Articles Posted in Start-Up Immigration

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Citizens of New Zealand now qualify for the E-2 Treaty Trader Investor Visa thanks to a United States–New Zealand partnership recently signed into law. The KIWI Act, or Knowledgeable Innovators and Worthy Investors Act, signed into law on August 1st, adds New Zealand to the list of eligible countries participating in the E-2 Visa program. This is great news for entrepreneurs from New Zealand seeking to do business in the United States.

Overview of the E-2 Treaty Trader Investor Visa

The E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is a non-immigrant visa type that is only available to foreign nationals of a foreign country with a qualifying treaty of friendship, commerce, navigation, or a similar agreement with the United States. A treaty trader visa is issued for an initial period of 2 years that can be renewed in 2-year increments, with no outer limit on the total period of stay. Dependents of the principal E-2 applicant can apply for derivative E visas to accompany the entrepreneur in the United States.

The E-2 visa allows entrepreneurs from treaty nations to enter the United States and carry out investment and trade activities. Investment activities include the creation of a new business in the United States, or an investment in an existing business in the United States. The investment must be significantly proportional to the total investment, that is, usually more than half the total value of the enterprise or, if a new business, an amount normally considered necessary to establish the business.

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During March of this year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the temporary suspension of premium processing services for all fiscal year 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions requesting an exemption from the general cap. USCIS announced that the suspension would last until September 10, 2018, in order to reduce H-1B processing times for long-pending petitions.

Temporary Suspension to Continue through February 19th

Recently, USCIS announced that the agency will be extending the temporary suspension until February 19, 2019.

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Today, May 25, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will be publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register on May 29th to end the International Entrepreneur Rule, a program that gives foreign entrepreneurs the opportunity to apply for parole to come to the United States for the purpose of developing or starting a business venture in the United States.

As you may be aware, during July of last year, DHS took its first steps to dismantle the program by delaying the implementation of the rule until March 14, 2018. During that time, DHS began to draft a proposal to rescind the rule. In December of 2017 however, a federal court ordered USCIS to begin accepting international entrepreneur parole applications, vacating the delay.

In an act of defiance, DHS is now seeking to eliminate the international entrepreneur rule altogether because the department believes that the rule sweeps to broadly and doesn’t provide sufficient protections for U.S. workers and investors. According to the agency, the international entrepreneur rule “is not an appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs.” This is once again an effort by the Trump administration to undermine Obama era policies such as Deferred Action, to better align with the President’s America-first policies on immigration.

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Great News! Today, USCIS announced that the computer-generated selection process has been completed to select the H-1B petitions necessary to fulfill both the general cap and master’s cap for this H-1B season. The randomized lottery was completed yesterday April 11, 2018.

This H-1B season, USCIS received 190,098 H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2019 during the filing period that began on April 2nd. During Fiscal Year 2018, USCIS received 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period and completed the randomized lottery on the same day (April 11th).

USCIS will now begin the process of rejecting and returning all petitions that were not selected during the randomized lottery. As in previous years, USCIS completed the selection process for the master’s cap first, and all unselected master’s cap petitions were then placed in the random selection process for the general cap, giving master’s cap applicants a greater chance of being selected. In previous years, our office began to receive rejection notices for applicants that were not selected from mid to late June.

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A new policy memorandum issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes clear that different H-1B petitioners may not file multiple H-1B petitions for a single beneficiary. This applies in a situation where different employers seek to file an H-1B petition for the same person.

According to the memorandum, in Matter of S-Inc, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) made clear in the decision that “related entities” are prohibited from making multiple H-1B filings for the same beneficiary. The memorandum clarifies that the term “related entities” “includes petitioners, whether or not related through corporate ownership and control, that file cap-subject H-1B petitions for the same beneficiary for substantially the same job. Absent a legitimate business need to file multiple cap-subject petitions for the same beneficiary, USCIS will deny or revoke the approval of all H-1B cap-subject petitions filed by “related entities” for that beneficiary.”

In light of this new memorandum, we caution petitioners against filing multiple H-1B petitions for the same beneficiary, even if the different petitioners are not related, where the cap-subject petition is being filed for the same beneficiary for substantially the same job.

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On Friday December 1st, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, issued a ruling in the lawsuit, National Venture Capital Association, et.al. v. Duke, et. al, in favor of the National Venture Capital Association, an association that brought the lawsuit to challenge the government’s delay of the international entrepreneur rule. Earlier this year, the Trump administration had postponed enforcement of the international entrepreneur rule and said that it was very likely that the Obama era rule would ultimately be rescinded. The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the Department of Homeland Security unlawfully delayed enforcement of the international entrepreneur rule by circumventing the notice-and-comment rule making procedure mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act.

As you may remember the international entrepreneur rule was first published in the Federal Register on January 17, 2017. Following its publication, a notice-and-comment period was expected to begin 30 days later. The government however failed to announce such a comment period, and instead, on July 13, 2017, just days before the rule was set to go into effect, the Department of Homeland Security issued a press release indicating that implementation of the rule would be delayed until March 14, 2018, at which time the government would seek comments from the public on its plan to rescind the rule.

Federal Judge James Boasberg dealt a blow to the Trump administration in his Friday ruling, in which he agreed with the National Venture Capital Association, and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to rescind its delay of the international entrepreneur rule. The court agreed that the government bypassed the procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act to block the rule from going into effect as expected on July 17, 2017.

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The Trump administration has taken its first step toward dismantling the International Entrepreneur Rule, an Obama era program that would have given thousands of foreign entrepreneurs the opportunity to travel to the United States for a 30-month period, for the purpose of starting or scaling their start-up business enterprise in the United States.

On November 17, 2017, the Trump administration sent a notice to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to officially end the International Entrepreneur Rule. This notice appeared on the website of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs as early as Friday. At this time, the Trump administration is finalizing a draft to officially rescind the rule. Once the administration has finished reviewing the draft, it will be published in the Federal Register. It is expected that the draft to rescind the rule will be published within the next week.

After publication, a public notice and comment period will follow, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act, a process by which the government invites the public to comment on a proposed version of a government rule published in the Federal Register. Once the comment period has ended, the government responds to comments, considers feedback, and decides whether such feedback will have any influence on their decision to rescind the rule.

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Unsurprisingly, this week we learned that the Trump administration is taking further steps to toughen the process of applying for an H-1B visa extension/renewal request, and that of other highly sought-after non-immigrant work visa types filed using Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker such as the H, O, P, L, and R work visas. The news comes as part of the President’s ongoing plan to prioritize the employment of American workers over foreign workers, outlined in the President’s Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American.”

On October 23, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency will be updating its adjudication policy “to ensure petitioners meet the burden of proof for a non-immigrant worker extension petition.” The change in policy specifically provides that USCIS officers will “apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests” for the H-1B visa as well as other nonimmigrant visa types.

Per USCIS, this policy will now apply to “nearly all non-immigrant classifications filed using Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.” This means that all nonimmigrant worker visa renewal requests, made using Form I-129, will be subject to the same level of scrutiny that was applied during the foreign worker’s initial non-immigrant work visa request.

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On September 19, 2017, the American Immigration Council in cooperation with Mayer Brown LLP, filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of the National Venture Capital Association (National Venture Capital Association, et.al. v. Duke, et. al.) challenging the President’s postponement of the International Entrepreneur Rule. The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit collectively argue that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), unlawfully delayed enforcement of the International Entrepreneur Rule by circumventing key provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act.

In order for a federal rule to become effective, the Act requires federal agencies to abide by a notice-and-comment rule making procedure, a process by which the government invites the public to comment on a proposed version of a government rule published in the Federal Register. After the comment period has ended, the government responds to comments, considers feedback, and decides whether such feedback will have any influence on the content of the rules. The Supreme Court has ruled that the notice-and-comment procedure is required for “legislative” or “substantive” rules that intend to “bind” the public, and that similar to a statute, these types of rules have the “force and effect” of law. The notice-and-comment rule making requirement, however does not apply to interpretive rules, which are rules that do not bind the public or have the “force” of law in the same way that legislative or substantive rules do. The National Venture Capital Association argues that the government unlawfully invoked the “good cause” exception of the APA to postpone the Rule, and that the Rule was unlawfully halted under the pretext that doing so would prevent harm to the public interest, when no emergency situation existed which would allow such a delay.

The International Entrepreneur Rule was first published in the Federal Register on January 17, 2017, and the notice-and-comment period was set to begin 30 days from the date of the rule’s publication in the federal register. However, the government never announced a comment period for the Rule. On July 13, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the implementation of the rule would be delayed to March 14, 2018, at which time the government would seek comments from the public, with a plan to rescind the rule.

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On April 18, 2017, the President signed the controversial executive order, Hire American, Buy American, “in order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program.”

The President’s executive order directs the heads of various departments to suggest reforms to the H-1B visa worker program, a lottery based work visa program reserved only for professionals working in specialty occupations. The EO specifically aims to “ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

Since the President signed the executive order, no reforms or regulations have been passed by Congress to enforce the provisions of the order on the H-1B visa worker program, however enforcement of the provisions of the executive order are beginning to be seen through the adjudicatory measures of USCIS immigration officials.

As of late, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has become a lot tougher in adjudicating H-1B visa applications. This means that securing an H-1B work visa will become a lot more difficult going forward. For the last few months, USCIS has been aggressively issuing more numerous and more stringent “requests for evidence” in comparison to previous years. This phenomenon has manifested itself generally in response to work visa applications for highly skilled workers, and is not just reserved to H-1B work visa applications.

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