Articles Posted in Nonimmigrant Visas

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On Friday October 11, 2019, three Federal courts in California, New York, and Washington issued three temporary injunctions blocking the Trump administration from enforcing the Public Charge rule on a nationwide basis, which was set to go into effect on October 15, 2019.

The decision to block the government from enforcing the Public Charge rule is sure to set off a contentious legal battle that is just beginning to unfold.

California’s Injunction

In California, the City of San Francisco, State of California, and La Clinica de La Raza, a health care provider, joined together as plaintiffs to sue the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the President of the United States to prevent the Public Charge rule from going forward.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton granted the Plaintiffs a preliminary injunction bringing a temporary stop to the government’s plans to enforce the rule, in states falling under the purview of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Hamilton wrote that in seeking to enforce the final rule, the government failed to consider the impact the rule would have on local and state governments when immigrants chose to leave public health benefit program, “[DHS] made no attempt, whatsoever, to investigate the type or magnitude of harm that would flow from the reality which it admittedly recognized would result—fewer people would be vaccinated,”

Washington’s Injunction

Similarly in a separate but related lawsuit, the States of Washington, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island joined together as Plaintiffs to sue the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the heads of these agencies, and the President of the United States.

The Washington injunction was more sweeping in scope in that the Federal Judge in that case, Rosanna Malouf Peterson, ordered a nationwide injunction forcing the government to refrain from implementing or enforcing the rule on a temporary but nationwide basis. In her decision Judge Peterson wrote, “the Court declines to limit the injunction to apply only in those states within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”

As a result, the broad scope of the injunction prevents the government from enforcing the Public Charge rule on a nationwide basis.

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The Trump administration’s controversial rule making certain foreign nationals inadmissible to receive permanent residence on public charge grounds, will become effective beginning October 15, 2019.

First, and foremost let’s recap what this rule is about and who it will apply to:

Under immigration law, an individual who, in the opinion of DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge is (1) ineligible for a visa (2) ineligible for admission to the United States and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status (permanent residence).

This means that the rule applies to foreign nationals applying for a U.S. visa, foreign nationals seeking admission through a port of entry, and individuals applying for adjustment of status.

When an individual applies for any immigration benefit with the government, (whether a U.S. visa or green card application), the official adjudicating the petition must determine whether that individual is or will likely become a public charge. This determination is referred to as a “public charge determination.”

What makes someone a public charge in the eyes of immigration?

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.

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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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New Zealand Now Eligible to Apply for E-1 and E-2 Investor Visas

Beginning June 10, 2019, New Zealand nationals can apply for the E visa categories thanks to the President’s enactment of the Knowledgeable Innovators and Worthy Investors (KIWI) Act. Applicants who are already in the United States on a valid non-immigrant visa may now apply for a change of status to an E visa.

The E visa does not provide a direct path to permanent residency, but it is a great option for individuals who wish to live and work in the United States with their families for a temporary period of time. There is no set limit on the maximum amount of time an individual may remain on the E visa, but applicants must intend to depart at the end of their period of authorized stay in the United States.

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Foreign nationals applying for a non-immigrant or immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad are now required to disclose information relating to their social media presence on their online nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applications known as the DS-160 and DS-260 respectively.

These changes were introduced early last week by the Department of State. Applicants must now provide information about each social media platform they have used within the last five years, including the name of the platform, and the username or handle used on that platform.

Applicants must also provide their current email and phone number, as well as email addresses and phone numbers they have had during the last five years.

Consular officials can use information found on social media during the visa adjudication process to determine whether the individual is eligible for the visa they are requesting. If officials find any information on social media that would lead them to believe the applicant is misrepresenting their true intentions or attempting to gain entry through means of fraud or deceit, the applicant’s visa application may be denied.

In the past, the Department of State only required social media information of individuals that were flagged for further inspection and individuals posing security risks to the United States. This information was provided in a supplemental questionnaire known as the DS-5535. Now, these questions are asked directly on the DS-160/DS-260 applications.

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On August 8, 2018, DHS issued a policy memorandum directing USCIS to change the way in which the agency counted the days of unlawful presence for F, M, and J status violators.

Under that policy memorandum, F, M, and J nonimmigrants who accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence during a single stay, and then departed the United States, would trigger either a 3- or 10-year bar to admission depending on the period of unlawful presence accrued in the United States prior to departure. The new policy would begin counting the days of unlawful presence the day after an F, M, or J status violation, unless an exception applied.

These bars would prevent the foreign national from applying for an immigration benefit in the future, without the approval of a waiver of inadmissibility.

This policy was to become effective on August 9, 2018; however, it quickly grew controversial and inspired a slew of lawsuits. Prior to this attempted policy change, USCIS did not begin counting a period of unlawful presence until a USCIS immigration official or immigration judge made a formal finding of a status violation.

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On April 22, 2019, the White House issued a memorandum seeking to curb the high rates of nonimmigrant overstays for nationals from certain countries.

Specifically, the memorandum identifies aliens who overstay their period of lawful admission under the terms of their visa or Visa Waiver Program.

The memorandum instructs the Secretary of State to identify conditions that contribute to the high rates of overstay of nationals from countries in which the total overstay rate is greater than 10 percent in the combined B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visa category, based on the DHS 2018 Entry/Exit Overstay Report.

Within 180 days, the President has instructed the Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Secretary of Homeland Security to come up with a plan to curb B-1/B-2 visa overstay rates with respect to identified countries of interest. Such a plan may include the suspension or limited entry of individuals of those countries holding B-1 or B-2 visas, targeted suspension of visa issuance for certain nationals, limits to duration of admission, etc.

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Great news! Our office has begun to receive our first I-797 receipt notices in the mail for petitions that were filed with premium processing in the lottery. So far, our office has received four such receipt notices for individuals who filed under the advanced degree exemption. All four of these notices came from the California Service Center.

Over the next few weeks we expect to continue to receive receipt notices for individuals who filed under the regular bachelor’s cap. If you have not yet received a receipt notice, do not be discouraged, because it is still too early to tell if you have been selected in the lottery.

As we previously suggested, Petitioners should continue to monitor their bank accounts closely. If the filing fees are charged to the account, then that petition has been selected in the lottery.

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We are pleased to announce very exciting news for our Israeli clients. The U.S. Embassy in Israel has announced the implementation of the U.S. E-2 Investor Visa Program for Israeli nationals, beginning May 1st.

Our Israeli clients have been waiting for this opportunity for years and we are very happy to tell you that you will now have the opportunity to apply for the E-2 visa as an Israeli national, beginning May 1st.

The E-2 investor visa is a non-immigrant temporary visa that allows foreign nationals from participating countries to invest in the creation of a new business, or in an existing business. The E-2 visa applicant can apply for the E-2 visa to develop, direct, or provide their specialized skills to the company they are investing in.

To qualify for a Treaty Investor (E-2) visa:  

  • The investment must be substantial and sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise;
  • The business must be a real operating enterprise;
  • The investor must be traveling to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise;
  • If the applicant is not the investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity.

Requirements

  • The investor, either a person, partnership or corporate entity, must be a citizen of a treaty trade/investment country, and be involved in international trade.
  • 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.

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Exciting news H-1B FY 2020 Filers!

Yesterday USCIS announced that on April 10, 2019, the computer-generated lottery was conducted to select enough petitions to meet the H-1B regular cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption for fiscal year 2020.

In accordance with the new H-1B regulation, USCIS first conducted the selection process for H-1B cap-subject petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may have been eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS then selected a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption from the remaining eligible petitions.

In total, USCIS has announced that the agency received 201,011 H-1B petitions during the filing period that began on April 1st, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption.

On April 5th, USCIS announced that the agency had received enough petitions to reach the regular cap of 65,000 visas.

What happens next?

Our office will begin to receive the receipt notices for petitions that were selected in the lottery within the coming weeks. Petitioners should keep a close eye on their bank accounts to see whether USCIS has charged the filing fees to the account. If the fees were charged, then your petition was selected in the lottery.

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