Will the H-1B Lottery Change in 2019?

H-1B visaIn an attempt to change the lottery system for H-1B applications, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule that would require all H-1B petitioners to pre-register online for the H-1B lottery prior to submitting their H-1B filings. According to the proposed rule, only those H-1B petitions that have been selected in the lottery could then be submitted for the adjudication by USCIS. The rule is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OBM), which is the first step toward implementing such changes.

Other proposed changes would benefit applicants with Master’s Degrees by adding them to the initial round of 65,000 Bachelor’s Degree applicant visa spots lottery.  Then, if there are any Master’s Degree applications left over after the initial lottery round, the remaining Master’s Degree applications will be added to the lottery for the remaining 20,000 Master’s Degree cap. Continue reading

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When Do I Need a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor Visa? Can I Just use ESTA to Visit the US?

businessman-in-airport-with-smartphone-800x532If you are coming to the United States to establish a U.S. presence of your foreign business; investigate whether you want to open a business in the U.S.; or attend conferences, look for commercial space, or interview potential investors or employees; you may be eligible for the B-1 Temporary Business Visitor Visa.

I. B-1 Temporary Business Visitor Visa

1.  Real Examples of When to Use the B-1 Visa

For example, if you own a business abroad but want to come to the United States to speak at conferences, meet potential clients, and conduct marketing activities, but have no plans to live or work in the U.S., the B-1 visa would be a good option for you.

In addition, if you have a business abroad and are looking to open an office in the United States, you can come to the US for several months to look for an office or warehouse space, interview potential employees, meet with investors, and do research for the business. Continue reading

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

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

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

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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).
Continue reading

Jennifer Grady, Esq. Speaks at San Diego Global Investment Forum on Immigration Options for Investors, Entrepreneurs, and Global Employees

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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

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

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

USCIS Reaches FY 2019 H-1B Cap in Just Four Days

enter-usa-h1b-visaWASHINGTON, D.C. – On April 6, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 visa H-1B cap for fiscal year 2019. USCIS has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the “Master’s cap.”

USCIS began accepting applications on Monday, April 2, and reached its cap within just four days.  It will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.

As of May 15, USCIS completed data entry for all fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in its computer-generated random selection process. USCIS will now begin returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected. Due to the high volume of filings, USCIS cannot provide a definite time frame for returning unselected petitions. USCIS asks petitioners not to inquire about the status of their cap-subject petitions until they receive a receipt notice or an unselected petition is returned. USCIS will issue an announcement once all the unselected petitions have been returned.
Based on last year’s applications, receipt notices were sent out around May for cases that were accepted in the lottery, and applications that did not pass the lottery were returned (along with the original application and filing fees), by July.
Additionally, USCIS may transfer some Form I-129 H-1B cap subject petitions between the Vermont Service Center and the California Service Center to balance the distribution of cap cases. If your case is transferred, you will receive notification in the mail. After receiving the notification, please send all future correspondence to the center processing your petition.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the congressionally-mandated FY 2019 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

Continue reading

Jennifer Grady, Esq. to Speak on Immigration Tips for Investors at SelectUSA Canada in Calgary

Calgary

Calgary, Canada

On April 12, 2018, Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. will speak to a group of over 100 Canadian business owners at SelectUSA Canada, which will take place this year in Calgary.  Her topic, “Moving people across the border: Immigration considerations for investors“, will provide an overview of considerations and options for moving key personnel to the United States.  She will be joined as a panelist by executives from the U.S. Consulate in Calgary, and Custom and Border Protection (CBP).

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Ms. Grady speaking to international entrepreneurs at SelectUSA in Washington, D.C.

This will be Ms. Grady’s third time as a SelectUSA speaker–for the past two years, she was a panelist on hot topics in immigration and employment law at the flagship SelectUSA summit in Washington, D.C., which was attended by President Obama and John Kerry in 2016, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in 2017. Continue reading

Exciting News for Foreign Entrepreneurs: The International Entrepreneur Rule Is Back!

international-movers-and-packersGreat news for foreign  entrepreneurs looking for a way to pursue startup opportunities in the United States! A Federal Judge has blocked an effort by the Trump Administration to delay implementation of the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER), also known as the Entrepreneur Parole Rule, an Obama-era program that would give international entrepreneurs the opportunity to come to the United States to develop and operate start-up businesses.  Although the IER was published during the previous administration with an effective date of July 17, 2017, it did not take effect because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule on July 11, 2017, delaying the IER’s effective date until March 14, 2018.  This delay rule was meant to give USCIS time to review the IER and, if necessary, to issue a rule proposing to remove the IER program regulations.

However, on December 1, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to begin accepting applications for the program in his decision in National Venture Capital Association v. Duke. Prior to Judge Boasberg’s decision, DHS attempted to delay implementation of the rule by postponing its implementation until March of 2018 so it could gather public comments on a proposal to rescind the rule altogether.

The main issue that led to Judge Boasberg’s decision arose when DHS delayed implementation of the rule without first holding a public notice and comment period on whether to institute the delay. According to the plaintiffs who filed the suit, including the National Venture Capital Association and other plaintiffs representing foreign entrepreneurs, DHS violated administrative procedures by delaying implementation of the rule, six days before it was to go into effect, without first soliciting public comment on whether to implement the delay. Continue reading

Immigration As Usual? Moving Forward in Times of Uncertainty

by Anthony Mance, Esq. and Jennifer Grady, Esq.

Recent announcements by the Trump Administration declaring enhanced vetting of current immigration cases; talks in Congress about major proposed changes to the immigration laws; and constant media discourse regarding the future of DACA, the Travel Ban, employment-based visas, and increased waiting times, may have the effect of chilling immigration applications.  However, with the right information, and a plan that takes these changes into account, it is still possible to submit a successful immigration application.  We discuss the latest updates, and our recommended responses, below.

I. “Enhanced Vetting”

TRUMPOne of the major elements of President Trump’s Presidential Campaign was the promise that he would take a hard line on immigration.  Since he has become President of the United States, this promise has materialized into a policy that enforces existing immigration laws by applying stricter review of immigration applications. Commonly referred to as “enhanced” or “extreme” vetting, the practice requires that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) spend more time reviewing immigration applications, conducting additional background security checks, adding in-person interviews. Continue reading