Corona Virus Immigration Impacts


UPDATE06/17/2020: BREAKING: US government denial of COVID relief to noncitizen students has been blocked by a judge. Check with your DSO!

In a letter to colleges last April, the Education Department advised colleges to only give relief funds to students who typically qualify for federal financial aid, excluding international students and beneficiaries of DACA. The letter was not binding at the time.

In May, the California community college system filed a lawsuit against the DOE alleging that DeVos exceeded her authority in barring colleges to give aid to whom they please. U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted an injunction blocking the Department of Education from enforcing their CARES Act guidance on June 17, 2020.

The proposed rule will be up for public comment for 30-days until July 17. During this time period, anyone from the public can file a comment on regulations.gov for the agency to consider. Once the rule is finalized, it will be binding on colleges and universities.

https://www.nasfaa.org/uploads/documents/CCC_CARES_Decision.pdf 1/

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The COVID-19 virus has had tremendous impacts on America's immigration system, primarily due to office closings.  Pending immigrants rely on these offices for vetting of their applications, from fingerprinting, to interviews, court appearances, and various deadlines for responses.  The USCIS, Department of State, and Homeland Security have made daily anouncements on adjustments to their processes, including a an automatic deadline extension if a notice was sent between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020.  With school closures, foreign students are challenged with visa compliance. With layoffs and telework requirements, temporary workers are also challenged with complying with the requirements of maintaining valid status.  People are stuck mid-travel, and that can impact compliance with immigration status.

One of the biggest flashpoints has centered on noncitizen detained and waiting for some decision on their release or applications for relief.  By law they are entitled to a decision within a period of time, but the virus has extended their detentions and violated their rights.  Some state jurisdictions have begun release some non-dangerous inmates charged and awaiting trial, but that has yet to be seen in the immigration realm.  Moreover, those non-detained cases awaiting a hearing on their applications, some waiting years, have been cancelled completely until further notice.  Of most concern are the people, many young children, being held in "pre-virus" asylum camps either in Mexico or in border towns.  Lack of medical care was a concern prior to the pandemic and, without an ICE agency willing to communicate internal problems, the concern for these detainees (who have a right under U.S. law to the asylum process) is of heightened concern.

Another flashpoint has been the processing of foreign medical graduates (FMG), who are awaiting their respective visas abroad--approved but not issued--so they can begin their residencies at U.S. hospitals and other institutions.  These FMGs include not only frontline medical professionals, but researchers who could be serving a great need to Americans falling ill, but instead await action by the Department of State whose visa appointments have been cancelled.

For example, one of our clients recently received a "Request for Evidence" requiring him to produce a document from his home country authenticating his birth (we already provided a certified, translated birth certificate).  Well, his home country's courts are now closed, and we are unable to attain that document.  USCIS's 60-day extension is helpful, but we don't know what will happen if the home country's courts remain closed beyond the extension.

Another example is a recently married client who would like to sponsor her new husband.  They are currently living with her parents but would like to move into their own place to further prove their bona fide marital relationship. Well, with her self-employed income tanking she will now have trouble meeting the income minimum to sponsor him.  Furthermore, with regard to the new Declaration of Self-Sufficient form, it is unknown how immigration authorities will now treat people who accepted assistance from the virus stimulus bill.  Will the foreign national now be considered at-risk of becoming a public charge if they or their spouse receive assistance?

Meanwhile, one saving-grace may very well have been the new electronic H1B lottery registration system, whose entirely digital process allowed at least this portion of the H1B process to move forward.  In prior posts I have by and large lambasted the new e-registration lottery process. This, of course, adds a new potentially positive dimension.  However, now that the proper amount of H1Bs have been selected to simply APPLY for the visa, it is yet to be seen how USCIS will handle this job force impacting processes with office closures, sicknesses, AND, AND--the fact that the economy is now slumped and all the projects for which the H1Bs were petitioned my no longer exist!  WHAT A MESS!

As mentioned, the government has been providing daily updates to various immigration processes.  To best keep up to speed with my thoughts and updates, I ask you consider following me on my Immigration Attorneys Twitter Account or Immigration Attorneys Facebook Page.

In the meantime, you may email me questions at s@chaudlaw.com.

Thank you, and we will get through this!

--Satveer S. Chaudhary, Attorney At Law

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