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Challenges to rules on asylum requests, H-2B modernization proposals and USCIS goes electronic

Updated: Nov 21, 2018  | Tags: USA Immigration, USA Visa Requirements

Federal courts challenge President Trump’s attempts to limit asylum

The attempts of President Donald Trump to significantly reduce asylum applications are about to be challenged in two federal courts on the 26th November. These hearings will be decisive in determining the numbers of migrants currently in the so-called caravan will be allowed to enter the USA. 

In recent months, the administration has been challenging the rules on requesting asylum, both regarding who can apply and on the ways in which they must apply. Now, however, the court hearings will decide on how many people in the caravan will be able to make a request for legal asylum. 

Before November 9th, any migrant who arrived in the US, whether at a designated port of arrival or elsewhere, was allowed to apply for asylum. A UN treaty signed by the USA in 1951 states that refugees should not be penalised for illegal entry as their extreme circumstances may have required them to break the normal immigration laws. However, on November 9th Trump signed a presidential proclamation that ends the ability of migrants to seek asylum if they have entered the US illegally. He was using the same controversial rationale he used to force the travel ban on travellers from Muslim-majority countries, deeming them a threat to the interests of the US. The ACLU, leading both suits, sees these changes as a clear violation of American law and is optimistic of victory in both cases. 

Asylum is granted to those who fear persecution in their own countries and can be based on their religion, race, nationality or political leaning. Applications have soared in recent years, form just 5,000 in 2008 up to 97,000 this year, most of these being from Central Americans feeling disruption, poverty and violence in their countries of origin. This rise is the reason for the administration’s implementation of the changes that are about to be challenged in court. 

A hearing in Washington will challenge the change narrowing the grounds for qualifying for asylum (gang violence and domestic abuse would no longer be considered valid reasons) while another court in SanFranciso will assess a challenge to the President’s attempts to limit the process asylum seekers can use to claim asylum. 

H-2B employers required to modernise their recruitment process

Together with the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that looks set to modernise the requirements for recruitment for employers seeking H-2B nonimmigrant workers, with the aim of making it easier for American workers to find and fill these vacant positions. Under the H-2B programme, US employers or agencies can bring foreign nationals to the US to fill short-term, non-agricultural roles.

The suggested changes to the rules will require advertisements to be placed on the internet for a period of 14 days, instead of the print adverts currently required. This is seen as a more effective way of disseminating information about jobs to US workers. The adverts should be placed on websites used by US workers to give them more opportunity to learn about potential employment. A transition period is proposed during which both print and electronic adverts will be permitted, allowing a degree of flexibility for employers or agencies who may have already signed up to advertising contracts. Public consultation on the proposed rule changes ends on December 10th 2018. 

USCIS goes electronic with biometric appointment notices for domestic N-565 and N-600 applicants

On Nov. 1, 2018, USCIS began requesting that domestic applicants filing Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document, go to an Application Support Center (ASC) appointment to submit biometric information (including photos, signature, and index fingerprint). USCIS will also ask applicants filing Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, to begin submitting biometric information at ASCs early next year. 

From Nov 1st, 2018, USCIS has been asking that domestic applicants who are filing Form N-565 the Application for Replacement Naturalisation/Citizenship Document, attend an ASC (Application Support Centre) to submit their biometric information including their signature, photos and fingerprints) No fee is charged at this appointment. The process is being implemented as part of the Agency’s transition to a fully paperless environment.