DHS to launch known Employer Pilot Program

The Employer pilot program is announced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This program is to assess a new process for employers seeking to hire certain workers through employment-based visa categories.
The program will be designed to make adjudications more efficient and less costly and also to reduce paperwork and delays for both the department and U.S. employers who seek to employ foreign workers.

GOALS OF THE KNOWN EMPLOYER PILOT PROGRAM

  • Reducing the amount of paperwork filed by employers and retained by USCIS
  • Encouraging the stability in the settlement of employment-based petitions and applications.
  • Restructuring the adjudicative process to achieve greater efficiency within USCIS
  • Providing greater support to CBP and DOS in support of greater efficiency and consistency at ports of entry and consular posts.

Under the Known Employer pilot, up to nine preselected employers will file applications requesting that USCIS predetermine that they meet certain requirements relating to certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa classifications. Employers will create a profile in the Web-based Known Employer Document Library (KEDL), and upload documents relating to the requirements, when making this request.

USCIS officers will review and decide whether a prospective employer has met certain requirements relating to the visa classifications, and if USCIS approves the employer’s predetermination request, the employer may then file petitions or applications for individual employees without needing to resubmit company information with each petition or application.

No additional fee is charged to participate in this program. At any time, USCIS may terminate or extend the pilot at any time. DHS and DOS will solicit on going feedback from the participants.

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Immigration changes make it easier to hire, retain foreign nationals

By Joel Seguine
Office of the Vice President for Communications

A number of changes are under way within the International Center (IC) designed to streamline immigration processes for international faculty and staff, and more are planned. The actions respond to task force recommendations issued during the summer.

The University’s Task Force on Faculty and Staff Immigration Services, chaired by Liz Barry, managing director of the Life Sciences Institute, undertook a comprehensive review of immigration services pertaining to hiring and retaining foreign nationals as faculty and staff. The task force report issued in June includes 12 recommendations comprising policies, practices and infrastructure designed to upgrade the IC’s immigration services in the post-9/11 environment.

The task force provided a great service to the IC and the University, says E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, who oversees the center and who initiated the task force.

“Our ability to hire and retain the best foreign talent is under pressure from recent trends and we must put ourselves in the best position to compete for and welcome these individuals into our midst,” Harper says. “Making the navigation of immigration procedures more transparent and efficient will make us more competitive in attracting outstanding international faculty and researchers, as well as students.”

As the task force formed its recommendations, certain core values and guiding principles emerged, Barry says.

“One of the keys was the idea that the institution’s core value of promoting international education and collaboration is best served by the University adopting uniform policies and procedures for hiring foreign nationals, ensuring strict compliance with them and providing the resources necessary for efficient implementation,” she says.

The first policy change will be implemented Oct. 3 when legal counsel retained by the University will be available to provide a subset of services on behalf of the University with regard to certain employment-based immigration petitions, Assistant General Counsel Donica Varner says. As of that date, all new immigration petitions for which U-M is the petitioner must be prepared by either Faculty and Staff Immigration Services (FSIS) staff or one of the five firms retained by the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel (OGC) to provide immigration services.

“Previously, individuals or their campus units often hired counsel themselves. Since these attorneys were actually performing legal work on behalf of the University, the task force believed the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel should be responsible for selection, retention and supervision of outside counsel,” Varner says.

When legal counsel is deemed necessary, the new policy makes the hiring unit responsible for payment of legal fees, administrative costs, filing fees and recruitment costs. Foreign national faculty and staff members no longer will be permitted to retain legal counsel to represent the University in immigration matters. Similarly, hiring units may only work with a law firm that has been approved by and retained by the OGC.

Varner says the firms were selected based on their familiarity with higher education institutions; successful experience with the University; foreign language skills of staff; and ability to handle significant workload in a timely fashion; among other criteria. The names of the firms and details about the policy are available at http://www.ogc.umich.edu.

Another change already benefiting international faculty, staff and students is the administrative move in July by the IC—with the help of Michigan Administrative Information Services—of the International Student/Scholar Health Insurance Plan from a standalone database to M-Pathways, according to Louise Baldwin, assistant director of IC. “This move was the first step of a three-part project that, when completed, will greatly reduce the number of paper insurance forms international students and scholars are required to submit, and will reduce the need for in-person visits to the IC that are related to health insurance,” Baldwin says.

Another recommendation involving the upgrade of digital infrastructure and streamlining of business processes resulted in an ongoing pilot project with several academic units. The project will test software called INSZoom, which allows FSIS to provide many of its services more efficiently, especially the processing of H-1B (temporary employment) petitions, according to Meghan Covino, FSIS manager.

“The software allows departments and employees to log-in any time to check the status of their petitions. Departments also can run reports tracking information such as the number of employees they have in H-1B status which countries they are from,” Covino says. Following the pilot, campus-wide use of the software and new processes is scheduled for Winter Term.

The task force recommendations have been incorporated into a formal project to update and improve the services of IC for all clients, including international students and departmental staff who rely so much on the services of the center, Harper says. “We also conducted a thorough internal process review and are benefiting from an additional study done by an external consultant,” she adds.

Dean of Students Susan Eklund, who oversees the project, says staff from academic and administrative units will participate in focus groups to ensure that new and updated policies and processes meet their needs. “We’ll be rolling out improvements on a gradual basis over the next 12 to 18 months. The first recommendation we implemented was bringing the technical infrastructure of the International Center to a more current state for Director Rodolfo Altamirano and his staff,” Eklund says.

Altamirano says that with all of the changes, his staff will put a strong emphasis on educational outreach. “We want to keep those who use and need our services well informed about the changes and improvements we’re making,” he says.

The task force report and detailed information about the IC and its services is available at http://www.umich.edu/~icenter/.

Yemen: Deadline for TPS Registration is March 1, 2016

March1, 2016 is the deadline for the Yemen to get registered for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).The TPS designation for Yemen runs from September 3, 2015, through March 3, 2017.

Eligibility Criteria for Registration:
To get registered with TPS, you must validate all eligibility criteria. This includes:

  • You must undergo security checks if you are 14 years old or older
  • It also includes that, you have been “continuously residing” and “continuously physically present” in the United States since September 3, 2015.
  • Person with criminal records are not eligible for TPS

Registration Process:
To get registered for TPS, You must submit the following forms:

  • Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status.
  • If you are more than 14years then biometric services fee applies.
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether you want an employment authorization document (EAD).
  • The Form I-765 application fee or a fee-waiver request, but only if you want an EAD. No application fee is required if you don’t want an EAD.
  • There is no Form I-765 fee for initial applicants under the age of 14 or 66 years of age and over.

If you cannot pay the fee, you can submit a written request. However, you must file Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. TPS application will be rejected, if you do not submit the required filing fees or a properly documented fee-waiver request.

US hikes H-1B and L-1 visa fees

The visa fee increases for an H-1B visa and the L-1 visa. This visa fee increase has caused friction between India and the US expectedly. Recent report says that Indian IT firms have decided to increase the client and the processing fees more which will soften the blow of increased costs due to fees being doubled for US H-1B and L-1 visas.
Under the new law, employers that employ 50 or more employees in the United States, and where more than 50% of such employees are working under H-1B or L-1 status, will be required to pay an additional filing fee of:

  • $4,000 for H-1B petitions (including H-1B extensions), and
  • $4,500 for L-1 petitions (including L-1 extensions).

One of the largest Indian IT outsourcing companies in India, TCS, said that it’s likely to record a 10 per cent increase in profitability in its December quarter, while Infosys is expected to report a 3 percent rise in profits, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Nasscom and Economic Time says:

According to Indian IT body Nasscom, this is expected to have an impact of about $400 million annually on India’s technology sector. Indian technology industry paid $22.5 billion in taxes during the financial years 2011-15, besides investing $2 billion in FY 2011-13 in the US as well as supported 4,11,000 jobs in FY2015 directly or indirectly, according to a Nasscom report.

R Chandrasekhar, president of Nasscom, described the fees as ‘unjustified’, and said that they are designed to target Indian IT companies ‘disproportionately.’ “US immigration reform is something that has to occur sooner or later,” Chandrasekhar added.

The Economic Times quoted him as saying: “I don’t think it is an issue at all, $2,000 or $4,000 that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you have to provide excellent value to customers.” While another leading industry figure, Sanchit Gogia, expects that the affected Indian IT companies will simply pass on the extra charges to their clients.

However, several commentators have stated that the increased H-1B and L-1 visa fees aren’t of great concern. Indian industrialist N. R. Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys, believes that the doubled visa costs will not be a particularly troubling issue.

DHS Proposing new employment based immigration regulations

The Department of Homeland Security [DHS] is offering rule that would modernize and improve certain aspects of employment based immigration visa programs. People with temporary work visas waiting for a green card are the one who is going to get more benefits because of these projected changes. The DHS says that the projected changes are ‘envisioned to better expedite US employers to recruit and maintain extremely accompanied workers who have profited from employment-based immigration visa petitions, while growing the skill of such workers to progress their careers by accepting raises, changing positions with present employers, changing employers, and trailing other employment opportunities.

Many of the projected changes will actually have no practical effect of any kind, according to the National Law Review – an online news source published by a group of in-house attorneys. The National Law Review states that even the most noteworthy change of them all, relating to work authorization for certain individuals with approved I-140s, will have very little effect basically.

Highlights:

  1. The extension of an H-1B visa can be obtained beyond the maximum six-year stay.
  2. When an H-1B non-immigrant can shift jobs or employers without it affecting his or her permitted immigrant visa petition.
  3. How to calculate H-1B recapture time [days outside the US that do not count towards the maximum six-year stay].
  4. Those businesses that qualify as H-1B ‘cap-exempt’ employers. This is important as in recent years the H-1B visa quota is immensely oversubscribed within a few days of the quota becoming available at the opening of April each year.
  5. Offering a one-time 60-day grace period, during an authorized validity period, for individuals in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, L-1, or TN status, where employment ends due to voluntary or involuntary termination or lay off. These individuals are not authorized to work during the grace period.
  6. An addition of the 10-day grace period allowed prior to and after H-1B status to also include persons in E-1, E-2, E-3 or L-1 status. During the 10-day grace period, you will not be permitted to work. On a one time basis, you also benefit from 60 day grace period, if you are on this employment related visas.
  7. Permitting issuance of one-year Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) for individuals in E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1 or O-1 status with an approved I-140 and no available visa numbers if the individual can show compelling circumstances. It is not certain what is meant by convincing circumstances; DHS includes examples, such as serious ailment and disabilities. If you work with an EAD in these circumstances then it will be considered to be the case that you are no longer on a non-immigrant work visa and when visa numbers are available will need to apply for an immigrant visa from outside the US. If you have an EAD your spouse and children may also be able to apply for an EAD. Renewals are allowed in certain circumstances.
  8. Removing the 90-day processing time required by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), spontaneously extending most EADs 180 days beyond the expiration if the extension was timely filed.

It is worthwhile to note that the DHS proposal does include other regulatory amendments. However, these additional changes largely conform to current policy guidance, and so the primary purpose of the regulations in these additional areas is to formalize the existing guidance.

3 million US work permits, work visas and green cards issued

Over 3 million foreign nationals were issued with US work permits, working visas [including L-1A and L-1B visas and H-1B visas] and green cards [including EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3] according to the most recent data available, published by the Congressional Research Service for 2013.

In 2013, Mexican, Chinese and Indian nationals were granted most of the 3 million work permits, working visas and green cards issued that year. 2014 numbers are yet to be disclosed, but the 2013 statistics highlight that US work permits and visas continued to be granted in record numbers according to congressional sources and figures provided to the Washington Free Beacon – a right wing online newspaper.

Numbers are inclusive of 1 million green cards which allows you to stay in the US permanently and work, 1 million employment based non-immigrant visas for foreign workers [such as the L-1 visa, and E-1 and E-2], plus 1.2 million work permit authorizations for foreign nationals. Tightening immigration restrictions.

The emergence of figures showing a continuous increase in the number of L-1, E-1 and E-2 visas and green cards being granted comes at a time when a debate is taking place within Congress about tightening immigration laws due to security concerns. In the aftermath of recent terror attacks the debate has intensified.

As of 2014, figures published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that the overall number of foreign workers in the US reached 26 million.

All Green Card Holders can work

An excerpt from a Congressional Research memo states: “All foreign nationals who gain lawful permanent resident status in the United States are eligible to work, regardless of what preference category or class they entered through.”

Obama Immigration Reforms and Refugees

The Obama administration wishes to make reforms to work permits and visas, as well as allowing approximately 10,000 Syrian refugees to relocate to the US.

US Senator Jeff Sessions, who is opposed to the resettling of refugees in the US, says that ‘the costs associated with resettling refugees and granting them welfare benefits have not been offset.’ However this may actually be wrong. Studies in Denmark and in a number of other Countries suggest that in the long term refugees are frequently beneficial to the economy of a Country. In many cases they create jobs and have a positive effect on local wage rates. The US has benefitted greatly in the past by accepting refugees.

Half of Americans want reduction in US immigrant population

Studies carried out by the Pew Research Center – an impartial US think-tank based in Washington – revealed that about half of Americans want a reduction in immigration.

We note that some “right wing” publications may have exaggerated the percentage of Americans who are anti-immigration. We have tried to be accurate. We hope we do a better job at reporting immigration related news stories than many of the other news sites.

Most immigrant workers are Hispanics or Asians

According to the most recent labor statistics, US work permits are mostly granted to Hispanics and Asians who account for the largest percentage of foreign nationals in the US workforce. 48.3 per cent of the foreign-born labor force in 2014 consisted of Hispanics, while 24.1% was made up by Asians.

Get help with US work visas

If you would like to apply for a US work visa – including L-1 visas, E-1 and E-2 visas, and H-1B visas – WorkPermit.com can help. WorkPermit.com is a specialist visa consultancy with over twenty-seven years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.

Deadline to Request TPS for Nepal is December 21

USCIS notes that the deadline for eligible nationals of Nepal (and people without nationality who last habitually resided in Nepal) to register for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is Monday, Dec. 21, 2015. This deadline date is the end of the 180-day initial registration period. TPS designation for Nepal runs from June 24, 2015, through Dec. 24, 2016.

You must demonstrate that you meet all eligibility criteria, including that you have been both “continuously physically present” and “continuously residing” in the U.S. since June 24, 2015, to be eligible for TPS. You will also be required to undergo thorough security checks.