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Congress Considers Removing Country Caps for Employment-Based Immigrant Visas and Proposes Changes to H-1B Visa Program

On July 10, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, by a vote of 365 to 65. The bill is intended to reduce lengthy immigrant visa (green card) wait times by eliminating per-country caps for employment-based green cards. In addition, senators have reportedly reached an agreement on a version of a companion bill (S. 386) in the U.S. Senate that presently includes an amendment imposing tighter restrictions on recruitment and creating new reporting requirements for H-1B visa sponsors. If enacted, the legislation would take effect on September 30, 2019, and apply to fiscal year 2020.

Blocked from Adding Citizenship Question to Census, Administration Moves to Gather Data

President Donald Trump announced that the Administration will not be proceeding with any further census litigation. The 2020 Decennial Census, which is already being printed, will be sent out without a citizenship question. Nevertheless, President Trump does want to obtain statistics on the number of residents in the country who are and are not U.S. citizens.

Update: DACA Litigation

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients have been in limbo and at the center of various political debates ever since President Donald Trump attempted to end the program in 2017. Put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012, DACA protects from deportation individuals who were brought to the United States by their parents as undocumented children. Individuals who have received DACA protection are granted work authorization, but currently have no pathway to lawful permanent residence in the United States. The 800,000 DACA recipients are known as “Dreamers,” and are generally considered to be model residents of the United States.

Supreme Court to Hear DACA Appeal

The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the appeals over the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during its next term. In its order, the Court consolidated three pending DACA appeals and granted one hour for oral argument. The Court is expected to decide, once and for all, whether the Trump administration can end the DACA program. A decision is not likely until spring or early summer of 2020.

Ken Cuccinelli Named Acting Director of USCIS

On June 10, 2019, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli became the new acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), replacing L. Francis Cissna, who stepped down at the beginning of June 2019. Cuccinelli previously served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2010 through 2014.

USCIS Caseload Redistribution May Mean Shorter Processing Times but More Travel for Green Card and Naturalization Applicants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be redistributing certain naturalization and green card cases to field offices with lighter caseloads for processing. In its announcement, the agency said that since the end of 2015, it has received more green card and naturalization applications than expected. The increased volume has affected some field offices more than others. The new plan aims to reduce the backlog at the busier locations by reassigning cases to offices with lighter caseloads.

Administration Ups Data Collection and General Surveillance

The Trump Administration has been stepping up the collection of data in general and more specifically from visa applicants and travelers.

New State Department Social Media Requirement Expected to Cause Delays

Foreign nationals are now required to provide a five-year history of social media usernames, telephone numbers, and email addresses when applying for U.S. nonimmigrant or immigrant visas.

Dreamer Bill Passed by House, Not Expected to Advance in Senate

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would cancel and prohibit removal proceedings and provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 2.5 million immigrants.

DHS Spring Regulatory Agenda Projects Changes to H-1B Visas, the Rescission of H-4 Work Authorization, Increased Fees, and More

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released its spring 2019 regulatory agenda, highlighting the agency’s rulemaking priorities through 2019. While many of the agenda items appear to be carryovers from agendas past, they serve as continuing reminders of the Trump administration’s immigration-related goals. The following list includes regulations, either anticipated or proposed, that are likely to affect employment-based immigration if implemented.