a 60-day extension for responding to Requests for Further Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intention to Deny (NOID) which are dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020.  The deadline date + 60 days will therefore serve as the new deadline, until further notice: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-announces-flexibility-requests-evidence-notices-intent-deny

March 27: USCIS, to some extent, addressed concerns that The Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule, which went into effect on February 24, could potentially adversely affect foreign nationals availing of healthcare due to Covid-19, rendering them ineligible for visa extensions and/or green cards in the future: https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/public-charge

March 26: the U.S. Government agreed a 2 trillion stimulus package to offset the economic impacts of Covid-19: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/us-coronavirus-stimulus-all-you-need-to-know

Small business forgivable loans for Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and other stimulus loans may be available to employer in certain circumstances: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanguina/2020/04/01/paycheck-protection-program-small-business-loan/#460e302877a3

However, in some cases, they may be limited to US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (Green card holders) and it’s hoped that clarification for inclusion of foreign nationals who are U.S. business owners will be forthcoming. If non-immigrant visa holders are to be included in stimulus measures, clarity will be needed to ensure they’re not excluded from future applications for visa extensions and/or green card eligibility on Public Charge grounds.

We’ll continue to bring you important news of USCIS and other initiatives during Covid-19.

Watch this space!

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