Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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Last week, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a series of immigration enforcement operations nationwide, otherwise known as “raids” to crack down on illegal immigration. The operations took place over a five-day period in the metropolitan cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City, and resulted in the arrest of more than 680 individuals. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these raids were targeted at convicted criminals unlawfully present in the United States, persons who are a threat to our public safety, including gang members, and “individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws” by illegally re-entering the country after having been removed, including fugitives who could not be found after having been ordered removed by federal immigration judges. Additionally, DHS reported that of those who were arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including “homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.”

Communities across the United States went into uproar, after reports began pouring in that hundreds of non-threatening individuals including mothers and children were being taken into custody and removed from the United States during these operations. One of the first such individuals to be arrested was Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a Mexican mother of two U.S. Citizen children, who was detained by ICE at a routine check point in Phoenix, after having lived 20 years in that state. Garcia de Rayos had come to the United States illegally as a child. She was arrested during a 2008 raid on her Arizona workplace on suspicion that the business was hiring undocumented immigrants using fraudulent IDs. Garcia de Rayos was taken into custody six months later, when investigators discovered discrepancies in her employment documents. She pled guilty in 2009 to criminal impersonation and was sentenced to 2 year’s probation. Despite these offenses, Guadalupe was considered to be a “low priority” of enforcement and was required to check in with immigration officials.

After news broke of her arrest, the Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Mexican nationals to contact the Mexican consulate for immigration assistance, information relating to their immigration rights, and protections offered to them by the Center for Information and Assistance to Mexicans (CIAM). According to the Foreign Ministry, Mexican consulates in the United States have allocated additional resources to protect the rights of Mexican nationals. The Foreign Ministry added that they anticipate these immigration raids will increase in severity and are likely to violate the due process of rights of Mexican nationals.

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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals San Francisco, CA

A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled that the President’s Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” banning the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries will not be reinstated. The Court refused to reinstate the Order after hearing oral arguments from the solicitor general of Washington state arguing for the states of Washington and Minnesota, and counsel from Washington D.C. The panel was tasked with reviewing a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) that was handed down by a federal judge from Seattle, an order which brought President Trump’s Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” to a screeching halt. Since then several lawsuits have been filed against the President’s executive order and are making their way through the courts.

The Court considered four central questions before reaching their decision:

  • Whether the stay applicant “Government” has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits;
  • Whether the applicant “Government” will be irreparably injured absent a stay;
  • Whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding and;
  • Where the public interest lies.

The Court concluded that the government failed to satisfy the first questions, and that arguments made by the government’s attorney in support of the last two questions did not justify the issuance of a stay to lift the temporary restraining order and reinstate the Executive Order. The Court reasoned that the government failed to show that it would be likely to succeed on appeal, noting the seriousness of the allegations raised by the States regarding religious discrimination and significant constitutional questions. In a powerful statement the Court noted that “the government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” The Court further stated that the States “offered ample evidence that if the Executive Order were reinstated even temporarily, it would substantially injure the States and multiple other interested parties.”

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Following a dramatic turn of events, on Friday, February 3, 2017, a federal judge from the Western District of Washington, issued a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) halting enforcement of the President’s Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” nationwide. The temporary restraining order was issued in response to an emergency motion filed by the state of Washington and Minnesota. The states collectively filed the motion seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the controversial executive order which bans the entry of immigrant and non-immigrant foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) for a 90-day period, suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for a 120-day period, and terminates the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.

In his ruling, Judge Robart stated that after hearing arguments, the States adequately demonstrated that they have suffered immediate and irreparable harm because of the signing and implementation of the order, and that granting a TRO would be in the public interest. In addition he stated “the Executive Order adversely affects the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel. These harms extend to the States. . . are significant and ongoing.” A three-judge panel from the Ninth Court Court of Appeals is expected to issue a final ruling on the Executive Order tomorrow.

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In today’s post, we will discuss how green card holders may be affected by President Trump’s Executive Order imposing a temporary travel ban on foreign nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), including green card holders as well as non-immigrants. Since the release of the Executive Order, several courts have issued temporary injunctions preventing green card holders (LPRs), legally authorized to enter the United States, from being detained and/or removed from the United States until a federal court can decide the constitutionality of the orders.

In response to these court orders, the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has provided further guidance on the enforcement of these actions, and the impact on green card holders from these seven Muslim-majority countries. While both agencies have indicated that they are complying with the court orders, the consensus is that immigration officials will continue to enforce President Trump’s Executive Orders, and they will continue to remain in place.

What does this mean for green card holders? The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has stated that the entry of lawful permanent residents remains in the national interest, therefore “absent receipt of derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare,” lawful permanent resident status will be a deciding factor in allowing an LPR entry. The entry of lawful permanent residents will continue to be discretionary and green card holders will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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Yesterday, January 29, 2017 the Department of Homeland Security released a statement regarding President Trump’s executive order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” which barred the entry of both immigrant and non-immigrant foreign nationals from 7 majority Muslim countries and suspended entry of Syrian refugees until proper vetting and security mechanisms could be put in place. The Department commented on the impact of a federal court order issued Saturday night which temporarily suspends enforcement of the executive order, until a federal judge can rule on its legality.

In their statement, the Department of Homeland Security noted that “upon issuance of the court order . . . U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immediately began taking steps to comply with the orders. Concurrently, the Department of Homeland Security continues to work with our partners in the Departments of Justice and State to implement President Trump’s executive order on protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States. We are committed to ensuring that all individuals affected by the executive orders, including those affected by the court orders, are being provided all rights afforded under the law.  We are also working closely with airline partners to prevent travelers who would not be granted entry under the executive orders from boarding international flights to the U.S. Therefore, we do not anticipate that further individuals traveling by air to the United States will be affected.”

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On Saturday night, a federal judge granted an emergency stay on Donald Trump’s executive orderProtecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” which temporarily bans the entry of immigrant and non-immigrant foreign nationals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for a 90-day period. The stay filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of two Iraqi men detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, prevents immigration authorities from detaining foreign nationals from the 7 Muslim majority countries, who have already arrived on U.S. soil, as well as those mid-flight. The stay does not invalidate the executive order signed by Trump, but limits its enforcement on individuals who have already arrived in the United States. Individuals who have attempted to enter on valid visas, refugee status, or LPR status must be released from detention. Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants and non-immigrants from these countries sent the country into chaos, as protestors swarmed international airports across the nation calling for an end to the ban and the release of persons detained. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and law enforcement officials are struggling with the executive order, absent clear policy and guidance from the Department of Homeland Security.

This is a developing story. More information soon. 

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Yesterday, January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed and handed down the controversial executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” on immigration to protect the nation from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals. Among its main provisions the order suspends IMMIGRANT AND NON-IMMIGRANT entry of foreign nationals from countries of “particular concern” including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days, indefinitely suspends Syrian refugees from entering the United States until the U.S. refugee admissions program has been overhauled, and terminates the visa waiver interview process. The temporary ban will affect all non-U.S. Citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen including green card holders and valid U.S. visa holders. Foreign nationals of these countries will not be allowed to return to the United States for a period of 90 days, after temporary foreign travel, even if they are green card holders or visa holders. For this reason, if you are a foreign national from one of these countries, you should not engage in temporary foreign travel until the temporary ban has been lifted. Visa and green card holders already in the United States will be allowed to remain without problems.

An exemption has been drawn for immigrants and legal permanent residents whose entry is in the U.S. national interest, however it is not yet clear how that exemption will be applied.

Below is a summary of the main provisions of the order per the OFFICIAL signed copy.

To read the complete version please click here.

  1. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern
  • The immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries designated (including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libra, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) is suspended for 90 days from the date of the order January 27, 2017 (excludes foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, and C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations). This means that if you are a citizen of a country of “particular concern” as outlined above, you will NOT be allowed to re-enter the United States, after temporary foreign travel, until the ban has been lifted, even if you are a legal permanent resident (immigrant) or holder of a valid visa. If you are a foreign national of one of the above countries and you are an immigrant (green card holder) or non-immigrant (valid visa holder), you must NOT travel internationally. Otherwise, you will risk being denied re-entry.
  • The Secretary of State and Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of additional countries who pose a security risk and are recommended for suspension.
  • The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, must immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country for adjudication of any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA adequate to confirm the identity of the individual seeking the benefit and ensure that they are not a security or public-safety threat to the United States.

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President Donald Trump is expected to hand down a controversial Executive Order on immigration within the coming days to protect the nation from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals. Although the Trump administration has not made a formal announcement regarding the proposed order yet, a leaked, unsigned copy of the President’s order has been making the rounds. We do not know whether the President has made any modifications to the order since its leak, and we do not know when exactly the order will be issued. One thing is clear, an executive order on immigration is imminent. It is rumored that the executive order will include a temporary ban on refugees, the suspension of issuance of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries, which are rumored to include Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, collectively referred to as “countries of particular concern,” as well as the end of Syrian refugee processing, and the visa interview waiver program.

The passage of such an executive order although extremely controversial and unpopular, would be within the President’s executive power, if his administration determines that limiting refugee admissions temporarily and restricting the issuance of visas to persons from specific countries is of significant public interest to the United States to combat the war on terror. The administration would need to balance our country’s need to secure its borders against terrorism with the need to resolve the global humanitarian crisis we face today. Donald Trump has already passed a series of executive orders on border security and immigration enforcement authorizing the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, withholding federal grant money for sanctuary cities, hiring 5,000 Border Patrol agents, reinstating local and state immigration enforcement partnerships, and ending the “catch-and-release” policy for undocumented immigrants.

The leaked copy of the executive order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” gives two policy reasons for enacting the executive order. First, the purpose of the order is to protect American citizens from foreign nationals who intend to enter the United States to commit acts of terrorism. Second, the order serves to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to enter the United States to “exploit” the country’s immigration laws for malevolent purposes. The order highlights that following the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, hundreds of foreign nationals have successfully entered the United States on an asylum, visitor, student, or employment visa, and have been subsequently convicted or implicated in terrorism related crimes. The order goes on to blame the State Department’s consular officials for their failure to scrutinize the visa applications of the foreign nationals who went on to commit the September 11 attacks, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans.

The main provisions of the leaked order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” are as follows:

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Today, January 12, 2017 the President announced that the Department of Homeland Security will be ending the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy in a statement about Cuban Immigration Policy. Previously, Cuban nationals were allowed to apply for permanent residency within one year of reaching American soil without the need to enter the United States with a visa. After decades of making an exception for Cuban nationals, the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy will be no more. From this point forward, Cuban nationals will be required (like all other foreign nationals) to obtain a visa in order to be lawfully admitted to the United States. Effective January 12, 2017, Cuban nationals caught attempting to enter the United States without proper documentation, who do not otherwise qualify for humanitarian relief, will be subject to removal, in accordance with the immigration laws of the United States. This change in policy comes as an effort to “normalize” U.S./Cuban relations and to make the immigration policies of the United States more consistent. As you may know, diplomatic relations between U.S. and Cuba were severed in 1961, and were only re-opened until recently. For their part the Cuban government has reached an agreement with the United States to accept Cuban nationals ordered removed from the United States.

In addition, the new policy states that effective immediately the Department of Homeland Security will terminate the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program under the rationale that this program no longer serves the interests of the United States and the Cuban people. The parole program was viewed as controversial from the very beginning because it provided preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel. Cuban medical personnel and others will be eligible to apply for asylum at United States embassies and consulates worldwide, as has been customary for all other foreign nationals.

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As many of you know the H-1B visa lottery for fiscal year 2018 is fast approaching. As usual, the competition will be fierce, as hundreds of thousands of highly skilled professionals prepare to file their H-1B visa petitions beginning April 1st through the April 7th deadline. While filing by April 1st (the first day that applications are accepted) certainly gives applicants greater peace of mind, filing before the April 7th deadline does not necessarily increase an individual’s chances of being selected in the lottery. Throughout the years, our office has seen the selection of many petitions that were filed on or close to the April 7th deadline.  With that being said, we expect the competition this year to be even more intense, that is why we want to give you our top tips about what you should be doing NOW to prepare for H-1B season and increase your chances for success.

First some statistics on fiscal year 2017:

  • For fiscal year 2017, USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions, which included petitions counting toward the general cap and advanced degree exemption; approximately 3,000 more petitions when compared to H-1B petitions received for fiscal year 2016. This trend is likely to continue, giving you all the more reason to prepare for the H-1B season early on.
  • For fiscal year 2017, the H-1B cap was reached within the first 5 business days of the H-1B filing period (April 1 to April 7). We expect this trend to continue as in previous years. During fiscal year 2017, USCIS received more than 20,000 petitions for the advanced degree exemption. This number will undoubtedly increase for fiscal year 2018.
  • For fiscal year 2017, USCIS conducted the randomized computer-generated lottery on April 9, 2016 beginning the selection process for the 20,000 available visas counting toward the advanced degree exemption first. Then, unselected advanced degree petitions were given a second chance of being selected by being placed in the lottery toward the general 65,000 cap.  Individuals holding an advanced degree from the United States thus have two shots at being selected for the lottery.

Chances of selection

The chances of being selected in the lottery for fiscal year 2017 ran at roughly 65% for foreign workers holding a U.S. advanced degree, and roughly 35% for foreign workers holding a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Compare this to the chances of being selected in the lottery during fiscal year 2016 which ran at 60% for U.S. advanced degree holders, and 30% for bachelor’s degree holders or the equivalent. We expect the percentage of selection to continue to increase for U.S. advanced degree holders and foreign workers holding bachelor’s degree or equivalent, by roughly 5% according to recent statistics. This of course will depend on the demand for the H-1B visa for fiscal year 2018.

Office Stats

For fiscal year 2017, 35%  of H-1B cap-subject petitions that were filed by our office were selected in the H-1B randomized lottery that took place early April 2016. 13% of those petitions were filed with premium processing, while 22% were filed with regular processing. In total our office filed 55 H-1B Petitions: 15 advanced degree petitions and 40 bachelor’s cap or equivalent petitions. Of these, 46 were filed with regular processing and 15 with premium processing. The majority of these petitions were filed with the California Service Center. Of selected petitions for fiscal year 2017, the top specialty occupations included: Applications Developer, Market Research Analyst, and Software Engineer.

H-1B Overview

As in previous years H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2018 will begin to be accepted by USCIS on April 1, 2017 up until April 7, 2017. Foreign workers in specialty occupations and their employers will compete for one of the coveted 65,000 H-1B visas available each fiscal year. The H-1B visa program is limited to a 65,000 congressionally mandated visa cap. Foreign workers holding a U.S. Master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap, however only the first 20,000 advanced degree petitions received by USCIS will qualify for the cap exemption. In addition, certain foreign workers such as foreign workers who have been offered employment under U.S. Chile or U.S. Singapore free trade agreements, and foreign workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam are exempt from the cap, according to the Consolidated Natural Resource Act of 2008 (CNRA). Advanced degree petitions received after the 20,000 spots have been allocated will count toward the regular cap along with foreign workers holding bachelor’s degrees (or equivalent including work experience in lieu of formal education). USCIS will receive more than the 65,000 petitions for the H-1B visa program during the first five business days that the application period is open, from April 1st to April 7th. When the cap has been reached, USCIS will make an announcement, in recent years this announcement has been made on April 7th and begin the selection process to fill the 65,000 cap through a randomized lottery system. Petitions that are not selected will be rejected along with their filing fees. Duplicate H-1B petitioners during the same fiscal year, are not allowed, and may be subject to sanctions. Employers may not file an H-1B petition on behalf of an employee more than 6 months before the employee’s intended start date. Once an H-1B visa worker has been selected and approved, the foreign worker may begin employment on October 1st of that fiscal  year. The H-1B visa is issued for a three-year period that can be extended for an additional three years.

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