Dear Clients and Colleagues,
We trust this newsletter reaches you in good health. In this edition, we're excited to share significant updates and information from the legal world. Learn about USCIS' efforts to simplify the H-1B filing process, new policy update pertaining to Extension and Change of Status Requests, and insights into the Immigration Ramifications of Criminal Activity for Nonimmigrant Visa Holders.
USCIS Announces Policy Update on Extension and Change of Status Requests
Important Update for Nonimmigrants: USCIS Provides Leniency on Timely Filing Requirements
Release Date: January 24, 2024
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made a significant announcement that impacts nonimmigrants facing delays in filing for an extension of stay or change of status. In a move aimed at providing flexibility and understanding, USCIS has updated its Policy Manual to potentially excuse untimely filings under certain conditions. This policy change is pivotal for individuals and petitioners who have encountered extraordinary circumstances preventing timely requests.
Key Highlights of the Policy Update:
Discretionary Leniency: USCIS may, at its discretion, excuse the failure to file an extension of stay or change of status request on time if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner.
Extraordinary Circumstances Defined: Such circumstances include, but are not limited to, delays caused by work stoppages due to strikes, lockouts, or other labor disputes. Another significant consideration is the inability to obtain necessary certifications like a certified labor condition application or temporary labor certification due to a lapse in government funding for these services.
Commitment to Worker Protection: This update is in response to the H-2B Worker Protection Task Force's report, emphasizing the need to protect workers involved in labor disputes from adverse impacts on their immigration status. Specifically, it clarifies that workers remaining in the U.S. after their admission period has expired, due to workplace labor disputes, will not face negative consequences solely for this reason when applying for a change of immigration status or a subsequent visa.
General Policy on Extensions and Status Changes: Typically, USCIS requires nonimmigrants to maintain their status and file for extensions or changes of status before their authorized stay expires. This update provides a pathway for those who have faced unavoidable delays to seek leniency under specific conditions.
Implications for Nonimmigrants:
This policy update is a critical development for nonimmigrants in the U.S. who have encountered extraordinary circumstances preventing timely filing for an extension of stay or change of status. It reflects USCIS's commitment to flexibility and understanding in the face of unforeseen challenges. Applicants and petitioners are encouraged to document and provide evidence of such extraordinary circumstances when seeking discretionary leniency for untimely filings.
For detailed information on this policy update, including how to apply for an extension of stay or change of status under these new guidelines, please refer to the updated Policy Manual section on the USCIS website.
The USCIS's updated guidance offers a lifeline to those affected by extraordinary circumstances, ensuring that nonimmigrants are not unduly penalized for delays beyond their control. It underscores the agency's adaptive approach to immigration policy, recognizing the complexities of individual situations and the importance of fairness in the adjudication process.
The Law Offices of Keshab Raj Seadie, P.C., with expertise in the nunc pro tunc rule, has positively impacted hundreds, providing crucial immigration lifelines to those struggling to maintain nonimmigrant status. Leverage our vast experience; we've successfully filed hundreds of cases. Benefit from our seasoned approach to navigate complex immigration challenges efficiently.
New Organizational Account System and FY 2025 H-1B Cap Registration Dates Announced
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is set to launch significant updates that will impact immigration processes, including the introduction of a new organizational account system and the announcement of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap registration period.
New Organizational Account System Goes Live
USCIS has announced that its new organizational account system will officially go live at noon Eastern Time (ET) on February 28, 2024. This new system is designed to streamline the process for managing applications and improve the overall user experience for both individuals and organizations dealing with immigration services. Users are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the new system ahead of its launch to ensure a smooth transition.
FY 2025 H-1B Cap Registration Period
Furthermore, USCIS has provided critical dates for the FY 2025 H-1B cap registration period, a highly anticipated window for both employers and prospective H-1B visa beneficiaries. The registration period will open at noon ET on March 6 and will close at noon ET on March 22. During this period, employers must draft and submit their H-1B cap registrations online through the USCIS website.
It is essential for employers and their representatives to prepare in advance for the registration period, ensuring that all necessary information is accurate and complete for submission. The H-1B visa program is subject to annual caps, and the registration process is competitive, with demand often exceeding the available visa numbers.
Key Points for Employers and Applicants:
Preparation is Key: Employers should begin gathering necessary information and documents for the H-1B registration process well in advance of the March 6 opening date.
Understand the New System: Familiarize yourself with the functionalities and requirements of the new organizational account system before its launch on February 28, 2024 to avoid any delays or issues in submitting registrations.
Timely Submission: Ensure that all H-1B cap registrations are drafted and submitted online between noon ET on March 6, 2024 and noon ET on March 22, 2024. Late submissions will not be accepted.
Stay Informed: Keep an eye on USCIS announcements for any updates or changes to the registration process or deadlines.
Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity for Nonimmigrant Visa Holders
For nonimmigrant visa holders in the United States, navigating the complex intersection of immigration law and criminal activity is crucial. Criminal convictions, even for seemingly minor offenses, can have profound implications on one's immigration status, affecting everything from visa extensions to future admissibility into the U.S. Specifically, offenses such as shoplifting, domestic violence, DUI (Driving Under the Influence), and assault and battery can significantly impact the ability of nonimmigrant visa holders to extend their stay or obtain visa stamping for re-entry.
Impact on Visa Extensions and Admissibility
Shoplifting and Theft Offenses: A conviction for shoplifting, even for a small amount, can be considered a crime of moral turpitude. For immigration purposes, this can render a nonimmigrant visa holder inadmissible, potentially barring them from extending their visa or re-entering the United States after travel abroad.
Domestic Violence: Domestic violence convictions carry severe immigration consequences. Under U.S. immigration law, individuals convicted of crimes of domestic violence, stalking, child abuse, or neglect may be deemed deportable, regardless of their current visa status. This can also prevent the approval of any future visa applications.
DUI: While a single DUI conviction may not automatically result in inadmissibility, it can raise questions about moral character and lead to increased scrutiny during visa extension or stamping processes. Multiple DUI convictions or those associated with aggravating factors (e.g., causing injury) can have more serious consequences.
Assault and Battery: Convictions for assault and battery, especially those classified as aggravated or involving moral turpitude, can lead to deportation and ineligibility for visa renewal. The severity of the immigration consequences typically depends on the specifics of the conviction, including the presence of a weapon, the injury's severity, and whether the conviction is for a misdemeanor or felony.
Navigating Immigration Challenges after a Criminal Conviction
For nonimmigrant visa holders facing criminal charges or convictions, it's imperative to seek legal counsel from both criminal and immigration lawyers who can navigate the complexities of how criminal law intersects with immigration status. Strategies to mitigate immigration consequences may include:
Plea Agreements: Negotiating plea deals that minimize immigration consequences, such as avoiding convictions for crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies.
Post-Conviction Relief: Exploring options for post-conviction relief, such as vacating a conviction or reducing a felony to a misdemeanor, can sometimes alleviate immigration penalties.
Waivers and Discretionary Relief: In some cases, nonimmigrant visa holders may be eligible for waivers of inadmissibility or other forms of discretionary relief that allow them to maintain their status or re-enter the U.S. despite a criminal record.
The intersection of criminal activity and immigration status is fraught with challenges, particularly for nonimmigrant visa holders. A criminal conviction can upend an individual's life in the U.S., affecting their ability to stay, work, or even re-enter the country. Understanding the potential immigration consequences of criminal convictions and seeking appropriate legal advice is essential for navigating this complex area of law.
We hope you find this information valuable. If you have any questions or require legal assistance related to any of these updates, please don't hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.
Keshab Raj Seadie, Esq.
Law Offices of Keshab Raj Seadie, P.C.
[Disclaimer: This newsletter is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always consult an attorney for personalized advice.]