Effective May 10, 2016, new USCIS F-1 OPT STEM/Everify regulations go into effect

Effective May 10, 2016, new USCIS F-1 OPT STEM/Everify regulations go into effect. The good news is that students may now be eligible for 24 additional months of F-1 OPT STEM work authorization beyond their initial 12 month F-1 OPT period (36 months in total). The bad news is that both the student and employer must actively report changes to employment and submit and maintain a detailed training and supervision regimen.

Here is a brief summary of some of the key provisions: Read More

H-1B CAP Petitions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017

On April 1, 2016 employers may file to capture a FY’2017 (effective October 1, 2016) H-1B visa CAP number with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).  Please note that there are  85,000 H-1B CAP numbers available annually. In addition, please be aware that 20,000 of the 85,000 H-1B CAP numbers are reserved for U.S. Master’s degree holders. In FY’2016, the H-1B CAP annual numbers were exhausted during the first week of filing. To be safe, we strongly recommend employers file for receipt on April 1, 2016, as there will likely be a high demand for H-1B CAP visas again this year. Read More

Global Entry Program Now Available to British Citizens

The U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s (UK) announced on Tuesday November 3, 2015, to an intimate audience at the World Travel Market in London, that the Global Entry Program will be available to British citizens beginning on December 3, 2015.  Ambassador Matthew Barzun was joined by the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Gil Kerlikowske, and the Director General of UK Border Force, Sir Charles Montgomery, in making this announcement. Read More

Final H-1B Rules for Worksite Changes

On July 21, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued its final guidance instructing when an employer should file an amended or new H-1B petition following Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC (Simeio). In the final guidance, the deadline to file an amended or new H-1B petition has been extended to January 15, 2016 from the previously suggested deadline of August 15, 2015.

The final Simeio guidance confirms that a petitioner/employer must file an amended or new H-1B petition with USCIS if their H-1B employee is changing his or her place of employment to a geographical location outside the general commuting area requiring the submission and certification of a new corresponding Labor Condition Application (LCA). In this scenario, a newly certified and posted LCA alone is no longer sufficient and an amended H-1B petition must now be filed with USCIS. Once an employer properly files the amended or new H-1B petition, the H-1B employee can immediately begin to work at the new place of employment and does not have to wait for a final USCIS decision on the amended or new petition. Read More

New Department of State Visa Bulletin Policy Permitting Earlier I-485 Filing

On September 9, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) the Department of State (DOS) announced a new policy for calculating applicant’s eligibility to file both employment and family-based I-485 Adjust of Status applications and immigrant visas. As of the October 1, 2015 DOS Visa Bulletin, a new Chart entitled “Dates for Filing Applications” will be utilized to determine the earliest date when an applicant and any qualifying dependents are eligible to file their I-485 applications. This will permit many foreign nationals and their dependents to file their I-485 applications much sooner and acquire benefits such as employment authorization and travel authorization. DOS will rely on a second Chart entitled “Application Final Action Dates” to determine when I-485 and immigrant visa applications can ultimately be processed and approved. These changes are a result of President Obama’s 2014 Executive Action on Immigration and the July 2015 report Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century.

More information on this new policy can be found at:

USCIS Alert
http://www.uscis.gov/news/uscis-announces-revised-procedures-determining-visa-availability-applicants-waiting-file-adjustment-status

DOS Visa Bulletin for October 2015
http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2016/visa-bulletin-for-october-2015.html

United States: Minor Criminality – Major Hurdle in Travelling to the USA

UIA Immigration Law and Nationality Commission, Vol. 4, No. 1, July 2015

Navigating the United States immigration laws can be difficult even in “straightforward” situations but add a criminal history to the equation and even the simplest visit to the US can become extremely complicated. For foreign national applying for US visa or admission to the US under the Visa Waiver program, there are two classes of criminal activity that become relevant. They are: crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) and controlled substance offences. CIMTs have their historical basis in activities that are “so base and vile that they shock the conscious”; however, they are not considered acts that are illegal because they are inherently wrong (i.e. theft, fraud, serious acts of violence, intentional damage), as opposed to acts that are illegal because they are simply prohibited by law (i.e. being drunk in public, driving offences). Of these offences, it is the CIMT that can prohibit the use of the ESTA program as well as result in ineligibility for a US visa. Additionally, the US takes a very strict view of any offence regarding controlled substances and any such offence will render the application ineligible for ESTA and, in most cases for a visa. Read More