New Look to Green Cards & EAD Cards  

USCIS will start issuing redesigned cards with enhanced graphics to applicants.  The new cards will start being issued on May 1, 2017.

These redesigns use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant to prevent document tampering, counterfeiting and fraud; than the ones currently in use.

The Redesigned Cards

The new Green Cards and EADs will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
  • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
  • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.

Also, Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

How To Tell If Your Card Is Valid

Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Certain EADs held by individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other designated categories have been automatically extended beyond the validity date on the card.

Employers, please note that both the older version and the new cards are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE).

Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date.  These older Green Cards without an expiration date remain valid.

Individuals who have Green Cards without an expiration date may want to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date. Obtaining the replacement card will reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA ▪ nsm@mlolaw.us ▪ Office: 314.932.7111 & 314.402.2024

Disclaimer:  Not meant as legal advice! For information purposes only.

 

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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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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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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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What An Employer Should Do Now that H-1B Visas are Over

As of December 1, 2011, the US Consulate General in Chennai will process all Blanket L Visas. The New Delhi US Embassy and Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad US Consulates no longer process petitions for Blanket L Visas. Visas for dependent spouse and children (L-2) and individual visas (L-1A and L-1B) can still be processed at the Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi posts.

What is a Blanket L Visa?

A Blanket L visa is available to employees whose employers hold such a designation to file L visas under a Blanket L permit, issued by the Department of State. To be eligible, an employer must be in business in the US for more than one year; have three or more domestic or foreign, subsidiaries or affiliates; and be engaged in commercial trade or services. The employer must also have annual US sales of $25 million; a US workforce of 1,000 employees; or the employer should have received at least 10 L petitions in the last 12 months. An employer may be in danger of losing their Blanket L permit if they file fewer than 10 petitions in the prior year. Only commercial employers can be approved for a Blanket L permit; non-profits are not eligible.

Blanket L visas are for employees who have, in the three past years, been employed abroad for one year and will continue to be employed by the same company in the US. Employees can either be petitioned individually or under a blanket, and must meet the criteria of a “specialized knowledge” professional, executive or manager.

Three Major Issues

1. Will the L visa employee work at client sites?

If your answer is yes, then you must establish an employer-employee relationship during the time the employee is working at a third party worksite on behalf of the petitioner (employer). If the employee is to work in the office of the L visa employer, then that fact should be made very clear both in the documentation and at the interview. Consular officers are very concerned about L visas being misused by employers and being used when H-1B visas are no longer available.

At the US Consulate, the employee is often asked to go up to a window to answer questions. The interview is about 5 minutes, and very often consular officers may not have the time to read the entire petition. If the employee is to work on a particular project at a site other than the US employer’s offices, that fact should also be presented both at the interview and substantiated in the application.

L visa employees must be ready to answer any and all questions, and justify the reason for working at a end-client’s office instead of working at the L visa employer’s office.

2. Is the salary of an ordinary programmer or of a specialist in an L-1B visa category?

Salary earnings in India are indicative of the level of services an employee provides for his/her company; there is certainly a difference between IT workers who complete general services and those who have specialized knowledge. If the applicant is earning a sizeable salary, it is important to state the applicant’s salary in the support letter; salaries are often indicative of a specialist eligible for an L-1B visa instead of a programmer more suited to H-1B visa category status.

It is these distinctions that have caused a rise in the denial rate, 27%, of all filed L visa applications.

3. Is the applicant’s work in India not indicative of a specialized job?

The consular officers will most likely deduce that the applicant has no specialized knowledge if the applicant’s work in India is based in general services. This can include testing; enterprise recourse planning maintenance; or execution of Oracle, Microsoft or SAP software.

Experience

L-1B visa holders are supposed to be specialists; if the applicant has a three-year degree and one year of experience, then the consular officer is not likely to consider the applicant experienced enough to warrant an L-1B visa approval. The standard by which L visa applications are approved is “clearly approvable”. Hence, the burden of proving L visa eligibility lies with the employer. If the L visa has been approved by USCIS, the US Consulate may grant the L visa unless special circumstances exist, or the consulate determines more evidence is required.

We live in a climate where no USCIS application is sacrosanct, and where the Department of State often re-adjudicates USCIS approvals.

B-1 In Lieu of H-1B

The B-1 In Lieu of H-1B visa is a hybrid visa, a cross between a business visa and an employment visa in the US. The employee with H-1B visa qualifications comes to the US instead on a business visa (B-1), applies for the visa at the consulate and declares intent at the border. This employee cannot receive any remuneration in the US other than an expense allowance.

However, this visa is under attack. Employers should demonstrate that there are unexpected circumstances and an urgent need for the employee to obtain a B-1 Visa In Lieu of an H-1B. The controversy arises over the extent to which the B-1 visa is used or misused in lieu of an H-1B. Even if the consulate grants this visa, it is likely that the visa holder may encounter difficulty at the US port of entry.

True need for the visa must be well-planned to demonstrate the benefit of the short-term visit to the foreign employer, as opposed to the US client.

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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How Employers can Reduce Audit in PERM Filings for Roving, Telecommuting and Traveling Employees

The tech industry is facing many challenges today, notably denials from the Department of Labor (DOL) based on very little understanding of how the industry works. Most large employers in the sector are not the ‘job shops’ that USCIS fears; and DOL is convinced the tech industry is engaged in fraud of some kind, or is somehow interested in recruiting foreign workers when willing and able US workers are available!

US employers in this sector pay a premium in governmental application costs and legal fees because they are unable to find a suitable worker in the advertised job. In fact, most recruiters I speak to would prefer to hire locally rather than internationally.

Both USCIS and DOL target employers who file for an employee with job duties involving roving, telecommuting or travelling; USCIS has recently issued guidance on roving employees placed at client worksites, in the H-1b visa context. DOL continues to audit and issue denials for roving, travelling or telecommuting positions. Current audits require employers to define employees’ positions as either national or regional roving without a residential requirement, or roving with a residential requirement. Additionally, DOL has expressed concern that these jobs may not be bona fide opportunities for the positions advertised at the intended place of hire; and, in the case of roving employees with no fixed ‘intended area of employment’, the location chosen to advertise the job opportunity and the wage may be artificial and misrepresented by the employer.

Where to Advertise for Roving Employees

In the past few years, DOL has audited and denied applications where the residential address of the employee does not match the location of employment. DOL decided that this position was for a telecommuting employee, a benefit the employer did not disclose in the advertisement for the position and therefore not disclosed to an eligible US applicant, but offered to the beneficiary as a benefit. A PERM application can also be denied based on job advertisements in the incorrect Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The employer advertised the job where the client worksites were located, instead of the MSA where the employer’s headquarters was located.

In Paradigm Infotech, Inc (BALCA, June, 2007), the employer advertised the roving position in Erie, Pennsylvania where the client worksite was located, instead of the company headquarters. To reach the PERM denial, DOL conducted research on the employer. DOL ascertained that the employer’s headquarters was in Columbia, Maryland as confirmed by employer’s tax records and DOL interviews with employees. DOL also performed site visits to the Erie location of the employer’s branch to ascertain that sufficient office space existed, and parking space was available for the number of employees who were supposed to work there, in accordance with employer’s documentation filed with Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA). Based on short term contracts with client companies, inadequate office space at Erie, and payroll records that confirmed that employees worked at different locations, PERM labor certification was denied by DOL and the denial was upheld by BALCA. BALCA reasoned that the employer needed to test the labor market at the place where the alien was working, and since this was a roving employee and that geographical area of the labor market was unknown, the job market to be tested for PERM purposes was located at the employer’s headquarters.

Following Paradigm, employers with large business units away from company headquarters should also advertise at headquarters location. This is confirmed by the Barbara Farmers Memo: ETA Field Memorandum 48-94§10, published by DOL in 1994 and still followed by DOL.

Prevailing Wage Issues

Employers should also file to obtain prevailing wage determinations from DOL in all the intended areas of potential work sites for the foreign worker. Future locations can be determined from itineraries and statement of work signed with the end client.

Employers with International Locations

In August 2012, BALCA upheld that advertisements in the PERM context also include ‘travel requirements’. The employer in M-IL.L.C., filed a PERM for an employee who was required to travel to international locations as part of the job requirement. This fact was listed on the PERM application Form 9089 and the prevailing wage determination, but not listed on the advertisement for the job opening. 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f)(4) states, “Advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals before filing the Application for Permanent Employment Certification must… indicate the geographic area of employment with enough specificity to apprise applicants of any travel requirements and where applicants will likely have to reside to perform the job opportunity.” The employer’s advertisements did not include the travel requirement. Denial was based on the fact that travel requirements listed on the PERM application and the prevailing wage determination was not matched by the advertisement for the position.

Conclusion

While we cannot with certainty expect every PERM filing with travel requirements to be audited by DOL, we must certainly file like that is a very real possibility. Any filing with the DOL is subject to audit, even if in the past those very same requirements were certified by DOL. The safest course in our uncertain climate is to match information on the prevailing wage with the PERM form, and the employer’s advertisement requirements for the position advertised.

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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