Articles Posted in Immigrant Visas

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New developments have recently unfolded since the passage of Texas’ controversial SB4 law—a law that bans sanctuary cities in the state of Texas, and requires local jurisdictions and law enforcements officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities to apprehend undocumented immigrants in the state of Texas.

The controversial bill has suffered its first blowback. The border town of El Cenizo has sued the state arguing that the ban is unconstitutional. The Mayor of El Cenizo, Raul Reyes, told reporters that the bill “hinders the relationship between police departments and the community,” and “decreases criminal activity reports which opens up the door to more domestic violence and more sexual assaults against immigrants.” The city of El Cenizo has been joined in their lawsuit against the state by Maverick county, El Paso county, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The small town of El Cenizo, Texas first came to national attention when the Spanish language was declared the city’s official language.

The Texas Attorney General envisioned a pushback from “sanctuary cities.” At about the same time that the governor of Texas signed SB4 into law, the attorney general sought to protect the state against future challenges to the law, by filing a lawsuit against known “sanctuary cities” in the state of Texas that have limited the federal government’s power to detain undocumented immigrants by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The lawsuit was filed on May 7, 2017 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. The state of Texas filed the lawsuit so that they could have a single court ruling upholding the constitutionality of SB4 that would invalidate any lawsuits filed against the state.

Among the cities which have been identified as “sanctuary cities” that have been noncompliant with the federal government’s demands are: Travis County, the city of Austin, and other local officials including Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has limited cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

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GreenCardImageBeginning May 1, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin issuing newly redesigned green cards and employment authorization documents with enhanced features and fraud-resistant technology to prevent tampering and fraud. The new technology has been introduced as part of the government’s ongoing effort to enhance the security of these documents and to facilitate detection of counterfeit documents.

The new green cards and employment authorization cards will

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
    • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
    • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.
  • Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

USCIS may continue to issue some green cards and employment authorization cards with the previous design format, after May 1, 2017, until supplies for that design have run out.

EADCard

Document Validity

Existing and new green cards and employment authorization cards will remain valid until the printed expiration date indicated on the card. Older generation green cards that were issued without an expiration date will continue to remain valid and acceptable for purposes of filing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, EVerify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE).

USCIS recommends that individuals who have an older green card that does not have an expiration date apply for a replacement card with an expiration date. Receiving a new replacement card will give individuals the benefit of having a highly secure card with fraud-resistant technology in the case the card is lost or stolen.

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16F211BF-4FDC-4D41-8FF7-55867BAB7DB9I first met Suman Kanuganti two years ago, back then he was working for another company but contemplating opening his own high-tech startup company and becoming an entrepreneur.

In advising him on his ambitious pursuits, I recommended that he follow his plans and dreams confidently and full-heartedly. Shortly afterwards, Suman quit his previous job and started to focus on his new company, Aira, based here in San Diego. Through the assistance of my immigration law firm, he received his H-1B visa so that he could continue focusing on his amazing work at Aira in developing assistive technology and services for the blind and visually impaired.

His work at Aira continues at a rapid and productive pace, poising the company well for future growth and success. In just two years, Suman, as Co-Founder & CEO, has transformed his startup into the leading developer of remote technology that is bringing immediate access to information and assistance to those with vision loss. This is greatly enhancing the mobility, independence and productivity of blind people in a wide range daily activities – from navigating busy streets and airports, to reading printed material, recognizing faces, catching the bus or Uber, functioning efficiently in the office or classroom, experiencing cultural and sporting events, and literally traveling the globe.

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On May 7, 2017 Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed the controversial “Texas Senate Bill 4” into law which will take effect on September 1st. Among its major provisions, the bill outlaws the establishment of “sanctuary cities” which serve as safe havens for undocumented immigrants, requires local law enforcement officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities by holding undocumented immigrants subject to deportation, and permits local law enforcement officials to question individuals regarding their immigration status in the United States. In September, the bill will be enforced by officers throughout the state of Texas including by police officers on college campuses. The bill, however, will not apply to officers contracted by religious groups, schools, government mental health care facilities, and hospitals.

More specifically SB4:

  • Blocks local entities from passing laws and/or adopting policies that prevent local law enforcement officials from inquiring about a person’s immigration status
  • The law makes it a crime for sheriffs, constables, police chiefs, and local leaders to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities (Class A misdemeanor)
  • Imposes sanctions on law enforcement officials and local jurisdictions that do not comply with the law
  • Cities who fail to comply with the law may face fines of up to $25,000 per day, and the police chiefs, sheriffs, or mayors of noncompliant jurisdictions may be charged criminally and/or removed from office
  • Allows police officers to question anyone they believe to be residing in the United States unlawfully about their immigration status, including at routine traffic stops

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Background

It was only several years ago that Antoine, a French native, set his eyes on achieving his lifelong dream of starting an aviation company in the state of California, providing flight services to foreign pilots in transit to or vacationing in the state of California. With over six years of experience in the European aviation industry, as a private and commercial pilot, Antoine certainly had amassed the skills and experience necessary to launch his company. On a visit to California, Antoine identified a niche in the market and decided that he would cater to the needs of foreign pilots flying through the Los Angeles County area. With the help of the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick, Antoine was able to turn his lifelong dreams into reality. Today, Antoine’s company Heading West is off the ground and on its way to becoming Southern California’s leading flight service company. So how did we do it?

About the Visa

Here at the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick, it is no secret that our clients are our biggest inspiration. After having spoken to Antoine about his new business venture, his qualifications, and other needs, we agreed that the best option for Antoine and his family, was to apply for an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. Although the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa does not create a path to permanent residency, it is a great visa for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to enter the United States and carry out investment and trade activities. To qualify for the treaty investor visa, the investor must be from a qualifying treaty trader country, and must invest a substantial amount of capital to develop and direct the business operations of a new commercial enterprise, or invest in an existing U.S. business. Other requirements for the E-2 visa are as follows:

  • If the investor is a company, at least 50% of the owners in the qualifying company must maintain the nationality of a treaty trader country if they are not lawful permanent residents of the U.S. If these owners are in the U.S., they must be in E-1 or E-2 status.
  • The investment funds and the applicant must come from the same Treaty Country.
  • The business in which investment is being made must provide job opportunities or make a significant economic impact tin the United States. The business should not be established solely for the purpose of earning a living for the applicant and his or her family.
  • The investment must come from the investor. The money must be “at risk”. Thus, a loan that is secured by the assets of the business itself will not qualify i.e. if loans have been taken out, they must be secured or guaranteed by the investor personally, and not by the assets of the corporation.
  • The investment must be substantial, a standard which depends on the nature of the enterprise. Generally, investment funds or assets must be committed and irrevocable. The funds or assets must be deemed sufficient to ensure the success of operations.
  • The investment must be real and active and not passive; this means that a bank account, undeveloped land or stocks, or a not-for-profit organization will not be sufficient to be considered.
  • The enterprise must be a real, operating commercial enterprise or active entrepreneurial undertaking productive of some service or commodity.

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For this month’s staff spotlight, we invite you to learn more about our legal technical writer Suzanne Andersen.

Suzanne Andersen is a new addition to our firm, having joined in 2016. Ms. Andersen holds a Master of Laws degree from California Western School of Law, in addition to her law degree from the University of Southern Denmark.  Prior to attending law school, Ms. Andersen obtained a degree in Psychology from the University of Copenhagen.

Before joining the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick, Ms. Andersen practiced law in Denmark for three years in the area of litigation, white collar crime and immigration, contract law, tort law and human rights.

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On December 6, 2016 Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund government programs through April 28, 2017. Among the programs that qualified to receive additional government funding was the EB-5 Regional Center Investor Program, a program made possible by a Congressional statute. The Continuing Resolution effectively extended the EB-5 Regional Center program through April 28, 2017 with no changes to the program’s policy. With time running out, Congress must either extend the statutory deadline once again to September 30, 2017, or pass reforms to the program. The government is currently holding Congressional hearings to make changes to the EB-5 Regional Center Program. It appears that legislators are contemplating overhauling the EB-5 program altogether, instead of extending the validity period of the program. At this stage, however, it is not likely that a major overhaul of the EB-5 program will take place by April 28th.

Proposed Rule EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program

For their part, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already introduced a series of proposals in the Federal Register to modernize the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The comment period for the proposed rule closed on April 11, 2017.

Among its major provisions the Department’s proposed rule would authorize:

  • Priority date retention for EB–5 petitioners;
  • Increases the minimum investment amount for targeted employment areas (TEAs) and nonTEAs to $1.8 million;
  • For investors seeking to invest in a new commercial enterprise that will be principally doing business in a targeted employment area (TEA), DHS proposes to increase the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $1.35 million;
  • DHS is proposing to make regular CPI–U-based adjustments in the standard minimum investment amount, and conforming adjustments to the TEA minimum investment amount, every 5 years, beginning 5 years from the effective date of these regulations;
  • Revisions to the TEA designation process, including the elimination of state designation of high unemployment areas as a method of TEA designation;
  • DHS proposes to allow any city or town with high unemployment 4 and a population of 20,000 or more to qualify as a TEA;
  • DHS proposes to eliminate the ability of a state to designate certain geographic and political subdivisions as highunemployment areas; instead, DHS would make such designations directly;
  • Revisions to the filing and interview process for removal of conditions on lawful permanent residence.

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Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

USCIS has finally announced that the H-1B computer-generated lottery took place on April 11, 2017 to select the necessary petitions to meet the 65,000 visa cap for beneficiaries holding a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, as well as the 20,000 visa cap for beneficiaries holding a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The announcement came a bit late this H-1B season, but you can now rest easy knowing that it has taken place.   On April 7th USCIS announced that they had received more than enough H-1B petitions necessary for fiscal year 2018. USCIS disclosed that they received 199,000 H-1B petitions this filing year.

Our office has already received 3 receipt notices for the “master’s” cap or advanced degree exemption, and 2 receipt notices for the “regular” cap as of April 20, 2017. 

USCIS will continue to mail receipt notices for selected petitions throughout the month of April and likely into early May.

If your petitioner has been monitoring their bank account closely and has noticed that the filing fees were charged to the account, that means that the H-1B petition was selected. Even if the filing fees have not yet been charged to your petitioner’s bank account, that does not mean that your H-1B petition was not selected. H-1B applicants must wait patiently to see if they were selected in this year’s lottery.

USCIS will not begin mailing out unselected H-1B petitions until around June through the month of July.

As a reminder, premium processing for H-1B petitions was suspended on March 3rd and will remain suspended for up to six months.

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8358967030_aef1cd0812_zThe Trump administration is quickly mobilizing resources to facilitate the massive deportation of undocumented persons living and working in the United States, and to secure the U.S. border.

A new 90-day progress report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security outlines how the agency is planning on implementing the provisions of the Executive Order 13767 entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” signed by President Trump earlier this year. Although the progress report is only a preliminary assessment of how the agency will enforce the executive order, the report reflects what immigration enforcement might look like in the near future.

Securing the border: Regarding border security, the progress report outlines that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is taking immediate action to plan, design, and construct a physical wall on the southern border between the United States and Mexico. Specifically, the report states that CBP is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and construct prototypes to expand the southern border, and has submitted a request for funding from Congress for $20 million.

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On March 31, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy memorandum providing new guidance relating to the adjudication of H-1B petitions for computer programmers. The new memorandum will supersede and replace the policy memorandum that had been in place since the year 2000, which previously governed adjudication procedures for H-1B computer related occupations.

The new memorandum seeks to update the outdated provisions of the 2000 memorandum because the policies set out in that memorandum no longer reflect the current policies of the agency. The main purpose for rescinding the 2000 memorandum is not to change the H-1B application process for employers who seek to employ foreign workers in computer related occupations, rather the new memorandum clarifies the proper adjudication procedures for computer related occupations at all service centers.

Why the Change?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a handbook published by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics which includes information relating to the training and education required for various employment positions. The OOH is of particular importance for H-1B petitioners and practicing attorneys, because USCIS consults the OOH as a guide to inform their decision regarding the general qualifications necessary for a particular occupation, and whether the occupation is to be considered a “specialty occupation.” The OOH however does not on its own establish whether a position is a “specialty occupation,” rather adjudicating officers focus on the position itself and the job duties and qualifications of the beneficiary, to determine whether the position is to be considered a specialty occupation.

The main problem with the 2000 policy memorandum was that it relied on an outdated OOH description of the position of “computer programmer,” creating inconsistencies that are no longer followed by adjudicating officers today.

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