Immigration News: USCIS Changes Fees to Many Immigration Filings

On July 31, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule that changes the filing fees for many of the most commonly used application and petition forms used to obtain immigration benefits.  The final rule, which is scheduled to go into effect on October 2, 2020, is part of the agency’s attempt to address an anticipated budget shortfall caused by a dramatic lack in applications from the previous year.

While the changes affect the fees for dozens of applications and petitions, perhaps the most significant change is the more than 80% increase on naturalization applications from $640 to $1170. Other significant changes include the imposition of a $50 fee for asylum applications, which is one of the first of its kind in the world; a 34% increase in the fee for employment authorization; and an increase in the fee for the Annual Certification of EB-5 Regional Centers (Form I-924A) from $3,035 to $4,465.  

Another major non-fee related policy change is an extension in the time allotted for USCIS to respond to cases filed with Premium Processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, which could add an extra week for employers and individuals to receive responses on cases. 

Although there is growing anticipation that groups will file suit to enjoin many or all of these changes, until an injunction is granted, preparations should be made for these new fees to be paid on and after October 2, 2020.

If you need more information about this important immigration news, feel free to contact us today.

Attorney Eric Dominguez to Speak at AILA’s H-1B RFE Trends and Strategies for Winning at CSC, NSC, TSC, and VSC and the 2020 Virtual HNBA/VIA Virtual Corporate Counsel Conference & Annual Convention

Attorney Eric Dominguez, Partner at David Hirson & Partners, LLP, will be speaking at the following upcoming events:

Eric Dominguez and his team provides immigration counsel for businesses in a variety of industries. He currently serves as chair of the Immigration Section for the Hispanic National Bar Association and Congressional Advocacy Liaison for AILA Southern California. He is former Chair of the Orange County Bar Association, Immigration Section and former president of the Orange County Bar Hispanic Bar Association.

Immigration News: USCIS Postpones Employee Furloughs Until at Least August

On July 24, 2019, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, announced the postponement of furloughs for an estimated 13,000 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) workers until September 1, 2020. Earlier this month, USCIS announced the possibility of furloughs beginning August 3 because of a lack of funding for continued operations. The announcement comes as congressional leaders provided a more accurate accounting of the agency’s resources which demonstrated sufficient funding through the current fiscal year (September 30, 2020). Of the announcement, Senator Leahy stated, “Furloughing thousands of public servants in the middle of a pandemic and at record unemployment would have upended the lives of the dedicated women and men working at USCIS and impacted thousands who rely on their services, and after new revenue estimates showed the agency ending the fiscal year with a surplus it was completely unjustifiable. I’m glad the agency decided to change course for now, but I remain troubled the Trump Administration was pushing for these furloughs in the first place. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am working to ensure these dedicated women and men stay on the job to help those chasing the American Dream. With regard to the projected USCIS deficit for fiscal year 2021, I am committed to addressing this issue in the next coronavirus supplemental so that USCIS can continue accomplishing its missions without a furlough.”

While this announcement provides a heightened level of assurance with regard to USCIS’ ability to continue normal operations in the short-term, the agency’s long-term ability to sustain itself will likely be a topic of discussion as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship conducts a USCIS oversight hearing on Wednesday, July 29, at 10:00 am (ET).

Contact us today for more information on how USCIS processes your immigration applications.

F-1 Student Visa Update: Online Studies

On July 6, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced a policy banning F-1 students from exclusively taking online classes in response to COVID-19. This policy was completely retracted on July 14, 2020 following litigation filed by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”) in federal district court.

On July 24, 2020, ICE issued a formal update on federal guidance for the Fall 2020 semester. Students in valid F-1 or M-1 status who were actively enrolled in school on March 9, 2020 and seeking to continue their studies would be allowed to take exclusively online classes due to COVID-19. However, those students seeking new visas or looking to begin their studies in the U.S. will not be approved if their intended university is only offering online instruction.

Contact the experienced immigration team at David Hirson & Partners, LLP for answers to all your U.S. immigration questions.

[DHP Client Alert] USCIS Issues New Guidance Clarifying Acceptable Redeployment of EB-5 Funds

On July 24, 2020, USCIS issued a new policy memo clarifying its guidance on acceptable deployment and redeployment of EB-5 capital. This new guidance is effective immediately and affects all pending I-526 and I-829 petitions. Below we discuss USCIS new restrictive redeployment policies and how they impact the industry.

USCIS’ New Restrictive Redeployment Requirements

Previously, in its initial redeployment policy memo issued on June 14, 2017, USCIS offered vague guidance that any redeployment of EB-5 capital would generally be acceptable only if (1) the business plan was substantially completed, (2) the funds were reinvested into activities consistent with the NCE’s purpose, and (3) the funds were redeployed within a “commercially reasonable period of time.”

Now, USCIS’ new policy memo clarifies that any redeployment of EB-5 capital must be tied to the purpose and scope of its accompanying NCE and Regional Center. This effectively greatly limits the range of acceptable redeployment activities and clarifies several issues, including:

  • Role of the NCE and RC: USCIS confirms that any redeployment of EB-5 capital must be consistent with the original purpose of the NCE and within the geographic umbrella of the Regional Center. This effectively greatly limits both the range and scope of acceptable redeployment activities since its inextricably tied to the NCE and RC. Moreover, both the NCE and RC must continue operating and remain in good standing during this entire period. The dissolution or termination of either the NCE/RC would also cause the denial of the underlying I-526/I-829 petitions. 
  • Redeployment must be through NCE: Any redeployment of EB-5 capital must be through the same NCE. Note that USCIS does not clarify if this applies only if the EB-5 funds are actually repaid to the NCE (versus being repaid to a SPE/SPV that was created to disburse or lend the EB-5 funds to the JCE). 
  • Cannot Redeploy into “Financial Instruments”: EB-5 capital cannot be deployed into financial instruments, including municipal bonds or securities. USCIS’ logic is that these activities are primarily financial in nature and not consistent with the requirement that NCEs must be engaged in “commercial or business activity.”
  • Commercially Reasonable Period of Time: Confirms that 12 months would generally be considered a commercially reasonable period of time for redeployment of EB-5 capital. USCIS would also be open to accepting a longer period of time depending on the specific facts or circumstances of a case.

What our Clients Need to Know

Since USCIS’ initial memo on redeployment, EB-5 stakeholders have repeatedly requested USCIS provide further guidance clarifying acceptable activities, scope, and timing of investments. While the new memo provides much greater clarity, it also ushers in a new set of restrictive requirements overnight that will leave many EB-5 stakeholders scrambling to assess the eligibility of their current plans as well as any accompanying risks and exposure.  All Regional Centers, issuers, and EB-5 stakeholders should immediately review their current redeployment plans with EB-5 counsel to ensure that they are still in compliance. This is especially critical because the policy memo is effective immediately and extends to all pending EB-5 petitions.

Given that redeployment must now be tied to both the NCE and Regional Center, it is advisable to review the NCE’s limited partnership/operating agreement and offering documents to ensure your redeployment plans align with the NCE’s purpose. Both EB-5 securities counsel will be necessary to navigate through the maze of corporate, securities, and immigration issues. A preliminary assessment may be needed to analyze whether any actions need to be taken to revise your redeployment plans, including amending the NCE’s organizational documents, PPM, or filing an I-924 to expand your Regional Center’s geographic region. For example, clients who are immediately at-risk include those who have structured portfolios to invest EB-5 capital and those who have redeployed into municipal bonds must now consider the ramifications on their investor’s pending petitions. Finally, any remedial measures must be approached with caution since the specter of material change looms over any changes to the NCE’s organizational documents, and should only be done after careful consultation with EB-5 counsel.

Our firm has structured and advised on numerous EB-5 redeployment plans and will be working closely with our clients to review and advise them on their current redeployment plans. We will continue to monitor this issue and provide updates as we analyze the impact on the industry. Contact us today to discuss your EB-5 questions with our team of EB-5 experts.

Attorney Evelyn Hahn Speaks on L-1A Visas at KITA Seminar

On July 21, 2020, Attorney Evelyn Hahn, Co-Managing Partner at David Hirson & Partners, LLP, spoke on L-1A visas and other U.S. immigration issues at a webinar hosted by the Korean Investors & Traders Association of Southern California (KITA).

Evelyn Hahn and our team of experienced immigration attorneys are available to help you plan for your business or family immigration plans. Contact us today to schedule a consult.

Immigration News: U.S. Department of State Announces National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

EB-5 Program

On July 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of State published specific national interest exceptions to Presidential Proclamations 9993 and 9996, which bans entry to the United States if the traveler has been in the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, or Ireland in the last 14 days.

Under these exceptions, students with valid F-1 or M-1 visas may travel without seeking a national interest waiver. Prospective students from these areas may also follow the normal F-1 visa process to request an initial visa. J-1 visa holders should contact their local embassy or consulate to request an exception.

Additionally, certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, and academics may qualify for a national interest exception to “assist with the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” Waivers are considered for travel related to humanitarian purposes, health response, or national security. Those with an approved ESTA traveling for such qualified purposes should not need to request a waiver.

Contact us today to schedule a consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can assist you with your visa needs.

USCIS Ordered to Resume Accepting Requests to Renew DACA Applications

Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to end the program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as child – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). However, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, USCIS continued to not accept new applications.

On July 17, 2020, a Federal Court in Maryland ruled that USCIS must continue operating the DACA program and accept new applications. While USCIS has yet to respond to the federal court’s order, USCIS subtly updated their website – which, as of Thursday, stated that it was only accepting DACA renewal applications – to note “the information on this page is out of date.”

Contact us to schedule a consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you plan for your immigration needs.

KITA Seminar Special Edition: “Changes and regulations of recent immigration laws and related administrative orders affecting L visa holders”

Attorney Evelyn Hahn, Co-Managing Partner at David Hirson & Partners, LLP, will be speaking at a special event hosted by the Korean Investors & Traders Association of Southern California (KITA). She will be discussing important issues related to L-1A executives, the latest Presidential Proclamations, and answering immigration questions.

When: Tuesday, July 21, 2020, 10-11am

Speakers: Evelyn Hahn, Immigration Attorney & Co-Managing Partner

                Soo Jin Isicoff, Corporate Attorney

Hosts: David Hirson & Partners, LLP & Lewis Brisbois’ Partner Law Firm

How to participate: Please click here to register.  Details will be sent via confirmation email.

David Hirson & Partners, LLP Immigration Attorney Speaks at GRACE Live – Focus USA

On July 15, 2020, Mr. Niral Patel, immigration attorney and partner at David Hirson & Partners, LLP moderated and spoke on a panel of experts who discussed EB-5 and other investment immigration options at the 2nd Edition GRACE Live – Focus USA webinar. This informative webinar was hosted by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in India.

Please contact Niral and our office with your questions about EB-5 or other immigration options for you, your family, and your business.