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Articles Posted in Start-Up Immigration

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Are you a small business owner feeling the pinch of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Have no fear, the newly passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) provides emergency financial relief for small to mid-sized businesses in the United States, to help business owners keep employees on their payroll.

This federal relief package allocates nearly $350 billion in emergency aid for businesses through a small business loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program. This program is separate from existing federal loan programs, including existing Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster relief loans which you may also decide to pursue.

Paycheck Protection Program

What is it about? 

The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan forgiveness program (available through June 30, 2020) designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep workers on their payroll.

For small business owners who participate, loans obtained through this program will be fully forgiven if (1) all employees are kept on the payroll for 8 weeks and (2) the money is used for payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities (at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). As an additional incentive, loan payments will be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required to obtain a loan.

According to the SBA, loan forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness is reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

Please note: PPP loans are not grants, instead they are loans—the majority of which can be forgiven if used for payroll costs as outlined above.

Who is Eligible?

Any small business with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors, self-employed persons, private non-profits, and 501(c)(19) veteran’s organizations) affected by the coronavirus pandemic can apply.

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H-1B season has officially kicked off!

The new mandatory H-1B electronic registration system for fiscal year 2021 opened yesterday at noon ET on March 1, 2020 and will remain open until noon ET on March 20, 2020.

In order to have a chance of being selected, from now on all prospective petitioners and their authorized representatives seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2021, including for beneficiaries eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first register during the registration period (March 1, 2020 to March 20, 2020) and pay the associated $10 registration fee for each beneficiary.

Only petitioners with a selected registration may participate in the H-1B filing process.

Registering is Easy

Petitioners and their authorized representatives must create a myUSCIS online account and submit registrations for each beneficiary via their online account during the registration period.

Per USCIS:

Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to: 1) register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and 2) pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary. Prospective petitioners or their representatives will be able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit and store draft registrations prior to final payment and submission of each registration.

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It’s official. Yesterday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a notice in the Federal Register formally implementing the mandatory registration requirement for H1B petitioners seeking to file a cap-subject petition for Fiscal Year 2021. The notice went into effect on January 9, 2019, the date of publication.

Beginning March 1, 2020, before a petitioner can file an H-1B cap-subject petition, including petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, the petitioner must first electronically register with USCIS. Only petitioners with a valid registration selection will be eligible to file an H-1B petition with USCIS.

The initial registration period for FY 2021 will open on March 1, 2020 and is expected to close on March 20, 2020. The actual end date will be provided on the USCIS website.

Who must register?

H-1B cap-subject petitioners, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, seeking to file a FY 2021 H-1B cap petition will be required to first register electronically with USCIS and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each submission

Prospective petitioners or their authorized representatives must electronically submit a separate registration naming each alien for whom they seek to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. Duplicate registrations are prohibited.

What happens after the registration period closes?

Once the registration period closes, USCIS will conduct the initial selection process.

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In this blog post we highlight the best features of E-2 Treaty Investor Visa program, for individuals seeking to live and work in the United States for a temporary period of time.

First let’s discuss what the E-2 visa is. The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa type, which means that it is a temporary visa option for individuals who do not wish to immigrate to the United States, but rather are interested in remaining in the United States for a limited period of time.

Secondly, the E-2 visa is a treaty investor visa. This means that in order to qualify for this visa type you must be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. This visa type allows a national of a treaty country to apply for admission to the United States under the E-2 visa category for the purpose of investing a substantial amount of capital in a United States business.

Currently, 89 countries maintain a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States. Israel and New Zealand are the most recent countries to enter into a treaty commerce and navigation with the United States, allowing nationals of these countries to participate in the E-2 visa program. For a complete list of the countries with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, please click here.

The most frequently asked question when it comes to the E-2 visa is, how much money must I invest in order to qualify for this visa type?

The amount of money that must be invested depends on the nature of the business’ operations. USCIS defines the amount of capital to be invested as “a substantial amount of capital” interpreted as:

  • Substantial in relationship to the total cost of either purchasing an established enterprise or establishing a new one
  • Sufficient to ensure the treaty investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise
  • Of a magnitude to support the likelihood that the treaty investor will successfully develop and direct the enterprise.  The lower the cost of the enterprise, the higher, proportionately, the investment must be to be considered substantial.

Thirdly, to qualify for the E-2 visa the investment must be in a bona fide business enterprise that is real, active, and operating and is producing either services or goods for profit. Passive investments are not allowed.

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USCIS announced today May 17, 2019, that the agency has completed data entry for all H-1B petitions selected for fiscal year 2020, including petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.

USCIS will now begin the long process of returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the random computer-generated lottery that took place on April 10, 2019. USCIS will provide an announcement once it has completed the return of unselected H-1B petitions.

Petitioners who have not had the H-1B filing fees cashed, can expect to receive the return of their H-1B petition.

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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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On April 5, 2019, USCIS announced that it received a sufficient number of petitions needed to reach the congressionally mandated 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020.

As expected, the Regular cap (Bachelor’s cap) was reached within the first five business days of the FY 2020 application cycle.

USCIS still has not announced whether it has received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa cap for the U.S. advanced degree exemption (Master’s cap).

USCIS has also not yet announced whether the H-1B lottery has been conducted. Last year, USCIS made the announcement on April 12th.

During the next few weeks Petitioners should keep a close eye on their bank accounts to see whether the H-1B filing fees have been charged to their accounts.

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Today, USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2020 cap. Any FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before April 1st will be rejected.

Beginning today, 65,000 H-1B visas will be available for the regular cap, and 20,000 H-1B visas for advanced degree holders.

Selection

Important changes will be implemented for the H-1B cap selection process.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule amending regulations governing cap-subject H-1B petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption.

The final rule reverses the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, which will be in effect for the FY 2020 cap season.

USCIS will first select H-1B petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will then select from the remaining eligible petitions, a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption.

Premium Processing Available for COS Cap Subject H-1B Petitions Only

Starting April 1, FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

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The start of the FY 2020 H-1B cap season begins on April 1, 2019. This year, USCIS will offer premium processing services in a two-phased approach to avoid temporary suspension of the service.

Change of Status H-1B Cap Petitions

Starting April 1, FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

However, to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions immediately.

USCIS will begin premium processing for these petitions no later than May 20, 2019 and will notify the public before premium processing begins for these petitions.

If a petitioner does not file Form I-907 concurrently with an FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status, the petitioner must wait until premium processing begins to submit Form I-907.

All Other FY 2020 Cap-Subject Petitions

Premium processing services for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not begin until at least June 19, 2019. Cap-subject petitioners who are not requesting a change of status may not submit their premium processing request concurrently with their H-1B petition. These petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing once premium processing begins for this group. USCIS will notify the public with a confirmed date for premium processing for cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status. Continue reading

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Now is the time to begin preparing for the upcoming H-1B visa lottery. USCIS will begin to accept H-1B cap-subject petitions for fiscal year 2020 beginning Monday, April 1, 2019. Please note: employers cannot file an H-1B petition for an employee more than 6 months before the employee’s intended start date. If accepted, H-1B visa workers can begin employment by October 1st. The H-1B visa is issued for up to three years but may be extended for another three years.

By law, a congressionally mandated cap exists which limits the issuance of H-1B visas to 65,000 per year. That is why the H-1B visa is commonly referred to as a ‘lottery’ visa.

Individuals (such as F-1 students) who hold advanced degrees (U.S. master’s or higher) are exempted from the 65,000 visa cap. Such applicant’s must demonstrate that they have obtained an American master’s degree or higher to be exempted from the cap, however only the first 20,000 petitions received by USCIS will benefit from this cap exemption.

In order to qualify for an H-1B visa:

  • a foreign worker must possess both a theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge;
  • an employer-employee relationship must exist. Only a U.S. employer can petition the entry of a foreign employee by filing USCIS Form I-129 Petition for Non-immigrant Worker. An employer-employee relationship exists if the U.S. employer has the right to hire, pay, fire, supervise or control the work of the employee;
  • the foreign worker must possess a bachelor’s degree, its foreign equivalent, or relevant work experience. If the foreign worker does not have formal education, but has at least 12 years of relevant work experience related to the specialty occupation, they may still qualify for an H-1B visa;
  • the foreign worker must be employed in a specialty occupation related to their field of study. A specialty occupation is an occupation that requires a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent;
  • the foreign worker must be paid at least the prevailing wage for the specialty occupation in the area of intended employment;

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