USCIS Announces Further Suspensions of Premium Processing Service (PPS)  for H-1B Cases

In an announcement on August 28, 2018, USCIS announced that, instead of lifting the suspension of Premium Processing Service (PPS)  for H-1B “cap” cases that was supposed to last only through September 10, 2018, it is extending the PPS ban for such cases to February 19, 2019.  In addition, starting September 11, 2018, USCIS will extend its PPS ban to most other types of H-1B cases, as well. 

New Policy Guidance Drastically Changes USCIS’s Adjudications Process, Announces that Denials Will Now Result in Removal (Deportation) Proceedings

In a pair of policy memoranda released to the public in July 2018, the Administration is drastically changing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS, formerly INS) role in adjudications. Initially formed as the immigration benefits-adjudicating sub-agency when the Department of Homeland Security took over immigration functions from the Department of Justice after 9/11, USCIS is typically involved in a very low percentage of the overall enforcement actions of the DHS agencies. (Most enforcement is done by DHS’s other immigration sub-agencies, ICE and CBP.) For example, unless fraud or criminality is suspected, USCIS traditionally has not initiated removal (deportation) proceedings in the course of adjudicating benefits applications, such as nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions, applications for adjustment of status to U.S. permanent residence, or naturalizations. However, in a new policy memo released on July 5, 2018 (but dated June 28), entitled Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens (“NTA Memo”) and effective immediately, the Administration announced that USCIS will now initiate removal proceedings in a wide variety of circumstances.

Jewell Stewart & Pratt Lawyers Selected for Inclusion in Super Lawyers®

Jewell Stewart & Pratt is pleased to announce that four of its lawyers have been selected for inclusion in Northern California Super Lawyers® in 2018. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas, including immigration, who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

Phyllis Jewell, a principal of the firm and its Managing Attorney, was named a Super Lawyer at the inception of the Northern California Super Lawyers list in 2004, and has been named to the list each year from 2004 to 2013, and 2015 to present (2018). Only 5 percent of lawyers in a state are selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers.

Principal Claire Pratt and Associate Attorney Chris Beckerson have been selected as Rising Stars from 2015 to 2018. In addition, Associate Attorney Jennifer Carr has been selected in Rising Stars from 2017 to 2018. To be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. No more than 2.5 percent of lawyers in a state are named to Rising Stars.

Congratulations to Phyllis, Claire, Chris, and Jennifer!

 

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Travel Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) upheld the administration’s travel ban in a 5-4 decision today. The decision does not change the status quo, however, as in December 2017, SCOTUS allowed the third iteration of the travel ban to take effect during the pendency of litigation. The details of the administration’s travel ban were detailed in our blog post here, although please note that Chad was removed from the list of countries in April of 2018. Certain waivers or exemptions are available.

 

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

Alarming Change of Policy for Treatment of Certain Status Violations for F, J, and M Visa Holders

On May 10, 2018, USCIS announced a draft policy memorandum titled “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants.” F, J, and M nonimmigrant visas are for international students, scholars, and participants in international educational/cultural exchange programs (including interns and trainees).  The draft policy is slated to become final and effective on August 9, 2018.

In the draft policy, USCIS announced a dramatic change to the treatment of “status violations” by individuals in the U.S. on F, J, and M visas. A status violation is any failure to meet a term or condition of the visa, including unknowing and unintentional technical violations (e.g., lowering one’s course load below a certain number of credit hours, engaging in casual work, accruing too many days of non-work after school completion, etc.).

Statement on Family Separation

Dear Clients, Friends, and Community –

Like many of you, we are shocked at the administration’s treatment of asylum seekers and in particular the separation of families at the border. Seeking asylum is not a crime. There is no law preventing families from staying together, or requiring incarceration of families and children. We call on the administration to end this atrocious practice, and on Congress to hold the administration accountable.

We are following legal developments and taking action via our firm’s involvement in the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and are available to make suggestions as needed regarding donations and advocacy actions. As a start, call 202-224-3121 and enter your zip code to be connected with your representatives, and reach out to local churches in your community and urge them to take action.

In solidarity,
Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC

 

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

USCIS, Having Granted No Applications Under International Entrepreneur Rule, Proposes Elimination of Program

On May 29, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a notice in the Federal Register  proposing elimination of the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER).  Public comments on the proposed elimination are due by June 28, 2018.  USCIS expects that, after the comments are considered and a final rule is published, the final rule would take effect 30 days after publication.

JSP Principal Claire Pratt Elected Chapter Chair of AILA’s Northern California Chapter

On May 8, 2018, JSP Principal Claire Pratt was elected Chapter Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Northern California Chapter (“AILA NorCal”) at the Chapter’s Annual Meeting. AILA is an association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members. Member attorneys represent tens of thousands of families, U.S. businesses, foreign students, researchers, entertainers, entrepreneurs and asylum seekers.

AILA NorCal encompasses the majority of Northern California counties, has nearly 1,000 members, and is one of the largest and most active AILA Chapters. As an elected board member for the past three years, and now as Chapter Chair, Claire is responsible for coordinating educational programming and conferences, liaison relationships to government agencies, advocacy and lobbying efforts, media involvement, pro bono opportunities, member engagement, and coordination with the national organization. Congratulations to Claire!      

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

JSP congratulates its most recent Certified Specialist!

Jewell Stewart & Pratt is pleased to announce that attorney Chris Beckerson has been accorded the status of a “Certified Specialist, Immigration & Nationality Law” by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. This is a rare distinction that only 38 immigration lawyers in San Francisco have achieved (including JSP's three principals, Phyllis Jewell, Wendy Stewart, and Claire Pratt). The legal specialization process is wholly voluntary. It is also arduous, requiring a written exam, professional references, and case experience that includes the full range of immigration matters, from deportation/removal proceedings to naturalization. Very hearty congratulations to Chris!

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

H-1B cap update – USCIS reports 190,098 petitions received

Today USCIS announced that it received 190,098 H-1B petitions in the filing period that began on April 2. On April 11 USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the cap. USCIS says that it conducted the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first; all advanced degree petitions not selected were then made part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Any petitions not randomly selected will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018