Year 2020 has been a difficult year for many. It is no different in context of US immigration. Many families were separated due to travel ban, many could not arrive in US and pursue their dream to study on F1 visa or work in US on H1B visa, many lost their jobs due to H4 EAD delays…many more unfortunate things happened.
In this article, we will review all the changes and issues in context of US immigration in Year 2020 and also provide current status of the same issue or topic. We have divided as sections by visa types & topic for easy review.
H1B Visa Changes, Rules, Lawsuits, Travel Ban in 2020
Below is the summary of various changes related to H1B Visa in year 2020.
- H1B Registration Process – Online System: USCIS introduced the H1B registration process and online system for the first time, where employers can register their H1B applicants by paying $10 USD, instead of sending the entire package. Read all details at : Complete details of H1B Registration Process, System
- 275K H1B Registrations received, Second Round Lottery : USCIS received 275,000 H1B registrations for H1B Visa 2021 season and there was lottery conducted to select the required 85K slots. Also, they conduced Second Round lottery on August 14th, 2020 as not all of the first round selected applicants filed for H1Bs due to COVID-19. Read more at 275K registrations filed for FY 2021
- Trump Travel Ban for H1B, H4, Lawsuits: On June 22, 2020 President Trump signed a proclamation/ Executive Order banning entry of H1B, H4 holder, including L1, L2 holders and others as well until December 31st, 2020. Check Trump Travel Ban H1B, H4, Others Summary . There were few lawsuits filed on this in court and eventually on October 9th, 2020 there was guidance by US State Department, that gave exceptions from travel ban for plaintiffs that were part of the lawsuit based on court order.
- USCIS Settlement – Cancels 2018 H1B Policy memo, Itinerary : USCIS lost a case on March 10th that was filed by ITServe Alliance group. As part of settlement, they cancelled the 2018 H1B Policy memo with Employer Employee relationship requirements, detail itinerary requirement, work order details, etc. They also cancelled the itinerary requirements that were needed and few other things were agreed in a settlement. Read all of it at USCIS Settlement on H1B Rule for Employer Employee Itinerary
- Strengthen H1B Program Regulation, Lawsuits : DHS published an interim final rule on October 8th, 2020 to strengthen H1B program that had 1 year approvals for third party placements, changes to definition of H1B specialty occupation, employer employee relationship changes, new site visits rules, etc. It was taken to court and eventually, the court cancelled the rule from being effective on December 4th, 2020. All details at H1B New Rules – 1 year approvals, Site Visits, Other changes
- H1B, PERM Wage Levels Changes Rule, Lawsuits : US Dept of Labor published a new regulation changing the H1B, PERM wage levels. As per new rule, the wages went up by close to 40% or more depending on the position. This caused a lot of confusion and havoc for extensions and PERM filings. Eventually, this was taken to court and was cancelled by Court Order in first week of December. There were total of 3 lawsuits on this. You can read all details at H1B Wage levels Changes – Lawsuits
- H1B Lottery to be based on Wage Levels – Proposed Rule : USCIS Published a regulation for public comments to have H1B lottery based on Wage Levels, when there are more registrations. It can impact up to 163,000 registrations. This is not yet final, we are waiting for the USCIS next steps. You can read more details at H1B Lottery based on Wage levels Regulation Details
- Premium Processing Fee $2500: USCIS premium processing fee for H1B went up to $2500 as per congress passed Bill. It was eventually implemented by USCIS for H1B, I-140 and others on October 19th, 2020. Read more at USCIS Premium Processing fee hike
H4 & H4 EAD Changes, Lawsuits, Biometrics Delays in 2020
Below is the summary of various changes related to H4 Visa & H4 EAD in year 2020.
- H4 EAD Rule Removal by DHS : DHS has not taken any action on the removal of H4 EAD provision. It has been in their regulatory agenda of both Spring 2020 and Fall 2020, but no further action was taken on this. H4 EAD continues to be valid. As Biden is set to be the new president, this may move out of the regulatory agenda as H4 EAD was originally put up in Obama-Biden administration. You can check H4 EAD Update Latest News
- H4 EAD Lawsuit by Save Jobs USA : The lawsuit filed by Save Jobs USA is in the district court and there is no real update on this since October 5th, 2020. The most recent update was that a joint status report was filed in October. As per that status report, DHS and intervenors want to wait as elections are coming up. Save Jobs USA want decision sooner on this and revoke H4 EAD. Now, it is up to the court to decide. The future of H4 EAD rests with the court. With new administration, now DHS has to change its stance and support H4 EAD, we need to see how this pans out. All updates are captured at H4 EAD Lawsuit Latest Updates
- H4 EAD Processing Delays – Biometrics: Due to Biometrics Delays, many H4 EAD holders could not get their H4s extended on time. Due to these issues, many could not get H4 EADs on time and lost jobs. Some were able to expedite, if they had Biometrics done before pandemic. But, many could not as Biometrics are needed for their H4 Extensions & COS.
- H4 EAD Premium Processing : US Congress passed a bill that has provisions for H4 Extensions, EAD premium processing and other factors. This will help speed up the H4 EAD processing. It is not yet implemented by USCIS. They will need to implement using regulatory process. You can check Latest News on H4 EAD premium Processing
You may watch the summary of this article in below video.
F1 Visa Changes, Lawsuit, Proposed Rules in 2020
Below is the summary of various changes related to F1 Visa in year 2020
- SEVP Changes for In-person Classes, Lawsuit by Harvard, MIT: SEVP, that administers F1 program gave guidance for Fall 2020 on July 6th, 2020 stating that F1 students have to leave US, if their universities are operating fully online mode. Also, they said no visas will be given for such schools. Read SEVP Guidance for Fall 2020 for full info. Later MIT, Harvard and other schools filed a lawsuit and eventually, the DHS cancelled the SEVP policy guidance on July 14th, 2020. Read DHS Cancels Policy by SEVP for F1 Fall 2020
- ICE Arrests 15 F1 Students, 1100 in violation : ICE arrested 15 F1 students under their secret mission called “OPTical Illusion”. Also, they said about 1100 were in violation as well. This is part of the CPT/ OPT program abuse and crackdown by ICE. Read more at ICE Arrests 15 F1 Students
- Fixed Time for F1 students Admission Proposed Regulation : DHS proposed a rule that plans to introduce a fixed time period for F1 students entering US. Currently, F1 students get D/S for their I-94, which means they can stay until “Duration of Status”(read US Visa vs Status) . It means that they are fine to be in US as long as they maintain their status without time limit. DHS says this is causing issues with overstays and other compliance issues, so they want to change it. It is not final yet. They have got public comments, yet to be implemented. Check more on Federal Register F1 Fixed Duration
Green Card Changes, Public Charge, Priority Dates, HR1044 in 2020
Below is the summary of various changes related to Green Cards, proposed bills related to Green Card year 2020
- Public Charge Rule Effective: The public charge rule became effective after Supreme court cleared the way on Jan 30th, 2020. There were temporary halts due to COVID and some lawsuits on this, but as it stands today based on USCIS official guidance, public charge rule is in effect and you need to file Form I-944 along with adjustment of status application. You can read Public Charge Rule, impact to H1B, H4, Others for full info.
- Trump Merit based Immigration Rumors: In July, Trump made statements in interviews by few channels on potential bill for Merit based immigration, but nothing really came out as of today. You can read all of that at Trump Merit based immigration Rumors
- Green Card Bills HR 1044 / S386 – Removing Per Country Caps : There was a lot of activity on both the Bills HR 1044 and S 386, which are focused on removing green card per country caps for employment based category. HR1044 was originally passed in House, then later after many negotiations passed in Senate on December 2, 2020. You can read HR 1044 Bill Summary that was passed in Senate. The biggest issue with that was there were about 29 pages of new provisions added to original HR1044 and the clause on Chinese Military & Communist party association did not help the bill to be included in Omnibus Bill. This will have to be again re-introduced and starts from Square one in both chambers. All details are captured at S386/H41044 Latest News Updates, History
- Employment Based Priority Dates Movement: There was significant movement in priority dates for Employment based category applicants stuck in backlog, including big movement for Indian nationality applicants. The closure of US consulates and travel ban for immigrant visa holders helped the rapid movement of priority dates. You can check 2020 October Visa Bulletin for more info
DHS – USCIS, ICE Issues – Biometrics, Receipt Notice Delays
Below is the summary of various issues with USCIS processing like Biometrics processing, receipt notice delays, others in 2020
- ASCs Closed, Biometrics Delays : USCIS closed their Application Support Centers(ASC) until June 29, 2020 due to COVID-19 and many H4 & related H4 EAD applications were stuck as they could not give Biometrics. Biometrics appointments were cancelled, and re-scheduled notices were only issues months later. As of mid-December, there are about a 1.3 million applications awaiting biometrics. They process about 10,400 per day and it can take up to 125 days just to clear backlog. Also, they said that they will try to re-use biometrics, if they were given in the past. For latest updates, read USCIS COVID-19 updates – ASCs Biometric, Other Guidance
- Flexibility to Respond to RFE, NOIDs : USCIS gave additional 60 days flexibility to respond to RFEs and NOID requests, if anyone gets the same between March 1st, 2020 and Jan 1st, 2021. Check USCIS alert
- USCIS Discretion Policy : USCIS expanded their scope on the discretion policy for adjudications for H4, F1, L2 COS & extensions filed using I-539 form, including the H4 EAD, F1 OPT, etc. Read USCIS Discretion Policy Update
- USCIS Fee Increase – Blocked by Court : USCIS was set to increase their filing fee for many forms starting from October 2020. It was taken to court and eventually, court issued an order blocking the fee increase. Read Court Blocks USCIS fee Increase
- I-9 Form Compliance Flexibility : ICE gave I-9 Compliance flexibility for in-person verification due to COVID until Jan 31st, 2021. Also, due to the EAD card production delays, there was guidance by USCIS that one can use approval notice in place of EAD card for compliance. This was extended until Feb 1st, 2021. All details at I-9 Compliance Flexibility, EAD Card Delays status
US Visa Stampings, Emergency Appointments, Lawsuits
Below is the summary of various issues with US Visa stamping, lawsuits related the same, emergency appointments, others in 2020
- US Visa Renewal using Dropbox – 24 Months Option: US Dept of State extended the flexibility for getting US visa stamping for renewals using Dropbox option. The changed the 12 months from expiry clause to 24 months from Expiry for Dropbox eligibility. This is valid until March 31, 2021. Read more at 24 months Dropbox Stamping until Mar-31-2021
- Travel Ban for Immigrant Visa(Green Card) Holders : Trump Signed Executive order that bans entry of Immigrant visa holders into US ( these are first time green card holders entering US for first time). It was originally 60 days and later extended till end of the year. Read more at Trump Extends Immigrant visa ban until Dec 31, 2020
- CEAC Case Status Refused: Many were in panic as their US Visa stamping status on CEAC website status got changed to refused. Later Dept of State confirmed that they changed the text displayed for administrative processing. Even today, this is confusing many and creating panic. Read more at US Visa CEAC Status – Refused, Administrative Processing
- US Consulates Closed for Regular Operations in India : US Consulates are closed for regular operations in India. They are only accepting Dropbox applications and Emergency Visa Appointments for certain cases. Many are struggling to find visa slots and many families are separated due to the closure of Consulates. Read US Consulates in India Latest news Updates
Phew ! those were a lot of changes, delays, lawsuits…it has been a unfortunate year for many…Hope 2021 brings in more positive things in our lives.
What do you think of 2020 year and US Immigration ? Share your thoughts in comments.