During the busy summer travel season, the Department of State’s Consular Consolidated Database has crashed. This database is responsible for supporting the Department of State’s efforts to verify information in passports and visa requests. The Department of State has reported that unspecified glitches in the database have resulted in “significant performance issues, including outages in the processing of applications for passports, visas, and reports of Americans born abroad.” The problem exists throughout the world and in all categories of applications. The issues caused by this glitch have resulted in a backlog of applications. One report stated that an unspecified country had close to 50,000 applicants who were experiencing delays. While the Department of State is working to rectify this problem, the Hammond Law Group suggests that individuals who have not made travel plans avoid going abroad for visa stamping interviews until this backlog has eased.
HLG will host its annual Immigration Update seminar in the NYC/NJ area on Fri. Aug 22nd. The seminar is primarily designed for staffing cos. in the IT and engineering sectors but, many of the topics will be relevant to any company that employs H-1b workers. Mike Hammond, Cadence Moore, and Lisa Galvan will be speaking. The seminar is free to attend. For more details and a full agenda click here.
New York Times Op-Ed by Sheldon G. Anderson, Warren E. Buffett, and Bill Gates Calls on Congress to ‘Break the Immigration Impasse’
In a recent Op-Ed piece published in the New York Times, Sheldon G. Anderson (Chairman and Chief Executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation), Warren E. Buffett (Chairman and Chief Executive of Berkshire Hathaway), and Bill Gates (former Chairman and Chief Executive of Microsoft) called on Congress to reach a compromise to remedy our “irrational” immigration laws. In this piece, these three business leaders stated that “the three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us. . . You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement.” In reviewing the current impasse, this piece notes that “it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities . . . and then to deport them when they graduate.” The Hammond Law Group applauds these statements by Mr. Anderson, Mr. Buffett, and Mr. Gates. We also agree with their conclusion that “whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest. Differences with the Senate should be hammered out by members of a conference committee, committed to deal.” These statements are a call to action that every member of Congress should consider as they review whether or not their choices are truly reflecting the best interests of our country.
A few weeks ago, President Obama promised to use Executive Action to bring about immigration reform when it became clear that Congress was not going to act but, can he deliver on that promise ? The first question is whether he is committed to any reform that would impact legal immigration and the simple answer is, not really ! Although he has made numerous pronouncements that indicate a support for entrepreneurs, STEM workers, and other international professionals, the actions of his administration have been outright hostile to all of those classes of international workers. To date, the executive actions which the President has been willing to take, have focused on humanitarian classes of immigrants including what is referred to as DACA individuals. If however, the President wants to “enact” more sweeping immigration changes, he can only changes policy and/or interpretation, not a statute or a regulation. For example, he can’t simply raise the H-1b cap. However, he can reduce retrogression by eliminating the inclusion of dependents when allocating immigrant visas. There are also a number of other actions the President can take that would impact legal immigration if he chose. Whether all of those changes would be considered positive by the business community or by the legal foreign workers them selves is unknown and there is cause for concern that his policies may be more restrictive than any bill Congress would have passed or than the current system. The last major Executive Action change was the creation of STEM extensions under President Bush. Here are links to two articles on this subject, one from Computerworld and the other from The Hill.
The August Visa Bulletin has been released and India EB2 and Philippine EB3 categories continued to see significant advancement while EB3 all other countries remained at April 2011. This bulletin is obviously welcome news for India EB2 but, it does come with a dire warning of future retrogression in this category possibly as early as September so the word of the day is to get your 485 cases filed quickly and your 485 RFE’s responded to as quickly as possible.
This really isn’t directly relevant to IT workers but, I found it interesting so I thought I would share. Often, we talk about the “Culture of No” that is so pervasive at the USCIS and US Consulates and we struggles to understand how someone can have been found to possess specialized knowledge the last 3 times their case was reviewed but, the latest L-1b extension was denied ? Or how a systems analyst has been deemed to be a specialty occupation for umpteen years but, now the California Service Center says it is not ? Or how they can, with a straight face claim that an H-1b employee who moves to a new building across campus warrants revocation ? If those questions puzzle you, check this story out. A backpacker here on a B tourist visa was arrested and detained because he was leaving the US 30 minutes past midnight on the day his visa expired. I feel so much safer that he is behind bars !
The DOL has published new prevailing wages which can be accessed at the FLCDatacenter. The new wages went into effect July 1st. These wages are the source used by the DOL in issuing prevailing wage determinations (PWD’s) utilized for PERM applications and certain other immigrant petitions. This on-line data is also commonly used by employers in determining the prevailing wage for H-1b petitions.
During President Obama’s speech today, he confirmed that he has been advised by the Republican House leadership that immigration reform will not be brought up for a vote in the House in 2014 all but assuredly killing any hopes for CIR in 2014 and making the outlook for CIR in 2015 bleak. Although the President vowed to use Executive Orders to bypass Congress, it is not expected that he would take any action impacting legal immigration and items like the H-1b quota and retrogression would need Congressional approval.
Immigration Reform: One Year After the Senate Approved the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”
One year has passed since the Senate approved the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” In June of 2013, hopes were high that comprehensive immigration reform would become a reality. One year later, these hopes seem misplaced. The Washington Post recently reported that lawmakers on both sides don’t believe that immigration reform will be successful until President Obama leaves office. Despite statements by both Democrats and Republicans that immigration reform is critical to the survival of their parties, opposition from House Republicans has prevented the passage of any reform. With the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in a primary election to a tea-party challenger whose campaign focused on an anti-immigration platform, immigration reform advocates have lost a critical supporter. Despite these negative developments, there is still time for comprehensive immigration reform to pass. The Hammond Law Group urges readers to contact their representatives to express their support for immigration reform.
A recent study released by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that the limitations placed on the number of new H-1b’s that are provided each fiscal year through the H-1b cap is harming the U.S. economy. After the H-1b quota was reached in the first week of April in 2013 and 2014, many companies announced that they are considering increasing their presence in other countries that have immigration systems that are friendlier to high-skilled workers. Specifically, Microsoft recently stated that it would increase its research and development sector in Canada, and plans to offer 400 new jobs in Vancouver by 2015. To contribute to the arguments that the current H-1b system is reducing the capacity of many employers to grow in the United States, a study by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that that cities where employers received a large number of rejected H-1b cap cases experienced less job creation and wage growth. It also discovered that the U.S. tech industry would have grown substantially faster in the period after the recession if such a high number of H-1b visas had not been rejected in the 2007 and 2008 lottery. Furthermore, the results of the 2007 and 2008 H-1b lottery caused the New York City / New Jersey area to lose the opportunity to create as many as 28,000 tech related jobs. Similar results were shown in the Washington, DC, Chicago, and Dallas Fort Worth areas. This study provides further support for the critical need for immigration reform.