Month: February 2016

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It’s H-1B Season!

It’s H-1B season! As a reminder to employers in the tech industry and other sectors that rely on H-1B workers, employers must file their H-1B petitions April 1, 2016 to try to obtain one of the limited H-1Bs with a start date of October 1, 2016.

There are a total of 85,000 H-1B visas available each year, with 20,000 of those reserved for individuals who obtained a master’s degree or higher in the U.S.  During the first week of April last year, USCIS received nearly 233,000 petitions, up from the 172,500 petitions received in 2014. As such, time is of the essence. Please contact us now if you have employees currently on working on OPT or if you are recruiting foreign nationals and you would like to submit an H-1B visa on their behalf.

 

 

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Further Restrictions for the Visa Wavier Program

The Department of Homeland Security is expanding restrictions to the Visa Waiver Program.  At present, the Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 specified countries to travel to the United States for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa.  However, a new law established in December 2015 created new travel restrictions to the Visa Waiver Program intended to tighten national security.  This new law made nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Sudan on or after March 1, 2011 ineligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program.  Similarly, nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Sudan are precluded from the Visa Waiver Program.

On February 18, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security announced that it is also including Libya, Somalia, and Yemen on the above-mentioned list of countries of concern.  While individuals who have visited these countries since March 1, 2011 or are dual nationals of these countries are ineligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, they may still apply for a visa to enter the United States at a U.S. consulate or embassy.  If entry on the Visa Wavier Program is in the best interest of national security or law enforcement, an applicant can also apply for a waiver of these travel restrictions from the Department of Homeland Security.

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Lawmakers Sponsor Bill to Provide Legal Counsel to Children in Deportation Proceedings

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and several other democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require the Attorney General to appoint legal counsel for children in removal proceedings.  The current immigration laws do not provide counsel for immigrant adults or children in removal proceedings.  At present, unrepresented immigrant families and unaccompanied children are required to represent themselves before the immigration judge and are forced to defend themselves against well-trained trial attorneys from the Department of Homeland Security, unless they can afford to hire an immigration attorney.  Not surprisingly, having an immigration attorney significantly increases the likelihood that the immigrant will be successful before the immigration court.  Statistics support that almost half of children in removal proceedings are without counsel and almost 70 percent of families in immigration proceedings are without counsel.  The purpose of this bill introduced by Senator Reid is to provide minors and other vulnerable populations with the right to counsel.  Given the political divide on immigration, Senator Reid’s bill will undoubtedly face opposition in Congress.

 

 

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Woman Given Advanced Permission to Travel was Deported on her Return to the U.S.

Lesly Cortez-Martinez, an undocumented mother of 3 United States citizen children, was deported last week after the United States granted her advanced permission to travel to Mexico.  Ms. Cortez-Martinez immigrated to the United States at the age of 15 with her family and was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.  Before traveling to Mexico she requested advanced travel permission from the United States government to allow her to visit her family in Mexico and return to the United States.

When Ms. Cortez-Martinez attempted to return from visiting her family and re-enter the United States last week at Chicago O’Hare International Airport immigration authorities detained her due to a 2004 deportation order that was in Ms. Cortez-Martinez’s immigration history.  Despite having the advanced permission to travel, Ms. Cortez-Martinez was deported back to Mexico because of this 2004 deportation order.

After national outrage at the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to deport Ms. Cortez-Martinez, she was allowed to re-enter the United States and be reunited with her husband and three children.  The Department of Homeland Security has stated that Ms. Cortez-Martinez will likely be placed into deportation proceedings after her return.  Ms. Cortez-Martinez’s experience raises significant concerns for other noncitizens who have been granted advanced travel permission and highlights the risks involved in international travel plans on advanced parole.

Before international travel, and especially for those who are traveling on advanced parole, noncitizens should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss the risks involved in their travel before departing the United States.

 

 

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