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Newsletter 12; August 2012

It’s hard to believe that September has arrived! Whether you’re looking forward to cooler temperatures or sneaking in one last trip to the beach, here are some important immigration updates to keep you informed.


Green Card Lottery Opens October 2, 2012

The U.S. Government is once again accepting entries for the annual Diversity Visa Lottery beginning Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 12:00 noon, EDT. This program makes available thousands of immigrant visas each year to foreign-nationals from countries deemed to have low rates of immigration to the United States. Citizens of some countries are ineligible for the lottery, though in some circumstances, an individual may be eligible instead based on his/her spouse’s or parents’ country of birth.

Unless an individual is undocumented, I generally recommend entering the lottery (after all, there’s no filing fee!). Registration instructions will be available soon on the government’s website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html . Carefully read all directions and follow the rigid guidelines when applying—each year thousands of applicants are disqualified for failure to follow the directions exactly.

Lottery winners can apply for green cards or immigrant visas if they meet certain criteria. Even if an individual does win the lottery, s/he may still not be eligible for a green card. We recommend that you hire a lawyer only after you are chosen as a lucky winner to help navigate the complex application process. Nevertheless, we are available if you would like to schedule a consultation regarding the lottery application process.

The government will accept lottery entries until November 3, 2010 at 12:00 noon, EDT. Good luck to you or your employees!


Good News for Intracompany Transferees with L-1 Visas

L-1 visas for international travel are now being issued from U.S. consulates in 5-year increments. An L-1 employee is still only authorized to live and work in the U.S. for 3 year increments. However, once L-1 status is renewed from within the U.S., the employee can continue to use the same, valid visa to reenter the U.S. without having to renew it at the U.S. consulate. This should save L-1 visa holders (and their employers) considerable time and expense.


Update on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Information about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has flooded the internet, with sources ranging from informed and helpful to dangerously inaccurate. An experienced immigration attorney can evaluate the details of your case and determine a strategy that works for your specific immigration situation. Other tips to keep in mind:

  • DACA does not allow applicants to appeal the government’s decision to deny a petition—make sure that your one and only chance to file a DACA application is a strong one.
  • Misrepresentations or failure to disclose information on a DACA application can have serious consequences. According to the Department of Homeland Security, applicants who make these mistakes “will be treated as an immigration enforcement priority to the fullest extent permitted by law, and be subject to criminal prosecution and/or removal from the United States.” Make sure your DACA application is squeaky clean!
  • There are both the short- and long-term consequences of filing a DACA application. Fortunately, information regarding a DACA applicant’s family members is kept confidential and in most cases will not be used to deport the family member.
  • The strategy for when to submit a DACA application can be important. For example, under existing immigration laws, qualified individuals could avoid future legal problems by submitting their requests prior to their 18th birthday and receiving approval no later than 180 days after their 18th birthday.
  • During the processing of your application, the government will contact you directly about any problems with the application. However, if you are represented by a licensed attorney, the government will contact your attorney instead of you.
  • Be smart and think about your comprehensive immigration strategy for the future—not just one DACA application.

I-94 Data Entry Delays Interrupt Work Authorization, Driver’s Licenses, and Social Security Cards

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported delays of 30 days or more in the current processing time for entering foreign visitors’ travel information into the I-94 database after an entry into the country. USCIS’s E-Verify program uses this information to confirm work authorization. Government agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles also use this information to determine eligibility for government benefits.

As a result of the delays, employers may notice an increase in Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNC) when confirming a Foreign National’s employment authorization through E-Verify. Foreign Nationals may experience difficulties when applying for driver’s licenses, social security cards, and other benefits.
The good news: CBP has explained that the delays are the result of their ongoing initiative to automate Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Records. This means that speedier data entry could be on the horizon.


On the Campaign Trail: LGBT Immigration Benefits Now Part of the Democratic Party’s Platform

This morning, the Democratic National Committee unveiled an historic party platform that, for the first time, includes immigration benefits for same-sex couples. The platform would aid foreign-national families threatened with deportation and allow individuals to seek immigration benefits for their same-sex life partners.


Change in Government Processing Could Inconvenience Students

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is no longer stamping Forms I-20 for foreign-national students when they enter the United States. This change could cause problems in the short-term for students applying for certain government benefits because many government agencies look to the I-20 stamp to determine eligibility. USCIS is reaching out to agencies to inform them of the new “no-stamping” policy and ensure that driver’s licenses, social security cards, and other benefits will be issued to students without delay. In the meantime, if a government agency rejects your I-20 we recommend that you or your designated school official email USCIS at: Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov.


Certain Iranian Students Face New Immigration Hurdles

The United States has enacted the Iran Nuclear Threat Reduction Bill, which directs Immigration Officers to deny petitions and exclude from the United States any Iranian citizens seeking higher education to prepare for a career in Iran’s energy, nuclear science and nuclear engineering sectors, as well as related fields. Beginning August 10, 2012, immigration offices and consular posts will deny student visa applications from Iranian applicants wishing to pursue post-secondary studies in the proscribed fields. It is unclear how the government will interpret the phrase “related fields,” and how this policy will impact Iranian students applying for extensions of status to continue their current studies or for post-graduation employment. We will be watching carefully for updates!


Scam Alert: Fraudulent Callers Target Immigrants

Reports have surfaced regarding a new scam potentially victimizing immigrants. According to one report, immigrants may receive calls purporting to be from a USCIS officer, who will have certain correct information including the individual’s name and address. The caller will claim that there is a discrepancy in USCIS records, and ask for confirmation of personal data such as I-94 number, “A” number, or visa control number. The caller may then demand a sum of money to be sent via Western Union as a “penalty for not clearing up the discrepancy.”

If you receive a suspicious call from an individual claiming to be an Immigration Officer, contact your attorney immediately to verify the source of the call. Fraudulent calls should be reported to appropriate law enforcement authorities, including the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Together we can shut down these fraudsters!


Immigration Law in Brief

  • I-9: USCIS is currently in the process of updating Form I-9. Until the update is available, employers should continue to use the current version of Form I-9, even though it expired on August 31, 2012.
  • Managers and Executives: USCIS has confirmed that Premium Processing for Immigrant Visa petitions filed on behalf of executives and managers will become available by October 1, 2012. Premium Processing guarantees that USCIS will respond to an Immigrant Visa petition within 15 calendar days. Executives and managers interested in upgrading their pending Immigrant Visa applications to Premium Processing should contact our office.
  • Israeli Investors: President Obama has signed legislation that would add Israel to the list of countries eligible for investor visas (E-2) in the United States. Visas will become available once the terms and conditions of the final agreement are determined between the two countries. So far, no timeline for the implementation of this visa category has been promised.
  • Russian Visitors: The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has announced that, effective September 9, 2012, an agreement to facilitate travel and establish stronger ties between Russia and the United States will benefit applicants for business and visitor visas. The benefits of the agreement include:
    • Russian and American travelers will be eligible to receive visas valid for multiple entries during a period of 36 months.
    • Travelers from both countries will enjoy simplified visa processing and accelerated processing times.
    • The United States will reduce the visa reciprocity fee charged to Russians from $100 to $20.
    • Russia will lift the previous restriction limiting Americans’ stays in Russia to 90 days within any given 180-day period.

Note: This publication serves only as general information and is not a substitute for consultation with an attorney who can assess the specifics of your case and inform you of the constant changes in law and policy. No attorney-client relationship is formed by the transmission of this information until a legal service contract has been signed by both of us.

Newsletter 11: July 2012

It’s only a few weeks into the summer and we’ve already seen some major happenings in immigration law! For the DREAMers, Arizonans, and everyone in between, here is some important information to keep you up-to-date.

 


New Policy: Work Permits and Driver’s Licenses for Some Undocumented Youth

Since Congress did not pass the DREAM Act, the Obama Administration has instead used its executive powers to help deserving undocumented youth. Immigration Services recently announced that certain young people brought to the United States as children are eligible to request “deferred action.” Deferred action is a temporary shield against deportation, allowing qualified individuals to live lawfully in the U.S. for two years and it is renewable. Importantly, applicants who are granted deferred action will also be able to apply for U.S. work authorization and likely driver’s licenses.

Human Resources: This policy may be a good opportunity to obtain work authorization for any undocumented individuals in your work force to minimize the company’s exposure for I-9 violations.

Individuals may apply for deferred action if they:

  • Came to the U.S. before age 16;
  • Are currently between ages 15 to 31;
  • Have resided in the U.S. for five consecutive years and have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the armed forces;
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors; and
  • Can demonstrate economic necessity for work authorization.

Deferred action is an exercise of executive powers by President Obama. If a different president is elected in the fall, he could end this policy. Thus, the window of opportunity to apply could be limited. Also, there is a risk that if a different president is elected, he would put the self-identified undocumented individuals in deportation proceedings (though unlikely).

Because deferred action is new, many notarios and unlicensed attorneys may take advantage of applicants’ lack of knowledge about the program and make false promises. Also, filing applications for undocumented individuals who are not eligible will only land them in deportation proceedings. The wrong help can hurt. By contrast, a licensed immigration attorney can analyze your eligibility for deferred action, serve as your attorney of record if you encounter problems with the government, and devise a long-term immigration strategy to protect you for the future. If interested in this program, please contact our office for a consultation to analyze your eligibility for deferred action and work authorization.


Attorney Navid Dayzad – Now a Five-Time Recipient of California’s Rising Star Award

For the 5th time, Navid Dayzad has been selected as a “Rising Star”—among the top 2.5% of the outstanding, emerging lawyers in Southern California. This honor was recognized in Los Angeles magazine and Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers magazine.


Supreme Court Stands Up for Immigrants

The Supreme Court recently took the side of immigrants while reviewing Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070. In support of immigrants, the Court struck down the state’s attempt to punish undocumented immigrants with new laws and penalties. However, the Court did uphold the provision that requires state law enforcement officials to check a detained person’s immigration status if the officer reasonably suspects that the person is undocumented.

Note: This publication serves only as general information and is not a substitute for consultation with an attorney who can assess the specifics of your case and inform you of the constant changes in law and policy. No attorney-client relationship is formed by the transmission of this information until a legal service contract has been signed by both of us.

Newsletter 10: May 2012

Summer is just around the corner! I hope you are all gearing up to enjoy a splash in the pool or a summer trip. For some “pleasure reading” poolside or on the airplane, we have important immigration updates for you.

 


H-1B Visa Numbers—Get Them While You Can!

Spring is not only baseball season—it’s H-1B season, too! As you probably know, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting new H-1B applications for fiscal year 2013 on April 1, 2012. Amazingly, visa numbers are still available—but not for long. Those who do not obtain one of the remaining visa numbers can instead apply on April 1, 2013 for work authorization beginning October 1, 2013. If you are interested in obtaining one of the remaining H-1B visa numbers, please contact us immediately. There is no guarantee that you will get an H-1B visa number before they run out.

The H-1B classification is the most popular temporary work status for professional positions. Foreign-nationals with a Bachelor’s degree and a U.S. job offer may be eligible to obtain H-1B work status.


Meet Our New Associate Attorney, Nicole Black

We are happy to announce the arrival of our newest associate attorney, Nicole Black! She is a wonderful addition to our team. I will remain actively involved in each of our cases and Nicole will work closely with me to continue doing excellent work for you.

Nicole practices immigration law in the sub-specialties of employment-based and family-based immigration. She was inspired to become an immigration attorney at age 10, when the American Immigration Law Foundation awarded her for her essay, “Why I Am Glad America is a Nation of Immigrants.” Nicole began her work in the immigration field in 2006 as a legal assistant with a prestigious firm in Chicago, Illinois, where she specialized in employment-based immigration law. Prior to joining Dayzad Law Offices, P.C. in 2012, Nicole served as a judicial extern for the Honorable James R. Lambden in the California Court of Appeal and practiced as a Fellowship Attorney with Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles.

Nicole obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and was admitted to the California Bar in 2011. While at Hastings, she was a member of the highest-ranked moot court competition team in the country, and received awards for outstanding written and oral advocacy. She was named “Moot Court Student of the Year” in 2011. Nicole graduated from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. She has read every installment of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and would run into a burning building to rescue her Xbox.


PERM Statistics

The Department of Labor has released some surprising statistics from the Department’s labor certification (PERM) program. The labor certification is the first step of the employment-based green card process, and can present significant hurdles to inexperienced employers who lack competent legal counsel to help them navigate the process.

According to the Department’s estimates, 33% of applications were put into audit review. Of those audited cases, 55% were denied, and only 45% approved. Another 4% of applications were put into “Supervised Recruitment,” of which a whopping 60% were denied! Another 12% were withdrawn, leaving only 25% of applications in Supervised Recruitment approved.

If you find these statistics disconcerting, take heart! A knowledgeable immigration attorney can take proactive steps to help you avoid the time, expense, and risk of a denial or Department of Labor audit.

Dayzad Law Offices is proud to have succeeded in 100% of the labor certification cases we’ve filed. Of course, every case is different and the success of each application depends greatly on the individual circumstances. If you are interested in seeking employment-based permanent residence, please contact us for a consultation on this important first step of the process.


I-9 Audits: Best Practices for Savvy Employers

No employer wants to hear that they’ve been chosen as the subject of an immigration audit of their I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification records. The best way to breeze through such a government audit is to do an internal audit first and clear-up any discrepancies. (We are available to help you with internal audits.) During the government audit, itself, consider the following tips:

DO:

  • Decide in advance how you want to communicate with your employees in a transparent way about the audit. Stick to your plan!
  • If your employees are represented by a union, inform the union of the audit as soon as possible.
  • If you must ask an employee for specific information, inform him/her that you are seeking the information in response to a government audit.
  • Communicate with employees in writing; always describe the problem and the specific information you need to address it.
  • Provide your employees with a reasonable amount of time to correct mistakes in their records.
  • Treat all workers the same during the audit, regardless of national origin or citizenship status!
  • Seek consultation with an experienced immigration attorney to make sure you don’t step on an immigration landmine.

DON’T:

  • Ask for more documents from your employees than the government is requiring you to obtain.
  • Limit the range of documents that employees are allowed to present to verify their employment eligibility.
  • Terminate, suspend, or otherwise discipline employees without first providing them notice and a reasonable amount of time to correct mistakes in their records.
  • Single out employees for verification or treat them differently on the basis of their national origin or citizenship status.

New Initiatives May Save Travelers Time at the Airport

Two government initiatives may help harried travelers by streamlining the airport inspection process. The first, called “Global Entry,” is helpful when you enter the U.S. It is a program that allows “expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers.” First released as a pilot program, Global Entry was made permanent by Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Through Global Entry, pre-approved travelers have access to an automated alternative to traditional customs inspection, allowing them to reduce their customs wait times by more than 70 percent, according to DHS estimates. DHS noted that 75% of participants in the Global Entry pilot program were able to clear customs in under five minutes! Looks like you might have time to grab that Cinnabon after all.

Not to be outdone, Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) has announced the expansion of “TSA Pre•” following its success at seven pilot locations. At certain airports for specific airlines, TSA Pre• will help you board your plane to leave the U.S. quicker. It is a passenger pre-screening initiative that will provide expedited screening to passengers who volunteer information about themselves before their flight. If TSA determines that a passenger is eligible for expedited screening, information will be embedded into the barcode of the passenger’s boarding pass. TSA will read the barcode at the security checkpoint and then may refer the passenger to a TSA Pre• lane, where they will undergo expedited screening. This could mean no more taking off shoes, belts, and jackets, nor removing liquids, gels, and laptops from your carry-on. Passengers interested in participating in either program can apply at www.globalentry.gov.


Proposed Change Would Ease Travel for Same-Sex Partners and Families

As you know, each family that enters the U.S. from abroad must complete a short form for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to declare the value of the goods (or agricultural items) brought into the U.S. The government is proposing to expand the definition of the term “members of a family residing in one household” to include domestic relationships beyond the limits of blood, marriage, or adoption. This is a positive step, reflecting the diversity of modern American families to include stepchildren, half-siblings, domestic partners, partners in civil unions, and similar relationships.

Note: This publication serves only as general information and is not a substitute for consultation with an attorney who can assess the specifics of your case and inform you of the constant changes in law and policy. No attorney-client relationship is formed by the transmission of this information until a legal service contract has been signed by both of us.