DHS publishes proposed changes to cap-subject H-1B visa petition processing

On December 3, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would make changes to the way cap-subject H-1B petitions are processed. There are two proposed changes: first, petitioners seeking to file petitions will have to register electronically with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period; and second, the order in which cap-subject petitions are selected in years when demand exceeds supply has been reversed. These changes are made pursuant to President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, issued in 2017.

JSP congratulates its most recent Certified Specialist!

Jewell Stewart & Pratt (JSP) is pleased to announce that attorney Jennifer Carr 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 39 immigration lawyers in San Francisco have achieved. JSP now counts five Certified Specialists in its attorney ranks, with Jennifer joining Phyllis Jewell, Wendy Stewart, Claire Pratt, and Christopher Beckerson.    

The legal specialization application process is wholly voluntary and represents an extraordinary achievement in the practice of immigration law in California. The process is also arduous, requiring a written exam, professional references, and case experience that includes the full range of immigration matters, including deportation/removal proceedings, employment- and family-based applications, to naturalization. Very hearty congratulations to Jennifer for reaching this milestone!

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

Update on work authorization for certain H-4 dependents

As mentioned in our prior post, the Trump administration was due to propose new regulations by the end of February 2018, eliminating the ability of certain H-4 dependents to work.  Although it has not yet issued proposed regulations, there is now an updated timeline for that to occur.  On September 21, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) submitted a status report in the ongoing litigation in Save Jobs USA vs. U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the regulation allowing H-4 employment.  The status report for the case, which is being held in abeyance pending the issuance of a new rule, indicated that DHS’s proposed rule will be sent to the Office of Management & Budget (“OMB”) for notice and comment within three months. 

Instructions for the 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery Program now available

The U.S. Department of State’s instructions for the 2020 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2020) are now available. Entries for the DV-2020 program must be submitted electronically between October 3 and November 6, 2018.

There are no changes in eligibility this year. Eligibility requirements and entry instructions are on the U.S. Department of State’s DV lottery web site.

The congressionally-mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered annually by the Department of State under Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This law provides for a class of immigrants known as diversity immigrants, with visas made available to persons from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For fiscal year 2020, 50,000 diversity visas will be available.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

USCIS announces further suspensions of Premium Processing Service  for H-1B petitions

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