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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The Elephant in the Room

Discrimination in Immigration!  You’re are kidding, right?

I have been reading about double digit denial rates for L1B visa applications from India.  The denial rate for L1B ‘specialized knowledge’ workers out of India is 56% while for Mexico and China it is 22% and 21%.  L1B visas are issued for intracompany transfers from an affiliate or branch to the US Company.  ‘Specialized Knowledge’ requires a worker to have specialized skills about his company’s product. For an Indian applicant who is usually a software engineer that seems to be an insurmountable hurdle for more than half the applicants!   The current standard of adjudication has been drifting upwards.  Now a company needs a ‘star’ employee with astronomical specialized knowledge to be approved.

Many top Fortune 500 companies outsource their technology needs to other companies.  These other companies have operations which run in a 24 hour cycle.  While the US sleeps the work is carried on in China and India.  Now the company wants to bring some of its overseas employees from China and India for some face to face time to promote synergy between the overseas team and the US team, run a ‘SCRUM’ operation, and improve US business profits.  These workers have specialized knowledge of the company customized software built on a platform that is universally available in the US, but these employees are not ‘stars’. The same application has a 50% chance of denial by either USCIS or the US consulate in India and a 21% chance of denial for China.  The only losers are US businesses!

What can we do?

  • File applications for employees who are more senior in the company and have more specialized knowledge about the company’s process, technology or other matter.
  • Document, document, document! the application with every training at every international branch, leadership position in the company, and knowledge based expertize.
  • Then Pray!

Nalini S Mahadevan Esq

nsm@mlolaw.us

314 374 8784

Not meant as legal advice!

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Will You Get Your Green Card Soon?

Obama issues executive orders for Entrepreneurs H1Bs, H-4s, L1Bs, and O-1 visa holders. Read the memo issued by USCIS on Obamas initiatives on visa-based employees below.

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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Midterm Elections Issue: Immigration

Midterm elections are next week; the hot-ticket issue 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 Southeast 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!

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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Can OPT lead to H1B?

As we get into the H1B filing season for 2015 (H1Bs are filed in 2014 for the following year), students on F1 visas and their employers are anxious about being selected in the H1B lottery.

This year like last, I suspect the demand will overwhelm availability of H1B visas for student and other applicants. Last year, USCIS received 124,000 applications for 65,000 H1B visas, including 20,000 H1B visas set aside for US Master degree holders.

STEM Students

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students are at an advantage. They are able to avail of OPT (optional practical training) for 29 months, and hence get two bites of the H1B apple. They can apply this year and the next while maintaining status in F visa and being lawfully present in the US.

The advantage is that the student:

  • Can work full time.
  • Would qualify for the cap gap extension.
  • Can apply for the 17-month extension

The Takeaway

In essence, a STEM student on 29 month OPT gets 2 bites of the H1B apple, because the sponsoring employer is able to apply again the following year if the student is not selected in the H1B lottery the first time.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney 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 2014. All rights reserved.

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New Efforts to Combat Identity Theft on E-Verify

USCIS has announced that the E-Verify program will help combat identity fraud by identifying and deterring fraudulent use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for employment eligibility verification.

New Algorithm to Identify Identity Fraud

The new algorithm detects and prevents potential fraudulent use of SSNs to gain work authorization. An employer, for example, may enter information into E-Verify that appears valid – such as a matching name, date of birth, and SSN – but was in fact stolen, borrowed or purchased from another individual. With this new programming, USCIS can now lock a SSN that appears to have been misused, so that it cannot be used by another individual other than the owner of the social security number.

When a social security number is identified as ‘stolen’ by the E-verify system, USCIS may now lock SSNs in E-Verify that appear to have been used fraudulently. To accomplish this step, USCIS says it uses a combination of algorithms, detection reports and analysis to identify patterns of fraudulent SSN use and then lock the number in E-Verify.

The Process

If an employee attempts to use a locked SSN, E-Verify will generate a “Tentative Nonconfirmation” (TNC). The employee receiving the TNC will have the opportunity to contest the finding at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) field office. If an SSA field officer confirms the employee’s identity correctly matches the SSN, the TNC will be converted to “Employment Authorized” status in E-Verify.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
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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E-Verify returns!

E-Verify has resumed operations following the federal government shutdown. All E-Verify features and services are now available.

Information for Employers

Form I-9
The Form I-9 requirements were not affected during the federal government shutdown. All employers were required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for every person hired to work for pay in the US during the shutdown.

E-Verify
Employees who received a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC):
If an employee had a TNC referred between September 17, 2013 and September 30, 2013, and was not able to resolve the TNC due to the federal government shutdown, employers must add 12 federal business days to the date printed on the ‘Referral Letter’ or ‘Referral Date Confirmation’. Employees have until this new date to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to resolve their cases. If employers have an employee who decided to contest his or her TNC while E-Verify was unavailable, an employer should now initiate the referral process in E-Verify. Employers may not take any adverse action against an employee because of a TNC.

Steps to take if an employee has received a SSA Final Nonconfirmation (FNC) or DHS No Show result:
If an employee received a Final Nonconfirmation (FNC) or No Show because of the federal government shutdown, please close the case and select “The employee continues to work for the employer after receiving a Final Nonconfirmation result,” or “The employee continues to work for the employer after receiving a No Show result.” The employer must then enter a new case in E-Verify for that employee. These steps are necessary to ensure the employee is afforded the opportunity to timely contest and resolve the Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) that led to the FNC result.

Creating Cases: Three-Day Rule
You must create an E-Verify case for each employee hired during or otherwise affected by the shutdown by November 5, 2013. If you are prompted to provide a reason why the case is late (i.e., does not conform to the three-day rule), select ‘Other’ from the drop-down list of reasons and enter ‘federal government shutdown’ in the field.

Federal Contractor Deadlines
During the federal government shutdown, federal contractors could not enroll or use E-Verify as required by the federal contractor rule. If your organization missed a deadline because E-Verify was unavailable, or if it has an upcoming deadline for complying with the federal contractor rule, please follow the instructions above and notify your contracting officer of these instructions.

Information For Employees

If the federal government shutdown prevented you from contesting a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC), you will be allowed additional time to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If your TNC was referred between September 17, 2013 and September 30, 2013, and you were not able to resolve the mismatch due to the federal government shutdown, you should:

  • Add 12 federal business days to the date printed on the ‘Referral Letter’ or ‘Referral Date Confirmation’ that your employer gave you after you contested the TNC. Federal business days are Monday through Friday, and do not include federal holidays.
  • Contact SSA or DHS by the new date to resolve your TNC.
  • If you received a Final Non-Confirmation (FNC) because you could not contact DHS or SSA during the federal government shutdown, or because you could not contact DHS or SSA in the first ten days after the government reopened, please contact your employer and request that the employer re-enter your query. For more information about contesting your TNC or FNC, please refer to Employee section of the E-Verify website.

Customer Support

E-Verify Customer Support expects an increase in requests for assistance. Due to this increase, customers may experience longer than normal delays and response times. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience.

For any questions or additional information about how the federal shutdown affects E-Verify, please email E-Verify@dhs.gov. For questions about Form I-9, please visit I-9 Central or email I-9Central@dhs.gov. Employers and employees may also contact E-Verify at 888-464-4218. Customer Support representatives are available Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm local time.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
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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Employment Practices that Could Lead to Immigration Discrimination, Pt. 2

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC)‘s job is to enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which disallows employment-related anti-discrimination based on immigration and citizenship status, and nationality. I previously wrote about OSC’s responses to some employers’ questions on unfair employment practices, such as an employee presenting either invalid or fraudulent documents. OSC also answers immigration-related questions posed by law firms’, pertaining to law firm clients.

If, for example, a general contractor, is hiring out to a subcontractor, and then requires the subcontractor’s employees to again produce original documents — such as a passport or driver’s license — that were already presented during the hiring process and upon completion of a Form I-9 by the subcontractor, then a host of problems can present themselves:

  1. The original documents have expired and the employee has obtained a new version of those documents;
  2. The employee’s immigration status has changed, and thus has different documents to prove work authorization; and
  3. The original documents have been stolen or lost.

This could all amount to a claim by the employees that the general contractor was discriminating against them due to their citizenship or immigration status. Employees could also maintain that they are discriminated against in this case: An employer, who is an E-Verify user, hires a private vendor to disseminate paychecks, also giving the vendor access to Forms I-9. The vendor is authorized to examine the Forms I-9 in order to confirm the identities of employees, who the employer wants to pay.

What could easily happen is that, because the vendor didn’t see the employees’ original documents, he/she inquires about the adequacy of the documents that were initially presented to the employer for I-9 purposes. If the employer feels persuaded to ask his/her employees for further documentation, such a request might be perceived as document abuse, which violates the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. OSC found that the INA was not applicable in either circumstance.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
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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Government Shutdown Affects Employers with Foreign Workers

We sent an alert to our clients a couple of days ago when we felt that the Federal Government shutdown was imminent. We didn’t really expect it to happen but it did! The shutdown is unfortunately affecting US immigration services, so writing about action to be taken or postponed for pending immigration applications became imperative.

The websites of the US Department of Labor (US DOL) are no longer functional because it is considered a non-essential service. For employers, this means that if there is a current or potential employee who has to start, extend or transfer to a new employer, the employer will not be able to file a labor condition application for an H1B visa. The implication is that no application for the H1B visa can be filed with USCIS because that application has to be supported by a certified labor condition application (LCA). In the past, when there was a prolonged outage of the US DOL website, USCIS allowed employers to file with uncertified LCAs. We hope this happens with this shutdown, if it is prolonged.

For employees whose cases are pending audit on a PERM case; or if a prevailing wage determination or Form 9089 (PERM application) is either to be filed, or has been filed or is pending with the US DOL, no action will be issued by the agency until the shutdown has been terminated.

USCIS is functional because it is a fee-for-service agency. Biometrics collection is used for many immigrant applications, as well as for re-entry permits required for multinational employees who have a green card through employment but are currently stationed overseas. Biometric services for employees are also still being collected.

US Department of State consulates are currently functional, processing visa stamps and interviews. These services are supported by a mix of fees and federal budget allocation: if the shutdown is prolonged, or if there is a budgetary crisis, then there may be a suspension of services at the consulates for both US citizens and non-citizen consular services. The budgetary crisis could impact both employment-based and other categories of visa issuance, including visitor and business visas. If business travelers want to attend or plan to attend meetings and conferences in the US, please plan to obtain a visa while consular services are still available.

The Social Security Administration is open with limited service; issue of Social Security cards has been suspended. Hence, new visa-based employees will be unable to obtain new social security numbers, which could impact I-9 forms. Although collection of social security numbers is optional, if the employer is an E-verify employer, the employer is required to collect a social security number for work authorization verification. Certain federal and state contractors are also mandated to collect this information. To alleviate this problem, the 3-day rule for E-verify is suspended for those cases affected by the shutdown. Employers may not take adverse action against employees because of the employee’s E-verify interim status.

Wage payments to some new non-immigrants may be a problem because of the non-availability of the social security number. New J non-immigrant visa holders who cannot obtain social security numbers should approach their sponsoring agency for direction.

E-verify is unavailable during the shutdown. Consequently, USCIS, which administers the program, will not be issuing non-confirmation letters (TNC), and employers will be unable to verify work authorization of new employees. Current time to process TNCs has been extended; but the obligation to collect, maintain and process Form I-9 continues as an employer mandate.

Border security is an essential service – there will be no shutdown of services at the border, but travelers are expected to face slowdowns in screening and higher security.

US Passport services, which are a fee-for-service program, are not affected by the slowdown. Of course the severity of the impact will depend on the length of the shutdown. We will post updates as they become available.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
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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Why Is I-94 so important?

Form I-94 and its Uses

This piece of paper that measures 4×5 inches is how a non-immigrant visa (NIV) holder proves that he or she has exited the country. Clients often call us because they were told when they re-entered the US that they did not surrender their Form I-94 on exit. The paper is also very important to international students because it shows that they are here for the duration of the status of their visa — i.e. they do not have to exit until their program is over, and this stay could, under the right circumstances, exceed the length of their stamped visa. The I-94 is also used for Form I-9 purposes, to record the foreign passport, visa and I-94 number, and serves as a List A document for purposes of worker identity and work authorization. No other document needs to be produced by the worker as eligibility to work, which protects both the employer and employee.

Now with the electronic I-94, the apple cart has been tipped! Years of procedure and practice are to be replaced by a new process that State DMVs, federal agencies and employers need to learn. Software has to be amended to accept electronic I-94 cards.  The good news is that a duplicate I-94 can be printed as long as the NIV is in the US; the I-94 record disappears as soon as the NIV exits the US.

Form I-102 should still be used to correct mistakes in the record (filing fee $330); however, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) should be contacted in case of mistakes in the I-94 passport stamp. If CBP issued you Form I-94, I-94W, or I-95 with incorrect information (ex: misspelled name, incorrect date of birth, visa classification or date of admission), you should not file Form I-102. You will need to go in person to the nearest CBP port of entry (POE), or the nearest CBP deferred inspection office (DIO), to have the information corrected. For locations and hours of operation, visit CBP’s website at www.cbp.gov.

If you would like more information, please read my overview of electronic I-94.

More resources:
FAQ on what to enter to retrieve an I-94
How to obtain a copy of the new I-94
ICE I-94 Fact Sheet

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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