February 2020 Immigration Alert
The Coronavirus and Its Impact on Those Traveling from China
On January 31, 2020, in response to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, the Trump administration, through Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, announced a temporary ban on foreign nationals entering the United States if they had visited China during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The ban began on February 2, 2020, at 5 p.m. (EST).
The following categories of individuals are exempted from the temporary travel ban:
Permanent residents (aka “green card holders”)
Foreign diplomats traveling to the United States on A or G visas
Certain family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, including spouses, children (under the age of 21), parents (provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21), and siblings (provided that both the sibling and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident are unmarried and under the age of 21)
Crew traveling to the United States on C, D, or C-1/D visas
Anyone traveling from Hong Kong or Macau
Companies may see the travel ban affecting their foreign national employees who traveled to China as of February 2, 2020. Foreign national employees who are not exempted from the travel ban as per the list above, and were or are in China as of February 2, 2020, will not be able to return to the United States for the foreseeable near future.
U.S. citizens and green card holders who were in China’s Hubei Province within 14 days of their U.S. entry may be required to undergo a mandatory quarantine upon their arrival in the United States. U.S. citizens and green card holders coming from other mainland China areas may undergo U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) screening.
As of February 4, 2020, CBP will route all flights from China to only the following U.S. airports for coronavirus screening:
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
Please also note that the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou is canceling immigrant visa appointments as of February 3, 2020, and has not mentioned when it will reschedule those appointments.
Update on Rollout of USCIS’s FY 2021 H-1B Cap Electronic Registration Tool
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) provided additional details regarding the rollout and implementation dates of the fiscal year (“FY”) 2021 H-1B cap lottery. The timeline is as follows:
February 18, 2020: Legal representatives of companies may begin creating their myUSCIS H-1B registrant accounts on the MyUSCIS website link.
February 24, 2020: Employers may begin creating their own MyUSCIS H-1B registrant account on the MyUSCIS website link.
March 1, 2020: Starting at noon (EST), employee names may be entered into the MyUSCIS H-1B registrant account.
March 20, 2020: Employee names may no longer be entered into the MyUSCIS H-1B registrant account afternoon (EDT).
March 20, 2020, to March 31, 2020: USCIS will conduct a lottery on the registrations.
March 31, 2020: USCIS will notify selected registrants by this date.
April 1, 2020: For those registrations selected by USCIS, full H-1B petitions under the new cap year should be filed within 90 days of this date.
USCIS Issues New l-9 Form
As of January 31, 2020, USCIS has updated its Form I-9 for all U.S. employers to use in verifying their employment population. The new edition of Form I-9 is dated 10/21/19. All employers should be using this version going forward. However, employers may still use the previous edition, dated 07/17/17—but only until April 30, 2020. Starting May 1, 2020, only the new 10/21/19 version of Form I-9 may be used to verify either newly hired employees or re-verify current employees who have expiring work authorizations on or after that date.
USCIS Reopened Comment Period for Proposed Filing Fee Increases
On January 24, 2020, USCIS reopened its public comment period regarding the proposed petition filing fee increases that were published in the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule dated November 14, 2019. USCIS originally closed the comment period on December 30, 2019. However, the agency subsequently extended the comment period to February 10, 2020. Now that the comment period has ended, USCIS will review the comments and decide whether to implement the fee changes.
Further Increased CBP Screening Regarding People of Iranian Descent
As we announced last month, CBP has increased its scrutiny of travelers of Iranian decent reentering the United States from Canada, including U.S. citizens. As a follow-up, there have also been reports of Iranians being denied F, J, and M visas or, if such visas were issued, having those visas subsequently revoked or being denied entry into the United States by CBP under those visas. Such visas were exempt from the travel ban issued by the Trump administration’s Executive Order 13780. As a result, we again are advising companies with employees of Iranian descent or nationality to have such employees avoid travel outside the United States at this time, if possible.