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2016 ()

Did you know that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a new Form I-9 which must be used starting no later than May 1, 2020? Businesses may begin using the new form now, and it can be found on our web site and by also by clicking here.
 
Our next Form I-9 Workshop will be held April 9, 2020 in Manchester, NH, at Waterworks Café, 250 Commercial Street. This event will be led by Attorneys John Wilson and Autumn Tertin, as well as other members of our I-9 Team, and will utilize the new Form I-9 throughout the workshop and the new and revised Workbook. This workshop will include:
  • Understanding new regulations and current enforcement trends surrounding Form I-9 and identifying the roles and responsibilities of employers and HR Professionals;
  • Intensive, interactive training (limited registration ensures each participant receives close attention);
  • Review of multiple work authorization documents with hands-on completion of I-9s with critique;
  • Identifying form requirements, challenges, and common errors—and learning the consequences for noncompliance.
GoffWilson Form I-9 workshops are recognized for 3.5 credits for the HR Professional.
 
Save the date of April 9th from 7:30 am to 12 noon for the next Form I-9 workshop and stay tuned for more information and registration.


 

H-1B visas loom large in the minds of many of our clients, and this year is no exception. The H-1B visa has been at the forefront of our clients’ thoughts even more this year, due to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announcing plans to implement an electronic registration process in the next H-1B visa lottery. Although plans for transitioning the H-1B registration process have long been known—we wrote about it back in December 2018—until recently, details about the new process have been thin. 

 

On January 9, 2020, the USCIS began filling in some of the important details about the online process and offering some guidance to employers when it formally announced the new H-1B registration process, publishing Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens in the Federal Register.  

 

What We Know About the New H-1B Process

 

One of the most valuable pieces of information gleaned from the USCIS publishing is the dates of the initial registration period—March 1 through March 20, 2020. During this time, H-1B cap-subject visa petitioners, including those eligible for an advanced degree exception, can register electronically through an online portal on USCIS.gov. Petitioners, or their authorized representatives, are required to fill out a separate registration for each alien they’re seeking a cap-subject H-1B petition for. 

 

Two important things to note about the new electronic process is that there is a non-refundable $10 fee per registration (payable via bank account, credit card, or debit card) and registering the same petitioner multiple times is forbidden. 

 

To register for through the USCIS online portal, some basic information is required about both the employer and prospective employee. Before beginning the registration process, you’ll want to know the employer’s name, address, and employer identification number (EIN), along with the employee’s name, degree, and country of birth. 

 

After the registration window closes, the USCIS will conduct a lottery, selecting 85,000 registrants. Those selected will be alerted via email or text message no later than March 31, 2020. The USCIS will accept completed petitions by April 1, 2020, although selected petitions will have at least 90 days from the date of registration to submit a complete petition. 

 

What We’re Waiting to Learn About the New H-1B Process

 

The USCIS’s initial notice about the new online registration process has cleared up some gray areas, but there is still a lot of information left unconfirmed. For example, they have not yet unveiled details on how to create an account on their portal or provided instructions on how to register an employee, and they have only hinted at the information required to register for a cap-subject H-1B petition. The USCIS states that it will conduct outreach—such as hosting in-depth webinars—in advance of the registration process to allow users the chance to familiarize themselves with the process, but with the registration process a little over a month away, it's going to be a tight window. 

 

What You Can Do to Prepare for the Online H-1B Process 

 

In the past, employers filed complete H-1B petitions in advance of the USCIS H-1B visa lottery. One of the challenges with the new online process is that it only requires basic information during the registration process. This makes it easy to register cap-subject H-1B petitioners, but if the person doesn’t merit a visa, they’ll only get denied further along in the process. Consequently, if you’re planning on registering for an H-1B visa petition, it’s important to vet the person being put forth and ensure they’ll qualify for one of these highly sought-after visas, as well as identify potential issues such as missing evidence. 

 

Why GoffWilson

 

GoffWilson’s sole focus is on immigration law, and we've prepared thousands of H-1B visa applications in our 30+ years of practice. There is still some ambiguity in the new online registration process, but that shouldn’t mean inaction. Using our years of experience, we help clients create strategies custom-tailored to the needs of their organizations and navigate the complex and ever-changing immigration system.

 

If you have questions about the new online H-1B registration process or are ready to begin preparing for another H-1B season, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion.


The United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a change to the process of filing H-1B cap-subject petitions, including petitions for those eligible for the advanced degree exception.
 
The Change 
 
The major diversion from the process of selecting cap-subject H-1B applicants is that they’re now required to register online during an initial registration period. For the upcoming year, the registration period is between March 1st and March 20th. If the number of applicants exceeds the cap, the USCIS will randomly select H-1B recipients from the pool of registered online applicants. Ultimately, only those people who have registered electronically—and, in the event of a lottery, have been selected—will qualify to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. 
 
The move to online registration comes as no surprise; we wrote about it first back in December 2018 and again in February 2019
 
The Registration Process
 
The new online registration process will only require basic information about the worker and the company requesting a visa for the worker. The USCIS is charging a non-refundable $10 fee to register for a cap-subject H-1B visa. It’s worth noting that an applicant selected through the electronic H-1B registration process is not immediately awarded a visa. If selected, they’re still required to go through the application process. 
 
A Quick Guide to the Electronic H-1B Registration Process 
 
  • The USCIS opens initial online registration (requiring just basic information) between March 1, 2020 and March 20, 2020
  • Lottery for H-1B applicants who registered electronically (if needed)
  • Employers of chosen applicants are eligible to file cap-subject petitions 
 
Former H-1B Process
 
If you’re unfamiliar with the way the USCIS managed cap-subject H-1B petitions formerly, every cap season, employers filed full petitions for sponsored applicants. If the number of applicants exceeded the cap, visa beneficiaries were chosen through the H-1B visa lottery. In fiscal year 2020, the USCIS received 201,011 H-1B petitions to fill the congressionally mandated cap, along with the 20,000 additional H-1B visas available through the US advanced degree exemption, sometimes called the master’s cap.
 
Why the Change
 
Many immigration professionals are dubious of the change in the H-1B process. Their primary concern is that the USCIS requirement for only basic information about the candidate and business will flood the system with non-meritorious applications. The USCIS disagrees; according to USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans, “By streamlining the H-1B cap selection process with a new electronic registration system, USCIS is creating cost savings and efficiencies for petitioners and the agency, as only those selected will now be required to submit a full petition.” 
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law
 
With over 30 years of practicing immigration law—and having processed thousands of H-1B visas over that time—GoffWilson is the go-to source for immigration information. Although we’re still waiting for the USCIS to release information on key dates, timelines, and how to register electronically, we encourage our clients to contact us immediately if they’re planning on filing for any H-1B visas, either new or in OPT. Let us help you strategize the best way to find and keep your professional employees in a tight labor market. GoffWilson solely practices immigration law—contact us today and let us put our passion to work for you.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is increasing its enforcement of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Occupational Practical Training (STEM OPT) Program through site visits. Though ICE has possessed the authority to make site visits since the rule Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students went into effect in May 2016, it wasn’t until recently that they conducted inspections. While the debate rages over the intention of this action—with some arguing that it’s another attempt by the White House to stifle legal immigration and others insisting it’s merely oversight—there are some important takeaways from ICE’s latest actions. 
 
What is STEM OPT?
 
The STEM OPT programs enables eligible students with STEM degrees from U.S. colleges and universities to apply for 24 months of Occupational Practical Training (OPT) in the U.S. This OPT is granted in addition to the one-year OPT awarded to all non-STEM-degree F-1 students. In order to qualify for OPT, a student must graduate from an accredited U.S. college or university, secure employment, and work a minimum of 20 hours for that employer. 
 
Employers participating in STEM OPT are responsible for providing a formal, practical training and learning program that’s related to the F-1 student’s degree. Employers must outline the details of their training program on Form I-983, which is submitted and approved by the Designated School Official at the F-1 student’s academic institution.
 
Explaining a STEM OPT Inspection
 
According to the aforementioned 2016 rule, the purpose of on-site inspections is “intended to ensure that each employer meets program requirements, including that they are complying with their attestations and that they possess the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences outlined in students’ Training Plans”—or, more simply, that the information on an F-1 student’s Form I-983 is accurate and that the employer is following the outlined training plan. 
 
What to Expect from a STEM OPT Inspection
 
ICE will review any number of aspects of a student’s work at an employer. ICE officers may wish to conduct interviews with immediate supervisors, management, and human resource personnel. They may also want to inspect the F-1 student’s workspace and take a tour of the workplace. It’s also likely that ICE will want to review documents such as training plans, evaluations, and pay reports. In the words of ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell, “Site visits are a general compliance measure… The visits help ensure that students and employers are engaged in work-based learning experiences consistent with the purpose of the STEM OPT program and the information supplied on the student’s Form I-983.” 
 
STEM OPT Inspection for Employers
 
In light of the recent STEM OPT inspections, employers should familiarize themselves with the training plans of the F-1 students they employ. Likewise, they should have a strong understanding of the statements and promises made in Form I-983 and have evidence to prove their compliance with the form and with regulations. In some cases, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—the agency responsible for overseeing employer site visits—may choose to request information concerning STEM OPT compliance via email or phone rather than send ICE officials for an on-site visit.  
 
STEM OPT Inspection at a Third-Party Site
 
If a STEM OPT student is working at a third-party site, it’s vital for employers to know that ICE might conduct their visit there. If your company is placing F-1 students off site, it’s vital that you communicate with vendors and clients to discuss the potential of an on-site visit and formulate a plan to ensure they’re prepared in the event of one.
 
STEM OPT Inspection for Students
 
The people most threatened by STEM OPT inspections are students. Currently, there are no regulatory or enforcement penalties for employer violations. However, if either the student or their employer is found out of compliance, the DHS may deny, revoke, or terminate the STEM OPT of the F-1 student. 
 
Notice of a STEM OPT Inspection 
 
In most cases, a company will receive 48 hours advanced notice of a STEM OPT inspection, along with a list of the STEM OPT trainee(s) selected for inspection, a request for their Form I-983s, and other documentation relating to the company’s STEM OPT training program. In the event that a complaint is made to ICE, or there is evidence of noncompliance, no notice is required in advance of a site visit. 
 
Planning for a STEM OPT Inspection
 
To quote Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” With these inspections becoming more commonplace, it’s advisable that employers take the following steps to protect themselves and the students they employ:
  • Regularly review F-1 students’ Form I-983s to ensure compliance
  • Maintain files containing all relevant STEM OPT form copies and supporting documents
  • Make sure the duties, hours, and compensation of STEM OPT students is aligned with those of the company’s U.S. workers
  • Designate a company representative to contact upon ICE’s arrival—this person should accompany the officer on their visit and take notes on what documents were provided, who was spoken to, and what questions were asked. 
In the End
 
It’s still early in ICE performing STEM OPT inspections and, as of this moment, it’s unclear just how in depth ICE will get. Employers and students alike are advised to familiarize themselves with the content of their Form I-983s and be prepared to describe their training to ICE. If you or your organization have any questions about what the increase in STEM OPT inspections means for you, contact GoffWilson today. For over 30 years, GoffWilson has helped businesses and individuals navigate the ever-changing U.S. immigration system. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion. 
 

 

Having recently moved to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in countries such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Sudan, Haiti, and Nepal, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) announcement to extend TPS for 18 months is welcome news to the roughly 7,000 Syrian refugees living in the United States dependent on the status. Protections for Syria were officially set to expire on September 30, 2019, but will now allow currently eligible TPS beneficiaries to retain their status—meaning they’re able to legally reside and work in the U.S.—from October 1, 2019, to March 31, 2021. 
 
What is Temporary Protected Status?
 
TPS offers immigrants from countries devastated by temporary emergencies—such as war and natural disasters—the ability to legally live and work in the U.S. However, TPS does not provide a pathway to permanent residency. This leaves beneficiaries in limbo, as they’re able to live, work, and build lives in the U.S., but also with uncertain futures as their protected status is, as the name implies, only temporary.
 
Who Extended TPS for Syria Affects 
 
Through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) notice Extension of the Designation of Syria for Temporary Protected Status, re-registration is limited to individuals who previously registered for and were granted TPS under the designation for Syria. These individuals must have continuously resided in the U.S. since August 1, 2016, and have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since October 1, 2016. 
 
Current Syrian beneficiaries of TPS must submit Form I-821 to USCIS by November 22, 2019, to renew their status. Additionally, if the beneficiary wishes to extend their employment authorization, they must also submit a timely Form I-765 application for an employment authorization document (EAD). Because not all re-registrants will receive their new EAD before their old one expires on September 30, 2019, the USCIS is automatically extending the validity of those EADs for 180 days. This extension also covers individuals who applied for a new EAD during the last registration period who haven’t received their new EAD. 
 
Why DHS Decided to Extend TPS to Syria 
 
According to Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, “The decision to extend TPS for Syria was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s designation is based, which was ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions, as well as an assessment of whether those conditions continue to exist as required by statute.” 
 
Extension Rather Than Re-designation
 
In just 18 months, the DHS will re-evaluate conditions in Syria and choose to renew, re-designate, or end protections. While there is reason to celebrate the extension of TPS for Syria, it fails to offer a long-term solution for the nearly 7,000 beneficiaries. It also fails to address the other roughly 7,000 Syrians in the U.S. who don’t qualify for TPS because they arrived after the deadline in August 2016. 
 
What the TPS Extension Means for Employers
 
Through March 28, 2020, a TPS-based EAD with an expiration date of September 30, 2019—or March 31, 2018, for individuals who applied for a new TPS-based EAD during the last re-registration period but have not yet received it—along with a copy of the September 23, 2019, Federal Register notice or a Form I-797C receipt indicating that the EAD is automatically extended through March 28, 2020, are acceptable documentation for I-9 employment eligibility verification. 
 
TPS can create confusion for employers and individuals alike; if you or your business need assistance navigating this complex program, or wish to explore other legal immigration options, contact GoffWilson today. GoffWilson solely practices immigration law and for over 30 years has been helping businesses navigate the ever-changing U.S. immigration laws and assisting immigrants in achieving their American dreams. At GoffWilson, immigration isn’t just what we do—it’s our passion. 
 
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it’s making revisions to the current naturalization test and will start implementing an updated test beginning December 2020 or early 2021. According to USCIS, the changes are a step toward ensuring that the test is an accurate measure of an applicant’s knowledge of U.S. history, government, and values. However, since the White House is capable of exerting control over the test, critics are dubious of any proposed changes and the reasons for them. 
 
About the Naturalization Test
 
Debuted in 1986, the last revision to the naturalization test occurred over ten years ago in 2008, the result of a $6.5 million redesign taking place over six years of discussions with historians, immigrant organizations, and both liberal and conservative research groups. The 2008 revisions to the naturalization test did not change the format of the exam; rather, it shifted the focus of the test away from civics trivia to basic questions about the structure of government, U.S. history, and geography.  
 
In its current format, potential citizens must answer a minimum of six out of ten questions randomly generated from a list of 100 questions. All of the questions and answers for the naturalization test are found on the USCIS website. If it sounds like the naturalization test is merely a formality, consider that a 2018 survey by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation discovered that just 1 in 3 U.S. citizens could pass the current test.
 
USCIS’s Reasons for Changing the Naturalization Test
 
When announcing the upcoming changes to the naturalization test in May, then-USCIS Director Francis Cissnac wrote, “Citizenship is the culmination of an immigrant’s journey to fully join our nation and live with us in a common bond... By revising this test every 10 years, we can ensure that the civics education requirements remain a meaningful aspect of the naturalization process.”
 
USCIS acting Director Ken Cuccinelli says the reason for the overhaul of the naturalization test is that “updating, maintaining, and improving a test that is current and relevant is our responsibility as an agency in order to help potential new citizens fully understand the meaning of U.S. citizenship and the values that unite all Americans.”
 
Other Notable Changes to the Naturalization Test
 
In addition to changing the questions asked on the naturalization test, alterations to the speaking section of the test are also expected. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, candidates for naturalization must have “an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language.” USCIS has yet to reveal any specific changes to the speaking portion of the test. 
 
Concerns About Changes to the Naturalization Test
 
Critics of the White House and its immigration policy fear that this is another attempt to increase the difficulty of naturalization and slow down the process. The naturalization test affects a large number of individuals; in Fiscal Year 2018, USCIS naturalized nearly 757,000 people—a five-year high in new oaths of citizenship—up from 707,265 people in 2017. 
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law 
 
GoffWilson is monitoring the revisions to the current naturalization test so we can best strategize with our clients and help them prepare to pass this important test. Given the problematic changes expected and unknown future of the exam, we urge those planning to apply for citizenship to do so as soon as they’re eligible. 
 
GoffWilson is a full-service immigration law firm assisting everyone from multinational businesses to families and individuals navigate the complex U.S. immigration system. If you have a question about what the changes to the naturalization test mean for you, or any other immigration questions, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion!
 

You may have recently learned about the new piece of immigration legislation before Congress called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, H.R. 1044. The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act is intended to clear the backlogs facing skilled workers, primarily from India and China, seeking permanent residency in the U.S. for themselves as well as their spouses and children. With bipartisan support from Congress, and a similar bill with bipartisan support in the Senate, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 attempts to surgically correct an obvious flaw in the U.S. immigration system. At its simplest, this bill doesn’t add any new visas, it merely eliminates roadblocks for workers who have lived in, worked in, and contributed to the U.S. for years and who want to become citizens. 
 
Under the Current Immigration System 
 
Today’s immigration system imposes quotas on the number of visas given to citizens of a particular country—currently no more than 7% of the total number of visas allocated can be allocated to any single country. Because this system fails to account for the different population sizes of other countries, it negatively affects immigrants originating in larger countries. For example, India has a population of 2.5 times larger than the European Union (EU); this means India, with a population of over a billion people, is apportioned the same number of visas as a country such as Iceland, which has a population of approximately 340,000 people.  
 
The disparity in the number of available visas and the size of the originating country has resulted in decades-long wait times for immigrants from India and China. The Cato Institute has an interesting article, 150-Year Wait for Indian Immigrants With Advanced Degrees, that describes the situation facing highly skilled Indian immigrants trying to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. 
 
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act 
 
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act will remove the per-country caps pertaining to employment-based visas, and shift to a first-come, first-serve basis. The bill will also increase the per-country allocation of visas from 7% to 15%. It’s predicted that passing the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act will lead to a significant reduction in visa backlogs for Indian and Chinese foreign nationals, and speed up the process of gaining permanent residency for the spouses and children of H-1B visa holders—the latter of which risk aging out of their visas and being sent back to their home countries. 
 
Seeing that the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act will not add any additional visas, immigrants from smaller countries with lower demand for visas will face longer wait times. 
 
Conclusions
 
Although the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act doesn’t correct all of the issues with our current immigration system, it does address an obvious flaw and offers a sensible solution for the multitude of foreign professionals living and working in the U.S. today. Receiving overwhelming support in Congress, the bill passed by 365 to 65 votes. However, companion legislation in the Senate is facing a less certain future despite support across the aisle, meaning it could get caught up in committees before being put to a vote on the Senate floor. After that, the bill’s future is even more uncertain, as it gets passed along to an executive branch with a history of being unfriendly to immigration. 
 
GoffWilson Immigration 
 
While the U.S. government attempts to correct imperfections in its immigration system, GoffWilson is here to help you. Soley practicing immigration, GoffWilson can assist you in navigating the complexities of the green card process. Practicing both employment and family immigration, we help individuals and families come to the U.S. to live their American dreams. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion. Contact us today!


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced changes to the fees charged by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to international students, exchange visitors, and SEVP-certified schools. The revamped fees are scheduled to go into effect on June 24, 2019, and in addition to increasing the expense for both students studying in the United States and the institutions they’re attending, the move could have a lasting impact on the U.S.’s position as a world leader in international education. 
 
The reason for the update to the fees associated with SEVP is to cover the cost of maintaining the program’s technological systems, paying operational staff, and making enhancements to the program. According to Rachel Canty, SEVP program director, “SEVP’s fees have not changed since 2008, although our costs have continued to grow due to inflation, expanded program operations and enhancements to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The new and increased fees will enable the program to continue to provide oversight of international students and SEVP-certified schools.”
 
SEVP acts as a conduit between the government and students coming to the United States to study—working on the behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DoS) to manage schools and nonimmigrant students on F and M visas. The DoS manages the Exchange Visitor Program and nonimmigrant exchange visitors on J visas. Both SEVP and the DoS use SEVIS to track and monitor schools and nonimmigrants in the U.S. participating in these programs.  
 
For students, the most notable fee increase is the I-901 charge for international students on F and M visas, which will go from $200 to $350—a rise of 75%. Also expanding is the full I-901 SEVIS fee for J exchange visitors, growing from $180 to $220. However, the $35 partial I-901 fee for J exchange visitors in the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work travel program participant categories will remain the same. 
 
Colleges and universities are also seeing consequential swelling of fees. The SEVP school certification petition fee that is required for the initial certification of an institution is increasing from $1,700 to $3,000—an increase of over 75%. Additionally, these schools will have to pay a new $1,250 fee bi-annually for recertification. Another new fee facing SEVP-certified schools is a $675 charge when schools file the Form I-290B, “Notice of Appeal or Motion,” and a $655 fee when a school changes its physical location or adds a new physical location or a new campus to its Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student.”

Fee Type

Current Fee

Final Fee

Incremental Fee Adjustment

I-901 F/M

$200

$350

$150

I-901 J-Full

$180

$220

$40

I-901 J-Partial

$35

$35

$0

I-17 Initial Certification

$1,700

$3,000

$1,300

I-17 Recertification

$0

$1,250

$1,250

Site Visit-Initial

$655

$655

$0

Site Visit-New Location

$0

$655

$655

Appeal Fee

$0

$675

$675


Prospective international students and exchange visitors are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before being issued a visa—those who pay the fee before the price increase do not need to pay the difference between the old fee and the new fee. Schools filing an initial certification or recertification petition, petition update, or Form I-290B before the fee increase (even if it’s not adjudicated before the fee implementation date), are not required to pay the new or increased fee. 
 
The main concerns over the lofty increases in fees is that it could threaten the U.S.’s position as a world leader in international education, disrupt an important sector of the economy, and damage the other contributions—both academic and cultural—that these valuable students bring to the U.S. 
 
The U.S. is currently home to 1,078,822 international students, more than double the country with the second largest international student population, the U.K., with 501,045. According to the National Association of International Educators (NAFSA), international students contributed $36.9 billion and supported more than 450,000 jobs to the U.S.
the economy during the 2016-2017 academic year. The fear is that, as the U.S. makes it more expensive and challenging for international students to study here, other English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia are striving to be more welcoming to international students. 
 
If you have questions about what the increased SEVP fees mean for you or your school, contact GoffWilson today. Solely practicing immigration, for decades GoffWilson has helped the world’s best and brightest people pursue their education in the U.S. while assisting educational institutions host these brilliant minds. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion. 

The Trump administration has made its intentions on immigration clear through its actions over the past two-plus years. While the border and proposed wall grab nightly headlines, immigration enforcement is increasing in intensity in all sectors—including higher education. This makes it imperative that higher-ed officials are aware of immigration policies and the actions of the people responsible for handling them, as the momentary lapse in judgment of one person in a position of authority is all it takes to land in the headlines, be subjected to fines, and face jail time. This was the case of Daniel Cabanillas, a Designated School Official (DSO) at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania.
 
Daniel Cabanillas found himself in the sights of federal prosecutors for knowingly making a false statement on a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. In his position as DSO at Mercyhurst University, Cabanillas falsely claimed that a student had been accepted into a master’s degree program—the false Form I-20 was then used by the student to obtain a student visa to gain entry to the United States. Although Cabanillas plead guilty to this one incident, the court was advised that Cabanillas falsified acceptance documents for dozens of other students while working as a DSO for Mercyhurst University.  
 
Cabanilla’s transgression cost him his job; he was terminated on February 19, 2015. Additionally, Cabanillas was sentenced in federal court to two years probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine—although the law provides for a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine up to $500,000, or both. For its employment of Cabanillas, Mercyhurst University has received negative attention making national headlines in the hot-button topic of immigration. 
 
Marlon V. Miller, the special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said: “This investigation is an example of how those that abuse the immigration process will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Mr. Cabanillas, while serving in his capacity as a designated school official at Mercyhurst University, abused his authority and undermined the integrity of the international student visa process.” 
 
Designated School Officials play a vital role in the operation of any college or university enrolling international students. DSOs serve under a Principal Designated School Official (PDSO)—the main point of contact for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)—and are responsible for the oversight and assistance of students enrolled with an F or M visa. One of the administrative functions of DSOs is the updating of student records in SEVIS, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) web-based system for maintaining information on international nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in the United States. Because DSOs are the connection between colleges/universities and the government, it’s imperative that they provide accurate information. 
 
According to U.S. Attorney Scott Brady, “The Student Exchange and Visitor Program relies on the honesty and integrity of Designated School Officials to truthfully certify to the information contained in Visa application documents, and when DSOs provide or certify false information, our system of lawful immigration into the United States for educational purposes is frustrated.”
 
In today’s era of heightened immigration enforcement, all institutions should be prepared to have their immigration programs audited or investigated—including colleges and universities. Smart schools shouldn’t wait for the government to look into their immigration practices; rather, they should self-audit and establish best practices to ensure they’re compliant with all rules and regulations to avoid penalties and negative press. If your school has a question about its immigration practices or is interested in developing a system to ensure compliance, contact GoffWilson today
 
With over 30 years of experience and solely practicing immigration, GoffWilson has helped numerous educational institutions enroll brilliant students from across the globe and we can assist you as well. Immigration is what we do! 

There are still some good seats remaining for our informative must-do seminar, Understanding the Current I-9 Form in an Aggressive Enforcement Environment. Register today to be on top of your game! 
 
This half-day seminar is Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 2 Delta Drive in Concord, NH, and includes a scrumptious breakfast.
 
Here are a few reasons (on top of the breakfast) to register now:
  • You want to be in compliance and current on the latest trends in I-9s.
  • You need a refresher—review with us the choices made when completing I-9s, how to correct flawed forms, and how to avoid them.
  • You have some nagging questions about completing I-9s that you really want to be answered by the pros.
  • Your remote hires, a recent merger, potential merger, or federal contracts present challenges that can be met following this informative seminar.
  • HRCI credit and a certificate are provided to you so you maintain your HR accreditation.
  • Knowledgeable speakers and assistants will walk you through real examples and you will leave with an up-to-date workbook to use as a future reference guide.
Visit our website for more information or click here to register now. We look forward to seeing you! 

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