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russia-95311_640-300x200With 2017 finally upon us, now is as good a time as any for employers to begin planning for the incoming cap of H-1B visas for the 2018 Fiscal Year, which officially begins on October 1 this year. The H-1B is a major visa category in U.S. immigration policy that allows highly skilled foreign professionals to enter the United States for employment purposes.

Not surprisingly, the number of H-1B visa applications has been on a steady rise. In 2015, around 36 percent of H-1B petitions were chosen in the lottery. That same year, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received close to 233,000 H-1B applications. The following year, this increased to 236,000 petitions. And employers can expect this upward trend to continue, which is why immigration authorities are recommending that they file their petitions as early as possible, beginning on April 3, 2017.

Under existing immigration law, only 65,000 new H-1B petitions are approved during each fiscal year. An additional 20,000 petitions are open to immigrant applicants with advanced degrees from an educational institution in the United States.

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shutterstock_85839559SAfter voting 4-4 in one of the most polarizing immigration cases in recent history, the Supreme Court’s failure to provide a decisive ruling on United States v. Texas means an earlier lower court decision blocking the implementation of the Obama administration’s  deferred action initiatives on immigrants still stands.

The deadlock decision upholds a Texas court injunction against Obama’s 2014 executive action, a decision further upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The High Court ruling also prevents the expansion of an even earlier program that protects immigrants brought to the United States as children from being deported.

The split decision reflects the divide in Congress and the rest of the nation over the issue of immigration. Democrat lawmakers, including Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, expressed dismay over the ruling and its damaging effects on immigrant families, while Republicans praised the decision as a preservation of government’s separation of powers.

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columns-756619_640The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently recommended a review of a removal order against Martin Mendoza-Sanchez, citing his strong eligibility for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture, an international convention to which the United States belongs.

In his appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, Mendoza-Sanchez contends his removal to Mexico would lead to his torture and death—falling well within the mandate of the Convention. That appeal however, was rejected.

Mendoza’s Immigration and Criminal Offenses

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As an Austin immigration lawyer, these are exciting times in our field. On June 15th, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that certain young people will be eligible to request deferred action.

It’s important to note that deferred action is not a visa or a path to residency. Deferred action is a period of administrative grace during which the removal from the United States will be deferred. It’s essentially formal acknowledgement that the intending immigrant is a low priority for removal.

Deferred action for current or past students will allow for deferred action for two-year increments (applicants will be eligible for renewal of this benefit). During this time, those that are eligible will be able to apply for a work permit. It is anticipated that there will be a requirement of showing economic necessity to obtain the work permit. USCIS has been directed to come up with a process for applying for this benefit. It is expected that more specific guidance and instructions will be available in early to mid August. It is also expected that this regulation will potentially benefit over 800,000 immigrants.