|1. File H-1B Petitions for FY 2015 Now! - USCIS anticipates receiving more than enough petitions to reach both caps by April 7.|
|2. USCIS, Healthcare.gov Provide Highlights of Immigration Status Effects on ACA Eligibility - Immigration status can affect eligibility for health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act.|
|3. USCIS Holds Teleconference With EB-5 Stakeholders - USCIS discussed targeted employment areas, among other things.|
|4. State Dept. Waives Visa Fees for Participants in 2014 Special Olympics Summer Games and 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games - Approximately 250 accredited delegation members are expected to attend the 2014 Games, and 6,500 members will attend the 2015 Games.|
|5. Hockeytown-Hockey Country Debacle Heats Up - Well, now, it does seem to be April 1. Parts of this article are actually true, but we won't say which parts.|
|6. Pro Bono Success Story: Miller Mayer - With this issue, we inaugurate a new feature: pro bono success stories from Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers firms. Our first story is from Miller Mayer, an ABIL member firm in Ithaca, New York.|
|7. ABIL Global: Canada - Canada plans to close the federal Investor Program.|
|8. New Publications and Items of Interest - New Publications and Items of Interest|
|9. Member News - Member News|
|10. Government Agency Links - Government Agency Links|
|1. File H-1B Petitions for FY 2015 Now!|
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2015 cap starting on April 1, 2014. Cases will be considered accepted on the date that USCIS receives a properly filed petition with the correct fee. USCIS will not rely on the date that the petition is postmarked.
The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas for FY 2015 is 65,000. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a U.S. master's degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap.
USCIS anticipates receiving more than enough petitions to reach both caps by April 7. The agency said it will use a random selection process to meet the numerical limit. Non-duplicate petitions that are not selected will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.
Due to the high level of premium processing receipts anticipated, combined with the possibility that the H-1B cap will be met in the first five business days of the filing season, USCIS has temporarily adjusted its current premium processing practice. To facilitate the prioritized intake of cap-subject petitions requesting premium processing, USCIS will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than April 28, 2014. USCIS guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time.
USCIS will continue to accept Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, with fee, concurrently with the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, while premium processing is unavailable. Petitioners may also upgrade a pending H-1B cap petition to premium processing once USCIS issues a receipt notice.
While the Form I-797 receipt notice indicates the date USCIS received the premium processing fee, the 15-day processing period will begin no later than April 28, 2014, as noted above. This allows for USCIS to take in the anticipated high number of filings, conduct the lottery to determine which cases meet the cap, and prepare the volume of cases for premium and regular processing.
The 15-day processing period for premium processing service for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap, or for any other eligible classification, continues to begin on the date the request is received.
INFORMATION ON PREMIUM PROCESSING
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|2. USCIS, Healthcare.gov Provide Highlights of Immigration Status Effects on ACA Eligibility|
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services disseminated a stakeholder alert on March 13, 2014, noting that immigration status can affect eligibility for health care benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare. USCIS encourages stakeholders to visit http://www.healthcare.gov to learn more, including the most common immigration documents that may be submitted when applying for health insurance; options for families; how immigration status affects eligibility for insurance; and how to verify citizenship and immigration status.
The ACA website provides a long list of documents that can be used to show immigration status.
The website also provides the following list of eligible immigration statuses for health coverage through the "Marketplace":
- Lawful permanent resident (LPR/green card holder)
- Cuban/Haitian entrant
- Paroled into the U.S.
- Conditional entrant granted before 1980
- Battered spouse, child, or parent
- Victim of trafficking and his or her spouse, child, sibling, or parent
- Granted withholding of deportation or withholding of removal, under the immigration laws or under the Convention Against Torture (CAT)
- Individual with nonimmigrant status (including worker visas, student visas, and citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau)
- Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
- Deferred Action Status (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) isn’t an eligible immigration status for applying for health coverage)
- Applicant for:
- - Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
- - Adjustment to LPR status with an approved visa petition
- - Victim of trafficking visa
- - Asylum who has either been granted employment authorization, OR is under 14 and has had an application for asylum pending for at least 180 days)
- - Withholding of deportation or withholding of removal, under the immigration laws or under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) who has either been granted employment authorization, OR is under 14 and has had an application for withholding of deportation or withholding removal under the immigration laws or under the CAT pending for at least 180 days)
- Certain individuals with an employment authorization document:
- - Registry applicants
- - Order of supervision
- - Applicant for cancellation of removal or suspension of deportation
- - Applicant for legalization under IRCA
- - Applicant for TPS
- - Legalization under the LIFE Act
- Lawful temporary resident
- Granted an administrative stay of removal by the Department of Homeland Security
- Member of a federally recognized Indian tribe or American Indian born in Canada
- Resident of American Samoa
The website notes that this information will only be used for determining access to health coverage in the Marketplace and will not be used for immigration enforcement purposes. Also, use of health care services through the Marketplace will not be considered a public charge.
U.S. Residents Living Abroad
The Affordable Care Act requires all "applicable individuals," including lawful permanent residents (LPRs), to maintain minimum essential health care coverage. The "minimum essential coverage" is required on a monthly basis, but only during those months that qualify people as "applicable individuals." The penalties for failing to obtain coverage only apply to required coverage months. Applicable individuals must maintain minimum essential coverage for each month, qualify for an exemption, or pay a penalty when filing their federal income tax returns, starting with their 2014 returns.
All LPRs living outside the United States are considered "applicable individuals." The Affordable Care Act provides that U.S. tax residents, including LPRs, whose tax home is outside the United States and who are not physically present in the United States for at least 330 full days within a 12-consecutive-month period, are treated as having minimum essential coverage for that 12-month period. In general, such individuals qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion under section 911 of the Internal Revenue Code. We do not know yet whether individuals will be required to elect the foreign earned income exclusion to be deemed as having minimum essential coverage or whether a separate form will be developed for this purpose.
LPRs qualifying as having minimum essential coverage need take no further action to comply with the minimum essential coverage requirement during the months they qualify. LPRs with a tax home outside the United States who spend less than 330 full days outside the country within a 12-month period must maintain minimum essential coverage for the applicable period or pay the penalty for failing to do so.
LPRs who seek to claim a section 911-type foreign earned income exclusion to get out of the mandate under ACA should beware of adverse consequences on their LPR status. Living outside the United States for 330 days or more in itself could lead to a finding of abandonment if the LPR cannot successfully establish that his or her visit abroad was temporary under court precedents. Even if LPRs assert that their trips abroad were temporary, claiming a section 911 benefit to avoid the health insurance coverage under Obamacare could bolster the government's charges that they abandoned their status. Taking a section 911 exemption can also impair the applicant's ability to show that he or she did not disrupt continuity of residence during the relevant 5- or 3-year period for naturalization purposes. INA § 316(b) states that an absence from the United States of more than 6 months but less than 1 year during the 5-year period immediately preceding the filing of the application may break the continuity of such residence.
Penalty for Failure to Maintain Minimum Essential Coverage
LPRs and other applicable individuals who fail to maintain required minimum essential coverage must pay a penalty, known as the "individual shared responsibility payment." The annual penalty is calculated in one of two ways, and the applicable individual will pay the higher of:
- 1% of the applicable individual's yearly worldwide income up to a maximum amount. Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, or $10,150 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty. The maximum penalty is the national average yearly premium for a "bronze plan," which will be calculated in 2014 at around $4500.
- $95 per person for 2014 ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285.
The applicable individual will owe 1/12th of the annual payment for each month they or their dependents do not have coverage and are not exempt. The payment will be due when LPRs file their 2014 tax returns in 2015.
LPRs and other noncitizens should consult a competent tax professional before making essential decisions regarding their obligations under the Affordable Care Act. LPRs living abroad for significant periods are always at risk of losing their permanent residence status and should contact their ABIL attorney about steps that should be taken to maintain it.
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|3. USCIS Holds Teleconference With EB-5 Stakeholders|
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held a teleconference on February 26, 2014, with EB-5 stakeholders. Nicholas Colucci, the new director of USCIS's Immigrant Investor Program Office, led the teleconference.
Among other things, USCIS said that it is now adjudicating I-924 regional center petitions and I-526 alien entrepreneur petitions in the Washington, DC, field office, but that it continues to adjudicate I-829 removal of conditions and I-485 adjustment of status petitions at the California Service Center for the time being.
USCIS also said it is moving toward greater use of its Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) and has implemented it for intake of I-526 petitions. The agency said it plans to offer webinars on the features of the document library, which allows regional centers to provide electronic versions of certain documents.
USCIS noted that regional center geographic area expansion must be contiguous to approved geographic areas. USCIS said it reviews such expansions on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the expansion will promote economic growth, frequently focusing on the supply chain and labor pool.
Targeted employment areas (TEAs) have been a hot topic for EB-5 stakeholders. USCIS noted that a TEA need not be singular and a new commercial enterprise can be principally located in, doing business in, and creating jobs in a collection of TEAs.
USCIS also confirmed that a high unemployment TEA must be established by a letter from an authorized body of the government of the state in which the new commercial enterprise is located, certifying that the geographic or political subdivision of the metropolitan statistical area, or of the city or town with a population of 20,000 or more in which the enterprise is principally doing business, has been designated a high unemployment area.
As of February 1, 2014, USCIS had approved approximately 440 regional centers. The agency said the average processing time for both regional center cases and direct EB-5 cases is 11 months, but that processing may take longer temporarily due to staffing issues. The agency also said it is planning new EB-5 regulations and a policy guidance manual.
LIST OF EB-5 REGIONAL CENTERS BY STATE
This article is based on multiple reports; USCIS has not yet released a summary of the teleconference.
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|4. State Dept. Waives Visa Fees for Participants in 2014 Special Olympics Summer Games and 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games|
The Department of State has waived fees for applications (i.e., machine-readable visa) and visa issuances (i.e., reciprocity) for certain participants in the 2014 Special Olympics Summer Games Invitational taking place in Los Angeles, California, from June 6 to 8, 2014, and the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games taking place in Los Angeles from July 25 to August 2, 2015. Approximately 250 accredited delegation members are expected to attend the 2014 Games, and 6,500 members will attend the 2015 Games. The included roles are:
- Athletes and Unified Partners (athletes without an intellectual disability who train and compete on teams with persons with intellectual disabilities);
- Coaches, trainers, referees, and judges;
- Other supporting staff accredited to the Games (e.g., medical doctors, nurses, therapists, Special Olympics staff from regional offices, and technical delegates to oversee each sport);
- Heads and assistant heads of the delegation;
- Medical doctors participating in the Healthy Athletes Program;
- Global Messengers (former athletes acting as spokespersons during the Games); and
- Police officers who will participate in the final leg of the Torch Run.
The Department has authorized U.S. consular posts worldwide to issue multiple-entry B-1/B-2 visas to qualifying applications. International media are not included in the fee waiver and will need to apply and qualify for I visas. "The same holds true for all petitionable classifications, such as temporary workers, entertainers, and cultural exchange groups," the Department cable states.
RELATED CABLE, which includes additional information about applicable dates and other facts.
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|5. Hockeytown-Hockey Country Debacle Heats Up|
Following Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan's proposal to attract 50,000 immigrants with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in the sciences, arts, or business to Detroit to help revive the depressed economy there, on April 1 traffic was suddenly diverted at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and Ambassador Bridge by unnamed forces. Orange traffic cones blocked vehicles attempting to enter the United States. Fishy e-mails turned up stating, "Time for some traffic problems at Detroit-Windsor!" "Got it!" A shadowy anti-immigrant group subsequently took credit while pulling a trout off one of the e-mails, stating that, "Our city is overrun by Canadians! We should rename it the Shamebassador Bridge, eh?!"
Meanwhile, a new bridge proposal for Detroit-Windsor was stymied due to a lack of funds from Washington, DC, for a mandatory $250 million U.S. Customs plaza, required any time a bridge is built at a U.S. border. Nobody took credit for that. When pressed at a press conference for answers about financing the plaza, a rogue Department of Homeland Security spokesperson simply said, "Who you lookin' at? Are you lookin' at me?" He then cut the journalist's microphone and threatened to deport everyone in the room if they didn't leave immediately. Asked later about the advisability of the optics of that scene, this being a democracy with freedom of speech, the spokesperson said, "If it's good enough for Darrell Issa, it's good enough for me. If I get mad enough, I may send out a scathing letter too." In response, Kirk Hockey of the state's Department of Transportation blurted, "Puck that!" He acknowledged that the whole thing was a "sticky issue" but was "moving forward." Fingers were pointed and subpoenaes were issued all around, in passive yet impassioned voices. The Michigan legislature vowed to get to the bottom of what's now being called the "Hockeytown-Hockey Country Debacle."
Governor Snyder retorted, "This is all nonsense. Everybody knows Canadians are welcome here!" Meanwhile, Canadians continued to sneak in via checkpoints at Washington, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, various airports, and on the backs of snowbirds headed to Florida.
Parts of this article are actually true, but we won't say which parts. Happy April Fool's Day!
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|6. Pro Bono Success Story: Miller Mayer|
|Miller Mayer recently received good news regarding a pro bono case that has spanned over two years. In a happy collaboration between our firm's litigation and immigration groups, and with the generous help of the Buffalo, New York, district immigration office and immigration court, a 47-year-old mentally handicapped Canadian citizen gained legal immigration status and public benefits support for the first time in his life. This support came just in time, as his mother, upon whom he has depended his entire life, is ill with cancer. Our local hospital's "nurse navigator" acted as the go-between for our firm and a deserving, undocumented family that has been living in our area since 1972. The immigration agency assisted in gently apprehending the handicapped client in our office so that he could apply for a green card in immigration court. The immigration court assisted in kindly arranging a telephonic hearing, thereby not necessitating the handicapped man's physical presence. And the Social Security Administration, after initially denying the man's benefits application, was finally compelled by our litigation associate to review and approve the benefits request without a hearing. After many years without health insurance, vocational, or any kind of state support, this family has peace of mind that their handicapped brother will not be left alone when his mother becomes unable to care for him.|
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|7. ABIL Global: Canada|
Canada plans to close the federal Investor Program.
On February 11, 2014, Canada's Economic Action Plan (EAP) announced the government's intent to terminate both the Federal Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) and Federal Entrepreneur Program (EN). In doing so, it plans to eliminate several thousand backlogged applications.
The IIP and EN programs have been cornerstones of Canada's business-oriented immigration programs. In 2011, approximately 10,000 immigrants entered Canada through the IIP, while almost 1,000 entered through the EN.
Although the programs have been longstanding business immigration programs, in recent years they suffered from significant backlogs in processing. Investors, for instance, had to wait at least 54 months for visa issuance, while many entrepreneurs faced even longer processing times.
The current inventory of backlogged applications for the IIP stands at 65,000. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) anticipates that it would take more than six years to process these cases. To move forward with programs that will more accurately capture the types of investors needed in Canada, CIC has decided to eliminate many of the files currently in the backlog.
However, to date, no official announcement has been made as to which applications will be processed and which applications will be returned to the applicants.
CIC pointed out in its press release that the minimum investment amount for IIP applicants, which is $800,000, is significantly lower than that of investor programs in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. It also noted that investors who arrive in Canada are likely to pay lower taxes than immigrants who come to Canada through programs such as the Federal Skilled Worker Program.
In its backgrounder, CIC explained:
The existing IIP is of limited economic benefit to Canada. There is very little "new" money coming into Canada. Almost all initial investments made through the program come from loans from Canadian banks to provincial governments.
The amount of IIP capital actively invested in economic development initiatives has been disappointing. The requirement for provinces to guarantee repayment of IIP investments after five years limits their ability to invest funds into more high-risk initiatives that tend to reap greater rewards for Canada in terms of true innovation and job creation. Fifteen years after provinces and territories were factored into the equation, less than half of the funds are actively invested.
By doing away with the current IIP and EN programs, the government will "pave the way for new pilot programs that will actually meet Canada's labour market and economic needs." These pilot programs will enable Canada to remain competitive in the global economy.
CIC mentioned that the pilot programs will complement the Start-Up Visa program, a former pilot program that is now a permanent part of Canada's immigration system. Two programs have already been mentioned as replacements for the IIP and EN streams. One will be a new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Fund and the other a new Business Skills Program.
Details of the new pilots will be announced in the coming months.
The Canadian province of Québec manages its own Investor Program, which requires net assets of at least CAD $1.6 million legally acquired, management experience, and a no-interest loan of CAD $800,000 made to Québec for a five-year period. The Québec Investor Program remains open to French-speaking applicants who have an advanced intermediate level of French as evidenced by a recognized French test.
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|8. New Publications and Items of Interest|
ACA resources. The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) has released webinar recordings and NILC has posted general resources on health care issues for immigrants.
Ombudsman recommendations on work eligibility for Conrad 30 spouses. On March 24, 2014, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ombudsman released recommendations on employment eligibility for spouses of foreign medical doctors accepted into the Conrad 30 program. Under this program, each state may receive up to 30 physicians each year to provide medical services to rural, inner city, and other medically underserved communities. USCIS currently does not permit spouses to change to an employment-authorized nonimmigrant status, even where the dependent independently qualifies for such status.
OSC antidiscrimination posters. The Department of Justice's Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) announced that its antidiscrimination poster is now available in additional languages. OSC has published translations of its poster in Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
These translations are available on OSC's worker information page and employer information page.
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.
This publication provides:
- 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.
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|9. Member News|
The following ABIL members and firms are included in the Chambers Global Rankings for Business Immigration:
H. Ronald Klasko
Ivener & Fullmer LLP
Klasko, Rulon, Stock & Seltzer, LLP
Laura Devine Solicitors
Pearl Law Group
Seyfarth Shaw, LLP
Wolfsdorf Immigration Law Group
Laura Devine and Nicolas Rollason are listed in the United Kingdom rankings and Isa Soter is listed in the Latin American rankings.
Cyrus Mehta chaired the PLI Immigration Basics 2014 seminar on March 13, 2014. WEBCAST
Julie Pearl co-presented at the annual conference of the Arizona Relocation Alliance (ARA) on March 21, 2014, in Phoenix, Arizona, on global business traveler compliance.
Bernard Wolfsdorf, Founding Partner of Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP, has been named Corporate Immigration Lawyer of the Year for 2014 by Who’s Who Legal for the fifth consecutive year. Mr. Wolfsdorf received this distinction after garnering the most votes from over 500 of the top-rated immigration lawyers in the world.
Mr. Wolfsdorf was recently quoted on CNNMoney in an article on a dramatic surge in Chinese applicants for the EB-5 program. "The program has literally taken off to the point [that] in China, the minute anybody hears I'm an immigration lawyer, the first thing they say is, 'Can we get an EB-5 visa?' " "There is a panic being created in China about the demand [getting] so big that there is going to be a visa waiting line," he said.
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|10. 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
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