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2016 ()

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).

Looking to Hire an H-1B Employee?

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.

The H-1B CAP

This quota is referred to as the H-1B CAP. Last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received approximately 172,500 CAP-subject H petitions 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 improving economy and lack of highly skilled workers in the US, a random selection lottery will be conducted.

Benefits of H-1B Visa for Employers

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.

How to File an H-1B Petition

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!


US Canada Employment Program

Are you a U.S. employer interested in hiring a Canadian citizen? Are you a Canadian citizen interested in pursuing U.S. employment? This year, the process may become easier.

On January 8, 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its consideration of a “Known Employer” Pilot Program. The program would create a more efficient adjudication process for certain types of employment-based immigration petitions filed by eligible employers.

The program would also reduce costs, paperwork, and delays related to petition processing. Another goal of the program is to expedite legitimate cross-border business travel between Canada and the U.S.

DHS is expected to commence the Pilot Program by late 2015.

Need immigration assistance? GoffWilson is here to help! Please contact our office today for more information.

H-4 Work Authorization

Is employment authorization for H-4 nonimmigrants a reality?

Not just yet, but it is getting closer.

By definition, individuals holding an H-4 visa are dependent family members of those in H-1B status (nonimmigrant professionals with specialized knowledge). Typically, H-4 visa holders are not allowed to work while in that status.

In May 2014, the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule in the Federal Register pertaining to employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses. The rule proposes to amend existing regulations to allow employment authorization for H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

If the rule is enacted, H-4 nonimmigrants would need to apply for employment authorization using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

The comment period on the proposed rule ceased in July 2014. Many organizations and individuals submitted comments during the open period, with over 13,000 comments received. Most comments called for an expansion of the proposed rule to allow ALL H-4 nonimmigrants, not only those with a spouse, to apply for employment authorization. Comments also suggested H-4 dependent children should be included.

In August 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Director, Leon Rodriguez, stated that USCIS is reviewing the comments received and plans to complete the review process as quickly as possible. Thus far, no further update has been issued. However, with the midterm elections behind us, we think a change may be coming very soon.

We at GoffWilson are watching this important development closely for all our affected clients and we will keep you informed on all developments relating to H-4 work authorization as we learn anything.

Please check our bLAWg for all the latest news and updates on changes in immigration rules and regulations that may affect you and or your family members. If you have any questions, please contact us for more information.

Visa Waiver Changes

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his executive actions for improving the U.S. immigration system. The President’s initiatives focus centrally around two main points: accountability for undocumented immigrants and options to streamline certain immigration programs and benefits.

Working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the President has identified ten major areas for executive action. These areas include:

  • Expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program;
  • Extending the Deferred Action Program to parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (i.e. green card holders);
  • Amending the Provisional Waiver Program to include spouses and children of green card holders;
  • Revising parole rules to expand travel opportunities and clarify existing regulations; and
  • Improving the citizenship process.

Each of the areas encompasses certain initiatives set to take place in the coming months. We have highlighted some of these initiatives below.

1. Initiatives for Undocumented Immigrants

  • DACA Expansion: The DACA Program will be expanded to remove the upper age restriction and permit initial employment authorization for three years instead of two.
  • Deferred Action for Parents: Deferred Action will be permitted for parents of U.S. Citizens and green card holders (born on or before November 20, 2014), who have continuously resided in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 and are not a threat to public safety. This Program will also allow requests for employment authorization.
  • Provisional Waiver Program Amendment: The current Provisional Waiver Program (i.e. program allowing for individuals to apply for a waiver of unlawful presence in the U.S. before departing for a visa interview) will be amended to include adult children of U.S. Citizens and spouses and children of green card holders.
  • Revisions to Parole Rules: The current parole rules (i.e. rules governing temporary authorization to enter the U.S.) will be revised to address the availability of parole to spouses, parents, and children of U.S. Citizens and green card holders seeking to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. The revisions will also clarify that using advance parole (i.e. travel authorization obtained in advance) to leave the U.S. is not considered a departure, even for deferred action individuals. This will result in undocumented individuals being able to leave the U.S. under advance parole without triggering the 3- or 10-year bar.

2. Initiatives for U.S. Citizenship 

  • Improvements to Citizenship Application Process: The application process for U.S. Citizenship will be improved to allow for fee payments by credit card. The possibility of partial fee waivers will also be assessed.

Each of the initiatives will be implemented in the coming months. The DACA expansion is set to occur in the next three months, while Deferred Action for Parents will be implemented in six months. DHS is working to integrate the changes into current policy.

What do the President’s initiatives mean for you? GoffWilson can help determine your answer. Please contact our office today for more information.


1. Initiatives for Skilled Workers

  • PERM Program Modernization: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has committed to modernizing the PERM Program (i.e. the first step in the employment-based green card process for employees) for the first time since the Program’s inception ten years ago. Specifically, the DOL plans to review the current regulations and seek input on key items such as labor force occupational shortages, recruitment requirements, premium processing possibilities, and typographical errors.
  • Adjustment of Status Timing: Individuals with an approved I-140 petition, who are waiting for their priority date to become current, will be permitted to file for Adjustment of Status (i.e. their green card application) earlier. This will allow the individuals to gain benefits of having an application pending, such as an EAD card and a travel document. This will also allow employees awaiting their green cards to switch employers more easily.
  • Employment Authorization for H-4 Spouses: H-4 spouses of H-1B skilled workers with an approved I-140 petition will be eligible to apply for employment authorization. Clarifying Guidance on L-1B and Portability
  • Provisions: Clarifying guidance will be provided to further explain the requirements of L-1B visa eligibility and clearly define “specialized knowledge.” Guidance will also be provided to clarify the definition of “same or similar classification” for employees wishing to port (i.e. switch) employers while their green card application is pending.

2. Initiatives for Investors and Entrepreneurs 

  • Travel Authorization for Foreign Investors: Certain investors will be granted temporary authorization to travel to the U.S. to explore opportunities for job creation. This travel authorization can also be used to temporarily pursue research and development of new businesses in the U.S.
  • National Interest Waivers: Certain entrepreneurs, investors, and founders will be eligible to apply for a National Interest Waiver (i.e. a waiver of the job offer requirement for a green card applicant pursuing work in the U.S. that is found to be in the national interest).

3. Initiatives for Students

  • STEM OPT Expansion: Optional Practical Training (OPT) for STEM graduates (i.e. graduates with a degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) will be expanded to allow for a longer period of time in OPT. The relationship between the STEM graduate and their degree institution will be strengthened during this period.
The timeframe for each initiative differs, depending on whether full regulatory review is required for the initiative to be enacted. The earliest change expected is employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses, which could happen as early as December or January. The other changes are expected to follow in the coming months. Questions on how the President’s executive actions apply to you? GoffWilson is here to help! Please contact our office today for more information.

DON’T BE TOO LATE! Register today for our next I-9 Training Workshop November 13th Our hands-on I-9 Training is taking place on Thursday November 13th from 8 a.m. till noon at Two Delta Dental in Concord, NH.


Reasons you should register right now:
  1. You want to be current on the latest trends in I-9s, plus E-Verify.
  2. You need a refresher. Discuss with us common mistakes made in completing I-9s, how to correct flawed forms and how to avoid them.
  3. You have new staff that need training on best practices for I-9s.
  4. Your remote hires, your re-hires, recent mergers or federal contracts present considerable challenges that can be met following this informative seminar.
  5. HRCI credit and a certificate are provided to you so you maintain your HR accreditation.
  6. A delicious complimentary breakfast – Need we say more?

Click HERE to register today!

Each month, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) publishes a Visa Bulletin that summarizes the available immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month. The visa numbers are calculated based on total fiscal year limits set by the Department of State.

The Visa Bulletin is broken down by categories (e.g. employment-based), preferences (e.g. 2nd preference), and countries of chargeability (e.g. India), which are presented in matrix format. On each of the matrices, the breakdowns come together with either a “C,” a “U,” or a date.
  • A “C” stands for current (i.e., all of the immigrant visa demand for that breakdown can be satisfied by the amount of available visa numbers currently allocated).
  • A “U” stands for unavailable (i.e., all of the allocated visa numbers in that breakdown have been used for the fiscal year).
  • A date represents the cut-off date for an oversubscribed breakdown (i.e., not all of the immigrant visa demand for that breakdown can be satisfied by the amount of available visa numbers currently allocated).
Cut-off dates are determined by priority dates (i.e., date of filing for the petition or application granting a visa number). Thus, if a date is listed in one of the matrix breakdowns on the monthly Visa Bulletin, the date represents the priority date of the first applicant whose immigrant visa application could not be processed within the numerical limits.

For example, if “01APR11” appears in one of the matrix breakdowns, then only applicants whose priority dates are earlier than April 1, 2011 are eligible to receive an immigrant visa.

Countries of chargeability are determined by countries of birth. It is important to note that this is not referring to country of citizenship. Often times, foreign nationals mistakenly believe that they can “skip the line” by obtaining citizenship in another country. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Currently, the Department of State has four countries designated on the Visa Bulletin whose visa demand exceeds the per-country limitation. These countries are China (mainland born), India, Mexico, and Philippines. If a country is not specifically represented on the Visa Bulletin, it falls into the “All Chargeability Areas” section. In recent months, the India Employment-Based Second Preference (“EB-2 India”) cut-off date has been rapidly advancing due to the use of “otherwise unused” immigrant visa numbers. However, this rapid advancement has led to increased demand for these visas.


In the October 2014 Visa Bulletin, the DOS specifically mentions that the increased demand will require the retrogression of the EB-2 India cut-off date. The Visa Bulletin goes on to explain that the retrogression could occur as early as November 2014. Currently, the cut-off date for EB-2 India is May 1, 2009. However, Visa Bulletin experts are predicting a retrogression to around 2005.

Pursuant to this information, foreign nationals who fall under the EB-2 India category should verify whether they are eligible to file an immigrant visa application based on the current cut-off date. Eligible individuals should heed the retrogression warning and file their applications as soon as possible. Not sure how to verify this information? GoffWilson is here to help! Please contact our office today for more information on filing an immigrant visa application.

To view the October 2014 Visa Bulletin click here.


Two years ago it was announced that individuals who came to the US as children and met several guidelines could request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.

The time for renewal of the initial two-year grant of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) is upon us and we want to highlight the renewal process. To request a renewal, you must meet the initial DACA guidelines:

  1. You were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012
  2. You came to the US prior to your 16th birthday
  3. You have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007
  4. You were physically present in the US on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
  5. Either you entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012
  6. You are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces
  7. You have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and you do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety

 

In addition, for your renewal, you must also meet the following:

  • You have not departed the US on or after August 15, 2012, without advance parole; and
  • You have continuously resided in the US since you submitted your last DACA request that was approved.

We recommend that submissions for renewal occur no later than 120 days before your current period of deferred action will expire; earlier submissions may be rejected with instructions to file closer to the date of expiration.

There is a $380 filing fee for Form I-765 and an $85 biometric fee for a total filing fee cost of $465 paid to the immigration service.

For more information, please visit the following USCIS website or contact our office.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have and we can assist you with the renewal process of your status. Immigration is all we do!


Within the next few weeks, schools across the United States will let out for the summer and many people are making vacation plans, hoping to enjoy some of the summer heat, catch up with family, or take that trip dreamed of during the long, cold winter months. With the economy showing signs of recovery, we can expect to see even more people traveling internationally to enjoy these coming warm summer months.
To improve the speed with which U.S., Canadian, and eligible Visa Waiver Program international travelers move through the U.S. Border Clearance process, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has implemented a program called Automated Passport Control (APC).

Since August 2013, this program has been successfully piloted in various locations around the US such as Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and New York’s JFK International Airport.

Instead of filling out a paper Customs declaration form, passengers who are eligible can proceed directly to a self-service kiosk in the passport control area. In addition to speeding up the clearance process, the kiosks also allow people residing at the same address to be processed together. Travelers will be prompted to scan their passport, take a photograph using the kiosk, and answer a series of questions verifying biographic and flight information.

Once passengers have completed the series of questions and submitted their Customs declaration form, a receipt will be issued which is then taken, together with their passport, to a CBP Officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the U.S.

Currently, APC kiosks are operational at the following airports:
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport (DFW)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Montréal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (YUL)
  • New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  • Seattle Sea-Tac Airport (SEA)
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
  • Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
APC kiosks are available in the following languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Dutch, German, Chinese (Traditional/Simplified), and Japanese. Americans, Canadians and international visitors under the VISA Waiver Program are eligible to use APC kiosks. Visa Waiver Program visitors must also have ESTA approval. CBP plans to roll-out the program for Lawful Permanent Residents by the end of 2014.

Always check the expiration in your passport before traveling and with the new APC, you will be able to avoid long lines at the U.S. border clearance and enjoy your vacation all the more!

For more information on CBP please visit their website (www.cbp.gov).For more information on APC, please visit http://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/Automated%20Passport%20Control . For all of your immigration questions, including international travel, please call us- we’re here to help!

Beyond H1-B Work Visas

APPROVED FOR ONE HRCI GENERAL CREDIT

Don’t miss this opportunity to stay current! On May 29, 2014, Attorney John Wilson will be giving a webinar on the alternatives to the H-1B specialized knowledge visa for professionals. Registration is now open – click here!

This webinar will focus on alternative options to the H-1B visa for both individuals and their employers. We will discuss the H-1B cap, portability, and review the following alternatives: E-3 Australian visa, B in lieu of H-1 or H-3, B-1, TN, OPT and OPT STEM Extension, L-1A and L-1Bs, E-1 and E-2, and O-1A and O-1B visas.

The webinar will be one hour in length beginning at 2 p.m. (EDT) with 15 minutes afforded for Q&A. GoffWilson is pleased to offer participants one recertification credit hour through the HR Certification Institute for PHP, SPHR and GPHR. A certificate will be provided for all who complete the webinar.

Register today!


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