VISA REVOCATIONS FOR VISA HOLDERS FROM SEVEN COUNTRIES
On January 27, 2017 the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. State Department issued a notice indicating that based upon the executive order signed by President Trump banning entry for citizens of seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) he was revoking the valid nonimmigrant and immigrant visas of those nationals. The full text of the letter reads:
- Upon request of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and pursuant to sections 212(f) and 221(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and 22 CFR 41.122 and 42.82, and in implementation of section 3(c) of the Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals, I hereby provisionally revoke all valid nonimmigrant and immigrant visas of nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, subject to the exceptions discussed below. The revocation does not apply to visas in the following nonimmigrant classifications: A-1, A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO, C-2, or certain diplomatic visas. The revocation also does not apply to any visa exempted on the basis of a determination made by the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security pursuant to section 3(g) of the Executive Order on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest. This document is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
It is uncertain at this point whether the revocation of the visas will result in visa holders being notified directly by the State Department if their visa has been revoked.
Impact for Visa Holders
If a visa holder from one of the seven countries in the executive order travels, they will not be readmitted to the US until at least after the 90-day ban, and potentially longer as new visa application and security mechanisms may result from the review of security procedures at the consulates. In addition, they will need to reapply for a new visa since the prior valid visa has now been revoked.
GUIDANCE ON THE U.S. ENTRY BAN
On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that prohibits foreign nationals from seven countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen - from entering the United States for 90 days. The executive order was put in force immediately and resulted in uncertainty and confusion at U.S. ports of entry and abroad. The U.S. government has since provided further guidance on implementation of the executive order. As of February 3rd, this includes clarification regarding dual nationals with a passport from a non-restricted country.
Who Is Subject to the Entry Ban
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has clarified that the ban will be imposed on those who present a passport from one of the seven countries listed in the executive order, with the exception of U.S. lawful permanent residents.
Dual nationals who possess a valid visa in the passport of a non-banned country are able to enter the United States, the State Department and CBP have confirmed. Consulates worldwide will continue to process visa applications and issue nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to otherwise eligible visa applicants who apply with a passport from an unrestricted country, even if they hold dual nationality from one of the seven listed countries.
Lawful Permanent Residents Who Are Nationals of a Country of Concern
Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who are nationals of one of the seven listed countries are not subject to the entry ban and can travel without restriction, according to the latest guidance from the White House and CBP. Until recently, the Administration had cautioned that LPRs might be subject to the ban in limited circumstances. LPRs from one of the listed countries should expect more scrutiny and questioning upon arrival to the United States.
Nonimmigrants Who Are Nationals of One of the Seven Listed Countries
Nonimmigrants who are nationals only of a country of concern will not be issued a U.S. nonimmigrant visa or be permitted to enter the United States for the duration of the ban.
Other Lawful Permanent Residents and Nonimmigrants
LPRs and nonimmigrants who are not from one of the seven countries but have traveled to one of the listed countries should expect to be questioned closely when entering the United States. All LPRs and nonimmigrants should expect heightened entry procedures when returning to the United States.
Visa Waiver Program Travelers
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers who have traveled or may have ties to one of the seven countries should check the status of their registration in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to ensure that it remains valid. If travel to one of the seven listed countries took place after their most recent ESTA registration, foreign nationals should reapply for ESTA for authorization to use the VWP in the future.
As a reminder, since December 18, 2015, travelers who are dual nationals of a VWP member country and Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria or who have traveled to one of the seven countries since March 2011 are barred from using the Visa Waiver Program and must obtain a B-1/2 visa (business or tourist visitors) instead for trips to the United States. Exemptions and waivers may be available to those who are subject to VWP restrictions because they traveled to a country of concern, provided their travel was for certain very limited government, military, humanitarian, reporting and business-related purposes.
Global Entry Members
Non-U.S. citizens with nationality of one of the seven countries may have their registration in the Global Entry trusted traveler program revoked due to the entry ban. Global Entry registrants should check the status of their registration in “GOES,” CBP's trusted traveler registration website.
Revocation of Global Entry membership does not prohibit travel to the United States, but restricts affected travelers from using the Global Entry kiosks for immigration and customs inspection. Instead, they must wait in line to be inspected by a CBP officer.
U.S. citizens are not subject to the entry ban, including those with dual nationality in the United States and one of the seven listed countries. However, U.S. citizens who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen should expect to be questioned when reentering the United States.
Waivers of Visa Interviews
The State Department has confirmed that U.S. consulates continue to exempt certain visa applicants from in-person interviews. Foreign nationals from a non-banned country may be eligible for an interview waiver if: (1) they are renewing a visa in the same classification that is still valid or has expired within the last 12 months; or (2) are under 14 or over 79 years of age. Visa applicants should check the relevant consulate’s website for specific information.
Duration and Scope of the Entry Ban
Currently, the executive order suspends the entry of foreign nationals from the seven countries through April 27, 2017. There has been no information from the Administration whether the order would be extended beyond this date.
While the ban is in effect, the U.S. government will conduct a 60-day review of worldwide security policies. Nationals of countries that do not cooperate in the review could be added to the list of travelers subject to the entry ban. Though there have been recent reports and rumors suggesting a number of countries and regions would be imminently added to the ban, the State Department has indicated that there are no immediate plans to do so.
EXPECTED EXECUTIVE ORDER ON EMPLOYMENT-BASED IMMIGRATION
It is anticipated that President Trump will direct the Departments of Homeland Security, Labor and State to undertake extensive review and revision of U.S. employment-based immigration program rules, through an executive order.
The order would not result in immediate changes to the employment-based immigration system, but would signify that the Administration will aggressively seek restrictions and increased enforcement. The below information is based upon the draft Order – which could be significantly changed by the time it is issued.
The draft executive order directs the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. State Department to review all employment-based immigration regulations to determine whether any of them violate the immigration laws or are otherwise not in the national interest. The Administration also orders the agencies to study the impact of employment-based immigration on U.S. jobs and wages, including reports on whether the H-1B, L-1 and B-1 programs in particular cause injury to U.S. workers. In is likely that the reviews will be used as the basis for the Administration to justify more restrictive immigration rules and policies.
The USCIS is also ordered to propose regulations that would limit the use of specific programs, including the B-1 business visitor category, the optional and curricular practical training (OPT & CPT) programs for F-1 students and the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. DHS is also directed to evaluate the uses of parole and whether they conform to the immigration statutes. The recent international entrepreneur rule and other important uses of parole may be impacted.
Increased site visits and other initiatives of the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Unit are expected, including the immediate revival of the Benefits Fraud Assessment program, under which the agency reviews specific immigration programs to determine whether there is fraud. According to the draft, within 180 days, the administration plans to expand the L-1 site visit program, which is currently limited to L-1A nonimmigrants who have received an extension of stay from a USCIS Service Center. There is also an intention to expand the site visit program to all immigration categories within two years.
Further, the Department of Homeland Security is directed to look at ways to increase E-Verify usage, which may include conditioning the use of certain immigration programs by employers on their participation in E-Verify.
Impact for Employers
- Many of the Administration's plans will require compliance with federal rulemaking procedures, which can take months to promulgate. However, the draft order likely means an imminent increase in worksite inspections and audits, and in more restrictive adjudications at USCIS.
SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN EB-5 INVESTMENT REQUIREMENTS AND OTHER PROGRAM CHANGES PROPOSED BY USCIS
On January 13, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed significant changes to the EB-5 immigrant investor program, including higher investment amounts and exclusive federal authority to designate Targeted Employment Area (TEAs), the rural and high-unemployment areas that qualify for EB-5 investment at lower thresholds.
Key provisions of the proposal are summarized below. USCIS is accepting public feedback on the rule through April 11, 2017.
Higher Investment Thresholds
USCIS proposes to increase the minimum thresholds for participation in the EB-5 program, which currently stand at $500,000 for TEA investments and $1 million for all other EB-5 investments. The minimum investment for TEAs would increase by 170 percent, to $1.35 million. The standard minimum investment would increase by 80 percent, to $1.8 million. Investment thresholds would increase automatically every five years, keyed to the Consumer Price Index.
Federal Authority to Exclusively Designate Targeted Investment Areas (TEA’s)
The rule would give USCIS the exclusive authority to designate TEAs. Currently, U.S. states have broad authority to designate high-unemployment TEAs, in recognition of their superior knowledge of local demographics and employment needs.
Under the proposal, USCIS would designate TEAs based on a new methodology that would limit investment to more strictly demarcated areas. This could limit the types of urban development projects that have proven most desirable to foreign investors in recent years.
Priority Date Retention
One beneficial proposal would permit EB-5 petitioners to retain their priority date – the date that fixes their place in line for an immigrant visa number – if circumstances beyond their control require the filing of a subsequent EB-5 petition. This provision could aid foreign investors whose initial EB-5 petition is detrimentally affected by the termination of a Regional Center or a material change in a business plan. If finalized, priority date retention would be a significant benefit to Chinese EB-5 investors, who are subject to multi-year backlogs.
Impact for Foreign Investors
Because the new EB-5 regulation is only a proposal, it will not take effect until the agency reviews public comments and issues a final regulation – a process that typically takes several months. Implementation of the proposal could also be delayed or suspended by President Trump.
- The proposed regulation comes as Congress considers the reauthorization of the EB-5 Regional Center program, which is set to expire on April 28, 2017. A reauthorization bill could include its own revisions to the EB-5 program. Through April 28, prospective investors can still qualify under existing program rules, including the current investment thresholds of $500,000 and $1 million.
NEW EDITION OF FORM I-9 BECAME MANDATORY ON JANUARY 22
USCIS’s revised edition of the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, dated 11/14/16, became mandatory for employers on January 22, 2017.
The new edition of the form does not change the main substantive questions on Form I-9 or the list of acceptable identity and work authorization documents, but it does contain changes to the format which are intended to reduce the errors that often result when the form on a computer. These include auto-population of certain fields, rudimentary error checking to ensure that all fields on the form are completed, dropdown lists to aid in the selection of identity and work authorization documents and a new text field that allows employers to enter annotations on special situations, such as employment authorization extensions for STEM OPT applicants, F-1 cap-gap beneficiaries and TPS beneficiaries.
The new “smart” I-9 form may be filled out on a computer or by hand. The new edition is optimized for electronic completion, but it does not have an electronic signature function. If completed online through the USCIS website, Form I-9 must be printed out and signed by hand by the employer, the employee and, if applicable, any preparer or translator.
Impact for Employers
Employers should ensure that the new form is used as of January 22, 2017. Note: New regulations that took effect on August 1, 2016 increased the penalties for I-9 and other employer compliance violations.
USCIS JOB PORTABILITY RULE
A new USCIS regulation intended to ease restrictions on job mobility or “portability” for foreign workers awaiting employment-based permanent residence became effective on January 17, 2017. The new rule also establishes grace periods for nonimmigrant workers before and after their employment, and provides automatic work authorization extensions to adjustment applicants and certain other classes of foreign nationals who have timely filed for renewal of an employment authorization document (EAD).
The new regulation was one of the Obama Administration's key executive actions on employment-based immigration, and was intended to help enable U.S. businesses to retain and develop highly-skilled foreign workers and reduce the burdens of lengthy immigrant visa backlogs on employment-based adjustment applicants. We provide a brief summary of the key provisions below.
Priority Date Retention and “Portability” for I-140 Beneficiaries
The regulation lessens the impact of I-140 petition revocations and codifies certain longstanding agency policies on I-140 portability.
Specifically, a foreign national whose I-140 petition has been approved for 180 days or more will not have the petition automatically revoked if the employer goes out of business or withdraws the petition on or after January 17, 2017. However, the foreign national will need a new job offer or a new I-140 petition to obtain employment-based permanent residence.
An I-140 beneficiary whose petition is revoked will be able to use the priority date for a subsequent I-140 petition, unless the reason for revocation was fraud, material misrepresentation, invalidation or revocation of the underlying labor certification or material error in the approval of the petition.
As with prior portability policy, the beneficiary of a pending I-140 will be able to “port” or move on to new employment after his or her adjustment of status application has been pending for 180 days or more, as long as the pending I-140 petition was approvable when filed and remained approvable for 180 days after the filing of the I-485 adjustment application.
Employment Authorization for Certain Approved I-140 Beneficiaries
The regulation allows E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1 and O-1 nonimmigrants with an approved I-140 petition to apply for a one-year employment authorization document if their priority date is backlogged and they can show compelling circumstances to justify the need for employment authorization, such as a medical emergency or significant disruption to the employer.
Grace Periods for Nonimmigrant Workers
Through the new regulation, E, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 and TN nonimmigrants whose employment is terminated early will be accorded one grace period of up to 60 days during each validity period, to enable them to extend, change or otherwise maintain status or prepare to depart the United States.
Approved E, L-1, and TN nonimmigrants will receive a 10-day grace period before and after their validity period, as is currently available to H-1B, O and P nonimmigrants. They will be able to enter the United States 10 days before their start date to prepare for employment, and will have 10 days at the end of their period of stay to take action to extend, change or otherwise maintain status, or prepare for departure from the United States. (Employment is not authorized during the grace periods - except for H-1B foreign nationals who are porting to new employment).
H-1B Extensions Beyond the Sixth Year
The regulation codifies USCIS's longstanding policies on H-1B extensions beyond the sixth year, with some additional requirements.
Post-sixth year extensions will be available to foreign nationals who are not currently in H-1B status, as long as they previously held that status and remain eligible for an additional period of H-1B admission, consistent with current policy.
An H-1B nonimmigrant will become ineligible for a one-year post-sixth year extension if he or she fails to apply for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa within one year of the date an immigrant visa becomes available to him or her.
A one-year post-sixth year H-1B extension will cease to be available if, at the time the extension is filed, the foreign national's labor certification is no longer valid, his or her I-140 has been denied or revoked or an adjustment application or an immigrant visa has been approved or denied.
An H-1B employee whose approved I-140 petition is withdrawn 180 days or more after approval will remain eligible for a three-year extension unless the I-140 was withdrawn for fraud, material misrepresentation, material USCIS error, or revocation or invalidation of the underlying labor certification.
Employment Authorization Documents: Automatic Extensions and Application Processing
The regulation offers an automatic 180-day work authorization extension to certain foreign nationals who timely file for EAD renewal on or after January 17, 2017, including adjustment applicants, applicants for extension of Temporary Protected Status, and certain applicants under the Violence Against Women Act. Importantly, the automatic extension is not available to H-4, L-2 or E nonimmigrant spouses seeking renewal of employment authorization.
The new regulation eliminates a rule that required USCIS to process EAD applications within 90 days and grant interim work authorization to those with an EAD application pending for more than 90 days. USCIS is expected to announce that it will accept renewal applications up to 180 days before EAD expiration to minimize the impact of extended EAD processing delays on a foreign national's continued eligibility to work (previous policy only permitted renewal applications to be filed 120 days before EAD expiration).
Impact for Employers and Foreign Nationals
The new regulation clarifies and in many cases enhances USCIS policies on job mobility for nonimmigrants and foreign nationals in the employment-based permanent residence process. The new rule took effect just before President Trump was sworn in to office, so it is unclear whether the new administration will seek to make changes to or withdraw the regulation. Any such action would require notice and an opportunity for the public to provide feedback, a process that typically takes several months.
NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR CHINESE VISITORS
On October 31, 2016 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced the launch of the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) website for early enrollments. All individuals with a People’s Republic of China issued passport bearing a 10-year B1/B2, B1 or B2 (visitor) visa will be required to have a valid EVUS enrollment when traveling to the United States beginning on November 29. EVUS is the online system used by nationals of the People’s Republic of China holding a 10-year B1/B2, B1 or B2 (visitor) visa to update basic biographic information to facilitate their travel to the United States. EVUS enrollments are valid for two years or until the traveler obtains a new passport or visa, whichever comes first.
CBP will not collect a fee for an EVUS enrollment at this time, but anticipates that an EVUS enrollment fee will eventually be implemented. Until the fee is implemented, travelers can complete their EVUS enrollment without charge. Travelers can submit an EVUS enrollment at any time and will typically receive a response from the system within minutes after submitting their information; however, some responses may take up to 72 hours. CBP encourages travelers to enroll in EVUS when they begin planning their trip to the United States to avoid delays.
Beginning November 29, nationals of the People’s Republic of China holding 10-year visas will not be able to travel to the United States without a valid EVUS enrollment. For travelers taking more than one flight to reach the United States, the EVUS enrollment will be verified when they check-in for their first flight. Nationals of the People’s Republic of China who hold a 10-year visa and are seeking to enter the U.S. through a land or sea port of entry must also have a valid EVUS enrollment. Until November 29, travelers may continue to travel to the United States without an enrollment. CBP operates an EVUS call center with Mandarin-speaking operators that travelers can call or email if they are experiencing technical difficulties or have questions about their enrollment. Travelers can contact the call center at 1-202-325-0180 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The call center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but will be closed on U.S. federal holidays.
The EVUS process is similar to the process that travelers from 38 other countries must follow before traveling to the United States. If Chinese travelers do not update their information at least every two years, or upon obtaining a new passport after EVUS becomes effective, they will not be able to use their 10-year visas.
DOS POLICY ON VISA REVOCATION FOR NON-IMMIGRANTS WITH DUI CHARGES
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) Visa Office has recently issued new guidance to Consular Officers, instructing them to prudentially revoke visas for individuals in the U.S. who have been charged with a driving under the influence (DUI) related offense, unless the issue was already addressed in the initial visa application. Previously, visa holders who had already been issued visas and were present in the U.S. were not subject to visa revocation after the fact, and there were no consequences for DUI-related offenses until the time of the individual's next visa application.
DOS receives information on arrests and convictions through U.S. government agencies' electronic databases. If visa revocation is to occur, DOS is required to notify visa holders in writing where practical, prior to revocation. Visa revocation does not require an individual to immediately depart the U.S., assuming the individual has been admitted to the U.S. in lawful status with a corresponding valid unexpired I-94 arrival/departure record. However, visa revocation would invalidate all of the individual's currently valid visas for any future travel to the U.S. Further, an individual who departs the U.S. would then need to re-apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad before being able to return to the U.S. If the individual is currently present in the U.S. when revocation occurs, s/he would need to present the visa at a Consulate abroad so that the visa can be physically cancelled.
It is well established that DOS has the authority to revoke a visa based on an individual's arrest or conviction related to a DUI offense, as this may be indicative of visa ineligibility for a possible physical or mental disorder with associated harmful behavior under INA Section 212(a)(1)(A)(iii)).
It is critical that clients continue to immediately disclose all criminal-related issues to their legal counsel so that potential immigration consequences and ineligibilities can be analyzed and addressed.
EXPIRING EB-4, EB-5 PROGRAMS EXTENDED THROUGH DECEMBER 9, 2016
On Sept. 29, 2016 President Obama signed into law H.R. 5325 - Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, and Zika Response and Preparedness Act. This Act extends the EB-5 Regional Center Program and EB-4 non-minister special immigrant program for certain religious workers until December 9, 2016.
The fate of the EB-5 Regional Center Program will continue to be hotly debated and may turn on the outcome of the Presidential election. It is likely that there would be one more temporary extension of the program while the next administration and congress works to find a middle ground on enhanced security and fraud prevention measures, as well as addressing issues such as increases in the amount of investment required and how best to determine Targeted Employment Areas (TEA’s).
EMPLOYERS MAY SUBMIT INQUIRIES IF EXTENSION OF STATUS/CHANGE OF EMPLOYER PETITION HAS BEEN PENDING FOR 210 DAYS OR MORE
On April 21, 2016, USCIS began allowing petitioners who filed Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting an extension of status or change of employer to submit an inquiry after their petition has been pending for 210 days or more. This inquiry may be based on the petition being outside of normal processing times.
USCIS TO ALLOW ADDITIONAL APPLICANTS FOR PROVISIONAL WAIVER PROCESS
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule expanding the existing provisional waiver process to allow certain individuals who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and who are statutorily eligible for immigrant visas, to more easily navigate the immigration process. The provisional waiver process promotes family unity by reducing the time that eligible individuals are separated from their family members while they complete immigration processing abroad, while also improving administrative efficiency.
This final rule builds on a process established in 2013 to support family unity. Under that process, certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can apply for provisional waivers of the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility, based on the extreme hardship their U.S. citizen spouses or parents would suffer if the waiver were not granted. The rule announced today, which goes into effect on Aug. 29, 2016, expands eligibility for the provisional waiver process to all individuals who are statutorily eligible for the waiver of the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility. USCIS expects to update its Policy Manual to provide guidance on how USCIS makes “extreme hardship” determinations in the coming weeks.
Until now, only immediate relatives of U.S. citizens were eligible to seek such provisional waivers before departing the United States for the processing of their immigrant visas. Those eligible for the provisional waiver process under the 2013 rule are only a subset of those eligible for the waiver under the statute. This regulation expands eligibility for the process to all individuals who are statutorily eligible for the waiver.
To qualify for a provisional waiver, applicants must establish that their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses or parents would experience “extreme hardship” if the applicants are not allowed to return to the United States.
The final rule also makes changes to Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver. Applicants should not submit a request for a provisional waiver under the expanded guidelines until the final rule takes effect on Aug. 29, 2016. If you do so before that date, USCIS may deny the application.
NEW LAW INCREASES H-1B AND L-1 PETITION FEES
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113), signed into law by President Obama on December 18, 2015, increases fees for certain H-1B and L-1 petitioners. These petitioners must submit an additional fee of $4,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $4,500 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions postmarked on or after December 18, 2015.
The additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States, with more than 50 percent of those employees in H-1B or L (including L-1A and L-1B) nonimmigrant status. These petitioners must submit the additional fees with an H-1B or L-1 petition filed:
- Initially to grant status to a nonimmigrant described in subparagraph (H)(i)(b) or (L) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act; or
- To obtain authorization for a nonimmigrant in such status to change employers.
- This fee is in addition to the base processing fee, Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 fee (when required), as well as the premium processing fee, if applicable.
DHS ENHANCES OPPORTUNITIES FOR H-1B1, E-3, CW-1 NONIMMIGRANTS AND CERTAIN EB-1 IMMIGRANTS
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended its regulations today to improve the programs serving the H-1B1, E-3 and CW-1 nonimmigrant classifications and the EB-1 immigrant classification, and remove unnecessary hurdles that place such workers at a disadvantage when compared to similarly situated workers in other visa classifications.
DHS LAUNCHES KNOWN EMPLOYER PILOT PROGRAM
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the launch of a Known Employer pilot to assess a new process for employers seeking to hire certain workers through employment-based visa categories.
By modifying the process U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses to reviews an employer’s eligibility to sponsor individuals under certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant classifications, the Known Employer pilot is expected to reduce paperwork, costs, and delays in the processing of these benefit requests. USCIS will oversee the pilot in collaboration with the DHS Office of Policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS).
H-1B FISCAL YEAR (FY) 2017 CAP SEASON
The annual H-1B filing season is upon us. USCIS recently issued information regarding H-1B cap subject cases and best practices for filing the petitions. USCIS has indicated they will accept H-1B petitions from April 1, 2016 through April 7, 2016.
EXTENSION OF POST COMPLETION OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT) AND F-1 STATUS FOR ELIGIBLE STUDENTS UNDER THE H-1B CAP-GAP REGULATIONS
Current regulations allow certain students with pending or approved H-1B petitions to remain in F-1 status during the Cap-Gap period. This is referred to as filling the "Cap- Gap," meaning the regulations provide a way of filling the "gap" between the end of F-1 status and the beginning of H-1B status that might otherwise occur if F-1 status is not extended for qualifying students.
17 MONTH OPT EXTENSION FOR STEM DEGREES APPROVED
On Friday, March 11, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security published a new rule for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension. This rule goes into effect on May 10, 2016.
Students who graduate with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree are eligible to remain in the United States for an additional 17 months on an optional practical training (OPT) STEM extension.
CONGRESS EXTENDS THE EB-5 PROGRAM WITHOUT CHANGES UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30, 2016
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program allows foreign investors to obtain U.S. Permanent Residence through investing in qualifying U.S. entities and Regional Center Projects. The extension of the Program allows investors and developers t continue access to the important program, while giving time for Congress to review and make any needed reforms.
EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION TO CERTAIN H-4 DEPENDENT SPOUSES
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez announced today that, effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. DHS amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States.
CBP ISSUES MEMO ON ADMISSIONS STAMP ON FORM I-20
CBP memo dated 8/10/12 instructing officers to cease the practice of placing an admission stamp on Forms I-20 A-B and I-20 M-N presented by prospective and returning students seeking admission to the U.S.
IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL INTRODUCED TO THE SENATE
Early this morning, the bipartisan group of Senators known as the "Gang of Eight" introduced the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013" immigration reform bill in the Senate. Click here to read the full text of the bill.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on October 24, 2016 that the fees required for most immigration applications and petitions will increase effective December 23, 2016.
Fees will increase for the first time in six years, by a weighted average of 21 percent for most applications and petitions. USCIS has said that this increase is necessary to recover the full cost of services provided by USCIS. These include the costs associated with fraud detection and national security, customer service and case processing, and providing services without charge to refugee and asylum applicants and to other customers eligible for fee waivers or exemptions.
A table summarizing current and new fees can be found at: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees
Highlights of the new fees include:
• A fee increase of $45, or 8 percent, from $595 to $640 for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
o USCIS will offer a reduced filing fee of $320 for naturalization applicants with family incomes greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For 2016, this means, for example, that a household of four with an income between $36,000 and $48,600 per year could pay the reduced fee. Those eligible may apply for this option using the new Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee.
• The fee for Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, and N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322, will increase from $550 or 600 to $1,170.
• A new fee of $3,035 is required for Form I-924A, Annual Certification of Regional Center.