Articles Posted in Business Immigration

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pass-2530813_640-300x200US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on August 28, 2018 that it will extend the temporary suspension of premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the annual cap, as well as expand the suspension’s coverage to include other H-1B petitions.

About the H-1B

The H-1B program allows foreign workers in highly specialized fields to enter and work in the United States, as provided by section 101(a)(17)(H) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The visa is available to workers who are experts in technology, accounting, academic research, and other fields “requiring specific theoretical and technical expertise.”

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woman-792162_640-300x200U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a final immigration memorandum updating its newly implemented unlawful presence policy, which changed how USCIS determined whether foreign students and participants of student exchange programs were lawfully in the country.

According to the memo, F- and M-visa holders will not be deemed as being in the country unlawfully while waiting for their visas to be reinstated, so long as they file their reinstatement applications no longer than five months after their status expires.

If, however, their reinstatement application is denied, they will automatically begin accruing unlawful presence the day after being notified of their denial. Likewise, J-1 visa holders with reinstatement applications that are approved will not accrue unlawful presence.

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visa-3109800_640-300x169The Visa Control and Reporting Division of the US Department of State (DOS) announced last week that it will be cutting back on processing immigrant visas for certain “priority workers” due to their unmanageable worldwide demand.

Priority workers, also known as “EB-1” (employment-based first preference workers), include “persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, business, arts or sports; outstanding professors and researchers; and multinational executives and managers.”

In light of this announcement, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the DOS have, since August 1 of this year, ceased issuing both immigrant visas and lawful permanent residence status to at least 137,000 highly in-demand workers.

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money-256312_640-300x200A number of Texas businessmen and business organizations have recently filed a brief in opposition of the Texas state government’s efforts to pursue legal action aimed at terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Obama-era immigration policy they claim plays a vital role in the Texas economy.

Representatives from southwest businesses, business associations, and Hispanic Chambers of Commerce filed the brief last week objecting to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit against the DACA program, citing concerns over the significant negative consequences that getting rid of the program would have on their businesses. Rescinding DACA, they claim, would cause Texas to lose over $6 billion in economic activity over the next 10 years.

DACA is an Obama executive order that took effect in 2012, designed to protect immigrants who entered the country as children from immediate deportation and provides them the opportunity to acquire temporary work permits. The brief states that DACA has given over 126,000 Texas-based immigrants deferred status since its implementation.

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pulse-trace-163708_640-300x169The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Trump’s immigration/travel ban in Trump v. Hawaii will have a substantial impact on the industries that depend on employing immigrant workers from countries affected by the ban, namely: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.

The healthcare industry is expected to take a specifically strong blow as the United States is already facing a critical shortage of healthcare professionals including nurses, doctors, and home health aides, ban notwithstanding. According to the Migration Policy Institute, immigrants comprise at least 30 percent of all physicians and surgeons in the country, with Syria and Iran among the top 10 countries supplying these professionals.

Over 30 organizations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), wrote a joint statement to the Supreme Court in an amicus brief during the Trump v. Hawaii proceedings, pointing out that “international health professionals provide essential care in teaching hospitals and their communities, particularly for rural and underserved populations.”

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build-builder-carry-585419-300x200The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a list of proposed changes to ETA Form-9035, also known as the Labor Condition Application for Nonimmigrant Workers (LCA), which could place added burdens on companies that hire and place migrant workers with H-1B visas (a program under the Immigration and Nationality Act.)

Under the current policies, petitioning employers are only required to note the addresses of end-user clients’ worksites they intend to place H-1B workers in. On the other hand, details such as the names of the clients associated with these worksites are unnecessary to the petition process.

The DOL’s proposed changes, however, expand the information requirements to include:

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apron-celebration-cute-763934-300x199Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a statement declaring the addition of 15,000 H-2B temporary visas to be issued to non-agricultural foreign workers for Fiscal Year 2018.

While 66,000 working visas have already been issued this year, Homeland Security has determined that thousands more are required to keep U.S. businesses that depend on an increased workforce afloat for FY2018. After consulting with members of the Congress and business owners, Nielsen admits that there are not enough qualified U.S. workers available to work in non-agricultural fields, justifying the move.

“The limitations on H-2B visas were originally meant to protect American workers, but when we enter a situation where the program unintentionally harms American businesses, it needs to be reformed,” Secretary Nielsen explains. “I call on Congress to pass much needed reforms of the program and to expressly set the number of H-2B visas in statute. We are once again in a situation where Congress has passed the buck and turned a decision over to DHS that would be better situated with Congress, who knows the needs of the program. As Secretary, I remain committed to protecting US workers and strengthening the integrity of our lawful immigration system and look forward to working with Congress to do so.”

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adult-auto-automobile-558375-300x200US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Justice Department published a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last week to announce their joint effort to identify and eliminate fraud, abuse, and discrimination among employers that hire immigrant workers. Both agencies are set to make changes geared towards improving communication and cooperation in handling such cases.

The partnership expands on existing efforts to crack down on immigration-related labor abuses. At present, USCIS and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division have the Protecting US Workers Initiative, which investigates and prosecutes employer discrimination and misuse of E-Verify. Both projects emerge from President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” anti-immigrant agenda.

“In the spirit of President Trump’s Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American, today’s partnership adds to the Civil Rights Division’s tools to stop employers from discriminating against US workers by favoring foreign visa workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Division looks forward to expanding its partnerships with USCIS to hold accountable employers that discriminate against US workers based on their citizenship status.”

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migration-3130767_1920The Justice Department recently reached a settlement with Themesoft Inc (Themesoft), a Texas-based technology consulting and staffing company.  After an extensive investigation of the company’s refusal to refer a work-authorized immigrant to a client, the company was found to have violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). A former worker of Themesoft accused management of discriminating against him because of his citizen status as an asylum seeker.

According to the complaint, Themesoft refused to refer the asylum seeker’s application to one of their clients, citing his lack of a lawful permanent resident status, U.S. citizenship, and H-1B visa. The US government, however, grants asylum seekers work authorization, allowing them to find employment just as any lawful permanent resident and U.S. citizen is able to.

Themesoft was also found to have violated the INA’s anti-discrimination provision by demanding specific immigration documentation from the asylum seeker due to his immigration status. Under the provision, employers are strictly prohibited from requiring documents from immigrant workers pertaining to their citizenship, immigration statuses, or country of origin beyond those specified by law.

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immigrantsSpeaking to the press in Capitol Hill, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced that “DREAMers,” or beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), would not be a priority for immigration even if Congress fails to come up with a legislative replacement to the program before its March 5 termination date.

DACA is an Obama era executive order that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to apply for temporary protection against deportation. The program allows DREAMers (named after the DREAM Act, a failed bill with the same provisions as DACA) to apply for renewable work permits and even a driver’s license, making it possible for them to lead a normal life and contribute to society.

In September last year, President Trump announced he would rescind DACA on the basisof it being an overreach of the former president’s executive power. Trump, however, placed a 6-month delay for the program to end, giving Congress time to come up with a legislative solution in its place.