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U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Adjust Regulations Due to COVID-19 Developments

March 26, 2020

U.S. Department of Labor changes regulations relating to H-1B, H-1B1 and E3 workers transferred to locations outside the intended metropolitan statistical area ("MSA").

  • In an unprecedented move, The U.S. Department of Labor announced flexibility related to posting notices that must be placed on business premises for certain non-immigrant petition filings. Labor condition applications, a prerequisite to the filing of H-1B, H-1B1, and E3 visa petitions, necessitate that posting notices be placed on business premises for 10 consecutive days. In light of disruptions in the workplace due to COVID-19, The Department of Labor has announced that if employees are working remotely within the same MSA they will need a new LCA if the arrangements last for more than 60 days. If the employee works (remotely for instance, at home), a posting must be placed on premises within 30 days of the move.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also made two important announcements concerning the processing of visa petitions at its Remote Adjudications Centers during COVID-19.

  • On March 20, 2020, USCIS announced that it will accept copies of documents with original signatures during the national emergency for all benefits forms and documents.
    • USCIS standard procedure is to require original, 'wet' signatures. Original handwritten signatures are required for all non-immigrant and immigrant petition forms, including, but not limited to, the H-1B, L-1, O-1, E, and R1 status requests. USCIS has directed that by permitting scans, photocopies, faxes, and similar reproductions, the required hard exchange of documents during the current COVID-19 epidemic will be reduced. USCIS further indicated that original "wet" signatures should be retained and stated it has reserved the right to request such original documents at any time.
  • USCIS suspends premium processing for all I-129 and I140 petitions due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
    • Premium processing allows U.S. petitioners to fast track petitions for non-immigrant and certain immigrant visa petitions in the business sector, with turnaround and adjudication within 15 calendar days. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suspension of premium processing will affect all Forms I-129 and I-140. This suspension will also affect all requests for H-1B petitions selected through the random "lottery" on March 31, 2020. USCIS announced that while it will no longer accept new premium processing requests, it will continue to honor those petitions submitted with premium processing prior to March 20, 2020.
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