US gives 60-day breathing room for work visa, immigration applicants – Times of India

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WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Friday provided a 60-day grace period to work visa and green card holders and applicants who were in the middle of having their petitions processed before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted it.
Applicants and petitioners who have been served notices to submit various documents between March 1 and July 1, 2020, now have 60 additional days to meet their obligation, the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) said in a notification.
“In response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, USCIS is extending the flexibilities it announced on March 30 to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain 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 centres; and Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion,” it said.
USCIS said the grace period will be applied to the documents if the issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision is between March 1 and July 1, 2020. “USCIS will consider a response to the above requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking action,” it added, noting that it was taking several measures to protect the workforce and community in the US and to minimize “immigration consequences for those seeking immigration benefits during this time.”
The USCIS notification will provide some breathing space and time to thousands of guest workers on visas such as H1B and green card applicants (and companies sponsoring them) who were navigating applications and extensions before the pandemic disrupted routine processes. Many of them would be rendered “out of status,” because, although USCIS continues to accept documents, it has ceased all in-person interviews and temporarily closed its offices to the public after the pandemic swept across the U.S. — the closure now extended to June 3 — and mail service is spotty.
The closure has disrupted tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of students, guest workers and prospective immigrants who navigate complex paperwork to stay within legal limits. Their tense paper trail journey has been further complicated by a resurgent anti-immigration lobby that has seized on the massive 30 million/18 per cent unemployment caused by the pandemic to press the Trump administration for a blanket ban on all immigration and guest worker programs.
But pro-immigration advocates point out that the U.S would be devastated without immigrant workers in areas ranging from healthcare to medical research to frontline responders to farmworkers, many of whom are in various stages of becoming US permanent residents or citizens.
USCIS processes some 140,000 employment-based green cards, 85,000 H1B visas, and tens of thousands more other work visas and dependent visas each year. Tens of thousands of students, a majority from India and China, also seek to convert their F1 student visas, which allow a year (or more in the case of STEM workers) of optional practical training or internship, into H1Bs visas, based on jobs offers. At any given time, more than a million guest workers and prospective immigrants are embroiled in paperwork to maintain or advance their work or immigration status.
The battle to maintain the existing system, which pro-immigration advocates argue is largely beneficial to the U.S, or to torpedo it (because anti-immigration activists say is harmful to the U.S) is being played out at the highest levels of the government before a President who has to take care of his nativist base while regulating the countries needs, particularly on the healthcare and agricultural front. Without foreign/immigrant doctors and nurses (who constitute 25 per cent of health care workforce, with many of them in the immigration process) and Mexican labour (which dominate the farms and food processing), the country would be facing even greater trouble.
So fierce is the battle that the Trump base has not hesitated to attack the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, accusing him of heading the so-called globalist KKM cabal (consisting of Kushner- White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin) cabal which they say is seeking to preserve the status quo on immigration issues.
Kushner, the conservative journal SpectatorUSA noted, “is one of the loudest voices pushing back on a full ban and is seeking to carve out exemptions for refugees, temporary workers under the H1B visa program, and farmworkers under the H-2A visa program, arguing that Trump’s son-in-law “remains aligned with the acquisitive, globe-trotting class whose schemes dominate the course of American political life and the lives of the little people who swab the floors of their high-rises.”
Leading the anti-immigration faction is Stephen Miller, a shadowy senior policy advisor to Trump, who is said to have authored some of the most drastic measures to curtail all immigration into the U.S. Together with Trump’s trade policy assistant Peter Navarro and Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger, they are believed to constitute the nationalist clique in the White House that believes US primacy should be retained by Americans.

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