March 27, 2015

April 2015 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The visa bulletin is out at this link: April 2015 Visa Bulletin

In the April Bulletin, there is a retrogression of nearly 10 months in the EB-3 category for China, with a slight forward movement in most other visa categories.

Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries, except India (September 1, 2007) and China (April 1, 2011); EB-3 is at October 1, 2014 for all countries, except India (January 8, 2004) and China (January 1, 2011)*; EB-3 other workers is at October 1, 2014 for all countries, except India (January 8, 2004) and China (August 15, 2005); EB-4, religious workers, EB-5 targeted employment areas and regional centers, and EB-5 Pilot Programs are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at August 1, 2013 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F4 Philippines (brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) of September 22, 1991.

February 24, 2015

Extending Employment Authorization to H-4 Dependent Spouses of Certain H-1B Workers

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) regulatory change will extend employment authorization eligibility to H-4 spouses of certain H-1B workers who have already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status. Applications for employment authorization for eligible H-4 spouses will be accepted beginning May 26, 2015.

Eligible individuals include H-4 dependent spouses of certain H-1B workers who:

(a) Have an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
(b) Have been granted H-1B status in the U.S. under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B workers seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the U.S. beyond the six-year limit.

Please contact our office for assistance in applying for H-4 employment authorization, or if you have questions about the eligibility requirements.

More information is available on the following website.

January 31, 2015

USCIS Delays in Processing EAD Applications

The employment authorization document (EAD) provides for employment authorization. Once the EAD expires, however, the employee must stop working. Continued employment is not permitted based on the filing an application to extend the EAD.

The USCIS is required by law to adjudicate EAD applications in 90 days. However, it has recently acknowledged that this requirement is not being met in many cases. The USCIS allows an EAD applicant or their counsel to initiate a service request once the person's EAD application has been pending for at least 75 days. Such a request can be made by calling the National Customer Service Center or using its e-Request system. The expectation is that, once a service request is made, the USCIS will prioritize the case and issue the EAD within the 90-day timeframe.

We recommend applying as far in advance of the EAD expiration date to minimize the probability of a gap in employment eligibility. EAD renewal applications may be filed up to 120 days prior to the expiration date of the existing EAD.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact our office.

January 30, 2015

USCIS Will Begin Accepting Requests for Expanded DACA on February 18, 2015

On January 29, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will begin accepting requests for expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on February 18, 2015.

The expanded DACA program expands the population potentially eligible for DACA to individuals of any current age who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, and have lived in the U.S. continuously since January 1, 2010. In addition, the validity period of DACA’s accompanying work authorization is extended from two years to three years.

Please contact our office if you need any assistance filing a DACA request, or if you have questions about the eligibility requirements.

For a summary of USCIS’s planned initiatives relating to the President’s executive actions on immigration, including information on the expanded DACA program, you may go to the following website: http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction#1

January 30, 2015

February 2015 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: February 2015 Visa Bulletin

Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries, except India (September 1, 2005) and China (March 15, 2010); EB-3 is at January 1, 2014 for all countries, except India (December 22, 2003) and China (September 1, 2011); EB-3 other workers is at January 1, 2014 for all countries, except India (December 22, 2003) and China (August 15, 2005); EB-4, religious workers, EB-5 targeted employment areas and regional centers, and EB-5 Pilot Programs are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at May 8, 2013 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F4 Philippines (brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) of August 8, 1991.

December 12, 2014

January 2015 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: January 2015 Visa Bulletin

Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries, except India (February 15, 2005) and China (February 1, 2010); EB-3 is at June 1, 2013 for all countries, except India (December 15, 2003) and China (March 1, 2011); EB-3 other workers is at June 1, 2013 for all countries, except India (December 15, 2003) and China (July 22, 2005); EB-4, religious workers, EB-5 targeted employment areas and regional centers, and EB-5 Pilot Programs are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at April 15, 2013 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F4 Philippines (brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) of July 15, 1991.

December 5, 2014

President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration—What this Means for Business Immigration

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration that will include: (1) creating a deferred action program for the parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children who meet the eligibility requirements; (2) implementing a “Priority Enforcement Program”; and (3) streamlining immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to boost the economy and create jobs in the U.S.

Actions related to business immigration changes include:

• Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status and their spouses;
• Enhancing options for foreign entrepreneurs;
• Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S. universities;
• Streamlining the process for foreign workers and their employers, while protecting American workers;
• Reducing family separation for those waiting to obtain LPR status; and
• Ensuring that individuals with lawful status can travel to their countries of origin.

For more detailed information from the White House, please click here (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/20/fact-sheet-immigration-accountability-executive-action).

The President’s announcement was welcome news. However, as is often the case with new immigration measures, it may be some time before the actual implementation of the new programs. The USCIS has not yet announced any timeline for implementation of these changes. Detailed information about the timeline for implementation can be found on the USCIS’s Executive Actions website at: http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction.

November 21, 2014

President Obama Addresses the Nation on Immigration Reform

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced he will provide immediate relief for many of those impacted by of our immigration system, and he is offering Congress an architecture for the permanent reforms.

Under the new policies announced, the Obama Administration will build on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by providing temporary relief for the parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents. The new program, to be called Deferred Action for Parents (DAP), will ensure that millions of U.S. Citizen and lawful permanent resident children will remain unified with their parents. The President also announced new enforcement policies and steps to improve the adjudication of business and family visas.

According to the American Immigration Council, every U.S. President since at least 1956 has granted temporary immigration relief to one or more groups in need of assistance. Like his predecessors, President Obama did not provide a permanent legal status to anyone—only Congress can do that.

For questions and updates on eligibility and application procedures, please contact our office.

November 17, 2014

National Visa Center No Longer Collects Original Civil Documents

As of November 12, 2014, immigrant visa applicants at non-electronic processing posts will be instructed to submit photocopies of their civil documents by mail to the National Visa Center (NVC). When the appointment is scheduled, NVC will instruct applicants to bring their original documents to the interview for evaluation and final case processing. Original Affidavit of Support forms must still be submitted to NVC for initial evaluation. Applicants at designated electronic processing posts will continue to submit their documents via email.

For more information, please visit the Department of State website.

November 11, 2014

U.S. and China Agree to Extend Visas for Business Travelers, Tourists, and Students

The U.S. Department of State announced that starting November 12, 2014, the U.S. will issue extended visas to Chinese business travelers, tourists, students, and exchange visitors in accordance with the new reciprocal agreement between the two countries.

According to the new agreement:

- B-1 and B-2 temporary visitor visas for business and tourism will increase in validity from one to ten years, for multiple entries; and
- F-1 student and F-2 dependent visas, M-1 vocational student and M-2 dependent visas, and J-1 exchange visitor and J-2 dependent visas will increase in validity from one to five years, or the length of the program, for multiple entries.

It is important to note that visa validity is not the same as the allowed duration of stay in the U.S. While a visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry, a Customs and Border Protection officer at a U.S. port of entry will grant admission to valid travelers and notify the traveler of the permitted length of stay. The new agreement does not change the permitted duration of stay in the U.S. for any visa class.

Additionally, the new agreement does not increase the validity of visas already issued. To obtain a visa with extended validity, holders of valid or recently-expired visas will need to apply again. There will be no change to visa eligibility criteria, and the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) will remain available to those who qualify. The visa application fee will remain at USD $160.

Please contact our office if you have questions about this information or visa application procedures, or if you require additional information on timing, strategies, or eligibility for these visas.

For more information, please visit http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/us-china-agree-to-extend-visas.html

November 7, 2014

CBP Tightens Security Measures for Visa Waiver Travel to the U.S.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) increased security screening measures on travelers who wish to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). VWP enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States as visitors without obtaining a visa. Under these new measures, those seeking to travel to the U.S. under the VWP will be required to complete a longer application when seeking approval under Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). (VWP travelers are required to hold an ESTA approval prior to entering the United States). According to CBP, the increased security measures are in response to growing concerns that foreign fighters who possess U.S. and European passports or travel documents, and have joined militants in Syria and Iraq may seek to travel to the U.S. CBP indicated these individuals could pose a potential threat for committing terrorist attacks in the United States.

Effective November 3, 2014, the new measures mandate VWP travelers to provide the following additional data fields information when completing the ESTA application: (1) other names/aliases or other citizenships; (2) parents name(s); (3) national identification number (if applicable); (4) contact information (email, phone, points of contact); (5) employment information (if applicable); and (6) city of birth.

Travelers with a current and valid ESTA do not need to reapply. However, a new ESTA with these new data fields will be required once the valid ESTA or passport expire, or for any future travel under the VWP. The new security measures may result in possible delay of ESTA processing because manual adjudication may be required for cases involving erroneous information, data fields entered as “unknown,” or passports from multiple countries. All VWP countries are required to comply with the new security measures.

What should I do?

Travelers who use the VWP should apply for ESTA security clearance at the earliest opportunity and should prepare for a possible increased delay or a denial of ESTA clearance. In the event that ESTA clearance is denied, the individual will be required to apply for an actual visa at a U.S. consulate.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the new ESTA procedures.

October 3, 2014

USCIS to Delete E-Verify Records More Than 10 Years Old

USCIS announced that effective January 1, 2015 it will delete annually all E-Verify transaction records that are more than 10 years old. This means that on January 1, 2015, employers will no longer have access to E-Verify cases created prior to December 31, 2004. To access these cases, the employer must download a Historic Records Report before December 31, 2014. The report will include all transaction records for cases more than 10 years old and is only available from October 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014.

E-Verify will advise employers each year when the Historic Records Report is available for downloading. If an employer did not use E-Verify for more than 10 years prior, there will be no records to report.

USCIS states that it is best practice to (1) record the E-Verify case verification number on the related Form I-9 and (2) retain the Historic Records Report with the Forms I-9.

USCIS is making this retention change to its E-Verify system to remain compliant with the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) records retention and disposal schedule (N 1-566-08-7), which requires disposal of records more than 10 years old to minimize security and privacy risks.

Please visit the E-Verify website for instructions on how to download Historic Records Reports in E-Verify. Please contact our office if you would like more information about E-Verify and responsibilities of enrolled employers.