Students at at UNNJ lose their visa!

ICE cancels F-1 Student visas

On April 4 and 5, 2016, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) terminated the visa of nonimmigrant students who had enrolled at the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ), and the visas of nonimmigrant students who had transferred from UNNJ.

Why?

The students were found to have knowingly participated in visa fraud because they enrolled at UNNJ to obtain an illegal to maintain their F-1 nonimmigrant status.

UNNJ is a school operated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark. It was created as a part of an enforcement action that targeted SEVP-certified schools and officials who sought to fraudulently utilize SEVP and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to commit various violations of federal law.

There are approximately 60 students who are affected and who will receive notification of cancellation of their visa.

Students who are terminated because they were currently  or  enrolled before at UNNJ and choose not to file for reinstatement or have applied to USCIS for reinstatement and whose application is denied, must depart the country immediately.

Not Eligible for Transfer

These students are not eligible for to transfer to another SEVP-certified school unless U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the student for reinstatement following the student’s termination. Students who transferred to another school from UNNJ will also be terminated and their new school will be notified of the cancellation of their visa.

What to do now?

Call SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400. This number is staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday, except holidays. The SEVP Response Center is closed every Wednesday from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. ET for system maintenance and testing.

Provide the following information when calling:

  • First and last name
  • SEVIS ID number
  • Address
  • Telephone number where you can be reached
  • E-mail address
  • Current SEVP-certified school

Nalini Mahadevan JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

314-932-7111 office

nsm@mlolaw.us

website: Mlolaw.us

Disclaimer:  Not meant as legal advice. NOT meant to create an attorney client relationship.  Please call an attorney to obtain advice pertaining to your legal situation.

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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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A Second Look at Comprehensive Immigration Reform

In February, I wrote about why comprehensive immigration reform has a chance to pass this year; now, it’s time to discuss how immigration reform can strengthen the US as a whole.

Immigration reform has heavy bipartisan support, spearheaded by President Obama and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (FL). Sen. Rubio is a member of the “Gang of Eight”, the four Democrat and four Republican Senators who have introduced new immigration legislation to Congress — Rubio has also assumed the role of spokesperson for the pending bill in the Senate. The House is also sponsoring several other bills on immigration.

There are security and economic reasons for the US to reform its immigration policy, both of which will have a major impact on the US economy.

The Security Side and the Impact on Employers

Immigration reform is not going to happen without enhanced border security and metrics to measure the levels of security reached. Another measure of security to guarantee a legal workforce is to make both E-verify and Form I-9 compliance mandatory for all employers.  Senate has already earmarked $110 million dollars to these programs — employers should see new compliance regulations soon after a new immigration bill has passed.

In addition, electronic checking of departures by CBP will ensure that non-immigrants depart on the date their authorized stay expires, according to their Form I-94 record. Departures are currently recorded with a paper I-94, which is surrendered upon exiting the US. The new electronic I-94 will record departures from passenger manifests issued by airlines. Entries are currently recorded, but exits from the US are not recorded uniformly at all ports. In addition, the new bill will mandate that all passports be electronically read, which would reduce human error.

It is a misconception that highly skilled visa holders somehow depress US wages. On the contrary, where certain technical skills are in short supply, employers pay top dollar wages for visa holders and high fees to the federal government, as well as jump through legal hurdles to employ these workers. The cost of employing a foreign worker is more expensive than a domestic worker.

The Economic Side

Granting legal status to more immigrants will relieve our labor shortages in both high-skill and low-skill arenas. The educational background of native-born Americans typically includes high school and college education — few are without high school diplomas, and hardly any have Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The educational background of immigrants, on the other hand, is quite different: while many lack high school education, others hold Ph.D.s in STEM fields.

Most of the debate on immigration reform has focused on giving legal status to undocumented immigrants, upon the condition that they pay fees and back taxes. This will certainly have positive effects on our economy; however, we have more to gain from immigrants, both young and old, who, after gaining legal status, decide to further their careers in the US. Once these immigrants feel reassured about their future in the US, they will be more willing to invest in their careers.

One of our current problems is that many skill workers have trouble gaining a foothold onto the path to citizenship. Foreign entrepreneurs and technologists who study in the US are often denied works visas and return to their home country to find success. This issue is both stunting economic growth and causing a brain drain in America.

The number of available temporary visas is rarely revised and is still dependent upon caps and quotas. Our economic conditions have not been taken into consideration. Increasing visas both for high skilled workers, and lower skilled entrants in agriculture and forestry, could have a positive effect on wages and reduce the number of illegal entrants and overstays.

Immigrants also bolster our productivity growth. According to the Wall Street Journal, foreign scientists and engineers, who came to the US with an H1B visa, contributed 10-20% of the yearly productivity growth in the US from 1990-2010. Attracting innovators to our country will undoubtedly create more jobs, as more innovation means more labs, universities and companies doing research. Yet, the US’s H1B visa program only creates 65,000 visas per year for highly skilled workers. That amount has proved to be insufficient, as H1B visas quotas fill very quickly as in the last cap.

There are clear economic and security needs for streamlined and comprehensive immigration reform, and lawmakers and politicians must take action. Congress is set to vote on immigration reform before the July 4 congressional recess.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

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.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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H1B cap has reached!

USCIS received 124,000 H1B visa applications from Monday April 1, 2013 to Friday April 5, 2013 — the cap has not been filled this fast for about 4 years. The number of applications received includes both cap subject bachelor degree holders and US Master Degree holders for whom a special 20,000 visas are allotted.

US Master degree holders get two bites of the apple, when it comes to ‘cap’ time. All US Master degree applications not counted towards the 20,000 cap will be considered again in the regular cap of 65,000 visas. Master degree applications are subject to the lottery first, before the bachelor degree holders. Please keep in mind also that this 65,000 number is reduced by 5,800 visas set aside for Chile and Singapore, under Free Trade Treaties that the US has signed with these countries. The unused visas from this ‘carve out’ is added back to the general pool of available cap subject visas.

USCIS announced that it conducted a lottery to allot visas using a computer generated selection process on Sunday, April 7, 2013. All those applications not selected will be returned to the employers or attorneys. Of course, the return process may not occur for a while, as applications are vetted for accuracy and correct application fees. Application fees will be returned with the applications if the package is not selected in the lottery.

H1B applications filed with premium processing will be processed in 15 days, if they are selected in the lottery.

No more applications will be accepted by USCIS, but H1B applications to change employers, or extension of visa applications filed by non-profit employers and concurrent H1B employment, can still be filed with USCIS.

The Takeaway

Contact your Senator and Congressional representative to encourage an increase in the number of visas available for H1B visas. H1B visas filed by entrepreneurs are also subject to the cap. Entrepreneurs are employment multipliers for the U.S. economy.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

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.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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2014 H1B Cap Might Hit in the First Week

Speculation about the H1B visa cap has been all-consuming in the business community. For 2014, USCIS has stated that all 65,000 H1B visas, and 20,000 H1B visas reserved for US Masters degree holders, would be finished in the first 5 days of filing from April 1 (Monday) to April 5 (Friday).

USCIS also stated that it would monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public of the date on which the numerical limit of the H-1B cap had been met, which is called the final receipt date. If USCIS receives more than 85,000 visa application petitions (regular and cap visas, disregarding the carve-outs for Singapore and Chile under Free Trade Agreements signed by the US with those countries), USCIS will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the limit of 85,000 visas.

USCIS will reject petitions that are subject to the cap and are not selected. USCIS will also reject any petitions that are received after the necessary number of petitions needed to meet the cap are filled. The last time USCIS conducted a lottery for the H-1B cap was in April of 2008.

The Consequences

Pronouncements like this have led to a frantic need to file on the first day, so that the cap is not missed. The problem is that this artificial season does not necessarily meet the hiring cycles for US business and employers. In other words, US business employment practices are artificially constrained by the necessity to tailor employment hiring practices to coincide with a start on April 1. Depending on the industry, employers hire throughout the year, varying with the ebbs and flow of business.

The Takeaway

Immigration reform proposed by the 8 Senators has a more realistic view of the business world — i.e. releasing visas as the demand grows, in a stepped up basis. Now that we are talking about the ‘reality’ on the ground for employers and business, could we have a more realistic PERM labor system? I know, if wishes were horses…. But I can dream the immigration dream, can’t I?

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

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.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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The Struggle Over STEM Immigration

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates are foreign-born students who have obtained graduate degrees from American universities in one of these four fields. Many of these students are vying for a green card to stay in the US; but the demand for green cards far outstripped supply. The result is that the best and the brightest are leaving the US for greener immigration pastures: either going back home, or to other more ‘immigrant’ friendly countries, like Canada.

In a previous blog post, I discussed how STEM graduates will help the US come out of its recession. We are currently experiencing a brain drain; and in order to remain a global force, we must reform our immigration policies. Multiple bills suggesting an increase in green cards for STEM graduates have been proposed to Congress, but none have yet to pass.

STEM Jobs Act

On Friday, November 30, the House passed the STEM Jobs Act, which reallocates 55,000 green cards per year to students with STEM degrees; the new act also seeks to remove the lottery green card program. Green cards are first made available to STEM graduates with PhDs — remaining green cards are then given to STEM graduates with Masters.

Dueling Bills

We must applaud both political parties for their sensitivity to the issue of STEM jobs, but there is a very obvious political divide. While the Republican initiative moves to abolish the 55,000 diversity visas, the Democrats want to preserve these visas for persons from under-represented countries.

This uncertainty is keeping employers from hiring qualified candidates, and keeping qualified US graduates from the US. Keep in mind, by most accounts, the education industry is a $27 billion industry with a multiplier effect on local economies.

What can we do?

Employers must lobby their Senate and House Representatives about the issue. The inaction is holding our economy hostage.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

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.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Why We Need More STEM Graduates

On October 28, a week before the presidential election, the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced a white paper that lays out a comprehensive plan for Australia to attract qualified Asian immigrants. Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, said that Australia needed to attract highly skilled Asian immigrants to bring their specialist skills to Australia in order to boost the economy. He said the top 10 sources of highly skilled immigrants in Australia were India, which provided 23% of its immigrants in 2011; as well as China, the Philippines  Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam. Australia intends to increase the number of international students in Australian universities by streamlining the immigration process.

Similar white papers have been issued by Canada, which has now made pathways for skilled immigrants and investors to migrate to Canada easier. UK has similar plans, and the UK Border Agency revised its guidance last June for skilled workers and investors.

In the US, foreign students contribute, according to various sources, an upwards of $21 billion to our economy — no small chump change. It is good business for the US economy that we continue to encourage and seek foreign students, and to streamline the process for them to emigrate to the US. That process begins at the consulate, where the welcome mat is laid out for foreign students. I have often had the displeasure of informing highly skilled foreigners completing PhDs and Fellowships that it could take them almost 10 years to obtain their greencards. So it is with pleasure, after this election, that I read that both political parties are willing to exchange and compromise on comprehensive immigration reform that includes good news for STEM graduates and other highly skilled workers who want to come to the US.

The US’s Position

Two-thirds of the US’s immigration is family-based, while the other third is employment-based. This is in stark contrast to Canada, where employment immigration is the major contributor to the Canadian population. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has implored various national leaders and prominent politicians to continue immigration reform. Such politicians include pragmatists like Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and John Boehner; but excludes Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell, who have spoken against immigration reform in the past.

The US proportion of graduating students who attend college in the US is slated to fall to 17.8% by 2020 from 23.8% in 2000, while the share of China will rise 9-13% and India will rise 6.5-7.5%. The implication of this is that India and China will have larger populations of college graduates than the US. The US needs an educated population to remain globally competitive. China has made investments in its workforce, which is the core of its economic strategy; and in India, a culture of higher education propels young people to go beyond the undergraduate level and attain Masters and PhDs.

A Global Force

If the US does not encourage more educated and productive people to enter and remain in the US legally (this includes engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers as well as lower-skilled workers) we will lose the race in global competition. A recent report from Organization for Economic Co-Operation Development (OECD)’s states that, “the balance of economic power could shift dramatically over the next 50 years.” According to this report, China could become the world’s largest economy by 2016.

To ensure long-term increase in productivity, living standards and higher income per capita, the US needs a qualified population. One of the pathways to economic growth is either locally qualified workers or imported workers. According to the Wall Street Journal, citing a recent Deloitte consulting survey, there are about 600,000 US manufacturing jobs going unfilled during a period of high unemployment due to “workforce shortages or skills deficiencies in production positions such as machinists, craft workers and technicians.”  US manufacturers have gotten out of the habit of running in-house apprentice programs; therefore, US manufacturers require ready-made “plug-and-play” workers to fill these deficiencies. We can either use homegrown workers, or “plug-and-play” workers through immigration.

It is an economic necessity, and it in our best interests, to reform our immigration policies — our country must move forward and remain a global force. We need workers both at the high levels, as well as the lower levels, to fill labor-intensive jobs and to reverse brain drain. We need workers who are qualified now.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

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.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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The Plan for More Visas for STEM Grads

Earlier this September, Sen. Charles Schumer introduced the Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes (BRAINS) Act to the Senate. BRAINS proposes to make 55,000 more green cards available for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates, over a two-year period.

STEM graduates are foreign-born students who have obtained graduate degrees from American universities in science, technology, engineering or math. In order to receive a green card, the graduate must have a US job offer in one of these four fields.

Texas Rep. Lamar Smith also proposed a similar bill to the House. Unlike Schumer’s BRAINS Act, Smith’s bill recommends an elimination of diversity visas, the US’s lottery program for receiving a US Permanent Resident Card. The diversity visa program makes 55,000 visas available to people with certain eligibilities, and who have emigrated from countries with low US immigration rates.

The House bill did not pass. Democrats were against Smith’s bill, which they believe will reduce legal immigration. Both parties want to make more green cards available for STEM graduates, but have not agreed on a plan of action. Schumer’s bill will go through the Senate before November elections.

Microsoft’s Proposal

Microsoft is also lobbying Congress to boost the number of H1b visas that companies use by 20,000. Currently, Microsoft has 6,000 job openings, more than half of which necessitate expertise in the fields of technology and science. However, there is a gap between available jobs and job seekers’ ability levels – Microsoft’s petition targets this issue.

In Microsoft’s petition, the company recommends increasing H1B visa fees to $10,000 in order to create a STEM adaptation of the Race to the Top federal grant program that stimulates school education improvements. The program would be called Race to the Future, which would pay to hire STEM teachers and include computer science classes in schools.

Microsoft proposes giving STEM employees access to 20,000 green cards, an action that would begin to undertake the large build up of green cards, while also allowing skilled workers to remain in the US and contribute to our economy.

The problem with Microsoft’s proposal is that the scheme shuts out smaller employers who already pay substantial amounts in immigration and other fees to increase their workforce by sponsoring H1B visa holders. The scheme will create a two tier system of petitioners for visas.

Effect on the US Economy

Call and write your Senator about supporting increased visas for STEM graduates so that we keep their valuable knowledge in the US and prevent reverse ‘brain drain’. These graduates create jobs in other ‘support’ fields, promote innovation and contribute to the tax base.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Slow Pace of H1B Adjudications Affects US Businesses & Economy

In mid-September, we had to inform many of our clients, who had filed H1B visas for their employees, that we had not received a response from USCIS; and judging from the published backlogs about these filings (over as many as 17,000 H1B visas), it isn’t likely that we will receive any decisions until the end of the year. Reluctantly, we advised our clients to pay the additional premium processing fee for urgent requirements.

Business and Economic Losses

If the losses from the slow adjudication process are added up, losses for American businesses are also adding up. First, there are the current projects that American businesses have with American client companies, which run the gamut from hospitals, car rental companies and credit card processors; financial and banking companies; retail, hotel and restaurant chains; IBM and Microsoft; and universities. In this day and age, everything is online and mobile. Current contracts are either delayed or postponed, and taxes paid by visa holders to the US and State government coffers are not collected. If delays continue, US businesses are likely to send these operations overseas, enriching foreign tax coffers.

Second, we face a brain drain from American universities. The difficulty for foreign students obtaining a timely US visa forces these students, who have gathered knowledge at our universities, to migrate to Australia, Canada, UK and their home countries where their US-gained knowledge is welcomed. This situation, again, is a loss of millions of dollars to the US economy.

Foreign Students in American Universities

This past year, enrollment of temporary residents in graduate school surged by 7.3%. Temporary residents made up 16.9% of American graduate school enrollment, a figure only growing as foreign governments pay for their citizens’ American education, specifically in technical fields. Foreign students made up a sizable percentage of technical areas: 45.5% of students in US engineering graduate programs, and 42.4% of students in US mathematics and computer science graduate programs, are foreign students. (NYTimes, “Enrollment Drops Again in Graduate Programs”, 9/28/2012).

Recently, some beneficiaries of H1B visas have reported receiving tremendously shortened periods of visa approvals from the consulates, despite being approved for the full period of H1B visa entitlement from USCIS. This re-adjudication contributes to the unfriendly and unwelcoming atmosphere facing H1B applicants and their sponsoring companies.

The tide of demand for US visas ebbs and flows: often, the federal government is not able to support US companies’ efforts to attract the best and brightest to work for us.The wave of hostility generated by our actions should not arrive at a tipping point. We could very well lose what makes up our American identity, and our ability to produce multi-million dollar products like Facebook, iPhones and Google.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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