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Immigration Law Update

February 2022

H-1B 2022 Cap Registration Period Nears

USCIS recently announced that this year’s registration for the H-1B lottery will run from March 1 – March 18. This year’s registration will be substantially similar to the lottery from the past two years. Only properly registered employers and beneficiaries can participate.

If you are a prospective H-1B employer or employee seeking sponsorship, now is the time to prepare for next month’s lottery. We are available to evaluate the feasibility of H-1B sponsorship and to guide you through the registration process. We urge you to take stock of your employees who are on Optional Practical Training or who otherwise may be candidates for sponsorship. USCIS intends to notify registrants of selection status by March 31, 2022. We encourage all employers to contact either Brad Ortman or Karen Moss if they are considering participating in the 2022 H-1B lottery.

USCIS Issues New Guidance on Expedited Employment Authorization for Healthcare Workers and General Expedited Procedures

In response to the strain on health care systems caused by the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has issued new guidance allowing expedited processing of I-765 employment authorization applications (EAD) for healthcare workers. This applies to healthcare workers who have a pending EAD renewal application whose EAD expires in 30 days or less or has already expired.

People in this situation can request expedited processing of your EAD application. For more information, see the “Healthcare / Public Health” section (pages 7-9) in DHS’s August 10, 2021 advisory memorandum. If you believe you qualify and would like our assistance, please reach out to us by using the contact info found at the end of this newsletter.

DOS Announces Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Waivers for Certain Applicants

The Secretary of State has authorized consular officers through the end of 2022 to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants who have a petition approved by the USCIS. This new authorization applies to temporary workers applying for nonimmigrant visas, including H-1B, L-1A/L-1B, O-1 and P-1, who meet certain conditions including that they are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.

In addition, the DOS extended previously approved policies for certain students and professors applying for F and J visas. Applicants are still encouraged to check the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to confirm the level of services currently offered and to find guidelines for applying for a visa without an interview.

DHS Requires Foreign Travelers Entering the United States at Land Ports of Entry and Ferry Terminals to be Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Effective immediately, DHS requires non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and to provide related proof of vaccination, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide.

Specifically, foreign nationals are required to:

  • Verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status; and
  • Provide proof of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccination upon request, as outlined on the CDC website.

Notably, a negative COVID-19 test is not required for entry via a land port of entry or ferry terminal. In this context it is important to note that travel across these borders is no longer restricted to essential travel.

The vaccine requirements stated above do not apply to U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents. For more information, please review the DHS fact sheet.

Biden-Harris Administration Actions to Attract STEM Talent and Clarify Pathways for Individuals in STEM Fields

The Biden-Harris Administration has announced new actions to improve pathways for international STEM scholars, students, researchers, and experts to contribute to innovation and job creation efforts across America. The announcement includes:

  • An “Early Career STEM Research Initiative,” to facilitate non-immigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through research, training, or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses. DOS is also providing new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa for periods of up to 36 months: a 12-month extension on the period allowed under previous policy.
  • Adding 22 new fields of study to the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. The program permits F-1 students earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in certain STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months to complete Optional Practical Training after earning their degrees. The 22 new fields include important additions which reflect expertise in burgeoning areas that are in-demand for U.S. employers. Notable examples include Data Science, Data Analytics, Business Analytics, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Cloud Computing, Bioenergy, Climate Science, and Environmental Geosciences. This will allow more foreign nationals in a broader array of STEM fields to remain in the U.S. and continue their employment authorization after completion of their degrees, and affords employers and foreign nationals additional opportunities to succeed in the H-1B lottery. DHS will continue to accept for consideration suggested additions or deletions to the STEM list going forward.
  • Updating its policy manual related to “extraordinary ability” (O-1A) nonimmigrant status regarding what evidence may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of the evidence often submitted.
  • A USCIS policy update clarifies how the national interest waiver can be used for persons with advanced degrees in STEM fields and entrepreneurs, as well as the significance of letters from governmental and quasi-governmental entities. This update will hopefully promote efficient and effective benefit processing as USCIS reviews requests for national interest waivers.

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If you have questions or would like to learn more about these or other immigration topics, please contact Karen Moss or Brad Ortman of the Immigration Law Group at Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper via email or at (216) 621-7227.

Bradley L. Ortman and Karen Gabriel Moss
Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper LLC

This Immigration Law Update contains general information that should not be considered legal advice or legal opinion concerning individual situations. Legal counsel should be consulted for specific advice.

Copyright 2022 by Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper LLC