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MARCH 6TH NEW IMMIGRATION DEVELOPMENTS: A NEW TRAVEL BAN, AND H-1B VISA PROCESSING CHANGES

By Susan E. Hill, March 6, 2017

New Travel Ban for 90 Days Targets Six Predominantly Muslim Countries

Today President Trump revoked the earlier ban of January 2017 and signed a new travel ban against six predominantly Muslim countries:  Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (Iraq was left off the list).   Here are some key highlights:

  • Goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. EST on March 16, 2017
  • Visa must have been issued by 5 pm EST on January 27, 2017
  • It does not apply to:
    • U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs)
    • Anyone paroled or admitted on or after the effect date
    • Anyone with a document aside from a visa—such as advance parole
    • Dual nationals traveling under a passport from a non-banned country
    • Diplomats (A visas),NATO visas (N visas), NGO officials (G visas) and C-2 visas to attend the United Nations
    • Anyone granted asylum, refugee status, withholding, or advance parole under the protections of the Convention Against Torture
  • Exception Waivers of the travel ban are available on a case-by-case basis for hardship purposes, provided it is demonstrated that admission would not pose a threat to security and that admission is in the national interest.  Examples include:
    • those returning to work/study
    • significant business or professional obligations
    • close family members  and other humanitarian considerations
    • employment or business with the U.S. government
    • landed Canadian immigrants

The new Executive Order gave brief descriptions of conflict/terrorism support in each of the six countries, to demonstrate why these countries were chosen for the ban.  Accompanying statements and documents/letters issued by the Attorney General and the DHS also explained that these countries were chosen because they were countries where “the central government has lost control of territory to terrorists or terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, core al-Qa’ida, and their regional affiliates,” increasing a risk that nationals of these countries have been radicalized or become members.

An agenda was also provided for the ban: in the first 20 days, DHS will review each country’s identity and security information provided to support U.S. visa and other immigration benefit determinations.  The countries will then have 50 days to comply with requests from the U.S. Government to update or improve the quality of the information they provide.

It also requires DHS to release information every 180 days about terrorism-related activity committed by noncitizens in the U.S. as well as gender-based violence against women committed by noncitizens.  Finally, the EO suspends admission of refugees for 120 days so DHS can review screening procedures; but the suspension does not apply to those refugees already “formally scheduled” for transit by the State Department.  Refugee admissions will be lowered to only 50,000 for Fiscal Year 2017.  Again, individualized waivers are available.

More information about the travel ban here

Government Q&A about the ban here

 

H-1B Premium Processing Will Not Be Available This April

USCIS recently announced that this season’s H-1B filings (commencing April 3, 2017) will not be eligible for the optional faster processing known as “premium processing.”  H-1B applications are for “specialty occupations” that generally require a bachelor’s degree or higher.  The H-1B petitions still will be accepted, but they will be processed at normal rates.  This is to reduce existing backlog, and to prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases.  “Expedited Processing” will be available, but the case must meet certain criteria: severe financial loss, emergency situation, humanitarian reasons, and others.  It is not yet known how quickly an employer can expect a decision on an H-1B petition filed during the season.  This affects the plans of many persons, especially those with lawful status expiring soon after the H-1B filing deadline—these people will have to wait longer to hear if their lawful status has been extended.   More information at USCIS.

 

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