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Immigration Law Changes and Outlook for 2020 and 2021

What changes will be made to Immigration Law in 2020 and 2021?

There are new immigration laws in effect in 2020 that are making it more difficult for immigrants to live and work in the United States.  Even more immigration law changes are looming on the horizon.    2020 will be a year of restriction on immigration.  You should consulate with a Clearwater immigration lawyer to determine how these new laws will affect you and your family.


New Public Charge Rule


As of February 24, 2020, intending immigrants will have an even bigger hurdle to overcome when proving that they are not likely to become a “public charge”.  A public charge is defined as someone who will probably become dependent upon the government for financial assistance. The public charge ground of inadmissibility has been around for over one hundred years.  What is new is the kinds of evidence that USCIS and U.S. Consulates will look at to determine whether the immigrant is likely to become a public charge at any point in the future.


The factors that are considered when determining if someone is likely to become a public charge include an applicant’s age, health, family, education, as well as their financial status. Officers will evaluate these factors on a case by case basis.  Low-income immigrant seniors will have a harder time overcoming the public charge burden. U.S. citizens hoping to bring their parents to the United States to live with them in a multi-generational family setting may need to show financial assets beyond what has been needed in the past.


It is important to note that, just because an intending immigrant has used a public benefit, it does not automatically make that person a public charge.  You should speak with an immigration attorney about any past benefits that you have received or before applying for new benefits.


Immigration Fee Increase


USCIS intends to increase its application fees in 2020.  While the new fee schedule has not yet been approved, it is anticipated that the cost of filing for naturalization will almost double.  Currently, people filing to obtain their green card are able to apply for work authorization at the same time and the fee for the work authorization application is included with the green card.  USCIS has proposed that this inclusion be revoked, adding almost $500.00 in costs to the process.  Another group that will be hard hit will be employers of temporary foreign workers.  Filing fees for non-immigrant visas are expected to rise by at least 20%.   If you have been contemplating filing for an immigration benefit but have been putting it off, now is the time to file before the fee hikes go into effect.  Consult with an immigration lawyer in Clearwater to make sure that your paperwork is ready to file today.


Changes to Non-Immigrant Employment Based Visas


In 2020, the H-1B specialty worker process changed.  Applicants are now required to pre-register for the H-1B visa lottery.  Applicants will be able to enter the lottery without first having to prepare a full petition packet.  This new procedure became available on March 1st.  As of yet, we do not know if this will simplify the H-1B application process, make it more difficult for smaller employers to obtain one of the 85,000 H-1B visas available each year, or both.


It is expected that a new rule will be proposed regarding H-1B specialty occupations this year.  Anticipated changes in the proposed rule include redefining specialty occupation, employment and employer-employee relationship as they relate to this employment based non-immigrant visa.   These new definitions can make it harder for businesses to hire foreign workers, especially in the IT field.


L-1 visa petitioners may also suffer from a change in definitions related to this visa category.  Employers utilize L-1 visas to transfer managers, executives, and specialty workers working at an office abroad to the U.S. to work in an existing office or to set up a new office.  It is possible that wage requirements will be established for this visa category for the first time.


International students in the U.S. often utilize Optional Practical Training to gain experience in their respective fields.  The OPT and STEM OPT programs enable U.S. employers to hire foreign graduates of U.S. colleges and universities for one to two years, depending upon the field.  The Department of Homeland Security has stated that the OPT and STEM OPT programs will be revised.


Immigration Law Changes for DACA Ruling in 2020


The fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, could be determined this summer.  DACA allows young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work here.  The program, which was established by President Obama and ended by President Trump, has been in limbo while the country waits for a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.  If the Court rules that President Trump ended the program legally, then the Dreamers utilizing the program will lose the ability to work and the protection from deportation.


Revised Citizenship Test


Lawful Permanent Residents hoping to naturalize must prove that they are able to read, write and speak basic English during the interview process.  They must also pass an oral exam on U.S government and history.  USCIS has been reviewing the testing process to update the civics questions and the English proficiency section.  Beginning as early as December 2020, USCIS will begin utilizing a new test nationwide. Applicants for Naturalization will have to pass this new test to become U.S. citizens.


H-4 Work Permits


Spouses of H-1B workers in the United States in H-4 status are eligible for employment authorization.  By the end of the summer, this may no longer be the case. The Department of Homeland Security is working to rescind this program. H-4 visa holders’ ability to legally work in the U.S. has been under attack for several years now.  2020 may be the year that it is terminated.


Immigration Attorneys Can Help You Understand Immigration Law Changes

With all of the new immigration laws and impending changes to our immigration laws, it is more important than ever that you consult with an immigration attorney to determine how your life will be affected.  A knowledgeable immigration lawyer in Clearwater can help you to know and understand your rights under the evolving U.S. immigration system.

At the law firm of Julie Beth Jouben, P.A., we can assist you in determining what are the best steps to take for you and your family to secure your immigration status.  Call Julie Beth Jouben, P.A. at 727-449-9929 and get the answers to all of your immigration law questions.  Whether you have an issue obtaining your green card, bringing a family member to live in the United States, investing in a U.S. business from abroad, applying for a K-1 visa, or naturalizing to become a U.S. citizen, we can give you the information that you need to make informed decisions.

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