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Articles Posted in Immigration Compliance

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In this post we discuss a new proposed rule published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that seeks to amend regulations governing Form, I-864 Affidavit of Support. The I-864 Affidavit of Support is a required form that must be completed by the person petitioning the foreign national, in order for their relative to immigrate to the United States. The petitioner must attest that they meet the income requirement based on their household size to sponsor the foreign national. Petitioners who are unable to meet the income requirement, must obtain a joint sponsor who does meet this requirement.

Essentially, when the petitioner or joint sponsor signs the affidavit of support, he or she is entering into an enforceable contract with the U.S. government, in which they agree to use their financial resources to support the beneficiary named in the affidavit of support. Where the beneficiary seeks public benefits from a government agency, the petitioner or sponsor can be held legally responsible for repaying those costs to the government agency.

The rules and regulations governing the affidavit of support have recently come under fire during the Trump administration. The President has consistently pushed for stricter enforcement of a sponsor’s obligations, requiring government agencies to hold sponsors liable for any benefits paid out to beneficiaries of an affidavit of support.


What is the New Rule About?

On October 2, 2020 DHS announced a proposed rule that (1) clarifies how a sponsor must demonstrate that he or she has the means to maintain income (2) revises documentation that sponsors and household members must meet as evidence of their income (3) modifies when an applicant is required to submit an Affidavit from a joint sponsor and (4) updates reporting and information sharing between government agencies.

Changes to Documentation Required of Sponsors

The proposed rule updates the evidentiary requirements for sponsors submitting an Affidavit, to “better enable immigration officers and immigration judges to determine whether the sponsor has the means to maintain an annual income at or above the applicable threshold, and whether the sponsor can, in fact, provide such support to the intending immigrant and meet all support obligations during the period the Affidavit is in effect.”

Specifically, this proposed rule would require sponsors and household members who execute an Affidavit or Contract to provide Federal income tax returns for 3 years, credit reports, credit scores, and bank account information.

Receipt of Means-Tested Benefits May Disqualify Sponsor

The proposed rule also seeks to change the regulations to specify that a sponsor’s prior receipt of any means-tested public benefits and a sponsor’s failure to meet support obligations on another executed Affidavit, or household member obligations on a previously executed Affidavit of Support, will impact the determination as to whether the sponsor has the means to maintain the required income threshold to support the immigrant.

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A brand-new bill called the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2020 (S. 3770) sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has recently surfaced. As you might have already guessed, the bill seeks to make changes to the current H-1B and L visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse within the H-1B and L visa programs, provide protections for American workers, and enforce stricter requirements for the recruitment of foreign workers. The H-1B visa program is aggressively targeted in this new piece of legislation.


Proposed Changes to the H-1B visa program


First, as it relates to the H-1B visa worker program, the bill proposes changes to existing wage requirements.

The law would require employers to pay the highest wage from three categories:

1) the locally determined prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment

2) the median average wage for all workers in the occupational classification in the area of employment; or

3) the median wage for skill level 2 in the occupational classification found in the most recent OES survey.

Second, the bill would make changes to current law and require U.S. employers seeking to hire H-1B workers to publish job postings on a website established by the Department of Labor. After filing the labor condition application, the employer would be required to post the job on the website for at least 30 calendar days. The job posting would have to include a detailed description of the position, including the wages and other terms and conditions of employment, minimum education, training, experience, and other requirements for the position, as well as the process for applying for the position.

Third, all H-1B employers would be required to prove that they have tried to recruit American workers for jobs offered to H-1B workers. Under current law, only H-1B dependent employers (those with more than 50 full time employees of which at least 15% are H-1B employees) are required to recruit American workers for H-1B positions. This would be a drastic change in the law creating additional burdens for U.S. employers seeking to hire foreign workers with specialized skills.

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Welcome back to our blog! We kick off the week by bringing you recent developments regarding the government’s controversial rule entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” which sought to expand the scope of public benefits that could render a permanent resident or immigrant visa applicant ineligible for immigration benefits.

As you know, in October of 2019, the final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” was swiftly blocked by several federal judges shortly before going into effect. By court order, the government cannot implement the final rule anywhere in the United States until a final resolution has been reached in several lawsuits brought against the government challenging the validity of the public charge rule.

On Monday, January 13, 2020, the Trump administration filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court of the United States, asking the court to lift the remaining lower court injunction, that is currently stopping the government from enforcing the public charge rule.

The government’s request comes just one week after a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, upheld a lower court injunction, preventing the government from implementing the public charge rule on a nationwide basis.

Angered by the decision, the government decided to appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals decision by bringing the matter to the Supreme Court, urging the Court to side with the President and allow the implementation of the rule while a decision in the New York lawsuit is reached on the merits.

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Are you a small business owner?

What would you do if immigration agents came to your workplace?

You may have heard about the recent increase in immigration raids all over the United States. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been targeting undocumented immigrants not just at home but also at work. These raids have led to thousands of employees being arrested, some of them even deported.

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USCIS will be publishing a final rule on August 14, 2019, in the Federal Register, that expands the list of public benefits that make a foreign national ineligible to obtain permanent residence and/or an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act makes inadmissible and therefore (1) ineligible for a visa, (2) ineligible for admission and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status, any alien who, in the opinion of the DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge.

The process of determining whether an alien is likely to become a public charge is called a “public charge determination.”

Receipt of certain public benefits leads to a “public charge determination” meaning that the applicant is ineligible to receive the benefit they are requesting (such as permanent residence) based on the fact that they are likely to become a public charge to the United States government.

What is a public charge?

A person is a “public charge” if they are primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense.

The final rule expands the scope of this definition by making a public charge any alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

Under the final rule announced today, immigration will now be taking into consideration the following benefits to determine whether an individual is or is likely to become a public charge to the U.S. government:

Reliance on or receipt of non-cash benefits such as:

  • Cash benefits for income maintenance
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and
  • certain other forms of subsidized housing.

In addition, the government will continue to take into consideration the following types of benefits:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid

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USCIS International Field Offices

On August 9, 2019, USCIS announced its plans to maintain seven international field offices open in Beijing, Guangzhou, Nairobi, New Delhi, Guatemala City, Mexico City, and San Salvador.

As previously reported, all other USCIS international field offices will close between now and August 2020.

Functions performed at closing international offices will be handled domestically or by USCIS domestic staff on temporary assignments abroad. In addition, the Department of State (DOS) will assume responsibility for certain in-person services that USCIS currently provides at international field offices.

In addition to issuing visas to foreign nationals who are abroad, DOS already performs many of these service functions where USCIS does not have an office.

Targeted Immigration Raids

As our readers may be aware, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been conducting targeted immigration raids (Enforcement and Removal Operations) to remove undocumented immigrants from the United States.

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Yesterday, Federal Judge Edward Chen, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, issued a preliminary injunction temporarily stopping the United States government from rescinding the temporary protected status designation for immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua.

By court order, the government must maintain the TPS designation for the above-mentioned countries, and continue to allow beneficiaries of these countries, to apply for employment authorization, while a lawsuit challenging the rescission of TPS for these countries moves through the court system.

Before the preliminary injunction the TPS designations would officially terminate as follows:

  • Sudan, TPS Designation was to terminate on November 2, 2018
  • Nicaragua, TPS Designation was to terminate on January 5, 2019
  • Haiti, TPS Designation was to terminate on July 22, 2019
  • El Salvador, TPS Designation was to terminate on September 9, 2019

The preliminary injunction comes on the heels of a class-action lawsuit brought by immigrants from these countries over the rescission of the TPS designation for Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua. The lead plaintiff named in the lawsuit Ramos v. Nielsen, is Crista Ramos, a 14-year old United States Citizen whose mother is a TPS holder from El Salvador. Ramos, along with other Plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that the government rescinded TPS protections for the above-mentioned countries, based on a predetermined political agenda in violation of the law.

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On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new proposed rule that may prevent non-citizens reliant, or likely to become reliant on public benefits, from gaining admission to the United States.  The new proposal entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” has been signed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the proposed rule is expected to be published in the federal register in the coming weeks, according to a DHS press release.

APA Procedure

Once the proposed rule has been published in the federal register, the government must allow the public to comment on the proposed rule for a 60-day period. Once that period is over, the government will have the opportunity to review comments and make changes if necessary to the proposed rule. Thereafter, the government will publish a final rule which will become law 60 days after the date of publication.

Who is a Public Charge?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a public charge is defined as an “alien who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” Such aliens are not admissible to the United States on public charge grounds.

Applicants seeking admission to the United States should be aware that, “an alien who is incapable of earning a livelihood, who does not have sufficient funds in the United States for support, and who has no person in the United States willing and able to assure the alien will not need public support, generally is inadmissible as likely to become a public charge.”

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I-751 Change to Filing Location

Today, Monday September 10, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a change to the filing location for Form I-751 Removal of Conditions. The agency is now directing petitioners to send Form I-751 to a USCIS Lockbox facility instead of directly to the California and Vermont service centers. California, Nebraska, Vermont, and Texas will distribute the load of removal of conditions applications and adjudicate these petitions accordingly. When filing at a Lockbox facility, the petitioner may pay the filing fee with a credit card using Form G-1450.

TPS Somalia

USCIS has automatically extended the validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) issued under the TPS designation of Somalia with an original expiration date of Sept. 17, 2018, for 180 days, through March 16, 2019.

Somalian nationals whose EADs expired on March 17, 2017, and who have applied for a new EAD during the last re-registration period, but have not yet received their new EAD card, are covered by the automatic extension.

If your EAD is covered by this automatic extension, you may continue to use your existing EAD through March 16, 2019, as evidence that you are authorized to work.

To prove that you are authorized to continue working legally, you may show the following documentation to your employer:

  • Your TPS-related EAD with a Sept. 17, 2018 expiration date; or
  • Your TPS-related EAD with a March 17, 2017 expiration date and your EAD application receipt (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) that notes your application was received on or after January 17, 2017

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Earlier this year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suddenly changed the regulations governing the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT). According to the USCIS website, a U.S. employer who has hired an international student under the STEM OPT program may not assign, or delegate training responsibilities to a non-employer third party such as a consulting company. This policy change has proven controversial since its sudden appearance on the USCIS website during the month of April. The policy greatly restricts the employment of international students and exposes “noncompliant” students from being found inadmissible to the United States for a 5-year period or more and makes such students subject to deportation.

Per the USCIS website:

“…a STEM OPT employer may not assign, or otherwise delegate, its training responsibilities to a non-employer third party (e.g., a client/customer of the employer, employees of the client/customer, or contractors of the client/customer). See 8 C.F.R. 214.2.(f)(10)(ii)(C)(7)(ii) and 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule (pp. 13042, 13079, 13090, 13091, 13092, 13016).”

A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas seeks to challenge this new provision on the ground that USCIS unlawfully began implementing this new policy change, in contravention of federal law.

According to the lawsuit, ITServe Alliance v. Nielsen, USCIS circumvented federal procedural rules which require public notice and the opportunity for public comment, before such a federal policy is put in place. The lawsuit alleges that since the sudden appearance of these additional terms and conditions of employment, USCIS has unlawfully issued hundreds of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs), without first following the formal rulemaking process mandated under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

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