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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Australia: Proposal for New Short-Term Skilled Visa

Posted in Global Immigration

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection has recommended a new short-term skilled worker visa that would allow foreigners to work in Australia for up to one year without having to satisfy the language and skill requirements of the 457 visa. More importantly, sponsoring employers would not be subject to the 457 visa’s labor market testing requirements. The agency also suggested extending the six-month short-term mobility visa to 12 months. The public is invited to comment on the proposed changes until the end of January 2015.

The Department’s suggested changes were part of a larger self-evaluation. This agency review comes after a September 2014 government-commissioned report called for Australia to simplify its skilled worker visa process.

USCIS Announces Administrative Changes

Posted in Foreign Worker, USCIS

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that, effective Jan. 27, 2015, systemic changes will be made with regard to the issuance of decisions and correspondence, affecting activities such as status notification and documentation related to permanent residence.

What follows is a summary of key changes that employers, foreign-national workers, and their counsel should be aware of:

  • Where Documents Will Be Sent
    • Current USCIS practice generally entails sending original notices and documents to the individual, petitioner, or applicant who requested the relief. If the applicant/petitioner is represented by counsel, the agency typically sends a courtesy copy to his or her attorney as well. Continue Reading

I-9 Alert: DHS Extends TPS and F-1 EAD Benefits for Syrian Nationals

Posted in Department of Homeland Security

Earlier this week, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced extensions of immigration benefits to Syrian nationals currently living in the United States. Specifically, DHS announced the extension and re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Syria for an additional 18 months, through September 30, 2016. DHS also announced the extension of Syrian F-1 student employment authorization through September 30, 2016. These actions were taken as a result of the ongoing armed conflict in Syria.  Employers should alert all company representatives responsible for the completion of I-9 forms about this development.

TPS Extension and Re-Designation

A country can be designated for TPS due to temporary conditions in the country that prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. Individuals granted TPS benefits are not removable from the United States, can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) to work in the United States, and may be granted travel authorization to travel outside the United States. The granting of TPS does not, however, result in or lead to permanent resident status.

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I-9 Update: Department of Homeland Security Extends TPS for El Salvador

Posted in Department of Homeland Security, Form I-9

In the most recent publication of the Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced El Salvador’s designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is being extended for 18 months, from March 10, 2015, through Sept. 9, 2016. The extension allows eligible TPS beneficiaries to retain TPS through Sept. 9, 2016, so long as they otherwise continue to meet the eligibility requirements. Employers should alert all company representatives responsible for the completion of the I-9 process about this development, as employers are often unsure about how to complete and/or re-verify the I-9 form for individuals holding TPS work authorization.

There are some key dates to consider. For individuals already holding TPS under the El Salvador designation, the 60-day re-registration period runs from Jan. 7, 2015 through March 9, 2015. USCIS will issue new Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) with a Sept. 9, 2016, expiration date to those who re-register timely. The agency also announced that in recognition of the reality that some registrants will not be processed before the expiration of their current EADs on March 9, 2015, USCIS is automatically extending the validity period for EADs issued under this TPS designation through Sept. 9, 2015, by operation of the notice in the Federal Register. Continue Reading

Deferred Action Benefits May Pose Legal and Practical Challenges for Employers

Posted in Foreign Worker

The expansion of deferred action benefits provides a welcome and long-overdue reprieve for approximately five million undocumented immigrants who live in fear of deportation and cannot legally work in the United States. However, the introduction of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in June 2012, as well as the recent extension of the same or similar benefits to older arrivals and the parents of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, highlight the challenges faced by employers who must contend with the impact of the new executive actions while also adhering to often contrary legal obligations. A summary of key concerns and recommendations follows below: Continue Reading

Greenberg Traurig Expands Asia Practice with Opening of Office in Tokyo

Posted in General

International law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP recently announced the opening of a new office in Tokyo, Japan. The Tokyo office marks the third  in the Asia region for the firm and will work collaboratively with existing teams in Shanghai, China and Seoul, Korea. As Greenberg Traurig’s 37th office worldwide, Greenberg Traurig Tokyo Law Offices will be operated by Greenberg Traurig Horitsu Jimusho, an affiliate of Greenberg Traurig, P.A. and Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

The Tokyo office will be led by a renowned team of English-speaking Japanese lawyers. Shareholder Koji Ishikawa, managing shareholder of the new office, joins from DLA Piper, and shareholders Yuji Ogiwara and Koichiro Ohashi, co-chairs of the firmwide Japan Practice, join from White & Case.

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Canada Offers Early Work Authorization to Spouses Pending Permanent Residence Approval

Posted in Global Immigration

The government of Canada has launched a pilot program issuing open work permits to certain spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents in the Spouses or Common-Law Partners in Canada class (SCLPC). Applicants making an Inland application (i.e. while residing in Canada) for permanent immigration to Canada may now be issued open work permits before the “approval in principle” decision has been made on their application.

Inland and Outland applications for permanent immigration benefits in Canada are the loose analogs of the Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing mechanisms in U.S. immigration law, wherein Outland applications are processed through the visa office that serves the applicant’s country of origin. Proponents of the pilot program laud it for minimizing the need for those seeking immigration benefits to choose between two evils: Coming to join one’s partner in Canada but being unauthorized to work and the attendant realities of being unemployed with limited status or waiting until final approval before immigrating to Canada, where the applicant remains able to continue working but is physically separated from his or her partner and family for potentially extended periods of time. This conundrum often leads to emotional, practical, and financial hardships for those involved.

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Hiring Undocumented Workers May Cost Companies Their Healthcare Plans

Posted in Compliance, Form I-9

Employers concerned about incurring fines or criminal liability for hiring undocumented workers now face a new challenge: large healthcare payouts and contract litigation when stop loss carriers refuse to honor claims arising from an undocumented employee’s policy. In a recent case before a U.S. District California Court, a small business sued its stop-loss carrier to compel payment of medical expenses resulting from the care of an undocumented worker’s U.S. citizen children.  Stop-loss insurance is purchased by companies who self-fund their employee benefit health plans and is designed to protect employers from incurring catastrophic or unpredictable losses by shifting liability to an insurance company for eligible losses that exceed deductibles.

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