USCIS announced today that it will resume its premium processing service for all H-1B petitions that are subject to this year’s H-1B cap. This news provides much needed relief to employers and foreign nationals, particularly in those situations where an employee is relying on F-1 optional practical training (OPT) cap gap provisions for work authorization. F-1 OPT cap gap work authorization will expire on Sept. 30, 2017, leaving foreign nationals unable to work unless their H-1B petition is approved before Oct. 1, 2017, or they are able to secure alternative work authorization, which is unlikely for most.
On Sept. 1, 2017, the U.S Department of State (DOS) updated the Field Adjudicators Manual (FAM) at 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3). The Field Adjudicators Manual (FAM) serves to guide consular officers in their adjudications process, and this particular section provides guidance regarding “misrepresentation” by applicants “at the time of visa application or to DHS when applying for admission or for an immigration benefit.” The changes include the addition of a section entitled “Inconsistent Conduct Within 90 Days of Entry.” The new language effectively eliminates the prior “30/60 day rule” which found a presumption of misrepresentation only if an alien engaged in activity inconsistent with their nonimmigrant status within 30 days of admission, and generally no basis for misrepresentation if an action was taken after 60 days. A finding of misrepresentation can have extreme consequences. With this recent change there are several things to keep in mind:
- New guidance may have negative consequences for individuals who have relied upon the old rule as well as those who make immigrant filings in the future.
- Individuals cannot engage in any activity within a 90-day period of entering the United States that is inconsistent with the immigration classification under which they entered the country.
- Those who do perform activities that are inconsistent with their status may be found to have made a willful misrepresentation when securing the visa at the Consulate or when entering the United States and being inspected by an immigration officer. Such individuals may be found inadmissible and barred from entering the United States for life.
- Types of impermissible conduct:
- Getting married in the United States within 90 days of entering the country on a visa that requires an intent to return to your home country (e.g., B visa, Visa Waiver Program, J-1, F-1, etc.)
- Working without authorization
- Enrolling in school when such activity is not permitted by the visa (for example B visas and the Visa Waiver Program do not allow for school enrollment)
- The new rule was announced without any warning or period of public comment. Public comment is not required but the sudden nature of the change increases the number of potential individuals impacted.
- Under the old rule if an individual engaged in any of the above conduct within a 30-day period, a finding of fraud or misrepresentation could be presumed. Now that period is extended to 90 days.
Greenberg Traurig Shareholder Ian Macdonald was recently quoted in the Law360’s article, “Attorneys Sound the Alarm over Advance Parole Denials,” discussing an increase in advance parole (AP) renewal denials. Attorneys have noticed a shift in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) handling of AP applications, particularly with an increase of renewal denials as early as March of this year. To read the entire article, please click here.
For more information on Advance Parole, click here.
As an update to our recent post late Friday evening, The president signed H.R. 601 – Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017, making this important government continuance and public safety measure, incuding important Immigration programs, law.
All government functions are continued until Dec. 8 under this law, including immigration measures for EB-5, E-Verify, Conrad 30, and Religious Workers. By virtue of this extension, It will be necessary for lawmakers to consider further action prior to Dec. 8 to provide for continuing appropriations and reauthorization of many programs, such as the National Flood Insurance Program, the government debt ceiling, and other measures discussed above.
Greenberg Traurig Shareholder Ian Macdonald was recently quoted in the National Law Journal article, “What Employers Should Consider After Trump’s DACA Decision,” discussing the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and what actions employers should take to ensure they are compliant. Macdonald addresses the potential risks and compliance hurdles for companies moving forward. To read the entire article, please click here.
The president and congressional leaders reached an agreement earlier this week on a package of government continuance and public safety measures. This package includes a Continuing Resolution, Debt Extension, Hurricane Harvey relief resources, and extension of the National Flood Insurance Program. The extension maintains and continues government funding and reauthorization until Dec. 8, 2017. The Senate approved the negotiated agreement on a bipartisan 80-17 vote on Sept. 7 with House approval on Sept. 8 by a vote of 316-90.
The continuance provisions include important Immigration measures, such as EB-5, E-Verify, Conrad 30, and Religious Workers. It is expected that the president will sign this agreement.
Greenberg Traurig Shareholder Ian Macdonald was recently quoted in the USA Today article, “As Trump phases out DACA, here’s what it means,” discussing the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Macdonald addresses the potential issues that could arise as DACA enrollees work permits expire and what potential impact that might have. To read the entire article, please click here.
On Sept. 5, 2017, Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is a mode of temporary relief given to children (now college-aged or older) who entered the United States without inspection with their parents and allowed them to apply for temporary work authorization if they met certain criteria. This policy was established through an Executive Order issued June 2012 by the Obama Administration. Since then, DACA has undergone scrutiny and much debate, and with the change of administrations, it has been clear that this policy would change, if not end.
AG Jeff Sessions announced that DACA will end, with a wind-down process overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Effective immediately, the following will happen as per the recently released DHS memo:
- DHS will adjudicate, on a case by case basis, initial requests that have been accepted as of today (Sept. 5).
- After today (Sept. 5), DHS will reject all DACA first-time applications.
- DHS will adjudicate all properly-filed renewal applications as of today, and will continue to adjudicate applications for those whose benefits will expire by March 5, 2018. Those applications will only be accepted until Oct. 5, 2017. All other renewal requests will be rejected.
- Current approvals and valid employment authorization document (EAD) cards will not be revoked and will remain valid until the expiration dates.
- No new advance parole (AP) applications (an AP is permission to travel) will be accepted or approved and current/pending AP applications will be closed (fees refunded). Currently, valid Advance Parole will still be valid and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will retain the discretion to admit a person based on the AP.
- Discretion will be retained by DHS to terminate or deny deferred action at any time deemed appropriate.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not provide this information proactively to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and CBP for enforcement proceedings, but this policy may be modified.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is denying Advance Parole (AP) applications when an applicant travels internationally while the application is pending with USCIS. This represents a big adjudication shift by USCIS, which has for several years allowed certain AP applicants to travel abroad while waiting for USCIS to approve an AP application. By making this adjudication change, USCIS is reverting back to a literal reading of the law as outlined in the Form I-131’s instructions, rather than allowing greater freedom of movement for individuals who are about to become green card holders. These concerns are amplified when you consider this new practice together with more recent adjudication restrictions posed by the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order with USCIS and consular posts around the globe. In a nutshell, international travel for certain foreign nationals who are lawfully in the United States has become even more difficult.
By way of background, when filing for adjustment of status in the United States, green card applicants generally file concurrently an application for advance parole to permit international travel while the green card application is pending adjudication with USCIS. Prior to this policy change, failure to secure an advance parole prior to travel abroad resulted in the abandonment of the underlying adjustment of status unless an individual held an H-1B, H-4, L-1, L-2, K-3 fiancé, or V visa. These visa categories allow individuals to have the “dual-intent” of being temporarily present in the United States on a visa, while simultaneously pursuing a green card. Under this new USCIS policy, holders of H-1B, H-4, L-1, L-2, K-3 fiancé, or V visas will have to wait for their advance parole applications to be approved before traveling abroad or their advance parole applications will be denied by USCIS. This is significant because obtaining an advance parole during the green card process allows green card applicants to bypass the process of obtaining a visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate abroad, thereby avoiding the lengthy visa appointment wait times and possible administrative processing delays that can take months to clear while the applicant is stuck abroad. With consular officers now taking into consideration the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, which increases the risk of visa denials resulting in individuals being unable to return to the United States, the advance parole process provides significant travel benefits.
Increasingly, however, USCIS is denying advance parole applications for applicants who travel outside the United States while their advance parole applications are still under review by USCIS, even if the applicant holds a dual-intent visa. In the denial notice, USCIS is stating that the advance parole applications are being denied due to abandonment resulting from travel abroad. While denying the advance parole application in these circumstances is technically proper, USCIS had a long-standing practice of approving advance parole applications even if the applicant travels abroad, so long as the advance parole applicant held a dual-intent visa. Specifically in the denial notices, USCIS is referencing page 6 of its Form I-131 instructions, which states ““[i]f you depart the United States before the Advance Parole Document is issued, your application for an Advance Parole Document will be considered abandoned.” Of particular concern, under this new USCIS policy, USCIS will deny an advance parole application due to abandonment even when the advance parole applicant travels using a currently valid advance parole.
This new development will hamper green card applicants and those companies that employ them because advance parole applicants must remain in the United States until the adjudication of their advance parole application, which is consistently taking 90-120 days. For those companies who rely on L-1A multi-national managers or executives, or L-1B specialized-knowledge workers who are also green card applicants, this new USCIS practice may restrict the company’s ability to manage or conduct its global business because these workers are faced with a “soft” travel restriction. The companies and L-1 workers, along with other workers who have non-immigrant visas, are faced with the decision of obtaining a new visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate abroad to return to the United States, which may be put under administrative processing or denied, or waiting the full 90-120 days before traveling abroad.
Jamie R. Adams and Ian R. Macdonald recently published an article in SHRM Online titled, “Immigration Rechecks May Violate the NLRA.” The article discusses I-9 rechecks and the potential for violations of federal labor law, as organizations must satisfy their obligations to comply with both the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The authors specifically highlight the recent Cinelease case, while examining violations that companies should be aware of as well as a list of best practices for employers. To read the entire article, please click here.