CLOSE X
RSS Feed LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
Search:
FMG Law Blog Line

Archive for the ‘Immigration & I-9 Services’ Category

Be Prepared for Tougher Visa Screening at U.S. Embassies and Consulates

Posted on: June 2nd, 2017

By: Layli Eskandari Deal

On March 6, 2017, President Trump issued a memo directing the Secretary of State and others to implement additional screening and vetting standards to ensure “the proper collection of all information necessary to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability or grounds for the denial of immigration benefits” and to prevent “the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who may aid, support, or commit violent, criminal, or terrorist acts.”

The Department of State, the government agency in charge of all U.S. Embassies and Consulates, has issued a new supplemental questionnaire (Form DS-5535) which is now in use by the Embassies and Consulates. This new form will require some visa applicants to provide the following:

  • Travel history for the last 15 years
  • Address history for the last 15 years
  • Employment history for the last 15 years
  • All passport numbers and issuing countries held by the applicant
  • Names and dates of birth for family members (including former spouses and domestic partners)
  • Social media identifiers or handles used during the last 5 years
  • Phone numbers and email address used in the last 5 years

The Department of State has indicated that these additional questions will not be asked of all applicants but only those the U.S. Embassy/Consulate determines warrant a more rigorous examination.

The Department of States has advised that failure to provide the requested information does not automatically result in a visa denial and that the consular post can accept other supporting documents and information from the applicant to determine visa eligibility.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Layli Eskandari Deal of the law firm of Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].

 

IS RELIEF AROUND THE CORNER FOR H-2B VISAS?

Posted on: May 31st, 2017

By: Kenneth S. Levine

Despite the current Administration’s recent executive orders seeking to place limits on U.S. work visas, a surprising expansion of the H-2B work visa program was included in the annual budget draft introduced this past week. This development is especially welcome news for the landscaping, seafood processing, forestry and hospitality industries, all of whom depend heavily on this visa for temporary, seasonal workers.

The current H-2B visa program has an annual quota of 66,000 workers. The H-2B quota for the entire 2017 fiscal year was exhausted in mid March. The new budget proposal includes a provision that vests authority in the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to double the annual quota of H-2B visas. It should be noted that, while DHS Secretary Kelly has publicly expressed reservations about doubling H-2B visa availability, he nonetheless signified a willingness to substantially raise the annual 66,000 visa cap.

While virtually every U.S. work visa program is the subject of intense and polarizing debate in Congress, this proposal seems to reflect a recognition by the current administration that U.S. businesses continue to experience significant difficulties in recruiting U.S. workers for temporary, seasonal positions.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Kenneth S. Levine of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].

THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS ON THE EB-5 REGIONAL CENTER PROGRAM

Posted on: May 2nd, 2017

By: Kenneth S. Levine

Foreign investors interested in obtaining a green card by investing in a USCIS designated EB-5 Regional Center program may rest assured that the program will remain in full force and effect for at least another 5 months. A bipartisan appropriations bill announced by Congress today, and expected to be signed by the President this week, contains a provision that extends the EB5 Regional Center program through 9/30/2017.

While there was rampant speculation that Congress would raise the qualifying investment amount from $500,000 to $800,000 by way of a short-term extension, this did not occur. The EB-5 Regional Center Program was extended in its entirety, meaning that foreign investors may continue to seek Permanent Residency under the current investment standard of $500,000 in a qualifying regional center project.

While the lack of predictability inherent in short term extensions may understandably unnerve foreign investors, and will continue until Congress passes a permanent EB-5 re-authorization, any applications filed while the program remains in effect will be processed by USCIS. Furthermore, given the inarguable economic benefits that the EB-5 Regional Center program brings to communities throughout the U.S., it is difficult to envision Congress simply allowing this program to expire.  It remains an open question whether the Congressional budget battle this September brings badly needed permanency to the EB-5 Regional Center program or merely results in yet another extension.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Kenneth S. Levine of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].

Federal Government Announces Changes to its Green Cards

Posted on: April 19th, 2017

By: Layli Eskandari Deal

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card”) and the Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017.

The new Green Cards and EADs will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette (Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette, and EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette);
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.

Also, Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date. These older Green Cards without an expiration date remain valid.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Layli Eskandari Deal of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].

ARE CHANGES COMING TO THE H-1B VISA?

Posted on: April 19th, 2017

By: Kenneth S. Levine

On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Buy American and Hire American.” In the “Hire American” portion of the order, the administration has directed USDOL, USDOJ, USCIS, and USDOS to review the current laws governing the H-1B program and develop and suggest changes that afford priority to the most skilled and highest paid positions. The current H-1B visa program allows for the issuance of an H-1B visa upon a showing that the sponsored position is a professional position requiring a Bachelors degree and that the offered salary meets the current USDOL prevailing wage.

As a practical matter, this Executive Order does not confer any changes whatsoever to the H-1B visa program. The same regulations that were in effect prior to the issuance of the order remain in effect today.  Dramatic alterations to the H-1B program would have to be accomplished by way of formal bills introduced, debated and approved by Congress, and then signed into law by the President. One such bill was introduced by Senators Grassley and Durbin in January 2017 which aims to reform H-1B as well as L-1 visas. This bill remains in a legislative committee and has yet to advance.

For more modest changes to the H-1B visa program, the Trump administration would need to undergo the formal rulemaking process pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The rulemaking process involves the formal introduction of the proposed rule, a comment period to allow for input by interested stakeholders, followed by the issuance of the final rule in the Federal Register. The formal rulemaking process is arduous and quite lengthy. It is not anticipated that any new rules or regulations in the H-1B program would be fully implemented for at least 2 years.

While this Executive Order does not have any immediate impact on the ability of U.S. employers to sponsor foreign nationals for H-1B visas, it is abundantly clear that the administration will employ a decidedly higher level of scrutiny in all H-1B filings. The order further addresses the issue of fraud and abuse by directing that the above federal agencies scrutinize all visa programs to develop more reliable indicators of whether fraud or abuse is being perpetrated in a visa application. Therefore, it is incumbent upon U.S. employers and their immigration legal counsel to check, double check and triple check that H-1B petitions are thoroughly prepared and strictly adhere to the USCIS and USDOL regulations.

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Kenneth S. Levine of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].