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Maney | Gordon | Zeller, P.A. Philadelphia Update

Despite the current crisis and the Pennsylvania ordered shut down of non-essential businesses, we are pleased to report that all our immigration law offices are fully operational and stand ready to assist you with any immigration needs or questions you may have. Because of Governor Wolf’s order to shut down non-life sustaining businesses, we will be happy to consult with you via telephone, SKYPE, ZOOM, WhatsApp, or a platform of your choice. In addition, our case management system is fully electronic and online and it allows you to upload documents we might require and the system grants you access to view your case from wherever you are. Please feel free to contact us at (215) 922-5354 or by emailing one of our attorneys at the email below to set up a meeting.

Jane Schoener – jmschoener@maneygordon.com

Shelley Grant - s.grant@maneygordon.com

Carolina Ribas – c.ribas@maneygordon.com

Tim Zeller – t.zeller@maneygordon.com

Val Villaverde - v.villaverde@maneygrodon.com

Many of you have an immediate need for assistance and we are here and ready to help. If you have a situation which requires immediate attention, we can and will help you. Some of you may have a deadline approaching such as a status expiration date or you are unsure how to proceed in light of the current conditions, perhaps a layoff or a furlough and you are a foreign worker or a student on OPT. We can help you and provide up to date information.

At this time there has been no immediate guidance from Federal authorities regarding foreign workers furloughed or laid off due to the Corona Virus or a shutdown of a business determined to be non-essential. Employers must employ their best business judgment, while hoping that the government will acknowledge that employer actions taken in good faith are in compliance with immigration laws. We can advise employers on a strategy that will best fit their needs to manage their foreign workforce.

We will try to update this page daily in an effort to keep everyone informed. Check back often and please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We understand the anxiety that this situation has created.

The obvious results of this situation are that immigration benefits will take longer, potentially jeopardizing the underlying visa status and employment authorization of thousands of workers.

US employers will find themselves in the position of implementing policies that will have potentially negative consequences for employees attempting to maintain and preserve employment authorization, immigration status and eligibility for green card benefits as best they can.

UPDATES

  1. USCIS is suspending all routine face-to-face services with applicants at all offices, including all interviews and naturalization ceremonies. All USCIS field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs) will not provide in-person services until at least April 1 This includes interviews, naturalization ceremonies and biometric collection appointments. YOU WILL BE RE-SCHEDULED
  1. The Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020 Machine readable visa fees will be valid and may be used for a visa appointment in the country in was purchased within one year of payment. If an individual has an urgent need to travel we can assist in obtaining an emergency appointment. If your authorized stay is expiring we are
  1. The expiration date for H-1B registration is not affected by the reduction in USCIS services.
  1. Thus far there has been no reports of suspension or reduction of service center operations. We can still file new applications and presumably they are working on filed applications
  1. There are steps to take if you are currently in H-1B status and your company’s operations are impacted by Covid-19.
  1. Thus far there have been no announcements regarding deadlines. Assume that a deadline is a deadline and action must be taken until you hear otherwise.
  1. All non-detailed immigration hearings have been postponed. Effective immediately the Philadelphia field office will change in person reporting requirements to telephonic reporting

March 24, 2020 Update

The Service Centers seem to be operating. We are receiving approvals from the Service Centers. It appears it is only local offices where face to face contact would be required that are not fully functional. We expect to receive the H-1B registration results as planned.

The Department of Labor is also operating. We are receiving prevailing wages and ETA-9089s are being filed.

If you are an individual admitted under ESTA and you are unable to depart before your current period of admission expires, please contact us.

DHS has announced there is flexibility in requirements for I-9 compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mandate to complete the I-9 has not been suspended, If you have questions about employment verification during this time, contact us.

As of March 19th the DOS announced the suspension of immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications at all Consular posts. If you have already been interviewed and received a visa foil but could not travel to the US because of COVID-19, we can assist you in obtaining a visa re-print. This would apply to immigrant visas that are issued for a period of less than six months or a non-immigrant work visa for an STA. The NVC is operating. Continue to process cases although consular interviews will not be scheduled

We are still awaiting guidance from USCIS regarding many issues affecting both H and L visa holders, as well as student employed through OPT and STEM Many of you are subject to a stay at home order and unable to work remotely. Many of you are facing a reduction in wages and/or hours. What can be done? This is what we know----

1. Employers can amend an H-1B to reflect part time employment;

2. H-1B workers can work remotely if they are working in the same MSA as the original LCA filed for the position

3. We can look to 20 CFR 655.731(7) to argue that during the COVID-19 pandemic Employers are relieved of paying wages during unproductive periods;

4. You can filed a change of status to a B-2 but be mindful that premium processing has been suspended so it could take many months before the H-1 petition is approved and this would give USCIS another bite at the apple to deny the case.

5 Some companies are laying off an H-1B employee which requires termination and then re-hire them within the 60 day grace period. This too requires a new petition.

The best answer is for USCIS to provide guidance to Employers and foreign workers. In the event this does not occur there will be extremely difficult decisions and complicated solutions that will be required. We will update this issue as we receive information.

March 25, 2020

Again we have had no word on maintenance of status issues for foreign workers during the pandemic. Employers who are already suffering financially are struggling to develop policies to carry them through this temporary period.

ICE issued an FAQ for SEVP stakeholders which can be found at ICE.gov/COVID19. It is important to remain in touch with your DSO as the full course of study requirements may be waived as a direct result of COVID19.  Check with your DSO about alternate study arrangements.  I

OFLC will issue PERM Labor Certification documents including the ETA 9089 and Final Determination letter electronically to employers and authorized attorneys. 

March 26, 2020

USCIS field offices continue to be closed for in-person services at its field offices. The anticipated date to re-open is April 7, 2020.

The US DOL is developing compliance assistance and outreach materials on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The DOL plans to release additional guidance as it takes effect on April 1, 2020. Thus far no guidance on workplace accommodations for foreign workers.

March 27, 2020

The DOL and USCIS have not issued any further guidance. AILA continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on DOL and USCIS operations and on employers and are engaging with the DOL to seek further guidance and accommodations

Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny- USCIS today announced that for applicants and petitioners who receive an RFE or NOID dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, any responses submitted within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set forth in the RFE or NOID will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken.

April 1, 2020

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS offices will begin to reopen on May 4 unless the public closures are extended further. Employees in these offices are continuing to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public. USCIS will reschedule any missed appointments.

USCIS is continuing to process EAD applications reusing previously submitted Biometrics.

USCIS has completed the H-1B electronic selection process. If you were not notified of selection, develop a plan of action for maintaining status.

April 3, 2020

Getting tested, treated or preventative care for COVID 19 will not impact the Public Charge determination.

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