Final Reminder on Visa Lottery

If you haven’t already, don’t delay in making sure of your eligibility for the 2016 Diversity Visa lottery.  Online registration  is now open  and will conclude in just a few days on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-5).  Do your friends and colleagues a favor and forward this information as well.

Detailed instructions on the submitting an online entry, as well as the online process to notify entrants of their selection and processing steps, is available at

https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/

Good Luck and Best wishes!

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Inside the Vermont Service Center

Last week Adrienne was able to join a shareholders meeting at the Vermont Service Center of the USCIS.  The VSC is one of the four primary immigration processing centers in the US and handles most types of immigration cases for companies and applicants from the east coast.  After more than a decade of sending documentation to the VSC (and calling, emailing, faxing), it was great to see the agency from the inside out. The VSC put on an excellent shareholders meeting in which they introduced their executive team and their associate center directors, as well as many of the heads of the H-1B and L-1 adjudication areas.  They also invited the new head of the National Visa Center to come and discuss his agency. More than just introducing these key players though, the VSC allowed us to engage in active discussions in small groups with these leaders and to ask some of the “burning questions” about adjudications and trends. It was a long drive up from Boston, but a very worthwhile one.  I left the meeting energized and ready with new tips and tricks for my practice, and especially the H-1B season ahead.

E-Verify to Delete Old Records: Employer Action Required to Preserve Evidence

As many US employers are aware, E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility. It is not mandatory for most employers, unless they have certain federal contracts. Currently it is used by approximately 500,000 US employers. The first pilot program went into effect in the late 1990’s, but numbers of enrollees remained small for many years. For any companies that enrolled before 2005, however, certain federal restrictions on document retention are now becoming important to note.

Specifically, effective January 15, 2015, E-Verify transaction records more than 10 years old will be deleted from the system. In order to preserve a record of cases that are more than 10 years old (which is recommended), companies should download the new “Historic Records Report”. This must be done before December 31, 2014.

http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Verification/E-Verify/E-Verify_Native_Documents/Fact-Sheet-E-Verify-NARA.pdf

 

Looking Back to Plan Ahead: Immigrant Visa Availability

Every month of every year, the US Department of State publishes a very important document called the Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin provides a listing of all green card categories including those which are Family-based, Employment-based and based on Diversity. For each of these categories (and several subcategories of each) all of which have numerical limitations, the DOS summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers during that month. This essentially means that for categories that have more applicants than available visa numbers, a list is developed which shows the order in which pending applications will be processed, based on the date the oldest application was filed. This past year, in light of high demand in many categories, demand exceeded supply:

EB-2 China Anomaly:  As the backlog for employment-based professionals (EB-2 and EB-3) lengthened, we saw significant priority date advancement of EB-3 China cases even beyond the priority date for EB-2 China cases. This resulted in a large number of “downgrade” petitions for EB-2 China applicants seeking to be classified as EB-3 to take advantage of the more favorable priority date. But, by June 2014 EB-3 “retrogressed” until we saw the China EB-2 and EB-3 categories more in line with historic expectations of EB-2 progressing faster.

EB-5 China “cut off”:  For the first time since the EB-5 immigrant investor program was created , the maximum number of immigrant visas allocated to Chinese applicants in FY 2014 was reached.  Hence, a “cut-off date” had to be established for the first time by mid-August 2014. Thankfully, this interruption of visa availability for China EB-5 was short-lived, as visa numbers for the FY2015 fiscal year become available again on October 1, 2014.  While the short cut-off window created minimal impact on applicants this year, the EB-5 category has seen exponential growth, in large part due to Chinese investors.  As a result, future shortages are predicted, possibly with a needed cut-off date at some point during the second half of the fiscal year, possibly as early as May 2015.  In light of this, strategic planning for EB-5 applicants  is crucial.  Competent legal counsel by immigration professionals such as Law Office of Adrienne J. Vaughan is crucial if you are considering an EB-5 filing in FY2015.

Looking Ahead: Keep an eye on our Visa Bulletin updates this year for the following:

EB-2 India:  In late FY2014 the maximum number of EB-2 immigrant visas available for India was reached. Luckily, the brief period before visa availability for FY2015 in October 2014 meant minimal impact.  However, the DOS has indicated that a large volume of EB-3 applicants from India are seeking to “upgrade” their petitions from EB-3 to EB-2 to take advantage of more favorable priority dates.  This demand will threaten EB-2 India availability in the coming months. Significant retrogression is anticipated, potentially as early as November 2014.

Keep an eye on the Visa Bulletin and follow our blog for insights:

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html

 

The 2016 Diversity Visa Lottery is now open!

Now is the time to get the word out to all your family and friends.  The DV Lottery is accepting applicants NOW!

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program has been administered annually since 2005 by the US Department of State.  It allows for up to 50,000 visas to be allocated to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  The program begins in October of each year when eligible applicants are able to submit an online application.  A  computer-generated random drawing takes place after the application submission period closes in early November.

As the goal of the program is to “diversify” our US immigration system, nationals of countries which send more than 50,000 immigrants to the US over the period of the past five years are NOT eligible.  For DV-2016, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply for this reason: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.

Please note the terminology of the program and the requirements for application are very specific.  A “native” ordinarily means someone born within a particular country, regardless of the individual’s current country of residence or nationality.  Although immigration counsel is not required in most cases, if there is any question on eligibility, or whether certain relatives should be included in the application, immigration counsel should be consulted.

Entrants for DV-2016 are advised to submit their entries early in the registration period as heavy demand may result in website delays. There is no charge for submitting an entry in the DV Program.

Online registration for the DV 2016 Program  is now open  and will conclude on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-5).

Detailed instructions on the submitting an online entry, as well as the online process to notify entrants of their selection and processing steps, is available at

https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/

 

 

Hopeful Signs on Immigration Reform

Although many expressed disappointment that President Obama chose to avoid executive action in September, as expected, there are still hopeful signs that immigration reform has not been forgotten. Speaker John Boehner announced this week that it’s still time to do an immigration overhaul, and that he believes “absolutely” that he can convince the GOP to do it.http://blogs.rollcall.com/218/boehner-absolutely-confident-gop-immigration-reform/?dcz=.

But, Boehner, like other republicans has stated that Obama would be “poisoning the well” by acting unilaterally on immigration reform  http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/10/rubio-obama-poisoned-the-well-for-reform-on-humanitarian-138590.html

While President Obama said he continues to prefer Congress to act to address the issue, last week he stressed that executive action remains a viable option for him. The timeline he said would be sometime between the midterm elections and the end of the year.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/10/02/obama-ill-take-executive-action-on-immigration-between-the-midterms-and-end-of-the-year/?tid=pm_politics_pop

At the same time, House Democrats sent a letter dated 9/30/2014 to President Obama urging him to implement administrative fixes for business immigration if congress fails to act. They argued he had “clear pre-existing legal authority” to further help American businesses retain high-skilled immigrant graduates, workers and entrepreneurs. They pointed to the insufficient number of H-1B visas and the extreme backlogs for green cards as two examples.

There is no question that our current immigration system is not effectively serving our country’s needs.  It has become a problem too large to ignore, and yet congress continues to fail to act. Hopeful signs are on the horizon, but we must continue to be vigilant and let Congress know that doing nothing is not an option.