Immigration Update

Nov 22, 2021 | Immigration Updates

In this edition, find out more about the third round of random H-1B Cap Registration selections, the immigration provisions in the “Build Back Better Act,” a major change in work authorization policy for certain nonimmigrant dependent spouses, and more.

USCIS Conducts Third Random Selection From Previously Submitted FY 2022 H-1B Cap Registrations

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that on November 19, 2021, it selected additional registrations to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption. This follows a second random selection in July 2021, after the initial selection in March.

USCIS said the petition filing period will begin November 22, 2021, and close on February 23, 2022. Those with selected registrations will receive a selection notice in their myUSCIS accounts with details about when and where to file.

For a better understanding of how employers can best prepare for H-1B Cap Registration, consider attending WR Immigration’s webinar tomorrow, Nov. 23rd, at 11a Pacific. Register now!

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Build Back Better Act, Passed in House, Includes Immigration Provisions; Senate’s Next

The House of Representatives passed the $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better Act” budget reconciliation bill, 220-213, on November 19, 2021. It includes $100 billion toward immigration measures, including provisions paving the way for employees and others waiting in backlogs, and increases in some immigration-related fees. It also would provide for up to 10 years of work authorization and protection from removal for undocumented people who have been living in the United States since before 2011, and $2.8 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to reduce processing backlogs. The House bill would also recapture more than 200,000 unused green cards that would otherwise expire each year.

In addition, it would provide for diversity visas for those refused a visa, prevented from seeking admission, or denied admission to the United States solely because of certain executive orders and limitations on visa processing, visa issuance, travel and other effects associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate will take up the bill next, likely in December. It remains to be seen whether the bill will become law in its current version or will be revised or defeated. Among various factors, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough earlier rejected several previous immigration-related provisions in the draft bill, such as a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but observers believe some provisions may survive her scrutiny, such as one that would recover roughly 400,000 currently unused green cards.

Below are selected highlights of the House-passed version of the “Build Back Better Act”:

Green Card Provisions for Immigrants Waiting in Backlogs

The House bill’s provisions would allow an employee waiting for more than two years in the backlog of approved legal immigration applications to pay a supplemental fee of $5,000 and file for adjustment of status without waiting for a priority date to become available. Those with approved green card applications awaiting visa availability could pay $1,500 to essentially jump the queue and file for adjustment.

Work Permits

As noted above, the House bill would allow about seven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States since before 2011 to stay in the United States through parole, and to be eligible for work permits valid for five years (renewable once), authorization to travel, and driver’s licenses if they file an application and pay a fee. They could also apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. They would need to pass background checks.

Fee Increases

Examples of supplemental immigration-related fees that would be imposed by the House bill, if passed, include:

  • $100 for certain family-sponsored immigrant visa petitions (Forms I-130)
  • $800 for each employment-based immigrant visa petition (Forms I-140)
  • $15,000 for each employment-based fifth preference petition (Forms I-526)

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Major Settlement Changes USCIS’ Work Authorization Policy for Certain H-4, E, and L Nonimmigrant Dependent Spouses

Following recent litigation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on November 12, 2021, that certain H-4, E, or L dependent spouses will qualify for an automatic extension provided under 8 CFR § 274a.13(d) if certain conditions are met. Accordingly, a document combination to include an unexpired Form I-94, Form I-797C (Notice of Action) showing a timely filed employment authorization document (EAD) renewal application, and facially expired EAD may be acceptable to evidence unexpired work authorization for employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) purposes, USCIS said.

In addition, USCIS will consider E and L dependent spouses to be employment authorized incident to their valid E or L nonimmigrant status, with a few exceptions.

USCIS is also rescinding the 2002 Immigration and Naturalization Service memorandum, “Guidance on Employment Authorization for E and L Nonimmigrant Spouses, and for Determinations on the Requisite Employment Abroad for L Blanket Petition.”

USCIS’ actions followed a settlement in Shergill v. Mayorkas. The settlement provided structural changes for nonimmigrant H-4 and L-2 spouses suffering from long-delayed processing times for work authorization applications. Also as a result of this settlement, as noted above, USCIS will now recognize that L-2 spouses are employment authorized incident to L-2 status. This means that spouses of transferred executives and managers no longer need to apply for work permits before working or starting a business in the United States.

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New Work Authorization Extensions Affect Form I-9 Completion for Certain Employees

Effective November 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) automatically extended work authorization for L-2 nonimmigrants who are the dependent spouses of L-1 nonimmigrants, and E nonimmigrants who are the dependent spouses of E-1, E-2, and E-3 nonimmigrants. USCIS also automatically extended work authorization for certain H-4 nonimmigrants who are dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants.

Such individuals may receive automatic extensions of their employment authorization documents.

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DHS Announces Countries Eligible for H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs

The Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Department of State, announced the countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A (temporary agricultural) and H-2B (temporary nonagricultural) visa programs.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, with the concurrence of the secretary of state, has decided to:

  • Add Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Cyprus, the Dominican Republic (currently only eligible for the H-2A program), Haiti, Mauritius, and Saint Lucia to the list of countries eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs; and
  • No longer designate Moldova as an eligible country for the H-2A visa program because it no longer meets the regulatory standards for that program. Moldova’s eligibility for the H-2A program remains effective until January 18, 2022.

Except for Moldova, the designations took effect November 10, 2021, and will remain in effect for one year, until November 10, 2022.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries not on the list on a case-by-case basis if doing so is determined to be in the interest of the United States.

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