Category: Legal News

What You Need to Know About the New COVID-19 Immigration Laws

With the COVID-19 situation in the United States rapidly evolving on a daily basis, it is difficult to know what the current rules, regulations, processes and laws are as they relate to coronavirus and immigration. 

On June 22, 2020, the White House issued an Executive Order suspending H, J and L Visas. This Executive Order went into effect on June 24 and will remain until December 31, 2020. Modifications can be made to this order as necessary beginning July 22, 2020, and continuing every 60 days thereafter. 

Shortly after, on July 6, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that, to slow the spread of coronavirus in America, international exchange students may not take a complete course load online and remain in the United States. However, on July 14, federal officials decided to reverse the SEVP mandate for F-1 visas. Students with F-1 visas will continue to be allowed to stay in the United States or return to the United States for either online or in-person courses. Continuing students will not be required to register for an in-person course to maintain F-1 status. Continuing students who wish to remain outside of the U.S. for autumn quarter and take online courses will be allowed to maintain their F status as long as they continue to follow all F visa regulations.

These are complicated mandates that are confusing to many on their immigration journey. As you can see, the regulations can change from one day to the next with little warning. Our team at the Law Office of Fred Voigtmann is staying up-to-date on the latest news and regulations pertaining to immigration cases and coronavirus in order to best assist current and prospective clients. 

Continue reading for frequently asked questions about these new mandates and their answers to help clarify many of the concerns we’ve been addressing with our clients. If you would like to speak in depth about your specific case with an attorney, please schedule a free consultation.

What You Need to Know About the Executive Order on H, J, and L Visa Issuance

Q. Which employment-based are affected by this mandate?

A. Nonimmigrant visas to foreign nationals have been suspended, including specialty occupation visas, non-agricultural visas, J visas in the intern, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel programs and visas for multinational managers/executives or specialized knowledge visas.

Q. I have a pending change of status application. Does the executive order affect me?

A. No. By its terms, the executive order applies only to visa issuance outside of the United States.  Changes of status applications/petitions in the United States can still be approved.

Q. I am outside the United States, but I already have a valid H, J, or L visa. Can I enter?

A. Yes. The executive order does not apply to persons who already have valid visas.

Q. Can I get an exemption because I am employed in the healthcare or food service industries?

A. Yes, it is possible to apply for an exemption under certain circumstances. If the exemption is approved, you can obtain a H, J, or L visa and enter the United States.

Q. Does the executive order apply to dependents such as one’s spouse and children?

A. Yes, issuance of dependent visas, such as H-4, J-2, or L-2, is also banned until 2021.

Read more about this proclamation at WhiteHouse.gov.

What You Need to Know About the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Announcement on F-1 Students

Because the situation with coronavirus and immigration is constantly changing, there is a lot of confusion about what the most current regulations are. Here are some of the frequently asked questions and their answers as of this writing on July 15, 2020:

Q. What are F and M Visas?

A. International students who wish to pursue a full-time education at a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory or another academic institution, including a language training program, in the United States need to be issued an F-1 visa. Those interested in attending a vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program, will need an M visa.

Q. Will I have to leave the country if my school is offering only online classes for Fall 2020?

A. No. Because the original mandate issued on July 6 has been reversed, students with F-1 visas do not need to leave the United States. Students are able to continue their education full-time online and remain in the country.

Q. Are students attending schools that are entirely online barred from attending that school?

A. No. Students can continue to study at their school, even if the courses are exclusively online, and continue to live in America.

Q. Can continuing F and M students study online outside the United States and remain in Active status in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)? Are designated school officials (DSOs) responsible for maintaining these records?

A. Yes, continuing F and M students may remain in Active SEVIS status while studying online, outside the United States. As these students remain Active in SEVIS, DSOs are responsible for maintaining these student records.

Q. My school has switched to fully online instruction but not all courses will be offered; some courses will be canceled due to inability to deliver via online means. Can I be excused from meeting full course of study requirements if the classes I need are not being offered?

A. Yes, full course of study requirements can be waived as a direct result of the impact from COVID-19. This information should be reported in a school’s procedural change documents submitted to SEVP.  You should contact your DSO and confirm that such information has been reported to SEVP.

Q. Will I be able to return to the United States if my school resumes on-campus class offerings?

A. Yes.  As long as you have or are able to obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa, you should be allowed to return to the United States to resume your studies.

Q. What happens if I am physically unable to return to school once in-class instruction resumes?

A. Once a school returns to normal operations, if students cannot or choose not to return to the United States to study, DSOs are expected to terminate the records.

The most up-to-date information about the SEVP directive can be found on ICE.gov.

Redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Document issued by USCIS

USCIS Will Issue Redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents

Agency Publishes Revised Form I-485 and Instructions

Release Date: 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today published a revised Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). The new Form I-485 and instructions have been substantially updated to reduce complexity after collecting comments from the public and stakeholders.

The revised version gives applicants better information to accurately complete Form I-485, including clear navigation to the parts of the form and instructions that are relevant to the applicants’ specific situations. These updates should increase the efficiency of the adjudication process by reducing errors and requests for evidence.

Applicants living in the United States file Form I-485 to adjust their immigration status and become lawful permanent residents, which allows one to live and work permanently in the United States.  Adjusting status is a critical step for those seeking U.S. citizenship.

USCIS also revised the Form I-485 Supplement A and Form I-485 Supplement J (as well as each supplement’s instructions), to provide applicants with more detailed information about how to properly complete, file, and submit evidence if those supplements are applicable to their situation.

Beginning today, there will be a 60-day grace period during which USCIS will accept both the  01/17/17 and 06/26/17 editions of Form I-485 and Supplement A and J. Beginning Aug. 25, USCIS will only accept the revised Form and Supplement A and J of Form I-485 and will no longer accept earlier versions of either form.

What’s New? USCIS improved Form I-485 to include:

  • Better flow and organization of questions to make it user-friendly for both the applicants and USCIS. In addition, readability has significantly improved due to new spacing, columns, flow, white space, and formatting.
  • The questions about biographic information (Form G-325A) so applicants will no longer need to file a separate form;
  • A list of 27 immigrant categories, which allows applicants to identify the specific immigrant category under which they are applying; and
  • A comprehensive, updated list of admissibility-related questions. The added questions to ensure USCIS officers have the necessary information to better assess the applicant’s admissibility and eligibility.

What Remains the Same

While both Form I-485 and its instructions may look different from earlier versions, the process for filing Form I-485 and Form I-485 Supplement A and Form I-485 Supplement J remains the same. Applicants must still submit their paper applications to the location listed in the form instructions.

Further information

Visit the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status  page and the Form I-485 Supplement A page for further information about the new forms and instructions.

Applicants can visit the USCIS Green Card Eligibility Categories page for information on eligibility requirements for each immigrant category.

All USCIS forms are free on our website at www.uscis.gov/forms.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook(/uscis), and Instagram (@uscis).

USCIS Announces Extension of Parole for Immediate Relatives of U.S Citezens

USCIS Announces Extension of Parole for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

Release Date: 

CNMI — To allow immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and certain “stateless” individuals to maintain legal status in the CNMI, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has extended the parole program for these relatives, effective immediately, until December 31, 2018.

To apply for extension of this parole, you must:

  • Reside in the CNMI;
  • Be an immediate relative, which for purposes of this parole program means you are the legal spouse, unmarried child under 21, or parent (regardless of the age of your child) of a U.S. citizen; and
  • Have been previously granted parole.

Your request for extension of parole must include:

  • A letter from you, the immediate relative (or from the U.S. citizen family member if the immediate relative is a child who is too young to complete the parole request package). The letter must:
    • Ask for an extension of parole;
    • Explain under what relationship you are requesting this parole (such as parent, spouse, child); and
    • Note whether you have been arrested or convicted of any crime since your last request.
  • Form G-325, Biographic Information, that you completed within the past 30 days
  • A copy of your I-94;
  • A copy of any Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that you received; and
  • A copy of your passport (only if a new one was issued since you last applied for parole).

There is no fee for this extension request. We recommend that you keep a copy of all documents. Seal all the above items in one envelope and clearly write on the outside of the envelope:

  • Your name;
  • “PAROLE EXTENSION FOR IR of USC”; and
  • The expiration date of your current parole.

You can make an appointment for your parole extension request at the USCIS office on Saipan, or you can mail your request to:

DHS-USCIS
ATTN: PAROLE EXTENSION – CNMI
770 East Sunset Boulevard, Suite 185
Barrigada, Guam 96913

This parole extension will allow the immediate relative to lawfully remain with the U.S. citizen in the CNMI, but parole does not authorize employment. Immediate relatives must, as before, obtain an EAD by submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, or obtain work authorization as a CW-1 CNMI-Only Transitional Worker or in another employment-based nonimmigrant status under federal immigration law.

This announcement does not extend to anyone other than the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and certain “stateless” individuals. USCIS may grant parole on a case-by-case basis based on the individual circumstances and has exercised parole authority on a case-by-case basis in the CNMI since 2009 for special situations.

USCIS is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for immigration benefits.

USICIS Introduces Redesigned Form for Green Card Applications

USCIS Introduces Redesigned Form for Green Card Applicants

Agency Publishes Revised Form I-485 and Instructions

Release Date: 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today published a revised Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). The new Form I-485 and instructions have been substantially updated to reduce complexity after collecting comments from the public and stakeholders.

The revised version gives applicants better information to accurately complete Form I-485, including clear navigation to the parts of the form and instructions that are relevant to the applicants’ specific situations. These updates should increase the efficiency of the adjudication process by reducing errors and requests for evidence.

Applicants living in the United States file Form I-485 to adjust their immigration status and become lawful permanent residents, which allows one to live and work permanently in the United States.  Adjusting status is a critical step for those seeking U.S. citizenship.

USCIS also revised the Form I-485 Supplement A and Form I-485 Supplement J (as well as each supplement’s instructions), to provide applicants with more detailed information about how to properly complete, file, and submit evidence if those supplements are applicable to their situation.

Beginning today, there will be a 60-day grace period during which USCIS will accept both the  01/17/17 and 06/26/17 editions of Form I-485 and Supplement A and J. Beginning Aug. 25, USCIS will only accept the revised Form and Supplement A and J of Form I-485 and will no longer accept earlier versions of either form.

What’s New? USCIS improved Form I-485 to include:

  • Better flow and organization of questions to make it user-friendly for both the applicants and USCIS. In addition, readability has significantly improved due to new spacing, columns, flow, white space, and formatting.
  • The questions about biographic information (Form G-325A) so applicants will no longer need to file a separate form;
  • A list of 27 immigrant categories, which allows applicants to identify the specific immigrant category under which they are applying; and
  • A comprehensive, updated list of admissibility-related questions. The added questions to ensure USCIS officers have the necessary information to better assess the applicant’s admissibility and eligibility.

What Remains the Same

While both Form I-485 and its instructions may look different from earlier versions, the process for filing Form I-485 and Form I-485 Supplement A and Form I-485 Supplement J remains the same. Applicants must still submit their paper applications to the location listed in the form instructions.

Further information

Visit the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status  page and the Form I-485 Supplement A page for further information about the new forms and instructions.

Applicants can visit the USCIS Green Card Eligibility Categories page for information on eligibility requirements for each immigrant category.

All USCIS forms are free on our website at www.uscis.gov/forms.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook(/uscis), and Instagram (@uscis).