Articles Posted in Business Immigration

chef-cooking-1383480-300x199On July 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), along with the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), published a final rule increasing the number of H-2B visas available for the 2017 fiscal year by 15,000 visas. H-2B visas are non-immigrant visas which allow United States businesses to hire non-agricultural workers for temporary or seasonal employment. Currently, there is a statutory limit of 66,000 H-2B visas (33,000 visas for the first half of the year,  and 33,000 visas for the second half of the year) which can be issued each fiscal year. Certain H-2B workers are exempt from the cap such as workers who change employers or extend their employment.

As part of the FY 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act passed by Congress, DHS Secretary John Kelly was given the authority to increase the number of H-2B visas to be issued during the 2017 fiscal year. On July 19, it was announced that an additional 15,000 H-2B visas (on top of the 66,000 visas already allotted) would be issued. In order for businesses to take advantage of these additional H-2B visas, there are several stipulations.

First, like all H-2B petitions subject to the cap, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will review petitions for these 15,000 visas on a first come first served basis. Because there is a high demand for H-2B visas, employers looking to hire H-2B workers should get their application into USCIS as soon as possible.

people-1-1163730-1-209x300President Trump ran his presidential campaign on a pledge to protect the jobs of American workers. As part of this pledge, President Trump routinely on the campaign trail said that he wanted to limit legal immigration to the United States. President Trump further, routinely stated that he wanted to make sure that current paths for workers to immigrate to to the United States were not being abused by employers.

On April 3, 2017, the Trump administration took its first steps towards limiting business immigration by stepping up enforcement efforts against company’s seeking to employ foreign workers on H-1B visas. The H-1B visa category allows American employers to temporarily employ foreign nationals in jobs that normally require at least a bachelor’s degree (known as speciality occupations).  Individuals who enter the United States on an H-1B visa are allowed to stay in the United States for up to six years.

On April 3, 2017, USCIS and the Department of Justice announced new enforcement efforts to prevent what the Trump administration perceives as “fraud and abuse” of the H-1B visa category. Since 2009, USCIS has conducted random site inspections of H-1B employers. On April 3, USCIS announced that while it will still continue to conduct random site inspections, USCIS will now focus on making site inspections in three situations.

pexels-photo-40120-300x200On March 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that it will temporarily suspend its premium processing service for H-1B petitions. The suspension of premium processing takes effect for all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. At the present time, USCIS expects the suspension to last six months.

Premium processing allows for expedited processing of certain USCIS petitions or applications. By paying a processing fee of $1225.00, a petitioner or applicant can assure that USCIS will make a decision on their petition or application within 15 days. (USCIS guarantees that it will either: (1) approve a case; (2) deny a case; or (3) issue a Request for Additional evidence.)

The suspension of premium processing will apply to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. This year, USCIS will not begin processing H-1B petitions subject to the H-1B cap until April 3, 2017. Therefore, USCIS will not be allowing any premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the 2018 cap. In addition, USCIS will not allow premium processing for any cap exempt H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. Examples include: (1) transfer petitions; (2) petitions filed by institutions of higher education or entities affiliated with an institution of higher education; or (3) petitions filed by nonprofit or U.S. governmental research organizations.

On September 22gavel-3-1236445, 2016, Judge Michael H. Simon, of the U.S. District Court of Oregon, ruled that Tenrec, Inc. v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., a class action lawsuit challenging the annual H-1B lottery process, may proceed.

The H-1B visa allows United States companies to employ foreign workers in jobs that require at least a bachelor’s degree. It is the most popular non-immigrant visa for bringing foreign workers to the United States.

While the demand for H-1B visas is always extremely high, there is currently a statutory cap on the number of new H-1B visas that may be issued each fiscal year. Currently, only 65,000 new H-1B visas are available each year. There are an additional 20,000 H-1B visas available for foreign nationals with a master’s degree (or higher) from a United States university.

Small business ownerOn August 26, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) proposed a new rule to allow certain foreign national entrepreneurs to be considered for parole (temporary permission to be in the United States), in order to start or grow a business in the United States. On August 31, 2016, the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register, and the public was given 45 days (till October 17, 2016) to provide comment on the proposed rule. Once the 45-day comment period closes, USCIS will address the comments received and issue a final binding rule. USCIS currently hopes to have the final rule in place by the end of the year.

The proposed rule would allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to use its existing authority to parole foreign nationals into the United States, to issue parole to foreign entrepreneurs of startup companies, whose stay in the United States would provide a “significant public benefit through the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation”.

Under the proposed rule, DHS may parole entrepreneurs into the United States if they meet the following eligibility requirements:

Effective August 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), significantly increased civil fines for employers who commit I-9 and other violations of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”). The increased fines are a direct result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Sec. 701 of Public Law 114-74) (“the Inflation Adjustment Act”). The Inflation Adjustment Act, required all federal agencies to increase civil fine penalties to adjust for inflation.

Enacted on November 6, 1986, IRCA requires all employers to verify both the identity and employment eligibility of all employees. 8 U.S.C. § 274a.2 created Form I-9 as the way employers must document their compliance with IRCA. All employers are required to complete Form I-9 within three days of an employee’s first paid day of work.  In addition, employers are required to retain all Form I-9s for a period of three years after an employee is hired, or for one year after the employee is no longer employed (whichever is longer). Penalties for failing to comply with IRCA and 8 U.S.C. § 274.a.2 can range from civil fines, disqualification from government contracts, and criminal penalties.

Effective August 1, 2016, DHS increased civil fines for IRCA violations occurring after November 2, 2015. A breakdown of the new fines is set forth below: