Diversity Visa Lottery Now Open Until November 6, 2018 for FY-2019

Lottery-Balls-014.jpgFrom October 3 to November 6, 2018, citizens of certain countries may apply for a Green Card though the Diversity Visa Lottery.  Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants,” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. A limited number of visas are available each fiscal year, and there is no cost to register for the DV Program.

Applicants who are selected in the program (“selectees”) must meet simple but strict eligibility requirements to qualify for a diversity visa. The Department of State determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing. The Department of State distributes diversity visas among six (6) geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven percent (7%) of the available DVs in any one year.

Who is Eligible?

globeFor DV-2019, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Continue reading

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Has Your Company Been Reimbursing its Employees for Personal Cell Phone Use on the Job?

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

cell phone 2Since January 1, 2016, California employers must reimburse employees for use of their personal cell phones for mandatory business purposes.  (Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, Inc). This ruling affects millions of employers who must update their company policies in order to stay compliant with the new law.  While this law has been on the books for over two years now, it appears as though many companies have not addressed this law or made it part of their employee reimbursement practices.  Is your company reimbursing its employees for their cell phone call and data usage?  Read below for policy suggestions.

What does this mean for employers?

According to Cochran, California employers must indemnify employees for all “necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer.” Unfortunately, even four years after this case was decided, the exact measure of reimbursement is still somewhat unclear.  While the court in Cochran determined that employers must consistently reimburse employees a “reasonable percentage,” it did not define what is reasonable. Furthermore, the employer must reimburse the employee even if the employee does not incur any additional expense on his or her cell phone/data plan as the result of using the device for work-related purposes (i.e. if the client has unlimited talk, text, and data plans).

This law is now reflected in California Labor Code section 2082: Continue reading

Must-Read for All Employers: Gov. Brown Further Expands Sexual Harassment Laws in California

Brown lawOn September 30, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed over a dozen bills into law with the intent on making the Golden State the leader in the nation on the much-analyzed and discussed topic of sexual harassment.

Governor Brown signed his last bill on Sunday night.  Over his career, he signed nearly 20,000 bills, including 1,016 this year. The new laws, on a range of issues from climate change to criminal justice to gender issues, place California on the “left coast” politically.  Brown’s ambitions can be summarized by his statement that, “We are going to be the moral compass and the policy trendsetter of the country.”

While these new laws will benefit employees and address serious and relevant issues, they will continue to place more demands on employers across California who attempt to comply with the most legislated corporate territory in the country.

A full list of Governor Browns approvals and vetoes can be found in his Legislative Update.  Of the dozens of bills signed into law on September 30, the most relevant on this topic include the following: Continue reading

California Passes Law Requiring Boards of Publicly-Held Corporations to Include Women by 2019 (SB 826)

woman on boardOn September 30, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a radical initiative to add women to corporate boards of directors for publicly-held corporations headquartered in California.   According to Brown in a letter to the California State Senate, “Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.”  The California Senate approved Senate Bill 826 by a vote of 23 to 9 after the State Assembly narrowly passed the proposal with the bare minimum 41 votes a day earlier.  The Bill was then approved by the Governor and filed with the California Secretary of State.

Brown lawIn an effort to “close the gender gap” in business, the new law requires publicly traded corporations whose principal executive offices are headquartered in California to include at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019.  By December 31, 2021, this requirement will expand to require that a minimum of two women must sit on boards with five (5) members, and there must be at least three women on boards with six or more (6+) members.  The corporations’ SEC 10-K form will be used to determine the location of the principal executive offices.

The bill requires that by July 1, 2019, the Secretary of State publish the number of domestic and foreign corporations whose principal executive offices are located in California and who have at least one female director. The bill also authorizes the Secretary of State to impose fines for violations of the bill, and provides that funds from these fines are to be available, upon appropriation, to offset the cost of administering the bill.

Penalties for non-compliance will be high, including fines of $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for a second or subsequent violation.  Companies must demonstrate their compliance by filing their board member information with the Secretary of State by the respective deadlines. Continue reading

USCIS Increases Premium Processing Fee by 15% on October 1, 2018

fee-increaseOn August 31, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will adjust the premium processing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, beginning on October 1, 2018, to “more effectively adjudicate petitions and maintain effective service to petitioners. ” These forms are typically used for H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1 or R-1 petitions.

The premium processing fee will increase to $1,410.00, a 14.92 percent increase (after rounding) from the current fee of $1,225.00. This increase, which is done in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, represents the percentage change in inflation since the fee was last increased in 2010 based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers. Continue reading

USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium Processing for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions

enter-usa-h1b-visaAs of April 2, 2018, USCIS began accepting H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 cap.  This cap was reached in just four days, by April 6, 2018.
USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing for all FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. This suspension is expected to last until Sept. 10, 2018. During this time, USCIS will continue to accept premium processing requests for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the FY 2019 cap.
USCIS will notify the public before resuming premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions or making any other premium processing updates.

During this temporary suspension, USCIS will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, filed with an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition. If a petitioner submits one combined check for the fees for Form I-907 and Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, both forms will be rejected.

Once USCIS resumes premium processing, petitioners may file a Form I-907 for FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions that remain pending.

Requesting Expedited Processing

While premium processing is suspended, a petitioner may submit a request to expedite an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition if it meets the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. It is the petitioner’s responsibility to demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria, and USCIS encourages petitioners to submit documentary evidence to support their expedite request. USCIS reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and will grant requests at the discretion of its office leadership.

The Reason for Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

This temporary suspension will help USCIS reduce overall H-1B processing times. By temporarily suspending premium processing, USCIS will:

  • Process long-pending petitions, which it has currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and
  • Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.

Look for USCIS’ updates on the H-1B FY 2019 Cap Season webpage.

Continue reading

Updates to California Labor Law Posters

CapitolStay up to date with recent changes to California labor law posters!  In order for your business to stay in compliance with these recent changes, the updated posting(s) must be downloaded, printed, and then posted next to your current labor law poster. Remember, labor law posters must be posted in a conspicuous location so that all employees may see them.

1. EDD- Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, Paid Family Leave:

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has updated its EDD notice regarding Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Paid Family Leave. The updated notice reflects a change to the online application platform, as well as formatting changes. The department recommends maintaining updated information, however, this update will not be mandatory until January 1, 2019. The poster revision date is August 8, 2018.

Continue reading

Clarification of STEM OPT Extension Reporting Responsibilities and Training Obligations

STEM guysCertain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion optional practical training (OPT).  On August 17, 2018, USCIS updated the Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) page of its website to clarify the reporting responsibilities for participation in the STEM OPT program. Students and employers must report material changes to the Designated School Official (DSO) at the earliest opportunity by submitting a modified Form I-983. Employers must report the STEM OPT student’s termination of employment or departure to the DSO within five business days.  As previously indicated on the webpage, students must report certain changes, such as changes to their employer’s name and address, to their DSO within 10 business days. Prompt reporting ensures that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is able to exercise effective oversight of the program.

Additionally, DHS is clarified that STEM OPT participants may engage in a training experience that takes place at a site other than the employer’s principal place of business, as long as all of the training obligations are met, including that the employer has and maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student. DHS will review on a cSTEM OPTase-by-case basis whether the student will be a bona fide employee of the employer signing the Training Plan, and verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. Continue reading

Conduct Your Own I-9 Audit Before ICE Does: 6 Tips for Avoiding Costly Mistakes

i-9

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) conducted a two-phase nationwide operation in which I-9 audit notices were served to more than 5,200 businesses around the country since January 2018. A notice of inspection (NOI) informs business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether they are complying with existing law.

During the second phase of the operation from July 16 to 20, 2018, HSI served 2,738 NOIs and made 32 arrests. During the first phase of the operation, Jan. 29 to March 30, HSI served 2,540 NOIs and made 61 arrests.

ICE 2While the agency routinely conducts worksite investigations to uphold federal law, HSI is currently carrying out its commitment to increase the number of I-9 audits in an effort to create a culture of compliance among employers, according to Derek N. Benner, Acting Executive Associate Director for HSI. The seriousness of these investigations is described by Mr. Benner: “This is not a victimless crime.  Unauthorized workers often use stolen identities of legal U.S. workers, which can significantly impact the identity theft victim’s credit, medical records and other aspects of their everyday life.

HSI uses a three-pronged approach to worksite enforcement: (1) compliance, from I-9 inspections, civil fines, and referrals for debarment; (2) enforcement, through the criminal arrest of employers and administrative arrest of unauthorized workers; and (3) outreach, through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.

From Oct. 1, 2017, through July 20, 2018, HSI opened 6,093 worksite investigations and made 675 criminal and 984 administrative worksite-related arrests, respectively. In fiscal year 2017 (October 2016 to September 2017), HSI opened 1,716 worksite investigations; initiated 1,360 I-9 audits; and made 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests related to worksite enforcement.

What is the I-9 Form?

The I-9 Form is an instrumental part of the new employee on boarding process, and should be completed within the first 3 days of hire.  This form is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States, including both citizens and non-citizens.

To many employers and HR professionals, an I-9 form may appear to be a simple piece of hiring paperwork. However, the one page I-9 form comes with enough rules and regulations to fill a 69-page how-to manual, the M-274 Handbook for Employers.

In order to ensure compliance with the I-9 requirements, it is recommend that employers conduct and audit of their files to ensure that there is a signed I-9 form on file for each employee.  These forms should be stored together in a separate I-9 file, rather than each employee’s personnel file.  This way, in the event USCIS conducts an audit, the employer only has to turn over the I-9 file, as opposed to information about the employee that is outside the scope of the agency’s audit.  Read below for an explanation of the I-9 audits and tips to be prepared in the event you receive a visit from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
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Jennifer Grady, Esq. Speaks at San Diego Global Investment Forum on Immigration Options for Investors, Entrepreneurs, and Global Employees

07-10-18- Event flyer

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Ms. Grady speaking on the FDI panel about immigration in the Trump Era (09/20/18)

Jennifer Grady, Esq. has been invited to appear as a panelist at the San Diego Global Investment Forum in sunny San Diego, California.  This event, which will took place on September 19-20, 2018, is hosted by the San Diego Global Partnership.  As part of the panel on “Foreign Direct Investment,” Ms. Grady shared her expertise on immigration options and trends for investors and employees who are relocating to Southern California.

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FDI panel of attorneys, tax advisors, and US-bound entrepreneurs

Other panels focused on real estate development and investment, technology and innovation, domestic funding and alternative investment, and city collaboration.  Speakers and attendees had the opportunity to network at the welcome cocktail reception on the evening of September 19, and the finale networking reception on September 20.  In addition, there was a Development & Innovation tour of San Diego on September 21 for investors interested in an overview of San Diego.

DSC07082This unique investment-focused event drew attendees from around the globe who recognize San Diego and the greater Southern California region’s incredible growth opportunities over the next ten years. For example, CBRE’s “Americas Investor Intentions Survey” for 2018 recognizes the up-and-coming nature of the region by recognizing that, “the Southern California market ranked number 11 for investment in the US, up from number 17 last year.”

This was the first year for the Forum, which is open to any individual, developer, institution, company, fund, or organization that wants to learn why San Diego is rapidly climbing the economic changes and why they should be looking at San Diego and Southern California as their next investment opportunity.

Coronado bridgeThis two-day forum offers a unique platform to learn from and meet San Diego’s Mega Region innovation, development, business, municipality, political, and thought leaders in one room.
Who should attend?

Continue reading

Cities and Counties Across California Increased the Minimum Wage Again on July 1, 2018- Is Yours Included? (See Our Chart)

los angelesTen cities and counties across California increased their minimum wages again on July 1, 2018, including the following:

  1. El Cerrito
  2. Emeryville
  3. City of Los Angeles
  4. County of Los Angeles (unincorporated areas)
  5. Malibu
  6. Milpitas
  7. Pasadena
  8. San Francisco City and County
  9. San Leandro; and
  10. Santa Monica.

Employers should examine the rules for every jurisdiction in which they operate, not just the one or more where they might have offices. As different municipalities have different definitions of “covered employer” and/or “covered employee,” employers may be faced with different rules for the various jurisdictions in which they do business.  When there are conflicting requirements in the laws, the employer must follow the stricter standard – the one that is the most generous to the employee.

For example, a delivery company with drivers routinely working in multiple cities or counties each week may well have separate minimum wage compliance issues simultaneously.  For some cities, these rates apply when an employee works just two or more hours per week in the jurisdiction.  It is therefore imperative that you check the requirements for each city in which your employees work.

A covered employer must also conspicuously post an updated wage notice/bulletin for each applicable jurisdiction. Click the above city/county link(s) to download the most current notice.

California picAs of January 1, 2018, the California minimum wage is $11.00 for employers with 26 or more employees, and $10.50 for employers with 25 or fewer employees.  This will increase to $12.00/ $11.00 respectively on January 1, 2019.

In addition, the cities below have their own minimum wage ordinances that go into effect on January or July each year (with the exception of Berkeley).  See the chart below for more details: Continue reading

The Grady Firm Will be Meeting with Clients and Local Business Owners in Berlin and Munich in June

Berlin

Berlin, Germany

The Grady Firm,P.C. will be meeting with German clients abroad in June as a way to share accurate information about the realities of doing business in the United States and will provide tips for applying for a visa or Green Card during the current political climate.  As a truly cross-border firm, The Grady Firm’s global expansion and relocation Department advises foreign entrepreneurs on the best practices to establish a new business in the United States and transfer their employees to US offices. The Firm also assists German citizens with their citizenship retention application to retain German citizenship before they acquire US citizenship (“Beibehaltungsgenehmigung).  In line with these professional services,  Jennifer Grady, Esq. will be meeting with clients in Berlin from June 20-22, and Munich from June 28 to 28, 2018.

Munich

Munich, Germany

Click here to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with Jennifer while she is in Germany, call +1 (323) 450-9010; or fill out a Contact Request Form. Continue reading

DHS Proposes Removal of the Entrepreneur Parole Rule- Comment period ends June 28

international-movers-and-packersAccording to a post on the uscis.gov website dated May 25, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes an end the International Entrepreneur Rule (IE Final Rule), a program that allows certain foreign entrepreneurs to be considered for parole to temporarily come to the United States to develop and build start-up businesses here.  After review of all DHS parole programs in accordance with an Executive Order (E.O.) titled, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” issued on January 25, 2017, the DHS is proposing to end the IE parole program, and remove or revise the related regulations, because it alleges that this program is not the appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs, and does not adequately protect U.S. investors and U.S. workers employed by or seeking employment with the start-up.  Interested parties will have until June 28 to make their opinions heard by DHS.

Backstory

In July 2017, DHS published a final rule to delay the implementation date of the IE Final Rule to March 14, 2018, to give the Department time to draft a rescission of the IE Final Rule. However, in December 2017, a federal court vacated the delay rule, requiring USCIS to begin accepting international entrepreneur parole applications consistent with the IE Final Rule.
However, DHS is now proposing to eliminate the IE Final Rule because the department believes that it represents an overly broad interpretation of parole authority, lacks sufficient protections for U.S. workers and investors, and is not the appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs.

Continue reading

Additional Employer Requirements Under San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance

San FranciscoIn California, employees can apply for paid family leave (PFL) benefits administered through the California’s Employment Development Department (EDD).  These PFL benefits are funded through employee-paid payroll taxes, and provide eligible employees with six (6) weeks of partial wage replacement.  No state-wide law requires that employers offer paid parental leave.

San Francisco, however, has enacted a local ordinance, the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (SFPPLO), which requires that covered employers supplement an employee’s PFL benefits.  As of January 1, 2018, the SFPPLO applies to any San Francisco-based employer with 20 or more employees worldwide.  Thus, any employer with more than 20 employees would need to offer eligible employees who work in San Francisco with fully paid leave that complies with the SFPPLO and would need to revise its parental policy accordingly. Continue reading

Update on the Travel Ban and DACA

Travel Ban

travel-ban May 2018On April 25th, 2018 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from both sides on President Trump’s highly scrutinized “travel ban”. The travel ban, now in its third iteration, prohibits entry of travelers from five Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya), as well as North Korea and government officials from Venezuela. Although previous versions of the travel ban were initially partially blocked by U.S. District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland, the Supreme Court lifted such injunctions in December 2017.

Since Trump first issued his travel order, setting off widespread chaos at airports just a few days after his inauguration, the issue has strongly shaped public perceptions of the new administration. It has also led to a string of defeats in lower courts, where judges ruled that the measure exceeded Trump’s authority and, in some cases, said it reflected bias against Muslims.

 

However, the Supreme Court of the United States has provided a friendlier forum, on this topic. The justices issued a ruling in June 2017 that allowed the second version of the travel ban to take partial effect. Then, in December 2017, with only two dissenting votes, they set aside lower-court rulings to allow the administration to put the third version into practice, a strong indicator of where the majority was headed.

Justice Samuel A. Alito rejected the notion Trump’s order could be considered a “Muslim ban,” noting it does not apply to most of the largest Muslim nations.

“If you look at what was done, it does not look like a Muslim ban,” he said.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s appointee, questioned whether the challengers had standing to sue in the first place. Foreigners overseas do not have rights in U.S. courts, he said. Plaintiffs who live in Hawaii sued, contending the travel ban was illegal, but “third parties can’t vindicate the rights of aliens,” Gorsuch said.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy portrayed the issue before the court as one of national security in which the chief executive, not the judicial branch, should be entrusted to weigh possible threats from foreign visitors.

 

A final decision by the Court is expected at the end of June. Meanwhile, the current version of the travel ban remains in effect during deliberation. Continue reading