Articles Posted in Employment based visa

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Beginning April 30, 2018 until October 31, 2018, the California Service Center (CSC) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Blaine, Washington, Port of Entry (POE) will implement a joint 6-month pilot program for the benefit of Canadian citizens seeking entry to the United States in L non-immigrant visa status pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The L-1 Visa:

The L-1 visa designation allows a foreign company to transfer an executive or manager to an existing U.S. subsidiary or parent company of the foreign entity, or allows the foreign entity to send the executive or manager to the U.S. for the purpose of establishing an affiliated subsidiary or parent company of the foreign entity (L-1A). In addition, the foreign company can transfer an employee with specialized knowledge to the U.S. on an L-1B visa. To qualify, applicants must have worked abroad for the foreign employer for at least one year within the proceeding three years.

Under the NAFTA program, Canadians can apply to receive an L visa at the border and are not required to file an L visa application with USCIS or at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Up until this point, the application procedure involved same-day processing of an L application where the worker would file Form I-129 with supporting evidence at a Class A Port of Entry to the United States, or airport pre-clearance location, where the petition would be granted or denied at the port of entry.

Pilot Program

Under the new pilot program, petitioners may file an L petition on behalf of a Canadian citizen by first submitting Form, I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and supporting evidence to the California Service Center, before the Canadian citizen seeks nonimmigrant L-1 admission to the United States through the Blaine Port of Entry. Petitioners should include a cover sheet annotated with “Canadian L” to ensure quick identification of the Form I-129 and for any correspondence thereafter, such as a response to a request for evidence (RFE).

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A new policy memorandum issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes clear that different H-1B petitioners may not file multiple H-1B petitions for a single beneficiary. This applies in a situation where different employers seek to file an H-1B petition for the same person.

According to the memorandum, in Matter of S-Inc, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) made clear in the decision that “related entities” are prohibited from making multiple H-1B filings for the same beneficiary. The memorandum clarifies that the term “related entities” “includes petitioners, whether or not related through corporate ownership and control, that file cap-subject H-1B petitions for the same beneficiary for substantially the same job. Absent a legitimate business need to file multiple cap-subject petitions for the same beneficiary, USCIS will deny or revoke the approval of all H-1B cap-subject petitions filed by “related entities” for that beneficiary.”

In light of this new memorandum, we caution petitioners against filing multiple H-1B petitions for the same beneficiary, even if the different petitioners are not related, where the cap-subject petition is being filed for the same beneficiary for substantially the same job.

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In what seems like déjà vu, today, March 20, 2018 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) formally announced that the agency will be temporarily suspending premium processing service for all fiscal year 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions that seek an exemption for individuals who possess a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The suspension is expected to last until September 10, 2018. Based on similar announcements made by USCIS in the past, we expect premium processing service to remain suspended until at least September 10.

As some of you may remember, USCIS suspended premium processing in a similar fashion during April of last year for fiscal year 2018 cap-subject petitions, and lifted the suspension until September 18 of 2017.

Petitions not subject to FY 2019 Cap

Premium processing requests will continue to be accepted for H-1B petitions NOT subject to the FY 2019 cap. USCIS will make an announcement as we get closer to September notifying the public regarding any decision to resume premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions. In previous years, USCIS lifted the suspension in July for beneficiaries who were exempt from the cap, because of their employment at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization, or entity. We expect USCIS to follow a similar pattern in July of this year, with the temporary suspension for cap-subject petitions being lifted sometime in early September.

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Now is the time to begin preparing for the upcoming H-1B visa lottery. USCIS will begin to accept H-1B cap-subject petitions for fiscal year 2019 beginning Monday, April 2, 2018. Please note: employers cannot file an H-1B petition for an employee more than 6 months before the employee’s intended start date. If accepted, H-1B visa workers can begin employment by October 1st. The H-1B visa is issued for up to three years but may be extended for another three years.

By law, a congressionally mandated cap exists which limits the issuance of H-1B visas to 65,000 per year. That is why the H-1B visa is commonly referred to as a ‘lottery’ visa.

Individuals (such as F-1 students) who hold advanced degrees (U.S. master’s or higher) are exempted from the 65,000 visa cap. Such applicant’s must demonstrate that they have obtained an American master’s degree or higher to be exempted from the cap, however only the first 20,000 petitions received by USCIS will benefit from this cap exemption. Initial H-1B petitions that are received by USCIS after that limit will count towards the regular 65,000 cap.

In order to qualify for an H-1B visa:

  • a foreign worker must possess both a theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge;
  • an employer-employee relationship must exist. Only a U.S. employer can petition the entry of a foreign employee by filing USCIS Form I-129 Petition for Non-immigrant Worker. An employer-employee relationship exists if the U.S. employer has the right to hire, pay, fire, supervise or control the work of the employee;
  • the foreign worker must possess a bachelor’s degree, its foreign equivalent, or relevant work experience. If the foreign worker does not have formal education, but has at least 12 years of relevant work experience related to the specialty occupation, they may still qualify for an H-1B visa;
  • the foreign worker must be employed in a specialty occupation related to their field of study. A specialty occupation is an occupation that requires a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent;
  • the foreign worker must be paid at least the prevailing wage for the specialty occupation in the area of intended employment;

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In this post, we bring you information regarding the major provisions of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 affecting H-1B workers and employment-based immigrants. The Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 is a piece of legislation that was recently introduced before Congress by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake on January 25, 2018.

Much of the legislation centers around the H-1B visa worker program.

The major provisions of the Immigration Innovation Act currently being proposed in Congress are as follows:

Increases the number of H-1B visas available. Section 101 of the legislation would raise the current 65,000 H-1B statutory visa cap to 85,000 with 20,000 of those visas to be set aside for applicants possessing a U.S. Master’s and above. This provision includes a market escalator up to 195,000 and de-escalator that is based on prior fiscal years, but not lower than the statutory base. 

Exemption for U.S. Masters. Section 101 includes a provision that creates an unlimited number of exemptions for individuals with a U.S. Master’s degree or above if the U.S. employer attests that it will begin green card processing for the beneficiary within one year.

H-1B Prioritization. Per Section 101, the H-1B visa lottery would be prioritized as follows in fiscal years where enough petitions have been received within the first 5 business days of the filing period of reaching the cap:

  • Individuals with a U.S. Master’s, or higher who are subject to the numerical limitations
  • Individuals who have earned a doctoral degree outside of the U.S.
  • Individuals who have earned a U.S. Bachelor’s degree or higher in a STEM field and
  • Other petitions

Penalties for Failure to Withdraw. Section 101 proposes monetary penalties and debarment for employers who have 5 or more cap-subject petitions approved in a fiscal year, where the visa holder works in the U.S. less than 25% during the first year of approval. In cases involving higher volume users where at least 20 H-1B petitions have been approved in a fiscal year the employer may not avoid penalties even if they withdraw a percentage of approved petitions.

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Over the course of the last few weeks, our attorneys have uncovered a disturbing trend in the adjudication of H-1B petitions (both cap subject and cap-exempt) that were upgraded to premium processing service in late October through November.

As previously reported on our blog, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been aggressively issuing requests for evidence across the board for all H-1B petitions regardless of occupation and regardless of whether the beneficiary is seeking an H-1B visa for the first time, or an extension of their status. This drastic change was prompted in part by the enforcement of the President’s executive order “Buy American, Hire” in which the President called on the service to “ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” The result was that USCIS began to issue requests for evidence focusing on the beneficiary’s wage level, questioning the petitioner regarding why the beneficiary was being paid the entry level wage, instead of a higher wage if the beneficiary’s occupation was to be considered complex.

Premium Processing Upgrades

To add insult to injury, as of late, USCIS has been issuing a huge wave of denials for H-1B cases that were recently upgraded to premium processing. In the past, it was commonplace for H-1B petitions to be upgraded to premium processing, even where a response to a request for evidence was under review by USCIS. This fiscal year, however, was a bit different than previous years, because premium processing was suspended for all H-1B petitions on April 3rd. Premium processing finally re-opened for cap-subject petitions on September 18, 2017, and for all H-1B petitions on October 3, 2017.

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According to an internal memorandum, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has plans to conduct a targeted enforcement operation at a national food service chain within the coming weeks. An ICE official spoke with The Daily Beast, on condition of anonymity, telling the news organization that ICE plans to conduct this operation to discourage American employers from exploiting undocumented workers by paying them low wages. Officials told the news organization that the operation will be targeting multiple locations across the United States, and that employers will likely be charged with federal offenses including harboring illegal aliens.

This move is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to deter illegal immigration through worksite enforcement actions, described by the administration as targeted operations to prosecute individuals who employ undocumented immigrants. If all goes to plan, the operation will be primarily focused on prosecuting owners of franchises who illegally employ undocumented immigrants. Sources with knowledge of the investigation have said that a preliminary investigation has already been conducted and that targets have already been chosen.

The food industry has and continues to be an industry that employs thousands of undocumented workers due to the unskilled nature of the work, and the fact that employers are able to cut costs by paying undocumented workers very low salaries. According to a 2008 Pew report, at least 10 percent of the hospitality industry is supported by the labor of undocumented immigrants. Last year, Eater reported that over 20% of all cooks working in restaurant kitchens could be undocumented. Noelle Stewart, communications manager for Define American, said that undocumented immigrants make up a crucial part of our economy in that, “they cultivate our produce; they cook our food,” she says, “the food industry wouldn’t be possible in the way it is without them.”

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Happy Thanksgiving from the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick. We give thanks to our clients for their continued trust in our office. It is our pleasure to serve you.

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The Trump administration has taken its first step toward dismantling the International Entrepreneur Rule, an Obama era program that would have given thousands of foreign entrepreneurs the opportunity to travel to the United States for a 30-month period, for the purpose of starting or scaling their start-up business enterprise in the United States.

On November 17, 2017, the Trump administration sent a notice to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to officially end the International Entrepreneur Rule. This notice appeared on the website of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs as early as Friday. At this time, the Trump administration is finalizing a draft to officially rescind the rule. Once the administration has finished reviewing the draft, it will be published in the Federal Register. It is expected that the draft to rescind the rule will be published within the next week.

After publication, a public notice and comment period will follow, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act, a process by which the government invites the public to comment on a proposed version of a government rule published in the Federal Register. Once the comment period has ended, the government responds to comments, considers feedback, and decides whether such feedback will have any influence on their decision to rescind the rule.

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As previously reported, on October 8, 2017, the United States announced the suspension of all non-immigrant visa services across U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Turkey “until further notice,” following news that a U.S. embassy official was placed under arrest without explanation and without access to counsel. This included the suspension of the issuance of: B-2 visas for temporary tourism or medical reasons, B-1 visas for temporary business visitors, F-1 student visas, E-1 treaty trader visas, E-2 treaty trader visas, and other non-immigrant visa types.

Since October 8, 2017 until just recently, no new non-immigrant visa applications were being processed in Turkey until the U.S. government could receive assurances form the Turkish government that embassy staff officials would not be detained or placed under arrest without cause, or access to counsel.

On November 6, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, announced that the United States has received sufficient assurances from the Government of Turkey that employees under the diplomatic mission are not under investigation, that local staff of U.S. embassies and consulates will not be detained or arrested in connection with their official duties, and finally that the U.S. government will be notified in advance if the Turkish government plans to arrest or detain any local staff at U.S. embassies in Turkey. The announcement however provides that the United States “continues to have serious concerns about the existing cases against arrested local employees” of the Mission in Turkey and of “. . . the cases against U.S. citizens who have been arrested under [a] state of emergency.”

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