News from the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers Vol. 9, No. 12A • December 01, 2013
1. USCIS Announces E-Verify Anti-SSN Fraud Effort – USCIS has announced an E-Verify effort to combat identity fraud by identifying and deterring fraudulent use of Social Security Numbers for employment eligibility verification.
2. Temporary Accommodation for Form I-129 H-2A Petitions Has Expired – The Office of Foreign Labor Certification has stopped sending Adobe PDF copies of approved temporary labor certifications to H-2A employers and authorized representatives as of November 18, 2013.
3. USCIS Warns of Scams Exploiting EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program – In coordination with USCIS, which administers the EB-5 program, the SEC has taken emergency enforcement action to stop allegedly fraudulent securities offerings made through the EB-5 program.
4. USCIS Reminds Filipinos of Immigration Relief Measures Following Typhoon; US-CERT Warns About Scams – Following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, USCIS is reminding Filipino nationals that they may be eligible for certain immigration relief measures if requested.
5. DHS Proposes SEVP Rule – Among other things, the proposed rule would grant school officials more flexibility in determining the number of designated school officials to nominate for the oversight of campuses.
6. USDA Postpones Release of 2014 AEWR Wage Data – The new release date for the Farm Labor Survey report is December 5, 2013.
7. DOL Publishes Three Final Rules Eliminating Obsolete OFLC Regulations – The Department of Labor has published three final rules eliminating Office of Foreign Labor Certification regulations that have been made obsolete by statutory or regulatory changes.
8. ABIL Global: Turkey – The new Residence Permit Law will overhaul immigration in Turkey.
9. New Publications and Items of Interest – New Publications and Items of Interest
10. Member News – Member News
11. Government Agency Links – Government Agency Links
1. USCIS Announces E-Verify Anti-SSN Fraud Effort
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced an E-Verify effort to combat identity fraud by identifying and deterring fraudulent use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for employment eligibility verification.
USCIS explained that an employer, for example, may enter information into E-Verify that appears valid, such as a matching name, date of birth, and SSN, but that was in fact stolen, borrowed, or purchased from another individual. The agency said the new safeguard enables USCIS to lock an SSN that appears to have been misused.
USCIS said this implements standards that have proven effective in protecting individual identity in other industries. As with a credit card company that can lock a card that appears to have been stolen, USCIS may now lock SSNs in E-Verify that appear to have been used fraudulently. USCIS said it will use a combination of algorithms, detection reports, and analysis to identify patterns of fraudulent SSN use and then lock the number in E-Verify.
If an employee attempts to use a locked SSN, E-Verify will generate a “Tentative Nonconfirmation” (TNC). The employee receiving the TNC may contest the finding at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) field office. If an SSA field officer confirms that the employee’s identity correctly matches the SSN, the TNC will be converted to “Employment Authorized” status in E-Verify.
Employer enrollment in E-Verify has more than doubled since January 2009, with more than 470,000 participating employers representing more than 1.4 million hiring sites. Approximately 1,500 new employers enroll each week. In fiscal year (FY) 2013, E-Verify was used to authorize workers in the U.S. more than 25 million times, representing a nearly 20 percent increase from FY 2012.
2. Temporary Accommodation for Form I-129 H-2A Petitions Has Expired
The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification has announced that it has stopped sending Adobe PDF copies of approved temporary labor certifications (TLCs) to H-2A employers and authorized representatives as of November 18, 2013.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) previously issued an alert allowing H-2A petitioners to temporarily file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with a copy of the signed, certified TLC. To align with the Department of Labor’s return to normal practice following the federal government shutdown, USCIS’s temporary accommodation expired on November 29, 2013. Beginning December 2, 2013, USCIS will revert to its previous filing practice and will not accept any I-129 H-2A petitions filed without the certified TLC on blue security paper with original signatures.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about H-2A and H-2B signature requirements for electronically filed temporary labor certifications and the H classification supplement to the I-129
3. USCIS Warns of Scams Exploiting EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of Investor Education and Advocacy and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have jointly issued a warning to individual investors about fraudulent investment scams that exploit the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
In coordination with USCIS, which administers the EB-5 program, the SEC has taken emergency enforcement action to stop allegedly fraudulent securities offerings made through the EB-5 program. USCIS explained that business owners apply to USCIS to be designated as “regional centers” for the EB-5 program. Regional centers offer investment opportunities in new commercial enterprises that may involve securities offerings. The fact that a business is designated as a regional center by USCIS does not mean that USCIS, the SEC, or any other government agency has approved the investments offered by the business, or has otherwise expressed a view on the quality of the investment. The SEC and USCIS are aware of attempts to misuse the EB-5 program as a means to carry out fraudulent securities offerings. For example, in a recent case, SEC v. Marco A. Ramirez, et al., the SEC and USCIS worked together to stop an alleged investment scam in which the SEC claims that the defendants, including the “USA Now” regional center, falsely promised investors a 5 percent return on their investment and an opportunity to obtain an EB-5 visa. The promoters allegedly started soliciting investors before USCIS had designated the business as a regional center. The SEC alleged that while the defendants told investors their money would be held in escrow until USCIS approved the business as eligible for EB-5, the defendants misused investor funds for personal use, such as funding their Cajun-themed restaurant. According to the SEC’s complaint, the investors did not obtain even conditional visas as a result of their investments through the USA Now regional center.
In another case, SEC v. A Chicago Convention Center, et al., the SEC and USCIS coordinated their efforts to halt an alleged $156 million investment fraud. The SEC alleged that an individual and his companies used false and misleading information to solicit investors in the “World’s First Zero Carbon Emission Platinum LEED certified” hotel and conference center in Chicago, including falsely claiming that the business had acquired all necessary building permits and that the project was backed by several major hotel chains. According to the SEC’s complaint, the defendants promised investors that they would get back any administrative fees they paid for their investments if their EB-5 visa applications were denied. The defendants allegedly spent more than 90 percent of the administrative fees, including some for personal use, before USCIS adjudicated the visa applications.
USCIS noted that as with any investment, it is important to research thoroughly any offering that purports to be affiliated with EB-5. USCIS recommended the following steps:
- Confirm that USCIS has designated the regional center. If you intend to invest through a regional center, check the list of current regional centers on USCIS’s website. If the regional center is not on the list, exercise extreme caution. Even if it is on the list, understand that USCIS has not endorsed the regional center or any of the investments it offers.
- Obtain copies of documents provided to USCIS. Regional centers must file an initial application (Form I-924) to obtain USCIS approval and designation, and must submit an information collection supplement (Form I-924A) at the end of every calendar year. Ask the regional center for copies of these forms and supporting documentation provided to USCIS.
- Request investment information in writing. Ask for a copy of the investment offering memorandum or private placement memorandum from the issuer. Examine it carefully and research similar projects in evaluating the proposal. Follow up with any questions you may have. If you do not understand the information in the document or the issuer is unwilling or unable to answer your questions to your satisfaction, do not invest.
- Ask if promoters are being paid. If there are supposedly unaffiliated consultants, lawyers, or agencies recommending or endorsing the investment, ask how much money or what type of benefits they expect to receive in connection with recommending the investment. Be skeptical of information from promoters that is inconsistent with the investment offering memorandum or private placement memorandum from the issuer.
- Seek independent verification. Confirm whether claims made about the investment are true. For example, if the investment involves construction of commercial real estate, check county records to see if the issuer has obtained the proper permits and whether state and local property tax assessments correspond with the values the regional center attributes to the property. If other companies have purportedly signed onto the project, go directly to those companies for confirmation.
- Examine structural risk. Understand that you may be investing in a new commercial enterprise that has no assets and has been established to loan funds to a company that will use the funds to develop projects. Carefully examine loan documents and offering statements to determine if the loan is secured by any collateral pledged to investors.
- Consider the developer’s incentives. EB-5 regional center principals and developers often make capital investments in the projects they manage. Recognize that if principals and developers do not make an equity investment in the project, their financial incentives may not be linked to the success of the project.
- Look for warning signs of fraud. Beware if you spot any of these hallmarks of fraud:
– Promises of a visa or becoming a lawful permanent resident. Investing through EB-5 makes you eligible to apply for a conditional visa, but there is no guarantee that USCIS will grant you a conditional visa or subsequently remove the conditions on your lawful permanent residency. USCIS carefully reviews each case and denies cases where eligibility rules are not met. Guarantees of the receipt or timing of a visa or green card are warning signs of fraud.
– Guaranteed investment returns or no investment risk. Money invested through EB-5 must be at risk for the purpose of generating a return. If you are guaranteed investment returns or told you will get back a portion of the money you invested, be suspicious.
– Overly consistent high investment returns. Investments tend to go up and down over time, particularly those that offer high returns. Be suspicious of an investment that claims to provide, or continues to generate, high rates of return regardless of overall market conditions.
- Unregistered investments. Even though a regional center may be designated as a regional center by USCIS, most new commercial enterprise investment opportunities offered through regional centers are not registered with the SEC or any state regulator. When an offering is unregistered, the issuer may not provide investors with access to key information about the company’s management, products, services, and finances that registration requires. In such circumstances, investors should obtain additional information about the company to help ensure that the investment opportunity is bona fide.
- Unlicensed sellers. Federal and state securities laws require investment professionals and their firms who offer and sell investments to be licensed or registered. Designation as a regional center does not satisfy this requirement. Many fraudulent investment schemes involve unlicensed individuals or unregistered firms.
- Layers of companies run by the same individuals. Some EB-5 regional center investments are structured through layers of different companies that are managed by the same individuals. In such circumstances, confirm that conflicts of interest have been fully disclosed and are minimized.
USCIS noted that if an investment through EB-5 turns out to be in a fraudulent securities offering, the investor may lose both his or her money and a path to lawful permanent residence in the United States. USCIS said any EB-5 offering should be carefully vetted before investing money and hope of becoming a lawful permanent resident in the United States.
USCIS ALERT That page also has links to the alert in Chinese, Korean, and Spanish.
4. USCIS Reminds Filipinos of Immigration Relief Measures Following Typhoon; US-CERT Warns About Scams
Following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is reminding Filipino nationals that they may be eligible for certain immigration relief measures if requested.
USCIS said it understands that a natural disaster can affect an individual’s ability to establish or maintain lawful immigration status in the United States. Filipino nationals affected by Typhoon Haiyan may be eligible to benefit from the following immigration relief measures:
- Change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even when the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
- Extension of certain grants of parole made by USCIS;
- Extension of certain grants of advance parole, and expedited processing of advance parole requests;
- Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship (for more on this, see HERE);
- Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs);
- Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate; and
- Assistance to LPRs stranded overseas without immigration or travel documents, such as permanent resident cards (green cards). USCIS said that it and the Department of State will coordinate on these matters when the LPR is stranded in a place that has no local USCIS office.
Meanwhile, US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) issued a warning about disaster-related scams and phishing attacks. After a natural disaster, phishing emails and websites requesting donations for bogus charitable organizations often appear. US-CERT said users should be aware of potential email scams and phishing attacks regarding the Philippines typhoon disaster. Email scams may contain links or attachments that may direct users to phishing or malware-laden websites.
US-CERT encourages users to take various measures to protect themselves, including not clicking on unsolicited web links or attachments in email messages, and reviewing the Federal Trade Commission’s Charity Checklist and the Better Business Bureau’s National Charity Report Index.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON TYPES OF RELIEF
INFORMATION FROM US-CERT ON DISASTER-RELATED SCAMS
5. DHS Proposes SEVP Rule
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed to amend its regulations under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to improve management of international student programs and increase opportunities for study by spouses and children of nonimmigrant students. The proposed rule would grant school officials more flexibility in determining the number of designated school officials to nominate for the oversight of campuses. The rule also would provide greater incentives for international students to study in the United States by permitting accompanying spouses and children of academic and vocational nonimmigrant students in F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status to enroll in study at an SEVP-certified school so long as any study remains less than a full course of study. F-2 and M-2 spouses and children may not engage in a full course of study unless they apply for, and DHS approves, a change of nonimmigrant status to a status authorizing such study.
PROPOSED RULE Comments are due by January 21, 2014.
6. USDA Postpones Release of 2014 AEWR Wage Data
On October 17, 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a change in the schedule for the release of certain reports due to the lapse in appropriations resulting in the federal government shutdown. Among the affected reports is the Farm Labor Survey (FLS) report upon which the Department relies to establish the Adverse Effect Wage Rates in the H-2A program. The new release date for the FLS report is December 5, 2013.
7. DOL Publishes Three Final Rules Eliminating Obsolete OFLC Regulations
The Department of Labor (DOL) has published three final rules eliminating Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) regulations that have been made obsolete by statutory or regulatory changes. The H-1A nursing visa (20 CFR 655 subparts D and E) and the F-1 student off-campus work permit (20 CFR 655 subparts J and K) regulations were based on statutes that sunset September 30, 1997, and September 30, 1996, respectively; the programs sunset at later dates and have now been completed. The logging provisions in 20 CFR subpart C were incorporated into the H-2A regulations published in the DOL’s final rule, Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Aliens in the United States, at 75 Fed. Reg. 6884 (Feb. 12, 2010).
8. ABIL Global: Turkey
The new Residence Permit Law will overhaul immigration in Turkey.
On April 11, 2013, Law No. 6458, Law on Foreigners and International Protection, was published in the official gazette of Turkey and is set to go into effect in one year. This new law will make vast changes to residence permit eligibility and procedure, and will create a new governmental office.
The changes span a wide variety of issues, including the requirements for residing and working in Turkey, protection of victims of human trafficking, changes in business visitor rules, procedures and categories of residence status, grounds for deportation, and processing of refugees. Changes include the extension of the 90-out-of-180-day rule for tourists to business visitors. Also, sticker visas obtained at the border will only be valid for 15 days. The rule to apply for a residence permit within 30 days of entry will be extended to 90 days. The renewal of residence permits will be accepted for filing at a much earlier period of 60 days before expiration. Also, a new provision will allow the initial filing of residence permits at consular posts.
Significantly, new categories of resident permit eligibilities will be created, including for those who will open a business or buy real estate in Turkey. The law also requires the creation of a new Administration General Directorate of Migration under the Ministry of Interior, which is underway.
Until April 11, 2014, residence permits are being handled by the local and regional Police Departments under the Interior Ministry. With the new law, this process will be moved to the new Directorate of Migration, as well as to consular posts for certain applications. The new Directorate will establish new offices under the governor’s and district governor’s offices around Turkey.
New categories of residence permits include short-term, long-term, family, student, humanitarian, and victims of human trafficking.
According to the new law, a foreigner must seek a residence permit in an appropriate category if he or she intends to remain in Turkey more than 90 days. This is an expansion of the previous 30-day rule. Short-Term Residence Permits will be valid up to one year. The new Long-Term Permit appears to have some similarities to a U.S. green card. This type of permit will require that the person has already resided legally and continuously in Turkey for at least eight years, shown that he or she has not required public assistance for the last three years, provided evidence of financial self-support (including health insurance), and not be a threat to public order or security.
Procedurally, the new law indicates that those applying for new residence permits must do so at a Turkish consular post in the applicant’s home country. For those who already have a current, valid residence permit, extensions must be filed with the new Directorate officials at the local governor’s office.
The new law stipulates that if a person is granted a work permit, he or she no longer must obtain a separate residence permit. This will be a relief to international assignees who have dealt with tremendous delays in residence permit issuance due to massive backlogs of applications at the local police departments in many municipal locations.
Deportation and Ban on Reentry
The law also creates new harsher procedures and penalties for deportation and a ban on the re-entry of foreigners who are out of status or not abiding by the terms of their stay. The ban may be up to five years in some circumstances such as overstaying, and up to 10 years if the person is deemed a “security threat.”
Protection of Refugees and Victims of Human Trafficking
The new law also better protects refugees and victims of human trafficking. It is a significant step for Turkey’s protection of human rights, particularly considering the refugee flow into Turkey from neighboring countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Under the new law, Turkey will not be able to return foreigners to countries where they will be subject to torture or inhumane treatment.
The new law indicates Turkey’s awareness of the need to overhaul its management of foreigners. As Turkey’s economy has grown, it is now a leading location in the region for expatriates of many international companies, as well as a prime location for new investment. As a result, the number of foreigners needing work permits has grown exponentially. Also, based on its location bordering several countries in turmoil, the processing of refugees has become a growing problem. Further detailed guidance is sorely needed well in advance of the April 11, 2014, implementation deadline.
9. New Publications and Items of Interest
I-901 SEVIS fee payment video tutorial. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has produced a video tutorial on the steps in the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee payment process, including what information must be submitted and what to do once payment has been completed. VIDEO TUTORIAL
Several ABIL members co-authored and edited the Global Business Immigration Practice Guide, released by LexisNexis. The Practice Guide is a one-stop resource for dealing with questions related to business immigration issues in immigration hotspots around the world.
Latchi Delchev, a global mobility and immigration specialist for Boeing, called the guide “first-rate” and said the key strong point of the book is its “outstanding usability.” She said she highly recommends the book and notes that it “is helpful even to seasoned professionals, as it provides a level of detail which is not easily gained from daily case management.
Mireya Serra-Janer, head of European immigration for a multinational IT company, says she particularly likes “the fact that the [guide] focuses not just on each country’s immigration law itself but also addresses related matters such as tax and social security issues.” She noted that the India chapter “is particularly good. The immigration regulations in India have always been hard to understand. Having a clear explanation of the rules there helps us sort out many mobility challenges.’
This comprehensive guide is designed to be used by:
- Human resources professionals and in-house attorneys who need to instruct, understand, and liaise with immigration lawyers licensed in other countries;
- Business immigration attorneys who regularly work with multinational corporations and their employees and HR professionals; and
- Attorneys interested in expanding their practice to include global business immigration services.
- An overview of the immigration law requirements and procedures for over 20 countries;
- Practical information and tips for obtaining visas, work permits, resident status, naturalization, and other nonimmigrant and immigrant pathways to conducting business, investing, and working in those countries;
- A general overview of the appropriate options for a particular employee; and
- Information on how an employee can obtain and maintain authorization to work in a target country.
Each chapter follows a similar format, making it easy to compare practices and procedures from country to country. Useful links to additional resources and forms are included. Collected in this Practice Guide, the expertise of ABIL’s attorney members across the globe will serve as an ideal starting point in your research into global business immigration issues.
Order HERE. International customers who do not want to order through the bookstore can order through Nicole Hahn at (518) 487-3004 or Nicole.firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABIL on Twitter. The Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers is now available on Twitter: @ABILImmigration. Recent ABIL member blogs are available on the ABIL Blog.
10. Member News
Robert Loughran presented on Immigration Considerations in Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship at the 2013 Global Residence and Citizenship Conference in Miami, Florida, on November 21, 2013.
Mr. Loughran was selected as the Austin Immigration Law “Lawyer of the Year” for 2014 by Best Lawyers.
Mr. Loughran organized and spoke on EB-5 issues for attorneys and developers at an EB-5 Summit in Houston, Texas hosted by ILW on November 15, 2013. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Cyrus Mehta has co-authored a new blog entry. “Parole In Place: the Secret Sauce For Administrative Immigration Reform”
Angelo Paparelli has authored several new blog entries. “Parole-in-Place—The Immigration PIPsqueak That Could Help Solve the Biggest Obstacle to Comprehensive Reform” “The Immigration-Abandonment Ploy—Fallout from a Fiddling Congress and Bickering Allies”
11. Government Agency Links
Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of State’s latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers:
USCIS Service Center processing times online
Department of Labor processing times and information on backlogs
Department of State Visa Bulletin
Visa application wait times for any post