Peri & Stewart partner Michael A. Malia, Esq., LL.M. was honored by the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law as a “Professional Lawyer of the Year,” an award presented to lawyers respected by their colleagues who, by virtue of their exemplary conduct, competence, diligence and demeanor, set a positive example for others.  This recognition follows the New Jersey Defense Association presenting Mr. Malia with the 2020 Attorney of the Year award.

Mr. Malia’s diverse litigation experience includes representing clients from individuals to Fortune 100 companies in: insurance, healthcare, financial and consumer fraud suits; anti-bullying and education law matters; personal injury cases; commercial litigation; insurance coverage disputes; and product liability suits.

Trump Administration to Unveil New Rule Targeting H-1B Category of Visas

On October 6, 2020, the Trump administration and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that new immigration regulations would be published in the coming days specifically targeting H-1B visas in an effort to protect American jobs amid mass unemployment.  The new rule, which will likely take effect in December, has largely been designed to deny H-1B visas to third-party contractors that regularly provide workers to U.S. companies.  According to the acting director of DHS, such contractors are known to exploit existing regulations which allow them to pay H-1B visa holders far less than they would U.S. workers.

The new rule is expected to redefine the term “specialty occupation” and increase enforcement tools available for the policing of companies that choose not to abide by the H-1B rules or cooperate with site visits.  The rule will also limit the validity of H-1B visas to one (1) year for those workers placed at third-party worksites and increase the amount that H-1B workers are required to be paid.  The announcement of this rule was met with criticism from trade organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who have regularly argued that the H-1B program is a necessity given the stark lack of skilled U.S. workers.  Given this announcement’s proximity to the upcoming presidential election, its critics have also posited that it may be politically motivated.

Federal District Court Issues Stay of Final Rule Set to Adjust Immigration and Naturalization Fees in the Coming Days

On July 31, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final rule to adjust the fees associated with certain immigration and naturalization benefits.  The fees were being adjusted to ensure that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would be able to recoup the costs of the services it provides.  USCIS is primarily funded by fees collected as part of the process of petitioning for certain immigration and naturalization benefits.   According to DHS, without an adjustment of fees, USCIS would be underfunded by approximately $1 billion per year.  This final rule was set to become effective as of October 2, 2020.

However, on September 29, 2020, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of California granted a motion for a preliminary injunction and stay of effective date of the final rule.  The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and other nonprofit organizations that provide a variety of services to low income immigration benefit applicants, filed the motion to enjoin the implementation of the final rule and stay its effective date.  Following a hearing that took place on September 25, Judge White determined that the plaintiffs had met their burden.  Neither the plaintiffs nor defendants in that case had addressed what should be the geographic scope of the injunctive relief sought.  Judge White concluded that the plaintiffs did not operate in a way which lends itself easily to specific geographic boundaries.  As a result, the court concluded that the relief should be universal, warranting uniform and nationwide relief.

USCIS Has Extended Flexibility for Responding to Particular Agency Requests

On September 11, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has further extended the flexibilities originally announced March 30, 2020.  To assist applicants, petitioners, and requestors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has extended the deadline for the following documents, issued between March 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021, by an additional sixty (60) calendar days beyond the response date stated on the request or notice:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers; and,
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8 C.F.R. 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

Additionally, USCIS has stated that they will consider Form N-336, Request for a hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings, and Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, up to sixty (60) calendar days from the date of the decision before any action is taken.

Sustained Pressure from Lawmakers Succeeds in Halting USCIS’s Plans to Furlough 70% of its Workforce.

On Tuesday, August 25, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had halted its plans to furlough approximately thirteen thousand four hundred (13,400) of its employees, amounting to seventy percent (70%) of its workforce.  The decision to halt these furloughs came on the heels of pressure from lawmakers who argued that the layoffs were not only financially unnecessary, but would also have a devastating human toll.  USCIS is the federal agency responsible for processing petitions for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, as well as other immigration benefits.  A furlough of the size expected would have severely decreased USCIS’s ability to process those petitions.

The House of Representatives on Saturday, August 22, 2020, unanimously passed a measure with the aim of increasing USCIS’s revenue.  This measure then prompted President Donald J. Trump’s administration to cancel its plans to furlough the significant number of USCIS employees.

In a press release, USCIS has stated that it plans to implement aggressive cost saving initiatives and expects to maintain its operations through the end of the fiscal year.  The press release goes on to state that these planned cost saving initiatives will result in some delay in the processing of petitions, but have not provided an estimate of the number of affected petitions or the length of the delay.  USCIS continued to state that the avoidance of the furlough has come at an operational cost that will increase backlogs and will likely not put a stop to future furloughs.  According to the Deputy Director of Policy at USCIS, Joseph Edlow, a return to normalcy, as far as operating procedures are concerned, would require the intervention of Congress.