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.

Continue reading
Advertisements

Cap on H-1B Visas for FY 2020 Reached Within 5 Days

Each year, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants 85,000 H-1B visas to applicants in “specialty occupations”. This cap has not increased since 2004, and has been greatly outweighed by demand over the last few years. Within the first five days of the 2020 fiscal year application filing period, which started on April 1, 2019, the cap was reached, as 201,011 petitions were received by April 5. This marks a 5% increase in petitions from the previous year.

Immigration legal experts at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have lamented that the limitation on the supply of high-skilled foreign workers is detrimental to continued economic growth of the U.S. economy. H-1B visa holders and applicants are filling a critical and ever-growing void in the U.S. economy by providing needed expertise, particularly in the Information Technology (IT) and tech development industries. Without meeting the demand for these talented foreign professionals, future growth and innovation are stifled.

Even as the economy and labor demand has continued to grow in the past several years, the maximum accepted applications has remained steady for the past sixteen years. The number of applicants has surpassed the numerical cap of 85,000 for the past seven years. The next opportunity to apply for an H-1B visa is April 1, 2020, which would have a job start date of October 1, 2020 or later, depicting on when a decision is reached on an applicant’s case.

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

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 Releases New I-9 Form to Be Used by September 2017

i-9USCIS released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17, 2017. Download instructions are available on the Form I-9 page. Employers can use this revised version, or continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 N through Sept. 17, 2017. However, on Sept. 18, employers must begin using the revised form with a revision date of 07/17/17 N. Employers must continue following existing storage and retention rules for any previously completed Form I-9.

Revisions to the Form I-9 instructions:

  • USCIS changed the name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices to its new name, “Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.”
  • USCIS removed “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

Continue reading

Travel Ban Update: U.S. State Department Issues New Guidelines Involving Close, Existing Relationships Within U.S.

by Raj Rathour, Esq. and Jennifer Grady, Esq.

trumpOn June 29, 2017, the U.S. State Department began implementing President Trump’s new visa criteria based in Executive Order 13780. The revised criteria bars U.S. entry for 90 days, for citizens without prior connections to the United States from six Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Stemming from a highly publicized decision by the Supreme Court, the current preliminary injunction has been narrowed to allow only “foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”. Current controversy revolves around the specific language, bona fide relationship,” and the potential for its interpretation of federal courts and officials.

Bona Fide Relationship

auditOn May 25, 2017, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld an injunction against enforcement of Executive Order 13780, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”, which was an executive order signed by United States’ President Donald Trump on March 6, 2017.  That order placed limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries, and by all refugees who do not possess either a visa or valid travel documents. According to its terms, it revoked and replaced the original travel bar Executive Order 13769, which was issued on January 27, 2017. Continue reading

J-1 Cultural Exchange Visitor Visa for Entrepreneurs, Scholars, Au Pairs, Professors, and Trainees

globe with kidsThe J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant US visa available to cultural exchange visitors, scholars, and professors. The Exchange Visitor Program fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges. It is often used by entrepreneurs, “au pairs, ” or to obtain business or medical training in the United States. J-1 visas are obtained as part of an exchange program, and the Department of State designates both public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. All exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their exchange experiences.

The Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) provides opportunities for around 300,000 foreign visitors per year to experience United States society and culture and engage with Americans.  Exchange visitors on private sector programs may study, teach, do research, share their specialized skills, or receive on-the-job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years.   EVP participants are young leaders and entrepreneurs, students, fledgling and more seasoned professionals eager to hone their skills, strengthen their English language abilities, connect with Americans, and learn more about the U.S. There are fifteen different categories under the J-1 visa program, including: professors and research scholars, short-term scholars, trainees, interns, college and university students, teachers, secondary school students, specialists, foreign medical graduates, camp counselors, au pairs, and the summer work travel program. Continue reading

Visiting the US for Business or Pleasure? You May Need a B-1 or B-2 Visa

American Visa (XL)B-1 and B-2 visas, also known as “visitor visas,” are nonimmigrant visas for persons who wish to  temporarily enter the United States for business, tourism/pleasure, or a combination of both purposes. The process to obtain visitor visas is relatively simple, but visitors must comply with the regulations in order to ensure that their stay in the United States is legal and complication-free. Continue reading

Jennifer Grady, Esq. to Attend International Startup “Collision Conference” in New Orleans

3dca05aFor the second year in a row, Jennifer Grady Esq., principal attorney at The Grady Firm P.C., will be attending the third annual Collision Conference hosted in New Orleans, Louisiana, from April 26 to 28, 2016. The conference is strategically scheduled between New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival weekends to highlight New Orleans’ cultural and musical prowess.

The Collision Conference (@CollisionHQ), “America’s fastest growing tech conference”, is a major US technology and entrepreneurship conference hosted by the same entities behind Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland, and F.ounders. The three-day conference will feature thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts from over 100 countries.

In juts two years, Collision has grown to over 7,500 attendees from more than 50 countries. Attendees include CEOs of both the world’s fastest growing startups and the world’s largest companies, alongside leading investors and media.  This year’s speaker panels will include the CEOs from Slack, WeWork, General Electric, WordPress, and Eventbrite, among others. The conference will feature tracks on Coding, Design, E-Commerce, FinTech, Marketing, Music, Social Media, and Sports.

20150505_221434

Ms. Grady with entrepreneurs from Canada, Mexico, and Brazil at Collision 2015

While at the conference, Ms. Grady will be meeting with entrepreneurs who have made the trek from around the US and the globe who to network with investors, speakers, and other entrepreneurs.  She will be providing one-on-one consultations regarding corporate setup, contracts, and immigration issues for business owners.

To schedule a consultation with Ms. Grady at Collision, please fill out a  contact request form.

About Jennifer Grady, Esq.

Founding Attorney, Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. is an attorney, business consultant, and community organizer. Ms. Grady founded the law firm of The Grady Firm, P.C. in 2012 with a passion for helping business owners, entrepreneurs, and their families achieve the American Dream of freedom, opportunity, self-sufficiency, and success. As an international business attorney, she teaches entrepreneurs around the world how to open a business in the United States, and has lectured extensively throughout California, Canada, Chile, Argentina, and the United States on business, immigration, and employment law topics in both English and in Spanish.

Ms. Grady and her team of attorneys at The Grady Firm, P.C. specialize in business, employment, and immigration law for California entrepreneurs, and act the liaison for foreign business owners that wish to expand their operations to the United States.  In order to support their clients throughout the state, The Grady Firm has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, and serves clients remotely from across the globe.

To schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s business, employment, and immigration attorneys, call +1 (323) 450-9010, or fill out a Contact Request Form. 

All Canadian Residents Applying for K-1 Visas Must Now Interview in Montreal

city-skyline-montreal-canada-pexelsAs of April 1, 2016,  the Vancouver offices of the U.S. Consulate General will cease processing of K-1 visas. Now, the K-1 visas, commonly known as”Fiancé(e) visas,” will only be processed by the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal.

While the Bureau of Consular Affairs acknowledged that this change may inconvenience some applicants who will now need to travel for their interviews, it promises that the adjustment will help the consulate schedule and adjudicate K-1 applications more efficiently. Continue reading

TN Visa for Canadian and Mexican Professionals under NAFTA

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

North America.jpgAs part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), citizens of Mexico and Canada have an additional immigration option available to them that is easier and faster to obtain that many other work visas. Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a non-immigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Since 1994, NAFTA has created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Continue reading