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With H-1B filing season upon us as of April 2, 2018, we take this opportunity to remind you that the H-1B cap is expected to be reached during the first week of April.
Engineering, healthcare, high tech, energy, finance, colleges/universities frequently benefit from employing H-1B Visa holders. Often times the foreigner is already working for an employer in OPT status. Working with an experienced immigration practitioner in advance to address both your strengths and weaknesses, is your best strategy. Here are some tips that we highly recommend be incorporated in your H applications this year:
1) A detailed brochure and description of the employer's products or services and why you require a professional with a bachelor's degree or higher to perform the offered position. Include promotional materials, press releases or news articles to illustrate the nature of the business, new trends and growth factors;
2) Including a copy of your corporate tax return or financial statements may be appropriate;
3) Explain in detail why the position cannot be performed by an employee who lacks a Bachelor's Degree: Is it a standard requirement in your industry? Provide details such as examples of work to be done that relates to the complexity of the position;
4) Providing a real, detailed job description with the percentage of time spent on the duties of the position may be helpful. Further, explain any discretionary judgment that the employee will have in their job and other such areas of responsibility that are demanding or highly advanced;
5) Provide evidence that you have a current and past practice of hiring bachelor's degree employees for the open position;
6) IT and staffing agencies must be prepared to evidence the "employer-employee relationship" in H-1B offsite placement work situations by clearly evidencing the employer's ability to "hire, pay, fire, supervise, or otherwise control the work of the employee.” 
These are just a few suggestions to think about as you consider filing an H visa application. Again, we emphasize that planning in advance for your application is imperative. Give us a call to discuss your need for an H Visa application for the individual currently working for you or who wants to work for your company to move it ahead successfully. We can strategize and lead to the best result for you.  It’s what we do!
April 1st, the opening day for filing H-1B visa petitions, is just around the corner. Arguably the most sought-after nonimmigrant visa, the H Visa is available for professionals to work in a specialty occupation (i.e. requiring a Bachelor’s degree or higher). If you are an employer seeking to hire one of these professionals, you better act fast as there are only 65,000 new H-1B visas available each fiscal year—and an additional 20,000 for individuals possessing a U.S. Master’s degree or higher. This quota is referred to as the H-1B CAP. Last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received approximately 199,000 CAP-subject H petitions during the filing period and the predictions for this year are even higher! If the number of petitions filed with USCIS on April 1st exceeds the available amount of H-1B visas, which is very likely given the strong economy and lack of highly skilled workers in the US, a random selection lottery will be conducted.  
Even with the lottery, you still want to file for an H Visa as the benefits outweigh the risks: your employee will receive a 3-year H-1B visa, which can be renewed for an additional 3 years. Additionally, H-1B visas allow for dual-intent, which means you can sponsor your employee for permanent residency (i.e. green card) and they can continue working for your company in the U.S. without interruption.
Complete H-1B petition packages include the required USCIS forms and filing fees, a Labor Condition Application (LCA), information surrounding the employer and the offered position, and documentation regarding the employee. Not sure where to begin? Contact the GoffWilson H-1B Team for assistance. Our office has successfully assisted thousands of employers and employees with their H-1B petitions. Contact us today for more information and be a winner all the way around!

On January 10, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced its comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy, which is designed to target employers who violate employment laws. ICE’s strategy includes a three-prong approach to conducting worksite enforcement:
Compliance through Form I-9 audits, civil fines, and debarment referrals;
Enforcement through arresting employers who knowing employ undocumented workers; and
Outreach through ICE’s IMAGE program, which aims to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.
Experts have been cautioning about increased worksite enforcement, but ICE’s announcement confirms it. If your company has been putting off taking a closer look at your Forms I-9, the time to take action is now, before ICE comes knocking on your door. Based upon what we have seen and read, the chance of this occurring is greater than ever. Hefty fines and criminal liability can be the result of poorly-completed I-9’s and a poorly-managed employment verification process. Much of this is avoidable by being proactive and taking certain precautionary measures. This must be done whether or not you employ any foreign workers. We can help you and your company stay ahead of violations.
Recently, Asplundh Tree Experts Co., one of the largest private companies in the U.S., was slammed with a $95 million penalty as a result of an ICE worksite enforcement investigation. The penalty was the largest in U.S. history for worksite enforcement, but with ICE’s new strategy, surely it will not be the last. And don’t be fooled, as we have reported here before, enforcement investigations are occurring for all sized businesses including the very small.
Want to take action on your company’s worksite compliance, but not sure where to start? Let GoffWilson be your guide.  Our firm offers I-9 audit and compliance services, including personalized private training and representation should you receive a visit from the immigration service. Contact our office today for more information. Worksite compliance is what we do!

This H-1B filing season, many employers will need to prepare a little differently than in past years. Throughout January, February, and March, H-1B petitioners will begin assembling thousands of H-1B visa petitions for filing on April 2nd, the first available filing date for the FY2019 cap season since April 1st falls on a Sunday this year. The H-1B visa is available to professionals coming to the U.S. to work in a specialty occupation (i.e., a postion requiring a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent). 
There are 85,000 H-1B visas available, with 20,000 reserved for individuals possessing a U.S. Master’s degree or higher. This limited annual quota is known as the H-1B cap, and each year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives enough petitions to fill the cap (typically in excess of 150,000+) within the first week of filing. The USCIS then conducts a lottery on received petitions to randomly select the cases to fill the cap. If a petition is selected in the lottery and approved, the employer’s foreign worker will receive a 3-year H-1B visa, which will be renewable for an additional 3 years. The H-1B visa also allows for dual-intent, which means the employer can sponsor its foreign worker for permanent residency (i.e., a green card) to permit long-term U.S. employment.
The H-1B visa has long been a dependable way for employers to bring foreign talent into the U.S. Other than the limited cap numbers, the process has been relatively straightforward in recent years. However, in March and April 2017, the issuance of the USCIS Policy Memorandum, “Rescission of the December 22, 2000 ‘Guidance memo on H1B computer related positions,’” and the Executive Order, “Buy American and Hire American,” caused a shift in H-1B review at USCIS. Many Requests for Evidence (RFEs) were issued questioning the prevailing wage level selected by employers, as well as whether the offered position qualifies as a specialty occupation for H-1B purposes. 
GoffWilson has been successful in overcoming these wage level and specialty occupation H-1B RFEs, and we are working with employers to assemble more substantial and comprehensive petitions for the upcoming cap season. We recommend starting your H-1B petitions sooner rather than later to allow plenty of time for gathering the supporting documentation necessary to achieve success. Complete H-1B petition packages include the required USCIS forms and filing fees, a Labor Condition Application (LCA), information surrounding the employer and the offered position, and documentation regarding the employee.  
Looking for assistance with your company’s H-1B petitions? GoffWilson is here to help! We have assisted thousands of employers and employees with their immigration matters. Contact us today for more information.

Since a Supreme Court decision in 1925, U.S. border agents have been permitted to conduct port-of-entry searches without a warrant on all individuals attempting to enter the country. This longstanding rule, known as the “border search exception” to the 4th Amendment, is deemed to be in the national security interest and even applies to U.S. citizens as well as lawful permanent residents. In 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released its current policy on such warrantless searches pertaining to travelers’ electronic devices. Basically, the policy permits CBP to search all electronic devices at any port-of-entry “without individualized suspicion.”

Even though electronic device searches are not new, the application of these searches has nearly doubled in the first 6 months of FY2017, going from 8,000 searches in the previous 6 months to 15,000. Furthermore, CBP has started encompassing individual social media accounts as part of its electronic device searches. Even password-protected devices and accounts are not safe from scrutiny. Plus, individuals do not have to consent to searches—CBP reserves the right to seize the device(s) in question. If a device is seized, CBP can retain the device for 15 days, with the ability for continuous 7-day extensions. Once the device is in CBP custody, there is no maximum period after which it must be returned.

However, device seizure may be the best possible outcome if a traveler does not grant consent to CBP’s search. Other options granted to CBP include detainment, arrest, and, in the case of non-U.S. citizens/residents, refusal of admission or expedited removal. Clearly, these are all worrisome outcomes for the average traveler.

Why would they choose you? Perhaps you have a name that matches a person of interest in the government’s database. Maybe you have previously violated one of the immigration laws. You do not have the proper documents or visa and you are trying to enter the country or you have been selected for a random search. CBP does not need probable cause to search.

The good news is that prudent travelers can (and should) prepare for electronic device searches at the border. One of the exceptions to the CBP policy is that it does not apply to data stored on remote servers or the cloud. Hence, travelers should keep their local data limited to only necessary information. Another exception is privileged information, such as communications between attorney and client. If a traveler has privileged information on his/her device, the CBP officer should be notified immediately. While the presence of privileged information may not completely halt the search, it does require the involvement of a supervising entity.

In an age when border security is at the forefront of national interest, a continued increase in electronic device searches by CBP can be expected. All travelers should take steps to safeguard their private information.  

GoffWilson is your source for immigration updates! Contact our office today with any immigration questions.

In today’s political climate, shifts in immigration policy are happening at a rapid pace, and this week is proving no exception. While DACA and the refugee cap are making headlines, two smaller announcements could have a big effect on foreign-born individuals looking to work in the United States.  
Premium Processing Resumes for all H-1B Visas Petitioners
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the resumption of premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions. This service is crucial to both individuals and businesses, as it keeps them out of a potentially months-long visa limbo, allows them to quickly plan for their future, and guarantees processing within 15 calendar days. If the USCIS is unable to meet the 15-calendar day processing time, the premium processing fee is refunded, and expedited processing continues. 
This announcement is welcome news for many H-1B visa petitioners, as the premium processing fee is a small price to day for a clearer vision of their future. For many, the premium processing service has been suspended since April with the exception of interested government agency waivers, certain H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap, and petitions filed on the behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 Waiver Program (premium processing for these physicians resumed in late June).
Updated Form Streamlines EAD & SSN Process 
The immigration process for foreign nationals in certain categories and classifications has been streamlined, allowing them to apply for work authorization (EAD) and a social security number (SSN) simultaneously. This change addresses an operation inefficiency and reduces the likelihood of an individual or employer neglecting one of these critical documents.
This effort toward increased efficiency comes as the result of a new information-sharing partnership between the USCIS and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Facilitating this change is the use of the updated Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, which now includes questions that allow applicants to apply for a social security number. 
Going forward, the USCIS will transmit the additional data collected by Form-I-765 to the SSA for processing. Applicants who receive their approved Employment Authorization Documents from the USCIS should also expect to receive their Social Security card from the SSA within the following two weeks. 
The United States immigration system is complex and constantly changing, and that has never been more true than it is today. GoffWilson’s sole focus is immigration, and for over 30 years we’ve helped businesses and individuals navigate the intricacies of the U.S. immigration system. If you have any questions about your H-1B visa petition, Form I-765, or any other immigration issue, contact us today. 

Yesterday, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation—to take effect on October 18— attempting to push through his signature travel ban. With the existing ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries set to expire, Sunday’s order places travel limits on eight countries and is the third version of the travel ban offered by the administration. However, unlike the previous bans intended as temporary measures, the new order’s restrictions are not time-limited.   
Under the new proclamation, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea will be banned from entering the United States, along with some government officials from Venezuela. Additionally, citizens of Iraq will face a higher level of scrutiny before being granted admission into the United States. Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela are new additions to the list of countries with limited travel, and Sudan has been removed from the list. Unique to the recent order is that each country will be under its own set of travel restrictions—and officials say the new limits are intended to be tough and targeted. 
The new order bans almost all travel to the United States from seven countries—including most of the nations listed in the original versions of the travel ban—citing the listed country’s inability or unwillingness to cooperate in helping assuage security concerns the U.S. has over people coming from those countries. The only country without sweeping restrictions is Venezuela, where limits will only apply to a group of government officials and their families. 
The administration says that the latest order will not affect legal permanent residents of the United States or visitors currently holding valid visas from the countries listed in the order, which we believe will help avoid the chaos experienced at airports across the nation following the rollout of the first travel ban.  
Critics of the latest order argue that this is still a thinly disguised version of the initial travel ban that many argue was discriminatory, in that it targeted Muslims, leading many to refer to the original ban as the “Muslim ban.” As with the original travel ban, it’s expected that this latest order will be challenged in the courts over the coming days and weeks. 
GoffWilson’s sole focus is immigration law, and because of this we are following the latest travel ban closely. If you have any questions about how the travel ban may affect you or an employee, contact us today. Immigration is our passion. 

Why you don’t want to miss the September 19th I-9 Workshop: New Documents, New Questions and Solutions
  • You want employees handling I-9s to engage in regular training
  • You want to establish an I-9 routine and follow it consistently for every employee
  • You need to create a system for tracking dates of hire and termination of employment to purge I-9s from current storage to minimize liability (assuming no actual or threatened government investigation exists or is likely)
  • You want to be prepared and establish policies (in consultation with immigration counsel) for future compliance and ongoing voluntary audits
  • You would enjoy someone else making breakfast for you
Enroll in this workshop and come away better equipped to do all of the above. Contact us today about the I-9 Workshop or click here to sign up. 

Ask yourself these questions:
Is your company ICE Raid ready? 
Have you implemented the new Form I-9 released on July 17, 2017? 
How about the updated Lists of Acceptable Documents? 
Did you also know that there is a new M-274 Handbook for Employers? 
If you did not answer “yes” to each of these questions, GoffWilson’s upcoming I-9 training workshop is the perfect fit for you.  
On September 19, 2017, GoffWilson’s I-9 Team will be hosting a training workshop in Concord, NH designed to cover the new Form I-9 and related documents, how to complete the form with multiple identification samples, issue spotting, retention requirements, avoiding discrimination, maintaining compliance, and so much more. Also, for the first time, we will discuss the ICE Raids that are on the rise. Plus, our knowledgable attorneys will be on hand to answer any questions you have.
Considering I-9 audits generally are on the rise, employers should be sure they are up to date on using the new Form. With increased fines and penalties taking effect last year, neglecting your company’s I-9 house can be a costly mistake.
Contact our office today for more information or sign up here for only $125. The workshop cost includes the proprietary take-home expansive I-9 reference handbook and hot breakfast. We look forward to hearing from you!

At the beginning of August, President Donald Trump supported a bill—the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act—that puts immigration squarely in the administration’s targets and would cut the amount of legal immigration in half by 2027. Although the bill has little chance of being passed, as it has already been met with opposition by members of both parties, it paints a clear picture of the Trump administration’s immigration goals, while once again bringing immigration to the forefront of the U.S. consciousness. Despite the unlikelihood of this bill being passed, we believe it’s important to understand the major points of the RAISE Act, and the dramatic effect it could have on United States’ families, businesses, and economy.  
Creating a Skill-Based Immigration System
Supporters of the RAISE Act tout that it will create a skills-based immigration system, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, the RAISE Act does nothing to increase the number of visas available for highly skilled immigrants—the number will remain static at 140,000 (including spouses and children); instead, it merely increases the proportional amount of high-skilled visas by eliminating other programs such as family reunification and diversity visas. However, the RAISE Act will change how the U.S. determines who is highly skilled, by instituting a point-based system with points being awarded for everything from age, degree, and English proficiency to having an extraordinary accomplishment such as a Nobel Prize or Olympic medal. 
Claims that the RAISE Act will bring the U.S. closer to other merit-based immigration systems like Canada’s and Australia’s are also overblown. While it’s true that Canada and Australia favor high-skilled immigration over family members, both systems admit far more immigrants than the U.S. For example, according to the Cato Institute, for the RAISE Act to mirror Australia's “skills-based immigration system then it would have to increase employment-based immigration to about 852,000 annually—an 11.4-fold increase.”
Restrict Family Reunification 
Today, legal permanent U.S. residents can sponsor spouses, minor children, unmarried adult children, and siblings. As a result, two-thirds of all immigrants achieve legal status through family ties, either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or as family-sponsored preferences. Under the RAISE Act, the prioritization of unmarried adult children, as well as siblings, will cease. In addition, a cap of 88,000 admissions per year will be placed on family-based admissions. While this may seem like a large number, under the current visa system, we allow 480,000 and there is still a huge back log for visas.
Supporters of the RAISE Act argue that highly skilled individuals should be prioritized over family members, yet the RAISE Act does nothing to redistribute family visas to the highly skilled—it only eliminates qualifying people from this visa. Furthermore, critics argue that people with families already established in the U.S. are in the best position to integrate and contribute to the U.S. 
Eliminate the Diversity Visa
The diversity visa program, sometimes called the green card lottery, makes 50,000 visas available annually to people from countries from which fewer than 50,000 people have immigrated to the U.S. over the previous five years. The visa lottery winners are chosen at random, having to meet a few minor benchmarks, such as having no criminal history, a high school education, and certain financial requirements. The DV Lottery represents a very small fraction of the U.S.’s immigrant intake. For example, 50,000 diversity immigrants seems miniscule when you consider that, in 2015, about 550,000 people immigrated to the U.S. and 11 million temporary visas were given out. Most importantly, defenders of the diversity visa program believe it serves to offer the hope and opportunity of the American dream to people across the world, regardless of education, religion, or region, and helps the United States remain the world’s melting pot. 
Cuts Back On Refugees 
The RAISE Act will also cap refugee resettlement at 50,000 people per year, putting a firm limit on a program that had formerly been at the discretion of the President. It also is far below former President Barack Obama’s proposed goal of resettling 110,000 refugees annually. 
Restricting the admission of refugees will put the U.S. further behind its European counterparts when it comes to resettling one of the world’s most vulnerable groups. According to the BBC, in 2015 Germany approved 140,910 asylum applications, France approved 20,630, and Sweden approved 32,215. Now consider that the approximate populations of those counties when compared to the 320 million people in the United States: 82 million people in Germany, 66 million people in France, and 10 million people in Sweden. These countries are not only taking in a higher percentage of refugees compared to their population—they are taking a leadership position in refugee resettlement while the U.S. takes a backseat.     
The Takeaway 
The RAISE Act does little to benefit the United States, and the truth is that many of the proposed changes are more likely to have a negative outcome than a positive one. Numerous studies have shown the vital role immigrants play in the U.S. workforce, job creation, and economy as a whole. As native-born employees begin to age out of the workforce, immigrants are crucial to filling the vacant positions, as well as taking care of an older population. In addition, the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants in the U.S. has been a valuable contributor to the growth of the U.S. economy, as we have written many times in our blawgs, Pulse articles, and Medium pieces. 
GoffWilson exclusively practices immigration law throughout the US, and for the last thirty years we’ve championed the important and vital role immigrants play in the fabric of the nation. From helping families come to the U.S. in search of a better life to helping employers gain access to the global talent pool and helping businesses put down roots in the U.S., GoffWilson has been a proud partner in the journey. Contact GoffWilson today to learn how we can help your family or business successfully live in the US. 
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