Jan 14

DHS Publishes Proposed Amendments to EB-1, EB-2, EB-3 and H-1B Visas

The Department of Homeland Security is making proposals that would change some of the regulations that govern the EB-1, EB-2, EB-3 Visas as well as the ever popular H-1B Visa. These amendments would constitute an increase in what these programs have to offer, including a more efficient application process for employers, increased job security assurances for employees, more flexibility of on the job tasks and in general more transparency in the application process. These modifications are on the whole intended to increase the ability of employers to rehire immigrant workers who have specialized skills and who have also applied to become permanent citizens.

Amendments to others acts, like the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998, will need to be calibrated at the same time. This will mean a restatement of certain de facto policies as delineated in agency memoranda and customary practice that have not yet been articulated.

It is hoped that these efforts combined will create a more consistent and stable platform repository of procedure and practices that will increase the efficiency of policy implementation.

Further amendments meant to establish department goals include making it more difficult for approved applications to be revoked, allowing for more flexible rules that govern how high skilled immigrants can find new employment, and create more clear procedures for high skilled workers in certain non-immigrant statuses to independently apply for employment, as opposed to having to wait for the employer to initiate the process.

A final measure is being taken to change regulations so as to reduce the risk of gaps in the application process.

Jan 04

Hostility to Immigrants Not as Great as the Media Lead the Public to Believe

It’s true that there seems to be a lot of hostility to immigrants and immigration policy, but there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

 

In reality many communities are open to immigration and are willing to come out publicly in favor or it. To show their commitment, municipal leaders around the United States are continually coming up with ways to integrate new arrivals, including processes to accelerate the learning of English and showing them how to get jobs.

 

In many cities, especially so-called ‘sanctuary cities’, police and municipal authorities are not permitted to ask about immigrant status in the course of their official duties, and are also offering economic assistance to help attract and establish more immigrants.

Baltimore is a prime example of a city that needs aggressive, self-starting immigrants. In recent years the city has experienced massive depopulation due mostly to the recession, though the city has been troubled for decades. At its peak, it had nearly one million, but that number has dwindled to a little more than half that. Municipal leaders hope to inject some new energy into the city with hopeful and optimistic immigrants.

A program called Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative works with local governments to create environments that will be friendly to immigrants, in order to maximize growth and increase diversity. The initiative collects creative innovations, and provides resources and training to allow communities to more easily integrate new arrivals. It is also linked to grassroots movements that want social change and promotes research into immigrant contributions to their communities. In these ways they hope to provide working models for welcoming newcomers through links to the business community, non profits and governmental partnerships.

Jan 04

What Is the American Jobs First Program?

Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Jeff Sessions have cosponsored a bill in the United States Senate, the Americans Jobs First Program, that could radically change the H-1B Visa, the visa employers use to hire foreign workers. It is expected that not only will it entirely reshape the program, it would effectively end the Option Practical Training (OPT) program.

The visa is aimed at workers who have at least a bachelor’s degree and have a specialized skill that is difficult to fill in the United States. The OPT program is designed to allow workers who have attained a bachelor’s or higher degree of education an opportunity for on the job training.

The Senators maintain that the visa program has been exploited by employers in ways that are not faithful to its original intent, and has instead been used as a tool to decrease labor costs.

The new bill would now require that foreign national workers working in the United States be paid either what they would have to pay a U.S. national with two years of experience, or $110,000 annually, whichever is higher. Additionally, employers would be prohibited from hiring H-1B employees for a two year period following lay-offs or forced furloughs, employee strikes or lockouts, etc., thus discouraging employers from using suck tactics to replace native workers with foreign nationals.

The OPT program would abolished on the grounds that the program is being abused to hire every less expensive labor, without providing any of the on the job training stipulated by the program. The bill would also prohibit the creation of programs that resemble the OPT program.

It’s not clear how likely it is that the bill as drafted will pass. It’s important to note that the bill was introduced by a Senator currently running for the Office of President, which has opened speculation that it was created with an eye on drawing voters.

Aug 08

Visa Rules Change to Accommodate H1-B Visa Spouses

Everyone has heard of the H1-B visa for those who wish to work in the United States, but there is another “shadow” visa that has until now not received much attention, and that is the H- 4 visa.

 

The H-4 visa, derisively called the “Golden Cage” visa by its holders, is a family visa chiefly used for spouses of H1-B visa holders. The historical problem with the visa has been that it carries almost no benefits to the holder. It only allows for a temporary visit with one’s spouse. The biggest complaint is that H-4 holders may not work in the United States, but all that is about to change.

According to unpublicized provisions in the executive action of President Barak Obama, H-4 visa holders will, starting this year, be permitted to seek employment. This is great news for spouses, about 80% of whom are married to skilled tech workers and are often skilled themselves.

There are a few restrictions however. The H-4 seekers spouse has to be seeking green card status or who have extensions that stretch past the usual six year H-1B.

Life can be difficult for H-4 visas and many complain of feelings of isolation and increased dependency as they become exclusively reliant on their spouses for all for all of their needs.  Often spouses do not speak English and are not acculturated to western ways, and won’t ever have a real opportunity to learn these things. Domestic violence can become a problem according to activists.

It goes without saying that many women are breathing a sigh of relief over the measure. “It makes you feel like a real human being,” said one thankful hopeful.

Jul 29

Greek Nationals Clamor for More Visas

State Representatives from several states are asking their respective national delegations to increase visa quotas for Greeks trying to escape the financial crisis in their country.

The representatives say that there are many young Greeks with useful skills that could be put to use in the United States, and that it is an opportunity for the United States to offer help in a situation in which it is not directly involved.

Being qualified and unable to find work is a critical problem, one that can affect the sufferers work history for the rest of their lives. Not getting crucial experience early in one’s career will mean that one’s economic well-being will be permanently compromised.

Activists pulling for the measure state that U.S.– Greece relations have always been strong, and that the measure will only strengthen those ties. They also point out that the United States provided strong support to Greece in the aftermath of WWII, and that that should be a model for future actions.

Greeks have a reputation for hard work advocates state, and that many IT companies are already interested in doing business with Greek companies. The raise in the quota limit can only facilitate that.

Jul 17

US to Expand Working Permits for F1 Student Visas

The United States is actively trying to recruit students from Asia—Indian in particular–and to sweeten the pot the Obama administration is putting forth new proposals to allow STEM students (science, tech, engineering and math) to work for a six year period after their graduation.

 

All foreign students who graduate with a degree from a program in the United States are currently allowed to work for 12 months; STEM graduates are currently limited to 17 months.

The measure is expected to benefit Indian and Pakistani students that most, as they are overwhelmingly STEM students.

The measure has not been without detractors however. Senator Chuck Grassley states that the proposal is not workable as it stands, since the program has been poorly implemented, making it inefficient, and lacks proper oversight, leading to greater fraud.

The problem, insists the Senator, is that these foreign workers would be working entirely outside the non-immigrant work visa framework, increasing opportunities for abuse by employers, as well as increasing the possibility for fraud by workers.

More blunt opponents suggest that the measure is yet another attempt to reduce the bargaining ability for citizen workers, who will have to work for less and less as the number of foreign workers increases.

Jul 08

Massive Back Log for Visa Processing

The computer system used by the State Department to track and verify the personal date of visa applicants has been crippled by an otherwise undisclosed technological failure, according to State Department spokesmen on June 17.

The system handles all visas, including work, family and travel visas, and it used for printing visa stamps as well.

The department has revealed that over 100 experts have been employed to deal with the issue, and that all steps possible to solve it have been implemented.

The effect of the failure has had a widespread effect, especially on the agricultural sector, which has a definite time frame in which it can harvest crops. It has been estimated that thousands of agricultural workers have been prohibited from entering the U.S. because of the system failure.

Other companies have had to recall or cancel employees’ vacations and other business travel, and employee start dates have had to be delayed, creating further problems related to making adjustments to those visas.

May 31

The Green Card Lottery and You

The Green Card Lottery, now called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (aka the DV Program) offers up to 50,000 immigrant hopefuls the chance to win residence status in the United States, with special preference for those regions which have lower rates of immigration. The Green Card Lottery is held once a year.

 

All applications are examined to determine if there are reasons the lottery winner would be immediately ineligible for residence (for instance, the applicant is from a country that is ineligible). Winners are chosen randomly from that number and then become eligible to submit a full application

 

If any one country has had more up to 50,000 of its citizens immigrate to the U.S in the previous 5 years, no one from that country is eligible for the lottery. Exceptions to this are those seeking asylum regardless of whether the 50,000 limit has been reached. The countries that most commonly fall into this category are Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Burma and Ethiopia.

Natives of the following nations are ineligible for the Green Card Lottery:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (mainland)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom (Northern Ireland exempted)
  • Vietnam

 

If you were born in a country that has had 50,000 immigrants in the past 5 years, there are still two ways to qualify:

  • If your spouse was born in an eligible country, you pay enter the lottery, though both you and your spouse must be on the lottery entry
  • If you were born in an ineligible country but your parents were not or did not reside in that country at the time of your birth.

 

Be wary of “visa service” providers who will fill out and submit the application for you. If you do have someone help you, be sure to be present while it is being filled out so you can answer any questions or clarify points. Also, make sure you are there when the application is submitted and that YOU get the confirmation page and conformation number. You will not be able to check the status of your application without it. Unscrupulous “consultants” have been known to keep the confirmation number and try to get more money out of their customers

May 01

Visa Scams

With the competition for visas so strong, it’s only a matter of time before the most unethical people prey on the desperate and unknowledgeable. Here are a few things to look out for if you’re applying for one of the many immigration visas offered by the United State.

In general stay away from organizations that offer to “assist” visa hopefuls with their visa application. These assisters tell the applicant that there are fees for filing etc., though no such fees exist, and sometimes try to even charge applicants for the forms. If you are going to spend money to be helped filing an application, hire a reputable immigration attorney.

 

Be cautious about any site that does not have a .gov at the end of their URL. A .gov indicates that the site is an official site of the United States government, and that it will always have to latest and most accurate information. This is not the say that there are not many sites that provide good services and information, but whatever they offer should be compared with the “official” version.

 

Be careful about “official” information in an email. Legitimate emails will always come from a .gov URL, but note that some email addresses can be spoofed. Note also that the US government does not notify applicants of their visa acceptance via email. Applicants should always check to see if they have won a visa lottery on the US government website.

 

Finally, never file an application with or provide personal information to a site URL that does not end in .gov. This is a way that scammers use your personal information for fraud.

Apr 15

Business owners and immigration Visas: What You Need to Know

It’s no secret businesses of all sizes are looking for talent abroad; and while there is a lot of demand on the business side, hiring foreign workers is rather burdensome, complicated and expensive. Here is a breakdown of the major employment visas:

 

  • The H-1b visa is of course the most popular. Congress has set a cap of 65,000 for fiscal year 2016, a number that has not increased from the previous year. Most of these visas go to those with scientific or IT credentials, i.e. those with “specialized” knowledge. The H-1b goes fast, and in recent years the cap is reached on the first day of filing!
  • The L-1 is for employees of a company’s foreign office who are needed to work temporarily in the U.S., which we might think of as a transfer. There are two varieties of L-1 visas: the L-1A is for those with managerial skills while the L-1B is for those with some kind of specialized knowledge of the product or service, say someone in marketing or sales.
  • The E-1 and E-2 are for hiring executives from other countries, with companies that have the most trade with the United States favored in receiving the visa.

 

Many experts feel that the current work visa system is inadequate for the demands of the global economy in the sense that they are not built for retaining talent. This causes, as the argument goes, that talent to go to the highest bidder elsewhere.

 

Another problem arises from the fact that 99% of the work visa petitions, particularly the H-1b, are made by companies with fewer than 500 employees, and a surprisingly large number of companies (thousands) with fewer than 10 employees. One rule of thumb: the smaller the company the less likely your petition will be approved. In fact companies with over 500 employees rake in about 30% of the applications allowed.