U.S. Immigration and Coronavirus Disease 2019 – Facts, Thoughts, Questions and Answers

Posted in China, Coronavirus, Department of Homeland Security, Global Immigration, Halting Travel, Iran, Travel, USCIS

Travel to the U.S. – Suspensions and Restrictions (Updated March 15, 2020)

The White House has published three Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related proclamations relating to travel to the United States:

  1. Jan. 31, 2020: Proclamation 9984, Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus. The proclamation cites Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 212(f) to suspend entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non-U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This coronavirus travel ban is effective as of 5:00 p.m. EST on Feb. 2, 2020.
  2. Feb. 29, 2020: Presidential Proclamation, Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus. The proclamation cites INA 212(f) to suspend entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non-U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This coronavirus travel ban is effective as of 5:00 p.m. EST on March 2, 2020. This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 5:00 p.m. EST on March 2, 2020.
  3. March 11, 2020: Presidential Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrant of Certain Additional Person who Pose a Risk of Transmitted 2019 Novel Coronavirus. The proclamation cites INA 212(f) to suspend entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non-U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the European Schengen Area (not including the United Kingdom) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This coronavirus travel ban is effective as of 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 13, 2020; also see Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf’s Statement on Presidential Proclamation To Protect the Homeland from Travel-Related Coronavirus Spread.
  4. March 14, 2020: Presidential Proclamation Amended to include immigrants and nonimmigrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, 11:59 p.m. EST, the U.S. will extend the same travel restrictions to the U.K. and Ireland as are already in effect for other European countries, China and Iran.  View recent blog here.

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Compliance During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Escalation

Posted in Compliance, Coronavirus, Employment Authorization Documents (EAD), Form I-9

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has just been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and is spreading throughout the United States and beyond. As a result, some businesses, public organizations, and even some countries are going on lockdown over health concerns. Some businesses are hiring employees remotely and asking employees to work from home. As part of the onboarding process, businesses must complete the I-9 employment eligibility authorization process. As of March 12, 2020, no U.S. government entity has issued official guidance regarding any acceptable changes to the I-9 process during the pandemic. So, what can companies do to comply with strict I-9 rules while ensuring their employees’ health and safety during sometimes mandatory quarantines?

According to DHS rules, the Form I-9 is used “to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must properly complete Form I-9 for each individual they hire . . . [including] citizens and noncitizens. Both employees and employers (or authorized representatives of the employer) must complete the form.” Normally, an employer or authorized representative of the employer must physically examine each original document to determine if it reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the employee presenting it. Completing Section 2 of the I-9 by looking at the documents via webcam is not permissible. See USCIS Q&A on Form I-9. However, new instructions recently issued by USCIS may allow for a solution to this problem during the COVID-19 outbreak and facility shutdowns.

An employer can now designate anyone as an authorized representative to complete Section 2. Specifically, the instructions for the new version of Form I-9 (edition date of 10/21/2019) clarify that “[a]n authorized representative can be any person you designate to complete and sign Form I-9 on your behalf”. See Page 6 of Form I-9 Instructions 10/21/2019. Therefore, a notary, a family member, neighbor, or even a physician of the employee could be considered as an “authorized representative” of the employer if the employer authorized him or her during the COVID-19 pandemic, thus reducing the need for travel to a specific company worksite, etc., or allowing for an employee to work from home in compliance with I-9 regulations if quarantined.

Note that the employer will remain liable for any violations in connection with the I-9 or the verification process, including any violations committed by the person designated to act on behalf of the employer. Therefore, companies may face liability if they authorize a representative, such as a family member or friend, to verify an I-9 and that person is not knowledgeable on the Form I-9 rules and/or supporting materials.

It’s important to be aware of the potential consequences for I-9 violations. Monetary penalties for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ an employee in violation range from $573 to $20,130 per violation, with repeat offenders receiving penalties at the higher end of that scale. Penalties for substantive violations, which includes failing to produce a Form I-9, range from $230 to $2,292 per violation. In determining penalty amounts, ICE considers five factors: the size of the business, good faith effort to comply, seriousness of violation, whether the violation involved unauthorized workers, and history of previous violations.

Also see our post on U.S. Immigration and Coronavirus Disease 2019 – Facts, Thoughts, Questions and Answers.

For more information and updates on the developing situation, visit GT’s Health Emergency Preparedness Task Force: Coronavirus Disease 2019 on the GT website.

 

 

U.S. Suspends Entry of Foreign Nationals for 30 Days Effective March 13, 2020, U.S. Travelers Required to Enter Through Designated Ports of Entry

Posted in China, Coronavirus, Department of Homeland Security, European Union, Executive Actions, Global Immigration, Italy, President Trump's Administration, Travel

On March 11, 2020, President Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, effective at 11:59 p.m. EST on March 13, 2020, which prohibits the entry of most foreign nationals who traveled to European – Schengen Area countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the U.S. These restrictions will not apply to individuals on flights scheduled to arrive in the United States prior to 11:59 p.m. EST on March 13, 2020. The travel restrictions are planned to be in place for 30 days; however, the administration will revisit them regularly to address the quickly changing environment. The European countries affected are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland.

Although these travel restrictions are far-reaching, there are significant exceptions, most notably:

  • U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents;
  • Spouses and other eligible immediate family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents;
  • U.S. Armed Forces members and their spouses and children;
  • Crew members traveling to the U.S. on air or sea vessels;
  • Diplomatic and U.N. representatives;
  • Any foreign nationals that would “further important United States law enforcement objectives” or whose entry would be in the U.S. national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or other relevant U.S. government entity.

The Department of Homeland Security intends to publish a supplemental Notice of Arrivals Restriction, which will require eligible passengers that have traveled to the affected Schengen areas to travel through selected airports, which will be equipped to administer enhanced screening procedures against COVID-19.

We will continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation. If any urgent travel plans arise, please contact your GT professional immediately.

For more information, see our earlier post, U.S. Immigration and Coronavirus Disease 2019 – Facts, Thoughts, Questions and Answers.

Significant Restrictions at U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Italy Due to COVID-19 (also in Italian)

Posted in Coronavirus, Italy, U.S. Consulates, U.S. Department of State (DOS), Visa Issuance, Visas

As an update to our Feb. 26 post regarding the U.S. Consulate General in Milan temporarily suspending its routine visa services, on March 9, 2020, the Italian government issued a decree which restricts the movement of the country’s entire population effective immediately. This decree is valid until April 3, 2020, but is subject to change. Employers and foreign national employees needing services at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Italy should note the following:

  • As of March 9, 2020, only emergency visa services are available at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and at U.S. Consulates in Florence, Milan, and Naples

— Visa applicants should be prepared for lengthy processing times due to limited staffing at consular posts;

— Visa applicants should be flexible and prepared to work with their employers and airlines to adjust travel plans as needed.

  • American Citizen Services continue to be available at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Italy, but be prepared for delays;
  • If in Italy, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the U.S. Embassy’s website: https://it.usembassy.gov/news-events/
  • If possible, restrict non-essential travel and be flexible, as the situation remains fluid worldwide.

We will continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation. If any urgent travel plans arise, contact your GT professional.

Restrizioni rilevanti presso l’Ambasciata e i Consolati degli Stati Uniti d’America in Italia dovuti al COVID-19

Come aggiornamento al nostro recente blog sulla sospensione temporanea delle attività di routine connesse al rilascio dei visti presso il Consolato Generale degli Stati Uniti d’America a Milano, Vi informiamo che l’9 marzo 2020 il governo italiano ha emesso un decreto che limita immediatamente la circolazione dell’intera popolazione del paese. Il decreto del governo italiano contiene delle misure che avranno validità fino al 3 aprile 2020, seppur soggette a modifiche.  I datori di lavoro e i dipendenti stranieri che necessitano di servizi presso l’Ambasciata e i Consolati degli Stati Uniti d’America in Italia devono tenere presente quanto segue:

  • Dal 9 marzo 2020, solo i servizi di visto d’emergenza sono disponibili presso l’Ambasciata degli Stati Uniti a Roma e presso i Consolati degli Stati Uniti a Firenze, Milano e Napoli:

— I richiedenti il visto devono essere preparati a tempi di elaborazione lunghi a causa del personale limitato delle sedi consolari;

— I richiedenti il visto devono essere flessibili e preparati a pianificare con i loro datori di lavoro e le compagnie aeree, in base alle necessità, eventuali modifiche dei viaggi pianificati.

  • I servizi per i cittadini americani continuano ad essere disponibili presso l’Ambasciata e i Consolati degli Stati Uniti d’America in Italia, ma bisogna essere preparati a eventuali ritardi
  • Se siete in Italia, seguite le istruzioni delle autorità locali e monitorate il sito web dell’Ambasciata degli Stati Uniti: https://it.usembassy.gov/news-events/
  • Se possibile, limitate gli spostamenti non essenziali e siate flessibili, poiché la situazione rimane in divenire in tutto il mondo

Continueremo a monitorare questa situazione in rapida evoluzione. In caso di piani di viaggi urgenti, contattate immediatamente il vostro professionista GT di riferimento.

Update: As Covid-19 Concerns Grow, So Does Entry Ban

Posted in China, Coronavirus, Department of Homeland Security, Iran

On the heels of consular closings and additional travel restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19, the Trump administration announced on Feb. 29, 2020, it will deny entry to all foreign nationals who were physically present in the Islamic Republic of Iran within 14 days prior to their attempted entry in the United States. The decision, announced via Presidential Proclamation 9992, follows Presidential Proclamation 9984, issued on Jan. 31, 2020, which restricts entry to foreign nationals from China. The ban is effective at 5:00 p.m. EST on March 2, 2020, and will remain in effect indefinitely at the president’s discretion; subject to review and recommendation by the secretary of Health and Human Services.

This ban does not apply to the following individuals:

  1. Lawful permanent residents (green card holders);
  2. Spouses of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents;
  3. The parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  4. The siblings of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, provided both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  5. The child, foster child, prospective adoptee or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  6. Crew members traveling as air or sea crew;
  7. Any foreign national traveling at the invitation of the U.S. government to assist with containing or mitigating the coronavirus;
  8. Foreign nationals holding diplomatic visas, including dependents of such individuals holding derivative visas;
  9. Holders of E-1 Visa Status;
  10. Foreign nationals the CDC has determined would not pose a significant risk to the U.S.;
  11. Foreign nationals whose entry is determined to be in the national interest or further important law enforcement objectives; and
  12. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as their spouses and children.

Therefore, the ban applies to any foreign nationals holding nonimmigrant visas such as H, L, and O, among others, who have traveled to Iran since Feb. 17, 2020.

The order likewise amends Proclamation 9984 to exempt foreign nationals 1) in E-1 visa status; and 2) whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement. Additionally, it amends the review and termination procedure for 9984 and “any other proclamation suspending or limiting the entry of foreign nationals into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants because of the threat posed by the virus.” Where the proclamation was previously subject to recommendation by the secretary of Health and Human Services to continue, modify, or terminate the ban every 15 days, the secretary shall now offer their recommendation to the president “on the first and fifteenth day of each calendar month.” A third amendment to 9984 provides that the secretary of Homeland Security may establish standards and procedures to implement the ban at all ports of entry.

We will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Read additional GT Insights on coronavirus.

Greenberg Traurig Elevates Kristen W. Ng to Shareholder and Agnes Cha Rudinsky to Of Counsel in Northern Virginia

Posted in Awards & Recognitions

The Immigration & Compliance Practice of Greenberg Traurig, LLP is pleased to announce that Kristen W. Ng has been elevated to shareholder and Agnes Cha Rudinsky has been elevated to of counsel in the Northern Virginia office.

Kristen focuses her practice on business immigration and compliance matters, including legislative issues. She advises individuals and companies on a wide range of immigration matters, including nonimmigrant and immigrant employment-based cases, citizenship issues, and investor cases (E-2 and EB-5). She provides immigration counsel to clients, including HR managers, high-level executives, and employees to ensure comprehension of each respective immigration process and procedure and to collaboratively produce the best immigration strategy and approach for each individual matter. In addition, she works on immigration reform policies and advocates for smart policies for clients.

Agnes has deep first-hand experience with the application of immigration laws in the workplace, which she uses in counseling her clients. Her real-world understanding of the immigration and compliance requirements faced by employers stems from advising on all facets of the immigration life cycle in a business context, including managing a large foreign national population, providing H-1B cap strategic guidance that aligns with business needs, training and counseling human resources and recruiters on hiring and sponsorship evaluations, and speaking on immigration obligations in times of reduction in force

The firm announced 44 attorneys elevated to shareholder. The new shareholders span 22 offices and 13 practice areas. The firm also announced the elevation to of counsel and counsel of 34 attorneys from 18 offices, practicing in 11 areas of law.

Read the full press release, “Greenberg Traurig Announces 2020 Elevations, Reports Sixth Consecutive Year of Record Revenue.”

U.S. Consulate General in Milan Will Temporarily Suspend Its Routine Visa Services (also in Italian)

Posted in Coronavirus, U.S. Consulates

On Feb. 23, 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy announced that the U.S. Consulate General in Milan will temporarily suspend its routine visa services until March 2, 2020, due to the recent spread of respiratory illness COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease). See Health Alert: U.S. Embassy Rome, Italy. On the same day, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised the travel alert for Italy to Alert Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions.

As discussed in our recent blog, on Feb. 7, 2020, the official U.S. Visa Application in China website announced that effective Feb. 3, 2020, regular visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and U.S. Consulates General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang are all suspended until further notice with limited exception for certain emergency appointments.

The U.S. Consulate in Milan is the first consulate in Europe to reduce services due to decreased staffing levels in connection with the outbreak. If you have an upcoming visa appointment in Italy, or plan to schedule one in the near future, we highly recommend that you continue to monitor consular updates for the latest information regarding visa services. You should also expect longer appointment wait times once the Consulate in Milan resumes normal operations as they work through rescheduling previously cancelled appointments. GT will continue to monitor the situation.

Il Consolato Generale degli Stati Uniti d’America a Milano sospenderà temporaneamente i servizi relativi ai Visti di ingresso

In data 23 febbraio 2020, l’Ambasciata americana con sede a Roma ha annunciato che il Consolato Generale americano, che ha sede a Milano, sospenderà temporaneamente le attività giornaliere inerenti i servizi sui visti fino al 2 marzo 2020 a causa del recente espandersi del virus COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Nello stesso giorno l’istituto americano Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ha innalzato, per i viaggiatori americani in ingresso in Italia, il livello di allerta al Livello 2 – Misure di Precauzioni Avanzate. Come discusso nel nostro recente blog del 7 febbraio scorso, il sito ufficiale statunitense per la richiesta dei Visti in Cina ha annunciato che a partire dal 3 di febbraio 2020, i servizi regolari di visto presso l’Ambasciata degli Stati Uniti a Pechino e i Consolati Generali degli Stati Uniti a Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai e Shenyang sono stati tutti sospesi fino a nuovo avviso, tranne per le richieste di estrema urgenza.

Il Consolato americano di Milano è il primo consolato in Europa a ridurre i servizi a causa della diminuzione del personale dovuta all’incremento dei casi di COVID-19 in Italia. Se avete un appuntamento presso il Consolato americano di Milano per la richiesta di una pratica di visto, o prevedete di fissarne uno nel prossimo futuro, vi raccomandiamo vivamente di continuare a monitorare gli aggiornamenti sul sito del Consolato americano per essere sempre aggiornati circa le attività di ripresa dell’ufficio di Milano. Vi segnaliamo, altresì, che, quando il Consolato di Milano riprenderà la sua normale attività, i tempi di attesa per richiedere un appuntamento potrebbero necessitare di periodi più lunghi, dovuti anche alla riprogrammazione degli appuntamenti precedentemente cancellati. GT continuerà a monitorare la situazione giornalmente.

Leadership Changes at USCIS

Posted in Department of Homeland Security, USCIS

There are reported leadership changes at USCIS.  According to reports, Joe Edlow, chief counsel of USCIS, has been appointed deputy director for policy, assuming responsibilities of Mark Koumans, deputy USCIS director and interim leader, who takes a new deputy director for operations role.  According to reports, Mr. Koumans may return to DHS in a new capacity in the near future.

See our previous reporting on USCIS leadership, and please check back for updates. As always, contact your GT attorney with any specific questions.

Update – U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in China Suspended Regular Visa Services as of Feb. 3

Posted in China, Coronavirus, EB-5 Program, Travel, USCIS, Visa Issuance

On Feb. 7, 2020, the official visa information website of the U.S. mission in China (http://cdn.ustraveldocs.com/cn/index.html?firstTime=No) announced that as of Feb. 3, 2020, regular visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and Consulates General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang are all suspended. The notice further states that the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China have very limited staffing and may be unable to respond to requests regarding regular visa services. Limited emergency appointments may be available to individuals who have urgent travel needs, and qualify for an exemption under the February 2 Presidential Proclamation on Coronavirus (i.e., lawful permanent residents; spouses and children (unmarried and under age of 21) of U.S. citizens or permanent residents; parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, provided the U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents are unmarried and under 21; siblings of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, provided the U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents are unmarried and under 21). Individuals who have urgent travel needs and qualify under the exemption of the Presidential Proclamation may go to https://ustraveldocs/com/cn/index/html to submit an emergency appointment request or contact your GT attorneys for assistance.

Pursuant to this announcement, unless indicated otherwise in further notifications, all immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments scheduled in the coming weeks will be cancelled. Immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants, including EB-5 immigrant visa applicants, with scheduled interview appointments in the coming weeks should expect to receive cancellation notices shortly. Please contact your GT attorneys for questions regarding the appointment cancellation and rescheduling. Please note that given the limited staffing the U.S. Embassy and Consulates operate with, we do not expect timely responses for rescheduling requests at this time. We will monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.

USCIS Revises Forms in Response to Public Charge Inadmissibility Final Rule

Posted in President Trump's Administration, Public Charge Rule, Supreme Court, USCIS

The Public Charge Inadmissibility Final Rule was issued in August 2019 and was to go into effect October 2019, when a preliminary injunction with national scope was granted that prevented the Department of Homeland Security from implementing the rule. On Jan. 27, 2020, the Supreme Court stayed the national injunction, and DHS may now implement the rule, except in the state of Illinois. Continue Reading

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