USCIS Raises Premium Processing Fee to $1,440 on December 2, 2019

The USCIS final rule increasing the premium processing fee for Form I-129 and Form I-140 from USD $1,410.00 to $1,440.00 takes effect December 2, 2019. Applications postmarked on or after December 2, 2019, must include the new fee.

The premium processing fee will increase to $1,440 for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This increase, which is done in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, reflects the full amount of inflation from the implementation of the Premium Processing fee in June 2001, through August 2019, based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U). USCIS last increased the fee in 2018.


Premium Processing is an optional service currently authorized for certain petitioners filing Forms I-129 or I-140. The system allows petitioners to request 15-day processing of these forms if they pay an extra fee. The premium processing fee is paid in addition to the base filing fee and any other applicable fees. It cannot be waived.

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Why Should You Hire a Lawyer Instead of Doing it Yourself?

In the age of the “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) mentality, entrepreneurs who are resourceful and eager to cut costs may attempt to perform legal work themselves by using the Internet as a resource for sample agreements, forms, and answers to their legal questions.  While the Internet is an amazing tool and the great equalizer, it is no substitute for advice from trained legal counsel.  Just as identifying your medical symptoms on sites like WebMD is no substitute for visiting a doctor, using the Internet alone as the source of legal advice can cause more cost and headaches in the long run.  The following examples illustrate some of the downsides to using the Internet instead of a lawyer.

1. DIY Sites Lack Customization

Many entrepreneurs believe that filling out a form on a site like LegalZoom  or Rocketlawyer is all they need to do to start a business.  However, taking this approach will deprive the entrepreneur of crucial legal advice that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars later.

For example, is the owner concerned about personal liability?  How many shareholders will there be? Will it be a closely-held family business, or will there be many investors involved?   How will the profits be distributed?  What steps need to occur before the entity can go public or be sold?  What makes the most sense: an LLC, LLP, general partnership, professional corporation, non-profit, or other entity?  A qualified attorney can help you navigate these issues, and provide you with the advice that a website can’t.

Are you an employer looking to transition your independent contractors to employees? We offer customized forms from the time of hire to termination, and Employee Handbooks that are tailored to your business.

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What You need to Know about Converting Independent Contractors to to Employees by January 1, 2019

On September 18, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law A.B. 5, solidifying a tighter standard of rules for classifying a worker as an independent contractor. The new standard, known as the Dynamex standard, codifies and expands the earlier California Supreme Court decision, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. It  replaces the former Borello test, and puts in place a more simple three-pronged ABC test. The significant effect is that many workers in California will now be classified as employees instead of independent contractors (also informally known as “1099” workers). This change is one of the most significant disruptions to California employment law in decades. The law will take effect on January 1, 2020.

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Changes to the H-1B lottery and New $10 Registration Fee

WASHINGTON—On November 7, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a final rule that will require a $10 non-refundable fee for each H-1B registration submitted by petitioning employers, once it implements the electronic registration system. The registration fee is part of an agency-wide effort to modernize and more efficiently process applications to live or work in the United States.

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent.

Upon implementation of the electronic registration system, petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, will first have to electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period, unless the requirement is suspended.

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Listen to our Podcast on Strategies for Responding to Requests for Evidence (RFEs) from USCIS

Join Beverly Hills immigration attorneys, Jennifer Grady, Esq. and Anthony Mance, Esq. as they share tips and insight into how to prepare a winning RFE response that will stand out and position your application for an approval.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new data confirming that employment-based immigration applications have seen a sharp increase in Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials since fiscal year (FY) 2018, which was when President Trump released his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order.

  •  For H-1B visas, the rate of denials more than doubled between FY 2017 and FY 2018, and it more than tripled in FY 2018 compared to FY 2015.  The number of RFEs increased by nearly 15%.
  • In the first quarter of FY 2019, the RFE rate for L-1 visas jumped to 51.8 percent, compared to 46.1 percent in the first quarter of FY 2018.
  • The overall rate of TN visa application denials increased from 4.9 percent in FY 2015 to 11.8 percent in FY 2018, and the RFE rate rose threefold, from 17.3 percent in FY 2015 to 28.2 percent in FY 2018.

Don’t be part of these statistics!  An RFE response is your opportunity to share as much relevant information and analysis as cohesively as possible.  Learn from Jennifer and Anthony’s success preparing hundreds of successful applications and dozens of successful RFEs.  They will share current trends in RFE topics and provide practical advice on preparing a persuasive cover letter and attractive presentation that will catch the eye of your reviewing officer.

Find out what USCIS is looking for, the most common types of RFEs, and how to prepare a winning response by listening to our podcast

In addition, download or FREE info booklet on RFE Response tips and tricks here.
 

About The Grady Firm, P.C.

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The Grady Firm works with dynamic employers and employees across the country to prepare successful employment-based visa and Green Card applications. In addition, we help individuals, families, employees, business owners, and investors obtain non-immigrant and immigrant visas (B-1/B2, H-1B, H-2B, L-1A, L-1B, O-1, TN, E-2, E-3), as well and Green Cards and citizenship based on family relationships, investment, or employment.

Click here to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys; call +1 (323) 450-9010; or fill out a Contact Request Form.

This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.

BREAKING NEWS: Many Workers Now Classified as Employees, Not Independent Contractors

On September 18, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law A.B. 5, codifying a tighter standard of rules for classifying a worker as an independent contractor. The new standard, known as the Dynamex standard, codifies and expands the earlier California Supreme Court decision, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. It  replaces the former Borello test, and puts in place a more simple three-pronged ABC test. The significant effect is that many workers in California will now be classified as employees instead of independent contractors (also informally known as “1099” workers). This change is one of the most significant disruptions to California employment law in decades. The law will take effect on January 1, 2020.

The new law is convoluted, and has numerous exceptions for various professions, as discussed in further detail below. To further complicate matters, the law codifies Dynamex for purposes of claims made under the California Labor Code, Unemployment Insurance Code, and wage orders, but curiously does not mention the California Government Code, under which workers may seek redress for harassment and discrimination, among other things.

In addition, the newly created exemptions to the ABC test will apply “retroactively to existing claims and actions to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

In order to ensure that your company’s workers are properly classified (in order to avoid substantial fines and expensive misclassification lawsuits), contact a qualified employment law attorney as soon as possible to ensure you are complying with the law and following the new rules.

What Is the Potential Impact of This Change?

According to the LA Times, “State Capitol Democrats and organized labor say their new ‘gig’ law will correct the misclassification of 1 million California workers who are falsely deemed independent contractors.”

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Client’s Corner: Avoiding the Delays of a Request for Evidence When Filing an L-1A Petition

The Grady Firm recently filed an L-1A Intracompany transferee petition application for a corporate

client, the U.S. subsidiary of a multi-national company with offices around the world.  This company was  seeking to transfer a high-level executive in the role of CEO to the U.S. subsidiary in new York. The L-1A visa allows multi-national executives to relocate to the U.S. for up to 7 years, and can lead to a Green Card.  This popular visa has faced increased scrutiny under the Trump Administration, resulting in more Requests for Evidence, delays, and denials.

Because this visa is eligible for Premium Processing (a 15-day case review for an additional $1,410.00 filing fee), our client was fortunate to receive an approval within 15 days without a further costly and time-consuming Request for Evidence by USCIS. 

The key to our success was anticipating what documentation would be sought by the adjudicating officer, and providing a meticulous, detailed, and creative presentation. In order to prevent a delay by Request for more Evidence from USCIS, we provided some of the following evidence in anticipation:

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Truck Driver Shortages May be Solved by Green Cards for Unskilled Workers (EB-3)

For the past 15 years, the United States has been experiencing a severe shortage of available and qualified truck drivers. According to a recent report by the nation’s largest trucking industry group, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), by the end of 2018, the industry was short 60,800 driver positions. The ATA predicts that this trend will only get worse, with the shortage potentially expanding to 160,000 positions by 2028. The report warns that if the industry cannot hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade, the nation’s freight demands may not be able to be met. However, for employers that are having difficulty recruiting and retaining truck drivers, sponsoring a foreign truck driver for a Green Card based on employment may be a viable solution.

Trucking Industry Recruitment Struggles

 According to the ATA report, the main issue surrounding driver shortage is one of “quality over quantity.” Reports show that while there are plenty of people applying for truck driving job, unfortunately, not nearly enough of those applicants meet the stringent standards associated with the trucking industry.  A 2015 ATA study found that 88% of trucking companies indicated that they were receiving sufficient numbers of applicants, but that many were simply not qualified for the jobs to which they applied.

Another issue faced by the trucking industry is driver age. According to the ATA report, the current average age of a driver is 46 and the average age of a new driver in training is 35.  Recruiting younger drivers is vital to maintaining a long-lasting and stable workforce within the industry as many drivers approach the age of retirement. Without a consistent pool of qualified applicants, the industry faces an aging out that will further exasperate the shortages.

Finally, the industry is also facing challenges with regard to turnover and job-hopping. The ATA report notes that driver turnover is a serious issue facing the industry with as much as 89% of drivers changing jobs at large trucking companies in 2018. This means that trucking companies are finding it increasingly difficult to retain long-term employees, thus reducing incentives to invest in vital training and development for those employees. As the driver shortages increase over the next decade this turnover rate will likely increase as well.

Legal Immigration as a Solution

One possible solution to help alleviate some of the driver shortages is to bring qualified foreign workers to the U.S. to cover these jobs. While applying for any immigration benefit to the United States is a complex and potentially long process, the benefits can nonetheless be worth the effort. This is especially true in an environment where a severe shortage of qualified workers means a potentially devastating loss in business opportunities.

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Client’s Corner: How I Got a Green Card Based on My Employment as a Skilled Worker (EB-3)

One of the ways to obtain a Green Card based on employment is through the EB-3 Immigrant Visa. The following is an overview of the process by one of our clients, Reza Moghtaderi Esfahani, who received his Green Card based on employment.

“My application for Adjustment of Status was based on the EB-3 employment category. I was among the few cases of F-1 students who were lucky enough to have met an employer that agreed to sponsor their Green Card without requiring them to go through the H1-B process. Even though I had a fully-funded acceptance letter to a Master’s Degree program in Computer Science, I wanted to continue working in the professional world after receiving my Bachelor’s Degree, so I discussed this issue with my employer towards the end of the first year of my Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Reza Moghtaderi Esfahani

Once I found The Grady Firm and they prepared my application with information provided by me and my employer, my attorneys filed an Application for Prevailing Wage Determination with the Department of Labor in February 2017. Then my employer began the recruitment process for US workers by posting job ads in local newspapers and online as part of the PERM process. After a few months of running the ads, and when no US citizen or Permanent Resident applied for the position, we obtained an approved LCA and filed a form I-140 with USCIS in December 2017. The I-140 was approved in January 2018. We then submitted my I-485 application to Adjust Status to that of a Permanent Resident in February 2018.

Soon after, I received my Employment Authorization Card (EAD) and travel document (Advance Parole) in April 2018. I was now able to work after the expiration of my OPT, and was eligible to travel outside of the United States while my Adjustment of Status application was pending.

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How to Obtain Temporary Landscape Industry Workers Through the H-2B Visa Program

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

One of the biggest complaints from owners in the landscape contractor industry is the difficulty in finding and retaining a reliable workforce. Over the past few years, there has been high turnover as companies struggle to recruit and hold on to laborers. However, for employers who need to add to their workforce to bid on contracts or maintain their current ones, there is the option to bring workers from other countries to the United States for a temporary period of nine months out of the year. The H-2B visa permits US employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States for the purposes of filling temporary, non-agricultural jobs in the landscape industry.

Who Qualifies for H-2B Classification?

To qualify for H-2B nonimmigrant classification, the petitioner must establish that:

  • There are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.
  • Employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
  • Its need for the prospective worker’s services or labor is temporary, regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as temporary.  The employer’s need is considered temporary if it falls under one of the following categories:
  1. One-time occurrence – A petitioner claiming a one-time occurrence must show that it has:
  • An employment situation that is otherwise permanent, but a temporary event of short duration has created the need for a temporary worker; and that it has
  • Not employed workers to perform the service or labor in the past, and will not need workers to perform the services or labor in the future;

OR:

2. Seasonal need– A petitioner claiming a seasonal need must show that the service or labor for which it seeks workers is:

  • Traditionally tied to a season of the year by an event or pattern; and
  • Of a recurring nature.
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President Trump Unveils Sweeping Immigration Reform Plan

On May 16, 2019, during a speech in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump unveiled an ambitious “Bold Immigration Plan for the 21st Century” that would dramatically change the immigration law landscape in the United States. The multi-point plan calls for permanent funding and enhancement to border security, an overhaul of the nation’s asylum procedures, and a move to a more merit-based permanent immigration system. Even if this plan does not become law, it does provide a compelling view of the Trump Administration’s immigration goals and priorities.

  1. Enhancing Border Security

President Trump’s plan calls for the establishment of a “permanent, self-sustaining border security fund” that would be paid for through fees and revenues generated at ports of entry.  According to the Trump Administration, this permanent fund would allow law enforcement to enhance and support border security without having to wait on Congress to allocate funds. Additionally, the Administration claims the fund would “make certain that 100 percent of people and goods entering the United States are properly inspected at the border.”

At this time, the Administration has not yet provided any specific details about the levels of fees that will be charged, how revenue will be generated, how the fund will be managed, or how the fund will ensure a 100 percent inspection rate. President Trump has consistently made border security a hallmark of his administration; therefore, it is likely this issue will remain a focus of immigration policy.

  • Changes to the Asylum Process
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12 Cities in California to Raise Minimum Wage Again on July 1, 2019

It’s that time to update your payroll again! Twelve cities and counties throughout the state of California will again be updating their minimum wage. Until December 31, 2019, the current state-wide California minimum wage is $11.00 per hour for companies with 25 or fewer employees, and $12.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees. You can find the most updated information about California minimum wage on the Department of Industrial Relations website. The minimum wage shall be adjusted on a yearly basis through 2023 according to the pre-set schedule shown on the DIR website.

The following cities will be updating their minimum wage to reflect the following hourly rates below. Of note, some cities have different wages based on the number of employees they have–25 or less, or 26 or more:

  • Alameda – $13.50
  • Berkeley – $15.59
  • Emeryville – $16.30
  • Fremont (26 or more employees) – $13.50
  • City of Los Angeles (25 or fewer employees) – $13.25
  • City of Los Angeles (26 or more employees) – $14.25
  • Unincorporated Los Angeles County (25 or fewer) – $13.25 (Unincorporated LA County generally mirrors the minimum wage rates in the City of Los Angeles)
  • Unincorporated Los Angeles County (26 or more) – $14.25
  • Malibu (25 or fewer employees) – $13.25
  • Malibu (26 or more employees) – $14.25
  • Milpitas – $15.00
  • Pasadena (25 or fewer employees) – $13.25
  • Pasadena (26 or more) – $14.25
  • San Francisco – $15.59
  • San Leandro – $14.00
  • Santa Monica (25 or fewer employees) – $13.25
  • Santa Monica (26 or more employees) – $14.25

Be sure to inform your payroll company or and accounting department of these changes. In addition, changes in minimum wage may affect an employee’s exempt or non-exempt status, so it’s important to review how the change in minimum wage may affect this classification.

It’s always a good idea to provide your employees with an updated Notice to Employee form that reflects their change in wages. This form must be distributed to employees by California Labor Code section 2810.5. Please check your employees’ personnel files to ensure this form has been provided to them, and reflects the company’s up-to-date Paid Sick Leave and worker’s compensation information.

For more information on California minimum wage, or to review your current employment law policies and documentation, contact The Grady Firm.

About The Grady Firm. P.C.

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The Grady Firm, P.C. attorneys provide our clients with the tools to arm themselves and minimize risk with general employment law counseling; I-9 audits, custom Employee Handbooks; assistance with hiring, firing, discipline, leave, and termination; personnel file forms and audits; and sexual harassment and leadership training in English and Spanish. In addition, by combining years of experience as legal counsel for both U.S. and international companies, The Grady Firm acts as the outsourced Global Mobility Department for multi-national corporations seeking to move personnel across borders with visas and Green Cards based on employment, investment, and family relations.

Click here to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys; call +1 (323) 450-9010; or fill out a Contact Request Form.

*This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.

Applicants for U.S. Visas and Green Cards Must Now Disclose Social Media Profile Information

In response to the Trump Administration’s “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals entering the United States, the U.S. Department of State has increased the amount of personal data foreign nationals must provide when applying for a U.S. visa abroad. Federal government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), have dramatically expanded their social media monitoring programs in recent years by collecting a vast amount of user information in the process, such as political and religious views, data about physical and mental health, and the identity of family and friends. DHS increasingly uses this information for vetting and analysis, including for individuals seeking to enter the United States and for both U.S. and international travelers.

As of May 30, 2019, applicants completing the Form DS-160 (the standard online platform for all non-immigrant visa applications) and the Form DS-260 (the standard online platform for immigrant (“Green Card”) applications), must now provide information on all social media accounts used in the past five years. This information will be used to prevent visa and Green Card fraud.

Using dropdown menus, the Form DS-160 and DS-260 requires applicants to provide the names of all social media accounts used (lists 20 of the most popular social medial platforms), and the applicant’s username or “handle” for each account. The form also provides a text box to provide social media information not listed in the drop-down menu.

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Don’t Wait Until Q4! Book Your Sexual Harassment Prevention Training by May 20 and Receive a Discount

California employment law now requires that employers with 5 or more employees provide one (1) hour of training to employees at least once every two years; and two (2) hours of training to managers within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years thereafter. This training must be completed by January 1, 2020, even if employees were just trained in 2018. A recent professional association survey found that over 80% of Human Resources and Operations Managers are aware of the new training requirements, but have not booked training for their employees. This means that there will likely be a rush to find suitable training options in November or December, and training professionals may already be booked for the end of the year.

To avoid the Fourth Quarter rush, The Grady Firm has a solution. Now through May 20th, The Grady Firm is offering $150 off our full-day, and $50 off our half-day, on-site Sexual Harassment Prevention Training program*.

The Grady Firm provides on-site, classroom-style training in
English and Spanish, and includes custom-drafted materials, such as our
Proprietary Power Point Presentation, Certificates of Participation, Quizzes, and Anti-Harassment Policy. Don’t let your employees fall asleep or tune-out with traditional online training!

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How to Obtain Temporary Training or Employment in the United States as a Foreign Physician

Foreign physicians looking to advance their specialized careers in the United States can gain valuable experience and connections by working a physicians or fellows.

Generally, there are two visa classification options available to foreign physicians seeking temporary employment or training in the United States: (1) the J-1 Exchange Visitor Physician Program, and (2) the H-1B Specialty Occupation classification. Each of these classifications has unique requirements and benefits, but both require that the applicant demonstrate that he or she has obtained the required licenses and training necessary to practice in both the United States and the specific state of intended practice.

  1. J-1 EXCHANGE VISITOR PHYSICIAN PROGRAM

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Physician Program permits foreign physicians and medical graduates to participate in U.S. graduate medical education programs or training at accredited U.S. schools of medicine.  However, the J-1 classification does not permit full employment as a physician in the United States because the program focuses on providing graduate medical education or training in a specialty or sub-specialty occupation. Therefore, the J-1 is best suited to a foreign physician or medical graduate that wishes to gain additional education or clinical training at a United States-based institution.

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