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Kevin O'Flaherty

Part of the immigration process is making sure that you are up to date with all the changes and requirements for each type of petition. Rule changes and case law updates can open, or close, ways of immigrating into the country or extending your stay in the country. Many rule changes come with a lot of media attention that can make the process confusing. 

In this article, we cover recent changes to immigration law in the U.S. including: 

  • What has happened with DACA? Are new DACA applications being accepted?
  • What do I need to know about the Public Charge Rule?
  • Have there been any changes to the immigration application forms?
  • Will there be any changes to immigration petition fees?
  • If I want to hire foreign farm workers, have there been any changes to the H2A visa program?
  • What can we expect from a Biden Presidency?

What has happened with DACA? Are new DACA applications being accepted?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was created by the Obama administration in 2012. DACA is a program allowing people who entered the United States while they were minors to apply for a temporary reprieve from deportation. This reprieve came with access to employment authorization. A person could qualify for DACA if they graduated High School or have a GED, have not committed a felony, significant misdemeanor, or more than 3 misdemeanors, and had been physically present in the United States before June 15, 2012, and, at the time of making their request, did not possess an immigration status and were present in the country.

Under the Trump administration, there were attempts made to stop the DACA program. During this time, only DACA renewals were being processed. This meant that if you had not applied for DACA, you could not receive a new DACA grant. This changed due to a December 7, 2020 Court order. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs to accept new DACA applications and renewal DACA applications. Individuals that have a work authorization/DACA that is expiring should re-apply for the program. If you are seeking assistance on filing a new DACA application or if you need further information on the DACA program and whether you can apply, please give us a call to schedule an intake.

What do I need to know about the Public Charge Rule?

The public charge is a  basis for disqualifying people seeking to enter the United States. There were changes introduced into how the government would calculate benefits for this ground back in 2018. In 2020, the rule went into effect after the Supreme Court lifted the injunctions from several District Court decisions. This means that the rule is currently active, and it could impact someone’s chances of immigrating to the United States. If the person seeking to immigrate or visit the United States has received either Medicaid, SNAP, Food Stamps, Medicare for long term hospitalization or care, or Public Housing and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, you could be barred entry into the United states based on the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The Public Charge rule will not impact any citizenship applications or people who already have their residency (or green card). Please bear in mind that the Public Charge rule only applies to visa applicants or intending immigrants. If USCIS, or the Department of State for those applying for visas outside of the US, decides that you are likely to become a Public Charge, your visa application will be denied. There are ways to overcome this. If you have questions, please give us a call to schedule an intake to ensure your pathway into the country is as smooth as possible.

Have there been any changes to the immigration application forms?

Coupled with the Public Charge ground of inadmissibility, Permanent Resident applicants (people applying for their green cards) need to file form I-944 with their adjustment of status application for the time being. This means that a person seeking a green card needs to provide more information to USCIS to ensure that they are not deemed inadmissible based on the Public Charge rule. This form requires an applicant to provide information about their use of benefits, their household income, health information, the assets and liabilities of the household, and other information.

Will there be any changes to immigration petition fees?

On July 2020, USCIS issued a rule that would have increased the cost of most immigration petitions. This final rule was stopped from going into effect in October 2020. The Executive branch appealed this decision. The appeal was voluntarily dismissed on December 28, 2020. This means that for the foreseeable future, the cost of each immigration petition will remain the same. To figure out the filing fee for each petition/application, individuals will need to find the appropriate form and calculate the fee in the instruction section. If you have questions about the immigration process, we can help. Please call us to schedule an intake so that one of our attorneys can review your case and pathways to remain or visit the country.

If I want to hire foreign farm workers, have there been any changes to the H2A visa program?

The Department of Labor issued a rule freezing AWER (Adverse Effect Wage Rates) wages at the December 2020 level until 2023. The wages will be adjusted using an updated methodology in 2023. This could be a huge cost saving measure for farmers, especially small farmers. Please note that this regulation could be stopped from going into effect by a farmworker advocacy group. If you wish to bring H2A workers into the country to assist with your farming needs, or if you wish for us to review your business practices when it comes to your H2A employees to reduce the risk of litigation, please give us a call to discuss the process.

If I wish to hire foreign professional workers, are there any updates to the H1B program?

President Trump signed a moratorium on granting H1B visas for tech workers and H2B visas for temporary non-agricultural work in June of 2020 when the pandemic economic downturn was in full swing. This executive order was stopped from going into effect in December of 2020. The reasons for the moratorium were not pandemic specific—President Trump had complained about the number of foreign workers in the country prior to the pandemic. Ideas to limit the number of H1B workers were also discussed by the administration before the pandemic. For those reasons, the moratorium on providing visas for foreign nationals was stopped.

What’s more, there was a proposed wage increase for H1B workers that would have made them difficult to hire. In some instances, these wage increases would bring the employee wage rate to over $200,000. USCIS did not provide its reasoning for changing the wage for foreign born workers. Because USCIS did not publish its policy rationale into the rule making, it was also placed on hold. For the time being, H1B salaries will still follow the previous provisions without any 2020 changes.

What can we expect from a Biden Presidency?

We should expect some changes to immigration during Biden’s presidency. These changes could come in the form of easier access to visas or in overhauls to the Immigration and Nationality Act. It could take longer than expected, particularly because Biden has walked back several Day 1 campaign promises. There could be a repeal of several Trump administration policies such as the Public Charge rule. Hopefully, we will see the return of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that will provide a pathway to status for undocumented farmworkers and their families. We also expect an amnesty bill for DACA recipients. We will keep you apprised of any policy changes that happen in the immigration sphere.


Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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