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Immigration Law Update

March 2020

Drastic Travel Restrictions Imposed to Address Coronavirus Threat

In a nationally televised address, President Trump announced major international travel restrictions designed to contain the threat posed by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Effective midnight tonight, immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present in the Schengen Area of Europe during the preceding 14-day period will not be permitted to enter the United States. This proclamation will remain in place for at least thirty days. The Schengen Area consists of the following 26 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

This travel restriction augments two previous travel restrictions imposed to address the COVID-19 threat. At the end of January, President Trump imposed a similar travel restriction affecting immigrants and nonimmigrants seeking to enter the United States who had been physically present in the People’s Republic of China over the preceding 14 days. This restriction does not apply to Hong Kong and Macau. At the end of February, a similar travel restriction was imposed against those who were physically present in Iran in the two weeks prior to travel to the U.S.

The following notable groups are exempt from these travel restrictions:

  • S. citizens or lawful permanent residents;
  • The spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • The parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident under the age of 21; and
  • The sibling of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident under the age of 21.

The complete Presidential Proclamation can be found here.

USCIS Encourages Those Who Feel Sick or Were Exposed to the Coronavirus to Cancel and Reschedule Their USCIS Appointment 

USCIS issued a notice on March 12 encouraging people who are sick or who may have been exposed to COVID-19 to cancel and reschedule their appointments. Such cancellations can be made without the necessity of a letter from a physician. We recommend for you to follow the instructions at the bottom of the appointment notice when making such a cancellation and rescheduling request. If you would like our assistance, please contact Brad Ortman or Karen Moss directly.

H-1B Registration Process Continues Until March 20, 2020

We are in the midst of the H-1B registration process, and we are happy to report that the filing interface is working fine. This process continues for one more week, ending on March 20, 2020.  Minimal information is required to register an employer/beneficiary for this process. If you are seeking to file a cap-subject H-1B petition and have not registered yet, please do not hesitate to contact us to complete this process in the coming week. The H-1B lottery drawing will be conducted sometime between March 21-31.

Federal Agencies Implement Rule Broadening the Definition of ‘Public Charge’ in the Immigration Context

Both USCIS and the U.S. Department of State were cleared by the U.S. Supreme Court to at least temporarily implement rules that broaden the definition of the “public charge” ground of inadmissibility to the United States. These new rules will increase government scrutiny of the admission of all foreign nationals to the United States. In the immigrant visa context, additional forms must be completed that examine in depth the applicant’s financial status, education, skills, and employment history, as well as prior use of U.S. public benefits. In the nonimmigrant context, the inquiry is less probing, but similar questions are asked. The U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether it was lawful for the government to impose this increased scrutiny by the end of the current term.

(The African) Travel Ban Imposed

At the end of January President Trump issued a brand new travel ban that applies to certain foreign nationals from six additional countries:  Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.  This travel ban is more limited in effect than the prior travel ban in that it focuses primarily on immigrant visas.  The ban is likely to have the most far reaching effect on Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa.  A prosperous immigrant group, in 2018, Nigerians were granted nearly 14,000 green cards.

There are some notable exemptions from this travel ban, including the following:

  • It does not apply to lawful permanent residents;
  • It does not apply to nonimmigrants and refugees;
  • It does not prevent foreign nationals from these countries from immigrating through the Adjustment of Status process; and

It contains provisions for waivers for various categories of people, including those who previously have been admitted to work or study in the United States who seek to return to the U.S. to resume this activity.

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If you have questions or would like to learn more about the items discussed above, 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 2020 by Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper LLC