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UPDATE: Multiple Immigration Related Announcements Made in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the last week, in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) issued multiple announcements impacting employment-based immigration. The following updates have been provided:  

March 27, 2020

USCIS Announces Flexibility for Requests for Evidence, and Notices of Intent to Deny

  • Applicants and petitioners who receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, will have an additional 60 calendar days to respond after the response deadline set forth in the RFE or NOID.
  • USCIS is adopting several measures to protect the workforce and community, and to minimize the immigration consequences for those seeking immigration benefits during this time. USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops.

March 24, 2020

Approved PERM Labor Certifications to be Issued Electronically

  • Beginning March 25, 2020, and through June 30, 2020, the Atlanta National Processing Center (NPC) will issue PERM labor certification approvals by email to employers and their authorized attorneys or agents. Under normal circumstances, the DOL mails an original approved PERM labor certification on blue paper form to the employer or authorized attorney or agent.
  • Upon email receipt of an electronic copy of the approved PERM labor certification, the form must be printed, signed and dated by each of the following prior to filing the Form I-140 Immigrant Petition with USCIS: the foreign worker, preparer (if applicable), and the employer. USCIS may consider this printed PERM labor certification form, containing all signatures, as satisfying the USCIS requirement that petitioners provide evidence of an original PERM labor certification issued by DOL.
  • In circumstances where employers or their authorized attorneys or agents are not able to receive the approved PERM labor certification documents by email, DOL will send the original PERM labor certification and Final Determination letter using UPS regular delivery (i.e., approximately 2 to 8 days depending on delivery location).

With many employers and attorneys working from home due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, receipt of the original PERM labor certification can be problematic. This measure will help ensure that PERM labor certifications continue to be processed and received by all relevant parties so that there is no delay in filing the I-140 Immigrant Petition (which is the second step in the PERM based green card process).

March 20, 2020

USCIS Suspends Premium Processing

  • As of March 20, 2020, USCIS stopped receiving new premium processing requests for all Form I-129, Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-140 Immigrant Worker petitions. USCIS will provide notification with a confirmed date for resuming premium processing.
  • USCIS will process any petition with a previously accepted premium processing request. However, petitioners who have already filed a Form I-129 or Form I-140 using the premium processing service and who receive no agency action on their case within the 15-calendar-day period will receive a refund.
  • USCIS will reject the premium processing requests that were mailed before March 20, 2020 but not accepted prior to that date. In this case, the premium processing request and filing fee of $1,440 will be returned.

This temporary premium processing suspension includes petitions filed for the following categories:

I-129: E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2.

I-140: EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3.

USCIS Announces Flexibility in Submitting Required Signatures

  • USCIS will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures, including Form I-129, for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond.
  • For forms that require an original “wet” signature, per form instructions, USCIS will accept electronically reproduced original signatures for the duration of the National Emergency. This means documents may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced as long as the copy was of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified. This temporary change only applies to signatures. All other form instructions should be followed when completing a form.
  • Individuals or entities that submit documents bearing an electronically reproduced original signature must retain copies of the original documents containing the “wet” signature.  USCIS may, at any time, request the original documents, which if not produced, could negatively impact the adjudication of the immigration benefit.

Reddy & Neumann will continue to closely monitor all developments and will provide updates as necessary.

By Krystal Alanis

Krystal Alanis is a Partner at Reddy Neumann Brown PC She acts as the Managing Attorney for the firm’s PERM Labor Certification Department, where she oversees all EB-2 and EB-3 employment based green card matters. She also guides employers and individuals through the I-140 and Adjustment of Status process, assists clients with non-immigrant visa petitions (e.g. H-1B, TN, L-1, etc.), and advises her clients on I-9 compliance issues.