Last week, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) held its 2021 Annual Conference. The conference coincided with several key announcements from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and other exciting updates on U.S. immigration policy.
On June 9, 2021, USCIS announced that it would extend the validity periods of Adjustment of Status based Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) from one year to two years. This update applies to initial Adjustment of Status based EADs as well as renewal Adjustment of Status based EADs. This policy change presents encouraging news in the face of increased processing time for Adjustment of Status applications and will reduce the number of EAD extensions required.
USCIS also announced updates to its Policy Manual to expand upon the criteria under which applicants for immigration benefits qualify for expedited processing. In the wake of extreme processing backlogs and delays, certain individuals who submit various immigration benefit requests to USCIS may also seek expedited processing of those requests, if the case meets USCIS criteria for expedited treatment. Under the new guidance, USCIS may expedite processing if delays in the case would result in severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure to timely file or respond to a USCIC request for further evidence. To qualify, the applicant must demonstrate compelling factors beyond the need to obtain employment authorization. Evidence that a company risks failure, critical contract loss, or required employee layoffs, would serve to establish a severe financial loss. Additionally, USCIS will consider expedite requests from non-profit organizations whose request is in furtherance of the culture and social interests of the United States. USCIS may consider non-profit expedite requests even if premium processing was available for the initial benefit application.
Finally, the Department of State (DOS) announced that it anticipates significant movement of the Visa Bulletin cut-off dates this upcoming summer for the Employment-based Third Preference (EB-3) and Second-Preference (EB-2) immigrant visa categories for individuals born in India and China as well as other countries and preference categories. As background, unused visa numbers under the allocation maximum provided by the Immigration Nationality Act roll over to the next fiscal year. Therefore, unused family-based visa allocations are added to the employment-based visa numbers for the subsequent fiscal year and vice versa. Due to unprecedented processing hurdles brought about by COVID-19 and U.S. immigration policies restricting immigrant visas, the visa allocation numbers for FY-2021 for family-based and employment-based immigrant visas will not be fully used. Accordingly, individuals should anticipate significant forward movement of the employment-based and family-based immigrant visa preference categories for the rest of the FY-2021 fiscal year, through September 2021. Charlie Oppenheim, the Department of State’s Chief of Visa Control and Reporting Division, projects that for FY-2022, the employment-based visa allocation could be as high as 290,000, which is a record high number for employment-based immigrant visas. As a result, forward movement of employment-based and family-based preference categories will likely continue into the next fiscal year starting in October 2021.
Please contact the immigration attorneys at Ryan Swanson if you have questions regarding recent updates to U.S. immigration policy and the impact of these updates on your case and/or foreign national workforce.
Cody Nunn can be reached at [email protected].
Amy Royalty can be reached at [email protected].
Jen Chen can be reached at [email protected].
Marsha Mavunkel can be reached at [email protected].
Lindsay Cason can be reached at [email protected]
Janet Cheetham can be reached at [email protected].
Joel Paget can be reached at [email protected].
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This message has been released by the Immigration Group at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC to advise of recent developments in the law. Because each situation is different, this information is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any specific facts and circumstances. Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC is a full-service law firm located in Seattle, Washington.