March 24, 2016

April 2016 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The visa bulletin is out at this link: April 2016 Visa Bulletin

For the Application Final Action Dates, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries except India (November 8, 2008) and China (September 1, 2012); EB-3 is at February 15, 2016 for all countries except India (August 8, 2004), China (August 15, 2013), and the Philippines (May 1, 2008); EB-3 other workers is at February 15, 2016 for all countries except India (August 8, 2004), China (March 1, 2007), and the Philippines (May 1, 2008); EB-4, religious workers are all current; EB-5 non-regional and regional centers are current for all countries except China (February 1, 2014). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at October 22, 2014 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) September 1, 1992.

For the Date for Filing, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries except India (July 1, 2009) and China (June 1, 2013); EB-3 is current for all countries except India (July 1, 2005), China (May 1, 2015), and the Philippines (January 1, 2010); EB-3 other workers is current for all countries except India (July 1, 2005), China (August 1, 2007), and the Philippines (January 1, 2010); EB-4, religious workers are all current; and EB-5 non-regional centers and regional centers are current for all countries except China (May 1, 2015). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at June 15, 2015 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 January 1, 1993.

March 7, 2016

Electronic Travel Authorization for Visa-Exempt Travelers to Canada

Starting March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). However, from March 15, 2016 until fall 2016, travelers who do not have an eTA can board their flight, as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport. During this time, border services officers can let travelers arriving without an eTA into Canada, as long as they meet the other requirements to enter Canada. Exceptions to the eTA process include U.S. citizens and travelers with a valid visa for entrance to Canada. The eTA process is similar to the U.S.’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), and individuals who travel to Canada on a regular basis or may be seeking to apply to the U.S. consulates in Canada as Third-Party Nationals are encouraged to apply early.

A list of visa-exempt countries can be found here.

For more information on the eTA process and how to apply, please go to the following website.

Please contact our office if you have any questions or need any assistance.

January 26, 2016

DHS’s Final Rule Impacting Highly Skilled Workers Effective February 16, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final rule, effective on February 16, 2016, revises regulations affecting highly skilled workers in the nonimmigrant classifications for specialty occupations from Chile, Singapore (H-1B1) and Australia (E-3); the immigrant classification for employment-based first preference (EB-1) outstanding professors and researchers; and nonimmigrant workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) classification.

In particular, DHS is including H-1B1 and principal E-3 classifications in the list of classes of foreign nationals authorized for employment incident to status with a specific employer. This means that H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants are allowed to work for the sponsoring employer without having to separately apply for employment authorization. Additionally, DHS is authorizing continued employment with the same employer for up to 240 days for H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants whose status has expired while their employer’s timely filed extension of stay request remains pending.

This final rule does not impose any additional costs on employers and minimizes the potential of employment disruptions.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the final rule or need any assistance.

For more information about DHS’s revised regulations affecting highly skilled workers, please go to USCIS’s website.

January 15, 2016

February 2016 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The visa bulletin is out at this link: February 2016 Visa Bulletin

For the Application Final Action Dates, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries except India (August 1, 2008) and China (March 1, 2012); EB-3 is at October 1, 2015 for all countries except India (June 15, 2004), China (October 1, 2012), and the Philippines (January 8, 2008); EB-3 other workers is at October 1, 2015 for all countries except India (June 15, 2004), China (December 22, 2006), and the Philippines (January 8, 2008); EB-4, religious workers are all current; EB-5 non-regional and regional centers are current for all countries except China (January 15, 2014). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at September 1, 2014 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) August 8, 1992.

For the Date for Filing, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries except India (July 1, 2009) and China (January 1, 2013); EB-3 is at January 1, 2016 for all countries except India (July 1, 2005), China (October 1, 2013), and the Philippines (January 1, 2010); EB-3 other workers is at January 1, 2016 for all countries except India (July 1, 2005), China (January 1, 2007), and the Philippines (January 1, 2010); EB-4, religious workers are all current; and EB-5 non-regional centers and regional centers are current for all countries except China (May 1, 2015). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at June 15, 2015 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 January 1, 1993.

December 21, 2015

January 2016 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The visa bulletin is out at this link: January 2016 Visa Bulletin

For the Application Final Action Dates, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries except India (February 1, 2008) and China (February 1, 2012); EB-3 is at October 1, 2015 for all countries except India (May 15, 2004), China (July 1, 2012), and the Philippines (November 1, 2007); EB-3 other workers is at October 1, 2015 for all countries except India (May 15, 2004), China (December 1, 2006), and the Philippines (November 1, 2007); EB-4, religious workers are all current; EB-5 non-regional centers are current for all countries except China (January 8, 2014); and EB-5 regional centers are unavailable. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at August 1, 2014 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) July 22, 1992.

For the Date for Filing, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 is current for all countries except India (July 1, 2009) and China (January 1, 2013); EB-3 is at January 1, 2016 for all countries except India (July 1, 2005), China (October 1, 2013), and the Philippines (January 1, 2010); EB-3 other workers is at January 1, 2016 for all countries except India (July 1, 2005), China (January 1, 2007), and the Philippines (January 1, 2010); EB-4, religious workers are all current; and EB-5 non-regional centers and regional centers are current for all countries except China (May 1, 2015). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at June 15, 2015 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 January 1, 1993.

October 21, 2015

DHS proposes that certain F-1 STEM students be permitted to extend the OPT period by 24 months

The U.S. District Court struck down the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension rule because according to the court, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to follow the procedures required for a new rule. The court, however, allowed the rule to remain in place through February 12, 2016 in order to give the DHS sufficient time to properly reauthorize the STEM OPT rule.

In compliance with the court's order, the DHS recently republished the STEM OPT Extension rule and sent it to the Office of Management and Budget. The proposed rule should soon be published in the federal register and stakeholders will be given at least 30 days to submit written comments. The DHS will then review and consider these comments prior to making a final decision on the proposed rule.

DHS is proposing to amend its F-1 nonimmigrant student visa regulations on OPT to allow certain F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months.

Because the rule is a “significant rule,” a minimum 60-day delay between final publication and effective date is imposed. As such, to be effective on February 12, 2016, when the court’s order invalidates the STEM OPT rule, the final replacement rule must be published no later than December 14, 2015. The new rule could conceivably be released in time to meet the court’s February 12 deadline.

October 7, 2015

Information on 2017 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program Now Available

Information on the 2017 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2017), including instructions on submitting an electronic entry, answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), and a list of countries/areas by region whose natives are eligible for DV-2017 is now available. Entries must be submitted electronically between October 1, 2015, and November 3, 2015.

The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program will provide 50,000 Diversity Visas for the 2017 fiscal year. Diversity Visas are drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who meet strict eligibility requirements, and who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Successful Diversity Visa entrants must have at least a high school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

For more information, please go to the U.S. Department of State’s website.

October 5, 2015

Class Action Complaint Seeks Reinstatement of 9/9/15 October Visa Bulletin

On September 28, 2015, several beneficiaries of approved employment-based visa petitions for highly skilled workers filed a class action complaint in the Western District of Washington. The plaintiffs asked the court to strike down the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) revised September 25, 2015 version of the October Visa Bulletin, and to compel USCIS to accept adjustment applications pursuant to the original September 9, 2015 Bulletin. The case is Mehta v. DOS.

Please contact our office if you have any questions or need any assistance.

September 28, 2015

Revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin

On September 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) published a revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin, rolling back the “Dates for Filing” for several visa categories. This “Revised September 25, 2015” Visa Bulletin supersedes the previous October Visa Bulletin published on September 9, 2015.

As a result, individuals who fall under the above-referenced categories will only be permitted to file for adjustment of status in the month of October if they have a priority date that is earlier than the new Filing Date listed in the revised September 25, 2015 Visa Bulletin.

For more information, please go to the following website.

September 11, 2015

USCIS and DOS Announced Changes to Permanent Residence Application Process

On September 9, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, in conjunction with the Department of State (DOS), it is revising the procedures for determining when an application for adjustment of status may be filed, and thus implementing part of President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration.

Starting with the Visa Bulletin for October 2015, there are two important dates listed on the monthly Visa Bulletin:
(1) The “filing date,” which determines when individuals can submit their permanent residence applications; and
(2) The “final action” date, which indicates when DOS or USCIS can make a decision on the applications.

If you have a “priority date” earlier than the listed “filing date” for your particular visa category and country, you will be able to file your application for permanent residence earlier than you would have been allowed under the old process. However, you will have to wait for the “final action” date to become current before permanent residence can be approved.

Applicants in the United States who are subject to the visa backlogs will be able to receive employment authorization and travel documents while awaiting final action on their cases.

Applicants for immigrant visas abroad who have a priority date earlier than the “filing date” listed, may assemble and submit required documents to the DOS’s National Visa Center (NVC), following receipt of notification from the NVC containing detailed instructions.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the changes or need assistance in filing a permanent residence application.

For more information on the changes, please go to USCIS’s website. Information is also available on the DOS’s website.

August 13, 2015

Entrepreneurs: Thinking About Starting or Expanding a Business in the United States?

Although a foreign national entrepreneur must usually obtain authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through the immigrant or nonimmigrant visa process to live and work in the United States, there are a variety of options available to come to the United States to start or expand a business. For example, an entrepreneur may be eligible for certain nonimmigrant classifications such as E-2 Treaty Investor or a B-1 Business Visitor. An E-2 classification enables an entrepreneur from a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States to invest a substantial amount of money in a new or existing U.S. business. And a B-1 classification allows an entrepreneur to come to the United States to secure funding or office space, negotiate a contract, or attend certain business meetings in connection with opening a new business in the United States.

It is important to determine which classification works best as not every classification that USCIS administers will allow an entrepreneur to work in the United States. Most employment-based petitions are issued for a specific type of activity with a specific employer. Also, certain nonimmigrant classifications are subject to annual numerical limitations. These limitations can affect the amount of time it may take for an entrepreneur to obtain authorization to live and work in the United States.

We practice exclusively immigration law, and our office can assist in determining the appropriate visa classification for your circumstances and business plans. Please feel free to contact us to learn more information. We recommend that you consult with us early to best explore your U.S. immigration options in light of your business and personal goals.

For additional general information about the visa categories available for foreign nationals looking to start or expand businesses in the United States, visit USCIS’s Visa Guide for Entrepreneurs.

August 13, 2015

September 2015 Department of State Visa Bulletin

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

In the September Bulletin, there is a retrogression in the EB-2 category for India and 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 and China (January 1, 2006); EB-3 is at August 15, 2015 for all countries except India, China, and the Philippines (December 22, 2004); EB-3 other workers is at August 15, 2015 for all countries except India and the Philippines (December 22, 2004) and China (January 1, 2004); EB-4, religious workers are all current; and EB-5 targeted employment areas and regional centers and EB-5 Pilot Programs are current for all countries except China (September 22, 2013). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at March 1, 2014 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 March 1, 1992.