Business Immigration Update #236
Lawmakers Reach Tentative Agreement on Federal Spending to Avert Government Shutdown
On December 12, 2019, top bipartisan congressional negotiators reached a tentative deal to approve $1.3 trillion to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2020. Current government funding will run out on December 20, 2019, leaving Congress very little time to pass the spending bills in order to avoid a government shutdown. The House and the Senate are expected to vote on the legislation next week. If passed, the legislation will need to be signed by President Trump. In the event that Congress fails to meet the legislative deadline that affects the funding of government operations and agencies, the funding gap will result in federal government shutdown. If this occurs, the Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) will be closed, which will affect multiple immigration programs, including the H-1B, and PERM-based green card processes. Prior to filing an H-1B with the USCIS, the petitioning employer must file a Labor Condition Application (ETA) through the DOL’s online portal. In the event of a shutdown, it will not be possible to submit these applications, and the DOL will not adjudicate pending applications. Similarly, it will not be possible to file a PERM labor certification application, which is the first step in the green card process for most foreign national’s who are being sponsored by their employers. Based on experience in previous years, a government shut government could last several weeks, and may cause delays in onboarding employees requiring immigration sponsorship. We will be working with clients over the next week to minimize the potential impact of a shutdown. Where possible, we will file LCA and PERM applications before the December 20th government funding deadline. We will continue to monitor this issue and will provide an update when information becomes available. U.S. - Mexico - Canada Agreement (USMCA) Should Not Impact TN Visas On December 10, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) announced that House Democrats have reached an agreement with the Trump Administration to move forward with the modified version of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The USMCA is a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada and Mexico, which created special economic and trade benefits between the countries, such as the elimination of tariffs and other trade barriers. NAFTA also established the TN nonimmigrant classification which permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to work temporarily in the United States in certain enumerated professional occupations. If the USMCA is approved, it will replace the NAFTA deal and will include key modifications related to stronger enforcement of labor laws, automobile production, manufacturing, digital trade, and environmental protections. From a business immigration perspective, USMCA should not alter or change access to TN visas established through NAFTA as the USMCA preserves the NAFTA provisions relating to TN visa classification. The House is expected to vote on USMCA as early as next week while the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) stated that the USMCA will likely be brought to the Senate for a vote after the impeachment trial is over. Canada and Mexico must also approve the USMCA. DHS Expands Comment Period for Proposed Rule on Fee Schedule and Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements. On December 9, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security extended the Notice and Comment period for its proposed rule from December 16, 2019 to December 30, 2019. As stated in our previous Business Immigration Update, the proposed rule will adjust the fee schedule by a weighted average increase of 21% to cover the agency’s increased costs to adjudicate immigration benefit requests, detect and deter immigration fraud, and thoroughly vet applicants, petitioners, and beneficiaries. In addition, the USCIS plans to change certain requirements for applications, including changes to premium processing and establishing different fees and different I-129 petition forms for nonimmigrant workers under H, L, TN, E and O.