USCIS Continues to make Marijuana Activity a “Conditional Bar” to Obtaining U.S. Citizenship Despite Local Decriminalization

Thirty-three US states, The District of Columbia, and at least 26 countries around the world have legalized the production and use of cannabis for medical, and, in some jurisdictions, for recreational use.  This wave of legalization has led to a growing and dynamic industry that employs thousands of individuals and has reduced the levels of criminalization of marijuana-related crimes. Despite this changing landscape however, United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) has recently made it clear that virtually any involvement with cannabis, even in jurisdictions where it is now legal, can have serious negative consequences to becoming a United States citizen.

In an April 19 USCIS policy alert, USCIS indicated that it was issuing policy guidance confirming that cannabis-related activity, even when it occurs in a jurisdiction where the activity is legal, creates a conditional bar to demonstrating good moral character for the purposes of naturalization. While USCIS has long treated cannabis-related activity as a basis for withholding immigration benefits, this new pronouncement further highlights the complex and uncertain interaction between state and federal laws, and United States immigration law.

According to the USCIS policy, “marijuana remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance regardless of any actions to decriminalize its possession, use, or sale at the state and local level,” a USCIS spokesperson said in a statement. “Federal law does not recognize the decriminalization of marijuana for any purpose, even in places where state or local law does.”

Continue reading
Advertisements

Canadian Citizens Will No Longer Be Permitted To Extend or Renew L-1 Status at the US Border

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently implemented a major policy change to the adjudication process of L-1 Intracompany Transferee petitions filed by Canadian citizens.  Beginning in March of 2019, CBP officers at all ports of entry and pre-clearance facilities ceased adjudicating L-1 petitions for extension or renewal, including L-1A blanket petitions. CBP continues to adjudicate all new L-1 petitions for Canadian citizens and L-1 petitions for intermittent/commuter Canadian citizen employees.

CBP made this policy change after determining that the authority to extend/renew L-1 petitions falls to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), rather than CBP. As a result, all L-1 petitions for extension/renewal must now be filed with USCIS by mail.

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

H-2B Visas for Temporary Non-Agricultural Jobs at Hotels, Ski Resorts, Landscaping Companies, and Entertainment Companies

ski instructorThe H-2B program permits United States employers and agents to bring foreign nationals to the United States for the purposes of filling temporary, non-agricultural jobs.  An H-2B visa is generally used for non-specialty employees who will fulfill a temporary, seasonal, peak-time, or one time employment position.  The H-2B classification is commonly used by employers such as hotel resorts, ski resorts, landscaping companies, and entertainment companies that have a regular, temporary need for trained, unskilled labor.

The H-2B application process involves multiple steps and two separate government organizations: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Labor. Continue reading

Trump’s Travel Ban Unanimously Rejected by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

trumpOn February 5, 2017, President Trump’s controversial “travel ban” was unanimously rejected by the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, located in San Francisco, California. This controversial “travel ban” stems from President Trump’s January 27, 2017 Executive Order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” that banned citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for the next 90 days, and suspended the admission of all refugees for 120 days.

The Executive Order ignited protests in many airports around the country as US Customs and Border Protection officials struggled to interpret the new rules, and citizens of the banned countries were prevented from entering the United States.  Just three days later, the plaintiff, the State of Washington (“Plaintiff”) filed suit in the Seattle District Court, to stop the enforcement of the ban. Continue reading

L-1B Intracompany Transferee Visa for Employees With Specialized Knowledge

international-movers-and-packersThe L-1B visa permits a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge from one of its foreign offices to one of its U.S. offices.  There is also the option for a foreign company that does not yet have an office in the U.S. to send an employee with specialized knowledge to the states to help establish a U.S. office.  Both the employer and employee must meet certain qualification requirements:

1. To qualify for L-1B classification in this category, the EMPLOYER must:

  • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and
  • Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1.  While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.

Doing business means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad. Continue reading

The EB-5 Program Buys More Time Until December

EB-5

The EB-5 Program, as it presently stands, grants permanent residence to foreign investors if they invest $500,000 (in high unemployment areas) or $1 million (in low unemployment areas) in a new business that employs at least 10 U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents on a full-time basis.

Since its inception in 1990, many believe the program minimum amounts of investment is due for an increase, and there has been speculation that the minimum amounts will increase, from $500,000 to $800,000 and from $1 million to $1.2 million, respectively.

Congress extended the EB-5 visa program on September 30, 2016, allowing the program to run until December 2016.  Continue reading