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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!



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!

Since 1982, GoffWilson has been helping foreign-born people come to the U.S. to study, work, and form businesses. GoffWilson understands the value and importance of immigrants to the various industries within the United States—whether it’s in school, business, health care, or by simply being a contributing, tax-paying citizen. Below are some numbers that demonstrate who’s coming here, the positive impact that immigrants have on the U.S., and how this growing segment of the population will become more important as time passes.

• Between 2000 and 2010, Latinos and Asians accounted for 86% of the U.S. population growth (
• Immigrants make up only 13% of the population, but account for 16% of the workforce (Economic Policy Institute)
• Between 2000 and 2012, there was a 31.2% increase in foreign-born population (Center for American Progress)
• Women outnumber men in the foreign-born population; as of 2012, 51.4% are women (Center for American Progress)

• 25% of all American small businesses are founded by immigrants (The Partnership for a New American Economy)
• For every 1 foreign-born STEM graduate, 2.62 jobs are created for Americans (The Partnership for a New American Economy)

• The U.S. government loses 20 billion dollars for every year without immigration reform (Center for American Progress)
• DAPA and expanded DACA would increase the U.S. GDP by 230 billion dollars over the next decade (Center for American Progress)

• Over million international students are enrolled in over 9,000 schools in the U.S., with 35% of those students pursuing degrees in STEM fields (US News)
• Between 2012 and 2013, international students and their families contributed 24 billion dollars to the U.S. economy (US News)

• 22% of nursing, dental, and health aids are immigrants (Economic Policy Institute)
• 27% of doctors and surgeons are foreign born (Economic Policy Institute)

• In 2013, over 82% of H1-B workers came from Asia (Economic Policy Institute)
• In 2013, people from India received 65% of the total H1-B visas given, with people from China receiving the second most with 8.2% (Economic Policy Institute)
• India is the largest user of the L-1 intracompany visa program as well with 29.5% (Economic Policy Institute)
• China represented 10.9% of the J-1 visitor exchange program (Economic Policy Institute)

GoffWilson values the contributions that immigrants make to the country and understands that the immigration process can be difficult. As established practitioners in the field, and with a reputation for incredible client care and personal service, we are the go-to firm for your immigration problems. We invite your inquiry! To contact someone at GoffWilson, click here.

With a cap of 65,000 on regular H-1B visas annually, the number of H-1B petitions reaches the allowed cap faster every year. Due to the limiting nature of the cap, and the interest in working in the United States, obtaining an H-1B visa is extremely difficult. However, there are some institutions that are exempt from the cap, increasing the number of H-1B visas—and helping an international student’s odds of obtaining a visa—as an employer can sponsor an H-1B visa applicant at any time of the year.

Below we will look at the three different types of institutions capable of being exempt from the H-1B cap:

1. Institutions of higher education are exempt from the H-1B cap. To qualify as an institution of higher education, the organization must fit the definition in the United States Code. Generally speaking, an institution of higher education requires secondary education for admission, has a program that leads to a bachelor's degree or higher, and has been accredited or has been granted pre-accreditation status.

2. Related and affiliated nonprofit entities associated with an institution of higher education also are exempt from the H-1B cap. Most commonly this exemption applies to teaching hospitals affiliated with university medical schools, but has also been approved for some primary and secondary teachers to continue with their teaching programs. Beyond teaching hospitals, qualifying for this exemption can be very difficult and it’s worth consulting with a professional before pursuing this avenue too far. If you are curious if you or your employer qualify for this exemption, contact us here.

3. Research organizations are the third employer to qualify for H-1B cap exemption. In order to qualify for the research organization exemption, the employer must either be nonprofit or part of the federal government. The organization must also be engaged in basic or applied research furthering the knowledge on a particular subject and discovering ways to apply that knowledge to commercial pursuits. Much like the related and affiliated nonprofit exemption, the research organization exemption can be tricky. Click here to consult our immigration attorneys about your potential research organization exemption.

Although these are the three main institutions that receive H-1B cap exempt status, an employer may petition for cap exempt status if the employee will spend all or a majority of his/her time working at a qualifying institution, and there’s a connection between the employee's work and the purpose of the institution.

Navigating the H-1B cap exempt qualifications is complex, difficult, and far too important to negotiate without professional help. Since 1982, GoffWilson has been providing highly specialized and personalized service to both employees and employers, and are pros in H-1B visas. If you have any questions or are in need of a consultation, contact us here. Immigration is our passion and what we do best!

With the U.S. population rapidly aging and baby boomers retiring over the next 20 years, the U.S. workforce is becoming more dependent on immigrants not only joining the workforce, but especially in helping to fill the void of healthcare workers we need to assist our aging population. Whether it’s highly skilled jobs like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, or more supportive roles like home-health aids, nursing aids, and medical assistants, the U.S needs people to fill these important positions.

Over the next 20 years, two-thirds of new entrants into the labor market will be replacing retiring workers; with an estimated 58 million workers needed to fill those jobs and roughly 51 million native-born people projected to enter the workforce, immigrants will be crucial in filling those other 7 million jobs. Many of the jobs that will need to be filled will be created by the need to care for our aging population. Because immigration fuels roughly two-fifths of U.S. population growth and the age of immigrant workers is younger (which subsequently slows the aging of the population) than the native-born population, immigrants are essential to the U.S. workforce.

The aging population in the U.S. is not a problem that will disappear anytime soon. The elderly share of the U.S. population grew from only 8.3 percent in 1950 to 13.1 percent in 2010. It is projected to reach 19.9 percent by 2030 (after the last of the baby boomers have turned 65), and will then inch up to 21.2 percent by 2050. In contrast, the share of the population consisting of working-age adults and children will decline over the next few decade. The elderly population of the U.S. will more than double in size over the next four decades.

The country’s demographic future indicates that the U.S. will not be able to fill the abundance of jobs created as our population continues to age—and without a supplemental immigrant workforce, these jobs will be left open or greatly drive up the cost of care. Legalizing immigrants to work in these professions would not only help the U.S. care for their elderly population, but it would also create new taxpayers to continue to fund social security and medicare.

Immigration has always helped fuel the U.S. economy, and immigrant workers have been a valuable resource for filling gaps in the country's workforce. GoffWilson realizes the importance of immigrant workers and the significant role they can play in the U.S.’s healthcare industry. We also realize that navigating the complexities of the visa system is both trying and difficult. If you have a question or need any help with the visa process for medical professionals, contact us here. here.

Studying in the U.S. can be as fun and exciting as it can be complicated for foreign students. Here are the answers to five common questions students have about studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa. While these speak to the generalities of the rules, whenever in doubt consult the Designated School Official (DSO) or foreign student advisor.  
1. Can I work in the U.S.? Even though the intention of an F-1 visa is to enable foreign students to study in the U.S., students with F-1 visas are typically allowed to work up to 20 hours a week on the campus of the university in which they are enrolled. Employment off campus may be permitted with prior authorization from the DSO and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for severe economic circumstances, or in the form of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and/or Optional Practical Training (OPT). CPT does not require USCIS authorization, but OPT does. Before seeking employment, foreign students should always seek counsel from the DSO or a foreign student advisor.  
2. Can I transfer to a different school? International students may transfer to another school, as long as it has been certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Foreign students will have to work with the DSOs of both schools to maintain legal immigration status and ensure the proper transfer of their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record. Once transferred, foreign students should work closely with the DSO of their new school to create a new I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status). It is important to note that foreign students should not enter the U.S. with the intention of transferring to another school. Students are required to enter the U.S. using the F-1 visa annotated with / I-20 issued by the school they actually plan to attend.
3. Can I travel outside of the U.S.? Whether it's a trip home over break or exploring a new country, international students on F-1 visas are allowed to travel outside of the U.S. Prior to leaving the country, students should make sure that their I-20 reflects their current educational situation, will not expire over the course of their travels, and has a valid travel signature from their DSO. Additionally, students should ensure that their F-1 visa will still be valid upon their return to the U.S.
4. How long can I stay? Foreign students are generally allowed to stay in the U.S. as long as they are enrolled in a SEVP certified school and working toward completing their academic program. Students may arrive up to 30 days prior to the start of their program and have 60 days to depart the U.S. at the completion of their program. Some students may stay in the U.S. longer after the conclusion of their program if they qualify and are approved for OPT or STEM OPT work authorization.
5. Are spouses and children welcome? An international student does not necessarily need to leave their immediate family behind as they may be allowed to accompany them to the U.S. However, spouses and children will need to apply for and be granted F-2 visas before being allowed into the U.S., and international students will need to prove they are able to financially support their dependents while here. 

As one of the largest and most respected Immigration Law Practices in New England, GoffWilson has provided services in every facet of the immigration process. With a history of helping employees, employers, and individuals obtain temporary and permanent employment visas since 1982, and a stellar domestic and international reputation, GoffWilson is considered an expert in fields of immigration and nationality law.
One of the more critical roles GoffWilson is asked to fill is that of an expert witness. Expert witnesses are often critical to an immigration case, and having an expert witness can be the difference in success. Having received top rankings in the Immigration Law Category of Best Lawyers in America (the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession), GoffWilson’s credentials are undeniable and sure to build your credibility in court.
GoffWilson has a history of representing all types of businesses operating in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and extensive experience in Asia–from China and India to Indonesia and the Philippines. This worldly knowledge and experience qualifies GoffWilson to lobby on behalf of the conditions in your country, but it's the personalization of our service that will speak to your individual situation. The personalized service that GoffWilson prides itself on will not simply produce general testimony, but rather specific, relevant testimony that speaks directly to you and your claim.
When it’s time to go to court, surround yourself with the best team possible–including the most reputable, well-credentialed, and experienced expert witness possible. The right expert witness is respected by the court, has a deep knowledge of the law, and can speak to the specifics of your case. For over thirty years GoffWilson has been solidifying its reputation as not only a leader in immigration and nationality law, but as an expert in the field.
If you have any questions about your case or would like to learn more about GoffWilson’s expert witness service, contact us here.
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