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. 

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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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Posted in In The News

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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Posted in In The News

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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Posted in In The News

DOL Announces Modernization of PERM Program’s Recruitment and Application Requirements

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced it will initiate a review of the permanent labor certification process (PERM) in an effort to modernize recruitment and application requirements.  DOL’s announcement comes in conjunction with the Obama administration’s efforts to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. 

Several significant factors contribute to the PERM program’s critical need for modification including an increased demand for labor, surplus of various types of workers, and advances in technology and information dissemination that have altered common recruitment practices.  In addition, DOL has received consistent feedback that existing regulatory requirements governing the PERM process often do not align with worker or industry needs and practices.  Thus, DOL seeks to evaluate the PERM application process in order to make it more responsive to changes in the national workforce.  This will be the first comprehensive examination of the permanent labor certification requirements by the DOL since their inception ten years ago. 

For more information, please see the Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet.

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

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Posted in In The News

Visa Bulletin for January 2015 Issued

The Visa Bulletin for January 2015 has been issued and can be found here.  The cutoff date for the EB-2 India category has not changed, however the worldwide EB-3 cutoff date advanced by seven months.

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Posted in Immigrant Visas, In The News

USCIS Issues Outdated & Erroneous Case Status Emails

Lately we have been receiving outdated and/or erroneous USCIS case status emails for pending applications and adjudicated petitions.  Some, but not all, emails were followed by an email confirming that the first email was in error and should be disregarded.  Double check the status of your case online at uscis.gov.

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Posted in Uncategorized

17 States Sue Over President Obama’s Immigration Order

On December 3rd, seventeen states sued the U.S. in a Texas federal court over President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration.  The states claim the President’s order is an unconstitutional exercise of power and seek to prevent the government from allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S.

While President Obama and other White House officials have expressed confidence in their legal authority for releasing the new measures, the states’ lawsuit argues the President failed to comply with requirements the federal government must follow in issuing new rules and violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

The states currently taking action against the immigration initiatives, announced November 20th, are Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Maine.

For more information, please see the full text of the Complaint here

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

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Posted in In The News

Details on President Obama’s Immigration Executive Orders

On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions dealing with immigration. These initiatives have not been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time.  Be careful if someone offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions because they are not available at this time. You could become a victim of an immigration scam.

We have been informed that over the next few months, USCIS will produce detailed explanations, instructions, regulations and forms as necessary. While USCIS is not accepting requests or applications at this time, it recommends that if you believe you may be eligible for one of the immigration initiatives, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your:

Identity;

Relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; and

Continuous residence in the United States over the last five years or more.

The following is a summary of the President’s Executive Actions:

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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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