President Seeks to Take Away H-4 Spouse Employment Authorization

The Trump administration has continuously sought ways to deter lawful immigration. It builds its invisible wall through rule changes and executive order. The latest proposed rule is to take away work authorization for the spouses of H-1B visa holders.  Trump talks about encouraging legal immigration and embracing highly skilled immigrant workers, but this rule undercuts that idea.

H-1B workers are highly skilled professionals who most commonly specialize in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Their spouses are eligible for H-4 status. Since 2015, H-4 spouses have been eligible for work authorization while their H-1B spouse is in the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident. For many H-1B employees the permanent resident process can take years to complete.  While these employees wait out the long, legal process, their H-4 spouses can help support their families financially and find a sense of independence and purpose through their own employment in the United States.

Taking away employment authorization for H-4 visa holders would inordinately impact women, because 90 percent of H-4 visa holders are women. Furthermore, telling valued H-1B employees that their spouses cannot work sends a message that they and their families are not truly welcome. It makes moving to the U.S. to work a less attractive option for these highly skilled workers.

Many of our clients are in the process of obtaining permanent residence. As these workers build their lives in the U.S., we understand that having two financial earners in the family can be necessary to their success. This proposed rule will do more harm than good. It punishes skilled foreign workers who are putting their talents to use in the U.S. economy.

USCIS Hopes to Avoid Total Premium Processing Suspension

As previously announced, USCIS will be offering premium processing in a two-phased approach during the Fiscal Year 2020 cap season. The hope is that by offering premium processing in two phases, the government can better manage the requests without fully suspending premium processing.  As many of our clients know, the government has had to suspend all premium processing for H-1B petitions in the past due to high demand.

The first phase will offer Premium Processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status. The government promises to make a decision within 15 days starting May 20, 2019. The second phase will include all other H-1B cap-subject petitions and will not begin until at least June 2019.  Currently, premium processing for all other H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as an H-1B extension of stay, remains available.  Hopefully, the government can avoid a total suspension of premium processing. USCIS is likely to make additional announcements regarding premium processing in the coming months. We will continue to track any updates to keep our clients informed.

“Public Charge” as a an Excuse to Deny Family-Based Immigration Applications

The U.S. Department of State recently issued new data showing that the number of visas issued declined from 2017 to 2018.  Temporary visas issued declined 7%. The number of immigrant visas for individuals seeking permanent residence also declined by 5%.

The main reason for the decline is likely the president’s “extreme vetting” process. This policy has increased scrutiny of all applications. The largest increase in visa denials was based on “public charge” grounds. This occurs when a consular officer denies an application because the officer believes the applicant lacks the financial resources to support him or herself in the United States. The fear is that the applicant may come to rely on the federal government for financial support. Though the legal standard has not changed, the interpretation that consular officers use has. Therefore, it is important to make sure you have the proper documentation of your finances before heading to a consulate appointment. Without the proper evidence, you may face serious delays or denials in the visa process.

USCIS Announces Two-Phased Premium Processing for H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions

Premium processing will be offered in two phases during this year’s H-1B cap season. The first phase will accept premium processing requests only for cap-subject H-1B petitions that request a change of status within the United States. Petitioners must request premium processing with the H-1B change of status application. Otherwise, they will need to wait until premium processing begins to submit the request.  USCIS will begin premium processing for these petitions no later than May 20, 2019.

The second phase will include all other fiscal year 2020 cap-subject petitions, including those who request consular notification and will need to enter the U.S. to trigger H-1B status.  It will not begin until at least June 2019. Petitioners must wait to submit their premium process request until the service becomes available again.  Thus, those who are eager to know quickly whether their application has been accepted by the lottery and the decision on their application should request premium processing simultaneously with the H-1B petition, request a change of status within the U.S., and not travel internationally until the petition is adjudicated.

Treaty Investor Visa to Become Available for Israeli Citizens

The E-2 Treaty Investor will soon be available to Israeli citizens, as it is to many other countries. According to the Israeli office of Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA), beginning May 1, 2019 Israeli nationals will be eligible for the E-2 visa. American citizens will be eligible for a similar visa in Israel.

The E-2 visa provides an opportunity for foreign investors to live and work temporarily in the United States. The investor must invest a substantial amount of money into and manage a U.S. business.  Importantly, the applicant must hold citizenship from a country with which the United States has a treaty of commerce and navigation.  The U.S. Department of State has a list of treaty countries for this visa type. The United States and Israel reached a treaty agreement during the Obama administration. The countries have had difficulty implementing the visa program, because it requires a similar visa to be available for U.S. citizens in Israel. The two countries have finally reached an agreement. Israeli citizens will have an additional way of immigrating to the U.S. by investing and managing a business in the U.S.