Starting May 31, new questions were added on immigrant (DS-260) and nonimmigrant (DS-160/DS-156) visa applications, requiring applicants to disclose social media information from the last five years as part of the application process. The change is expected to impact nearly 15 million visa applicants.
Applicants are now required to disclose the social media platforms they have used within the previous five years and their usernames or handles; passwords for these accounts are not required. Additional questions request the applicant’s current email and phone number, and emails and phone numbers the applicant has used in the past five years. Applicants may insert “unknown” if they are unable to recall precise details; but, a failure to disclose, might be construed as misrepresentation and could lead to serious adverse consequences.
The consideration of social media content raises many new unknowns for visa applicants. One of these unknowns is that it is not clear what would happen if an applicant innocently forgets that a social media account was created but never used. Would this be considered willful misrepresentation? It is not clear how the DOS would respond. In another example, how does an applicant prevent being labeled a terrorist if the applicant’s name or handle is similar to that of a suspected terrorist? Also, having social media access may result in some visa officers making incorrect assumptions or improperly denying applicants, whether for discriminatory or other improper reasons. Lastly, will informal language or innocuous statements have a risk of being misinterpreted by the government?
To respond to these new unknowns and challenges, we generally advise disclosing any social media account that can be remembered. Likewise, being intentional with social media will be important. Applicants should consider only signing up for platforms that will actually be used. Additionally, though applicants may use more expressive or “exciting” descriptions to describe their job title and duties, these expressive and “exciting” descriptions may not reflect the carefully crafted job descriptions used in petitions. Thus, we advise alignment between the language used in petitions with the information presented on social media. Specifically, to avoid job-related issues with consistency, visa applicants may use generic titles or list the employer and duties without mentioning their job titles.
Our firm will continue to monitor how the DOS will utilize social media information to adjudicate visa applications and provide updates, as needed.
On June 10, USCIS started accepting premium processing requests for all remaining FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions. To “best manage the premium processing requests,” USCIS previously indicated that it would offer premium processing requests in a two-phase approach for FY 2020 cap season. The first phase, which started on May 20, allowed premium processing only for H-1B petitions requesting a change of status. The second phase now allows premium processing for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions.
Due to resource limitations, from June 10 to June 24, USIC will not use pre-paid self-addressed return mailers to send out final notices for premium processing for FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions not requesting a change of status. Instead it will use regular mail. While the usage of regular mail during the designated period may increase the time prior to receiving final notices, premium processing will be an attractive option for Petitioners and Beneficiary’s seeking quicker case processing.
Please contact a member of our legal team if you have any questions regarding premium processing for H-B cap-subject petitions.
As the June 20th deadline for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to complete its review of the proposed DHS rule rescinding H-4 EADs for H-1B spouses approaches, the rollback of work authorization for H-4 visa holders, first expected more than a year ago, appears to be imminent. If the OMB approves the proposed rule it will be published in the Federal Register and will be open to the public for a comment period generally for either 30 or 60-days. After the comment period closes, the regulation will undergo additional review before it is signed by the DHS Secretary and published in the Federal Register.
Though Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif) recently reintroduced a bill, the H-4 EAD Protection Act, to protect H-4 work authorization, the chances of the bill passing are likely low due to the current Administration’s desire for elimination, evidenced by the most recent spring 2019 regulatory agenda for DHS. As a result, the odds of the H-4 EAD being preserved by a court challenge is likely higher.
Since the H-4 EAD program remains in effect, eligible H-4 spouses are advised to file their initial or renewal applications as soon as possible. As a reminder, USCIS generally will not accept renewal applications filed earlier than six months prior to the current EAD expiration date.
Today, USCIS announced it will implement a new strategy to decrease the differences in processing times based on location for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The agency seeks to shift caseloads between field offices by potentially scheduling applicants to appear for an interview at a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction. Additionally, applicants may receive other types of notices, such as a Request for Evidence, from a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction. USCIS noted that applicants would still attend their biometrics at the nearest application support center.
At this time, it is not clear whether USCIS will consider the applicant’s residence and required travel distance when scheduling an interview outside of the field office of normal jurisdiction.
The July 2019 visa bulletin has made more notable progress in some categories than others compared to June 2019 in terms of final action dates for employment-based visa applications. EB-1 Worldwide saw no movement. EB-1 China advanced to May 8, 2017 while EB-1 India and Philippines saw no movement. EB-2 Worldwide is current. EB-2 China has advanced to November 1, 2016, while India has advanced to April 24, 2009; EB-2 Philippines is current. EB-3 Worldwide is current. EB-3 China has advanced to January 1, 2016. EB-3 India saw no movement, and EB-3 Philippines has advanced eight months and is current for the first time in 15 years.
** 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 **