President Obama Announces Extensive Reform to US Immigration System

On Thursday, November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a number of measures that will reform our immigration system. While some of these provisions do not relate to employment-based immigration cases, there are several items that will provide clarification and relief for employment-based cases. Many of the specific details about how these changes will be implemented are still being released. However, please fund a summary below.

Adjustment of Status Applications

Individuals who have an approved employment-based immigrant petition and who have been unable to file their adjustment of status due to the quota backlog will be allowed to pre-register to receive adjustment of status benefits when their I-140 is approved but no priority date is available.

AC21:

Guidance will be released to clarify the meaning of “same or similar” occupation. This is expected to allow broader flexibility to change jobs after the I-485 has been filed.

L-1b:

Guidance is expected to be released to illuminate the meaning of “specialized knowledge.”

H-4 EAD’s:

Regulations are expected to be released in December or January to allow work authorization to certain H-4 nonimmigrants based upon their spouse’s permanent residence application.

Optional Practical Training:

Regulations will be released to expand the length of time that a STEM graduate may work through OPT authorization. This regulation will also expand the types of degrees that will be eligible for OPT. USCIS is also being directed to implement stronger “ties to degree-granting institutions, which would better ensure that a student’s practical training furthers the student’s full course of study.”

PERM:

The Department of Labor will review and revise the PERM system, including modernizing the recruitment methods.

The Hammond Law Group is thrilled that the President is taking needed action to promote reform in our immigration system.

H-1b workers and employers win big !

Lost in the President’s plan to provide relief to millions of undocumented/illegal people here in the US were major changes that will be hugely positive for H-1b workers and employers alike. A summary will be posted later today and more details provided as they become available but, the highlights include: the end of retrogression for US based workers (well, almost); elimination of the need for most h-1b extensions; in many cases, the advantage of being EB2 vs. EB3 would be eliminated; clearer L-1b rules; and, greater portability for H-1b workers which means easier access to resources for US employers. Nice job Mr. President !

President Obama to announce Executive Action on Thurs. Nov 20th

The White House has announced that President Obama will proclaim the executive actions he will take on immigration tomorrow night at 8pm eastern.  Proponents of business reforms should expect to be disappointed as it is not believed that he will take any action to address retrogression. However, it is expected that he will extend the STEM OPT period for US graduates. The White House believes this action will impact the number of H-1b cap filings. We believe that this change will have a positive impact on any US grad who was not so lucky, to have been chosen in the lottery but, will have no impact on the overall number of H-1b cap filings. The connection between those two, we think is mis-placed. We will provide a summary after his speech.

December Visa Bulletin

The Department of State has released the December Visa Bulletin and there were no surprises. EB3 for “all other countries”, China, and the Philippines moved forward another 5 months while all other categories held steady or moved at a snails pace. Retrogression relief is badly needed and with the newly elected Senate, it is not likely to come without Presidential action.

By |November 10th, 2014|Green Cards|0 Comments|

myE-Verify

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez has announced the launch of the myE-Verify website. A link to the new page can be found here.  Unlike the original E-Verify website, which was more focused towards employers, this website is designed for employees.  The new features of myE-Verify include:

  • myE-Verify accounts – Allows employees and job seekers to set up free and secure personal accounts to manage the use of their information in E-Verify and Self Check through the available myE-Verify features.
  • Self Lock – Allows individuals to lock their social security numbers to prevent unauthorized or fraudulent use within E-Verify. Users can proactively protect their identities from being used by others to illegally gain employment. Self Lock is available only to myE-Verify account holders.
  • myResources – A section of the myE-Verify site that contains information in multi-media formats to educate employees about their rights as well as responsibilities of employers in the employment eligibility verification process.

The idea behind the new addition to the myE-Verify website allows employees to take a more active role in their employment authorization in the United States; allowing them to quickly and securely get and receive information concerning their eligibility to work.

Visa Stamping at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica

On October 31, 2014, the Embassy of the United States in Kingston, Jamaica issued a notification that placed extensive restrictions on third country nationals who hoped to attend an appointment in Kingston to receive a visa stamp. This notification can be found here. Specifically, the following individuals who do not hold long-term status in Jamaica may not apply for a visa stamp at the Consulate in Kingston:

  • Applicants who changed status with Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. and who are seeking a new visa in the new visa category.
  • Applicants who entered the U.S. in one visa category and are seeking to re-enter the U.S. in a different visa category.
  • Applicants who have been out of status in the U.S. having violated the terms of their visas or having overstayed the validity indicated on their I-94s.
  • Applicants who obtained their current visa in a country other than that of their legal residence.
  • Petition-based first time applicants.
  • Third country nationals who are not resident in Jamaica and who are applying for a B1/B2 visa (including B1/B2 renewals).

As can be seen, this list applies to a wide range of applicants. Due to these restrictions, the Hammond Law Group recommends that visa stamping applicants who are third country nationals avoid the U.S. Embassy in Kingston. If you are a third country national and believe that your visa stamping request in Kingston does not involve one of the categories outlined above, we suggest that you contact the Hammond Law Group to discuss whether attending a visa stamping appointment in Kingston is a feasible option.

E-Verify Systems Records Purge

Starting on January 1, 2015, E-verify transaction records more than 10 years old will be deleted by the E-Verify system. E-Verify users will no longer have access to cases created prior to December 31, 2004. This action is required to comply with the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) retention and disposal schedule.

In order to retain the ability to access cases created prior to December 31, 2004, you must download the newly created Historical Records Report prior to December 31, 2014. The reports will contain all of your transaction records for cases more than 10 years old. Please note that the report will only be available until December 31, 2014. Instructions for downloading the Historical Records Report are available online at: http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Verification/E-Verify/E-Verify_Native_Documents/Instructions_to_Download_NARA_Reports_in_E-Verify.pdf

In order to remain compliant with NARA, the E-Verify system will delete records annually on December 31st. Therefore, we recommend that you record the E-Verify case number on the related Form I-9 and retain the Historical Records Reports with you Forms I-9. If you did not use the E-Verify system before December 31, 2004, there will be no Historical Records Report to download.

H-1b LCA Compliance

HLG partner, Mike Hammond will be a panelist on a webinar being presented by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) entitled “Essential Compliance Issues for Employers-H-1B and the LCA” on Oct 28th.

A Sign of Things to Come?

United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued a procurement request for over 34 million work permits and green cards. This would be well above their normal levels.  This has caused Republicans to speculate that President Obama is readying a sprawling executive order to drastically change the immigration laws.

Don’t hold your breath. USCIS has made a statement that asking contractors to prepare for contingencies is not unusual and that similar provisions are built into other contract bids the agency has made.  “Solicitations of this nature are frequent practice for all USCIS contracts and allow the agency to be prepared for fluctuations in the number of immigration applications received, which can arise for any number of reasons,” USCIS spokesman Chris Bently said in a statement. The government typically uses measures like this to keep costs down in case of unforeseen circumstances.

So, while it is a good thing that USCIS is preparing to issue more work permits and green cards than normal, this probably shouldn’t be taken as a sign that sweeping immigration reform is right around the corner.

U.S. History of Providing Temporary Immigration Relief

The American Immigration Council recently released a chart that shows that many U.S. Presidents have used their executive power to remedy immigration issues that they found to be unjust. Since 1956, every U.S. President has granted some form of temporary immigration relief to at least one group that was found to be in need of assistance. Some specific examples include President Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon’s parole of up to 600,000 Cuban asylum seekers who were fleeing the Cuban revolution, President Ford and Carter’s parole of over 300,000 Southeast Asians who were fleeing the conflict in Vietnam, and President Reagan’s order to defer deportation for up to 200,000 Nicaraguans. Many of these actions were taken to provide relief to affected groups while legislation was pending. In other cases, the Presidents reacted to a humanitarian crisis. President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals follows a long line of historical actions by U.S. Presidents who used their executive authority to address immigration problems. The Hammond Law Group hopes that President Obama will remedy some of the current immigration challenges facing the U.S. by using his “broad executive authority to shape the enforcement and implementation of immigration laws.”