Articles Posted in Executive Actions

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Return of Unselected H-1B Petitions

H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the fiscal year 2019 visa lottery have been returned to unlucky applicants. If you filed a petition between April 2 and April 6 and you did not receive a receipt notice for your application, you will be receiving your returned petitions in the mail by August 13. If you do not receive a returned petition by this date, you should contact USCIS.

Updated NTA Policy

On June 28th USCIS issued a policy memorandum providing updated guidance for the referral of cases and issuances of notices to appear (NTAs) in cases involving inadmissible and deportable aliens. The policy memorandum outlines the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities for removal as well as guidelines for referring cases and issuing NTAs.

Under the updated policy the following classes of aliens are prioritized for removal, aliens who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal,” as well as alienswho, regardless of the basis for removal:

(a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;

(c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;

(e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

(f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or

(g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security”

Today, USCIS announced that it is postponing implementation of this policy guidance because operational guidance has not yet been provided to immigration officers. The policy memorandum gave USCIS 30 days to implement proper protocols for NTA issuance consistent with the updated policy memorandum. We will notify our readers once we receive information about when the NTA policy will be implemented.

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A new report by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) released this month indicates that the number of H-1B denials and Requests for Evidence (RFEs) increased significantly during the fourth quarter of 2017 which began on July 1, 2017, following the implementation of Presidential Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American” in April 2017. Among other things, the Executive Order targeted the H-1B visa program calling on the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to suggest reforms to the H-1B program and “ensure that H-1B visas are awarded the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” Data obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates that “the proportion of H-1B petitions denied for foreign-born professionals” applying for H-1B visas, “increased by 41% from the 3rd to the 4th quarter of FY 2017, rising from a denial rate of 15.9% in the 3rd quarter to 22.4% in the 4th quarter.”

The NFAP also discovered that the number of requests for evidence issued during the 4th quarter of fiscal year 2017 “almost equaled the total number issued by USCIS adjudicators for the first three quarters of FY 2017 combined (63,184 vs. 63,599).”

The number of requests for evidence “more than doubled between the 3rd and 4th quarter of FY 2017, rising from 28,711 to 63,184.”

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Indian Nationals

According to the report, “USCIS adjudicators were much more likely to issue a Request for Evidence for applications for Indians than for people from other countries.” For example, “In the 4th quarter of FY 2017, 72% of H-1B cases for Indians received a Request for Evidence, compared to 61% for all other countries.” Data over the years confirms that applications filed by Indian nationals result in higher rates of denials and requests for evidence, not just for H-1B applications but also for L-1 visa applications.

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In this post, we bring our readers important information regarding revisions to the Notice to Appear “NTA” policy guidelines. On June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new policy guidance outlining the Department’s priorities for enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants from the United States.

Form I-862 also known as a Notice to Appear is a document that is given to an individual to initiate removal proceedings. The Notice to Appear instructs the individual of a date and time to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings.

To better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” USCIS has revised its NTA policy expanding the class of individuals who may be referred to ICE and issued a Notice to Appear. Under the revised policy, USCIS may now refer cases “with articulated suspicions of fraud to ICE prior to adjudication,” of cases filed with USCIS. The revised policy does not apply to recipients and requestors of Deferred Action (DACA) when (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA. For this class of individuals the 2011 NTA guidelines will apply.

The President’s Executive Order 13768 specifically calls on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order prioritizes the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision upholding the President’s latest travel ban in the case Trump, President of the United States, Et Al. v. Hawaii Et Al. The 5-4 decision reflected a deeply divided court, but ultimately the conservative justices on the court banded together ruling in favor of the Trump administration.

Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, ruled that the latest travel ban was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority.” Justices Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg dissented. Despite concurring with the majority opinion Justice Kennedy added, “An anxious world must know that our Government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward, and lasts.”

As you may recall in September of 2017 the President issued Executive Order No. 9645, entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats.” The purpose of this executive order was to identify any deficiencies from several foreign countries needed to adequately assess whether nationals from particular countries seeking to enter the United States presented security or safety threats to the United States. The order specifically called for global requirements for information sharing among these countries, and increased immigration screening and vetting of individuals from particular countries of concern. The President exercised his broad authority under the constitution to place entry restrictions on nationals of eight foreign countries whose information systems for managing and sharing information about their nationals was deemed inadequate by the current administration. These countries included—Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia.

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During December of last year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced that the agency was beginning to take preliminary steps to terminate H-4 Employment Authorization for certain H-4 spouses, a privilege that has been available to eligible spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers since 2015. As it stands, the 2015 H-4 EAD rule allows certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers the ability to obtain an employment authorization card (work permit), provided the H-1B nonimmigrant worker is in the process of obtaining an employment based green card.

Proposal to Amend the 2015 H-4 EAD Rule

On December 14, 2017, a rulemaking notice was first published in the Federal Register notifying the public that the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with USCIS, would be reviewing and possibly amending the 2015 H-4 EAD rule, following the issuance of Executive Order 13788, “Buy American, Hire American.”

According to the notice published in the Federal Register, DHS reserves the authority to amend the 2015 H-4 EAD rule under section 102 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and section 103(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). These sections of the law give the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security the discretionary power to amend the law so that it aligns with the policies set out in the President’s executive order.

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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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On October 24, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13815 entitled, “Resuming the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) with Enhanced Vetting Capabilities.” As the title suggests, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program also known as (USRAP) is no longer suspended and the policies set forth in section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 also known as “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the US,” are no longer in effect as they pertain to refugees. As outlined in Executive Order 13780, beginning October 24, 2017, “Presidential action to suspend the entry of refugees under the USRAP [is no longer needed] to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people.”

Section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 imposed a temporary freeze on the admission of refugees to the United States, and provided for a temporary 120-day window in which the Department of Homeland Security would review the application and adjudication process for the Refugee Admissions Program to prevent foreign terrorist entry to the United States. This 120-day window expired on October 24, 2017. Section 6(a) contained a provision which stipulated that refugee travel and application decisions would resume after the 120-day window had terminated, “for stateless persons and for nationals of countries which the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence jointly determine that the additional procedures identified through the USRAP review process are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.”

At this time, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence have advised the Trump administration that sufficient improvements have been made to prevent foreign terrorist entry through the Refugee Admissions Program, such as the implementation of enhanced vetting procedures. These improvements have been deemed sufficient to ensure the “security and welfare of the United States,” for the time being. In accordance with this order, the Department of Homeland Security will only apply special measures restricting the travel of refugees to those categories of refugees that “pose potential threats to the security and welfare of the United States.”

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Unsurprisingly, this week we learned that the Trump administration is taking further steps to toughen the process of applying for an H-1B visa extension/renewal request, and that of other highly sought-after non-immigrant work visa types filed using Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker such as the H, O, P, L, and R work visas. The news comes as part of the President’s ongoing plan to prioritize the employment of American workers over foreign workers, outlined in the President’s Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American.”

On October 23, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency will be updating its adjudication policy “to ensure petitioners meet the burden of proof for a non-immigrant worker extension petition.” The change in policy specifically provides that USCIS officers will “apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests” for the H-1B visa as well as other nonimmigrant visa types.

Per USCIS, this policy will now apply to “nearly all non-immigrant classifications filed using Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.” This means that all nonimmigrant worker visa renewal requests, made using Form I-129, will be subject to the same level of scrutiny that was applied during the foreign worker’s initial non-immigrant work visa request.

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On October 17, 2017, federal judge Derrick Watson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, issued a temporary restraining order preventing the government from enforcing Sections 2(a), (b), (c), (e), (g), and (h) of the Presidential Proclamation 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public-Safety Threats” signed by the President on September 24, 2017. These sections of the Presidential Proclamation were to be enforced at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on October 18, 2017.

As a result, foreign nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia will NOT be affected by the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation and may continue to travel freely to the United States. Visa applications for these countries will continue to be adjudicated in accordance with existing immigration law, and visa processing standards, irrespective of the restrictions outlined in the Presidential Proclamation.

However, the court order does not prevent the government from implementing restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela. In addition, the order does not prevent the government from scrutinizing the adjudication of visas for Iraqi nationals and their admittance to the United States. Sections (d) and (f) of the Proclamation, outline the provisions that remain in force. Restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq began on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 and will continue until further notice. The restrictions on Venezuela as you will see below are the most lenient of the restrictions. 

Restrictions on North Korean nationals: Entry of foreign nationals from North Korea has been suspended for all immigrants and non-immigrants (including diversity visa holders).

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In the United States and across the world, a climate of fear and uncertainty has taken over our day to day lives and crept its way into the politics of the country. This climate of fear has in many ways taken shape because of our President’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric, the series of executive orders he has signed on immigration which aim to discourage American companies from hiring foreign nationals, and which ultimately aim to deter undocumented immigrants from attempting to cross the United States border illegally. While the United States has an interest in buying American and hiring American, the President’s stance on immigration has made the best and brightest look elsewhere for the “American Dream.” Another cause for concern is the highly publicized immigration raids taking place across the country against undocumented immigrants. What is perhaps the most unsettling for undocumented immigrants is what is yet to unfold under the Trump administration. In recent weeks, we have seen the President harden his stance on immigration for both undocumented immigrants and foreign entrepreneurs with his plan to dissolve the “International Entrepreneur Rule” and his plan to build a “wall” along the Southern border.

For undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than 20 years, and who have raised their children as U.S. Citizens, there is much at stake. Living in this climate of fear has become our “new normal.”

The reality is that many families across the country are scared to remain in the United States. Some of these families have willingly returned to their countries of origin or relocated their families to other countries altogether. Still others, are being torn apart. Gone are the days when Dreamers were not made priorities for removal.

If you came to the United States illegally or no longer have a valid status country because you overstayed your visa, or just simply don’t have a status anymore, it is very important for you to take steps to protect yourself, and to realize that you have rights in this country.

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