Citizenship & Immigration Services to Furlough Majority of Workforce
UPDATE 8/25/2020: USCIS Postpones Administrative Furlough
USCIS requested $1.2 billion from Congress as part of a coronavirus relief package, but when negotiations seemed to fall through, the President signed a series of executive orders instead. The orders did not address the agency’s funding requests. Earlier this month USCIS notified approximately 13,400 of 20,000 employees that they would be furloughed starting August 30, 2020.
USCIS is primarily funded by fees collected from providing immigration services. Previously this year, the agency announced fees would be increasing by an average of 20% to recover operational costs. Those changes go into effect on October 2, 2020. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claimed that the current fee structure would leave the agency underfunded by $1 billion per year. In the earlier request to Congress, USCIS proposed a 10% service fee surcharge in addition to $1.2 billion in funding.
With a furlough of two-thirds of the USCIS workforce, individuals and businesses applying for immigration benefits may see additional delays in processing. Some categories are already suffering from delays and the earlier shutdown of a printing facility led to backlogs for green cards and EADs.
Don’t wait until the last minute to file for new visas or extensions! Contact us to get started before the delays affect your immigration status!
Don’t miss out on the immigration news! You can sign up for our mailing list or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn. Please email us with any additional questions.
CONFIRMED: New H-1B Cap Selections
We have confirmed that USCIS is selecting additional H-1B registrations for the FY2021 cap. The additional registration selections are allowed because USCIS did not receive enough H-1B cap petitions during the April 1 to June 30, 2020 filing window. Many employers reported temporary closures and reduced services during pandemic shutdowns, leading to fewer organizations moving forward with hiring.
USCIS has not reported how many additional registrations are being selected, but the agency is expected to make an official announcement soon.
Checking the Registration Status
Employers and their legal representatives can check the status of the registrations by logging into the H-1B cap registration system. Currently, a registrant’s online USCIS account will display one of four statuses for each individual registration:
- Submitted: A registration status may continue to show “Submitted” after the initial selection process has been completed. “Submitted” registrations will remain in consideration for selection until the end of the fiscal year, at which point all registration statuses will be Selected, Not Selected or Denied.
- Selected: Selected to file an FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petition.
- Not Selected: Not selected for this fiscal year.
- Denied: The same registrant or representative submitted more than one registration on the beneficiary’s behalf for the same fiscal year. All registrations the registrant or representative submitted on behalf of the same beneficiary for the same fiscal year are invalid.
H-1B cap-subject beneficiaries, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must have a “Selected” registration notification in order for a registrant or representative to properly file an H-1B cap-subject petition for FY 2021. The status of registrations not selected as part of any initial random selection process and not denied will remain as “Submitted.”
USCIS cautions that registrants and representatives will not be notified until the end of the fiscal year if they are not selected.
New Filing Window: August 17 to November 16
When a registration is selected, a selection notice will be generated by the H-1B cap registration system. The notice will include the filing deadline and USCIS filing location. New selection notices received by our office are displaying a filing window of August 17 to November 16, 2020.
Our legal team is monitoring the registrant accounts to see if additional registrations are selected for filing. We have notified several clients who have already had additional registrants selected.
Has your H-1B registration been selected in the past few days? Contact us at email@example.com to get started with your H-1B filing!
Judge Orders USCIS to Address EAD and Green Card Printing Backlogs
A federal judge has ordered USCIS to print all backlogged green cards and EADs within seven days, citing the harm the lack of income is causing plaintiffs in the midst of the pandemic. The suit claims that the USCIS backlog is purposeful, stating that the agency has “either an intention to harm plaintiff and class members or deliberate indifference.”
USCIS typically prints and mails EADs within 48 hours of approval but argued in court documents that the agency is not legally required to provide the documents within that timeframe. Judge Algenon Marbley disagreed: “The fact that there is no statute or regulation setting a timeline for action does not mean that the agency retains unfettered discretion to issue EADs at any time they wish.”
Even as companies are struggling to stay profitable, USCIS has delayed printing documents critical to continued employment of skilled workers. Thousands of individuals who have been approved to legally work in the United States are instead without proper documentation to present to employers due to the USCIS backlogs and reduced printing capacity. The USCIS website reports processing times up to 12 months for some service centers, but in public statements the agency has reported four-month processing times, insisting that the speed is faster than 2019 and consistent with 2018 processing times.
While it is reasonable to assume the delays were due to COVID precautions, many USCIS workers continued to process EAD and green card applications. Approvals were still generated during adjudications, but the documentary proof required for work authorization continues to be delayed. The printing backlog is in part attributable to USCIS ending a contract with a company responsible for green card and EAD production. The agency intended to continue production in-house, but instead shut down one of the two facilities and reduced capacity at the second.
USCIS has acknowledged that 50,000 green cards and 75,000 employment authorization documents remain to be printed and continually points to the financial problems on the horizon. The agency is primarily fee-funded, so the temporary closure of offices and reduction of services left USCIS with a projected billion-dollar shortfall.
On July 31, DHS announced the final rule on increasing fees for immigration and naturalization benefit requests. The new fees will become effective on October 2, 2020. Read more about the planned increases.
File your extension and EAD early to account for longer processing times and printing delays. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-360-8482 to get your case started.
USCIS Extends Flexibility for Responding to Agency Requests
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is extending the flexibility it announced on March 30, 2020, to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain:
- Requests for Evidence;
- Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
- Notices of Intent to Deny;
- Notices of Intent to Revoke;
- Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers;
- Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or
- Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
Read Challa Law Group’s update from the previous USCIS announcement.
Notice/Request/Decision Issuance Date:
This flexibility applies to the above documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision is between March 1 and Sept. 11, 2020, inclusive.
Response Due Date:
USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action. We will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before we take any action. USCIS states:
“We are adopting several measures to protect our workforce and community and to minimize the immigration consequences for those seeking immigration benefits during this time. USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow CDC guidance. Education and precautions are the strongest tools against COVID-19 infection.”
Join us every Monday at 11 AM ET for a webinar covering COVID updates for businesses and foreign workers. Register for the webinar or email us with any additional questions.
Visit our COVID-19 resource page for the latest updates or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. You can also sign up for our mailing list.