Articles Posted in Work Visas

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In response to a memorandum issued to United States consulates and embassies around the world by President Trump and his administration on March 6, consular officials at U.S. embassies around the world are now taking tougher measures to enhance security screening of U.S. visa applicants to prevent potential security threats from entering the United States. Enhancing vetting procedures are intended to target individuals from certain “countries of concern” including the six countries of concern listed in the President’s travel ban: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Iran, as well as others.

Applicants for U.S. visas from “countries of concern” can expect to undergo additional vetting procedures immediately. The U.S. Department of State has been using a supplemental questionnaire called the DS-5535 since May 25, 2017 which asks both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants a series of detailed questions to help consular officials determine whether a visa applicant must go through enhanced vetting to determine whether the individual poses a national security threat, or other potential threat to the United States. The questionnaire has been used as a temporary emergency measure in response to the President’s March memo, which called for enhanced screening of visa applicants, and what he has called “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals admitted to the United States.

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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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U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) recently released a NAFTA Reference Guide that is filled with useful information to assist TN visa applicants filing applications under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Specifically, the guide addresses the process for issuing TN visa approval for multiple employers.

To facilitate approval for multiple employers, CBP has advised that Canadian citizens;

 

  • Provide a letter of support signed by each employer on company letterhead;
  • For applicants who filed their applications at a land border: CBP will include all the approved TN employers on a single I-94 card. If additional I-94 cards are required, CBP will use the same I-94 number for each card;
  • Upon visa issuance, the TN applicant’s electronic I-94 system will be updated by CBP to reflect TN approval for all the employers;
  • For applicants who file their applications at a CBP airport office (where no paper-based I-94 form is issued): CBP will update its electronic I-94 system to reflect TN approval for all the employers.
  • Applicants who file applications for multiple employers at the same time only need to pay one filing fee—however, additional fees may be required for multiple I-94 records;
  • If an additional employer is added by the TN worker at a later date, then a second filing fee will apply.

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With the H-1B season quickly coming to a close, we are happy to announce that 83% of our clients were selected in this year’s master’s cap, while 56.67% of our clients were selected in the “general cap.” These estimates are above the national average. Of the petitions that were selected, the majority were filed with the California Service Center. Selections in this year’s lottery were made up until the very last minute. This fiscal year, USCIS received a total of 199,000 petitions, less than usual, and the computer-generated lottery was conducted on April 11, 2017 a bit later than usual given that the filing period opened on April 3, 2017. As in previous years, USCIS first began the selection process for the advanced degree exemption or “master’s cap,” and then proceeded with the selection process for the “general cap” to fill the 85,000-visa cap. During FY 2017, USCIS received over 236,000 petitions during the filing period which opened on April 1, 2016, and the computer-generated lottery was conducted on April 9, 2016.

USCIS has now completed data entry for all cap-subject petitions selected during fiscal year 2018. This means that USCIS will now begin the process of returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in this year’s lottery, along with their filing fees. While USCIS has indicated that they cannot provide a definite time frame as to when these unselected petitions will be returned, in previous years unselected petitions have traditionally been returned during mid-June to the end of June.

If you have not received a receipt notice in the mail notifying you of your selection, and your checks were not cashed by the Department of Homeland Security, between April 1st and May 3rd., unfortunately it is not likely that you were selected in this year’s lottery. For safe measure, applicants may wish to wait about a week or so to see if any late notices are received.

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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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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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Earlier this year, the final rule “Retention of EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers” amended the current regulation regarding the renewal meaning extension of some work permit/ Employment Authorization (EAD) card.

USCIS made it easier for some foreigners in the U.S. who have an Employment Authorized Document (EAD) card to continue to legally work in the country while their EAD cards are in the process of being renewed. If you qualify under the 3 criteria listed below, you will only have to show your expired EAD card and the receipt notice for the renewal confirming timely filing and these documents will be enough for I-9 verification purpose.

In days past, when an EAD card expired, the foreign worker had to immediately stop working even if he or she was in the process of renewing their EAD card. Unless and until the EAD application was approved by USCIS, the employee could not legally show up to work.  As you can you imagine, this caused a major headache to both the employers and employees, who had to stop working midstream on a project and could not resume working until USCIS had given its blessing.

This partially changed on January 17, 2017. USCIS issued a rule allowing some EAD holders who have timely filed an EAD renewal application to be automatically granted authorization to legally work in the U.S for up to 180 days after their EAD cards expire.

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On Friday April 7, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has received more than enough H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2018, to meet the general cap, which allocates 65,000 visa applications to H-1B beneficiaries possessing a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. In addition, USCIS announced that it has received more than the 20,000 visa applications necessary to count toward the U.S. advanced degree exemption for beneficiaries possessing a U.S. master’s degree or higher. This announcement has traditionally been made on April 7th each fiscal year. USCIS has not yet announced whether the randomized lottery has already occurred to select the necessary petitions to meet the general cap and master’s cap. Last H-1B season, USCIS conducted the randomized computer-generated lottery on April 9th therefore the announcement will be imminent.

How does the lottery work?

USCIS will first begin the selection process for the 20,000 available visas that will count toward the advanced degree exemption or master’s cap. Then, unselected advanced degree petitions that were not selected in the first round, will be placed in the lottery toward the general 65,000 visa cap giving these individuals a second chance of being selected.

Chances of selection

This year our office estimated that individuals who applied for the advanced degree exemption (U.S. master’s or higher) will have roughly a 65-70% chance of selection, while applicants for the general cap will have roughly a 35-40% chance of selection.

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