USCIS Denials up 37% under the Trump Administration

UnknownA new study from the CATO Institute, a think tank in Washington DC, shows that the denials are up about 37% under the new administration. The CATO institute did NOT include naturalization applications, TPS and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals applications in its statistics, as these are programs under fire right now by the administration.

Looking at some individual applications:

– I-129 denials went up from 16.8 percent to 22.6 percent
– Not surprisingly because of the previously discussed rule to deny I-131s if foreigners travel on their H-1B before it is approved, I-131 denials went up from 7.2% to 18.1%
– I-765 employment authorization denials increased from 6% to 9.6%
– Employment-based I-485s saw an increase in denials from 5.9% to 7.9%
– Fiance petitions were rejected at a more than a 50% higher rate, rising from a 13.6% denial rate to a 21% denial rate

To see the full article, please click here.

Personally, we have seen USCIS adjudicates cases in a more strict manner, which is tied to their changing how they interpret regulations, especially in the H-1B context. They are more stringent regarding what a specialty occupation is, over what constitutes the correct employer-employee relationship, as well as other critical issues in the H-1B context.  While our office has not seen a rise in the denial rates of applications we submit, we definitely do see the increased scrutiny that USCIS is paying to particular applications.   It certainly pays to be extra careful in drafting and filing these applications to ensure a smooth process with USCIS and to avoid getting caught up in their increased scrutiny.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

 

Want an appointment at a local office? Soon you may not be able to make one.

USCIS announced that it is phasing out InfoPass appointments at local offices (self-scheduled appointments) except on a limited basis. Basically they will allow appointments on an emergency basis and to deliver documents to the local office only. USCIS stated that their research showed that for the vast majority of people who make appointments at local offices, the questions they asked could be answered using the on-line resources at USCIS.com or calling the 1-800 number. In addition to the limited on-line appointments, if you call the 1-800 number and they determine that an appointment at the local office is needed, they will schedule it directly for you. There are certainly pluses and minuses to this new policy.

In the plus category, this should allow officers to spend more time interviewing people and adjudicating cases, thus bringing timelines for family and employment based green cards down.

In the minus category, it will make it much harder to find out exactly what is going on with a case once it is at the local office. Most local offices use to have special emails that immigration attorney’s could contact if there were issues. In addition, attorney’s (as well as immigrants themselves) could make appointments with the local office to find out what was happening with a case. Now, all that is available is calling the 1-800 number to try and find out what is going on. The only result of this is that it will be much harder to actually get the status of a case.

Currently the new policy is only in place in a limited number of states. However it should be rolled out nationwide by the new year. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

Final Rule on Start-Up Entrepreneurs Delayed until Next Year

As part of its review of rules promulgated under the Obama administration near the end of his term, the Trump administration has put on hold the final rule regarding allowing start-up Entrepreneurs to temporarily come to the US and start up a company.   The final rule was put on hold until March 14, 2018.  In the meantime, the Trump administration is soliciting comments on a proposal to revoke the rule.

While the new rule was somewhat limited (it applied to entrepreneurs with a start-up in the US that was less than 3 years old and had received substantial investment from US investors or substantial grants from US government entities AND only provided a parole document as opposed to an actual visa and more standard status), it was an important rule to allow more people to come to the US and start substantial businesses that would help our economy and provide employment to US citizens.  There really was no downside the rule considering the amounts of investment required and the documentation needed to show that the company has the potential for rapid business growth and, therefore, the ability to hire substantial US workers.

However, because the new administration ordered USCIS to only use its parole authority in strict humanitarian circumstances, it appears that this new rule will be revoked prior to being implemented.  The only possibility for a reprieve would be if there is a change to the executive order regarding the use of parole authority by USCIS.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

Supreme Court partially lifts Travel Ban Injunction

images-1Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from the US Government arguing that the injunction placed on the Executive Order that banned travel from 6 majority muslim countries was should be lifted.  In agreeing to take the case, the Supreme Court also looked at whether the current temporary injunction should stay in effect.  The Court determined that the injunction on the travel ban and the refugee ban should stay in effect insofar as it affected people who were similarly situated as the Plaintiff’s in the case – that is to say foreigners with familial or other ties to the US (through organizations or companies).  However the Supreme Court lifted the injunction (allowing the travel ban to be put into place) for everyone else, that is to say those with NO such ties to the US.  Why did the Court lift the ban in certain cases? Basically, the Court weighted the harm to persons affected by the travel ban and refugee ban with the interests of our Government as described by the current administration.  The Court agreed with the lower Courts that the interests of the Plaintiff’s and those similarly situated to the Plaintiff’s, outweighed the interests of the Government.  But for those with no ties to the US, the Court found that the interest of our Government outweighed the interests of those individuals.

I think that there are two additional questions to ask here:  First, what does the above mean and how will it be implemented?  The second question is, does this ruling allow for any indication of how the Court will rule on the injunction itself?

To answer the first question, it is a little hard to say how the Department of Homeland Security will read the decision, however it appears that the Court only meant to narrowly lift the injunction.  Anyone who has relatives in the US or a job in the US, or a job offer, or other relationship with an organization or business in the US is still covered by the injunction.  It is only those people who have no relationship with any person or organization for whom the Ban can now be put into place.  This is a narrowly drawn exception to the injunction currently in place, and many people will not be covered by the Travel Ban.

In terms of whether or not this tips the hand of the Court in terms of  how they may rule on the case when it comes before them, I think it shows that a majority of the Court will, most likely, uphold the injunction.  But this is just my opinion, and we will have to see what happens.

Lastly, for those who are from one of the six named countries, please, please, please, call your immigration attorney before traveling outside the US so that they can discuss any potential issues with you.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

More Explanation of the Executive Order of January 27, 2017

What_Is_An_Executive_Order__0_7133975_ver1.0_640_360.jpgOn Friday, January 27, 2017 President Trump signed an executive order on immigration restricting travel to the United States from citizens of seven countries – namely, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia & Libya. The initial interpretation and implementation of this order led to confusion among U.S. border agents and others placed with admitting individuals to the United States. This included a period of time over the weekend when returning permanent residents (green card holders) were subject to the order, denying them admission to the United States. There are now lawsuits that have been filed and we are hopeful that there will be additional judicial review and clarification of this order in due course.

In the short term, here are some points to consider:

  1. On Sunday night (January 29, 2017), the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, General John Kelly, confirmed that “I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest.” This statement means that green card holders are now (absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare), exempt from the travel ban and can be admitted.  However, keep in mind that they will still put you in secondary and you will still need additional time at the airport.
  2. If you are from one of the seven countries affected and are residing in the United States in a temporary (or non-immigrant status) you should not currently make plans to travel outside the United States even if you hold a valid visa in your passport.  (there are some exceptions to this, but they are narrow.  Please contact us if you have questions).
  3. There seem to be conflicting reports as to how this affects dual nationals (so if you are in fact a dual national of a country other than the United States and of one of the seven countries) you should probably err on the side of caution until this is clarified.
  4. Individuals from countries other than those listed (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia & Libya) are eligible to continue to travel, obtain visas and reenter the United States.
  5. This does not affect the current and ongoing status of individuals from the seven countries listed who are currently inside the United States in a valid non-immigrant status.
  6. With regards to social media postings, The Department of Homeland Security has a wide amount of discretion in terms of what they review and how they interpret that information in terms of a person’s eligibility for admission to the United States. Remember – a valid visa essentially provides you with the opportunity to be reviewed and admitted. It does not guarantee admission, so political postings and similar information could be reviewed and utilized by DHS in the context of a person’s admission to the United States.

As this is a fluid and changing situation we will continue to monitor this and provide updated relevant information as needed.