If 2017 is any indication, the new year will bring a fresh cascade of changes – both announced and unannounced, anticipated and unanticipated – in the business immigration landscape.  Few, if any, of these changes are expected to be good news for U.S. businesses and the foreign workers they employ.

In 2017, while much of the news media focused on the Trump Administration’s draconian changes to practices and policies that affected the undocumented – including ending the DACA Dreamer program, shutting down Temporary Protected Status for citizens of countries ravished by war and natural disaster, and aggressively enforcing at the southern border and in “sensitive” locations such as churches, courthouses, and homeless shelters – relatively less attention has been paid to the steady, incremental erosion of rights and options for legal immigrants, particularly those who are sponsored for work by U.S. employers, under the Administration’s April 2017 “Buy American / Hire American” executive order.  There is no doubt that such restrictions to the legal immigration system will continue to cause business uncertainty and disruption in 2018.  Here’s what to expect:

Continue Reading Buckle Your Seatbelts: 2018 Will Be a Watershed Year in Business Immigration

On November 20, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issued a policy memorandum restricting TN nonimmigrant classification under the profession of Economist, to those who will primarily engage in activities consistent with the profession of Economist and specifically excluding those employed as Financial Analysts, Market Research Analysts, and Marketing Specialists. USCIS explains that the policy memorandum was necessary, because the lack of an in-depth description of the Economist profession in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which created the TN nonimmigrant classification, has led to inconsistent adjudications regarding which positions are encompassed under the Economist profession.

In its memorandum, USCIS explains that Economists generally specialize in either the analysis of individuals or firms to better understand the relationship between supply and demand or in the analysis of aggregated indicators to determine how different sectors of the economy are related to each other.  USCIS adds that Economists may apply economic analysis to issues in a variety of fields including labor, international trade, development, econometrics, education, health, and industrial organization.

Continue Reading USCIS Issues New Guidance Restricting who Qualifies as a TN Economist

This week, Tom Homan, acting Director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced that he has instructed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative branch of ICE, to quadruple the number of worksite inspections.  Danielle Bennett, spokeswoman for the agency, confirmed this directive and added “ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy continues to address both employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and the workers themselves.”

What does this mean for U.S. employers? This means that employers should expect to see increased HSI visits during which HSI will conduct not only I-9 audits to ensure that employers are complying with established employment eligibility verification requirements, but also other investigations related to compliance with immigration and labor regulations.

Continue Reading Employers Should Take the Necessary Steps to Prepare for Increased Worksite Inspections

Following the arrest of a US consular employee by Turkish authorities, the United States has suspended the issuance of nonimmigrant visas at the US Embassy in Ankara and the US Consulate General in Istanbul.  This is not a travel ban on Turkish nationals, as those with nonimmigrant visas can continue to use them, and those wishing to apply for nonimmigrant visas can do so at other US consular locations outside of Turkey.  The processing of immigrant visas will continue without interruption.

In response, the government of Turkey announced the immediate suspension of visa services to US citizens.  This suspension includes the issuance of physical sticker visas issued at border posts, as well as the online “e-visa”.  US citizens planning to visit Turkey should contact the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or a Turkish Embassy or Consulate in the United States, before travel.

Although no official statement has been issued, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced during a call with the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Service Center Operations Liaison Committee that it expects to resume premium processing for all H-1B cases on or before October 3, 2017.   We will update this post as soon as USCIS makes an official announcement.

On Sunday, September 24, 2017, the White House identified eight countries as inadequately managing identity and security risk information for their citizens who seek admission to the United States or other U.S. immigration benefits and established the following restrictions for those countries:

  • North Korea / Syria:  All immigrant and nonimmigrant visas are suspended.
  • Chad / Libya / Yemen:  All immigrant visas and all B-1 business and B-2 tourist visas are suspended.
  • Iran:  All immigrant visas are suspended, as well as all nonimmigrant visas except F and M student visas and J exchange visitor visas, for which additional screening is required.
  • Venezuela:  All official and B-1/B-2 visas for employees of certain government agencies and their dependents are suspended.  These agencies include the Ministry of the Popular Power for Interior, Justice and Peace; Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration; Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation Service Corps; Bolivarian National Intelligence Service; and Ministry of the Popular Power for Foreign Relations.  Additional screening is required for all other types of visas.
  • Somalia:  All immigrant visas are suspended.  Additional screening is required for all other types of visas.
  • Iraq:  No suspensions, but additional screening is required for all visas and entries.

The proclamation exempts the following classes of individuals, among others, from the above restrictions:

  • Those who seek, or have already been granted, asylum or withholding of removal
  • Those who seek admission, or have already been admitted, as refugees
  • Those who already held valid visas on September 24
  • Those who hold other travel documents – such as transportation letters, boarding foils, or advance parole documents – that were valid on September 24 or are issued after that date
  • Those whose visas were marked canceled or revoked under the initial Travel Ban (January 27, 2017)
  • Nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a U.S. person or entity, but only until October 18, 2017
  • Dual nationals who are traveling on a passport from a non-designated country

Individual waivers are available if the restrictions cause “undue hardship,” if the waiver is in the national interest, and if the iindividual poses no national security or public safety risk.  Subject to those criteria, the proclamation lists examples of potential waiver-worthy cases, including individuals who happened to be outside the United States on September 24, but had previously been admitted on long-term work or study visas and seek reentry to resume those activities; individuals who seek entry to visit or reside with an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or lawful nonimmigrant; infants, young children, adoptees, or individuals who need urgent medical care; dual nationals who hold Canadian permanent residence and apply for admission or visas inside Canada; and others.

Reacting to the proclamation on September 24, the Supreme Court announced that oral arguments on the Travel Ban cases, scheduled for October 10, 2017, were canceled.  SCOTUS also set a deadline of October 5 for the parties in those cases (primarily the state of Hawaii and the International Refugee Assistance Project) to file legal briefs addressing the question of whether their challenges are now moot because of (a) the new travel ban; and (b) the upcoming expiration, on October 24, of the total refugee ban.  SCOTUS could hear oral arguments at a later date or could decide the case on briefs only.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced today the reinstatement of premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2018 cap.  USCIS previously reinstated premium processing for H-1B petitions filed on behalf of Conrad 30 waivers recipients and those filed by certain H-1B cap-exempt petitioners.

 USCIS expects to resume premium processing as workload permits, but previously announced a target date of October 3, 2017.

 

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced the reinstatement of premium processing service for H-1B petitions filed by certain cap-exempt petitioners.  In addition to petitioners who seek to employ physicians who are recipients of Conrad 30 waivers, H-1B petitioners who meet the following criteria may now also request premium processing:

  • Institutions of higher education;
  • Nonprofits related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or
  • Nonprofit research or governmental research organizations.

USCIS also announced that premium processing will resume for H-1B petitions that may be exempt, if the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity.

We will update this entry as more information is available.