Midterm Elections Issue: Immigration

Midterm elections are next week; the hot-ticket issues this time around is immigration reform, which has proved to be a very explosive issue for both political parties. President Obama has decided that he will take immigration reform head-on only after midterm elections are over.

The political pundits say the Republicans are slated to win both House and Senate.  Either way, immigration reform will happen whether Republicans or Democrats retain the Senate or House.

If the Republicans win the Senate, then they have to do something to woo the immigrant vote, which is 10% Latino. South Asians and South East Asians have also increased their voting numbers. Both these populations want immigration reform to happen because they all have family or friends who may benefit. American business needs tech workers in both healthcare and business. If the Democrats win, Obama will preserve the immigrant vote by executing immigration reform by Executive Order, increasing the number of H1B visas and giving H4 visa holders employment authorization like he did for ‘dreamers.’

Under Republican leadership, the US could increase border security with a virtual wall, and create more visas for H2B and H1B because of the demand and because it is cheaper to monitor the visa issue rather than spend billions on border security, which is found to be full of holes (pun unintended!).

Immigration reform is on its way!

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Obamacare Works for Green Card Holder

A client for whom we applied and received US legal permanent residency, just received health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.

Client was found by the federal and state government to be ineligible to receive health insurance benefits. This prerequisite made the client eligible for health insurance.

Make an appointment at www.mlolaw.us

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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I Lost My Indian Passport — Help!

Recently, I have been getting referrals from clients about losing their passport from India. Now, losing an Indian passport is a greater deal than losing your US Passport, because there is an established procedure for recovery and reissue of a US Passport.

But recovery and reissue of an Indian Passport is another matter.

The fear of clients who contact me is that they will be turned into either ICE or USCIS because they are out of service. The good news is that there is now a procedure to reapply for a lost passport. However, it is complex.

In my experience, there is a better procedure if your application is filed as a walk-in rather than mailing in the application.

The next complexity is added because the Indian consulate does not update their website often. The result is that the information on the website is often unreliable or out of date. If my client is traveling from outside the consulate area, then I suggest planning the trip in advance to allow for contingencies, such as insufficient paperwork.

Contact us for further information.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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TN and L Visa Holders Enter at Select Ports of Entry to US from Canada

Beginning in mid-September, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is streamlining the entry process for first-time Canadian TN and L applicants seeking entry into the US under NAFTA. CBP has designated ports of entry that will ensure a more efficient approach to processing the high volume of TN and L applicants.

The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the US to engage in business activities at a professional level. The L-1 nonimmigrant classification — Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager — enables a US employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the US. This classification also enables a foreign company that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send an executive or manager to the US with the purpose of establishing one.

While there is no requirement to go to these designated ports of entry, first-time applicants are encouraged to enter through these ports for ‘optimized processing’ at 14 ports, including 4 pre-clearance centers.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Secretary Johnson Announces Process for DACA Renewal

In early June, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson released the procedure for individuals to renew their enrollment in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Federal Register now has the updated form that individuals, who were already enrolled in DACA, can use to extend their deferral for two years. USCIS has already begun taking forms for renewal. USCIS is also taking forms from those who were not previously enrolled in DACA. Over 560,000 individuals have enrolled in DACA since April 2014.

The DACA approvals for those who were already enrolled will start expiring in September 2014. To prevent deferral and an interruption in employment authorization, individuals must re-enroll for the program before their approvals expire—according to USCIS, individuals should re-enroll at least 120 days, or four months, before their deferred action lapses.

DACA defers removal action for certain individuals, and allows them to stay in the US and acquire employment authorization for two years. Individuals who were not previously enrolled in DACA, but meet DACA’s guidelines, may still apply for deferral. Only those who have steadily lived in the US since June 15, 2007 are qualified for DACA.

Individuals can re-enroll in DACA if they meet these guidelines:

  • Did not depart the US on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole;
  • Have continuously resided in the US since they submitted their most recent DACA request that was approved; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

You may renew your enrollment in DACA by filling out the new Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization,” and the I-765 Worksheet. Form I-765 has a filing and biometrics fee of $465. USCIS will also run a background check on DACA renewals.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Do Physicians Really Need Asset Planning?

A couple consulted me about writing a will and trust for their family. The husband is a doctor and the wife is a lawyer, both in private practice. They had two young children under the age of 18 and no prior marriages. Both carried malpractice insurance for their professions and an umbrella policy. They had good cars and a residence in a nice neighborhood. They also had retirement plans and mutual funds and children in private school. They were saving for college through 529 Plans.

They wanted to protect their families and assets from lawsuits and creditors. Missouri is a great asset planning state, but the planning to protect assets should start at least four years in advance—creditors can sue to set aside the transfer. Assets can be attached if the transfer (to another person or entity or trust) occurs and the lawsuit is filed within four years of the transfer.

The best way to protect assets is to transfer the asset to a trust, other entity, or person with no recourse to the owner. However, a house jointly owned by husband and wife is not protected in the event of a divorce the property, and can be divided between the parties. The creditors of the deceased spouse can also sue to recover from the sale of the residence. Hence holding assets in joint name may not always be the answer.

The 529 plans are not subject to federal income tax and can be paid in advance up to five years depending on the plan—and are excluded from the estate of the deceased—to offer asset protection. Professional and umbrella polices may be insufficient to satisfy creditors in a lawsuit, which means that protecting other assets becomes imperative.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Medical Exams for Immigration Applicants Are Valid for 1 Year

USCIS recently announced new policy changes regarding Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. Starting June 1, 2014, USCIS has limited the validity period for all Forms I-693 to one year from the date that USCIS receives the form. This updated policy applies to any Form I-693 supporting a benefit application that USCIS adjudicates on or after June 1, 2014.

USCIS states that if you are applying for adjustment of status, you may submit Form I-693 in one of the following ways:

To ensure that your medical examination is still valid at the time that USCIS adjudicates your application, you should schedule the medical examination as close as possible to the time you file for adjustment of status, respond to a RFE, or attend an interview (if applicable).

The Takeaway

Clients may have their applications for adjustment of status pending for many years. During this time, it may be necessary to obtain a renewed medical exam when more than one year has passed. We are now seeing an uptick in RFEs for adjustment applications, especially for employment-based applications that have been pending for more than one year.

At a liaison meeting with USCIS in St. Louis, we were assured that USCIS requires a new I-693 to be submitted only when there is movement in the case and the case is close to being adjudicated. If you have additional questions on how to submit Form I-693, or on how to ensure that your application is valid, please contact Mahadevan Law Office, LLC for a consultation.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Massachusetts’ Immigrant Program for Students

Massachusetts has created a loophole program, called Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GER), to permit foreign students to stay legally in the US.

Foreign students who attended college in Massachusetts and who want to pursue entrepreneurial activities in the state can apply to the GER Program, which is being run by the Massachusetts Tech Collaborative, an independent state agency designed to promote the advancement of technology in the state. Chosen individuals will be given a job at a participating universities in Massachusetts—the students will work part-time and will submit visa applications sponsored by the university. The program is expected to grow 46,000 jobs for students.

US immigration law dictates that foreign students can study at US colleges and universities under a student visa—after they graduate, their visas expire and they have to find a US employer to sponsor them for an H-1B visa. The H-1B visa system inherently poses a disadvantage for entrepreneurs, the system only allows for a once-per-year application process—in the form of a lottery—and the slots fill up quickly. On April 7, 2014, USCIS reported that it had secured its quota of 85,000 H-1B visa petitions only five days after it began receiving applications.

This is why the GER Program’s loophole is important: colleges and universities are immune to the cap and can submit applications for employers at any time. This means foreign graduates have a higher chance of obtaining a visa through the GER Program, and through employment with higher-education institutions, because these institutions are exempt from the cap.

The House bill proposed to devise a new category of startup visas for foreign entrepreneurs, while also raising the amount of H-1B visas accessible to immigrants with advanced degrees. While the Massachusetts program is yet to be funded, this is a great start for foreign graduates whom the US needs to retain!

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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The Good Faith Criterion: Lessons Learned From US vs. M&D Masonry and Form I-9

In 2010, ICE alleged in two counts that M&D Masonry committed 364 violations against the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The first count charged that 277 of M&D’s employees didn’t correctly complete section 1 and 2 of Form I-9; the second count charged that M&D didn’t have proper paperwork for 87 additional employees. The company refuted ICE’s allegations, and protested to 40 of the 277 violations named in Count I, and six of the 87 violations named in Count II.

For Count I, the government contests that M&D failed to ensure that:

  • 34 employees signed the attestation in section 1 of Form I-9;
  • 60 employees checked a box in section 1;
  • three employees attested to only one status in section 1; and
  • 10 employees who attested to status as lawful permanent residents entered their respected alien numbers on the adjacent line.

For Count II, M&D failed to:

  • complete section 2 of Form I-9 properly;
  • sign section 2;
  • record the issuing authority for a List B document;
  • provide the document number for List A, List B, and List C documents; and
  • review both List B and C documents.

Additionally, M&D instead accepted unacceptable documents, and didn’t examine or authenticate many I-9 forms within three business days of the individual’s hire date.

Among the defenses, the company alleges that the proposed monetary fines are exorbitant and do not consider the M&D’s financial abilities; and that ICE’s enforcement practices are unreasonable and impulsive. On January 6, 2014, ICE revised its complaint and retracted 25 of the named persons in Count I. According to the US government, M&D supplied satisfactory evidence that demonstrated that those employees had been dismissed before ICE’s inquiry, and wasn’t within the purview of the audit.

Lesson 1

A newspaper article is actually what led ICE to inspect and fine M&D Masonry. On April 30, 2010 an article titled “Illegal hiring for airport construction?” was printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The article cited a hiring foreman for M&D who said that the company was hiring people without sufficient work authorization. ICE conducted a worksite enforcement inquiry on May 7, 2010; subsequently, ICE served M&D with a Notice of Inspection (NOI) for current and past employee I-9 forms from May 7, 2007 to May 7, 2010, and for employment records, payroll data, and wage and hour reports. ICE then issued M&D with slew of other notices throughout 2010 and 2012, including a Notice of Technical and Procedural Failures (NTPF), a Notice of Suspect Documents (NSD), and a Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF).

Lesson 2 & 3

M&D was timely in their response to ICE, and filed a Request for Hearing a month after ICE issued the NIF.

After acquiring and studying M&D’s Wage Inquiry by Employer Number records—obtained from the Georgia Department of Labor—Count II of ICE’s allegations concluded that M&D failed to prepare I-9 forms for 87 employees. M&D’s violations in Count II are far more egregious than Count I because failure to properly prepare and/or present I-9 forms destroys the purpose of the INA.

Penalties

M&D believed that ICE should fine the company based on its financial means; however, the governing statute asserts that such consideration is only applicable in five certain circumstances; M&D did not fall within the scope of those circumstances. While some OCAHO cases have previously taken financial means into consideration when determining penalties in a case, such leeway is not required of the government.

ICE fined M&D $332,813.25 for 339 violations, where each violation cost $981.75. Each violation incurred a baseline penalty of $935, also taking into account the employer’s 84% error rate. ICE heightened the penalties by 5 percent for the significance of the violations—over 100 I-9 forms were purportedly verified by signature stamp, although section I of the forms reflected various dates—and 5 percent for the size of the company: M&D had been in business for over 20 years, employed over 400 workers in a three year period, had a payroll of $4.3 million, and a large amount of contracted work. ICE handled the inclusion of unauthorized workers and absence of previous violations as neutral; ICE also lessened the penalties by 5 percent due to the good faith criterion.

ICE was charitable by applying the good faith criterion in M&D’s case. The good faith criterion is gauged by a study of whether the employer tried to comply with the INA obligations before the delivery of the NOI. Since M&D’s case isn’t the most extreme example of the INA violations, the penalties were lessened to a grand total of $228,300.

Takeaway

Incorrectly preparing and/or presenting a Form I-9 is one of the grievous paperwork violations an employer can make. Good faith is only taken into account when an employer actually attempts to determine its legal duties and yield to them. When judging suitable violations of the INA, the following must be favored:

  1. size of the employer;
  2. employer’s good faith;
  3. gravity of violations;
  4. whether an individual is an unauthorized alien; and
  5. employer’s history of previous violations.
See you in my next blog.
Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Employer Defense In a Complaint of Documentary Abuse

The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) has direct purview over three types of cases stemming from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In this case—Salim Hajiani vs. ESHA USA, Inc. and Sameer Ramjee—Hajiani, the complainant, alleged that the respondent engaged in two of the three areas of jurisdiction over which OCAHO resides: immigration-related unfair employment practices and immigration-related fraud, which are both in violation of the INA.

Hajiani registered a complaint against ESHA USA and Ramjee, accusing the respondents of document abuse, firing Hajiani due to his citizenship status, and taking revenge on him because of a religious discrimination complaint he filed against a former employer. Salim Hajiani is a lawful permanent resident of the US.

Hajiani was hired on October 10, 2011 at Sameer Ramjee’s gas station and convenience store, ESHA, which is in Philadelphia, Tennessee. Hajiani worked at the store until January 10, 2012, when he was fired. On June 26, 2012, he filed a complaint with OSC, to which OSC responded that the complaint didn’t fall under their jurisdiction. Hajiani then filed a charge with OCAHO in February 8, 2013.

Hajiani’s complaint against his employer was a detailed litany of purported incidents of document abuse and job complaints, such as long hours, no overtime pay, and double shifts. He also specified that one of the reasons he was fired was because Ramjee preferred to employ undocumented workers so that he wouldn’t have to pay them overtime or give them benefits.

Hajiani made various allegations against other employees that were not under the scope of OCAHO’s jurisdiction—complaints of undocumented workers also do not fall under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Such instances include cash register shortages, sexual harassment, allegations of tax fraud, selling tobacco to minors, and that he wasn’t hired for store’s first shift because only US citizens were allowed to work that shift. Hajiani also noted in his complaint that his claim was filed timely.

However, his claim of document abuse was not filed in a timely manner. Hajiani alleged that the document abuse occurred in October 2011, but didn’t file the charge with OSC until June 26, 2012. The IRCA strictly says, “no complaint may be filed respecting any unfair immigration-related practice occurring more than 180 days prior ot the filing of a charge with OSC.” Hajiani’s complaint would only have been valid for events after December 29, 2011.

None of Hajiani’s claims—his filed complaint of religious discrimination with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC), nor his complaints about the terms and conditions of his job—come under the purview of OCAHO, or are protected by IRCA. OCAHO only covers hiring, recruitment, and discharge.

Moreover, Hajiani never submitted evidence that any discrimination occurred. If Sameer Ramjee had been prejudiced against Hajiani, then Ramjee would never have employed Hajiani. Hajiani provided too many explanations of why he was fired, allowing OCAHO to conclude that Hajiani did not divulge his own behaviors that caused Ramjee to fire him.

OCAHO dismissed Hajiani’s complaint against his employer.

See you in my next blog.
Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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