30/60 Day Rule is Removed from FAM, Replaced with 90 Day Rule

images.jpegMany of you may not be aware of the 30/60 day rule.  The Department of State in its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) has a section on willful misrepresentations.  Part of this section describes how to determine willful misrepresentations in the case of people who enter the US on a non-immigrant visa but then undertake activities which contradict that status.  A good example is if someone enters the US on a tourist visa and then marries a US Citizen or begins to work without authorization.  Under its old rule, the Department of State would consider such activities as prima facie evidence of a willful misrepresentation if the activities occurred within 30 days of entry on the non-immigrant visa.  If the events occurred within 60 days of entry, they would not constitute prima facie evidence of a willful misrepresentation, however, if the facts of the case give the officer a reasonable belief that a misrepresentation was made they should ask for countervailing evidence from the foreigner.  If the activity took place more than 60 days after entry, then actual evidence of a misrepresentation would be needed.  DOS has now amended this section, and, instead, instituted a 90 day rule

The new rule states that if someone enters the US on a non-immigrant visa and undertakes certain types of activities (working without permission, undertaking a course of study (if not authorized to do so), marrying a US Citizen (only visas that require non-immigrant intent – including B and F visas), undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or adjustment of status would be required (and no such change of status or adjustment has been made) within 90 days, there will be a presumption that the person made a willful misrepresentation.

It is important to remember a few points here:

  1. This is a Department of State Rule, and, USCIS has not yet adopted it.  While USCIS has followed the 30/60 rule in the past, they did not consider it a bright line rule, rather one factor to look at.  In addition, they were much less likely to apply to marriage based cases based upon the date of marriage (they more looked at the date the I-130 was filed).  This is not to say individual officers did not apply the previous rules more strictly, but overall, USCIS did not use it a bright line test.
  2. The 90 day rule applies to when the activity occurred.  For example, in terms of a marriage based case, even waiting until 91 days has passed and then filing the I-130 does not matter if the marriage took place at day 34 – DOS would look at the date of the marriage and there would be a presumption of a willful misrepresentation.
  3. It is a presumption, not a definite finding.  In other words, you can still try to rebut the presumption if you have convincing evidence to show that you did not intend to undertake the activity when you applied for the Visa and entered the US.
  4. In terms of the marriage piece, this does not apply to those on H-1Bs, E visas, L Visas. K visas, O visas, and any other nonimmigrant visa that allows dual intent to one degree or another.

We will certainly be watching both USCIS and DOS and let you know any additional information about how this new rule is implemented.

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.

President Issues New Travel Restrictions

imagesOn September 24, 2017, the President issued a new Executive Order (“EO”) entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public Safety Threats”.  This new EO builds upon the last order, which was only valid for 90 days.  However, part of the old EO directed DHS to do a worldwide review to determine what additional information is needed from each foreign country to assess whether foreign nationals who seek to enter the United States pose a security or safety threat.  DHS completed that review and gave the President a list of seven countries that had “inadequate” information sharing practices.  The new EO implements certain types of restrictions against nationals of these seven countries (plus one additional country that the President felt posed security risks) in terms of their ability to get certain visas.

Who Does the Ban Affect?

The countries that are part of this new Executive Order are:

  1. Chad
  2. Libya
  3. Iran
  4. North Korea
  5. Syria
  6. Venezuela
  7. Yemen
  8. Somalia

As stated, the restrictions are not uniform for all the above countries.  The following table lays out what restrictions are placed on immigrant and non-immigrant visas for each country:

Country Non-Immigrant Visas Immigrant Visas
Chad No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Iran No non-immigrant visas except the F, M and J student visas No Immigrant or diversity visas

 

 

Libya No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

North Korea No nonimmigrant visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Syria No nonimmigrant visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Venezuela No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas of any kind for officials of the following government agencies: Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration; the Corps of Scientific Investigations, Judicial and Criminal; the Bolivarian Intelligence Service; and, the People’s Power Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their immediate family members.

 

No Restrictions

 

Yemen No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Somalia No nonimmigrant visas No Immigrant or diversity lottery visas

 

Dual Nationals:  Dual nationals can still travel and get visas based upon another nationality besides the ones listed above (So, for example, a national of both Iran and Canada can still get any nonimmigrant visa or immigrant visa based upon their Canadian Nationality).

Those in the US at the time the travel ban takes effect:  They are not affected by the travel ban as they are already in the US.

Those Outside the US with valid visas:  Exempt from the restrictions

Permanent Residents of the US:  These people are exempt from the Travel Ban

There are other certain exemptions as well, please make an appointment if you feel you may be affected by the travel ban and we can review the waivers and exemptions with you.

When will the Ban take effect?

From 3:30 pm on September 24, 2017, until 12:01 am on October 18, 2017, Nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria Yemen and Somalia will remain under the previous Travel Ban (i.e. only those with close family ties can get visas).  Sudanese national will no longer be subject to any ban as of that date and time.

From 12:01 am on October 18, 2017, forward the above travel restrictions will be in force and will replace the previous Executive Order Travel Ban.

If you feel you may be affected by the new travel ban, please do call our office.  We can assess your case and let you know if the travel ban does affect you, and if you are eligible for any of the waiver/exemptions.

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.

H-1Bs: What is a Specialty Occupation? (Part 1)

Unknown.jpegFor those seeking an H-1B, the most important criteria that must be met, is that the occupation that they are applying for be a “specialty occupation”.  USCIS has listed four methods of determining if a position is a specialty occupation:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum requirement for the particular position;
  • The degree requirement is common for this position in the industry, or the job is so complex or unique that it can only be performed by someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the position;
  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; or
  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

We will look at each method individually.  We will discuss the first method in this article and each additional method in a new article.

A Bachelor’s degree or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum requirement for the particular position

The first method of showing that a position is a specialty occupation is that the position is one for which a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in a particular field or fields, or its equivalent, is normally the minimum requirement for the particular position.   How would one prove this?  Generally, USCIS will look at the Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH) put out by the Department of Labor each year.  That book lists a number of position as well as the normal entry level requirements for the position, including what degree is normally required for entry into the field.  If the position in question is covered squarely by a position in the OOH, then that is what USCIS will generally go with.  However, there are a number of positions that do not necessarily fit squarely (or at all) in the positions listed within the OOH. These cases are much trickier to try and use this method.

The primary reason it is harder to use this method with such position is because USCIS often confuses the SOC code used in the application process with the actual position in question.  In other words, USCIS will ASSUME that the SOC code used in the application correctly correlates to the position when this is not always the case.  For example, let’s say a person is an accountant intern – someone who has an accountant degree but is still required to complete a certain amount of accountant experience under the guidance of another certified accountant.  While it is clear that this position requires attainment of a bachelor’s degree in a particular area as the minimum qualification, many times employers or the DOL will issue a SOC code of “bookkeeper”, because the title of the position usually does not include the word “accountant”, as the person cannot use that title until they complete the requisite experience requirements.

If the SOC code of bookkeeper is used, USCIS will assume that a bachelor’s degree is NOT required and could deny the H-1B.  While it may be possible to convince USCIS that the position qualifies under another method, many officers will just ignore any evidence submitted trying to show that the position is one other than the one described by the SOC code.  It is just as important to accurately describe the position and all requirements as it is to ensure that the correct SOC code is used in ALL paperwork.  So for the above example, when filing the LCA, determining the Prevailing Wage, and filing the I-129, if n SOC code of accountant is used, the case is more likely to be approved.

Another issue that can come up using this method is if the position is so general that many different degrees could qualify someone in the position, or a general degree is sufficient.  This can come into play if USCIS feels that the position is too general OR if you are trying to hire someone into the position who has a degree that is less connected to the position.  A good example is trying to hire a computer person with an English degree.  They may have taken computer courses, learned on their own and received all the required certificates, but the degree just does not match the position.  Another example is a manager at a store.  In most cases, such positions do not even require a bachelor’s degree.  However, even a particular store did require such a degree, there are a number of degrees that could qualify someone for such a position – which means that it is not a specialty occupation.

We will discuss the other methods in subsequent emails.  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.

October 2016 VIsa Bulletin: Forward Movement for All

unknownThe Department of State released the visa bulletin for October 2016 recently. Below is a summary of movement and changes.

Family Based Immigrant Visa Numbers

F1 – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of US Citizens: This category moved forward about 1 week to September 22, 2090 for every country except Mexico (which moved forward 1 week to April 1, 1995 and the Philippines (which moved forward 1 week to August 1, 1995).

F2A – Spouses and children of Permanent Residents: All countries moved forward around 1 month, Mexico moved forward about 3 months to December 1, 2014. And the rest of the World moved forward about 5 weeks to December 22, 2014

F2B – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: Most of the world moved forward about 5 weeks to March 15, 2010. Mexico moved forward only 2 weeks to October 1, 1995 and the Philippines moved forward 1 month to January 1, 2006

F3 – Married Sons and Daughters of US Citizens: Most of the world moved forward about 3 weeks to December 22, 2004. Mexico moved forward about 1 week to November 22, 1994 and the Philippines moved forward about 3 weeks to July 8, 1994

F4 – Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens: China moved forward 4 months to May 1, 2003. India jumped just over 1 year to December 1, 2002. Mexico moved forward a couple weeks to May 1, 1997. The Philippines moved forward about 6 weeks to April 15, 1993. The rest of the world moved forward about 1 month to November 1, 2003

Predictions for coming months:

There should be forward movement on all categories in the next several months of about 2-6 weeks.

Employment Based Immigrant Visas

EB-1: As stated previously, this became current for everyone for October.

EB-2: Again, as we stated previously this became current for Worldwide numbers, Mexico and the Philippines. It moved forward to February 15, 2012 for China and to January 15, 2007 for India.

EB-3: Moved forward 1 month for Worldwide and Mexico to June 1, 2016. China jumped forward to January 22, 2013 (putting the EB-3 category ahead of the EB-2 for China). India Moved forward about 1 month to March 1, 2005 and the Philippines moved forward about 5 months to December 1, 2010.

Predictions for the Coming Months:

For EB-2s the Department of State sees China and India moving forward about 3 months (maybe 4 months for India) in the coming months. Worldwide and Mexico should remain current.

For EB-3s, they still feel that for the Worldwide numbers, demand may cause them to backlog (however this did not occur at all last year, and they thought it would then as well), but we will have to see. For China, EB-3 should move forward about 3 months. It will move forward only about 1 week for India and about 3 weeks for the Philippines.

Is USCIS going to request your Social Media IDs?

social media.jpgUSCIS published a proposed regulation that would allow them to ask for social media ids (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for certain nonimmigrants seeking entry into the US.  It would affect those filing the online application for a visa waiver entry.  The “optional” question would be placed in the application so that USCIS could look at people’s social media pages to determine if there is a ground’s of inadmissibility that they did not report – most importantly, if they are involved in terrorist activities or in supporting terrorist groups.

This is an attempt by USCIS to ensure that those coming in through the visa waiver program, who are not required to go through the sometimes lengthy background checks that other non-immigrants are required to go through, are vetted in someway prior to entry.  In this way, USCIS is attempting to show that it is trying to secure our borders from undesirable foreigners.

While I certainly applaud USCIS for trying, I think that this is not really the way to go.  Why do I say this?  First, this is optional.  While many people may give the information as they feel that it could prejudice them if they did not, it is still not required and USCIS, therefore, cannot deny an application simply because someone failed to give the information.  In addition, at this point, terrorist organizations can simply make sure that those that will be entering the US do not put anything on their social media feeds.  Lastly, it also opens the door for USCIS to start requiring such information.  If they require this, maybe next they will want to “require” access to your cell phone, or access to private messages, etc.  Where will it stop in terms of what they can and cannot request from you whether or not you are accused of doing something or even suspected of doing something illegal?  It is a slippery slope and it would seem to only make sense to open up this Pandora’s box if the benefit outweighed the risks.  As I do not think that this is the case, I would not be in favor of this measure.

Apparently most of the 800 people who sent in comments on the proposed rule were of the same mind and castigated USCIS for even thinking of such a rule.  What do you think?  Leave a comment with your views below.

Checkin With Charlie Oppenheim on Visa Numbers

Charlie Oppenheim, the officer at the Department of State in charge of visa numbers and the Visa Bulletin, recently released an update to his predictions for the upcoming months. Below is a summary of some of that update.

Family Based Visa Numbers

According to Charlie, in September most of the family-based categories will likely hold or retrogress from where they are in August. Only F-4 Worldwide has the potential to advance in September. Charlie expects a full recovery from retrogressions in all of the family-based categories in October, with the exception of F-4 China and F-4 India which will take some time. Beginning in November 2015, beneficiaries of F-4 China and F-4 India started responding to NVC Agent of Choice letters in larger numbers, which has given Charlie better visibility into the demand in these categories, but ultimately resulted in the retrogression of these cut-off dates.

It should be noted that when we state that there will be a “full recovery” Charlie is not saying that the categories will become current, but that they will go back to their pre-August 2015 dates.

Employment Based Visa Numbers

CHINA:

The Final Action date of January 1, 2010 that was imposed in June for both EB-2 and EB-3 China remains the same in August with no forward movement in either of these categories expected this fiscal year (which ends on September 30, 2016).

EB-2 should recover partly in October, 2016 and should fully recover to its previous dates by the end of this calendar year.

INDIA:

EB-3 India should advance modestly into a 2005 Final Action date in September. EB-2 India will continue to track one week ahead of the EB-3 India Final Action date in September.

EB-2 will advance in October 1, 2016 with the new fiscal year, and should fully recover by December of this year.

WORLDWIDE:

EB-3 Worldwide has been hovering close to “current” for some time, and is expected to do so through at least October.

Eb-2 was retrogressed in August to February 1, 2014 with the hope of holding number use to within the EB-2 annual limit. That date should hold in September and is expected to fully recover to “current” in October.

Legislative Update: Restrictive H-1B Bill Introduced

images.jpegThis month has seen the introduction in the Senate (by Senator Cruz (R)) and the House (by Rep. Mo Brooks) of a bill to several limit the H-1B visa.  These bills would set a minimum salary of $110,000 for ALL jobs under the H-1B umbrella.   In addition, if one employee in the same or similar position has been displaced, furloughed, terminated without cause or was otherwise separated without cause in the last two years (or if an employee is so separated within 2 years of filing the H-1B), that employer cannot use the H-1B program to hire someone in that position (or, they need to end the H-1B if already began).  Additionally, the fees for the program would be raised.  Employers with over 25 employees would have to pay $10,000 for the training fee as opposed to $1500, and the fraud prevention fee would raise from $500 to $2000.  H-1Bs would be limited to those with Ph.D. degrees or higher (those with a Bachelor’s or Masters would have to show that they have at least 10 years experience in addition to their degrees), and those who received their degree’s in the US would have to be given precedence by the employer over those with foreign degrees.   Lastly, the bill would get rid of any and all OPT for students on an F visa but would also require that ALL H-1B applicants have at least 2 years experience in the field.

At least part of the push at this time are the allegations against Disney of its misuse of the H-1B visa system.  For those who are not familiar with these allegation, former employees are accusing Disney of replacing US Citizen workers with foreigners under the H-1B system and of forcing those same US Citizen workers to train the H-1B employees before leaving their positions.  It should be noted that Disney denies these allegations and this case has yet to go to court.  However, even if these allegations are true, and as horrible as they are, there are better ways of handling these violations.  First and foremost, perhaps if congress actually allocated funding to USCIS to enforce the current H-1B regulations, they would have more officers to visit work locations and investigate companies so as to be able to stop these violations before they begin, or soon thereafter.  Even limiting the total number of H-1B visas a company can file for in a given year would be a better idea than this bill.

The problem with this bill is that current law already makes it a clear violation if a company uses the H-1B visa process to displace a US worker.  While not spelled out quite so severely as the current law, US employers cannot layoff their workforce and replace them with H-1B workers, this is not allowed.  As stated above, providing funding for USCIS to ensure compliance with this requirement would help to stop such abuses.  However the bill before congress does NOT provide such fundingSimilarly, there is already in place what is called the prevailing wage requirement.  US employers are already required to pay a minimum wage to workers, and this wage is determined by market conditions for the particular position in the particular geographic region in which the employees will work.   While currently US Employers are not required to file a formal request to the Department of Labor for its ruling on the prevailing wage, this is another way that Congress could use existing law to tighten requirements – require a prevailing wage be filed for H-1Bs.  This would keep the current fairness inherent in determining a wage based upon the actual job and physical location of the work, as opposed to trying to slap a one-size-fits-all wage that will limit the H-1B to primarily large employers, who are the ones who abuse the system.

Further issues relate to limiting the H-1B program to just Ph.D.’s and eliminating OPT.  First, eliminating OPT, while at the same time requiring 2 year experience and forcing a US employer to give a foreigner who received their degree from the US seems contradictory.  How are these recent grads suppose to get the experience?  Go home for two years?  While those who fight immigration saying that it hurts US workers would say “yes” to that question, the vast majority of economists agree that immigration actually helps the US economy and helps US workers (for example see this article).  Denying these students the ability to stay and work in the US, will only hurt our economy, not help it.

Hopefully Congress will not rush to judgement and pass this bill.  Instead, I hope cooler minds will prevail and better legislation, that allows the H-1B visa program to help our economy will be passed.

(image from the Times of India)