News Bytes

Posted on: April 21st, 2017
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on LinkedInPrint this page

USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap for 2018 Fiscal Year

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the cap for H-1B petitions for the 2018 fiscal year has been reached as of April 7, 2017. The cap for U.S. advanced degree exemption, commonly referred to as the master’s cap, has also reached its limit at 20,000. With the congressionally mandated 65,000 H-1B petition cap reached, USCIS will reject and refund filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions, as long as they are not duplicate filings. Petitions which are not subject to the cap will continue to be processed and accepted by USCIS, but the suspension USCIS has placed upon premium processing lasting will remain in effect for up to six months from April 3, 2017 and is applicable to cap-exempt petitions. Also not counting toward the 2018 H-1B cap are petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have preciously counted against the cap, and who still retain their cap number. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

For more information about the H-1B program, view the USCIS H-1B page

***

USCIS Announces Further Measures to Detect H-1B Fraud

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it would be taking a more targeted approach to identifying and deterring instances of fraud and abuse in the H-1B visa program. The program’s purpose is to provide areas with shortages in areas of specialization with highly skilled foreign born individuals. USCIS has stated it is primarily concerned with situations in which individuals abuse this system. In an attempt to combat this, USCIS has stated that it will be focusing on the following situations, which it has decided pose a higher risk for abuse:

 

  • Cases in which USCIS is unable to validate the employer’s basic business information through commercially available data;
  • H-1B dependent employers which, as defined by statute, have a high ratio of H-1B workers compared to U.S. workers; and
  • Employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location.

 

Alongside targeted visits to locations deemed more likely to be engaged in H-1B abuse, the agency will also be conducting its random employer visits. USCIS indicated the random visits will focus on identifying employers abusing the program, and will not target nonimmigrants for criminal or administrative action. USCIS has established an email address dedicated to receiving tips, alleged violations, and other relevant information, which is open to both American workers and H-1B workers who suspect that they or others may be victim of H-1B fraud or abuse. All information reported to the email address will be used for investigations and referrals to law enforcement agencies for potential prosecution.

For more information, view the announcement.

***

USCIS Releases List of Special Instructions for B-1/B-2 Visitors Wanting to Enroll in School

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provided B-1 and B-2 visitors who want to enroll in school with a list of special instructions to aid them in their endeavor since studying on a visitor visa is subject to numerous restrictions. Individuals in that status who wish to study will need to acquire F-1 status for academic students and M-1 status for vocational students. This change in status is imperative, since those who enroll in a course of study while in B status can be found to have violated their status and may be found ineligible to change to F-1 or M-1 status at that point.

In order to change status, B-1 or B-2 visitors are required to have an unexpired current status, not yet be enrolled in any classes, and not have worked in the United States without employment authorization. Upon meeting all the criteria, the applicant must file a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, including filing fees and applicable documentation detailed in the instructions.

While the Form I-539 is processing, the applicant is required to maintain his or her current B-1 or B-2 status. In order to maintain this status, the applicant must file a separate Form I-539 with a separate fee to request an extension of the B-1 or B-2 status if:

  • The individual’s current status is set to expire more than 30 days before the initial start date of the F-1 or M-1 program. USCIS may approve the Form I-539 change of status request only if the individual is maintaining his or her B-1 or B-2 status up to 30 days before the initial start date of the program. If the status of the individual is set to expire more than 30 days before his or her F-1 or M-1 program’s initial start date, a second Form I-539 must be filed in order to extend the individual’s B-1 or B-2 status. The Form I-539 will be denied if the applicant does not file the extension on time. Check with the processing times at USCIS to determine if an extension of B-1 or B-2 status is required.
  • The start date for the individual’s F-1 or M-1 program is deferred to the following academic term or semester because USCIS did not make a decision on his or her change of status application before the originally intended F-1 or M-1 program start date. To bridge the gap between the expiration of the applicant’s current status and the 30-day period before the new F-1 or M-1 program start date.

Because individuals extending their current stay in B-1 or B-2 status and changing from B-1 or B-2 status to F-1 or M-1 status are two distinct processes, the individual must pay a separate filing fee for each process. If the applicant enrolls in a course of study before USCIS approves his or her Form I-539 application, he or she will be ineligible to change status from B-1 or B-2 to F-1 or M-1. If the individual applies to extend his or her B-1 or B-2 status and has already enrolled in a course of study, USCIS will deny his or her extension for violation of status.

If an individual is ineligible for a change in status to F-1 or M-1 while in the United States, he or she can apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa at a U.S. consulate. For information about consular processing, please visit the Department of State’s website at www.state.gov/travel. For information about the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), please visit the SEVP website at www.ice.gov/sevis or the Study in the States website at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/. USCIS encourages all students and prospective students to work closely with their designated school official (DSO) to coordinate the timing of applying for change of status and enrolling in a course of study.

For more information, view the FAQ from USCIS.

***

700 MSU staff say they won’t help federal immigration officials

Around 700 employees at Michigan State University signed a statement indicating that they could not cooperate with immigration officials inquiring about the residency status of students. In what they described as an “act of solidarity” those who signed expressed their support for students trying to remain in the United States and their unwillingness to collaborate with immigration officials attempting to apprehend or deport students. The document has been signed by 700 of the 12,000 faculty and staff employed by the university. “We want to stand with them,” Ken Harrow, a professor of English at the university asserted, “We want to support them.” While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials did not comment on the statement specifically, it did state that schools, places of worship, and medical facilities are considered “sensitive locations.” According to officials, policy regarding sensitive locations states that, “enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and requires either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action.  DHS is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.” The faculty statement was not composed with the aid from the university’s administration, but it echoed a statement made the president of the university shortly after Trump’s January 25th executive order. Lou Anna Simon, Michigan State’s president, said after the order was announced that she found it, “deeply concerning as it runs counter to the global nature of our communities and our nation.”

For more information, view the full article.

***

Tech Company Unveils Panic Button App for Immigrants at South By Southwest

The South by Southwest Interactive tech festival strives to display all the newest cutting edge innovations in the field of technology, but this year one company’s product not only displayed its technological advancement, it did so by addressing the important current issue of immigration.

New York based Huge unveiled its app, available for both ios and android, which serves to help undocumented immigrants to notify family, friends, and employers in the event of detainment by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Their app, Notifica, aims to facilitate concise information transmittance to those who need it, in the midst of a chaotic event, when people are most likely to not think clearly. It allows the user to store contact information and custom messages based on who might need what information in the event of an emergency. It is passcode protected and can be activated with a single click, preserving valuable time in an event in which time can be of paramount importance.

The idea for the app came when Natalia Margolis, an engineer at Huge, met a man at a meeting for women and Latinos in the tech industry whose parents were undocumented immigrants. He expressed the worry that he and many in immigrant communities have about the President’s immigration enforcement agenda. After stating that a panic button does not exist for when ICE arrives at your door, Margolis asked why not. Huge invited the man, Adrian Renya, director of membership technology at the immigration rights group United We Dream, to be a consultant during the design process to help ensure that the app would be practical and beneficial to the people they were trying to help.

While the app was unveiled at the South by Southwest tech festival, a larger promotion and launch led by United We Dream is in the works.

For more information, view the full article.

***

Trump’s immigration crackdown appears to be having an ‘alarming’ effect on public safety

While the executive order issued by President Trump aimed to enhance public safety through its targeting of illegal immigrants, specifically those with criminal histories, an unintended consequence could be threatening the very safety it strove to protect. At an alarming rate across the country, local governance is finding that witnesses and victims are now avoiding calling the police or going to courthouses out of fear of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will seize the opportunity, detaining or possibly deporting them. One study from 2013 supported this theory when it found that up to 70% of unauthorized immigrants stated that they would be less likely to call the police if they needed help due to fears of deportation.

Kristen Bronson, the city attorney for Denver, Colorado, cited the example of four individuals who made allegations of domestic abuse withdrawing their cases out of fear ICE officials would see them at the courthouse and deport them. Bronson explained that their fear came on the heels of a video released of ICE agents at a courthouse in Denver who told attorneys that they were there to make an arrest. Due to their refusal to testify, according to Bronson, the case against the violent offenders had to be dropped with no consequences enforced upon them. Bronson told NPR, “We have grave concerns here that they distrust the court system now and that we’re not going to have continued cooperation of victims and witnesses.”

A similar situation unfolded in Austin, Texas. A woman refused to cooperate with law enforcement in a domestic violence case out of fear of deportation. Her decision came after a man was arrested by ICE in a courthouse after he arrived for a scheduled hearing. Steven Alder, the mayor of Austin, expressed his concern saying, the safety we enjoy in this community is due in part to the trust relationship between our public safety officers and the community.” Coincidentally, Austin is in the heart of Travis county, a jurisdiction that has been an outspoken opponent of federal requests to detain individuals suspected of violating immigration laws and holding them longer than the scheduled jail release dates for unrelated charges.

Chicago, Illinois is another city clashing with the President’s immigration enforcement agenda. The cooperation between law enforcement and communities is too valuable for the city to risk ostracizing communities by enforcing federal immigration laws. Retired Chicago police officer Richard Wooten described the relationship between law enforcement and the community it serves as being built on a foundation of trust. “It’s one of the major components we use to solve crimes in the community. We’ll never have that kind of relationship if we begin to enforce immigration.”

Other cities feel that that trust may have already been compromised. In Texas, Jo Anne Bernal, the El Paso County attorney, reported a remarkable 12% decrease in people seeking protective orders, not long after an illegally present woman was arrested while seeking a protective order at a local courthouse. While Bernal was reluctant to directly attribute this drop to unauthorized immigrants, she did acknowledge that that dramatic a drop is unusual.

For more information, view the article.

***

USCIS Updates Numerous Forms

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated a number of forms. Below is a list of all updated forms and the pertinent changes USCIS made.

Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions

The new edition is dated 03/21/17. Previous editions will continue to be accepted.

Form I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion

Beginning 06/09/17, USCIS will exclusively accept the new edition dated 04/10/17. Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept the 12/23/16 edition.

Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)

Beginning 06/09/17, USCIS will exclusively accept the new edition dated 04/10/17. Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept the 12/23/16 edition.

Form I-526 Immigrant Application by Alien Entrepreneur

Beginning 06/09/17, USCIS will exclusively accept the new edition dated 04/10/17. Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept the 12/23/16 edition.

Form I-914, application for T Nonimmigrant Status

The new edition is dated 02/27/17. The previous edition dated 01/18/17 will also be accepted moving forward.

Form I-698, Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident (Under Section 245A of the INA)

The new edition is dated 03/03/17. The previous edition dated 12/23/16 will also be accepted moving forward.

Form I-363, Request to Enforce Affidavit of Financial Support and Intent to Petition for Legal Custody for Public Law 97-359 Amerasian

Beginning 05/19/17, USCIS will exclusively accept the new edition dated 03/01/17. Until that date, previous versions USCIS will continue to accept previous editions.

Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country

Beginning 05/19/17, USCIS will exclusively accept the new edition dated 03/10/17. Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept the 12/23/16 edition.

Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative

Beginning 05/19/17, USCIS will exclusively accept the new edition dated 03/10/17. Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept the 12/23/16 edition.

Form I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status

Beginning 05/12/17, USCIS will exclusively accept the new edition dated 02/07/17. Until that date, USCIS will continue to accept 08/31/07, 11/23/10, and 01/15/13 edition. The edition date can be found at the bottom of the page on the Form and Instructions.

 

For more information view the USCIS update page

 

Back | Index | Next

Disclaimer: This newsletter is provided as a public service and not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. Any reliance on information contained herein is taken at your own risk.