Monique Kornfeld, Immagration Lawyer

Gap in Employment and Lawful Status in the US if DACA and EAD are not Renewed Before Their Expiration

May 23rd, 2017

An applicant for renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status and employment authorization (EAD) will incur a gap in lawful presence in the US if his or her DACA and EAD are not renewed before his or her current status expires.

Timely filed applications for renewal of DACA and the EAD do not provide for an automatic extension of lawful presence and work authorization in the US, respectively. In other words, if there is any gap between the expiration of an applicant’s first EAD and the approval his or her renewed EAD under DACA, then the applicant won’t have authorization to work during this gap.

Also, the applicant should be aware that if his or her current DACA status expires before his or her renewal is approved, then the applicant will accumulate unlawful presence in the US if he or she is over 18. Once the applicant accrues more than 180 days of unlawful presence, then if the applicant departs the US he or she cannot reenter for three years (although there are certain waivers available). Also, once the applicant accrues more than one year of unlawful presence, then he or she would be barred for ten years if he or she departed the US (with exceptions). It should be noted that many applicants for DACA would have already accrued the unlawful presence bar before initially filing for DACA.

Will Trump’s Recent Conciliatory Speech on Islam Affect Travel Ban Decision?

May 22nd, 2017

This weekend, Trump gave a speech in Saudi Arabia on unifying the world against radical Islamist terrorism and was quite conciliatory and laudatory toward Muslims and Islam. While such an attitude is highly welcomed, it should be noted that it was full of platitudes and facts that should have been made clear during his campaign, such as the many achievements, including cultural and scientific, in the long history of Islam, and the fact that radicalism does not define being Muslim.

It will be interesting to see how his new stance and more positive statements affect the travel ban decision before the appeals courts in the Fourth and Ninth Circuits. The plaintiffs have made the argument that the court should look behind the “facially neutral” statute to statements made by Trump in determining whether there was unconstitutional animus in devising these bans. Does the fact that he made such a speech after the issuance of the travel ban make a difference?

The final burning question is whether Trump will revoke the bans or decide to forgo an appeal to the US Supreme Court of any decisions invaliding the bans. If he is true to his words about most Muslims being law-abiding, then he must do one or the other.

USCIS Denies Downgraded EB-3 I-140 Petition and Revokes EB-2 for Chinese H-1B

May 19th, 2017

An H-1B worker from China called to inform me that USCIS has denied his company’s Form I-140 immigrant visa petition to downgrade from his approved Form I-140 petition and also revoked the company’s first I-140 EB-2 petition on his behalf. USCIS claimed that he did not have the requisite education, among other things. His current H-1B status will be valid until 2019. This situation must be evaluated under the high skilled worker rule published in January 2017 regarding the retention of priority dates and validity of I-140s later revoked. In this case, if the Chinese H-1B’s I-140 remains valid for H-1B extension purposes, then he can restart the PERM labor certification process, possibly retain the priority date, and not worry about extending his H-1B status again until his priority date becomes current.

EB1 for China and India Retrogresses in June 2017 until October 2017

May 11th, 2017

The US Department of State’s June 2017 Visa Bulletin shows EB-1 final action dates retrogressing for China and India until this October. However, the filing dates remain current. Hopefully, USCIS will continue to allow those from India and China to file I-485 applications to file to adjust status pursuant to an EB-1A extraordinary ability or EB-1B outstanding research petition. This will provide them with status in the US, although not an approval.

Cap Gap for F1 Students Without an H-1B Rejection or Decision

May 8th, 2017

On May 3, 2017, USCIS announced that it had completed selecting the H-1B petitions for the lottery and that the rejected petitions would begin to be returned. During this period, for those cases where there has been no receipt or rejected petition, F-1 students may continue to obtain an automatic extension of their optional practical training (OPT) employment authorization documents (EAD) from the H-1B cap-gap extension until the rejected petition is received. Once received, the 60-day grace period kicks in from the date of the rejection notice or their program end date, whichever is later.

If an H-1B petition is selected, then the F-1’s EAD is only automatically extended through October 1, 2017, and not until the H-1B is approved. Therefore, if the F-1 student is eligible for a STEM OPT extension, he or she should apply for it.

Application of 60-Day Grace Period for Laid Off H-1B Worker

May 4th, 2017

In January 2017, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) published final rule became effective providing benefits to many highly skilled nonimmigrant workers and those workers with immigrant employment-based cases (Forms I-140) in the EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 categories. One of the benefits of this rule was to grant up to a 60-day grace period to laid off H-1B, E, L and O nonimmigrant workers so that they could try to find H-1B or other employment or other ways to remain in the country in lawful status.

Recently, I was contacted by a foreign national who was laid off by her H-1B employer and she filed an I-539 to change her status from H-1B to H-4 during the 60-day period. She now has a new offer of H-1B employment. The new employer would not be able to file the H-1B petition until after the 60-day grace period and she wants to know if she is eligible for a change of employer H-1B petition so that she will not have to depart the US to restart in H-1B status. Under the new rule, she cannot obtain a change of employer petition in the US, but she does have other options, which are as follows:

1) File the H-1B petition for consular processing, meaning that she will have to depart and reenter the US. She would not need a new H-1B visa if she has current H-1B visa that will be valid when she wants to reenter.
2) Wait until the I-539 application to change her status to H-4 is approved. Then, the employer could file the H-1B petition for her to change her status from H-4 to H-1B in the US and she would have to wait for the new H-1B petition to be approved before she could start working in H-1B status.

If USCIS starts approving H-1B petitions quickly, even without premium processing, which has been temporarily suspended, then she may be able to work sooner than later. Just yesterday I received an H-1B extension petition approval that USCIS processed in 29 days.

Immigration Judge Finds Racial Profiling in Detention Case

May 2nd, 2017

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on April 28, 2017, that an immigration judge (IJ) in Atlanta found unconstitutional racial profiling in an immigration detention case in ruling against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The IJ held that two ICE agents committed “egregious” racial profiling when arresting a man walking from his apartment to catch a ride to work, and that the US Department of Homeland (DHS) attorneys committed “willful misconduct” by advising the agents to ignore the IJ’s subpoena. See http://www.myajc.com/news/local/immigration-judge-finds-racial-profiling-detention-case/ZKpBEDYMJwi9OUSoD7nghI/.

US ICE agents arrested and took into custody Osvaldo Menese Chavez on March 6, 2017, as he walked away from his apartment complex to get a ride to work. DHS sought to deport Chavez on grounds he is an unauthorized immigrant. The ICE agents said that they were at Chavez’s location to arrest another individual. The agents asked to speak with Chavez because he looked like the other suspect and when he tried to run away they arrested him. The IJ noted at the initial court hearing that the agents had used similar reasons to support its other detentions. The IJ then asked DHS to bring the officers to court to testify but the DHS attorneys instructed the agents not to appear and refused to bring the officers to court.

The IJ held that DHS’s conduct thwarted Chavez’ ability to make his case and found the agents’ conduct to be an “egregious violation” of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. “The fact that this judge was so offended by the government’s conduct sends a strong message. It says no one is above the Constitution,” said AILA member Carolina Antonini, who teaches immigration law at Georgia State University.

USCIS Will Terminate TPS Status for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

April 25th, 2017

On April 19, 2017, USCIS announced that it will not renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for beneficiaries from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and that the designations will be terminated on May 21, 2017. The Department of Homeland Security has also recommended terminating TPS status for Haiti.

USCIS may designate a foreign country for TPS if conditions in the country are unsafe for its nationals to returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country cannot adequately manage the return of its nationals. A national of a TPS country, or someone who last resided there, may apply for TPS status while in the US.

USCIS may designate a country for TPS based on one of the following temporary conditions:

• Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war):
• An environmental disaster (such as an earthquake), or an epidemic; or
• Any other extraordinary and temporary situation.

TPS beneficiaries who are found primarily eligible based on an initial review of their cases are granted the following:

• Protection from being removed from the US:
• Ability to obtain employment authorization; and
• Ability to obtain permission to travel abroad.

Also, if TPS is granted, then the beneficiary cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States.

While TPS is only a temporary benefit, as opposed to legal permanent residency, and does not lead to any other immigration status, it does not bar someone from seeking to change immigration status. A TPS beneficiary may apply for another type of nonimmigrant visa, such as an H-1B specialty worker or F-1 foreign student, file to adjust status based on an immigrant visa petition (based on family qualifications, marriage or employment) or apply for any other immigration benefit (e.g. asylum).

Current countries designated for TPS are the following:

• El Salvador;
• Guinea;
• Haiti;
• Haiti;
• Honduras;
• Liberia;
• Nepal;
• Nicagarua;
• Sierra Leone;
• Somalia;
• Sudan;
• South Sudan;
• Syria; and
• Yemen.

To be eligible for TPS the applicant must be a national of the designated TPS country or a person who last habitually resided in that country. The applicant must also meet certain physical presence and residence requirements in the US, which are detailed in the TPS chart at https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status#What%20is%20TPS?.

Certain crimes and activities render a person ineligible for TPS. These include convictions of any felony or two or more misdemeanors committed in the US; other crimes making a person inadmissible to the US; security-related activities making a person inadmissible to the US; and engagement in terrorism or persecution of others.

Trump’s Executive Order on H-1Bs and Hiring American

April 20th, 2017

On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed a new Executive Order, “Buy American and Hire American.” In this order, Trump directs DOL, DOJ, DHS, and DOS to review the current laws of the H-1B visa program and suggests “reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” The order also instructs these agencies to review all visa programs and investigate and eliminate fraud and abuse in order to protect US workers. The following are important points about this order from AILA’s talking points:

• It will have no immediate impact on H-1Bs, since many of the changes to the H-1B program would require timely and unpredictable legislative action or rulemaking;
• There is very little evidence of fraud in the H-1B program and it already includes provisions to deter fraud and abuse, which is paid for by the $500 Fraud Detection Fee;
• The H-1B program is critical to allow businesses to acquire access to foreign professionals with valuable skills, without which many businesses would be stymied from growing. The H-1B program is not used to replace US workers, especially with the onerous requirements and fees that make the comparative hiring of a US worker easier and less costly to an employer.
• H-1B visas do not depress wages for US workers. In fact, there is some evidence that they actually raise overall wages. On average, H-1B visa holders earn more than similarly employed US workers.
• The H-1B program creates jobs for US workers and does not create greater unemployment for them. Also, the unemployment rate for H-1B specialty occupations is very low as compared to the national unemployment rate. This is because the H-1B program is only for positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or equivalent specialized knowledge in a particular field.
• US employers do not hire H-1B workers to save money, since the program is expensive. Most employers use the H-1B because they cannot find qualified US workers.
• H-1B workers are vital to our economy across all industries, including our healthcare system, and our manufacturing and energy industries. In order for US companies to be able to grow and compete globally they must be given the opportunity to hire the best and the brightest from all over the world.
• The greatest improvement to the H-1B program would be the elimination of the statutory cap of 65,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree and 20,000 additional numbers for advanced degrees. There are still provisions to protect US workers under current H-1B law, including a prevailing wage requirement and a recruitment requirement for H-1B dependent employers (those employers with a significant percentage of H-1B workers).

USCIS Completes H-1B Lottery for FY 2018

April 17th, 2017

USCIS announced that on April 11th it ran a computer-generated random lottery of the filed H-1B cap petitions to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 bachelor’s and 20,000 advanced-degree cap. It noted that it received 199,000 petitions this season and that it will reject and return those petitions not selected for filing, along with the filing fees.

It should be noted that this it received approximately 15% fewer petitions this year than last year (236,000).