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DHS “Known Employer” Pilot Program May Aid U.S. – Canada Business Travel

The Department of Homeland Security may test a “Known Employer” pilot program to streamline processing of certain types of employment-based immigration applications submitted by eligible U.S. employers.  Expected to launch by late 2015, the program is designed to:

  • Make adjudications more efficient and less costly.
  • Reduce paperwork and delays for U.S. employers who seek to employ foreign workers.
  • Facilitate cross-border business travel along the northern border Ports of Entry.

More information about the pilot program is expected in the coming months.  Stay tuned!

Visa Number Availability for Green Cards

 

  • EB-2 India: Priority dates for visa numbers for Indians in the EB-2 category are expected to advance by 4 to 6 months in the coming months, with even more significant advances expected through May. However, as demand builds toward October, the government may limit the availability of these visa numbers, resulting in the priority date remaining stagnant or even moving backward in time (“retrogression”).
  • EB-3: Priority dates for visa numbers are expected to advance rapidly over the next 1-6 months for citizens of all countries except India, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Advancement of 2-4 weeks is expected in the family-sponsored categories.

Undocumented Immigrants Can Apply for Driver’s Licenses in California—But Should They?

On January 1, California enacted Assembly Bill 60, allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses California. While having an AB 60 driver’s license is an important benefit for some individuals, we recommend that undocumented individuals consult with a licensed and trusted attorney before applying for an AB 60 driver’s license to avoid potential pitfalls.

The benefits of obtaining an AB 60 driver’s license:

  • Being trained, tested, licensed and insured will help protect you, your family and the community by increasing highway safety.
  • Having a license will ensure that you are not ticketed or arrested for driving without a driver’s license.
  • A driver’s license can be used for identification, even when you are not driving.
  • State and local law enforcement cannot use your AB 60 license to make assumptions about your immigration or citizenship status.
  • Your immigration history, including any prior deportations or deportation orders, is not a factor for eligibility for an AB 60 license.

The risks of obtaining an AB 60 driver’s license:

  • The U.S. federal law enforcement agencies may have access to some of the information you provide on your license application. Thus, if the government is already looking for a specific person, getting an AB 60 license may increase that person’s risk of being arrested.
  • Undocumented immigrants who meet any of the following criteria should be particularly cautious about applying for an AB 60 license:
  • Persons who have been convicted of a felony, gang-related activity, three or more misdemeanor offenses, or a “serious” misdemeanor.
  • A complete list of immigration enforcement priorities is available here.

Mexican Birth Certificates Now Available from Inside the U.S.

The Mexican government will now issue birth certificates to Mexican citizens at its consulates in the United States. This new option will ease the burden on immigrants gathering these necessary documents to apply for DACA, DAPA, U.S. work permits, driver’s licenses, etc. Birth certificates from some rural villages where documents are not digitally recorded may not be available, but consulates expect that they will be able to issue birth certificates for most birthplaces in Mexico.

Until now, Mexico had required its citizens to obtain birth certificates from specific government offices in Mexico. Many immigrants living in the U.S. faced hurdles when obtaining these documents from regional offices in Mexico. The consulates’ new procedure will streamline the document-gathering process for such immigrants. This is a significant step forward for Mexicans trying to obtain legal status.

Opportunity for H-1B Work Visas

Attention employers and professionals: H-1B visa numbers will become available again soon!  The H-1B classification is the most popular temporary work status for professional positions.  This news is important for both employers who plan on hiring foreign-national professionals and foreign-nationals who have a U.S. job offer and a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent work experience).  The application should be submitted April 1, 2015 (the government will reject applications submitted earlier.)  If approved, work authorization will begin October 1, 2015.  It is important to prepare these applications packages thoroughly.  To ensure timely filing of an H-1B application and avoid a rush service fee, we should start by  January 20, 2015.

The government will hold a lottery to determine which applications will be adjudicated for one of the coveted H-1B visa numbers.  In recent years, 30%-50% of applications were rejected after losing this lottery.  As the economy improves and demand for H-1B visas increases, the odds of obtaining an H-1B visa number will decrease.  If your employee is in a temporary work status that will end in the next few years, it may be advisable to apply for an H-1B visa this year.

We recommend that you request premium processing.  For an additional fee, the application is more likely to be adjudicated by a more senior officer, and a decision will be made in approximately 1 month.  (Last year, some H-1B applications were not adjudicated by the October 1 start date.  Many of these applicants ended up requesting premium processing anyway.)   Anecdotal evidence suggests that premium processing results in a higher chance of winning the H-1B visa number lottery—though officially premium processing should not affect the lottery.