Visa Bulletin for June 2015 Issued

The Visa Bulletin for June 2015 has been issued by the Department of State.  There was forward movement in most employment-based and family-based visa categories.

Also announced in the bulletin, the Kentucky Consular Center has registered and notified the winners of the DV-2016 diversity lottery, which makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas annually to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

For more information, please read the June 2015 Visa Bulletin here.

Jenna is an Intern with the firm and is not a practicing attorney.

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Update on Pre-Clearance at Airports

Airline travel can be a long, unpleasant process.  Long lines are part of the problem.  In the past, frequent fliers received complimentary TSA PreCheck status, but no more.

To make your future travel easier, review the Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler programs to see which program meets your traveling needs.  Note that if you apply for Global Entry, you do not need to apply for TSA PreCheck.

While no one is guaranteed expedited entry, these programs will improve your odds and hopefully make your summer vacation travel a little easier.  For more information about the programs, click here.

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Cuba Update

President Obama has asked Congress to take Cuba off the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.  The President made a formal recommendation to Congress, setting in motion a 45-day review process during which lawmakers can take steps to block the move.  However, Congress is not expected to block it and lawmakers would have to enact a joint resolution to do so, which the President could then veto.  Removing Cuba from the list will eliminate some sanctions, including restrictions on foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and other financial regulations, though the embargo will remain in place.

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H-1B Cap Lottery Update

On April 13th, USCIS announced that it finished the computer-generated lottery to select petitions to meet the FY2016 cap.  USCIS stated it will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than May 11, 2015.  USCIS noted that it received nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions during the FY2016 filing period (first week in April).

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USCIS Reaches FY 2016 H-1B Cap

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it has reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for the fiscal year (FY) 2016.  USCIS will use a lottery system in order to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of the 65,000 visas available for the general category.  The same lottery process will be used for the 20,000 petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.

The advanced degree exemption petitions will be randomly selected by USCIS first.  All unselected advanced degree petitions will then become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general limit.  Following this, all unselected cap-subject petitions, that are not duplicate filings, will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.  Due to the high volume of petitions, USCIS is unable to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process, as USCIS is still in the process of completing the initial intake for all the filings received during the filing period.

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Congress Finally Funds DHS & USCIS

Congress finally passed a funding bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security (including USCIS) open. It will now be sent to President Obama’s desk for his signature (he is expected to sign the bill). The bill will fund DHS through September 2015. The bill that passed does not include language that would prohibit the implementation of the President’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration which was the problem with earlier versions.

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Posted in In The News, USCIS New Policies/Procedures

H-4 Visa Holders Soon To Be Able To Work

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will extend eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment based lawful permanent resident status effective May 26, 2015.  The change is expected to reduce the economic burdens faced by H-1B nonimmigrants and their families during their transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status and minimize disruptions to U.S. businesses employing such workers.

Eligible individuals include H-4 spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are either 1) the beneficiary of an approved I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or 2) are holding H-1B status under AC21 sections 106(a) or (b).  If eligible, H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required fee in order to receive employment authorization. 

Read more ›

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Posted in In The News, Nonimmigrant Visas

DAPA Program Implementation Halted by Federal Judge

On February 16th, a federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, entered an order prohibiting enforcement of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.  Intended to go into effect February 18th, the program grants work authorization, Social Security eligibility, and eligibility for federal and state benefits to virtually all aliens who have been in the U.S. since 2010, had a baby in this country, and have not committed felonies.  Under the current law, undocumented-immigrant parents of U.S. citizens are required to wait until the child turns 21, and then must leave the country for 10 years before applying for a change of immigration status on account of that child.

The Obama administration announced it will suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA and vowed to appeal the temporary injunction.  The Obama administration argued that DAPA is a routine application of “prosecutorial discretion” – the authority of executive officials to set priorities for enforcement of the law and to refrain from enforcement in cases where the public interest is least urgent. 

The district court said that the Obama administration failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a period of longer notification and comment period before the White House may take action.  The district court further stated that prosecutorial discretion is limited to non-enforcement and does not entitle the executive branch to grant affirmative benefits such as work permits and welfare without statutory authority and notice-and-comment rule-making.

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USCIS to Run Out of Funds February 27th

On February 4, 2015 the Senate held a vote to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but the vote failed.  This was the second vote on DHS funding, which will run out on February 27, 2015.  Gridlock continues  with Senate Democrats demanding a “clean” bill without immigration-related measures and Republicans maintaining that they will not pass anything without the riders.  The question remains what will happen to USCIS functions after February 27th if a funding bill is not passed, whether it can continue its functions using proceeds from filing fees.

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Mayors File Amicus Brief in Support of Obama’s Immigration Executive Order

On January 26th, a coalition of over 30 mayors, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities, filed an amicus – or “friend of the court” – brief in the Texas v. United States lawsuit that challenges President Obama’s executive action on immigration.  Notably, a number of the cities that signed on to the brief, a move that demonstrates support for Obama’s actions on immigration reform, are in states that have brought the lawsuit.  The cities voicing their support for the administration’s actions on immigration include New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, Houston, and San Francisco, as well as Dayton, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; Racine and Madison in Wisconsin; and Lansing, Michigan.

In the brief, the mayors provide the court with a local perspective on why a court order temporarily stopping some administrative reforms from going into effect would be contrary to the public interest, citing economic and social benefits as reasons for moving forward with the reform.  According to the brief, “The executive action will fuel economic growth in cities across the country, increase public safety by increasing immigrant trust and cooperation with local law enforcement, and facilitate stronger families and the fuller integration of immigrants in cities.”

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About ABCs of Immigration Law
The global economy has become increasingly transactional and transcontinental. Since 9/11, there have been many amendments to immigration laws in the United States that have largely affected both individuals and businesses. Cozen O'Connor's immigration law blog, ABC's of Immigration Law, focuses on the interests and the challenges faced by those individuals and business impacted by immigration laws.
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