DHS Restricts New York Residents’ Enrollment and Renewal Eligibility for Trusted Traveler Programs

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has suspended New Yorkers’ eligibility to apply for or renew their enrollment in four Trusted Traveler Programs (TTPs) administered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The suspension went into effect on February 5, 2020, in response to New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, commonly called the “Green Light Law.”

USCIS to Begin Implementing Public Charge Rule as of February 24

On January 30, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin implementing the new public charge regulations on February 24, 2020. The regulations broadly expand the list of public benefits that can be considered, as well as the discretion given to immigration officers when deciding whether someone is “more likely than not” to become a public charge.

USCIS to Begin Accepting Electronic Registrations on March 1, 2020

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it would begin accepting electronic registrations for H-1B candidates subject to the annual quota for fiscal year (FY) 2021 on March 1, 2020. The registration period will run through at least March 20, 2020. USCIS intends to notify selected registrants no later than March 31, 2020.

U.S.-Iran Tensions Raise Concerns for International Travel

On January 4, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) detained and questioned more than 60 individuals of Iranian descent at a Washington State border crossing as they attempted to return to the United States from Canada. According to news reports, CBP officers questioned a number of the travelers about their families, military backgrounds, and ties to Iran.

New USCIS Policy Guidance Alters Criminal Sentence Evaluation, Clarifies Definition of “Good Moral Character”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently adopted new policy guidance altering the way immigration officers evaluate criminal sentences and make good moral character determinations. These changes may impact a foreign national’s eligibility for certain immigration benefits, including admissibility as a visa holder, permanent resident, or naturalized citizen.

USCIS Proposes Significant Fee Hikes

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a new fee schedule designed to mitigate an approximate $1.3 billion shortfall in the annual budget of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). According to DHS, immigration fees would increase by a weighted average of 21 percent across the board. In reality, however, the fee changes would not affect all immigration benefits equally. Fees for some commonly used classifications are set to go up significantly.

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on Ending DACA

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral argument on the legality of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that provides work authorization and protection from deportation to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The roughly 80-minute session focused on two primary questions: whether the Court had the authority to review DHS’s decision to end DACA and, if so, whether the decision was legal.

Public Charge Rule Update: Making Sense of All the Moving Pieces

The Trump administration’s public charge rule is on hold, at least temporarily. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State each introduced a version of the rule. Both versions were scheduled for implementation on October 15, 2019, and would have established expansive new tests to be used by those agencies when determining if certain visa applicants were likely to become public charges—a determination that would generally make them inadmissible to the United States.

President Trump Introduces Health Insurance Requirement for Immigrant Visa Applicants

According to a proclamation issued by President Donald Trump on October 4, 2019, the U.S. Department of State will begin issuing immigrant visas only to those foreign nationals who will have health insurance once admitted to the United States, or who can prove that they have the financial means to cover their own medical expenses.

ICE Begins STEM OPT Worksite Inspections

There have been an increasing number of reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun conducting workplace site visits for F-1 students employed pursuant to optional practical training (OPT) in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. While ICE has had the authority to conduct on-site inspections since 2016, it has not exercised that authority until recently. Given this new development, companies that employ STEM OPT workers are encouraged to be prepare in case ICE visits their workplaces.

DHS Promulgates Public Charge Rule to “Promote Self-Sufficiency,” Penalize Reliance on Public Benefits

On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the final version of its public charge rule in the Federal Register. According to a statement by DHS, the rule is intended to formalize the way in which the agency determines if an individual applying for a nonimmigrant visa or adjustment of status (to obtain a green card) is likely to become a public charge—a determination that would generally make the person inadmissible to the United States.