Published May 13, 2020
By: Richard Hanus, Esq.
Update: One Year and a Federal Lawsuit Later, DHS Finally Approves 150 Pending H-1B Filings for Lab Technologists
I cannot recall a time when so many federal lawsuits to compel or correct decisions by the Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/CIS) have been filed. One recent example is the lawsuit filed by Management Healthcare Systems LLC (doing business as MedPro Staffing) in the District of Columbia 3 months ago to compel DHS/CIS to finally decide over 150 visa petitions for foreign medical lab technologists.
At the time of filing in February, 2020, the complaint alleged that H-1B petitions sat undecided for 10 months, and for no apparent reason. The visa petitions at issue were filed in April, 2019 and to fill positions starting October 1, 2019.
According to recent court records, the case was settled without comment by DHS, although the plaintiff company accomplished its goal in filing the lawsuit, i.e. approval of the petitions and the expected issuance of visas for the petitioned workers to enter the U.S. and start their jobs. The case and the need for these workers took on additional importance with the outbreak of COVID 19. Specifically, the approval of the petitions was consistent with the administration’s public statements about the importance of providing foreign healthcare workers a special avenue to enter the U.S. to work at a time when much of immigration to the U.S. has been closed off due to the Administration’s recent Executive Order .
Update on Immigration Related Government Office Adjustments and Closures
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Service local offices (US DHS/CIS):
Face to face interactions at DHS/CIS offices across the nation have been cancelled through at least until June 4, 2020. That also means no new applicant interviews or appearances will be scheduled for the following filings for this period: N-400 Citizenship, I-485 Adjustment of Status/Green Card, I-751 Removal of Condition, I-130 Visa petition and I-589 Asylum. Furthermore, during this period there will be no appointments for biometrics fingerprinting at DHS/CIS Application Support Centers or citizenship oath ceremonies at local DHS/CIS offices and Federal courthouses.
US DHS/CIS Allowing An Additional 60 Days to Respond
If you received a notice from a DHS/CIS office requesting additional evidence, or notifying you of an intention to deny or revoke approval on an immigration related filing – and the notice is dated between March 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020 (inclusive) – DHS/CIS has announced it will allow an extension of 60 days beyond the noted deadline date to receive a response. The announcement also included the same flexibility for deadlines to file an appeal or motion on most denied petitions or applications within the jurisdiction of DHS/CIS’ Administrative Appeals Office.
U.S. Department of Justice/Executive Office of Immigration Review (Immigration Court, removal proceedings)
The Department of Justice has extended its postponement of all Immigration Court proceedings for non-detained court cases through at least May 29, 2020. This cancellation includes both Master Calendar hearings (status) and Individual Calendar hearings (final merits hearings for relief from removal). Court proceedings for detained foreign nationals continue.
U.S. consular posts abroad: With regard to immigrant and temporary visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates across the globe, the public is urged to check with each individual post regarding operations and if and how they are curtailed. Exceptions to this rule include visa applicants seeking to enter the U.S. to fill healthcare worker roles based on approved immigrant or non-immigrant work visa petitions.
When it comes to DHS/CIS Service Centers operations, with administrative review and adjudication of petitions/applications at a stage not requiring an immediate in-person appearance, it seems processing is taking place at a brisk pace, with turnaround times for many product lines to be much speedier than what has been typical for the past 6-12 months. Moreover, it appears DHS/CIS is waiving interview appearances for many cases where such interviews were universally required in the past couple years.
Other government facilities:
The State of Illinois’ Secretary of State/Department of Motor Vehicles offices were set to be closed through April 30, 2020 and up to this time no date for reopening has been announced. Further, according to the Secretary of State/DMV website, expiration dates for drivers licenses, state i.e.’s vehicle registrations and other transactions and document filings is extended for at least 90 days past the facilities’ reopen date.
For more information on Illinois Secretary of State/DMV operations, visit their website: https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/home.html
PUBLISHED May 13, 2020– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2020, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois