Business Immigration in a Minute by Honigman LLP

  • This past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) announced that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and the U.S. Department of State will require COVID-19 vaccinations for applicants applying for lawful permanent residence and refugee status. Beginning October 1, 2021, all applicants who receive their medical examination from a civil surgeon for purposes of Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, must complete an approved COVID-19 vaccine series and must provide documentation of the vaccination. Blanket waivers will be available for applicants who are too young to receive the vaccine, have a medical contraindication to the vaccine, or who do not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in their countries. Further, applicants may apply for an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions with USCIS. Notably, this policy is not retroactive, so the COVID-19 vaccine will not be required for any applicants whose Form I-693 was completed before October 1, 2021 and remains valid.

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection has extended border restrictions permitting only essential travel across the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico land borders through September 21, 2021. Essential travel includes travel by U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals traveling to work in the United States, among other purposes. These restrictions do not affect air travel to the United States.

  • Last week, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it reached a settlement agreement with Ascension Health Alliance (“Ascension”), resolving claims that Ascension violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) when it discriminated against non-U.S. citizen employees by requesting more or different documents than necessary when trying to re-verify their work authorization. Specifically, DOJ’s investigation uncovered that Ascension improperly programmed its employment eligibility verification software to send automated e-mails requesting proof of continued work authorization only to non-U.S. citizen employees shortly before the expiration date of their Form I-9 documents, even though these employees often presented documents that did not require re-verification of their work authorization. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, Ascension must pay the United States a civil penalty of $84,832.00 and must train its employees on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision. As a reminder, the INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from requesting more or different documents than necessary to prove work authorization based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.

  • In response to its recently updated COVID-19 policies, USCIS has now created a centralized page on its website to display its COVID-19 policies and provide important updates about its response to COVID-19. The website page includes information on topics such as guidelines on entering USCIS facilities, rescheduling field office and Application Support Center appointments, deadlines for certain requests, notices, and appeals, and lockbox delays.

  • The American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (“AILA”) USCIS Field Operations Liaison Committee has received reports that USCIS has resumed scheduling interviews outside standard business hours in the early morning and on Saturdays, as well as out of jurisdiction. USCIS has also scheduled some naturalization oath ceremonies on Saturdays. AILA stated that it has been told informally that USCIS is looking for ways to utilize its existing staff to work through backlogs. If an applicant is unable to attend the scheduled interview, AILA recommends calling the USCIS Contact Center to request to reschedule the interview.

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