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On September 24, 2017, the Trump administration announced details of a revised and expanded travel ban upon nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.  The ban immediately impacts nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen with no bona fide relationship to a U.S. person or entity, and will take effect for all other impacted nationals of those countries, as well as nationals of Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela, on October 18, 2017.

The original travel ban has been the subject of numerous legal challenges which blocked implementation of the ban until June, when the U.S. Supreme Court permitted a more narrowly focused version of the ban to go into effect until the Court could ultimately rule on its constitutionality, with oral arguments scheduled for October 10, 2017.

In contrast to the original ban, which temporarily suspended travel to the U.S. by nationals of the designated countries for a period of ninety days, the new ban applies indefinitely. The new rules do not apply to legal permanent residents, nor do they apply to current nonimmigrant visa holders already in the U.S.  This means that students from the banned countries may remain and finish their studies, and business employees may stay for as long as their present visas are valid. Once their existing visas expire however, they will be subject to the travel ban.

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Effective October 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed premium processing for all H-1B extension of stay petitions.  Premium processing is now available for all types of H-1B petitions.

When a petitioner requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-calendar day processing time.  If that time is not met, the agency will refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing of the application.

Please contact us if you are interested in requesting premium processing, or if you have any questions.

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On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  This impacts almost 800,000 individuals who have been granted DACA.

In a June 15, 2012 memorandum, the Obama Administration announced the DACA initiative.  DACA provided certain people who came to the U.S. as children and who meet several guidelines the opportunity to request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.  DACA recipients were also eligible for work authorization.

While Congress may pass a permanent protection for DACA recipients, here are answers to some questions:

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin expanding in-person interviews for certain immigration benefit applicants beginning on October 1, 2017.  This change will impact person with adjustment of status applications based on employment. The adjustment of status application is the final step in the green card process for eligible foreign nationals residing in the U.S.

Previously, persons with these types of applications were not required to appear for an in-person interview in order to have their applications adjudicated. According to USCIS, this change is in compliance with Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” and “is part of the agency’s comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and further enhance the integrity of the immigration system.”

USCIS states they will meet the additional interview requirement through enhancements in training and technology as well as transitions in some aspects of case management.

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The visa bulletin is out at this link: September 2017 Visa Bulletin

For the Application Final Action Dates, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries except China and India (January 1, 2012); EB-2 is at January 1, 2016 for all countries except India (August 22, 2008) and China (May 15, 2013); EB-3 is current for all countries except India (October 15, 2006), China (January 1, 2012), and the Philippines (November 1, 2015); EB-3 other workers is current for all countries except India (October 15, 2006), China (January 1, 2004), and the Philippines (November 1, 2015); EB-4 and religious workers are current for all countries except India, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (October 22, 2015); EB-5 non-regional and regional centers are current for all countries except China (June 15, 2014). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at October 1, 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) is June 1, 1994.

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 (February 1, 2009) and China (October 1, 2013); EB-3 is current for all countries except India (January 1, 2007), China (September 1, 2015), and the Philippines (January 1, 2016); EB-3 other workers is current for all countries except India (January 1, 2007), China (June 1, 2008), and the Philippines (January 1, 2016); EB-4 and religious workers are all current; and EB-5 non-regional centers and regional centers are current for all countries except China (September 1, 2014).  Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at April 8, 2016 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 February 8, 1995.

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Employment based immigration has received renewed attention under the Trump administration. Critics of U.S. immigration policy have long contended that extending employment opportunities to foreign nationals takes jobs from American workers.  Proponents of employment-based immigration point out that having access to highly skilled workers from around the world generates economic innovation and activity that creates more jobs for American workers and is therefore a benefit to the U.S. economy and its workforce.  That counterbalancing factor is particularly present in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, where foreign workers constitute 25% of the workforce.

According to a study by the Brookings Institute, the STEM economy is the fastest growing sector of the economy, with STEM jobs now accounting for 20% of all jobs in the U.S., and outperforms other areas of the economy across a range of economic indicators, including job growth, employment rates, wages, patenting, and exports.  The American Immigration Council reports that much of the growth of the STEM economy is the result of innovations contributed by foreign STEM workers, whose skills more often complement those of their US coworkers rather than compete with them.  The presence of foreign born professionals thus increases productivity, business revenue, and therefore job creation and wages.  A study by the American Enterprise Institute study found that, for every 100 foreign-born workers working in STEM fields, the economy added 262 jobs for U.S. born workers.

Foreign-born STEM workers also play a crucial role in fields where growing demand for services outpaces the supply of U.S. workers.  The most notable example is the healthcare field, where meeting the needs of an aging Baby Boomer population is straining the nation’s healthcare resources.  29.4% of the physicians and surgeons in the U.S. are foreign born, as are 16.9% of registered nurses.

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The visa bulletin is out at this link: July 2017 Visa Bulletin

For the Application Final Action Dates, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries except China and India (January 1, 2012); EB-2 remains current for all countries except India (July 22, 2008) and China (March 22, 2013); EB-3 is at June 8, 2017 for all countries except India (February 15, 2006), China (January 1, 2012), and the Philippines (May 15, 2014); EB-3 other workers is at June 8, 2017 for all countries except India (February 15, 2006), China (July 15, 2006), and the Philippines (May 15, 2014); EB-4 and religious workers are current for all countries except India, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (August 15, 2015); EB-5 non-regional and regional centers are current for all countries except China (June 8, 2014). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at September 8, 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) is February 15, 1994.

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 (February 1, 2009) and China (October 1, 2013); EB-3 is current for all countries except India (October 1, 2006), China (September 1, 2015), and the Philippines (July 1, 2015); EB-3 other workers is current for all countries except India (October 1, 2006), China (June 1, 2008), and the Philippines (July 1, 2015); EB-4 and religious workers are all current; and EB-5 non-regional centers and regional centers are current for all countries except China (September 1, 2014).  Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at April 8, 2016 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F3 Philippines (married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens) of February 1, 1995.

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June 2017 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The visa bulletin is out at this link: June 2017 Visa Bulletin

For the Application Final Action Dates, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries except China and India (January 1, 2012); EB-2 remains current for all countries except India (July 1, 2008) and China (March 1, 2013); EB-3 is at April 15, 2017 for all countries except India (May 15, 2005), China (October 1, 2014), and the Philippines (May 1, 2013); EB-3 other workers is at April 15, 2017 for all countries except India (May 15, 2005), China (July 15, 2006), and the Philippines (May 1, 2013); EB-4 and religious workers are current for all countries except Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (July 15, 2015); EB-5 non-regional and regional centers are current for all countries except China (June 8, 2014). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at August 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) November 22, 1993.

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The visa bulletin is out at this link: May 2017 Visa Bulletin

For the Application Final Action Dates, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 remains current for all countries except India (June 22, 2008) and China (February 8, 2013); EB-3 is at March 15, 2017 for all countries except India (March 25, 2005), China (October 1, 2014), and the Philippines (January 1, 2013); EB-3 other workers is at March 15, 2017 for all countries except India (March 25, 2005), China (March 8, 2006), and the Philippines (January 1, 2013); EB-4 is current for all countries except Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (July 15, 2015); religious workers’ numbers are unavailable; EB-5 non-regional centers are current for all countries except China (June 1, 2014); and EB-5 regional centers’ numbers are unavailable. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at July 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) October 15, 1993.

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 (February 1, 2009) and China (October 1, 2013); EB-3 is current for all countries except India (April 22, 2006), China (September 1, 2015), and the Philippines (July 1, 2014); EB-3 other workers is current for all countries except India (April 22, 2006), China (June 1, 2008), and the Philippines (July 1, 2014); EB-4 and religious workers are all current; and EB-5 non-regional centers and regional centers are current for all countries except China (September 1, 2014; both non-regional centers and regional centers). Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at April 8, 2016 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F3 Philippines (brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) of February 1, 1995.

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The Justice Department cautioned employers filing H-1B petitions not to discriminate against U.S. workers. The warning came as the federal government began accepting employers’ H-1B visa petitions for the next fiscal year. The H-1B visa program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations such as science and information technology. The antidiscrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally prohibits employers from discriminating against U.S. workers because of their citizenship or national origin in hiring, firing and recruiting. Employers violate the INA if they have a discriminatory hiring preference that favors H-1B visa holders over U.S. workers. “U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division. Applicants or employees who believe they have been discriminated against based on their national origin, citizenship or immigration status can contact the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section. The IER can be reached via email at IER.usdoj.gov and via phone at 1-800-255-8155.

For further information: http://www.aila.org/infonet/doj-cautions-employers-seeking-h-1b-visas