Current Administration & Immigration – 2019

When there is a change in the party controlling the White House, we can expect shifts, rollbacks, and some raveling of existing policies. Action taken since the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump has proven more vigorous than most. This portal has been established to provide readers with links to follow important changes that may affect immigrants, employers of immigrants, or the immigration process.


Find 2020 entries here.


Second DUI is Presumption of Lack of Good Moral Character

09 Dec 2019

William Barr, the U.S. Attorney General, recently certified a decision on a case, Matter of Castillo-Perez, in which he ruled that a foreign national who has two or more convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) is presumed to lack “good moral character” (GMC). A foreign national must be able to demonstrate GMC during a statutory period to qualify for certain immigration benefits, including cancellation of removal and filing for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen.  Read more.


NewsFlash! USCIS Will Use H1B Registration System for Upcoming Cap Season

06 Dec 2019

This evening, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that “it has completed a successful pilot testing phase and is implementing the registration process in the next H1B lottery.”

The USCIS will open the initial registration period from March 1 through March 20, 2020. No word yet on when the results of the lottery will be released. However, there is reason to believe the USCIS will notify candidates that are selected before April 1, 2020.


USCIS Still Unsure Whether H1B Registration System Will Be Ready for Upcoming Cap Season

04 Dec 2019

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently finalized the rule adding a small fee to the H1B registration system for employers seeking to file cap-subject H1B petitions for fiscal year 2021 (FY21). Per the final rule, an H1B employer will need to pay a $10 fee for each registration. The final rule clears up a few minor procedural matters regarding how to submit payment to the USCIS. However, the final rule still does not answer the overarching question of when or even whether the registration system will be effective for the FY21 H1B cap selection process.  Read more.


USCIS Proposal for Substantial Fee Increase and Imposition of New Filing Fees

02 Dec 2019

As previously reported on MurthyDotCom, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new proposed rule on Thursday, November 14, 2019, outlining significant increases for many U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) filing fees. The increases will result in a weighted average increase of 21 percent. In addition to outlining increased fees, the proposed rule introduces new fees, eliminates certain fee waivers, and proposes a revision to the premium processing service offered by the USCIS. Since this is only a proposed rule, there is no determined effective date for the changes. The DHS is currently accepting comments on the proposal through December 16, 2019. After the comments have been processed, the DHS will publish a final rule, which should include an effective date.  Read more.


DOS Defines Legal Standard for L-1 Petitions Filed Under Blankets

25 Nov 2019

On October 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) updated the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) to define the clearly approvable standard in the context of L-1 visa applications filed under a petitioning company’s blanket L-1 petition. The FAM now provides that “clearly approvable” means that the applicant needs to provide clear and convincing evidence of eligibility for the L-1 visa. The FAM clarifies that this standard requires sufficient evidence to make something “highly probable or reasonably certain.”  Read more.


USCIS Restricts Criteria to Apply for Fee Waivers

13 Nov 2019

Effective December 2, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is implementing a stricter, more formalized fee waiver policy. The USCIS justified this policy change by noting that the agency is almost entirely funded by fee revenue, and fee waivers cost the agency hundreds of millions of dollars each year.  Read more.


NewsFlash! Judge Temporarily Blocks Enforcement of Health Insurance Requirement for Admission on Immigrant Visa

04 Nov 2019

On November 2, 2019, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that prevents enforcement of President Trump’s executive order that would have required a foreign national requesting admission on an immigrant visa to have qualifying health insurance. The rule had been scheduled to go into effect on November 3, 2019.  Read more.


NewsFlash! DOS Delays Implementation of Public Charge Rule

15 Oct 2019

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced today that the interim final rule regarding visa ineligibility based on public charge grounds is not yet being implemented. Per the announcement, “Visa applicants are not requested to take any additional steps at this time and should attend their visa interviews as scheduled. The [DOS] is seeking approval for use of a new form before it implements any changes to our processes. We will inform applicants of any changes to current visa application procedures.”


Understanding “No-Match Letters” Issued by Social Security Administration

14 Oct 2019

The Social Security Administration (SSA) resumed its practice of issuing employer correction request letters, also known as “no-match letters.” A no-match letter is used to notify an employer of an employee whose name and Social Security number (SSN) on a wage and tax statement (form W-2) do not match the information in the SSA database. The stated purpose of these letters is to ensure that an employee who is, or may eventually become, eligible for Social Security benefits, is properly credited for payments made into the Social Security system. However, no-match letters have become controversial, because there have been attempts to use them to identify foreign nationals working in the United States without authorization, even though many no-match letters are the result of faulty data or other administrative errors for people who are properly using their own Social Security numbers.  Read more.


NewsFlash! Judge Issues Nationwide Injunction Against Enforcement of Public Charge Rule

11 Oct 2019

This afternoon, a federal district court judge issued a nationwide injunction against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from enforcing the new public charge rule. The public charge rule had been scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019.  Read more.


NewsFlash! DOS Amending Public Charge Rules, Effective 15 Oct 2019

10 Oct 2019

On October 11, 2019, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) will publish an interim final rule to amend the regulations regarding how consular officers determine whether a foreign national is likely to become a public charge, and therefore ineligible for a visa. This rule will go into effect on October 15, 2019, which is the same effective date as the final rule on inadmissibility on public charge grounds issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This interim final rule is designed to make the standards used by the DOS in making a public charge determination consistent with those the DHS will begin using on October 15th.

The public will be given 30 days to submit comments on this interim final rule, which means that the rule will go into effect during the public comments period. MurthyDotCom will post a more detailed analysis of this interim final rule in the near future.


NewsFlash! New USCIS Forms with New Public Charge Rule Required as of 15 Oct 2019

10 Oct 2019

The new versions of forms I-129, I-539, I-864, and I-485 were posted on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website yesterday. The new I-944 (Declaration of Self-Sufficiency) form has also been put up. These forms now include the updated public charge rule. The USCIS will only be accepting the new, updated versions of these forms for any filing postmarked on or after October 15, 2019.


NewsFlash! Health Insurance Required for Admission on Immigrant Visa, Effective 01 Nov 2019

07 Oct 2019

On Friday, October 4, 2019, President Trump issued an executive order that will bar entry of a foreign national requesting admission on an immigrant visa unless the individual has qualifying health insurance, will have such health insurance within 30 days of admission, or “… has the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” This executive order is scheduled to go into effect on November 1, 2019. This rule does not impact those applying for admission as nonimmigrants (e.g., H1B, F-1, B-1/B-2).


USCIS Adding Public Charge Questions to Certain Forms

03 Oct 2019

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is in the process of updating certain forms to add questions that will be used to determine whether a beneficiary or applicant is likely to become a public charge. These questions are being added in response to the final rule scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019, which expands the categories of public benefits considered in the determination of whether a foreign national may be deemed a public charge. More details on this rule are available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility Greatly Expanded (21.Aug.2019).  Read more.


FY21 Diversity Lottery Registration Begins 02 Oct 2019

30 Sep 2019

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has issued instructions for entry into the fiscal year (FY) 2021 diversity visa (DV) lottery, more commonly known as the “green card” lottery. The FY21 diversity lottery will grant 55,000 immigrant visas to qualified applicants. Registration for FY21 begins at noon Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on October 2, 2019, and will conclude on November 5, 2019, at noon Eastern Standard Time (EST).  Read more.


Policy Change Impacts Citizenship of Certain Children Born Outside the U.S.

26 Sep 2019

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released policy guidance, effective October 29, 2019, modifying certain residency requirements for obtaining U.S. citizenship. Notably, this policy impacts children born abroad to U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members. Under the new policy guidance, “children residing abroad with their U.S. citizen parents who are U.S. government employees or members of the U.S. armed forces stationed abroad are not considered to be residing in the United States for acquisition of citizenship.”  Read more.


USCIS Plans to Revise the Naturalization Test

28 Aug 2019

For the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to approve an application for naturalization (form N-400), the applicant for citizenship generally must first pass a U.S. civics and history test, and demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English. The USCIS has announced that it is in the process of revising the test, with the stated goal being “… to create a meaningful, uniform, and efficient test that will assess applicants’ knowledge and understanding of U.S. history, government and values.” The USCIS is also reviewing the speaking portion of the test to determine if additional changes are warranted.  Read more.


Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility Greatly Expanded

21 Aug 2019

On August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the final rule, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” that greatly expands the categories of public benefits considered in the determination of whether a foreign national may be deemed a public charge (i.e., a person who is financially dependent on public benefits). The new rule, which will replace the current rules set out by the 1999 Interim Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, is scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019. The final rule will only apply to applications and petitions filed on or after October 15, 2019. If an applicant received public benefits prior to October 15, 2019, this should not be taken into consideration for purposes of making a public charge determination, unless the person would be considered a public charge under the prior 1999 Interim Field Guidance.  Read more.


NewsFlash! New Rule Will Increase Risk of Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds

12 Aug 2019

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is scheduled to publish a final rule on August 14, 2019 that will greatly expand the categories of public benefits looked at to determine whether a foreign national may be deemed a public charge (i.e., a person who is likely to become financially dependent on public benefits). The rule is slated to go into effect 60 days after publication.  Read more.


Organizations Call for Independent Immigration Courts

06 Aug 2019

In a recent letter to Congress, several organizations, including the American Bar Association (ABA) and the National Association of Immigration Judges, called for the creation of immigration courts that are independent from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). These groups cited the conflict of interest the Attorney General faces in being responsible for both prosecuting and judging immigration cases as to why such an overhaul is needed. These organizations noted that the implementation of case completion quotas has pressured judges to expedite their decisions, compromising the integrity of the immigration system.  Read more.


ICE Levies Massive Fines to Certain Undocumented Immigrants

22 Jul 2019

In 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order in which he claimed undocumented immigrants are a threat to national security, as “many of these aliens are criminals who have served time in our Federal, State, and local jails.” He ordered the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement guidance and enforce existing laws to fine both undocumented immigrants and those who facilitate them. Approximately two years later, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of the DHS, has responded by issuing fines of up to $500,000 to undocumented immigrants who have failed to comply with final removal orders.  Read more.


USCIS Announces Measures to Reduce N-400 and I-485 Processing Times

08 Jul 2019

Processing times at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have long been a point of concern. And the Trump Administration’s efforts to implement roadblocks in the legal immigration system have only exacerbated the situation. Since the last fiscal year of the Obama Administration, the overall USCIS processing times have increased dramatically. Notably, processing times for applications to register permanent residence or adjust status (form I-485) and applications for naturalization (form N-400) have nearly doubled.  Read more.


Communities Respond to President Trump’s Mass Deportation Efforts

03 Jul 2019

On June 17, 2019, President Trump took to Twitter to announce upcoming efforts to detain and deport “millions” of undocumented immigrants. Senior administrators confirmed his claims, adding that final orders of removal have already been issued to more than one million undocumented immigrants. On June 23rd, President Trump tweeted that deportations would be delayed for two weeks in response to requests from House Democrats for further Congressional negotiation. President Trump clarified that, if Congress could not come to an agreement that would resolve asylum law “loopholes,” the raids would proceed as planned.  Read more.


“Extreme Vetting” and the Use of Form DS-5535

24 Jun 2019

In 2017, the Trump Administration began the implementation of an “extreme vetting” program for certain foreign nationals requesting admission to the United States. As part of this program, a foreign national applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad may be asked to complete a new form requesting additional information about the person’s background (form DS-5535). The purpose of this form is “to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”  Read more.


USCIS Implements Stricter Expedite Request Criteria

03 Jun 2019

On May 10, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) to reduce the circumstances under which the USCIS will consider granting a case expedited treatment. In general, the USCIS has the authority to grant an expedite request on an application or petition that is not eligible for premium processing service. The USCIS lists several criteria that can be used as a basis to make an expedite request, and then uses its discretion on a case-by-case bases to determine whether to grant the request.  Read more.


Lawsuit Challenges H1B Policies Targeting IT Consulting Companies

30 May 2019

A lawsuit challenging a number of recent H1B policies enacted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun to heat up. IT Serve Alliance v. USCIS is the lawsuit filed by a group of IT consulting companies who are members of the organization called IT Serve Alliance. The suit focuses on certain USCIS practices and policies that appear to be designed to adversely impact IT consulting firms and their business model.  Read more.


Trump Administration Unveils Immigration Proposal – Unlikely to Make Headway

27 May 2019

On May 16, 2019, President Trump unveiled a legislative proposal for immigration reform, an issue that has been a lightning rod for controversy since he took office in January 2017. The proposal, spearheaded by the President’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, aims to recalibrate the current immigration system by increasing security at the border, reforming the asylum process, and curbing family-based immigration in favor of a “merit-based” system that would prioritize academic and professional credentials. While the proposal has garnered a great deal of media attention, there appears to be little chance that it will result in any new laws – certainly not before the November 3, 2020 presidential election.  Read more.


Countries with High Rate of Visa Overstays to be Targeted

20 May 2019

The Trump Administration has released a memorandum that is ostensibly designed to combat “the large numbers of aliens who overstay their period of lawful admission… .” The memo focuses primarily on those who overstay B-1/B-2 business / visitor status and those who overstay following admission under the visa waiver program (VWP).  Read more.


NewsFlash! Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Enforcement of Unlawful Presence Memo for F, J, and M Nonimmigrants

Today, a federal district court judge ordered immigration officials to temporarily cease enforcement of the August 9, 2018 policy memorandum that greatly expanded the situations in which those in F, J, or M status may begin accruing unlawful presence. This order stems from a lawsuit filed by a number of colleges and universities against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) following the release of the memo, entitled, Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M NonimmigrantsRead more.


H1B Denial Rate Soars Under Trump Administration

25 Apr 2019

A recent report released by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts public policy research on trade, immigration, education, and other issues, provides further confirmation that the Trump Administration has radically changed how the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is adjudicating H1B petitions. In the report, the NFAP analyzed USCIS data regarding denial rates for H1B petitions filed since fiscal year 2009 (FY 2009). Unsurprisingly, the report found that the denial rate has soared in the past several years, and continues to increase under the Trump Administration.  Read more.


CBP Refusing to Adjudicate L-1 Renewal Petitions for Canadians at Many Ports of Entry

24 Apr 2019

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has reported on developing changes in adjudication policies related to L-1 petitions at several ports of entry (POEs) along the U.S. / Canada border. According to AILA, numerous practitioners have reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are refusing to process L-1 petitions for Canadians who previously have been granted L-1 status. This policy is affecting both individual L-1 petitions (I-129) and blanket L-1 petitions (I-129S).  Read more.


J-1 Home Residency Requirement Not Applicable to Canadians Entering on H1B

15 Apr 2019

On March 27, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York granted summary judgment to a Canadian physician who sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) refused him admission to the United States in H1B status. CBP denied admission to the physician because he was subject to a two-year home residency requirement (HRR). However, immigration law has long been interpreted to not prohibit admission of a Canadian citizen in H1B status based on an HRR. The physician therefore challenged CBP’s decision in federal court.  Read more.


USCIS to Close all International Office Locations

11 Apr 2019

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will be closing all international operations (IO) division offices by the end of 2019. The USCIS IO division is comprised of 24 field offices in 21 foreign countries. These offices have served as hubs for people outside of the U.S. – typically U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are living overseas – filing certain types of petitions and applications, such as petition for alien relative (form I-130) and application for waiver of grounds of inadmissibility (form I-601). The functions of the IO will be moved to domestic offices and the State Department’s embassies and consulates.  Read more.


CPT at Same Educational Level Poses Risk after One Year of CPT or OPT

13 Mar 2019

Under the Trump Administration, a troubling trend has emerged with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that evidences a radical reinterpretation of regulations regarding the use of curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT) by F-1 students in certain circumstances. The USCIS is now taking the position, at least in some cases, that an F-1 student who partook in one year or more of CPT or OPT is not eligible to subsequently participate in CPT employment at the same educational level.  Read more.


MurthyBlog: Yet Another Study Finds Immigrant Entrepreneurs are an Economic Boon to the U.S.

12 Mar 2019

While running for office, President Trump campaigned, in part, on his ability to run the country “like a business.” It seems incongruous, then, that a president with such a self-professed flair for business acumen would retain a deep-seated distrust of immigrants as a fundamental element of his/her presidency. After all, study after study has demonstrated that immigrants keep the U.S. economy humming.  Read more.


Proposed Bill Would Remove Per-Country Limits – Still Far from Becoming Law

07 Mar 2019

A proposed bill, introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, would eliminate the per-country limits on employment-based (EB) immigrant visa categories, and lift the limit for family-based (FB) categories. If passed into law, it would transform the backlogs in the monthly visa bulletin dramatically for both EB and FB cases, and would be especially beneficial to EB applicants born in India and China, and FB applicants born in Mexico. For a more detailed explanation of the visa bulletin and per-country limits, see the MurthyDotCom InfoArticle, Priority Dates: How Does the Visa Bulletin Work? (27.Oct.2015).  Read more.


NewsFlash! Rule Proposing End of H-4 EAD Program Moving Forward

21 Feb 2019

Yesterday, the proposed regulation to terminate the program that allows certain H-4 spouses to obtain employment authorization was submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This is one of the required steps in the formal rulemaking process, and signals that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could publish the proposed rule within a few weeks. Once the proposed rule is published, it will still have to go through the remaining steps of the rulemaking process, which includes a public comment period. Only after a final rule is published – a process expected to take at least several months – could the H-4 EAD program be terminated.

For the time being, the H-4 EAD program remains in effect, unchanged. Assuming the final rule eventually is implemented, it is not yet clear what impact this will have on those with existing H-4 EADs or pending I-765 applications for H-4 EADs.


NewsFlash! Trump to Sign Spending Bill, Declare National Emergency

14 Feb 2019

President Trump indicated today that he will sign a spending bill that funds the federal government through September 30, 2019, despite the fact that it does not include the funding he demanded to build a wall on the U.S. / Mexico border. The bill will also extend several immigration programs for the same period, including the employment-based, fifth preference (EB5) regional center program and the employment-based, fourth preference (EB4) non-minister religious worker program.

President Trump also revealed that he will declare a national emergency in order to use federal money to build the border wall without Congressional authorization. This use of emergency powers by the President will almost certainly be challenged in federal court.


Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration’s Citizenship Question on Census

11 Feb 2019

A federal district court judge in New York has blocked the Trump Administration from adding a controversial question regarding citizenship status on the 2020 census. The Administration claims the question is needed in order to protect minority-voting blocs. Critics, however, argue that the question is designed to intimidate and discriminate against immigrant communities.  Read more.


NewsFlash! Deal Reached to Temporarily End Government Shutdown

25 Jan 2019

President Trump has agreed to support a bill that would reopen the government through February 15, 2019. Congress is expected to quickly pass the bill, perhaps as soon as sometime this evening. The bill would not include any funding for President Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S. / Mexico border.

Although details are not yet available, the bill is expected to also reauthorize various immigration programs, including the regional center portion of the employment-based, fifth preference (EB5).


Factors for F-1 Students to Consider in Selecting a College or University

10 Jan 2019

Since taking office, the Trump Administration has instituted numerous policies to make it more difficult for foreign nationals – including international students – to come to the United States. This has highlighted the need for caution among current and potential F-1 students when selecting the colleges and universities they will attend. The fate of such students is often tied to the practices of their respective schools.  Read more.


MurthyBlog: Unique Coloring Book Fights Against Family Separation

02 Jan 2019

Over the past two years, President Trump has transformed the immigration landscape in the United States. At every turn, he has pushed for harsher immigration policies and a greater emphasis on enforcement. Many of his immigration actions have been strongly supported by his base, and much of the Republican Party. But, when it came to light that the Trump Administration was routinely separating migrant children from their parents, the condemnation was swift and bipartisan. Even many of the President’s supporters have trouble defending the practice.  Read more.


Find 2018 entries here. | Find 2017 entries here.