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Past Articles


2016 ()


Can you confidently answer these questions?


  • When is the latest a person can fill out a Form I-9?
  • How long am I required to keep Form I-9’s on file for terminated employees?
  • Am I supposed to be using the Form I-9 with the expiration date of 3/31/16?
  • Can I use the Spanish Form I-9 for my Spanish speaking employees? 
  • Can I tell the employee what documents I accept for identification verification?

If you were unsure of the answers to any of the questions above, it’s time for an I-9 refresher. Lucky for you, our incredibly popular seminar Form I-9 & E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know for 2016 is a little less than a week away, and we still have a few coveted spots available! Click here to register.   
 
Taking place Tuesday, May 17, from 8am to noon at the Delta Dental Auditorium in Concord, NH, this in-demand seminar provides a great opportunity to get up-to-date information on Form I-9 and E-Verify, will have you feeling more comfortable working with Form I-9, and will put your business on the path to I-9 compliance. You’ll also leave with our proprietary I-9 workbook to serve as your go-to reference manual following the seminar.   
 
Bonus! As an approved HRCI provider and a SHRM preferred provider, you will earn three HRCI continuing education hours and/or SHRM professional development credits for completing Form I-9 & E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know for 2016 training.
 
Bonus! Bonus! The seminar includes a delicious complimentary breakfast, so come early and enjoy. 
This sought-after seminar always fills up fast—don’t wait too long before registering here!


Earlier this week, some employers and their employees received very good news while many others received disappointing news as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that they’ve completed data entry for all of the selected Lottery winners of the H-1B cap-subject petitions. If you haven’t heard back, don’t panic just yet as we’ll continue receiving receipts over the next week. As employers wait in limbo before addressing potential staffing needs, there are alternative pathways to employment of foreigners that don’t require an H-1B Visa, if they qualify. Below are some of the other visa options available to businesses and individuals.
 
L-1 Visa
L-1 visas allow organizations in the U.S. with foreign affiliates to transfer employees who have previously worked in a foreign country to the U.S. Whether for work in a commonly held company, the L-1 visa is reserved for either managers and executives or employees with “specialized knowledge” but, unlike H-1B, it does not have a degree requirement. The L-1 visa requires that the employee has worked for the foreign organization for a continuous year during the last three years of employment.
 
J-1 Visa
The J-1 visa is designed to foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through cultural and educational exchange. The J-1 visa allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. as “exchange visitors,” and is popular among business trainees, teachers, scholars, and medical professionals. J-1 visas allow the employee into the U.S. while in a training capacity within their given field.  
 
O Visa
Available to people of extraordinary ability, the O visa is used to cover employees in a wide variety of fields. Artists, athletes, and entertainers along with scientists, researchers, teachers, and business people are all capable of receiving an O visa. For a foreign national to qualify for an O visa, the petitioning employer must be able to establish the person’s extraordinary ability, and the recipient must continue to work in their recognized field while in the U.S.
 
F-1 Visa
While F-1 visas are designed to allow foreign students to enter the U.S. to study, they also provide, following graduation, Optional Practical Training (OPT) for one year in which graduating students can work in the U.S. Students graduating with degrees in qualifying science, technology, engineering, and math fields can qualify for a STEM OPT extension allowing them to work in the U.S. for an additional two years.
 
These are just some of the alternate ways foreign nationals can qualify for work in the U.S. outside of the H-1B program. The visa types listed above have many more details to consider and we invite your inquiry regarding any of them. 
 
If you found yourself unlucky in the H-1B lottery this year, there are also institutions that are exempt from the H-cap (click here to find out more). Immigration is full of options, (such as an H-3 training visa or a B-1 visa in lieu of H) and while many times the obvious path is blocked, there are creative routes to get people where they need to be. At GoffWilson, we’ve been assisting employers and helping foreigners achieve their dreams with assistance in visa processing. We’ve established a reputation for delivering professional and personal service that speaks directly to the needs of our clients. If you think an alternative to an H-1B Visa is worth exploring for your organization, contact us here and we’ll be happy to discuss and walk you through the next steps of the visa process. It’s what we do!
 

For the fourth consecutive year, the H-1B cap has been reached within the first 5 business days of April. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) having received 236,000 petitions this year, with only 85,000 to be selected. For some, the increased interest in working in the United States is a sign of the country’s robust economy, the alluring nature of its companies, and the solidifying of its reputation as an incubator of innovation. For others, the H-1B process is a frustrating hurdle to overcome in their pursuit of both professional and personal development. H-1B hopefuls are left wondering why a country in desperate need of workers with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills would shut the door on many valuable potential employees, while employers find themselves in limbo, waiting to see if vital positions will be able to be filled through the H-1B program.

On March 31, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) released some interesting statistics regarding H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2016. While many anxiously await their results in the H-1B lottery, now is an opportune time to take a closer look at these statistics, and to find out where in the country the majority of H-1B visas are being distributed, in what professions, and to what companies.

Top 5 States for H-1B Employment

1. California is home to 157,073 people on H-1B visas, representing 19% of the available visas
2. Texas is home to 83,945 people on H-1B visas, representing 10.2% of available visas
3. New York is home to 69,383 people on H-1B visas, representing 8.4% of available visas
4. New Jersey is home to 56,635 people on H-1B visas, representing 6.9% of available visas
5. Pennsylvania is home to 51,919 people, representing 6.3% of available visas

Top 5 Positions for H-1B Visas

1. Computer systems analysts account for 207,163 positions, representing 25.1% of awarded H-1B visas
2. Software application developers account for 120,413 positions, representing 14.6% of awarded H-1B visas
3. Computer programmers account for 80,522 positions, representing 9.8% of awarded H-1B visas
4. All other computer occupations account for 65,116 positions, representing 7.9% of awarded H-1B visas
5. Software developers account for 48,047 positions, representing 5.8% of awarded visas

Top 5 H-1B Employers

1. Deloitte Consulting, LLP employs 79,291 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 9.6% of awarded visas
2. Cognizant Technology Solutions U.S. Corp. employs 64,118 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 7.8% of awarded visas
3. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP employs 27,340 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 3.3% of awarded visas
4. Wipro Limited employs 26,716 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 3.3% of awarded visas
5. Apple, Inc. employs 20,523 workers on H-1B visas, accounting for 2.5 % of awarded visas

At GoffWilson, we too are eager to learn the results of our clients in the H-1B lottery, and we hope every single one of them is lucky this year. Sadly, the reality is that some of them won’t be lucky, but the good news is that there’s more than one path toward a H-1B visa (click here to learn about some of the potential alternate pathways). We at GoffWilson pride ourselves on our specialized and personalized service that deals directly with the unique concerns of our clients, and with over 30 years experience in immigration law we understand the ins and outs of the H-1B visa and the H-1B visa process. If you feel you may qualify for a cap exempt H-1B visa, and are interested in exploring the avenue further, contact us here. We’d be happy to help!

We are happy to announce that we have just added our popular seminar Form I-9 & E-Verify Spring Check-Up: What You Need to Know for 2016 to our list spring events. This seminar will take place Tuesday, May 17, from 8am to noon at the Delta Dental Auditorium in Concord, NH, and presents a great hands-on opportunity for executives and HR personnel to ensure they are up to date with the policies and procedures involving I-9 and E-Verify.
 
This in-demand seminar has a history of selling out and space is limited. Register here to secure your spot at one of our most popular events of the year. Not convinced if this seminar is right for you? Here are some great reasons to register today! 
  • You want to know the latest trends and best practices in I-9
  • You want to learn about the latest revisions and proposed changes to E-Verify
  • You simply feel that it's time for a refresher
  • You want to know the most common mistakes made when filling out I-9s so you can avoid them—better yet, you want to learn how to correct the errors
  • You want to find out how to deal with potential challenges such as mergers, remote hires, or federal contracts 
What else to expect: 
  • To receive credit. As an approved HRCI provider and a SHRM preferred provider, you will earn three HRCI continuing education hours and/or SHRM professional development credits for completing the training
  • To receive a copy of our proprietary I-9 workbook to serve as your go-to reference manual following the seminar
  • To leave knowing more about I-9 and E-Verify, and to feel more comfortable working with them
  • To receive a delicious complimentary breakfast 
Interested in attending now? Click here. If we still haven’t convinced you why you should be attending the seminar, swing by our booth at the Granite State Human Resource Conference on April 26-27 at the Radisson in Manchester, NH, and we'll convince you in person.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made news this week with their disclosure that they had created and been operating a fake college called the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ) in an office building in Cranford, New Jersey. Offering no classes, the purported purpose of the university was to illegally allow foreign students to maintain their visas and stay in the U.S. The true nature of the college however was a means for the DHS to get a better understanding of the network that supports visa fraud, while simultaneously catching visa fraud practitioners.

With an improving economy, a limited amount of visas available, and increased competition to pursue higher education in the U.S., there will be more brokers, agencies, and people willing to look for ways around the established immigration system, and colleges and universities will be wise to protect themselves from students with fraudulent visas. As visas get more valuable, so does the technology, skill, and art that comes with falsifying them. In fact, according to a New York Times article about the UNNJ sting operation, multiple high-tech companies and financial institutions unknowingly hired applicants with fraudulent visas from the UNNJ. If prestigious institutions with backgrounds in employing foreign-born workers were duped, is it possible your institution could be too?

A story like the one about the UNNJ serves as a reminder that colleges and institutions need to be diligent in their processing of international students. While International Student and Scholar Offices (ISSO) and Designated School Officials (DSO) are adept at handling many of the day-to-day needs of international students, there is an enormous benefit to supporting them with people trained in and familiar with the many complexities of immigration law. GoffWilson has been practicing immigration law for over 30 years, and has experience ensuring colleges and universities remain Student Exchange and Visitors Information System (SEVIS) compliant.

A SEVIS file review is a popular service that we provide to colleges and universities, as SEVIS reporting can be complex and daunting in its own right. SEVIS is extremely unforgiving of mistakes, with penalties for giving false or misleading information as severe as the revoking of an institution's ability to sponsor future international students—a potentially devastating penalty with the increasingly important role international students are playing in today’s U.S. institutions of higher education.

While institutions of higher ed should take a big-picture approach to ensuring SEVIS compliance, issues arise to even the best prepared people. GoffWilson has a well-deserved reputation for delivering personal service that speaks to the needs of the individual. If one of your university or college students finds themselves with immigration issues, we’re here to help. GoffWilson is accomplished in negotiating the intricacies of immigration law, and can help ensure that issues are resolved while keeping in mind what’s best for the individual and university alike. SEVIS is no less severe with individuals than it is with universities, with punishments as harsh as deportation.

If you are concerned about the status of your international students, curious how you can better protect yourself from visa fraud, or feel like a SEVIS review will help you sleep better at night, contact GoffWilson here and let us know how we can help.

On April 1st, the United States Citizenship and Immigration and Services (USCIS) began accepting H-1B petitions for the fiscal year of 2017, with the congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas set at 65,000. In addition, there is an exemption from the cap for the first 20,000 petitioners who hold a Master's Degree or higher—making a total of 85,000 visas available. Like every year, the demand for an H-1B visa is very high, and the USCIS anticipates receiving more than the 65,000 petitions allowed within the first five business days of this year’s program (they received 235,000 petitions last year). The USCIS will notify the public when the cap is met, and if the agency receives an excess of 65,000 petitions during the first five business days, they will use a computer-generated lottery system to determine who is will be chosen to have the H-1B visas application processed.

With only a five-day window appearing annually, competition and anxiety increases yearly over valuable H-1B visas. Although it may seem that getting lucky in the H-1B visa lottery is the only path to employment for foreigners in highly skilled and highly specialized fields, there are some institutions that aren’t subject to the H-cap for the lottery. Furthermore, these cap-exempt employers also have the ability to sponsor an H-1B applicant at any time of year. The result of the cap exemptions is an increase in the total number of H-1B visas distributed, and a clearer pathway that does not rely on luck!

With a few exceptions, there are three types of institutions that are exempt from the H-1B cap:

1. Institutions of higher education that meet the United States code definition are the first H-cap exempt institutions.
2. The second exemption is for related and affiliated nonprofit entities of an institution of higher education. This exemption is most commonly applied to teaching hospitals.
3. Lastly, research organizations where that is either a nonprofit or part of the federal government, and is engaged in basic or applied research furthering the knowledge on a particular subject and ways to apply that knowledge to commercial pursuits.

While these are the three main employers to receive exemption from the H-cap, there are other, less common ways to achieve H-cap exemption. For example, an employer may petition for cap-exempt status if an employee will spend the majority of their time working at a qualifying institution.

With an improving economy, the stakes and competition for H-1B visas has never been higher. If you missed out on petitioning before the April 1 deadline, or would like to explore H-1B exempt institutions to see if you qualify for a visa through those channels, please contact us here. With over 30 years of experience, GoffWilson has an incredible depth of understanding of the ins and outs of the H-visa process and can help both employers and employees navigate the complexities of an H-visa exemption to ensure you make the best decisions for your personal situation in the pursuit of an H-1B visa. It’s what we do!

Meet EVUS

03/24/2016

With the establishment of the the new 10-year B1/2, B-1, and B-2 tourist and business visas for Nationals of the People’s Republic of China, a landmark moment in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China has been achieved. In anticipation of the more than 2.7 million Chinese nationals expected to participate in the 10-year visa program, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced the planned development and establishment of the Electronic Visa Update System, or EVUS.

Expected to go live in November, EVUS is part of a mutual agreement between the U.S. and China to enhance border security between the two countries coinciding with the issuing of new 10-year tourist and business visas. EVUS is expected to help facilitate legitimate travel, while enhancing the overall security of the program. Visa holders should anticipate a nominal fee to be charged for enrolling in EVUS, as a means of financing the project.

EVUS is similar to a process that is used with travelers from 38 other countries before entering the United States, and asks that visa holders submit basic biographical information such as name, address, birthdate, and visa number via an online form every two years, or whenever they obtain a new passport. The EVUS website will be available in both English and Mandarin, but the questions must be answered in English. Visa holders who do not update their information in EVUS will not be allowed to enter into or travel within the United States. B1/2, B- 1, and B-2 visa holders already in the U.S. prior to the launch of EVUS will be required to enroll in the program if they wish to use their visas.

As with much of immigration law, the rules of EVUS are complex and can be difficult to understand. GoffWilson has been solely focused on immigration and nationality law since 1982. For over 30 years, we have been helping foreign companies and individuals come to and operate in the United States, and specializing in helping foreigners navigate the intricacies of U.S. immigration law. The new B1/2, B-1, and B-2 visas represent a monumental moment between the United States and China, as well as an incredible opportunity for Chinese Nationals to come to the U.S. Don’t let the complexities of the law stand in your way. If you have any questions about EVUS or the new B1/2, B-1, or B-2 visa, contact us here—we’d be glad to help.

It’s no secret that some of the world’s most innovative and successful high-tech companies (think Google, Apple, and Microsoft) were founded and established in the United States. Nothing speaks more to the thought of the American Dream than having an idea, developing it, and building it into a sustainable—and highly profitable—business. Some may feel that the idea of the American Dream is a native concept, understood only by Americans, but the truth is that people the world over not only want the idealized American Dream, but they want to experience it in the United States.

Thanks to programs like STEM OPT and H-1B, foreign students and workers are given the ability to work for many of the giants of American high-tech by either completing their training in valuable and competitive positions via STEM OPT or by occupying vital roles in positions companies are unable to fill through the native population.

While STEM OPT and H-1B are vital to the success of current high-tech companies, the United States also benefits from the entrepreneurship of their foreign-born population. “Immigrants’ entrepreneurship rates are especially high in the engineering and technology sector. About a quarter of engineering and technology companies founded between 2006 and 2012 had at least one founder who was born abroad,” according to a 2012 Kauffman Foundation study. “In Silicon Valley, the share was 43.9 percent.”

A follow-up paper to the Kauffman Foundation study further tells us than many of these foreign-born entrepreneurs initially came to the U.S. to study, not start a business, and that many of these people are highly educated—74% hold either a graduate or postgraduate degree. These numbers make a strong case for looking at visas like H-1B and programs such as STEM OPT as more than helping to fill the gaps in the U.S. workforce, but rather incubators for the next great American companies.

Without immigrant innovators, the growth of U.S. business could potentially stagnate. From 1996 to 2011, the business startup rate of immigrants increased by more than 50 percent, while the native-born startup rate declined by 10 percent, to a 30-year low. Not only are immigrants starting businesses, they are starting rapidly growing businesses—more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants (90 companies) or by their children (an additional 114 companies), according to a report by the Partnership for a New American Economy.

As places in the U.S. such as Silicon Valley gain a reputation as hotbeds for technology and innovation, they also gain a reputation for attracting top foreign-born talent. In 2000, 53 percent of the [Silicon] Valley's science and engineering workforce was foreign-born, and immigrant founders started 52 percent of new Silicon Valley companies between 1995 and 2005. Sadly, that number has been shrinking in recent years, as the percentage of immigrant-founded companies in Silicon Valley has dropped 8.5% since 2005.

As a nation, we need to be concerned about our ability to continue to attract world-class talent. The ability of the United States to attract the best minds in the world has fueled innovation, driven technology, and bolstered the country's economy. As the world gets smaller and more global, the competition for innovators and entrepreneurs is heating up and the U.S. must be prepared to make it easy for foreign-born entrepreneurs to operate here. Too often, recent immigrant entrepreneurs encounter red tape when trying to start a business in the U.S. while other countries roll out the red carpet to welcome them.

GoffWilson has been helping immigrants find their version of the American Dream since 1982. Whether it’s an F-1 visa to study, a H-1B visa to work, or an EB-5 or EB-2 to start your own business, GoffWilson can help guide you through the complexities of the American immigration process. We admire the contributions the immigrant population has made to our country and look forward to helping the next generation of immigrant innovators and business owners begin living their dreams. Contact us here to get started today.

On March 9, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveiled a final rule that will enable foreign students with certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees to extend their STEM OPT (optional practical training) period for 24 months—7 months longer than what was previously allowed. This ruling now entitles qualifying international students on an F-1 visa to stay in the U.S. for on-the-job training for a total of 36 months.

A boon for universities, tech companies, international students, and the economy, everyone will benefit from the STEM OPT extension. U.S. colleges and universities are now more attractive to international students, as their employment prospects after graduation are brighter. Furthermore, it allows U.S. colleges and universities to be more competitive in recruiting international students—a field that has only gotten more intense in recent years. The ruling also allows tech companies to retain some of the world’s best and brightest minds, and fill in-demand jobs. Additionally, it is good for international students as it allows them to work uninterrupted for three years in the U.S., while also giving them an extra opportunity to win the H-1B lottery. Lastly, it’s great for the economy as the country retains some of the most intelligent and innovative people after they graduate U.S. institutions of higher education.

The DHS ruling is expected to be entered into the federal register on March 11, and will take 60 days before it’s enacted into law. It will go into effect around May 10, the same time the 2008 rule runs out of protection; this timing should ensure a fairly smooth transition between the old rule and the new rule. The DHS is expecting this rule to affect nearly 50,000 students in its first year, with the number possibly climbing as high as 92,000 over the next decade.

This ruling is an exciting moment for everyone involved with immigration law, and presents international students in the U.S. with even greater prospects in the land of opportunity. As with most immigration laws, there are plenty of qualifiers that must be met, and due dates for paperwork. By working with an experienced immigration lawyer, you can find out if you qualify for the new STEM OPT extension, and ensure that your paperwork is up to date, keeping you free from visa problems, and making certain you don’t miss any opportunities to extend your stay in the U.S. whether through STEM OPT or H-1B.

Since 1982, GoffWilson has been helping international students study and work in the U.S. We value the contributions immigrants have made and continue to make towards the betterment of this country. We also understand that every person and situation is different, and our personalized service is a reflection of that belief. If you have any questions about the new STEM OPT extension or wonder if you qualify, contact us here.

GoffWilson has been following the STEM OPT extension story all along. To learn more about the story of the STEM OPT extension, read through some of our previous posts on the subject:

Update on Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extensions - 1/26/16
New Rule Proposed for OPT STEM Extensions - 10/20/15
Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension Ending - 8/20/15

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 85,000 new H-1B visas available each fiscal year—broken down as 20,000 for individuals possessing a U.S. Master’s degree or higher and 65,000 for all other applicants possessing a Bachelor’s degree. This quota is referred to as the H-1B CAP. Last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received more than two times the number of allowed CAP- subject H petitions and the predictions for this year with the economy improving and hiring qualified applicants so tight, 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 improving 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. Click here to contact us today for more information and be a winner all the way around!
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