Deadlines for H-1B work visas for next year coming soon

All aboard! The H-1B Lottery Train coming soon

Speculations have begun for the next H-1B lottery season.  For positions that commence on October 1, 2018, applications are due in early April 2018.  This is part of the fiscal year 2019 cap season.  You may file an H-1B petition no more than six months before the employment start date requested for the beneficiary.

Every year, during the month of April, the years’ pool of applicants enter into a lottery for these work visas.

The basics of H1-B specialty occupation work visas

The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:

  • Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the position
  • The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree
  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position
  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

For you to qualify to accept a job offer in a specialty occupation you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have completed a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college or university
  • Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation
  • Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment
  • Have education, training, or progressively responsible experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.**

Startup H-1Bs difficult but not impossible

Generally, two years of business tax returns should be on hand to demonstrate to USCIS that the employer has the financial ability to pay the full-time H-1B employee.  However, startup companies can also demonstrate ability to pay by using customer contracts and a solid business plan and financial projections.  Investment contracts and bank documents showing availability of sufficient funds are critical to start up H-1B cases.  H-1B employees must not also be the owners of the petitioning company.

 

What forms need to be completed

The prospective employer must file an approved Form ETA-9035, Labor Condition Application (LCA), with the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.  It is recommended that the employer and employee start the process early to make sure the employers federal tax ID is registered with the Department of Labor to minimize delays in processing the LCAs.  Since the USCIS uses Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) Program to verify employer credentials it is recommended that prospective petitioners become familiar with this.  Currently, Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) is the independent information provider for the VIBE program.  It is strongly recommended that employers register with D&B.

Do all employers have to participate in the lottery?

Certain employers do not have to participate in the lottery.  H-1B petitions filed by nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations, as defined in 8 CFR 214.2(h)(19)(iii)(C), are exempt from the H-1B cap.  A nonprofit research organization is an organization that is primarily engaged in basic research and/or applied research.

What to expect in 2018?

This coming year we are expecting 65,000 regular quota visas to be handed out and 20,000 master’s quota visas to be awarded.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced in early October 2017 that premium processing of all H-1B petitions had resumed.  This will allow employers to get an approval in as little as two weeks.

Congress and Senate have not modified the H-1B program despite much press about possible legislative and regulatory changes to the popular visa program. There is a push by companies and employers to expand the current program to include as many as 180,000 H-1B recipients. [1] Until that happens, however, we must be aware of deadlines and prepare for a competitive season in advance.

Aspiring employees and their employers should start preparing their applications at the start of the new year 2018.  If you have been unsuccessful in years past, now may be the time to apply.

The USCIS begins accepting applications 6 months before the start of the next fiscal year. That means if you are applying for the 2019 year, you’ll want to submit your application package early by the first week of April. In years past, the quota was met within one week. Once USCIS reaches a sufficient number H-1B petitions, it will stop accepting new applications.

The next enrollment period begins April 2nd and lasts five days. After April 6th, the lottery selection takes place if the cap is reached.  Typically, this occurs the second week of April.

USCIS received 199,000 H1-B applications this year [2] so you can expect the cap will be reached for the 2019 quota as well.  Once the cap is reached, the lottery system is initiated.  While some employers and employees may feel hesitant to apply for the H1-B visas because of recent negative press reports, we still feel there will continue to be strong demand.  Some employers are exploring other options such as the L and the E visa where available.

Once an H-1B holder is admitted, several opportunities become available for H-1B lottery winners.  He or she may apply to transfer to another H-1B job, extend the amount of time in country, change the terms of employment, or work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

Premium processing has resumed this season.  In 2017, premium processing was suspended temporarily for certain classifications of H-1B visa applicants such as new, transfer, extension, and amended petitions. The expedited 15-day processing is available for a fee of $1,225.  The 15 calendar day period will begin when USCIS receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.

For regular processing, it could take months to receive a decision.  Many applicants from April 2017  still do not have decisions as of October 2017.

It’s helpful to hire an immigration law firm to guide you through the process. USCIS may request additional information that can be complex and challenging if you are not prepared for it. You don’t want to waste your time preparing an application that will be rejected for something that was foreseeable. It’s important to begin your application early in case any issues arise that could delay or derail the process. Your H-1B visa may require correspondence from Department of Labor, Department of State, or Department of Homeland Security so you need to make sure to allow for enough time to process requests from these bureaus.

Updates to the H-1B for the 2018/2019 year

Nothing has been published regarding any changes to the H-1B visa program yet. This current administration and the political climate in Washington suggests changes could be coming soon but we have yet to see anything concrete.  We will be sure to keep you up to date and watch the political climate closely.

The biggest employers of H-1B workers are Silicon Valley and professional services companies. That’s why you’ll see a lot of news about tech visas and the change they want to implement in Washington, DC.  Since taking office, the Trump administration has implemented tighter controls on the H-1B program. [3]  Many employers face added burdens in proving they are not misusing the H-1B program. [4]

Did you know? Exemptions and fees

Another interesting fact about the H-1B program are the exemptions.  Did you know universities, non-profit research institutions affiliated with a university, and government research institutions are exempted from the cap?  There are databases available of H-1B visa employers for those seeking a sponsor. [5] For a non-profit to qualify as a cap-exempt entity, it must share ownership through a board and be registered as a not for profit institution.  This is a great resource for potential candidates seeking sponsorship. Several rules exist to prevent exploitation of exemptions so check with an immigration attorney first. You are not encouraged to file two H-1B petitions simultaneously. This is considered fraud, and duplicate petitions will be thrown out.

Students on F-1 visas that are graduating the next year are encouraged to use this tool to search H-1B employers in order to strategically plan their work-stay in the United States. Different rules apply for applicants outside the country. If you are applying for an exemption and you are outside the country, you need to a.) have been working in the U.S. sometime within the last six years and b.) not have stayed the full duration of your visa. If you have gaps in employment, additional documentation is required and you are encouraged to use premium processing if it is available. For now, premium processing is not yet available for the 2018 season.

A recent study [6] found that employers typically pay between $1,710 and $6,460 per H-1B visa. Pew Global Research has published some additional facts about the H-1B visa. Over half of all applicants were in STEM fields. Over half of all applicants originated from India or China. Employers with the highest number of H-1B petitions were located in New Jersey, California, Texas, and New York.

 

[1] https://www.hoover.org/research/additional-h-1b-workers-would-add-billions-gdp-and-federal-tax-revenue

[2] https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-completes-h-1b-cap-random-selection-process-fy-2018

[3] http://www.livemint.com/Industry/4kTpwSMqU4dPUBKIWr4TAN/Donald-Trump-orders-review-of-H1B-visa-in-deterrent-to-Ind.html

[4] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-03/new-h-1b-guidelines-crack-down-on-computer-programmer-jobs

[5] http://www.myvisajobs.com/Search_Visa_Sponsor.aspx

[6] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/key-facts-about-the-u-s-h-1b-visa-program/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Create Competitive Immigration Policies

A recent update from the American Immigration Council (AIC) highlights the need for revised visa policies concerning entrepreneurs.  AIC’s latest review sounds the alarm; global competition for talent is growing.

While there is no permanent visa specifically for entrepreneurs, there are entrepreneur-friendly visa options for foreign nationals immigrating to the United States.  In fact, it is better to think of it as investor-friendly visa options.

Having good visa policies can attract entrepreneurial talent instead of repel them.  If procedures are too complicated or the number of visas issued too limited, the U.S. could really lose out on attracting high value immigrants.  These entrepreneurial immigrants could choose to expand in other competitive places like Singapore, Canada, or China.

There is no magic formula for predicting which immigrants will become entrepreneurs upon arrival, but many of the immigrants who move to the U.S. later open up businesses and contribute significant gains for the economy.  They may enter on a student visa but later launch a tech startup.  In which case, we need clear paths to citizenship that help us retain talent once they are here.

The current options for entrepreneurs wanting to expand their businesses to the U.S. are the E-visas as in E-1, E-2, EB-5, and EB-2 but these visas are not permanent solutions.  Immigrants entering on an E visa cannot become lawful permanent residents or citizens.  We need to do better if we are going to be competitive globally.  The L-1 visa is an option for existing foreign businesses to launch operations in the U.S. by transferring an executive or manager to the U.S.  The L-1 visa can eventually lead to the EB-1 multinational manager green card.

There is an exceptional visa option, the EB-5 Investor visa which can lead to residency, however, only 10,000 of these visas are available each year. To qualify for residency, EB-2 and EB-5 visa holders must meet criteria and prove that their business operation is in the national best interest. It’s unclear how USCIS decides who meets the criteria for this thus hiring a lawyer or firm with experience to represent you is good idea. Immigration attorneys are best able to interpret the requirements to meet the high bar of expectations placed on investor visa recipients. The visa application process is lengthy and requires patience and attention to detail. Overall, the U.S. could do more to streamline the visa process in order to attract top talent and maintain and competitive workforce.

Trump administration red tape tangles up visas for skilled foreigners, data shows

According to a report by Reuters, the Trump administration has been making it significantly more onerous for skilled foreigners to work in the United States.  The report explains that the new administration has been challenging visa applications on a notably more frequent basis than at almost every point during the Obama Presidency.  A primary reason for the increased inspections of the H-1B visas is President Donald Trump, who has called for reform to the visa program.  Specifically, the President has asked that the visa program is altered so that it favors the highest paid workers, but has not followed through on any such reforms.

Recent data provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reveals that between January and August of 2017, the agency issued 85,000 requests for evidence for H-1B visa petitions. This comes as a 45 percent increase compared to the same period last year.  The data also highlighted that in the same period, H-1B visa petitions increased less than 3 percent.  Finally, this new information also found that the rate of requests for evidence (RFEs) issued in 2017 was at a significantly higher rate compared to during any point in the Obama era, except for the year of 2009.

This new data trend is likely to be perceived positively by Trump supporters who back the President’s uncompromising stance towards immigration.  Many of his followers claim that the presence of skilled foreign workers undermines the ability of the American worker by replacing them with underpaid employees from other countries.  In contrast, major tech companies, universities, and hospitals say otherwise.  Instead, they state the H-1B visas allow them to find candidates for extremely specialized jobs for which there are occasionally very few qualified Americans.

What is the purpose of the H-1B visa?

The purpose of the H-1B visa is to enable in general, foreign workers who have bachelor degrees or higher to work for up to three years at a time, in several different sectors of the economy. Typically, foreign workers tend to work in the areas of technology, healthcare, and of course, education.  In fact, the USCIS found that during 2016, Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Oracle, and Facebook were primary users of the H-1B visas.  The RFEs challenge the original reason for the visa application and contends that the evidence does not support approval of the H-1B petitions.  While the Obama administration did not issue as many requests for evidence as Trump’s, their numbers were also in a similar range.  Specifically, the Obama administration issued approximately 59,000 requests for evidence from January through August 2016.

For many years, immigration attorneys have criticized the challenges posed to the high-skilled employment visas.  However, immigration attorneys are saying they are witnessing a newfound trend in the Trump era.  In addition to issuing RFE’s more frequently, the new administration has also made it a point to target entry-level jobs offered to skilled foreigners.  However, attorneys do not agree with this, as they say, it is contrary to the laws that govern the H-1B visa, as it permits visa holders to take entry-level jobs.

Multiple attorneys are viewing this growth in the requests for evidence and focus on entry-level positions as a covert campaign lead by the Trump administration against the H-1B visa program. More specifically, many attorneys are saying that this is a covert campaign being run in the absence of public regulatory changes or Congressionally passed changes, which could be debated and decided publicly.

Terminating ambiguity

Partners HealthCare is one of the most well-known healthcare systems in Massachusetts. It includes, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, two prestigious teaching hospitals for Harvard Medical School.  Unfortunately, this year Partners has received more than 50 requests for Evidence’s from the USCIS.  This is a significant increase compared to last year, where the healthcare system only received less than 15 requests for evidence for a similar number of H-1B petitions.  These figures come from Partner’s immigration attorney, Anthony Pawelski.

In their request for evidence, the USCIS questioned the relationship between the hospital and the university, despite their applications including adequate proof of their non-profit status and affiliation.  This status came about through a 1948 agreement between Harvard Medical School and the hospitals.

It is not yet apparent how growth in the request for evidence will alter the number of visas distributed this year.  However, during the year of 2016, the USCIS authorized 87 percent of H-1B petitions.  Conversely, by June of this year, the agency had only approved 59 percent of H-1B petitions. However, this is not a complete statistic, as a majority of requests are processed towards the end of 2017.

Lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican party have scrutinized H-1B visas for various reasons.  Many critics say they allow certain companies to use the program to find foreign candidates for junior level IT jobs and replace American workers.  To prevent this from happening, legislators from both the Republican and Democrat parties have introduced legislation this year to alter the use of the visa.

During April, Trump sponsored a review of the H-1B program aimed to ensure that the visas were being issued to the most skilled or highest paid applicants.  While the actual executive order did not make a change, it did guide several agencies to suggest reforms.  Director of government relations at the American branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Russell Harrison commended Trump on this move.  In his comment, Harrison explained that many companies are misusing the H-1B visa program and that it was good the administration has become aware of this abuse and are moving to solve it.  Harrison’s group, the IEEE is not in favor of the H-1B program but is in favor of giving more high-skilled foreigners employment-based permanent residence.

After reviewing hundreds of request for evidence’s, the American Immigration Lawyers Association ( AILA) found that RFEs dealing with entry-level positions say one of two things.  The requests say that either the job is too complicated and thus demands a higher salary or that the job does not count as a specialty as noted in the guidelines of the H-1B program.

Increased requests come with an increased price

An entry-level position is a position that typically targets recent university graduates, who have little to no work experience.  Jobs in this category pay a “Level 1,” wage, which is described as the lowest of the four tiers.  The spokesperson of the USCIS says that a request for evidence is appropriate if they find that the salary does not match the duties of the position.  However, the data provided by the USCIS did not specify the occupations the requests challenged or the reason for the challenges.

Lawyers disagree with the purported reasoning of the USCIS, which is that specialty jobs cannot be entry-level.  In a counter-argument, lawyers refer to young doctors and engineers, who do not have much work experience, but they have spent several years learning technical skills.

While these requests for evidence can be found in all industries, a review by AILA revealed that those who were software developers and computer system analysts were contested more frequently than other positions.

Established companies in the Silicon Valley either chose not to comment or did not respond to a request for comment on the amount of requests for evidence that they had been receiving.  A request for evidence can significantly increase the legal fees that come with each H-1B visa, by almost fifty percent, many attorneys say.  Government associated fees for H-1B visas are notoriously high, running upwards of two thousand five hundred, dollars.  Employers who file multiple H-1B petitions each year can get discounts on attorneys fees due to the volume of cases and duplication of relevant work, and as such may pay two to three thousand dollars for H-1B cases.  Other employers who do not have such high volume or have complex petitions can pay much more than this attorneys fees on such cases and even more if they receive complicated RFEs, that often double or triple the work required from the attorneys.

An attorney with a prominent immigration firm, Berry Appelman and Leiden LLP, explained that one of the firm’s customers, a medium sized technology company, was given six requests for evidence’s from the USCIS, in one day. Additionally, the attorney, Jeffrey Gorsky, also said that between late 2015 and end of 2016, the company only received only one request for evidence on an H-1B visa petition.

 

Beyond the Wall: The New Administration’s Impact on Global Immigration (Public International)

Many lawyers and their clients are understandably concerned about changes that will occur in the immigration system under Donald Trump’s term as U.S. President.  This panel will outline how the Trump Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress could impact the current U.S. immigration structure, particularly as it relates to employers.  Our esteemed panelists will address crucial questions, including (a) Which of the President’s plans would have the most impact on business immigration policy? (b) What changes could the new Administration enact via Executive Orders and regulations without Congressional action? (c) Will Congress pass any of the business immigration-related legislation that has been introduced? (d) What would be the immigration consequences of NAFTA renegotiation or withdrawal? (e) With such an increased focus on enforcement and removal (deportation), which of these changes are most likely to affect employers? (f)  What are the effects of the Administration’s actions on immigration-related rule of law and human rights issues?  (g) Is there anything we can do to educate the new Administration on the impact of shifting immigration policies on the global economy?

 

Committee Sponsor: Immigration and Naturalization Committee

Panel Chair: Program Chairs with e-mail addresses: 

Gabrielle M. Buckley, Vedder Price P.C., Chicago, Illinois, (gbuckley@vedderprice.com)

Mohammad A. Syed, Syed Law Firm PLLC, Washington, DC (msyed@syedfirm.com)

Hedwin Salmen-Navarro, Salmen Navarro & Lavergne, P.C., New York, NY (hsalmen@lawsnl.com)

 

Moderator:

Gabrielle M. Buckley. Vedder Price P.C., Chicago, IL

 

Speakers: 

  • Ira Kurzban, Kurzban Kurzban Weinger Tetzeli & Pratt P.A. and Adjunct Professor of Law at University of Miami, Miami, FL
  • Cyrus D. Mehta, Cyrus D. Mehta & Partners, PLLC (CDMP), New York, NY
  • Amy Nice, former Director of Immigration Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, DC 
  • Mohammad A. Syed, Syed Law Firm, PLLC, Washington, DC

 

ABA Section of International Law

2017 Fall Meeting, Miami, Florida

10.27.2017 JW Marriott Marquis Miami – 9 am – 10:30 am

To Register, Click Here

USCIS to Expand In-Person Interview Requirements for Certain Permanent Residency Applicants

Interviews will soon be required for Employment-based Adjustment of Status and Derivative Asylee and Refugee Status.

Effective Oct. 1, USCIS will begin to phase-in interviews for the following:

• Adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).

• Refugee/asylee relative petitions (Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition) for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant.

Previously, applicants in these categories did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers in order for their application for permanent residency to be adjudicated. Beyond these categories, USCIS is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.

Changes due to Trump’s extreme vetting plan

These changes are taking place due to information provided in the President’s Executive Order (“EO”) related to the travel ban that was initiated in January 2017 but revised later in March 2017.  In the revised EO it was stated that a uniform baseline was required for vetting and screening and there would be no waivers such as those related to in-person interviews.  The USCIS has now become the focal point for implementation of the EO.

Effects of eliminating waivers

An immediate effect will be longer waiting time for receiving the results of a green card application.   As more interviews will be taking place, there will likely be more delays in arriving at decisions.  The USCIS has revealed that it is not only the permanent residency applicants and the families of refugees and asylees that will be affected, but other categories which have not yet been revealed will be affected too.

What is the role of in-person interviews?

The USCIS has stated that their aim is to prevent fraudulent claims and identify any possible security threats.  It seems these earmarked categories aren’t normally identified as security threats or aren’t normally engaged in fraudulent activities.  Also most of the individuals involved are already living in the U.S. and are subject to fingerprint screening and security checks already.  In addition, the new I-485, Supplement J, which has been released is designed to ensure there is a job offer that is bona fide.  These measures make the interview both unnecessary and unwieldy given the present checks and balances present.

What is not affected by this announcement?

It will not affect employment authorization documents (“EADs”) and I-140 petitions.  So the change should not have any impact on work authorization in the U.S.  However if this interview requirement is extended into other categories there may be a greater impact overall.

Effect on derivative refugees and asylees

The obvious effect is delays in getting the green card.

Preparing for the in-person interview is not always easy

The applicant will be required to have a full understanding of why he or she is eligible for the benefit and what the benefit actually is.  The employment based applicant will be asked to submit a description of his or her employer, the position which must include job duties, where the job is located and how much is going to be paid as well as any required credentials to back-up the application.  A refugee’s family member or asylee will be required to explain their relationship with their family member and explain how he or she was granted the refugee or asylee status in the first place.

In order to ensure success in an in-person interview, the applicant should really practice the interview session with someone who is familiar with the contents and questioning methods used in such situations.  There may even be language barriers to consider, especially in the refugee and asylee category.

The E-2 Investor Visa Most Popular U.S. Entrepreneur Visa Category Today

The U.S. has an agreement with a number of countries called the commerce and navigation treaty. It is business people from these countries who may qualify for the E-2 Investor Visa. Up to date this visa has been particularly successful as an option for U.S. franchises as it has given them the chance to attract investment from overseas.

Requirements for applicants for the E-2 Investor Visa

In the first instance the investor needs to prove that there is a current commerce and navigation treaty in existence between the U.S. and the investor’s country of citizenship.

This information can be found here.

Those who possess dual citizenship with an eligible country may also be able to file an application for an E-2 visa.

Before beginning the E-2 application process, the potential investor must prove that any money that has been set aside for the investment originated from either a citizen or citizens of the eligible treaty country.  Defining the nationality of the investment can become quite tricky if it’s not originating from an individual but a company. When it comes to this situation the investment fund’s nationality is determined by what the nationality is of most of the company’s owners.

On making the E-2 visa application there is a risk that the investor needs to take and that is he or she has to provide evidence that the money has already been invested. Before any investment can take place all the necessary arrangements for setting up or controlling the business must have been made as well.

A business with a growth potential is favored for an E-2 investor visa

Not everyone runs a business with the intention of making huge profits beyond what is necessary to support a family. However, applicants for an E-2 visa have to prove that the business they intend to invest in has the clear potential to grow into a far bigger concern. This means a 5 year business plan must be presented which includes:

  • The type of business and how it intends to operate
  • How the business is going to collect revenue
  • How it will add value to the U.S. economy.

Typically, when it comes to making an investment the E-2 visa requirements state that the money set aside for this type of investment must be ‘substantial’ in relation to the overall value of the business.  A potential E-2 investor visa applicant should be looking at having funds available to invest that equate to at least two-thirds of the cost of the business. So a business that costs $30,000 should attract an injection of $200,000 approximately before the E-2 visa can be considered.

Active participation in the business is a requirement even though this doesn’t mean other people can’t be hired to run the day by day operations.

The E-2 investor visa attracts a high approval rating

One of the main benefits of the E-2 investor visa is that it has a 93% approval rating. This is significantly higher than other visa categories like the L-1 or H-1B. The statistics indicate that over the 5 years up to 2015 there has been a 61% increase in the issuance of this visa type which attracted 41,162 approvals in 2015. Investors who have achieved approval are spread across the globe but in 2015 Japanese business investors received the highest number of approvals at 12,172, but in recent years investors from Latin American countries such as Argentina are seeing more approvals.

What businesses may be most suited to an E-2 investor visa?

Businesses that offer franchise opportunities vary from fast-food outlets like McDonalds which is the largest global franchise provider, to real estate businesses like Century 21 and hotel chains such as Choice Hotels. These are considered to be good investment opportunities for E-2 investor visa applicants.

The investor’s passport may help too

If your country does not have a treaty agreement with the U.S., like Venezuela and Brazil, this still might not exclude you from applying for an E-2 visa if you have dual citizenship and a passport issued to you by an eligible country.

What about the E-2 visa and President Trump?

So far, the E-2 investor visa requirements fit in well with President Trump’s announcements that people entering the U.S. should be able to support themselves. So this category has not been targeted in quite the same way as the H-1B and student visas. However, the President has an executive order currently in place to ensure immigrants are adhering to the requirements laid down by their assigned visa. This could mean inspectors may visit E-2 businesses more often.

New Hires at Syed Law Firm, PLLC

Syed Law Firm is pleased to announce the addition of two new staff members:

 

Ysabelle Reyes- Law Clerk

Ysabelle supports clients pursuing U.S. employment-based visas and naturalization. Ysabelle also has experience in family-based immigration through her volunteer work at a local nonprofit that provides legal aid to low-income immigrant families. Prior to joining Syed Law, Ysabelle supported lead attorneys in complex cross-border aircraft financing transactions as a legal assistant at a boutique firm in Washington, D.C.

Ysabelle holds a bachelor’s degree in Management Economics from Ateneo de Manila University and a Paralegal Studies Certificate from Georgetown University. She also attended the University of the Philippines College of Law. She is currently a second-year law student at Harvard University and will be working remotely from Cambridge, MA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luciana Jhon- Legal Assistant

Luciana is a graduate from Florida International University where she pursued a major in Political Science and a minor in International Relations with a concentration on Latin American and National Security studies. Currently, she is also interning at the Washington Office on Latin America, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization working to advance human rights in the Americas.

Previously, Luciana worked at an immigration law firm in Miami handling cases relating to family-based adjustments, asylum and deportation. She also interned on Capitol Hill under the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and worked as an undergraduate research assistant conducting regional research on Latin America and the Caribbean. Luciana hopes to continue to develop her skills and gain knowledge in public policy in order to positively impact underrepresented communities. In the future, she hopes to attend law school and work as an attorney for a non-profit organization.

President Trump, Senator Cotton, and Senator Perdue Introduce The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (RAISE Act)

President Trump, Senator Cotton, and Senator Perdue Introduce the RAISE Act 

Today, Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue will join President Donald Trump at the White House to introduce The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (RAISE Act). The RAISE Act is aimed at creating a skills-based immigration system that seeks to make America more competitive, raise wages for American workers, and create jobs.  The intent is to give Americans “a raise.”

Watch live at 11:30 am EST August 2, 2017

https://click.mail.whitehouse.gov/?qs=ff97cb9f2efe519166ea15ef52970893e8dd193b629cc4658a71178ca5537b9dd629cb1b0af5f7307e81f38736a7ee9564d8501d63556430

https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/president-trump-makes-announcement-senator-tom-cotton-and-senator-david-perdue

 

 

 

Supreme Court Definition of “Bona-Fide” Causing Confusion

The Trump administration’s travel ban affecting citizens of six majority Muslim countries and refugees from anywhere has been allowed to go ahead in revised form, at least temporarily, by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the decision has not only caused confusion but has also provoked unrest, protests, and court actions, albeit in more muted form compared to what happened when the original travel ban was first announced. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the travel ban this fall.

The original ban affected all citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days and all refugees from anywhere for 120 days. The new temporary revised ban which went into effect at the end of June allows only citizens from these six countries and refugees who have a genuine “bona-fide” relationship with an American citizen or entity to enter the United States.

The problem is that the definition of the term “bona-fide” is unclear. The lack of clarity is already causing distress and confusion.

The “bona-fide” definition currently includes “close relatives” of U.S. residents or citizens, those who already have a job lined up, or those who will enroll in a course of study at a college or university. Refugees who arrived in the United States before July 6th were allowed to enter the country. Both definitions leave a lot to be desired.

Government officials contend that the definition of “close relatives” comes from the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Opponents of the ban argue that the administration’s new definition of “bona-fide” relationships does not seem to be in step with the Act. Parents-in-law, for example, were not regarded as “close relatives” under the Act, but they are considered as “close relatives” under the travel ban. However, fiancés and fiancées are “close relatives” under both the Act and the travel ban.

Commentators say that the lack of clarity means that there is likely to be chaos again at the airports when travelers, immigrants and refugees arrive, as border agencies will be struggling to interpret the rules as they stand.

The new version of the ban states that siblings, parents, children, sons and daughters in law, parents in law, fiancés, and fiancées of legal U.S. residents and citizens will be allowed to enter the United States. Grandparents, grandchildren, brothers or sisters-in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces will not be considered “close relatives.”

Lawyers for Hawaii challenged the government’s definition of “close relatives” by asking a federal district court judge to clarify the Supreme Court ruling. The judge, however, declined to do so, stating that such clarifications should be obtained from the Supreme Court.

As for the refugees, there is doubt about the fate of those refugees who have already been accepted for travel to the U.S., but who could not meet the July 6th deadline.

According to the Trump administration, any citizen of one of the six affected countries or refugee is encouraged to contact consular officials in the country of origin. These consular officials will be given the authority to make decisions about the validity of entry, notwithstanding the ban, on a case by case basis.

Immigration Form I-485 Has Been Revised and Simplified

A new, easy-to-understand version of form I-485 “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” has just been released.

In some cases, applying for a US visa requires filling out not just the application form, but supplemental forms as well. Many of these forms aren’t necessarily that easy to follow, meaning mistakes can be made causing unnecessary delays to the application process. For this reason, the USCIS has decided to revise the I-485 form to make it easier to complete.  It has also revised Form I-485 Supplement A and Form I-485 Supplement J, which includes the form filling instructions for relevant applicants.

Who uses this form?

This form is designed for those living in the United States who wish to adjust their status, which, once completed satisfactorily, means they can become lawful permanent residents. Once lawful permanent residence status has been acquired, the next step is citizenship.

60 day grace period until August 25, 2017

USCIS is prepared to accept either the 01/17/17 or the 06/26/17 editions of Form I-485 and I-485 supplements A and J up until August 25, 2017.

What are the changes?

  • Clearer navigation to the various parts of the form.
  • The questions flow better and the new formatting makes it clearer to understand and follow.
  • Clearer instructions are provided that relate to an applicant’s unique situation.
  • The questions about biographic information (Form G-325A) have been included in the revised Form I-485, so it will no longer be necessary for applicants to complete a G-325A as well.
  • 27 different immigrant categories are included, which means applicants can more easily identify the immigrant category which applies to them.

There are some questions that have been added that help a USCIS officer more easily assess the applicant’s eligibility and acceptability.

It is expected that these updates will make the whole approval process faster and more efficient, as there will be fewer mistakes and requests for evidence.

What looks the same on the form?

Form I-485 and its instructions do not look the same as the original versions, but the actual process for filling in Form I-485 and Supplements A and J have not changed. Applicants must however still submit the paper applications to the location listed in the instructions on the form.

EXPERTS IN IMMIGRATION LAW