Siskind Susser is excited to announce that Lynn Susser was recently elected to ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers. ABIL is comprised of over 20 lawyers from top tier immigration practices with years of expertise and a comprehensive understanding of immigration law. For more information on ABIL, including a map of ABIL attorneys worldwide, visit their website.
The following articles are excerpts from ABIL’s monthly Immigration Insider, available here on their website.
Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL) attorneys recommend that employers assess their need for H-1B employees and begin working on their H-1B petitions now. Filing season is expected to open April 1, 2019, for fiscal year (FY) 2020 cap-subject H-1B visas. Annual demand typically far outstrips availability, so the visas are snapped up immediately.
ABIL recommends the following ways for employers to maximize their H-1B chances:
- Apply based on a master’s degree from a U.S. nonprofit university as long as all degree requirements were completed before April 1
- Ensure a close match between the course of study and job duties
- Apply concurrently for optional practical training (OPT) or STEM OPT and H-1B • Apply for “consular notification,” not change of status, to preserve OPT if OPT lasts beyond October 1
- Apply for “change of status” if OPT expires before October 1 to preserve work eligibility under “cap gap” policy, but avoid travel
- Choose O*NET code and wage level carefully
- If more than one field of study could qualify a person for the position, explain task by task how the position requires the education
- Be careful of Level 1 wages. Instead, obtain an acceptable prevailing wage from a legitimate source other than the Department of Labor, offer to pay a higher wage from the outset, or explain why this particular job is both entry level and qualifies as a “specialty occupation”
- Consider other visa options if your employee is not selected in the H-1B lottery
- Check the USCIS website for changes to form, fee, and filing location
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking on December 3, 2018, that would require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period. USCIS said the proposed rule would also reverse the order by which the agency selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption, with the goal of increasing the number of beneficiaries with master’s or higher degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education to be selected for H-1B cap numbers and introducing “a more meritorious selection of beneficiaries.” It is unclear, however, if the rule will be finalized and implemented in time for the start of the H-1B filing season on April 1.
Contact your local ABIL attorney for advice and help with preparing H-1B petitions.
The proposed rule published in December 2018 is at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR2018-12-03/pdf/2018-26106.pdf.
This article provides a summary of highlights of “Brexit” and the outlook for the near future with respect to the free movement of affected workers.
It has now been over two and a half years since the United Kingdom (UK) resolved in a referendum held on June 23, 2016, by a slim majority (51.9% to 48.1%), to leave the European Union (EU). Following submission of the written Withdrawal Declaration to the European Council on March 29, 2017, effective after two years, negotiations on the terms and conditions of the withdrawal were initiated with some delay. An initial breakthrough in the negotiations was achieved about a year ago, and the first draft of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement was presented in the spring. The debate nevertheless continued to be highly controversial. Finally, in November 2018, despite all the adversity, a decisive breakthrough was achieved. On November 14, 2018, the EU and the UK reached an agreement on the revised version of the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes a transitional arrangement until December 31, 2020, which may be extended once by mutual agreement for a period that has not been specified.
However, this arrangement can only enter into force once it has been ratified by both the UK and the EU. Unless the Council agrees otherwise with the withdrawing Member State, Article 50, para. 3, TEU, states that European contracts will no longer apply after two years from the date of the formal application, i.e., after March 28, 2019, unless all Member States mutually agree on an extension. This is commonly referred to as “hard BREXIT” or “no deal” and would be accompanied by significant trade barriers between the UK and mainland Europe, with huge economic ramifications.
All of this is reason enough to take a closer look at the effects of the withdrawal from a residency law perspective and to appraise the (probable) future legal situation.
What is the law now and what will it be in the future? “The deal”
With regard to the freedom of movement (for workers), it is first necessary to bear in mind the regulations that will continue to apply until at least March 29, 2019, under the current legal situation and what would (probably) change in the future under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Legal Situation Before the Withdrawal
UK citizens continue to be (even after the Withdrawal Declaration on March 29, 2017) EU citizens or, more precisely, citizens of the Union. Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) states that any person who is a citizen of a Member State is also a citizen of the Union. This is the situation until two years after the declaration of withdrawal, i.e., until March 28, 2019. At present, this means that the privileges granted to UK citizens with regard to the right to free movement and residence (for workers) continue to apply. This includes the right of workers:
- to apply for jobs offered on the market
- to move unrestrictedly within the territory of the Member States for that purpose
- to reside in a Member State in order to pursue employment there in accordance with the laws, regulations, and administrative provisions applicable to employees in that State
- to remain within the territory of a Member State after having been employed there under conditions laid down by the Commission by means of regulations
However, these privileges with regard to the right to free movement and residence of workers will continue to apply without restriction for a period of two years (subject to a mutually agreed extension of this period) after the UK submitted its declaration of withdrawal.
Anticipated Legal Situation After the Withdrawal
The Withdrawal Agreement includes transition provisions (“Implementation Period”) until December 31, 2020, to mitigate the effects of the withdrawal on Union citizens and British citizens and contains the following detailed regulations:
Free Movement of Workers
EU citizens residing legally, temporarily, or permanently in the UK at the time of the EU withdrawal may continue to live, work (or become unemployed with no fault of their own, selfemployed, study or seek employment within the meaning of Article 7(3) of the Free Movement Directive), or study in the UK. The same applies to British citizens who live in an EU member state.
Persons living temporarily or permanently in the United Kingdom at the time of the withdrawal or the date of the Withdrawal Agreement may also remain in the country. The same applies analogously to British citizens who are legally residing in an EU member state, including persons living with them in non-marital relationships. EU negotiators rejected a request by negotiators from the United Kingdom that a regulation be provided for with regard to British citizens who move to an EU member state after the date of record, stating that they had no mandate to provide for such regulation and that such matters would be provided for in a later agreement.
EU and UK citizens must be legal residents in the host Member State at the end of the transitional period in accordance with EU law on the free movement of persons. However, the Withdrawal Agreement does not require a personal presence in the host country at the end of the transitional period—temporary absences do not affect the right of residence, and longer absences that do not restrict the right of permanent residence are permitted.
According to the Withdrawal Agreement, the above rights will not expire after the transitional period. This means that Union citizens retain their right of residence essentially under the same substantive conditions as under the EU right of free movement, but must apply to the UK authorities for a new UK residence status. After five years of legal residence in the UK, the UK residence status will be upgraded to a permanent status with more rights and enhanced protection.
The same applies to British citizens who continue to legally reside in an EU Member State after a period of five years.
EU citizens who are already legal residents in the UK either temporarily or permanently, at the time of the country’s withdrawal from the EU, have a right to family unification, including with family members who do not live with them yet. In addition to spouses (or persons with equivalent status), this also concerns parents and children (including children born after the date of record). The applicable regulations under national law will apply to any other family members.
EU citizens who are already living in the United Kingdom at the time of the country’s withdrawal from the EU, as well as British citizens who live in an EU Member State, will retain their entitlements from health and pension insurance plans, as well as other social security benefits, or these entitlements are mutually taken into account.
The United Kingdom promises its resident EU citizens a special residential status that secures their rights and can be applied for easily and at a low cost. EU citizens living permanently or temporarily in the United Kingdom can have their status clarified by the responsible administrative authorities until two years after the date of record. Decisions are to be made exclusively on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement, without any further discretionary powers. The procedure is proposed to be quick, simple, convenient, and free of charge.
Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) retains jurisdiction for pending cases and questions referred by British courts until the end of the transitional period. EU citizens can only litigate their rights before British courts; these courts, however, will give consideration to the case law of the ECJ for a transitional period of eight years after the expiration of the transitional period, and may also continue to submit questions to the ECJ.
Right to Permanent Residency
The right of EU citizens to permanent residency after they have been in the UK for five years will be retained, with regulations under European law continuing to be authoritative for the eligibility requirements. Time spent in the country before the withdrawal will be taken into account, and periods of temporary absence (of up to six months within a period of 12 months) from the United Kingdom for important reasons will not count toward this period. EU citizens living outside of the UK will only lose their right of permanent residency after a period of five years. Existing permanent residency permits are proposed to be converted free of charge, subject to an identity check, a criminal background and security check, and the assurance and confirmation of ongoing residency.
The State of Play
The road to the possible conclusion and entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement remains rocky and almost impassable. To make things worse, all of this is playing out in a political minefield. Now that the EU has adopted the Withdrawal Agreement, it is the UK’s turn. The Parliament’s decision on the adoption of the Withdrawal Agreement was initially scheduled for December 11, 2018. In the meantime, however, British Prime Minister Theresa May held a crisis meeting and announced that she was postponing the vote until an unspecified later point in time. This is probably because recent surveys indicated that the Withdrawal Agreement would fail to attract a majority. According to press reports, the vote is proposed to take place by January 21, 2019.
Meanwhile, the EU has reiterated that the bloc will not be available for renegotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement. In the meantime, Ms. May held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and with leaders of other EU member states in Amsterdam, Holland, and Brussels, Belgium. So far, these talks have been without success. It is more than symbolic that Ms. May was unable to disembark upon arrival in Berlin due to a technical defect that prevented her car’s door from being opened. The times in which a “handbag” moment (this refers to former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who “forced” a decision in a brash appearance in Brussels) is enough to persuade the EU to give in seem to be over. There is unanimous consent on the EU side that renegotiations are categorically excluded. Meanwhile, growing reports point to an imminent motion of censure in the British Parliament. The political pressure on Ms. May’s shoulders is therefore as heavy as it could possibly be despite of having survived the vote of no confidence on December 12, 2018.
A further possible way out of this dilemma that has now been suggested by the ECJ did not come as a surprise, given the opinion of the Advocate General published recently. In its judgment handed down on December 10, 2018, the ECJ, on the basis of a referral made at the request of Scotland’s highest civil court in the matter of Wightman et al. vs. Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (C-621/18), ruled that it is possible under certain conditions for the UK to unilaterally revoke the Withdrawal Declaration issued to the EU on March 29, 2017. It would be possible for as long as there is no binding withdrawal agreement and the period of two years stipulated in Article 50(3) TFEU has not expired, for as long as the revocation is made by a unilateral, unequivocal, and unconditional written declaration to the European Council after the concerned Member State has enacted the revocation decision in accordance with its constitutional requirements. Irrespective of this fundamental possibility established in this judgment, it is questionable whether this would happen before March 29, 2019, as the decision to issue such a revocation would also be subject to a majority in the British Parliament and, in all likelihood, could not ever be validly declared without the consent of the majority of Parliament.
Given all of these circumstances, both sides (but more on the UK side than on the EU side) continue to find themselves under massive pressure. This is all the more true as the Withdrawal Agreement still needs to be ratified by the Member States. Any extension of the two-year negotiation window, which would only be possible by mutual agreement, seems highly unlikely and would always entail the risk of a Member State “throwing a wrench into things” or demanding significant concessions in other areas before agreeing to such an extension. In this context, the possibility of a unilateral revocation of the Withdrawal Declaration could gain significance.
Assessment—”The Complete Mess”
The current situation seems hopeless from the point of view of the UK. The ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement seems such a remote possibility that the British Prime Minister is apparently too afraid of even putting it to a vote. The negotiating partners at the EU are not willing to make any further concessions. The alternative of withdrawing from the EU without a transitional arrangement appears to entail unpredictable economic disadvantages for the UK. On the other hand, the outcome of a second referendum, once again conceivable after the ECJ ruling on the possibility of unilaterally revoking the Withdrawal Declaration, is not as clear-cut as may be suggested in some newspapers. Calling all of this a “complete mess” would probably be a fair assessment.
The history of the EU tells us that the negotiations likely will eventually come to an end with a compromise that is bearable for both sides, even though we cannot predict the details. There might even be a chance that the United Kingdom will in the end remain in the EU. Stay tuned.
This newsletter was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (www.abil.com), of which Lynn Susser is an active member.
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.