Month: September 2016

by SCwpadmin SCwpadmin 716 Comments

Immigration Programs Set to Expire at the End of the Month

Four immigration programs are set to expire on September 30th unless Congress chooses to reauthorize them in a spending bill for the new fiscal year. If the programs are not extended by Congress prior to September 30th, pending applications would be put on hold until the programs are reauthorized.

Conrad 30 Waiver Program

The Conrad 30 Waiver Program was created to address a severe shortage of qualified doctors in medically underserved communities across the United States. Under the program, J-1 medical doctors are able to waive the requirement that they return to their foreign residence for two years after the program’s end before applying for another immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. In turn, the J-1 medical doctors must agree to work fulltime for three years in a health care facility located in an area designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a Health Professional Shortage Area, Medically Underserved Area, or Medically Underserved Population.

EB-5 Regional Center Investor Program

The EB-5 Regional Center Investor Program allows foreign entrepreneurs to apply for permanent residency if they make a substantial investment in a designated “Regional Center.” Regional Centers are economic development agencies located in targeted employment areas, which are designated and monitored by USCIS. Normally, EB-5 applicants would be required to make an investment in a commercial enterprise which would create at least ten permanent, fulltime jobs for U.S. workers. By investing in a Regional Center, however, the investor is able to meet these requirements indirectly through the aggregated efforts of the economic development agency.

H-2B Returning Worker Program

Under the H-2B Returning Workers Program, returning H-2B temporary, non-agricultural workers are exempt from the annual H-2B cap of 66,000 visas if they had already been counted against the cap during one of the previous three years.

Non-Minister Special Immigrant Religious Workers Program

The Non-Minister Special Immigrant Religious Workers Program, under the EB-4 immigrant visa category, allows non-minister religious workers to apply for permanent residence through their employment with a bona fide, non-profit religious organization in the United States. Special Immigrant Religious workers entering as ministers would be unaffected by the expiration.

by SCwpadmin SCwpadmin 25 Comments

Proposed House Bill Would Revise H-1B Program

A recently proposed bipartisan bill would amend the H-1B program by requiring more employers to attest that they are unable to find qualified U.S. workers. The bill is specifically targeted at H-1B dependent employers, which employ more than 50 people and whose workforce is comprised of at least 15 percent H-1B workers. Currently, these H-1B dependent employers are required to file attestations stating that they are unable to find qualified U.S. workers, but they are exempt from these attestations if the H-1B worker holds a master’s degree or earns at least $60,000 annually. This exemption was created in 1998 to improve administrative efficiency, but the $60,000 threshold was not indexed for inflation and has not been increased in the past 18 years.

The current bill, proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), would raise the threshold from $60,000 to $100,000, and include an adjustment for inflation. Additionally, the proposed bill would eliminate the exemption for workers with master’s degree. While the bill has not been scheduled for a vote in the House, Rep. Issa’s office said that it may be attached to an omnibus spending package following the election in November.

by SCwpadmin SCwpadmin 39 Comments

EOIR Docket Backlog Hits a New Record High

As of July 2016, the pending case backlog before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) passed half a million, at a record high of 502, 976. The average wait time in 2016 before an immigrant can even appear in court is about 676 days, slightly under two years. This figure is more than double what an immigrant would have waited in 1998.

While there are many reasons for this huge back-up, three factors in particular are considered primary contributors to it. First, from 2008 to 2014, the dragnet program Secure Communities caused a significant uptick in the backlog as local police departments readily handed over countless arrested undocumented immigrants to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which in turn fed them into the court system. Then, following the massive influx of families and unaccompanied minors from Central America in the summer of 2014, the Department of Justice prioritized such cases ahead of those already on the docket. In this attempt to respond to the large group of new immigrants effectively, DOJ left many immigrants waiting in the wings much longer for their day in court. Finally, federal spending allocation toward the immigration court system rose only 74% between 2003 and 2015, whereas spending for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rose 105%. These budgeting priorities on enforcement over judicial support led to 200,000 cases being added to the total immigration court docket nationwide, while the number of immigration judges plateaued from 2011-2014 in parallel to a DOJ hiring freeze.

Now, Secure Communities is no more, the administrative fallout in the aftermath of the 2014 Central American migration boom has reduced, and DOJ is apparently on an immigration judge hiring spree to counteract the record backlog. Today in fact, an all-time high of 277 immigration judges are working nationwide, DOJ has 100 candidates going through the recruitment process, and it bears authorization to hire up to 374 more immigration judges. While this hiring effort by the government will hopefully help reduce the tremendous backlog, many more new immigration judges may be required, as Human Rights First estimates that it would take approximately 524 immigration judges to clear the system’s backlog within a year. Clearly, EOIR and DOJ have their work cut out for them.




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DHS Seeks Comments on Proposed International Entrepreneur Rule

The Department of Homeland Security is currently seeking comments on its proposed rule creating regulatory guidelines for the discretionary grant of parole to international entrepreneurs, in order to facilitate entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States.

The proposed rule seeks to establish a framework for granting parole to entrepreneurs based on the creation of a startup entity in the United States. In order to receive parole under the rule, the entrepreneur would need to demonstrate that the United States would receive a significant public benefit from the creation of a new startup entity with significant potential for rapid growth and job creation. This potential for growth and job creation would have to be demonstrated by significant capital financing from U.S. investors with established records of successful investments, or grants or awards from Federal, State or local government entities. The grant of parole would then allow the applicant to oversee and grow the startup in the United States, maintaining an active and central role in its operations. Under the rule, entrepreneurs would be able to receive an initial 2-year grant of parole, with one additional 3-year extension available based on the initial success of the startup.

The full text of the proposed rule can be found here. DHS is accepting comments until October 10, 2016.