USCIS posts summary of upcoming executive actions on immigration

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC On December 5, 2014, USCIS posted on its website a summary of the executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014.  With respect to each of the major planned initiatives, the USCIS summary sets forth, to the extent currently known:

  • Who is eligible
  • What the initiative will do
  • When an applicant can begin to make a request
  • How to make a request

Importantly, the summary cautions: “These initiatives have not yet been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time. Beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions before they are available. You could become a victim of an immigration scam.  Subscribe to this page to get updates when new information is posted.”  USCIS’s full posting, along with the link to subscribe to updates, is here.

By Phyllis Jewell. © Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

President Obama intends to reform the immigration system through executive action

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

Yesterday the President announced his intent to reform the immigration system through executive action in ten key areas. Planned action that will be of particular interest to the business community include:

Support to High-Skilled Workers and Business

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will take action to better enable U.S. businesses to hire and retain highly skilled foreign-born workers and expand opportunities for students to gain on-the-job training. The full memo can be found here. Planned actions include:

  1. Modernizing the employment-based immigrant visa system, including working with the State Department to ensure that available immigrant visas are issued, and to improve the system for determining when visas are available; and considering the amendment of regulations to ensure that long-standing visa petitions remain valid in certain cases where a beneficiary changes jobs or employers.
  2. Reforming Optional Practical Training for foreign students and graduates from U.S. universities.
  3. Promoting research and development, including increased use of the National Interest Waiver, and a potential program permitting DHS to grant parole status to inventors, researchers, and start-up founders who do not yet qualify for NIW.
  4. Bringing greater consistency to the L-1B visa program.
  5. Increasing worker portability.

Modernization of the PERM Program

The Department of Labor (DOL) has not examined or modified the permanent labor certification program since its inception in 2005. In response to ongoing feedback, including that the regulatory requirements governing PERM recruitment do not align with worker or industry practices, DOL will undertake a review of the program and regulations. The full memo can be found here. DOL will seek input on:

  1. How to identify labor force occupational shortages and surpluses, and how to align domestic worker recruitment requirements with those.
  2. Modernizing U.S. worker recruitment requirements.
  3. Clarifying employer obligations to ensure PERM positions are open to U.S. workers.
  4. Ranges of case processing timeframes and possibilities for premium processing.
  5. Application submission and review process and feasibility for efficiently addressing nonmaterial errors.

Other planned executive actions include strengthening border security; replacing Secure Communities; expanding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; and extending deferred action to parents of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents.

Note that the immigration agencies are NOT accepting applications under these newly announced programs and initiatives at this time. For resources on how to protect yourself from immigration scams and fraud visit

Jewell & Associates, PC will provide further coverage of the details, as they become available, in future posts.

By Christopher Beckerson and Claire Pratt. © Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

Instructions for the 2016 Diversity Visa Lottery Program now available

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

The U.S. Department of State’s instructions for the 2016 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2016) are now available. Entries for the DV-2016 program must be submitted electronically between October 1 and November 3, 2014.

There are no changes in eligibility this year. Eligibility requirements and entry instructions are on the U.S. Department of State’s DV lottery web site.

The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered annually by the Department of State under Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This law provides for a class of immigrants known as diversity immigrants, with visas made available to persons from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For fiscal year 2016, 50,000 diversity visas will be available.

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

J&A welcomes its most recent Certified Specialist

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC Jewell & Associates is pleased to announce that Senior Attorney Wendy Stewart has been accorded the status of a “Certified Specialist, Immigration & Nationality Law” by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. This is a rare distinction that only 35 immigration lawyers in San Francisco have achieved (including J&A Managing Attorney and Founder, Phyllis Jewell, and Senior Attorney Claire Pratt). The legal specialization process is wholly voluntary. It is also arduous, requiring a written exam, professional references, and case experience that includes the full range of immigration matters, from contested deportation/removal to naturalization. Very hearty congratulations to Wendy!

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

DHS to propose allowing work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B workers, and more

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will publish a proposed rule that would:

  1. Allow work authorization for H-4 spouses of certain H-1B workers in the permanent residence (green card) process based on employment. For the H-4 spouse to qualify for work authorization, the H-1B worker would have to (a) be the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or (b) have been granted an extension of H-1B status beyond the usual six-year limit, under the provisions of AC21 (the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000, as amended).
  2. Clarify that Australian E-3 workers and Singaporean and Chilean H-1B1 workers do not need EAD cards to work for the sponsoring employer; also, allow Australian E-3s,  Singaporean and Chilean H-1B1s, and Northern Marianas CW-1s to continue working for up to 240 days during the pendency of an E-3, H-1B 1, or CW-1 extension application filed with USCIS. The rule would add E-3 and H-1B1 nonimmigrant workers to the list of classes of aliens authorized for employment “incident to status” with a specific employer, meaning that the E-3 or H-1B status itself carries work authorization, without the necessity of a separate Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).  The rule would also bring E-3, H-1B1, and CW-1 nonimmigrant workers into line with H-1Bs and other work classifications in allowing up to 240 days of continued work authorization beyond the expiration date noted on their Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, while an extension request is pending.
  3. Expand the list of evidentiary criteria for EB-1 outstanding professors and researchers to include “other comparable evidence.” This would add “other comparable evidence” to the list of types of evidence supporting an EB-1 immigrant petition for an “outstanding professor or researcher,” i.e., an EB-1B petition.  EB-1A petitions, for persons of “extraordinary ability,” already permit the use of “other comparable evidence.”

Further information can be found in the White House press release.

By Phyllis Jewell and Christopher Beckerson. © Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

H-1B Cap update – USCIS reports 172,500 H-1B petitions received

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

Today USCIS announced that it received approximately 172,500 H-1B petitions in the filing period that began on April 1. On April 10 USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the cap. USCIS says that it conducted the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first; all advanced degree petitions not selected were then made part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Any petitions not randomly selected will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

H-1B Cap reached, lottery triggered

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year (FY) 2015. USCIS has also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. USCIS will not accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2015 cap or the advanced degree exemption after today.

USCIS will use a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as the “lottery”) for all FY 2015 cap-subject petitions received through April 7, 2014. The agency will conduct the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first. All advanced degree petitions not selected will be part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Due to the high number of petitions received, USCIS is not yet able to announce the exact day of the random selection process.

USCIS is expected to provide more detailed information about the H-1B cap soon.

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

Citizens of Chile eligible for Visa Waiver Program from May 1

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

Citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) may come to the United States as visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining visitors’ (B-1 or B-2) visas from U.S. Consulates. They may visit for periods of up to 90 days, provided that they are eligible for admission under applicable law.

On February 28 the Secretary of Homeland Security announced the designation of Chile in the VWP. Eligible Chilean passport holders with ESTA clearance will be able to visit the U.S. without visas from May 1, 2014. There now are 38 VWP countries:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

Like other VWP travelers, eligible Chilean passport holders must apply for advance authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). VWP travelers are not permitted to board a carrier to travel to the U.S. by air or sea unless they have ESTA clearance.

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

State Department to commence field visits across the United States in review of its J-1 (Exchange Visitor) Visa Program

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

The U.S. Department of State recently notified J-1-sponsoring organizations that it intends to conduct field visits of companies hosting interns and trainees on J-1 (Exchange Visitor) visas. The State Department's Exchange Visitor Program exists to foster global understanding through educational and cultural exchange. Foreign national participants in the program are issued J-1 visas in order to enter the United States, and are expected to return to their home country to share their exchange experiences when their program is complete. The State Department is planning to visit exchange visitors and their host companies across the United States as part of a review of the Intern and Trainee categories of this program. The visits will begin this month and they will be unannounced and unscheduled.

While most bad publicity about the Exchange Visitor Program has been focused on abuses of the Summer Work and Travel Program, it appears that the Department of State is implementing reviews program-wide to ensure participant safety and well-being. It is reasonable to assume that State representatives will want to talk to visitors and host company representatives about subjects at the core of the Exchange Visitor Program, including: The exchange visitors' experiences in the United States to date; how the host has introduced its visitors to American culture; the host's reasons for participating in the Exchange Visitor Program; and the new skills the host is teaching its visitors. Host companies with questions about these visits may contact their sponsoring organization for more information on what to expect.

By Christopher Beckerson and Claire Pratt. © Jewell & Associates, PC 2014 © Jewell & Associates, PC 2014