Congress Prepares Action to Avoid Government Shutdown and Fund Vital Programs Such as EB-5

Posted in EB-5 Program, government shutdown

Late on Feb. 13, 2019, House and Senate Conferees on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations announced an agreement on DHS Appropriations for FY 2019 and the remaining six other outstanding FY 2019 Appropriations measures. The measure, HJ Res 31, or “the Omnibus,” is over 1,000 pages and deals with many areas of government, ranging from agriculture to transportation, among others.

Of particular importance to our readers, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is extended until Sept. 30, 2019, in the following passage:

DIVISION H-EXTENSIONS, TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS, AND OTHER MATTERS TITLE I

IMMIGRATION EXTENSIONS

SEC. 104. Section 610(b) of the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 (8 B.SC. 1153 note) shall be applied by substituting “September 30, 2019” for “September 30, 2015”.

The Conference agreement and legislative package must now be presented and passed by the Senate and House and agreed to by the president before midnight on Feb. 15 to avoid a government shutdown.

Please check back, as we will continue to provide updates on significant developments. For more on the government shutdown, click here.

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How the USCIS changed its Advance Parole Policy – An Inside Look

Posted in Advance Parole

On February 8, 2019, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (Ombudsman’s Office) provided an inside look at its innerworkings with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Created by section 452, of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Ombudsman’s Office assists individuals and employers who need to resolve a problem with USCIS and to make recommendations to fix systemic problems and improve the quality of services provided by USCIS.

USCIS began denying applications for renewals of Advance Parole (AP) documents, over a year ago, if applicants traveled internationally. Although authorized by law, this change in policy was followed by re-filing of thousands of AP renewal applications, emergency AP filings at local USCIS centers and resulted in strain of the USCIS resources.

On Nov. 16, 2018, during Ombudsman’s Office Annual Conference, USCIS Director, L. Francis Cissna confirmed that USCIS will end its practice of denying pending AP applications when applicants travel internationally.  This unexpected, yet welcomed change of policy was a result of the collaboration between USCIS and Ombudsman’s Office. The two agencies met numerous times with USCIS to discuss the issues and practical implications associates with AP denials.

To date, the USCIS website indicates that if an individual has an approved AP document while a second one is pending, they may travel on the approved AP document, provided the AP document is valid for the entire duration of the time abroad. In this case, the pending AP extension will not be considered by the USCIS as abandoned.

For more information on advance parole, click here.

Travel During H-1B Cap Season- Do’s and Don’ts

Posted in H-1B, H-1B Cap, Immigrant Visa, Non-Immigrant Visas, Visas

H-1B cap season is once again around the corner. On March 29, 2019, hundreds of thousands of H-1B cap petitions will be shipped to USCIS Service Centers in Vermont and California for selection in this year’s cap season. Assuming premium processing does not come back, the wait time for that receipt notice seems to stretch on forever as an indication that the lucky petition was picked. The question that always comes up refers to international travel during H-1B cap season, since April and May seem to go into a black hole of no news. Can a beneficiary for an H-1B cap petition travel outside the US during the H-1B cap? The answer is extremely lawyerly: It Depends. Below, we lay out the scenarios for different classifications as to who may or may not travel internationally, and if travel is a must, what the implications mean.

F-1 Students

Relying on Cap Gap: If you are an F-1 student, and relying on cap gap, you should not travel before you receive news of whether your petition has been selected and approved. If you do travel and you are relying on cap gap for work authorization, you may not be able to return to the United States, as your F-1 status is no longer valid. If your H-1B petition has been selected and approved (as a change of status), then you may travel and return before Oct. 1, if you meet certain conditions; however, we strongly recommend against travel during this period if you are relying on cap-gap.

Not Relying on Cap Gap: If you are an F-1 student and your EAD is still valid, you may travel, with all the required documentation for F-1 students. However, note that if you do travel, and your petition was filed as a Change of Status, the petition will automatically be approved as a Consular Notification because you will be deemed to have abandoned your Change of Status application by traveling outside the United States while it was pending.

Other Non-Immigrant Status

If you are on a different non-immigrant status – for example, H-4, TN, O-1, and you know you have international travel plans between the months of April and October, it may be smart to have your petition filed as consular notify if your current non-immigrant status will still be valid and you have the proper visa and other documents. If you travel during the period between April 1 and Sept. 20 (because you may enter up to 10 days before the start date in H-1B status), and your petition was filed as a Change of Status, the Change of Status will be denied and you will need to exit the U.S. and reenter to “activate” the H-1B after Sept. 20, after the H-1B petition has been approved.

If you have any further questions, please contact a team member at Greenberg Traurig. We will continue to post updates and practice pointers for the upcoming H-1B cap season.

For more on H-1B cap petitions, click here.

Greenberg Traurig’s Kate Kalmykov Recognized as one of NJBIZ’s 2019 Best 50 Women in Business

Posted in Awards & Recognitions

Kate Kalmykov, an Immigration & Compliance shareholder the New Jersey office of global law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP, has been recognized as one of NJBIZ’s “2019 Best 50 Women in Business.” According to NJBIZ’s website, the award honors women business leaders that are prominent in their companies and industries, as well as their communities. The honorees are front-runners shaping the cultural and economic future of New Jersey.

To read the full press release, click here.

Greenberg Traurig Attorney Courtney Noce is Quoted in Law360*

Posted in General

Courtney Noce, shareholder of Greenberg Traurig’s Immigration and Compliance practice, was recently quoted in the Law360 article, “Shutdown Woes Aren’t Over For Immigration Courts.” The article discusses the government shutdown and its effect on immigration. To read the full article, please click here.

*Access to this article requires a Law360 subscription

Changes in H and L Visa Processing in China

Posted in China, Foreign Worker, H-1B, Immigration Law, L-1, L-1A, L-1B, special knowledge, U.S. Consulates, Visas

The Department of State (DOS) and Mission China announced that changes have been made to consolidate the processing in China of H and L visa applications for foreign nationals seeking to work in the United States. Starting March 1, 2019, all interviews for H and L visas will be conducted only at the U.S. Embassy Beijing, U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou, and U.S. Consulate General Shanghai. The U.S. Consulate General Chengdu and U.S. Consulate General Shenyang will no longer be conducting H or L visa interviews. These changes are a result of the volume and complexity of H and L visa petitions, and will ensure adequate resources and expertise are effectively applied in reviewing the petitions.

H-1B, Specialty Occupation, is a visa that allows U.S. companies to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. Specialty occupation fields include, but are not limited to: architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts.

L-1A, Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager, is a visa classification that allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. The L-1A visa also allows a foreign company, which may not already have an affiliated U.S. office, to send an executive or manager to the U.S. with the purpose of establishing one.

L-1B, Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge, allows a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interest from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its U.S. offices. The L-1B visa also allows a foreign company that does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send a specialized knowledge employee to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.

GT will continue to monitor and report on changes in consular processing that can impact the visa application process.

To read more on U.S. business immigration developments as relates to China, click here.

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E-Verify Resumes Operation

Posted in Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify, Form I-9, government shutdown

As the federal government re-opened (officially on Jan. 25, 2019), E-Verify has resumed operations. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has provided guidance regarding the resumption of E-Verify operations. Although all E-Verify features and services are now available, including the ability to resolve a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC), employers may experience longer-than-usual processing times as the agency works through the large volume of cases that accumulated during the government shutdown. Employers who participate in E-Verify must create an E-Verify case by Feb. 11, 2019, for each employee hired while E-Verify was not available.

Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification

Although Form I-9 support representatives were unavailable during the government shutdown, and E-Verify services were disrupted, employers were still required to complete and retain Form I-9s for every person hired for employment in the United States during that time, as long as the person works for wages or other remuneration.

E-Verify

Creating Cases: Employers who participate in E-Verify must create an E-Verify case by Feb. 11, 2019, for each employee hired while E-Verify was not available. You must use the hire date from the employee’s Form I-9 when creating the E-Verify case. If the case creation date is more than three days following the date the employee began working for pay, select “other” from the drop-down list, and enter “E-Verify Not Available” as the specific reason.

Tentative Nonconfirmations: If your employee received a TNC and notified you of his or her intention to contest it by Feb. 11, 2019, you must revise the date by which your employee must contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) or DHS to begin resolving the TNC. Please refer to the guidance for further instructions. For TNC cases that were referred after E-Verify resumed operations, do not add days to the time your employee has to contact either SSA or DHS. If your employee decided to contest the TNC when E-Verify was unavailable, you should now refer to the employee’s case and follow the TNC process.

Federal Contractor Deadlines: Any calendar day during which E-Verify was unavailable due to the government shutdown should not count towards the federal contractor deadlines found in the Employment Eligibility Verification Federal Acquisition Regulation. Please contact your contracting officer for further information on federal contractor responsibilities

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DHS Publishes Final Rule for H-1B Lottery

Posted in Department of Homeland Security, H-1B, H-1B Cap, H-1B Premium Processing, Immigrant Visa, Immigration Law, Uncategorized, USCIS, Visas

On Nov. 30, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security issued the notice of proposed rulemaking to amend its H-1B cap-subject lottery process. On Jan. 31, 2019, USCIS will publish the final rule after a 30-day comment period. The final rule encompasses a pre-registration process and a modified selection process. The registration process will be suspended for FY 2020 cap season to finish testing the H-1B registration system. Below is what employers, attorneys, and employees alike need to know:

How to Register: The USCIS will house the H-1B cap registration process through ICAM, a portal that will allow accounts to submit H-1B cap registrations. A petitioner must submit a separate registration for each beneficiary, and the beneficiary must be named. A petitioner may submit one registration per beneficiary, and as with previous years, if multiple requests for the same beneficiary and same petitioner are found, the registration for that beneficiary will be considered invalid.

Timing: The registration period will last at least 14 calendar days, and will start at least 14 calendar days before the earliest date the H-1B petition can be filed. USCIS will announce the start of the registration period at least 30 days before the first date of open registration. As with previous filings, the start date on the petition may only begin on the first day of the fiscal year, Oct. 1. If for any reason the registration period is open longer than anticipated by USCIS, then the start date may begin later.

Selection Process: USCIS will conduct a random lottery of the registrations it receives. If the cap has not been reached at the end of the period, USCIS will notify all those that are selected and keep the registration period open until the slots have been filled, which will determine the “final registration date.” If the cap is reached at the end of the registration period, USCIS will notify the public of the “final registration period” and will then randomly select via computer the registrations that will move on to the next stage.

Most notably, the order of selection will change for the petitions filed for FY 2020, though the registration process will take effect FY 2021 due to testing of the proposed system. Instead of the U.S. Master’s degree registrations being selected first for the 20,000 spots, the general pool will go first, where 65,000 regular cap registrations are selected. This means there will be more U.S. Master’s degree registrations mixed within the regular pool. USCIS will announce the “final registration date” after all U.S. Master’s degree registrations have been selected.

USCIS will maintain a reserve pool of registrations in case it needs to increase the number of registrations to meet the H-1B cap (both regular and advanced degree exemption).

Notification: Petitioners will receive an electronic notification that their registration has been selected, and can therefore move forward with filing the H-1B petition, only for the beneficiary named on the registration notice. The H-1B petition must be filed within the filing period indicated on the notice, which will be at least 90 days. If this window is missed, USCIS will deny or reject the H-1B petition.

Fine Text: USCIS makes it very clear that even if the registration process is suspended, the order and manner in which the cap subject petitions are selected will remain in effect.

Implications: The registration process will not go into effect this coming H-1B cap season, but the system will be tested throughout the year for implementation next year. The manner of selecting cap cases will change, with the regular cap going first, then the U.S. Master’s cap. As such, there will be a greater chance for those with U.S. Master’s degrees to be selected in the process.

Greenberg Traurig will continue to monitor changes for this coming H-1B cap season, as USCIS should be making its announcement shortly. To read more on H-1B caps, click here.

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions

Posted in H-1B, H-1B Cap, H-1B Premium Processing, RFE, Uncategorized, USCIS

Starting on Monday, Jan. 28, USCIS will resume premium processing for all fiscal year (FY) 2019 H-1B cap petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption (the Master Cap). This applies to any H-1B cap petition filed in or before April 2018. Any petitioner who has received requests for evidence (RFEs) regarding their pending FY2019 cap petitions may include a request for premium processing form (Form I-907) with their RFE response.

The previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing remains in effect for all other categories of H-1B petitions to which it applied. USCIS plans to resume premium processing for the remaining categories of H-1B petitions as soon as capacity permits and will notify the public accordingly. This latest announcement throws into doubt whether USCIS will resume premium processing on Feb. 19, 2019, as previously announced in September 2018.

When a petitioner requests premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-day processing time. If USCIS does not take adjudicative action within the 15-calendar day processing time, the Service will refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue to expedite processing of the petition. This service is only available for pending petitions, not new submissions.

˘ Not admitted to the practice of law

OMB Completes Review of H-1B Preregistration Rule

Posted in H-1B, OMB, RIN 1615-AB71, U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services

On January 25, OMB posted on Reginfo.gov that it has completed review of a USCIS regulation- Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File H-1B Petitions (RIN 1615-AB71).

OMB review of this Final Rule is the last step in the regulatory process before final agency action by USCIS.

Please check back as we will continue monitoring this rule and provide information as obtained.

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