The ongoing partial government shutdown, which started December 22, has become the longest shutdown in U.S. history with the previous record being 21 days. Though Congress passed bills to fund some departments such as Defense and Health and Human Services, nine of 15 federal departments are impacted by the shutdown. These impacted departments include Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation, and Treasury. The shutdown directly affects the families of approximately 800,000 employees who are working without pay or are forced to stay home on furlough. This past Friday marks the first-time federal workers did not receive their expected paychecks, putting many in the position of having to apply for financial assistance.
Entering its fourth week, the effects of the shutdown continue to reverberate across the federal government. Though USCIS’s fee-funded activities are unaffected, meaning USCIS’s offices will continue to remain open and petitions and applications for benefits continue to be accepted, other programs such as E-Verify and Conrad 30 Waiver Program are impacted. Much of the nation’s immigration court system is closed. Judges have no choice but to postpone hearings that have been scheduled months, and sometimes years, in advance, further compounding the backlog of more than 800,000 cases. E-Verify is currently down and although Department of State is impacted, we have not directly heard of any hardships for visa applications.
As the shutdown continues please alert our office if you encounter any loss of government services related to immigration processing.
With E-Verify down, employers across the United States are unable to check whether new hires are employment authorized. Employers are no longer able to enroll in E-Verify, initiate queries, access cases, or resolve tentative non-confirmations (TNC). Nonetheless, employers must continue to complete Form I-9. Section 1 of Form I-9 must be completed on or before the first day of employment, and Section 2 must be completed no later than the third business day after an employee begins to work.
To minimize the burden on employers and employees, the Department of Homeland Security implemented the following policies:
Employers should continue to hire, as needed; but employers are advised to keep track of all new hires with completed I-9s for whom there are no E-Verify queries due to the shutdown. Employers are also advised to attach a memo in a master E-Verify file tracking the days that the program was unavailable for audit purposes. Once the system resumes, DHS will likely issue instructions for creating and submitting queries.
On January 8, 2019, USCIS announced the launch of a new Online Fee Calculator to assist in the calculation of the fee amount to include with forms filed with the agency.
Our first H-1B Cap Webinar is scheduled for next Thursday, January 24th at 11am PST/2pm EST. The webinar, hosted by our Managing Partner David Brown, will provide an overview of the H-1B process, proposed changes, and our approach to ensuring successful outcomes for all H-1B filings. Register HERE, if you have not already done so. We will schedule additional follow up Webinars for those who are unable to attend due conflict.
The February 2019 visa bulletin has made limited progress from January 2019 in terms of dates for filing employment-based visa applications. The priority dates for EB-1s saw no movement. Worldwide has remained June 01, 2018, China and India has remained October 01, 2017, and Philippines has remained June 01, 2018. EB-2 China has advanced to November 01, 2015, while EB-2 India has remained May 22, 2009; EB-2 Philippines is current. EB-3 China has remained January 01, 2016, EB-3 India has remained April 01, 2010, and EB-3 for the Philippines has advanced to October 1, 2017.
Furthermore, since the October Visa Bulletin USCIS has been accepting the “dates for filing” chart to allow individuals to file the final stage of the green card process. As a reminder, after each Visa Bulletin is published you should check with USCIS.gov to see which chart they are accepting for that specific month.
** This newsletter/memo is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It does not act as a substitute for direct legal contact on an individual basis **