Impact of DHS Shutdown: 2015

Posted in Department of Homeland Security

Here we go again! The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could potentially run out of money and shut down come Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. The issue arose from immigration amendments that the House attached to the proposed DHS funding bill last month. The amendments that were added to the bill would block any federal funds from being used toward President Obama’s executive orders to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work. Further, the amendments would cease the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which  gives temporary legal status and work permits to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children. As of Feb. 25, 2015, the Senate Democrats have signed on with the Republican plan to get rid of the House provisions added to the bill. However, whether the bill will pass or not still looms. President Obama and DHS secretary Jeh Johnson have been calling on Congress to fully fund the department, saying temporary measures or a shutdown would jeopardize national security operations.

If the bill is not passed by Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, then approximately 30,000 of the DHS’s 240,000 employees will be furloughed. The remaining approximately 210,000 employees will still be employed, as their jobs are deemed “essential to the nation’s safety.” From an immigration perspective, the question becomes: how does a DHS shutdown directly affect the general public?

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Work Authorization for (Some, But Not All) H-4 Visa Holders

Posted in Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, Visas

On Feb. 24, 2015 the Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule providing for employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses. This is one of the most significant changes to employment-based immigration to occur in many years.

Who is eligible? Only certain H-4 dependents of H-1B nonimmigrants are eligible for employment authorization. The benefit is limited to H-4 dependent spouses (i.e., not children) of H-1B nonimmigrants who are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140), or who have been granted H-1B status in the United States under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21), generally by exhausting six years of H-1B eligibility and being the beneficiary of an I-140 which is retrogressed or a labor certification that has been pending with the government for at least one year.

When does the H-4 employment authorization rule take effect? DHS will begin accepting Applications for Employment Authorization (Forms I-765) submitted by eligible H-4 dependent spouses on May 25, 2015.
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Congress Moves to Make Regional Center Program Permanent

Posted in EB-5 Program, Regional Center

As many of you are aware, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center pilot program is scheduled to expire in September.  In recent years, there has been a surge in the use of EB-5 funds as an expanding layer in the capital stack to help finance real estate, infrastructure, and other development projects/businesses.

In early February 2015, Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Mark Amodei (R-NV) introduced the American Entrepreneurship and Investment Act of 2015.  The bill would update and permanently authorize the EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa program.  It is based largely on H.R. 4178 from last Congress. A summary of the bill – H.R. 616 – and a copy of the sign-on letter is being circulated by the Real Estate Roundtable and the EB-5 Coalition.  Please let Laura Reiff or Jeff Campion know if you would like to sign-on to the letter.

University of Michigan Students Get Lesson on Post-Graduate Visa Options

Posted in Visas

Last week, Greenberg Traurig EB-5 attorney Kate Kalmykov presented to students at the University of Michigan on the topic of “Post-Graduate Immigration Options with a Focus on the USCIS EB-5 Visa Program.”  The lecture attracted a number of foreign students interested in learning about the various non-immigrant visa and immigrant visa options – with a focus on the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program – allowing them to remain in the United States post-graduation.

Program highlights included a discussion on options for transitioning from the F-1 visa to other non-immigrant work authorized visas including the H-1B, O-1, E-2 and L-1 visas.  Additionally, Kate discussed the various employment-based immigrant visa categories including EB-1, EB-2, EB-3 and EB-5.  Attendees learned about the various non-immigrant and immigrant visa categories from the student perspective.

March 2015 Visa Bulletin Brings Only Modest Changes

Posted in EB-5 Program, Visas

The Department of State’s March Visa Bulletin announced only a few modest changes in employment-based visa processing. Most significantly, the EB-3 subcategory for professionals and skilled workers will advance by six months for “All Other Countries,” with priority dates moving up from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 1, 2014. This brings adjudications under this subcategory just shy of eight months of being current.

Additionally, Indian nationals seeking classification under the EB-2 preference category will rejoice at the 16-month advancement announced for March, moving from Sept. 1, 2005, up to Jan., 1, 2007. Even with this considerable jump, the government is still virtually experiencing a “delay” of eight years. Priority dates for Chinese nationals under EB-2, in comparison, only advanced six months to Sept. 1, 2010. Continue Reading

Greenberg Traurig Attorneys Present at Houston Totally Expat Show

Posted in Events

Greenberg Traurig Attorneys

Greenberg Traurig Immigration team attorneys Courtney Noce, Ian MacdonaldKristen Burke and Emily Liss are at the Houston Totally Expat Show presented by the Forum for Expatriate Management. Macdonald and Jordan Cowman presented, “When Global Becomes Local: Employment Challenges and Risks in Countries Abroad.”

 

Greenberg Traurig Webinar Covers ‘Everything You Want to Know About Immigration Compliance’

Posted in Compliance, Events

Last week, Greenberg Traurig Immigration attorneys Ian Macdonald, Scott Decker and Kristen Burke hosted the immigration compliance webinar, “Everything You Want to Know About Immigration Compliance and Enforcement but Dare Not Ask!” Macdonald, Decker and Burke addressed how U.S. employers with a global workforce are faced with navigating the daunting maze of U.S. immigration compliance regulations – from the proper use of E-Verify and compliance I-9 records, to heightened enforcement and site visits from the Department of Homeland Security. It is projected there will be a sharp increase in site visits in 2015 with an eye towards H-1B as well as L-1 compliance. This webinar featured Greenberg Traurig Business Immigration & Compliance attorneys who provided insight and best practices on the most vital immigration issues facing employers today. The webinar recording is now available.

Greenberg Traurig’s Business Immigration & Compliance Group Members Present at Manhattan School of Music

Posted in EB-5 Program, Events, Visas

Matthew T. Galati and Ayanna Y. London, members of Greenberg Traurig’s Business Immigration & Compliance Group, recently spoke at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City on Jan. 29, 2015, regarding visa options for professionals and entrepreneurs in the arts.

Galati, an associate with the firm, led the presentation that covered immigration basics, proposed 2015 reforms, nonimmigrant and immigrant visa options, and EB-5 investment. All content was designed for professionals in the arts. Galati focuses much of his practice on representing students seeking employment and investor-based visas, especially for individuals seeking extraordinary ability classification and working in startups. He is well-versed in issues impacting foreign students, including CPT/OPT, maintenance of status, and transitioning to other visa classifications. Galati is also experienced in advising individuals regarding investment-based permanent residence, known as EB-5. He is in Greenberg Traurig’s Philadelphia office.

The Manhattan School of Music, a premiere international conservatory, was founded in 1917. It is now home to 900 students from over 40 countries.

Prepare Now for Fiscal Year 2016 H-1B Cap

Posted in USCIS

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will start accepting new H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2016 on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Employers must immediately start identifying current and future employees who will need to be sponsored for new H-1B petitions because it is extremely likely that this year’s H-1B quota will be met within five business days of it opening. The below chart identifies the absolute latest cut-off dates to file Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) and H-1B petitions for this year’s H-1B quota (H-1B cap).  

H1-B Key Dates

This GT Alert provides background on the H-1B program and recommendations on submitting H-1B cap-subject petitions early.

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First Senate Bill Introduced to Address Legal / High-Skilled Immigration Reform

Posted in Immigration Reform, Visas

Earlier this week, Senators Hatch, Klobuchar, Rubio, Coons, Flake and Blumenthal introduced S. 153 the Immigration Innovation Act of 2015 (I-Squared). This bi-partisan bill marks the first positive immigration legislation introduced in the 114th Congress. It is also a solid bi-partisan piece of legislation. Please see a link to the official Senate press release.

Here is an excerpt of the major provisions of the I-Squared Act of 2015:

Employment-Based Nonimmigrant H-1B Visas

  • Increase the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000
  • Allow the cap to go up (but not above 195,000) within any fiscal year where early filings exceed cap and require the cap to go down in a following fiscal year (but not below 115,000) if usage at the end of any fiscal year is below that particular year’s cap
  • Uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption (currently limited to 20,000 per year)
  • Authorize employment for dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders
  • Increase worker mobility by establishing a grace period during which foreign workers can change jobs and not be out of status and restoring visa revalidation for E, H, L, O and P nonimmigrant visa categories

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