In recent weeks, the US has made a move to protect US employees by issuing a proclamation designed to restrict the entry of certain foreign national workers to the country. Further to this, the Departments of Homeland Security and State have issued their Spring 2020 regulatory agendas. This lays out their priorities for the coming months with regards to changes to immigration rules and regulations.
What has changed?
Some of the significant items the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State have on their agenda for the remainder of 2020 are:
- Implementing further restrictions on the H1-B program and rescinding the H-4 employment authorization program. Although, presently the proposed changes to H1-B rules are projected for December 2020, there are expectations this may be brought forward following the recent proclamation restricting certain categories non-immigrant entry to the US.
- Proposals by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) for revision of practical training rules for foreign students are on the agenda for publication in December 2020. This may also be fast-tracked in light of the recent proclamation. Further to this, ICE have scheduled a proposal to change the period of authorized stay for certain F-1 and other non-immigrants from duration of status (D/S), whereby the student can stay until their authorized activity is completed plus any grace period, to a specified end date.
- Business visitor reforms. Changes related to business visitors could potentially include restricting permissible business visitor activities for those holding B-1 visas. It appears the proposal could seek to remove the use of B-1 in lieu of H-1B and H-3 categories. Further to this, the DHS is seeking tighter implementation of the B-1/B-2 business or tourist visitor visa classification. Their proposal is likely to change the period of stay under B visitor status and any potential extensions.
- Implementation of ESTA for Visa Waiver land travel. Currently ESTA is only used for entry to the US via airport or seaport. The DHS is looking to now implement use of the ESTA Visa Waiver for entry via land borders.
- The State Department is proposing a new pilot bond program. This would require certain individuals applying for a B-1 or B-2 visa to post a bond guaranteeing maintenance of status and departure as part of the requirements of being granted a B visa.
Further significant items on the agenda include the DHS’s intention to expand the agencies’ biometrics collection with the USCIS rule being re-scheduled for publication in July 2020. Significantly, both the DHS and State Department also have plans to increase filing fees. The DHS fee rule is now scheduled for release in September 2020 and could see increases of approximately 21% across benefits. The State Department intends to increase consular filing fees, including non-immigrant and immigrant visa application fees.
Finally, some items have been deferred by the DHS from the main previous regulatory agenda to a “long term action” list, implying these are being de-prioritized for the time being. The new L-1 program proposal which would have redefined the L-1B specialized knowledge and L-1 employment and employer-employee relationship, and further restricted offsite placement of L-1 holders that was due for publication in September 2020, has been added to this “long term action” list.
What to expect
Rules and regulations relating to entry and stay in the US have already changed dramatically in recent months during the Covid-19 pandemic. This looks set to continue throughout 2020 as the US moves to protect their national employees. Non-immigrant applicants should be prepared that standard procedures will not be as previously experienced.
For further information on the upcoming topics on the US immigration authorities agenda, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team at firstname.lastname@example.org.