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Immigration Law Update: Good News on Fees, Visas, and Premium Processing - October 2, 2020

October is the start of the federal government fiscal year and always brings some immigration news. Last week we updated you on the jump forward in the immigrant visa waiting lines. Since then, more has been announced.

Fee Increase Paused

Many immigration form filing fees were set to change on October 2 – mostly increasing.  A federal court stopped the change temporarily based on a lawsuit claiming that the rule was “arbitrary and capricious” because the data and justification supporting the rule was not well explained as required by law.  Additionally, the judge found it is likely that the succession of leaders of the Department of Homeland Security (which runs the immigration program) did not follow federal law.  If the latter point is proven after a full hearing, more rules made recently by the immigration agencies could be held invalid eventually. More to come.

Stopping the fee increase also stopped the use of new forms and the change in premium processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.  This means that premium processing will continue at 15 calendar days, the current forms will be used, and the fees will stay the same – for now.

Presidential Proclamation Barring Entry of H, L, and Some J Visas Stopped

As explained in our earlier posts, on June 22, 2020, the President issued a proclamation banning entry of people with H, L, and some J visas through December 31, 2020.  The Department of State provided exemptions and exceptions to this rule.

In a lawsuit brought by the National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations, a federal judge stopped this rule, but only for members of those organizations.  The good news is your organization may join one of the organizations that sued and be included.

This means that the government can no longer bar entry or refuse to issue visas for people who are working for the covered organizations. The practical problem is that U.S. consulates are still either closed or working with limited staff, so getting a visa appointment can be challenging.  Many require proof of an emergency to obtain an appointment.

Expansion of Premium Processing

The legislation that was signed into law to keep the federal government open until the budget is passed included an expansion of the premium processing program to cover many other processes, including change of status and employment authorization documents.  This provision must be implemented by the Immigration Service and is not currently in effect.

When it goes into effect, the premium processing fee will increase to $2,500 for many processes, but not all. Some will remain close to the current cost, $1,440.

Although an added cost, if implemented as directed, it will give control over timing to many people who have been at the mercy of the government for their work authorization, school attendance, and other important life events.  

Stay Tuned

Because more lawsuits are pending, court decisions can be appealed, and the Immigration Service continues to propose new regulations, more news is undoubtedly to come.  Stay tuned!

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