MAJOR POLICY CHANGE FOR ALL NONIMMIGRANT CLASSIFICATIONS
USCIS is now instructing its officers to apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests for certain nonimmigrant visa categories. This applies to nearly all nonimmigrant classifications filed using Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
KEY SENATE REPUBLICANS PRIVATELY BEGIN CRAFTING DACA DEAL
Preliminary talks have been held recently between influential Republican senators to craft a DACA bill to protect thousands of vulnerable DACA enrollees. The GOP Senators are eager to craft a solution which would please both Democrats and the Trump Administration. The permanent DACA measure would come attached with increased border security protocols and stricter immigration enforcement. Details still remain unclear, although it is imminent that bipartisan negotiations will begin soon.
FEDERAL JUDGES BLOCK NEW TRAVEL BAN
Two federal judges from Hawaii and Maryland recently granted nation-wide injunctions effectively blocking the Trump Administration’s third travel ban just hours before it was slated to take effect. The rulings both note that the new ban fails to prove that nationality alone would make an individual a greater security risk to the U.S. and that the administration has failed to show that national security would be compromised without the travel ban in place. The administration responded to the rulings by calling them flawed. DOJ has stated that it will be seeking an appeal to the injunctions.
ICE DIRECTOR THREATENS LARGE RAIDS IN RESPONSE TO CALIFORNIA SANCTUARY LAWS
In response to California’s Sanctuary laws, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan released a statement stating that ICE “will have no choice” but to implement workplace and neighborhood immigration raids. Homan also stated that he intends to increase these raids by “four or five times” to target employers who “act as a magnet” for attracting illegal immigrants into the U.S. The ICE Director contends that the newly implemented Sanctuary laws would “undermine public safety” and prevent the ICE from enforcing their mission.
U.S. TO RESUME ACCEPTING REFUGEES
President Trump has recently signed an executive order to resume the admission of refugees into the United States with increased security screening. However, 11 unnamed countries will be subject to another 90-day review to determine potential threats before resuming applications. This executive order is a reversal from President Trump’s earlier ban on refugees put in place in January. Furthermore, no specifics have been disclosed regarding the details of the new security measures.
PREMIUM PROCESSING OPEN FOR ALL H1-B VISA PETITIONERS
USCIS has recently resumed premium/ rush (15) day) processing for all H-1B visa extension of stay petitions. Premium processing is also now available for all H-1B petitions. USCIS is also accepting H-1B petitions on behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 program in addition to government agency waived H-1B petitions.
TURKEY AND THE UNITED STATES TO SUSPEND ALL NON-IMMIGRANT VISA SERVICES
Following the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul, the United States and Turkey have recently moved to suspend all non-immigrant visa services for travel between the two nations. The Turkish embassy has stated that the measure would be effective immediately and would apply to passport visas, e- Visas, and visas on arrival.
This move will effectively block Turks from entering the United States and vice versa indefinitely. Both countries have allowed entry for travelers’ visas on humanitarian grounds and people holding existing visas. However, there have been reports that a few Americans have been refused entry in Turkey despite the exemptions.
DHS LOOKING FOR WAYS TO LIMIT IMMIGRATION WITHOUT CONGRESS
The Department of Homeland Security is currently exploring a range of small modifications to existing immigration policies that could have large ramifications. These changes include decreasing protections for unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. illegally, limiting the opportunities for legal immigration to the U.S., and speeding up deportation proceedings by granting broad powers to judges. These considerations are in line with President Trump’s immigration priorities but it is unclear when these new changes will be implemented.
DOJ AIMS TO UNDERMINE IMMIGRANT DUE PROCESS
Leaked memos from the Department of Justice confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ plan to restrict the due process rights for immigrants. The DOJ is considering granting judges the power to strip unaccompanied minors of their due process legal protections once they turn 18 while they are still in immigration proceedings. Judges would also be allowed to remove these protections from unaccompanied children even if they are reunited with a parent in the U.S. The leaked memo also shows the DOJ is actively trying to pressure immigration judges by implementing a new strict rating system that rewards fast resolutions to immigration cases.
ICE ORDERED TO PORTRAY IMMIGRANTS AS CRIMINALS
Internal emails between ICE and the Trump Administration shows then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly issuing a directive to ICE to portray undocumented immigrants as criminals to justify mass raids.
The emails, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, show that DHS officials attempted to create a narrative to support the alleged claim that the raids were for the public’s safety. Nevertheless, this attempt largely failed as ICE struggled to fulfill DHS’s request finding that those captured in the mass raids were, at worst, convicted of minor violations.
SUPREME COURT WEIGHS IN ON IMMIGRANT RIGHTS IN DETENTION
The U.S. Supreme Court recently weighed in on whether a judge can review the detention of immigrants facing deportation. The Court considered whether immigrants who are applying for political asylum or facing impending deportation can seek hearings before a judge to determine if they can be released, on bond, while their cases are being reviewed by immigration courts.
This is not the first time the Supreme Court has heard arguments for the case as the first hearing resulted in a deadlocked 4 to 4 decision last year. Newly appointed Justice Gorsuch will likely cast the deciding vote in the present case.
20,000 DACA TEACHERS AT RISK AFTER TRUMP DACA DECISION
After Trump’s recent decision to wind down the DACA program, it has been reported that 20,000 DACA teachers are now at risk for deportation if Congress fails to pass new protections.
According to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute, this could have a sever effect as public schools are currently facing a shortage of available teachers. The report found that public schools are already short 327,000 educators to supply the rising student population in the U.S. The removal of over 20,000 educators from American schools could thus spell disaster for the education system in its current state.
NAVILLUS FINED $76 MILLION FOR BYPASSING UNION WORKERS
Irish-owned New York construction company, Navillus, was recently found guilty of avoiding union wages and benefit payments after a three-year court battle against a coalition of the city’s construction unions. The judge ruled that Navillus had created a shell company to attempt to get around the negotiated contracts it had with the unions. The agreements had mandated that Navillus could not employ non-union workers for their jobs. Notable real estate developer Related was also found to have colluded with Navillus in its scheme to avoid union agreements.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AT NAWLAW
Processing Delays – We are now observing minor delays in terms of USCIS processing of green card adjustment applications in terms of obtaining work permits and advance parole travel permission – likely due to a surge in filings because of the “Trump” effect.
H-1B RFE’s – We are still experiencing many H-1B RFE’s on the basis of either Level 1 wage issue or specialty occupation issue. Level 1 wage issue RFE’s are divided into two subsets: 1) the Level 1 wage salary is inappropriate given the complexity of job duties; and 2) the job offer is not a specialty occupation because the Level 1 wag indicates an entry level position. The specialty occupation RFE’s target those whose salaries are above Level 1. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is of the opinion that these RFE’s are a result of the “Buy American, Hire American” policy implemented by the Trump administration this April.
Heightened Scrutiny At Overseas Airports – Italian national married to a U.S. citizen waiting for his green card interview who has been granted advance parole travel permission was recently questioned very intensely while trying to board a flight from Paris to New York regarding his case.
New Security At Some U.S. Airports – Irish national who previously held a J-1 visa which expired in March and who then sought a change of status to B-2 visitor was questioned at Stewart Airport in Westchester County, NY while about to board the aircraft as to whether he overstayed his J-1 visa!
Confusion as to Applicability of the Visa Bulletin – The Department of State publishes the visa bulletin monthly to track the priority dates currently being processed by USCIS. There are two charts for the family based green card applications and two charts for the employment-based green card applications. The first chart reflects the Final Action Dates and the other chart reflects the Dates for Filing. For October 2017, the chart for Dates for Filing shows a two-year jump in priority date which resulted in confusion especially for Chinese and Indian nationals who have been looking forward to their priority dates becoming current. Unfortunately, the chart for Dates for Filing is not yet applicable or controlling until USCIS says so. For October 2017, USCIS still follows the chart for the Final Action Dates. It is only when USCIS determines that the Dates for Filing chart can be used will the dates in such chart become relevant. Otherwise, USCIS will only refer to the Final Action Dates chart.
USCIS Is Now Making Connections – USCIS is now checking nonimmigrant visa applications to see if there is any connection with a green card (immigrant visa) application. For example, they have denied a B-2 visa extension upon learning that the Indian national has a pending green card application.
Visitor visa applications for Canada – Canadian visitor visa applications are now being processed much faster – as little as 10 days – not 30 days as before.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Swiss national previously on an F-1 visa who is now seeking a change of status to B-2 visitor asks: If I leave the U.S. while my application is pending what effect will this have on my application?
Answer: Your departure during the pendency of your application will automatically result in a denial of the same in accordance with standard USCIS policy.
Thai national who came to the U.S. on a temporary visa which has since expired says: “We just got this in the mail. It asks if my wife is a citizen & if no, we should mail a copy of a current visa & passport. Unfortunately, we do not have a current visa. With all the ICE activity happening lately, how do you think we should handle this?
Answer: I advise to answer that you are not a U.S. citizen and therefore not eligible to serve as a juror. I also recommend that you include a copy of the entry visa and return this to the sender. However, there is no liability on the part of non-citizens. Regarding the Trump administration and ICE, we have not seen any involvement on their part based on these matters since this is strictly a local matter and NYC is a sanctuary city.
Brazilian national married to a U.S. citizen who has applied for adjustment of status to green card and has been granted advance parole travel permission in the interim asks: “I still want to wait for my green card so I can leave without any risk to get back in the US. The paper says it doesn’t guarantee re-entry. What are your thoughts?”
Answer: If you have been granted advance parole travel permission there is really no risk in travelling abroad unless you have a criminal conviction or other serious issue in your background.
Conditional Resident Green Card holder from China whose application for removal of conditions is currently pending with USCIS asks: if I now move to California without my husband will this affect my application?
Answer: According to federal regulations, you are required to notify USCIS of any change of address. If your application is adjudicated without a request for interview then you may be okay.
Green card holder from Pakistan asks: “I am emailing you as I need to renew my membership in Global Entry. One of the questions on the renewal application is: “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence in the United States or any other country? I entered into a “vehicle & traffic plea agreement” on Jan 20, 2017 at the City Court of the City of Rye. I pled guilty to violating VTL1201-A and paid a fine of $150 plus a mandatory State surcharge of $25?”
Answer: In accordance with New York law, a violation is not considered a criminal offense.
UK national currently on an O-1 visa as a Mixed Martial Arts Coach asks: Regarding DHS tapping into social media as of Oct 18. I know over years I’ve done the occasional photo shoot what do you advise. Should I erase all pics of social media etc.?
Answer: We certainly are aware that both USCIS and the Department of State have announced that they are now checking social media so there is a risk in maintaining any data or information that could be potentially harmful or damaging.
Client from India whose green card priority date is now current asks: What effect will my filing for bankruptcy have on my green card application?
Answer: It should not affect your green card which is based on an offer of future employment. USCIS does not check the bankruptcy records of adjustment applicants – only criminal searches.
SAMPLING OF RECENT APPROVALS
- EB-1 green card approved for Medical Producer from the UK
- O-1B approved for Pilates Instructor from Canada
- Green card approved for Interior Designer from Ireland for a construction company.
- Green card approved for Studio Director from Italy sponsored by a fashion company.
- Green card approved for Controller from Israel sponsored by a real estate company.
- Immigrant visa petition approved for Associate Designer from South Korea sponsored by apparel manufacturing company.
- Immigrant visa petition approved for Computer Systems Analyst from India sponsored by IT solutions provider.
- Immigrant visa petition approved for Vice President from Canada sponsored by investment bank.
- PERM/Labor Certificate certified after DOL audit for General Superintendent from Ireland sponsored by construction company.
- PERM/Labor certified after BALCA Motion for Senior Project Manager from Ireland for a construction company.
- L-1A approved for Vice President from Albania sponsored by an aluminum and steel manufacturer.
- H-1B approved for Budget Analyst from Italy sponsored by a fashion company.
- H-1B approved for Analyst from India sponsored by an investment bank.
- H-1B approved for Associate from India sponsored by an investment bank.
- H-1B approved for Vice President from India sponsored by an investment bank.
- H-1B approved for Marketing Analyst from France sponsored by a food trade importer.
- VAWA Green Card approved for Irish national without interview
“I am back in New York….Thank you for all your assistance! You are absolutely wonderful!…..”
(TN approval for Management Consultant from Canada)
“I would like to thank you and all your team who worked on my case. I was confident from the beginning that your expertise and diligence would help us in this crucial step in our efforts to build a successful business here. Thank you so much. Looking forward to working together on our other cases.”
(L-1A approval for Albanian national)
“Many thanks to you all for helping us to get to this much important achievement!”
(E-2 visa approved for Italian national)