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Gunster’s Immigration Practice Group continues to monitor the immigration developments arising during COVID-19. Below is a summary of some of the latest developments.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Rescinds July 6 Policy Modifying Temporary Online Study Policy for F and M Nonimmigrant Students and Issues Answers to Clarifying Questions for the Fall 2020 Term

On July 14, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), announced in federal court the rescission of its July 6, 2020 Policy that would have modified the temporary procedural adaptations permitted by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (“SEVP”) related to the online study policy for F and M nonimmigrant students during the height of the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (“COVID-19”) crisis. As a result of ICE’s decision to rescind it July 6, 2020 Policy, U.S. schools and F and M nonimmigrant students may continue to benefit from ICE’s March 9, 2020 guidance which permits F and M nonimmigrant students to take more online courses than normally allowed for purposes of maintaining a full course of study to maintain their F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 24, 2020, ICE provided answers to several Clarifying Questions for the Fall 2020 term based on SEVP’s March 9, 2020 Guidance Broadcast. Among the answers provided to the several clarifying questions, ICE notes that students in new or initial status who are outside the U.S. and plan to take classes at a SEVP-certified educational institution fully online should not be issued a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” by Designated School Officials and as a result, will likely be unable to obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa to study in the U.S. ICE also provides that nonimmigrant students pursuing studies in the U.S. for the fall 2020 school term may remain in the U.S. even if their educational institution switches to a hybrid program or to a fully online instruction.

President Trump’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization

On July 14, 2020, President Trump issued Executive Order 13936, eliminating preferential treatment for foreign nationals born in Hong Kong as well as those who hold Hong Kong Special Administration Region (“SAR”) passports. As a result of the Executive Order, these individuals will be treated as nationals of the People’s Republic of China with respect to immigrant visa quotas and nonimmigrant visa validity.

U.S. Department of State Announces National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052

On July 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052. Proclamation 10052 extends Proclamation 10014, which suspends the entry to the United States of certain immigrant visa applicants, through December 31, 2020. Proclamation 10052 also suspends the entry to the United States of certain H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and J-1 applicants and any spouses or children of covered applicants applying for H-4, L-2, or J-2 visas, through December 31, 2020. Both Proclamations include an exception for individuals whose travel would be in the national interest. To view the non-exclusive list of the types of travel that may be considered to be in the national interest, please click here.

ICE Extends I-9 Compliance Flexibility and Ends Extension for Employers to Respond to Notices of Inspection

On July 18, 2020, ICE announced an extension of the flexibilities in rules related to Employment Eligibility Verification (“Form I-9”) compliance that was granted earlier this year. On March 20, 2020, Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) previously announced that, due to precautions implemented by employers and employees associated with COVID-19, DHS would exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with the Form I-9 under section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Thereafter, On May 19, and again on June 19, 2020, DHS extended this policy for an additional 30 days respectively.

Due to the continued precautions related to COVID-19, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has decided to once again extend this policy for an additional 30 days. The expiration date for these accommodations is now August 19, 2020. ICE also announced that, after July 19, 2020, no additional extensions are being granted to employers who were served notices of inspection by ICE during the month of March 2020.

Gunster’s Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor the ever-evolving impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Immigration and provide you with the latest information and guidance as they become available.

If you have any questions, please contact Gunster Immigration attorneys Sarah Tobocman, Mariana Ribeiro, Beatriz Osorio, and Maria Romero.

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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.


About Gunster

Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 12 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, The Florida Keys, Vero Beach, and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With nearly 200 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 500 largest law firms and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Diverse Law Firms by Law360. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at www.gunster.com.

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