Employment Immigration: Continued Changes From USCIS and the State Department With COVID-19, Travel Bans and Processing

Business immigration in the United States continues the roller coaster ride of the last six months. With the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. immigration has been subjected to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office and consulate closures, travel bans, a three-month suspension of premium processing, and rumors of USCIS furloughs. This short article will address some of the most recent updates.

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USCIS Announces Change to Overseas Services

On January 31, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, effective February 1, 2020, the majority of its international field offices will no longer accept I-130 immigrant petition filings by locally resident U.S. citizens on behalf of their immediate relatives, absent exceptional circumstances meeting a limited definition. Of note, the field offices in Accra, Ghana, and London will continue to accept such filings until April 1, 2020. The announcement is not entirely unexpected as USCIS has given notice previously of its intention to adjust its international footprint. However, the issuance of the news on a Friday before cessation of service the next day was sudden.

Following the end dates described above, unless they meet the limited definition of exceptional circumstances, all I-130 immediate relative petitions will need to be filed online or with the relevant USCIS lockbox in the United States.

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USCIS Issues New Form I-9, Required of All Employers by May 1, 2020

On October 21, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new version of the Form I-9. Employers may use the new version starting on January 31, 2020, but will be required to use the new version starting May 1, 2020. Using earlier versions of the form will not be acceptable after that date.

The Form I-9 is a document that employers must complete to verify the identity and employment authorization of every new hire (both citizens and noncitizens), hired after November 6, 1986, to work in the United States. Employers are liable for all errors on the form (even errors made by the employee in completing Section 1), and employers must retain I-9s for inspection for a certain period of time after an employee leaves the company (either one year after the date of termination or three years after the hire date, whichever date is later).

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