USCIS wants to increase fees!

USCIS proposes increasing filing fees of a lot of commonly used applications.  Most of them are for business immigration filings and family based immigration applications.  See some of the proposed fee increases below.

You can make a comment on the fee increase until July 5, 2016. USCIS depends on the fees to pay for its services. So USCIS was one of the few agencies not affected by the government shut down last year.

Proposed fees

Form Purpose Current Fee Proposed Increase Change
I-129 For Worker $325 $460 +$135
I-130 For Family immigration $420 $535 +$115
I-140 For Work based immigration $580 $700 +$120
I-485 Work/Family GC* $1,070 $1,225 +$155
I-539 Change visas $290 $370 +$80
I-765 Work authorization $385 $410 +$30
I-90 Renew GC $365 $455 +$90
I-129F Fiancé Visa $340 $535 +$195
I-751 Get a 10 year GC* $505 $595 +$90
N-400 Naturalize $595 $640 +$45
N-600 Citizenship Certificate $600 $1170 +$570

*Green Card

Nalini S Mahadevan, Esq

P: 314.932.7111  nsm@mlolaw.us   www.mlolaw.us

Disclaimer: Please do not rely on this blog for legal advice.  Call me if you want to get advice and sign an engagement letter with my law firm.

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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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SLU Law Entrepreneurs Forge Paths to Success — excerpt from Saint Louis Brief, vol. 3, issue 1

Click on either image to view in full size.

Click here for the full version of the SLU Law Magazine.

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Part I: I-9 Basics

This is a multi-part blog on filling, filing, maintaining and auditing Form I-9, and how companies can avoiding penalties for non-compliance.

Who is an employer? An employer is any entity or a person, an agent of a person or entity, who is acting directly or indirectly. That means a company or an individual is an employer if they employ another person. The employer can be a contractor or sub-contractor; the word employer includes an agent: someone who is acting on behalf of an employer. An employer is one who hires another to work for them. The employee must be physically present in the United States. Overseas employees are not subject to I-9 rules and regulations. An employee must be paid wages or other remuneration in the United States.

Employers are also entities or individuals who recruit agricultural workers and who accept a fee for recruiting workers. Independent contractors are employers, if they contract with an individual for labor or other services. But the person or entity using the contract labor is not an employer.

All employers must verify the identity and employment eligibility of every worker hired in the United States after November 6th, 1986.

Employers are charged with not ‘knowingly’ hiring ineligible workers. ‘Knowingly’ could include constructive knowledge, knowledge attributable by inference to the employer by facts and circumstances that exist around the hiring of the employee. It is facts and circumstances an employer should have known.

All US employers must fill out I-9 forms and retain it at their offices, either in electronic or paper form. Form I-9 is not filed with the US Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS) or with US Immigration and Enforcement (ICE). There is no filing fee.

An employer uses E-verify to compare the information on Form I-9 provided by the employee against government records to verify the employee is eligible to work in the United States.

Forms I-9 are records of every employee hired after November 6, 1986. Employers are required to maintain these records in order to prevent illegal workers from working for a US employer in the United States; and to promote national security, critical infrastructure, prevent abuse and exploitation of workers. ICE targets employers who violate employment laws; hire illegal workers; and do not maintain employee I-9 records, which conform to US immigration laws and regulations.

Both ICE and USCIS are part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). ICE is tasked with enforcing proper maintenance and usage of the I-9 by employers and prosecutes erring employers.

Next week : Read Part II:  Which employers collect Form I-9

Part III: How to fill Section 1 of Form I-9

Part IV: How to fill Section 2 of Form I-9

Part V: When do you complete Section 3 of Form I-9

Part VI: Steps in the ICE Audit Process

Part VII: Penalties

Part VIII: How can employers protect themselves from discrimination?

Part IX: Best Practices

Part X: Managing I-9 in Mergers and Acquisitions

Part XI: Correcting I-9

Part XII: Storing/Retaining I-9

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Should lawyers have a business plan?

Today, I was interviewed by Helen Gunnarsson who writes for the Illinois Bar Journal. She asked a very good question–do lawyers need a business plan?

I asked my law practice management class at St. Louis University Law School to end the class with a presentation of a business plan for their future practice. I think business plans give a lawyer a base on which to practice; we are not in isolation anymore. There is tremendous competition for the same legal dollars from everywhere, within the city, state, multi-jurisdictional firms, large volume document processors and traditional law firms.

This competition demands that we deliver legal services for a lower price; even large corporate clients have become value conscious, which means that the little gal or guy better measure up and perform. So what does this signify for us, the little guys and gals? To measure up and deliver value measured legal services, we need to identify our target client and ethically market to that client.

Lawyers are not just business-people, they also have to practice and deliver within the bounds of the rules of ethics. Just because we find that our best client is usually at the emergency room in a hospital or in an ambulance, does not imply we can accost the prospect there to convert them into clients!

Having a strategic plan also requires that we must use social media and have a website, but market ourselves within the limits of our state licenses. I use my strategic plan to identify my market, define where the prospect is located and target my best marketing skills and media to that client. Hence my strategic plan must have a plan for using social media and my current clients. You need both because the law is not yet a commodity, although some parts of it are heading in that direction. I deliver quality services to my current clients who refer other clients to me.

I have a plan on how I use my Linkedin, Facebook and blog accounts. The audience and message on these media are highly focused and the fact that your marketing plan needs to match your audience.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Entrepreneurs Can Use Immigrant Visas to Create US Jobs

Last year, USCIS suddenly decided that an H-1b could not be self-employed anymore, reversing years of policy. The White House has now reversed itself and is re-instating H-1bs for the self-employed, especially if they create jobs.

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas today outlined a series of policy, operational, and outreach efforts to fuel the nation’s economy and stimulate investment by attracting foreign entrepreneurial talent of exceptional ability or who otherwise can create jobs, form startup companies, and invest capital in areas of high unemployment.

“The United States must continue to attract the best and brightest from around the world to invest their talents, skills, and ideas to grow our economy and create American jobs,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Today’s announcements will help our nation fully realize the potential of existing immigration laws.”

“Current immigration laws support foreign talent who will invest their capital, create new jobs for American workers, and dedicate their exceptional talent to the growth of our nation’s economy,” said Director Mayorkas. “USCIS is dedicated to ensuring that the potential of our immigration laws is fully realized, and the initiatives we announce today are an important step forward.”

These actions mark the six-month anniversary of Startup America, a White House-led initiative to reduce barriers and accelerate growth for America’s job-creating entrepreneurs. They have also been one key focus of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which has recommended taking action to help ensure that America can out-innovate and out-compete the world in a global economy.

USCIS has published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document on its website clarifying that entrepreneurs may obtain an employment-based second preference (EB-2) immigrant visa if they satisfy the existing requirements, and also may qualify for a National Interest Waiver under the EB-2 immigrant visa category if they can demonstrate that their business endeavors will be in the interest of the United States. USCIS will complement these FAQs with internal training on the unique characteristics of entrepreneurial enterprises and startup companies and incorporate input from the upcoming stakeholder engagements detailed below.

The EB-2 visa classification includes foreign workers with advanced degrees and individuals of exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business. Generally, an EB-2 visa petition requires a job offer and a Department of Labor certification. These requirements can be waived under existing law if the petitioner demonstrates that approval of the EB-2 visa petition would be in the national interest of the United States.

In response to stakeholder feedback, USCIS has also updated existing FAQs to clarify that an H-1b beneficiary who is the sole owner of the petitioning company may establish a valid employeremployee relationship for the purposes of qualifying for an H-1b nonimmigrant visa – which is used by U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as science, engineering, and computer programming.

The EB-5 immigrant investor program is also being further enhanced by transforming the intake and review process. In May, USCIS proposed fundamental enhancements to streamline the EB-5 process which include: extending the availability of premium processing for certain EB-5 applications and petitions; implementing direct lines of communication between the applicants and USCIS; and providing applicants with the opportunity for an interview before a USCIS panel of experts to resolve outstanding issues in an application. After reviewing stakeholder feedback on the proposal, USCIS is developing a phased plan to roll out these enhancements and is poised to begin implementing the first of these enhancements within 30 days.

Created by Congress in 1990, the program stimulates the U.S. economy through capital investment and resulting job creation by immigrant investors. As of June 30, 2011, it is estimated that the program has resulted in more than $1.5 billion in capital investments and created at least 34,000 jobs.

USCIS has also announced the expansion of its Premium Processing Service to immigrant petitions for multinational executives and managers (often referred to as “E13”). The Premium Processing Service allows employers to expedite processing of their petitions, absent evidentiary deficiencies, fraud or national security concerns.

Finally, USCIS is launching a new series of engagement opportunities for entrepreneurs and startup companies. These opportunities will focus on soliciting input from stakeholders on how USCIS can address the unique circumstances of entrepreneurs, new businesses and startup companies through its policies and regulations in the employment-based arena. For detailed information on USCIS‘s public meetings, please visit www.uscis.gov/outreach.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Google+

My daughter sent me an invitation to Google+. At first glance it seems to be a mixture of Facebook and LinkedIn, and you can post updates like twitter. I added photos from Picasa and made them public. I separated my friends into acquaintances and close friends with whom I hang out with every weekend. I also separated other ‘friend’ groups, and my family to ‘near and dear’ and extended family.  resumably I can send targeted comments and have different sharing settings.

Google+ says it is a work in progress and that like gmail, it is being rolled out slowly. I was able to upload my pictures from Picasa and photos from my album very easily. But I was a little wary of sharing my Picasa photos or making them public.

Get this: I can video conference with 10 friends on Google+. It is called ‘Hangout’. All my google services are being loosely connected together in one spot. I discovered one of my friends had 42 friends already and her friends became my friends! No asking permission.

I also added topics of interest (Sparks) to my profile. Easy! Just searched and voila, added! Now I get streams of info on topics such as gardening, immigration law and news.

The groups called circles means more privacy than Facebook, where everything I say is sent to my friends and friends of friends. So I would manage the circles very carefully. I never forget that the internet is forever.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Marketing Your Law Practice Part II

I don’t care how many people tell me that marketing on the internet is the way to go, the only way to be seen and to attract clients; I still think the good old fashioned way of building relationships is the way to build your business and brand.

Relationships can be built in person or over the net. I am a member of a quite a few listserves, both professional and personal. The more you write to listserves, the more your name is know to other contributors. I go to conferences and it is fun to meet and greet other listserve ‘contributors’; I feel I already know them, and we have a conversation as if we have known each other for years.

Community involvement is also a relationship builder. A friend of mine celebrated her 70th birthday. I was delighted to be part of the party planning committee. It was a great success; we had over a 100 people show up. I met and befriended so many persons I would never have met otherwise.

I never realized that my updates on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter were being seen by my friends. Recently, I posted a remark about my children graduating and finding their place in life; ‘it was a joy’, I wrote. I had the greatest number of responses to that tweet. My professional tweets never solicit so many responses!

I am still trying to walk the tightrope of being real onlinem and yet not revealing personal details that would jeopardize my clients and friends.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Civil Unions

Civil unions are usually viewed as a benefit to same sex couples, allowing the parties to legalize their relationship and recognize that they are a couple just like you and me. The Illinois Senate has passed the bill and it has gone up to Governor Pat Quinn for signature. Governor Quinn is scheduled to sign the bill next year. The law could take effect next summer, June 11, 2011. But with this law, Illinois has enacted a law that has widespread effects. The law is called The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act. The law was enacted because same sex couples were denied marriage benefits, and there was no compelling state interest or rational basis to deny same sex couples these marriage benefits. The bill particularly mentions that the purpose is not to interfere with religious freedom or beliefs about marriage. The bill will apply equally to same and opposite sex partners (something new) who want to enter into a civil marriage or union. Same sex partners will be called ‘spouse’, ‘immediate family’, and ‘dependent’. This is important because it has implications for divorce, probate law and other domestic relations law. So same sex couples can marry, divorce and have standing in court to sue on these actions. They can also inherit under probate law as a civil union spouse, sue for emotional distress, wrongful death, loss of consortium under Illinois tort law. As spouse, they can apply for insurance benefits – health and accident, be eligible for group insurance in employee insurance plans. Under Illinois tax law, they will be eligible as spouses for taxes and tax deductions as spouses and dependents. Marriage, under the Illinois law, is prohibited between siblings, uncle and nephew, aunt and niece. Because same sex couples are treated as ‘spouses’ under the marriage and divorce law of Illinois, they can now share rights to make end of life decisions, nursing home decisions, transfer of property to spouses, and survivor benefits. Under workers’ compensation rules, ‘spouses’ can claim benefits. Did I say there was something different about this bill? Well, heterosexual couples who do not want to marry, can opt for a civil union and enjoy the same benefits as a married couple would do. Why, you ask? Let us say that a couple is interested in a domestic partnership because they face loss of health insurance and other benefits, or seniors who will lose their social security survivor benefits, pension or income if they remarry, then this bill offers a way out. Seniors can also now have the right to make emergency decisions for their ‘spouse’ under this new law. It recognizes the relationship without the concomitant problems of marriage. So it provides straight couples some legal support but no title of marriage. Employers should review their employee benefits, especially health insurance, and family leave benefits and their compliance with applicable labor laws. Couples who opt for civil unions under this law can also make end of life decisions–they do not have to have powers of attorney to end, for example, a vegetative state. Remember the Terry Schaivo case? They also have the right to make funeral home decisions and take charge of the remains. But these protections are offered only at the state level and have no application at the federal level. Tax law, immigration law and a host of other laws will not recognize these relationships as spouses. I guess you could then claim a ‘spouse’ under the new law as a dependent under state law but not federal law. The federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, recognizes marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. DOMA does not recognize civil unions even if the union is recognized by the state. This is a legal conundrum because the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution makes it mandatory to recognize the laws of another state in the Union, and accord foreign state laws equal application and status. But same sex unions or marriages are non-existent in federal law. A United States Citizen or legal permanent resident cannot sponsor a same sex partner of foreign citizenship to live with them in the United States as their ‘spouse’. Same sex marriage was banned in California after Proposition 8 was passed. But on August 4, 2010, a federal district court decided that such a ban violated the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution. The equal protection clause does not guarantee equality among individuals or classes but only that the laws would be applied equally to all. The question remains for us: are some more equal than others? Is the federal government practicing discrimination by the unequal application of laws, or by denying rights to some? Is this a slippery slope we should not venture on?

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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TSA and Other Intrusions on Our Privacy

Yesterday, it was TSA intruding on our privacy with full body scanners and full body pat downs. These searches caused issues for persons with disabilities. TSA officers need more training on how to interact with disabled persons. Tom Sawyer, a retired special education teacher, had a urostomy (artificial bladder) and was embarrassed by TSA officers who ruptured his bag in an over zealous search. Today, air travelers are participating in a boycott of full body x-ray and opting for the full body pat down. The only persons who were affected were their fellow passengers!  The shoe bomber of 2002 and the Christmas day bomber of 2009 taught us not only to fear the dreaded holiday weight gain, but also terrorists who feel the holidays merit their special attention. I’ll take weight gain over being blown up…ha!

The alternative to intrusive scans is racial profiling. Targeting a particular racial group for extra law enforcement attention: Israel has mastered the art. Sometimes air passengers are questioned for 3 hours before a flight. If you are Arab, Israeli or a foreigner flying on El Al, then you are subject to humiliating body searches and in depth interrogation. The Israelis do not find it necessary to question innocent passengers who are 99% of the traveling public. There are no airline terrorist incidents affecting the Israeli airline.

An even greater threat to us is our online privacy. Today, the Wall Street Journal has a front page article about information collection by data mining companies. Two US companies, Kindsight, Inc. and Phorm, Inc, are promoting deep packet inspection as a way of collecting information about you as you surf the net. Their technology reads and analyzes data as it flies across the internet. This is very detailed profiles of internet activities, capable of reading e-mail and sensitive online activity. These services are used by internet advertisers to target consumers with particularized ads tailored and based on developed, detailed internet profiles. How does it work? You are online, sending e-mails, watching online videos, site surfing. The information is collected and sent in data packets from your computer to your internet service provider (ISP). The ISP channels your search to websites. These companies have the capability of reading (inspecting) these data packets traveling between ISPs and the websites you want to visit. Then when you visit the website, you see an ad from a store that you last visited online, or a news story that may be in your interest range. This profiling is possible because these companies know more about your habits, income, assets and debts than you thought possible. They know your age, driving history, your addresses, whether you rent or own, the names of your family members. These details from public websites can be easily obtained by anyone who knows where to look on the internet. The technology is largely driven by the need for more revenue; targeted ads garner more interest and revenue. This is especially true now that ISPs are under greater fire to provide more services at lower prices. When I was researching articles for this blog, I received ads from my favorite stores. Of course, I would be more tempted to click on the ad. That is what these companies want; targeted ads provide larger revenue streams. As I surf the net, I try to use not only Google, but also Bing, Ask and Yahoo for my searches. Use some of the lesser known search engines. Opt out of privacy announcements. I now read every online agreement before I agree. As with everything internet, buyer beware.

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

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