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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently adopted a new policy for travel document applications that should be taken into account by those applying for green cards. Under the new policy, the agency will deny a request for a travel document, called an Advance Parole (AP), if it discovers that the individual traveled outside the United States after filing the request, but before its approval. AP renewals are sought by submission of Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.

On August 28, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security agency responsible for adjudicating immigration benefits, announced that it will begin expanding the in-person interview requirement for all employer-sponsored permanent residency applications. Effective October 1, 2017, the agency will begin to “phase-in” personal interviews at the nearest USCIS Field Office for all adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).

With no fanfare and minimal notice, the government has significantly increased the penalties that can be assessed for a variety of offenses related to the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9.

Now, a “mere” error on the paperwork, such as failure to check a box or confirm that the employee dated the document, can result in a penalty of between $216 and $2,156. Previously, the penalty ranged from $110 to $1,100. This almost doubling of the penalty range is significant because penalties for paperwork errors can be the largest aspect of government fines, even for the best of employers.

It may be surprising, but moving to the U.S. with your foreign-citizen spouse is not as simple as you might imagine.  If you are a U.S. citizen working abroad and considering moving back to the U.S. with your foreign-citizen spouse and/or children, it is never too early to begin planning for return to the U.S.

If you are living outside the U.S. and have a foreign-born spouse and/or children, it may have been quick and easy for them to travel to the U.S. on holiday.  But moving back to the U.S. is an entirely different story, requiring government filings and significant lead time of as much as a year or even more.

AirplacePeople immigrate to the United States for many different reasons. Many come here for work reasons and, somewhere along the way, obtain permanent resident status, otherwise known as holding a “green card.” They may work in the U.S. for most of their careers, raising children and becoming integrated into the social fabric of their community. But for various reasons, some will wish to “go home” when they retire. Maybe the home country offers better healthcare. Maybe even after many years in the U.S., they feel more comfortable speaking their native language. Maybe their closest relatives are in their home country, and they feel that they need a support network as they age. Maybe the food is better.

Whatever the reason, those who have been green card holders for a long time (specifically, 8 out of the previous 15 tax years) need to be mindful of the so-called “expatriation tax.” The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (the “HEART Act”) imposes a tax at the time of departure on U.S. citizens who have renounced their citizenship and on those who renounce their long-term permanent resident status after June 17, 2008. The HEART Act expatriation rules apply to those who, at the time of expatriation:

As many of you probably have in these past few weeks, I’ve been enjoying the NBA playoffs. Perhaps not as many of you have been wondering what I have been contemplating: how is it that NBA players with criminal pasts are admitted entry into Canada to play against the Toronto Raptors NBA team? As a Washington resident, I’m aware, due solely to proximity, not experience, that U.S. citizens with criminal pasts have found trouble entering Canada. Specifically, I’ve heard stories of U.S. citizens being barred entry thanks to decades-old driving under the influence convictions. So how is it that I’ve never heard of a famous athlete being barred entry? Did I miss it?

iStock U.S. Flags and Wall Street SignYou have a plan for doing business in the U.S.  Now who is going to help make that happen? As companies get ready to do business in the U.S. they often delay in thinking about one key matter: making sure the people needed to implement their strategy can obtain the visas or other permission required to work in the U.S. Some U.S. hiring is possible, of course, but often key personnel are needed from abroad. If you’re going to be sending someone like Oscar winning Penélope Cruz, it may be easy to verify that a visa is available. Sometimes even experienced business personnel or their contemplated jobs, however, do not match what the U.S. immigration authorities require. Even a visa for a superstar can take a significant amount of time to arrange. It’s terrible when a project gets delayed or cannot take off because the right person isn’t ready with the right work authorization.

The next installment in Resource for Doing Business in the U.S. sets out the basic visa options for working in the U.S. It outlines the types of visas and the associated process and requirements, which should help in timely and efficient planning.

Your comments are welcome!

USflag_visaIn a blog that we posted just a few weeks ago we wrote, “Beginning in late 2015, individuals who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan (or other countries designated by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) as supporting terrorism or “of concern”) at any time on or after March 1, 2011, are not eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program.” Well, “other countries” were designated on February 18.

The Visa Waiver Program has allowed citizens of more than 35 countries to travel and be admitted to the U.S. for business or pleasure for 90 days without the need for a visa. Recent events in other parts of the world have resulted in the restrictions on the availability of this program based on country-specific travel or nationality.

On February 18, the restrictions were expanded from Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan to include Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as three countries “of concern”. This limits Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals who have traveled to those countries since March 1, 2011. The restriction does not apply to individuals with dual nationality (nationals of the U.S. and any of those three countries).

As with the previous restrictions, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include individuals who traveled to these countries on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty; on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty; or as a journalist for reporting purposes.

Flags_gearsA good business plan involves consideration of both short-term and long-term goals. Your plans should do the same for your management and business employees; getting them into the U.S. as you start or grow your business, and keeping the organization properly staffed as it succeeds. This occasional blog provides guidance regarding some of the most common and important employment-based U.S. immigration options.

In previous blogs, we have written about transferred employees under the L status for up to seven years, and employment of Japanese citizens under the E status without the need to prove previous employment, and with the ability to maintain that status forever. Today’s blog is about options in which the government is more heavily involved, such as the wages paid and the decision-making process.

“Specialty Occupations” present a great option for U.S. employment of transferred employees or new hires. The general rule for these jobs is that the job requires a specific type of college degree or the education and/or experience equivalent of that degree, and the person has that degree or equivalent. Classically, this applies to jobs such as accountants, engineers, and computer professionals, among others. It can be difficult to obtain approval for jobs that some people (and the government) don’t normally associate with a particular degree, such as Sales Managers, Market Research Analysts, or Public Relations Specialists. But it can be worth exploring.

H-1B: Available to Citizens of All Countries

The current challenge with the H-1B classification is that only people who already have that classification can be hired; a person who has not already been approved for employment with that classification can’t get it until October 2016 unless the employer or employee has exemption from the numerical limitation. Anyone hoping to be considered for one of the H?1B’s to be allocated at that time should plan to submit the filing on April 1, 2016, the first day on which filings will be accepted. Only 78,200 new H-1B’s are available for each fiscal year, and they can all be allocated within as little as a few days or weeks.

H-1B1: Available to Citizens of Chile and Singapore

The H-1B1 status, almost identical to the H-1B referenced above, is available to citizens of Chile, who have 1,400 available each year, and Singapore, who have 5,400 available each year. To date, the government has never allocated the maximum available each year, so they are available throughout the year.

E-3: Available to Citizens of Australia

Australian citizens have a virtual equivalent to the H-1B in the form of the E-3 status, which is open for applications year-round because the 10,500 limit has never been fully approved.

Procedures

All three of these classifications require multiple government filings and approvals, starting in the U.S. with the Department of Labor certifying labor conditions and wages. After that, the processes diverge. H?1B status must be approved in the U.S. by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The H-1B1 and the E-3 statuses can be approved at U.S. consulates as a part of the visa application or, for a person already in the U.S. in some other status, by USCIS. Government-charged filing fees in the U.S. start as low as $825 for an H-1B1 or an E-3, and $1,575 for an H-1B. Visa fees are in addition to those charges. There can be a difference between the time period approved for the “status,” and the time period for the visa, which is the travel document associated with the status. Status approval of an H-1B1 is for up to one year at a time and, for an E-3, it is for up to two years at a time. Both are renewable indefinitely. An H-1B status can only be approved for as many as six years, in three year increments.

For more information, see:

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=71256811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=71256811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=73566811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=73566811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD

The Labor, Employment & Immigration group is available to work with you as you consider employment-based immigration options for you or your employees.

HiResA good business plan involves consideration of both short-term and long-term goals. Your plans should do the same for your management and business employees; getting them into the U.S. as you start or grow your business, and keeping the organization properly staffed as it succeeds. This occasional blog provides guidance regarding some of the most common and important employment-based U.S. immigration options.  

Today’s blog focuses on an employment-based immigration option available to citizens of particular countries; in this case, Japan. I will follow up with additional information about these options for other countries in the future.

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Foster Garvey’s International practice group comprises a cross-disciplinary group of attorneys practicing in areas ranging from business transactions, immigration, maritime, government regulatory work, transportation and logistics and estate planning. The group members include bilingual and multicultural attorneys who are well-versed in handling these subject matters in a cross-border context. A number of attorneys have been actively practicing in the international arena since the early 1970s.
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