Trump Administration Targets Visa Overstays

On April 22, 2019, the Trump Administration issued a Presidential Memorandum addressing visa overstays and how to combat them.  The Administration will consider requiring admission bonds, limiting visa duration, and suspending entry of individuals from countries with high overstay rates.  An admission bond is a fee that would be paid upon entry, to be returned when the individual departs in a timely fashion.

The Memorandum requires the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to make recommendations within 120 days of its issuance.

USCIS Updates Policy Manual on Impact of State Drug Laws

On April 19, 2019, USCIS issued a policy alert that it was modifying its Policy Manual to clarify that violations of controlled substance laws are conditional bars to establishing good moral character (GMC) for naturalization.  This is true even if the conduct would not be an offense under state law.  This clarification became necessary in light of the recent trend toward state legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.

As a result of its federal prohibition, a conviction or admission of conduct involving marijuana may still be a bar to establishing GMC and, thus, prevent naturalization.

Trump Administration Continues Attacks on Asylum

Last month, USCIS proposed to double the time asylum seekers must wait before becoming qualified to receive a work permit.  Currently, asylum seekers must wait 180 days, but the proposed regulation would extend the time period to 365 days and deny work authorization outright to those who entered the United States illegally. Naturally, this would make it much more difficult for asylum seekers to provide for themselves and their families while their cases await adjudication.

Unfortunately, this proposal is becoming a trend with the Trump Administration, which seems to delight in constructing new methods of making life needlessly difficult for asylum seekers. On April 20, 2019, the Administration proposed charging filing fees for asylum applications, which are filed by those fleeing persecution in their home countries. It should go without saying that many of these individuals, if not most, do not have access to reliable sources of funds to finance their legal case and support their families.

It remains to be seen whether any of these proposed “reforms” make their way into final regulations, which would have the force of law.

Update on Implications of New Form I-751 Interview Policy

On November 30, 2018, USCIS issued a policy memorandum that, in essence, made it much more likely that petitioners would be interviewed in relation to pending Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.  We originally wrote on that topic in December 2018.

Since that time, AILA has undertaken more extensive analysis of the policy memorandum and noted additional implications of the revision.  First, an interview is almost certainly going to be required if the applicant’s green card was received after an interview overseas, and not with USCIS.  Also, there is likely to be a general uptick in interviews even for those who have previously been interviewed by USCIS, as the new guidance requires an interview unless there “is no indication of fraud or misrepresentation.”  “No indication” represents a higher threshold than the previous language, which was that there be “no evidence.”  In sum, USCIS needs very little to require an interview, and most applicants should assume that an interview will be required.

DHS Allocates Extra 30,000 H-2B Visas for Fiscal Year 2019

On March 29, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it would allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of the U.S. Government’s Fiscal Year 2019, which ends on September 30, 2019.  These visas, though, will only be available to applicants who held H-2B status in the 2016, 2017, or 2018 fiscal year.  Additional details on eligibility and filing requirements will be forthcoming when the final temporary rule has been posted for public inspection.

This represents a small, but much needed, increase in the traditional 66,000 annual visa cap, as there were more than 200,000 H-2B visa applications filed this year.

USCIS Announces It Will Close Overseas Offices

USCIS recently announced that it would be closing its overseas offices, most of which are located in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The move came seemingly out of the blue, and opinions differ on its intended effect.

USCIS’ international offices typically handle immigrant visas, the processing of refugee applications, some citizenship applications for overseas individuals or military members, and international adoptions. Purportedly, these tasks will be re-allocated within USCIS or shifted to the Department of State.

Some believe this shift is yet another example of President Donald Trump’s hostility toward immigration – both legal and illegal – as it makes certain processes, like the refugee process, more difficult.  Others believe that the closure of the overseas offices will mean more resources for USCIS domestically, which will result in shorter processing times.  While we hope that shorter processing times are in the future, we’ll believe it when we see it.

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