Voice Your Support for the TN Visa Category
On May 23, 2017, the Office of the United States Trade Representative published notice in the Federal Register that the U.S. intends to begin negotiations with Canada and Mexico to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement. As you likely know, one of the provisions of NAFTA created the TN visa category. With a TN, citizens of Mexico and Canada may enter the U.S. for up to three years at a time to provide professional services in a defined list of job categories. The existence of the TN nonimmigrant category allows many employers to easily recruit and retain highly skilled workers from our neighbors to the north and south. Before beginning its re-negotiation efforts, the U.S. Trade Representative is calling for online comments from interested parties and they will hold an open hearing on June 27, 2017.
If you would like to voice your support for the TN visa category, please use this link to submit your written comments by June 12, 2017: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/05/23/2017-10603/request-for-comments-on-negotiating-objectives-regarding-modernization-of-the-north-american-free. (Click on the green “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT” button on the right-hand side of the screen).
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will hold the public hearing on NAFTA renegotiation, seeking to hear from stakeholders, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 9 a.m. in the Main Hearing Room of the United States International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW., Washington, DC 20436. In order to provide testimony, participants must submit written notification of attendance and a summary of testimony by June 12, 2017. Those giving notice of attendance should do so through the link above, and must provide their name, address and phone number. The summary of testimony should be uploaded by using the “Upload File” field. The name of the file should include the name of the person testifying.
Please let us know if you have any questions or encounter any issues in submitting your comments to the U.S. Trade Representative.
Increasing Visa Backlogs for EB-1 and EB-2 China and India
Visa number pressure is increasing for EB-1 and EB-2 China and India categories. In its Visa Bulletin for June, the U.S. Department of State is imposing a January 1, 2012 final action cut-off date for first preference employment-based (EB-1) applicants from China and India. The January 1, 2012 cut-off date is likely to remain until the beginning of the new federal fiscal year on October 1, when it will likely become current again.
Similarly, the outlook is not bright for the EB-2 category. Demand for EB-2 India continues to be strong, in part due to EB-3 India upgrades. Any advance in the EB-2 India category will likely be slight over the next months. For June, the EB-2 India category moved forward by only one week.
For June, EB-2 China advances less than one month to a final action cut-off date of March 1, 2013. Progress in EB-2 China numbers is likely to be slow at least through September 30, the end of this fiscal year.
Worksite Immigration Enforcement Is Happening Now
During the past two months, employers are reporting increased numbers of ICE and Fraud Detection Unit worksite visits. Employers need to prepare now by conducting informal I-9 audits and by assuring that HR representatives receive up-to-date I-9 training. Employers should also consider drafting and implementing Immigration Compliance Plans. H-1B employers should ensure that their Public Access Files are up-to-date and readily available for inspection.
Worksite enforcement actions are not limited to civil penalties. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and various DHS officials state that they intend to use the criminal fraud statutes, as well as criminal “harboring” and “transporting” statutes and potential pattern-and-practice RICO (racketeering) charges against non-compliant employers.
H-1B dependent employers and H-1B and L-1 employers with personnel at third-party worksites are particularly subject to enforcement visits. It is very important to make sure that all H-1B and L-1 employees who spend work time at a client site are fully briefed and prepared for fraud agent questioning.
Email or call for more information and to set up training and enforcement education sessions at your workplace.
Executive Order on H-1Bs
President Trump’s latest immigration-related Executive Order is titled “Buy American and Hire American.” The EO, signed April 18, directs government agencies to suggest H-1B changes to prioritize the most-skilled and highest-paid positions. The President also directs executive agencies to take prompt action to crack down on fraud and abuse in order to protect U.S. workers.
The EO will have no immediate impact on H-1Bs. Many of the changes to the H-1B program contemplated by the Administration would require legislative action or rulemaking and would take time to go through Congress or the Administrative Procedures Act process.
Documented instances of fraud in the H-1B and other temporary visa programs are actually quite low. Most employers that utilize the H-1B program do so honestly because they need the skills and talent of a particular worker.
Moreover, H-1B visas do not generally act as a mechanism to replace American workers. Instead, U.S. businesses use the H-1B to gain access to the sought-after skills of foreign professionals, many of whom graduate from U.S. universities. These foreign professional workers greatly benefit U.S. businesses and indirectly U.S. workers.
U.S. businesses do not seek H-1B workers in order to save money; the fees and costs associated with filing a successful petition are high enough that most employers use the H-1B because they cannot locate a qualified U.S. worker to fill the position. This is why there should be no limit or “H-1B cap.” Let the market govern H-1B usage.
For the good of our economy, our nation needs a system that better reflects the realities facing U.S. businesses today and provides flexibility and options, including an increase in permanent visas and H-1Bs.
Please note that USCIS announced they will be updating the design and several of the security features of Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Green Cards. They will begin implementing these changes on May 1, 2017. Cards that were issued before these changes will continue to be valid for the time period listed on the card and do not need to be updated or exchanged.
Arizona J-1 Waiver Alerts
The Arizona Department of Health Services announced that there are still Conrad 30 J-1 waiver slots available for the Fiscal Year 2017 J-1 Visa Waiver Program. ADHS will continue accepting applications through May 31, 2017. Please contact our office as soon as possible if you have interest in applying for one of the remaining J-1 Visa Waiver Program slots.
As a reminder, the Arizona Department of Health Services requires sponsoring employers to recruit for U.S. physicians at least six (6) months prior to making an application for a J-1 waiver. If you are planning to hire a J-1 physician for Fiscal Year 2018, you must ensure that you document your company’s recruitment efforts between at least May 1 and November 30, 2017.
Please contact our office if you have questions regarding J-1 wavier applications or any other immigration matter.
USCIS ANNOUNCES SUPSENSION OF PREMIUM PROCESSING FOR H-1B CASES
USCIS SENT OUT THE FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT (3/3/2017). PLEASE NOTIFY US IMMEDIATELY IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUBMIT A PREMIUM PROCESSING UPGRADE TO A CURRENTLY PENDING H-1B PETITION BEFORE THE SUSPENSION TAKES EFFECT ON APRIL 3, 2017.
Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.
Who Is Affected
The temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. Since FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions cannot be filed before April 3, 2017, this suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”). The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt.
While premium processing is suspended, we will reject any Form I-907 filed with an H-1B petition. If the petitioner submits one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, we will have to reject both forms.
We will continue to premium process Form I-129 H-1B petitions if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before April 3, 2017. Therefore, we will refund the premium processing fee if:
1.The petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before April 3, 2017, and
2.We did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.
This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.
Reminder: ADHS FY-2017 J-1 Waiver Program Open through March 15, 2017
There are still Conrad 30 J-1 waiver slots available for the Fiscal Year 2017 J-1 Visa Waiver Program in Arizona. Arizona Department of Health Services will continue accepting applications through March 15, 2017. Please contact our office as soon as possible if you have interest in applying for one of the remaining J-1 Visa Waiver Program slots.
As a reminder, all employers of J-1 waiver physicians in Arizona must offer a sliding fee discount based on current the current poverty level. The 2017 poverty guidelines are now available on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website. Please update your sliding fee scales accordingly.
USCIS PUBLISHES NEW RULE:
EAD WORK AUTHORIZATION EXTENSION/RENEWAL
As of January 17, 2017, employees with expired Employment Authorization Documents (I-765s, also called EADs) may be eligible for an automatic extension of work authorization. Under the new EAD rule, an employee who files for an extension or renewal of the EAD prior to its expiration is entitled to an automatic extension of work authorization for up to 180 days beyond the expiration date of the previous EAD. The new rule does not apply to all EAD categories. The acceptable EAD categories as well as instructions on how to annotate the I-9 Form for automatic EAD extension are found in a USCIS Fact Sheet at https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Verification/I-9%20Central/FactSheets/Fact-Sheet-AutoExtendEAD.pdf.
If relying on a properly notated Form I-797 receipt notice to extend work authorization, the employer is advised to keep a copy of the Form I-797 notice with the employee’s I-9 Form.
***UPDATE TO TRAVEL ADVISORY***
WASHINGTON FEDERAL COURT TEMPORARILY HALTS ENFORCEMENT OF PRESIDENT’S EXECUTIVE ORDER
On Friday, February 3, 2017, a United States federal court in Seattle, WA granted an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order against the President’s Executive Order relating to the U.S. travel ban imposed on individuals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
The temporary restraining order prevents enforcement of the Executive Order for the present time. In accordance with the temporary restraining order, the Department of Homeland Security has halted the implementation of the Executive Order, and the Department of State has stopped the revocation of valid visas of individuals from the above-named countries. U.S. Customs & Border Protection has also been instructed to resume standard inspections for those individuals seeking entry, allowing individuals from the above-named countries with valid visas to enter the U.S.
It is uncertain how long the temporary restraining order will remain in effect. At this time, we continue to advise our clients from the affected countries who are currently in the U.S. to avoid international travel if at all possible. We also strongly encourage those individuals who are outside the U.S. to attempt to re-enter as soon as possible.
To best serve our clients, we will continue to monitor these developments closely and provide additional information as it becomes available. If you have any questions regarding the Temporary Restraining Order or the Executive Order, please feel free to contact our office.