Immigration Law in 2020: January Newsletter

Panteva Law Group LLC

At Panteva Law Group, LLC, we aim to empower our clients by helping them stay informed. As immigration laws and procedures change, we adapt our strategies to ensure you have a clear and effective way forward.

Here are 4 important changes to immigration law in 2020.

Online Registration Process for H-1B Visas

The H-1B visa allows U.S. companies to hire foreign workers with needed skills or educational backgrounds. Because so many people apply every year, USCIS uses a lottery system to randomly select from the pool of eligible applicants. Until now, employers would submit entire application packages on their potential employees’ behalf, and USCIS would evaluate each application before entering eligible candidates into the lottery.

As of January 9, 2020, H-1B visa applications for the fiscal year 2021 will go through a preliminary evaluation system using an online registration process. When applicants register, they submit a $10 fee and only basic information about the potential visa-holder. USCIS then assesses eligibility, issuing notices to all those who meet the preliminary requirements to move forward with the actual application. USCIS will then use the lottery system to select from those applications.

Those looking to obtain an H-1B visa for the fiscal year 2021 will need to register between March 1st and March 20th of this year.

USCIS Releases List of Countries Eligible for H-2 Visas

The H-2A and H-2B visas are also for U.S. employers hiring foreign workers for temporary jobs (e.g. seasonal agricultural work). Recipients of either visa can stay up to three years.

Each year, USCIS published a list of countries whose citizens are eligible for these visas. Countries are selected using a set of criteria, and certain factors (e.g. overstay rates, human trafficking concerns, etc.) may trigger removal from the list.

USCIS recently published the list for 2020, and it hasn’t changed from 2019. This list does not affect those who currently hold an H-2 visa unless they apply to extend it. Under certain circumstances, USCIS may consider applications from countries not on this list.

U.S. Travel Ban Extends to Nigeria

President Trump first initiated a travel ban in January of 2017 in order to protect the United States from “radical Muslim terrorists.” Critics have pointed out the fact that this ban exercises blatant religious discrimination, and various courts have attempted to block the ban. However, the Trump Administration has succeeded in establishing severe travel restrictions for 7 countries: Yemen, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Libya, North Korea, and Venezuela.

On January 31, 2020, President Trump extended the travel ban to six countries:

  • Myanmar
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Eritrea
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Nigeria

Nigeria is a particularly shocking choice. As Africa’s biggest economy and home to nearly 25% of the entire continent’s population, Nigeria is America’s source of some of the most highly educated immigrants in the world. Furthermore, the U.S. has spent years competing with China and Russia to create economic ties with Africa, and this travel ban extension seems to undermine that international goal.

The proclamation will take effect on February 22nd. Immigrant visas will be banned for people from Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Kyrgyzstan, and those from Sudan and Tanzania will no longer be able to use the diversity visa lottery to obtain green cards. Exceptions to the travel ban include employees with specialized skills and students/temporary workers applying for nonimmigrant visas.

USCIS Officially Implements Public Charge Rule

After the Supreme Court overruled nationwide injunctions, USCIS announced the implementation of the public charge rule beginning on February 24, 2020. This rule generally targets green card applicants, allowing USCIS to deny applications if the USCIS officer believes the immigrant may, at some point, become a “public charge” (i.e. a person who is dependent on government benefits). The officer will assess the applicant’s age, health, background, income, skills, and other factors to determine whether they are inadmissible.

USCIS celebrates this rule as a means of upholding the American value of self-sufficiency, but critics say it places an unprecedented level of subjectivity into government processes.

Contact Our Firm for Personalized Support

If you are unsure whether these changes will affect your application or status, our legal team at Panteva Law Group, LLC will closely analyze your situation and provide counsel informed by years of training and experience. Our goal is to use tailored strategies to find the most efficient path for your immigration goals.

Get started on your path today by sending us an online message or calling (312) 471-0014.

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