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EXTENSIONS OF NON-IMMIGRANT PETITIONS WILL BE REVIEWED AS NEW SUBMISSIONS

October 25, 2017

EXTENSIONS OF NON-IMMIGRANT PETITIONS WILL BE REVIEWED AS NEW SUBMISSIONS

Author: Work Visa Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

USCIS has recently announced that it will no longer rely on previous approvals when deciding petitions for extensions of certain non-immigrant work visas.

This new policy will affect L1 petitions the most.

The changes

If previously, when the same company would file for an extension of the L1 petition for the same employee, USCIS would generally rely on the first approved petition to determine the validity and sufficiency of the extension request, now, USCIS will consider each request for an extension as a new petition.

Specifically, the new policy states:

“In adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits, including nonimmigrant petition extensions, adjudicators must, in all cases, thoroughly review the petition and supporting evidence to determine eligibility for the benefit sought. The burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner. The fundamental issue with the April 23, 2004 memorandum is that it appeared to place the burden on USCIS to obtain and review a separate record of proceeding to assess whether the underlying facts in the current proceeding have, in fact, remained the same. Not only did this improperly shift the burden of proof to the agency contrary to INA § 291, but it was also impractical and costly to properly implement, especially when adjudicating premium processing requests.”

It means that a requestor for an extension will have to resubmit all documents that were necessary to qualify the beneficiary initially, plus more documents establishing qualifications for an extension. Such documents may be, but are not limited to: records of payroll, copies of tax returns, bank account statements, contracts, etc. (The large companies have different requirements).

 

No Premium Processing for H1B This Year

March 4, 2017

No Premium Processing for H1B This Year

Author: Employment Immigration Attorneygreen-card

USCIS has just announced that this 2017 year will go without premium processing for all H1B filings.  The suspension will start on April 3, 2017 (the first day when cap H1B petitions will be accepted for FY2018 ) and will last for at least 6 months according to USCIS.

It is important to know this, because many, when submit their H1B petitions provide only one, combined check for H1B petition and premium processing. USCIS announced that in such cases it will reject the entire filing for the incorrect fee. It means that a person may loose his/her change for the H1B completely if the petition is rejected (including for the reason of an incorrect fee).

Those who submit their petition before April 3, 2017, will be able to still take advantage of the premium processing.

However, in extraordinary circumstances, petitioners may ask to expedite the processing of the H1B petitions. For example, USCIS may grant a request to expedite in case regular processing may cause:

  • Severe financial loss to company or ​person​;​
  • Emergency situation;​
  • Humanitarian reasons;​
  • Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States​;​
  • Department of Defense or ​n​ational ​i​nterest ​s​ituation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.);​
  • USCIS error; or​
  • Compelling interest of USCIS.​

It means that requests to expedite will be considered on case by case basis only for H1B petitions this year, and significant amount of work will be needed  to prove the meeting of the enumerated criteria (opposed to paying additional fee for premium processing).

USCIS says that the change in premium processing will actually help to process long pending petitions and improve the consideration of the petitions all together.  Perhaps, it is a better solution than redundant, unfounded RFEs that were issued in the past to slow down the premium processing requests. At least, one would not lose their paid fees this way.  At the same time, lack of premium processing may negatively affect those waiting to change their status or those who have other “legal” issues that require fast answer on petitions.

Those who are considering changing employers, or filing cap exempt H1B petitioners and are counting on premium processing, should file their documents before April 3, 2017.  Rules regarding expedited requests can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/expedite-criteria.

New Standard for National Interest Waiver (NIW green card)

January 5, 2017

New Standard for National Interest Waiver (NIW green card)

Author: Employment Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

National interest waiver is an immigration tool that allows certain qualified individuals to sponsor themselves for a US green card without the need for an employer sponsorship and without labor certification. Subparagraph (A) of section 203(b)(2) of the Act makes immigrant visas available to “qualified immigrants who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent or who because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural or educational interests, or welfare of the United States.” Under subparagraph (A), immigrant visas are available to such individuals only if their “services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business are sought by an employer in the United States.” Under subparagraph (B) of section 203(b)(2), however, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive the requirement of a “job offer” (namely, that the beneficiary’s services are sought by a U.S. employer) and, under the applicable regulations, of “a labor certification.” 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(k)(4)(ii).

In short, national interests waiver is just that: it is a confirmation issued by USCIS that an applicant’s  qualifications and proposed work in the US will be in the US’ interests. Over the years, the authorities developed “standards” on how to consider the applications in order to determine if a person meets the requirements. See section 203(b)(2)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(2)(B)(i) (2012). Until recently, the leading case  on point was Matter of New York State Dep’t of Transp. (“NYSDOT”), 22 I&N Dec. 215 (Acting Assoc. Comm’r 1998).  The NYSDOT framework looks first to see if a petitioner has shown that the area of employment is of “substantial intrinsic merit.” Id. at 217. Next, a petitioner must establish that any proposed benefit from the individual’s endeavors will be “national in scope.” Id. Finally, the petitioner must demonstrate that the national interest would be adversely affected if a labor certification were required for the foreign national. Id.

Now, however, the standard was changed and became more relaxed, see Matter of Dhanasar, 26 I&N Dec. 884 (AAO 2016).

This precedent decision means that USCIS may grant a national interest waiver if the petitioner demonstrates: (1) that the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance; (2) that he or she is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and (3) that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirement of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.

It the third part of the test that was significantly allowing many to obtain the waiver easier.

A typical applicant for a NIW would be a researcher, professor, or an  engineer. There is a special exception for physicians. (The USCIS has set forth the following seven factors which may be considered in defining national interest: Would one’s  employment (1) improve the U.S. economy, (2) improve the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers, (3) improve education and training programs for U.S. children and under-qualified workers, (4) improve health care, (5) provide more affordable housing for young and/or older poorer U.S. residents, (6) improve the environment and make more productive use of natural resources, or (7) did you come to the U.S. at the request of a U.S. Government agency?).

Trump’s Employment Immigration Plans

November 22, 2016

Trump’s Employment Immigration Plans

Author: Employment Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

Today President-elect Trump announced that during his first day of presidency, he is going to implement an executive action affecting Employment Immigration. To wit: Trump announced that his team would be working on tightening Employment Immigration laws to make sure that employment places would be saved for U.S. workers opposed to being given to immigrants.

It seems that somehow, President-elect Trump believes that by making it even harder for U.S. employers to employ foreign workers, U.S. workers will benefit from it and will accept employment spaces that somehow are taken from them.

To begin with, I must state that for a foreign worker to start working in the US on an H1B visa (the most common work visa type), the employer must test the market by posting notes to all interested workers and by posting ads regarding the job.  If, and only if, the employer does not find an eligible U.S. worker, an employer can hire a foreigner. But even prior to that, the U.S. laws impose a cap, a limitation on how many foreign workers can be hired at a given year in the United States.

Here is what is really going on: an employer would start going through the process only if the employer already has in  mind a foreign worker he/she needs to hire. An employer who hires a foreigner must pay him/her required wages that often are higher than the going market wage. In other words, an employer (unlike in the case of a US worker) cannot set a wage below required by the Department of Labor. I am positive that if a US worker were available, a worker that meets all the requirements and experience for the job, an employer would not be jumping through the hoops by trying to go through the process that requires money, time and induces an unwanted stress on all involved. By imposing restrictions on the hiring process, US laws limit US employers’ choices in hiring those who are most suitable for the job, impeding an employer’s ability to develop.

It is a different matter that sometimes the H1b process is not real, and a foreigner is “hired” for a position that does not exist just so that a foreigner may benefit from the US Immigration laws. It is an Immigration fraud, but no foreigner, in this case, takes a job from  a US worker: the job never existed, to begin with.

There are other types of Immigration work visas: TN, O, P, R, and L. They come with various restrictions and are used for those workers who either work in specific occupations or possess outstanding qualifications.

Interestingly, Mr. Trump’s wife allegedly came to the US on a work visa.

I am not sure (as it was not announced) about the specific of the coming changes. I hope that these changes would take into consideration that immigrants, and many of them, contribute to the development of the United States. The employer should have a choice who to hire, finding the best, the most hardworking and talented employees.

 

Immigration Rainbow: Good to Know!

September 5, 2016

Immigration Rainbow: Good to Know! Author: New York Employment Immigration attorney Alena Shautsova

It seems that New York managed to avoid the powerful hurricane Hermine. Quoting a famous singer “after a hurricane comes a rainbow”…  AILA or American Immigration Lawyers Association published a practice pointer that recommends to use…a  rainbow in dealing with USCIS Nebraska Service Center.

To wit, practitioners (a/k/a lawyers) when dealing with employment based RFEs and NOIDs (depending on the subject of the RFEs and NOIDS) should submit their (timely, always timely) responses using color stripes. For example: when one submits a response to an RFE in connection with regular processing of forms I 129 and I 140, they should use a RED stripe. If the processing was expedited, then they should use a BLUE stripe for I 140, and PURPLE for I 129 forms. If one responds to a NOID, then a GREEN stripe must be used. I guess, a usage of a wrong color may really get  one in trouble…

I must state that there is an ongoing problem with RFEs. And it is not just the latest demand of using  “a rainbow” to respond to them. The problem usually lies in that cases get denied for failure to respond to an RFE when a  person or his/her attorney never received one.  Another issue with RFEs that I have spotted (and I am sure I am not the  only one) is that they contain demands for information/documents that were already provided.

The problem here is that when I get requests like this, it makes me think: 1). maybe they lost the entire file??? or 2). it seems that USCIS is trying to “buy” itself a little more time before moving the case along. Whatever the reason is, the response to such an RFE must be submitted, or the entire case will be denied. I hope that the rainbow codes will help the process to be better organized.  But for some reason, I suspect it will cause even more confusion…

New Immigration Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

August 26, 2016

New Immigration Opportunities for Entrepreneurs 

Author: New York Business Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

Good news: new regulations are being implemented for entrepreneurs and owners of successful start-ups. USCIS announced plans to allow business owners to be paroled into the United States in connection with their business activities.  As always, the beneficiaries have to meet certain requirements and comply with certain restrictions.  One may find the text of the new proposed rules here: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Articles/FR_2016-20663_793250_OFR.pdf.

First, the proposed rules will provide a parole, not a visa. A parole is a permission to come, stay and work, but it does not in itself give a right to apply for permanent residency or citizenship. The qualifying beneficiaries have to be owners with at least 15% interest share, and the start ups should be new enterprises (opened within the past 3 years), and the enterprises must be “ promising” in that they  can create a substantial revenue or jobs.

Second, as always, the amount of money that a business should hold is quite substantial:  $345K from qualifying U.S. investors (such as venture capital firms, angel investors, or start-up accelerators), or at least $100K coming from grants.

In addition, an enterprise has to demonstrate a potential for reliable growth, job creation and overall be in the U.S. national interests.

How would this work? Basically, a business person who actively participates in the development of the business  will be allowed to come and stay in the US on a parole to oversee the development of the startup. (In most instances it means that a company also will be able to sponsor the person for permanent residency).  Once the 2 years are over, the beneficiary may apply to be re-paroled for an additional 3 years.  (DHS proposes that an applicant would generally be expected to demonstrate that the entity received at least $500,000 in additional qualifying funding during the initial parole period. A). The proposed rule will allow the entrepreneur’s spouse and children to apply for employment authorization.

The new proposed parole program may open the door to many entrepreneurs by allowing them to come to the US easier and avoid L1A/B requirements. It also is different from current non-immigrant visa regulations as it eliminates the need of an investment treaty between the country of origin and the US.  It sets defined criteria for the amount of capital that the startup should attract to be considered successful.

 

 

HOW TO EXPEDITE EAD APPLICATION

November 19, 2015

HOW TO EXPEDITE  EAD APPLICATION

Author: New York Immigration attorney Alena Shautsova

Generally, an  employment authorization should be issued within 90 days of submission of the  complete application package.  An applicant with pending asylum application, should receive an EAD card within 30 days of filing I-765 form. An applicant for adjustment of status, usually receives an EAD within 45 days.

However, often, applicants experience delays.  Delays maybe caused by the processing delays by USCIS, or by the applicant when he/she failed to submit all necessary evidence.

If an EAD application has been pending for more than 75 days, an applicant should call USCIS and inquire about the status of the case, and also make an info pass appointment and go to a local USCIS office.

It should be noted that USCIS does not issue Interim EADs anymore, and somebody without a valid employment authorization cannot accept/continue his/her employment.  A person may file for a renewal of the EAD as soon as 120 days before its expiration.

The EAD clock will be reset if  an applicant failed to attach initial evidence, and will be stopped if an applicant failed to attach evidence requested by USCIS. For example, if an applicant failed to attach initial evidence, and  USCIS informed the applicant about it on the 30th day of the EAD application being pending, the clock will be  reset to 0 once the evidence is received.

The instructions to the EAD application  form and the form itself are available at http://www.uscis.gov/i-765.

NEW VISA BULLETIN PROVIDES FASTER VISAS AND AOS PROCEDURES

September 12, 2015

NEW VISA BULLETIN PROVIDES FASTER VISAS AND AOS PROCEDURES

Author: New York Immigration Lawyer Alena Shautsova

There are new changes to the most complicated and slowest immigration process in employment and family preferences categories : the Department of State and Immigration authorities are revising the way Immigrant visas are counted and the timing when one can file his/her applications for the visas.

From now on, the visa bulletin will provide for two different dates:

  •  Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply); and
  • Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued).

The significance of the new changes will primarily affect those who are in the U.S. waiting to file an application for adjustment of status.  An applicant for adjustment of status may also submit (with no additional charge) an application for employment authorization. In addition, often such applicants may submit an application for a travel permit, and plus,  when the adjustment of status application is pending , the applicant is considered to be “legal.”

Here is a reference to the USCIS clarifications regarding the new procedure: http://www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo.

Simple comparison of the charts  of October 2015 visa bulletin reveals that in average  an applicant  in a preference family category will be able to apply for adjustment of status,  approximately a year earlier than previously.

The most important issue here is the implementation of the new rule, and hopefully, absence of new lawsuits against its makers…

CLAIMING US CITIZENSHIP ON I9 FORM WILL CAUSE PERMANENT INADMISSIBILITY

January 27, 2014

CLAIMING US CITIZENSHIP ON I9 FORM WILL CAUSE PERMANENT INADMISSIBILITY

Author: New York Immigration attorney Alena Shautsova

According to the laws of the US, when an employer is hiring an employee, the employee must fill out I-9 form: this form helps an employer to determine if the potential employee has a proper employment authorization and may accept employment in the US. The form consists of simple questions and check boxes and one of those check boxes asks the filler to answer if he/she is a US citizen or US national. Of course, answering YES or checking off this box will mean that the person who is filling out the form has the proper documentation to work in the US.

Many immigrants without employment authorization are tempted to check off that little square “Citizen or National of the US.” However, many of them ignore the drastic consequences.

This happened in the case of  Nyabwari. She entered the US on a visa, overstayed it, and later married a US citizen. She though she would have no problem receiving her green card. Indeed, many with the same situations can got citizenship.

However, the government learned that at some point in time, while in the US, Mrs. Nyabwari was working illegally, and to make the situation worse, the government discovered that Mrs. Nyabwari submitted form I-9 to her employer stating she was a US citizen or US national.

Mrs. Nyabwari’s explanation that she did not understand who the national was, did not help her. Both,  Immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals said that checking  off that one box caused Mrs. Nyabwari to be PERMANENTLY inadmissible into the US, as this was a violation of the US laws for which there is no waiver.

The end of Mrs. Nyabwari’s immigration saga is very sad: she will likely to have to leave the country permanently or to stay in the US illegally forever. This serves as a great lesson: if you in doubt, you must consult an attorney to avoid “deporting” yourself before your time.

 

 

What to do if employer hides your passport?

August 30, 2013

Author: New York Immigration attorney ALENA SHAUTSOVA

What to do if employer hides your passport?

Many undocumented workers have to be very careful and live in the constant fear of being  ”picked  up” by the ICE. That is why they are trying to stay “under the radar,” never complain to anyone about anything, and tolerate all sorts of abuse and crimes committed against them.

Unfortunately, some “employers” who would like to control an undocumented nanny or a domestic worker, scare her with “Immigration” and sometimes even take her identification documents, like a passport, and hide it.  What shall a nanny do in such a situation?
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