Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing for FY2019 H-1B Cap Cases

Posted in Form I-907, FY 2019, H-1B, H-1B Cap, Premium Processing, USCIS

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced a temporary suspension of premium processing for 2019 Fiscal Year H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those cases seeking exemption on the basis of the beneficiary having obtained a U.S. masters or higher degree. It is expected that the temporary suspension will last until Sept. 10, 2018. The reason for the temporary suspension is to help reduce the overall processing times of H-1B petitions.

While the temporary suspension is in place, the USCIS will reject all Forms I-907 that are filed with the FY 2019 H-1B cap-subject petitions. In cases where one check covers both the premium processing (Form I-907) and the petition (Form I-129) fees, the service will reject both applications.  If the petitions are filed with two separate checks, then only the premium processing (Form I-907) will be rejected and returned. USCIS will inform stakeholders when the temporary suspension will be lifted. Once lifted, a petitioner can file a request using Form I-907 to move to premium processing.

During the period of temporary suspension, the USCIS will continue to accept premium processing requests for non-cap subject FY 2019 H-1B petitions.

The USCIS will continue to accept and rule on requests to expedite a FY 2019 H-1B cap-subject petition that falls within the parameters set forth in the Expedite Criteria webpage.

Homeland Security Inspector General Issues Report on USCIS Processing Times for Green Cards

Posted in Green Card, USCIS

On March 14, USCIS released an Inspector General’s report on Green Card Processing Times.   The report found that green card processing times exceeded the existing 120-day goal by taking an average of 282 days to complete. The report identified processing times are greatly affected by interviews and vetting occurring at USCIS.

The report made two specific recommendations which USCIS concurred:

Recommendation 1: Implement plans to present information on the USCIS website that more accurately reflects the length of the adjudication process for green card applications, so the website information is clear and helpful to stakeholders.

Recommendation 2: Reassess the current green card application processing time goal of 120 days to determine whether it is reasonable and realistic and increase the timeframe if necessary.

OIG Analysis: We consider USCIS’ planned actions responsive to the recommendation, which is resolved and open. We will close this recommendation upon receiving USCIS’ decision regarding any changes to the goal for processing green card applications and the rationale behind the decision, including analysis of the newly calculated processing times.

Greenberg Traurig Elevates Courtney B. Noce to Shareholder in Atlanta

Posted in Awards & Recognitions, Form I-9

The Business Immigration & Compliance Practice of Greenberg Traurig, LLP is pleased to announce that Courtney B. Noce has been elevated to shareholder in the Atlanta office. Noce focuses her practice on U.S. business immigration, compliance, and enforcement actions, as well as global immigration. She represents both large multinational companies and small startups on the full range of employment-based immigration, ranging from permanent residence to nonimmigrant visa categories. Noce works closely with companies on complex challenges associated with I-9 employment verification and enforcement actions. She provides proactive strategies in the form of onsite training, internal audits and reviews, as well as deploying best practices to minimize exposure and liabilities in the event of government investigations. Prior to practicing law, Noce worked with the Georgia Department of Economic Development as a Business Development and Project Manager. Noce is fluent in Italian, proficient in French, and has basic Spanish skills.

To read full press release, click here.

Greenberg Traurig Recently Hosted The National Immigration Forum (NIF) Event With Mexican Ambassador Geronimo Gutierrez

Posted in Events, Mexico

GT hosted a Washington, D.C. reception of the National Immigration Forum (NIF) on “What Drives The Immigration Debate: A Conversation.”  Welcoming remarks were made by Eddie Aldrete, Senior Vice President, IBC Bank, and Board Chair of the National Immigration Forum that recognized Laura Reiff, immediate past Chairman of the NIF, for her former and continued service and support of NIF.

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USCIS Finalizes Guidance on Signature Requirements – With Limited Exceptions, USCIS No Longer Accepts Power of Attorney Signatures

Posted in USCIS

On Feb. 16, 2018, USCIS published the final policy memorandum on signature requirements, which changed its existing rules for signatures on written requests filed with USCIS. Effective March 18, 2018, all paper filings with the USCIS must include a handwritten ink signature and USCIS will no longer accept signatures of individuals based on power of attorney for corporate clients. The only exceptions where power of attorney signatures will still be accepted are signatures on behalf of children under 14 and individuals with disabilities. There are additional changes made by the final policy memorandum, such as a requirement that an authorized signatory must be employed by the petitioner and that USCIS may reject a form submitted with a faulty signature instead of offering the opportunity to fix the deficiency. Below is a quick summary of the key points identified by the final policy memo regarding signature requirements.

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Supreme Courts Rejects Expedited Review of DACA Case

Posted in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Department of Justice, Supreme Court

On Feb. 26, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Department of Justice’s petition for writ of certiorari in a Ninth Circuit DACA Case. The Court took the unusual step of encouraging the federal court to act stating “It is assumed the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide the case.” This action means that DACA participants can continue to renew their DACA benefits up to and beyond the March 5 deadline as the lower court’s enforcement stay remains in effect.

GT is monitoring this closely and will provide updates.

For more information on DACA, click here.

New USCIS Memo Formalizes Additional Requirements for H-1Bs at Third Party Worksites

Posted in H-1B, President Trump's Administration, USCIS

In support of its efforts to combat H-1B fraud and consistent with President Trump’s Buy American Hire American initiative, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will now require employers sponsoring H-1B workers at third-party worksites to include additional information and documentation in their H-1B filings. The new policy memorandum “Contracts and Itineraries Requirements for H-1B Petitions Involving Third-Party Worksites“, effective Feb. 22, 2018, largely formalizes existing USCIS policy on H-1B petitions involving third-party worksites, but also spells out new requirements regarding end-client letters and itineraries.

USCIS indicates that this new memo is a continuation of USCIS’s previous policy memo on third-party worksite H-1B petitions from Jan. 8, 2010, “Determining the Employer-Employee Relationship for Adjudication of H-1B Petitions, Including Third-Party Site Placements” (also known as the Employer-Employee Memo) and that employers should provide the additional documentation and information described in the memo in order to show by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) the H-1B worker will be employed in a specialty occupation; and (2) the employer will maintain an employer-employee relationship with the H-1B worker for the duration of the requested employment period.  In short, the employer must establish that it has “specific and non-speculative qualifying assignments in a specialty occupation for the [employee] for the entire time requested on the petition.”

Companies that sponsor H-1B employees working at third-party worksites will recognize much of the additional evidence described in this memo as USCIS routinely requests these documents in Requests for Evidence.  To prove that the H-1B worker at a third-party worksite will be employed in a specialty occupation and that the employer-employee relationship exists, the memo says that employers should submit contracts and work orders, work product, and contractual agreements related to the H-1B employee’s placement.  While an end-client letter is not a new requirement, the memo specifies that the end-client letter should include a detailed description of the H-1B employee’s job duties, the job requirements, the duration of the job, the salary, hours worked, benefits, and information about who will supervise the H-1B employee. It is sometimes difficult for H-1B employers to obtain end-client letters and requiring so much information in a letter will make the process more difficult. It is also unclear why an end-client would have detailed information about an H-1B employee’s employment since the end-client is not the employer. Requiring an end-client to provide this information about an H-1B visa holder providing services at its facility also raises concerns about joint employment.

Similarly, USCIS often requests itineraries in Requests for Evidence issued on third-party worksite H-1B petitions. The memo confirms the itinerary is a regulatory requirements and that employers must provide detailed itineraries for each worksite listed in the petition or the petition will be denied.

Senate Wraps Up Immigration Debate Week

Posted in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, President Trump's Administration

Rising to the president’s challenge of addressing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) participants in the United States and maintaining a commitment to debate DACA/immigration in exchange for cooperation on last week’s Budget Agreement, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY, Majority Leader) began an immigration week debate in the U.S. Senate. The process unfolded slowly and reached a crescendo Thursday with a series of votes on various immigration packages. Due to Senate procedures, all legislative amendments were required to receive 60+ votes to proceed for Senate consideration. At the end of the process, no package – Durbin for McCain- Coons amendment (DACA + Border), Toomey amendment (Sanctuary Cities), Schumer amendment (Bi-partisan Common Sense Coalition) (DACA + Security/Wall) or Grassley (White House Four Pillars- Wall, Border, Chain Migration, Diversity Lottery ) amendment met the threshold for further action.

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Continuing Resolution and Budget Agreement Funds Government and Vital Programs, like EB-5, until March 23rd

Posted in Continuing Resolution (CR), President Trump's Administration

After extended debate, the U.S. Senate set-aside the House-passed Continuing Resolution (CR) and negotiated and passed a CR funding government and programs, including EB-5, until March 23, coupled with a sweeping 2-year budget agreement for FY 18 and FY 19.  The extended debate exceeded the previous CR time extension of midnight Feb. 8, which resulted in a lapse of Appropriations or government shut-down.

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GT’s Shaun Staller Elected to Equality Forum’s Board of Directors

Posted in Awards & Recognitions

Shaun K. Staller, an attorney in the Immigration & Compliance group at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, was recently elected to Equality Forum’s Board of Directors. A non-profit organization, Equality Forum is focused on the advancement of national and international lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights with an educational emphasis. To read more, click here.