We often write and speak about the value immigrants add to the United States. Not just our clients (who we love), but all immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking the American Dream. From entrepreneurs, to software developers, to newly married couples, to parents joining their children, each individual adds to the rich diversity, economy, and spirit of the U.S. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the added value immigrants bring to our country, we have seen the current administration rail against immigrants from the beginning. Beyond chants to build a wall, the Trump administration has taken active steps to slow and deter legal immigration, which has already had measurable effects on U.S. immigration, creating an invisible wall.
In the context of family-based immigration, families are forced to remain separated for long periods of time due to new vetting policies and procedures that divert resources away from family-based applications. The result has been ever-growing wait times for legally filed applications to be processed. Applications that may have previously taken only 5 months to adjudicate are now taking upwards of 10 months, causing family separation for the extended period in the meantime. Employment-based applicants face similar issues. The business community has seen unprecedented scrutiny of nonimmigrant petitions for skilled workers, managers, executives, and others. We have seen a dramatic increase in Requests for Evidence, new interview requirements, and proposals to eliminate work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B workers. All of these practices serve to discourage U.S. employers from recruiting foreign workers (who are much needed).
To see the impact these actions have already had, look no further than the decline in the number of H-1B applicants (for the first time in five years), international student enrollment, and tourism to the U.S. in 2017. These declines not only run counter to our American values, but also have a measurable impact on our economy. The policies the administration has introduced have created an invisible wall, making legal immigration more difficult than ever, separating families and discouraging valuable foreign workers from coming to the United States.
We have previously written about the increasing importance of compliance with immigration laws while traveling in and out of the U.S. The Department of State has indicated that it has put in place enhanced aviation security measures for all commercial flights to the United States, including heightened screening of personal electronic devices. Therefore, it is important that any e-mails or documents you may have on your laptop or smart phone are consistent with the terms of your immigration status.
For example, if you are entering the U.S. on a visitor’s visa, you are not authorized to work in the United States. Rather, the expectation is that you will visit the U.S. temporarily for limited activities and return to your home country. If the immigration officer suspects that your intent is not to return to the U.S. or that you will violate the terms of your status during your visit, the officer may detain you right there in the airport and review your documents, phone, and social media. If the officer finds information that contradicts your stated purpose for the trip, an individual could be detained for several hours without access to the outside world, let alone an attorney, ultimately leading to a forced return to your home country. Most travelers intend to abide by the terms of their visas, but may be confused as to exactly what that may entail. To avoid any potential issues, we strongly recommend that our clients contact us before international travel to prepare any necessary documents and avoid these problems.
I received a nice affirmation that I have built the type of law firm I have aspired to create! Over the years, we have established a client-centered philosophy, and because of that, I am excited to share that I was selected as the recipient of the 2018 Avvo Clients’ Choice Award. I received their highest 10.0 rating, which is based on experience, professionalism, and background. In this political climate, it is now as critical as ever to be a zealous advocate for our clients and fight for their immigration rights. I am lucky to be able to continue this important work with amazing clients who add to the diverse fabric of our society.
Premium processing is an optional service offered by USCIS that is currently available for certain temporary work status and permanent residence applications. By paying the government a premium processing fee, the government will make a decision on an application or request a Request for Evidence within 15 days—rather than a few months. Many of our H-1B, L-1, O-1 and permanent resident applicants take advantage of this service, in order to have their cases adjudicated more quickly and by more senior officers.
The government fee for this service will increase from the current $1,225 to $1,410 beginning on October 1, 2018. This marks a nearly 15% increase in fees paid to the government. USCIS says it plans to hire additional staff and make investments in information technology systems with these added funds, in order to improve the adjudication process. If you are considering applying for one of the above-mentioned immigration benefits, we recommend reaching out to us as soon as possible to file your petition before the fee increase.
Although the economic policy debate between protectionism and global free trade continues to heat up, many foreign-owned companies and foreign-nationals continue to invest in the U.S. economy. Investing in a U.S. company or starting an office of an existing international company in the U.S. are among the ways a foreign-national can obtain legal status in the United States. The E investment visa and the L-1 intracompany transfer visa are commonly used by foreign companies to expand their business in the U.S.
Many investors choose Southern California, because it continues to be a major hub for the global economy with an estimated 10,378 foreign-owned firms, and nearly half of these firms in Los Angeles County alone. A 2018 report by the World Trade Center – Los Angeles (WTC-LA) further breaks down these demographics, detailing the variety of job types and top source nations for foreign-owned enterprises in the region (see graph below).
WTC-LA is an excellent resource we recommend for our clients interested in starting a business in the U.S.. This organization not only has a detailed knowledge of the market, but also free business consulting in areas of banking, accounting, human resources, connections with city government for possible discretionary incentives, personal wealth management, and business partnership matchmaking. All of these resources exist to help Los Angeles continue to be an epicenter for international business and trade and a welcoming city for immigrants from around the world.