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.”

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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.

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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

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

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

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

The Grady Firm joins MAPLE Canadian-US Business Council Delegation to Toronto; Partners with Canadian Immigration Firm to Offer Cross-Border Services

maple-jg-with-sign-e1507223473277.jpgOn September 21-22, 2017, Jennifer Grady, Esq. participated in a delegation of the MAPLE® Canadian-U.S. Business Council of Southern California on a cross-border networking event in Toronto, Ontario.  The delegation visited nine leading innovation, enterprise, and government organizations and hosted a sold-out cross-border networking reception to connect with Toronto-area business leaders.  A panel presentation called “Doing Business with Southern California” featured speakers from Economic Development & Tourism, Business and International Development at Greater Irvine Chamber in Orange County, and the World Trade Center Los Angeles.

Maple JG

Outside MaRS Discovery District

The following organizations provided the delegation with insight into their work and shared opportunities for cross-border collaboration:

  • EY Canada
  • JLabs Toronto
  • MaRS Discovery District
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Ryerson University Digital Media Zone
  • Toronto Board of Trade
  • Toronto Global
  • Toronto Rehabilitation Institute
  • U.S. Department of Commerce

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The Grady Firm to Join MAPLE Business Council Delegation in Toronto, Canada, September 21-22, 2017

TorontoAs part of their cross-border mission to promote investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Southern California and Canada, MAPLE Business Council is leading a two-day business delegation to Toronto, Ontario on September 21-22, 2017.
The purpose of the mission is to provide delegates with a turnkey opportunity to take the pulse of Canada’s financial capital and North America’s 4th largest market. The mission will include private briefings with leading innovation, government and business organizations, and will create valuable networking connections across sectors at its Thursday night cross-border reception at Teknion Collaboration Hub.
The Delegation will be joined by Southern California service providers, business leaders, exporters, and Economic Development Organizations such as the World Trade Center Los Angeles, The Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce, and The Grady Firm, P.C.  The delegation will meet with representatives from the following organizations:

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The Grady Firm Attorneys Speak to Students at UCI Blackstone Launch Pad on business and visa options for graduate entrepreneurs

Group photo.jpgRecently, Jennifer Grady Esq. and Anthony Mance, Esq. of The Grady Firm, P.C. hosted an informative “Fireside Chat” about the various immigration options that are available to foreign students upon graduation from U.S. undergraduate or graduate programs. The event took place at the Blackstone Launchpad of University of California, Irvine. The program was recorded and is available for viewing by members of the international Blackstone Launchpad community. 

uci blackstoneThe esteemed UCI Blackstone Launchpad was founded in 2007 with the goal of inspiring global entrepreneurship, and is accessible to over 500,000 university students globally.  This university-based entrepreneurship program is designed to mentor students, staff, and alumni of all disciplines and experience levels. The Blackstone Launchpad is an initiative of The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, and offers one-on-one mentoring, online tools, and a international community that supports ideas from the idea stage to execution and investment. Continue reading

Immigrant Entrepreneurs May Be Able to Remain in the U.S. on Parole Under New Rule Proposed by DHS

entrepreneurship-10-books-every-budding-entrepreneur-must-read

On August 31, 2016 , the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed an amendment to its regulations in an effort to increase and enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States. The proposed rule would allow for the use of “parole” on a case-by-case basis for certain Startup entrepreneurs whose entry into the United States would provide a significant public benefit through “the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation.”  Once the notice of proposed rulemaking is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 45 days from the date of publication to comment. To submit comments in support of this rule, follow the instructions in the notice.

The new “International Entrepreneur Rule” would expand the opportunity for international entrepreneurs, inventors, and startup founders to receive “parole”, which is temporary permission to be present in the United States.  “Parole” is not considered an admission to the United States, and does not confer any immigration status.  In addition, once a person is granted parole, the parolee’s stay in the U.S. is at DHS’s discretion and may be terminated at any time consistent with existing regulations.  DHS has broad discretion to grant parole and may do so on a case-by-case basis. Continue reading

Apply NOW for U.S. Citizenship: Vote in November Elections & Have Your Application Reviewed Before a New President Takes the White House

how-to-apply-for-american-citizenship-online

If you are a Legal Permanent Resident who has held off on applying for U.S. citizenship, now is the time to submit your application to USCIS so that it can be reviewed and approved before November 2016.

First, immigration will be a big ticket issue in the upcoming election, and the outcome and future of U.S. immigration policy could ride on your vote.  Click the links to read more about the immigration platforms of the current Democratic (Hillary Clinton) and Republican (Donald Trump) U.S. presidential candidates.

hillaryclinton.wikimediaSecond, as the new president and his or her cabinet may have a different vision of immigration reform than that held by the current administration, it’s prudent to apply for immigration relief before the powers in charge change.donaldtrump.wikimedia

Third, in anticipation of the upcoming election, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has reduced the processing period for naturalization and other immigration applications to between approximately three to six (3-6) months.

Even if you are not eligible for naturalization, you may be able to apply for legal immigration status under various other laws currently in effect.  But you must act now, as any of these laws could change based on the outcome of the November elections. 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 Host Fireside Chat at UCI Blackstone LaunchPad

irvineOn May 23, 2016, Jennifer Grady Esq. will host an informative “Fireside Chat” about the various immigration options that are available to foreign students upon graduation from U.S. undergraduate or graduate programs. The event will take place at the Blackstone Launchpad of University of California, Irvine. The program will be recorded and available for later viewing by members of the international Blackstone Launchpad community. 

 

uci blackstoneThe esteemed UCI Blackstone Launchpad was founded in 2007 with the goal of inspiring global entrepreneurship, and is accessible to over 500,000 university students globally.  This university-based entrepreneurship program is designed to mentor students, staff and alumni of all disciplines and experience levels. The Blackstone Launchpad is an initiative of The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, and offers one-on-one mentoring, online tools, and a international community that supports ideas from the idea stage to execution and investment.

View More: http://elyanaphotography.pass.us/jennifer

Founding Attorney, Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

Jennifer Grady is an experienced speaker and accomplished mentor in the areas of business, employment, and immigration law.  She has lectured extensively throughout the US, Canada, Argentina, and Chile about business and immigration topics for entrepreneurs.   If you are interested in engaging Jennifer as a speaker or trainer at your company or organization, or to learn more about the event, please contact us.

USA Tops 2016 A.T. Kearney Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index 4th Year In a Row

The United States is the top-ranked FDI destination for the fourth year in a row. The US economy is proving resilient to the risks facing other countries, including many other developed markets.

Kearney index 2016

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Content excerpts courtesy of atkearney.com

In May 2016, A.T. Kearney released its annual FDI Confidence Index, which surveys C-level executives and regional and business leads from companies from 27 countries.  A.T. Kearney’s Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index®, established in 1998, ranks countries based on how changes in their political, economic, and regulatory systems are likely to affect foreign direct investment inflows in the coming years. Continue reading