Immigration Insider: January 2011
- DREAM Act Fails in Senate - Prospects are dim for further developments in the near future, although Democrats vowed to push for the legislation and to include it in any comprehensive immigration reform bill.
- USCIS Delays Deemed Export Attestation on New I-129 - The new edition of Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, went into effect on December 23, 2010, but petitioners may leave Part 6 blank until February 20, 2011.
- File H-1B Petitions Now - 53,900 cap-eligible petitions have been approved or are pending.
- Establish Electronic H-1B Pre-Registration - USCIS plans proposed rule to establish electronic H-1B pre-registration.
- USCIS Issues Final Rule for CNMI-Only Investor Program - The “E-2 CNMI Investor Visa” allows foreign long-term investors to reside in the CNMI through December 2014; petitions will be accepted beginning January 18, 2011.
- CBP Expands Global Entry ‘Trusted Traveler’ Program to Mexicans, SENTRI, NEXUS Members - CBP reports that the program “reduces average wait times by 70 percent while maintaining and enhancing security.”
- USCIS Seeks OMB Approval for New E-Verify Employer Survey - The University of Arizona will conduct the survey of 900 employers, and final summary results will be publicly released.
- USCIS Introduces First-Ever Fee Waiver Form - The new form states requirements for documenting a fee waiver request and gives information on the methodology USCIS uses to evaluate the requests.
- Chipotle’s Fires Scores of Latino Workers in Minnesota - Chipotle’s confirmed that it is fully cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Minnesota.
- WHD Orders Companies To Pay Back Wages, Penalties for H-1B Violations - Common violations include the employer’s failure to post notice of the filing of labor condition applications at every worksite where an H-1B worker may be employed, and failure to pay nonimmigrant workers the required wage rate for all nonproductive time caused by conditions related to employment.
- USCIS Seeks Comments on Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions - The form is used by conditional resident entrepreneurs who obtained such status through a qualifying investment to apply to remove conditions on their conditional residence and on that of their spouses and children.
- ABIL Global: Turkey Implements Significant Changes in Work Permit Criteria - It is unprecedented for the Ministry to publicly announce concrete details of adjudication factors.
The House of Representatives passed the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act on December 8, 2010, but the Senate failed to pass the bill on December 18. The outcome was 55-41, which was five votes short of the 60 needed to bypass a filibuster by Republicans and move the bill forward.
Prospects are dim for enactment in the near future, although Democrats vowed to push for the legislation and to include it in any comprehensive immigration reform bill. President Barack Obama said he found the results “incredibly disappointing” but that his administration “will not give up on the DREAM Act, or on the important business of fixing our broken immigration system.” Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Though disappointed by the result of today’s DREAM Act vote in the Senate, we are not deterred in our determination to continue advocating for this critical legislation.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) countered, “We’re not going to pass the DREAM Act or any other legalization until we secure our borders. It will never be done stand-alone. It has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform.” (The Senate passed a $600 million border security bill in August.)
The DREAM Act, which has a long history, would allow qualified undocumented children to apply for conditional legal immigration status and eventually to obtain permanent residence if they meet certain requirements.
The new edition of Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, took effect on December 23, 2010. The form is used to file nonimmigrant petitions for employees in categories such as H-1B, L-1 and O-1. The new edition has a revision date of November 23, 2010.
Part 6 of the new I-129 contains a new “Certification Regarding the Release of Controlled Technology or Technical Data to Foreign Persons in the United States.” The employer must certify, with respect to any technology to which the employee will have access on the job, that a license from the Departments of Commerce or State is not required to release the technology to the foreign national (or, in the rare case that a license is required, the employer will restrict the beneficiary’s access to the technology until a license is obtained). Until February 20, 2011, petitioners may leave Part 6 blank.
As background, U.S. law prohibits the export of controlled technology and technical data to certain foreign nationals located within the United States without a license to do so. U.S. law treats as an export the release of controlled technology or technical data to a foreign national working in the United States, even if the company does not export anything overseas. Technology or source code is considered released for export when it is made available to foreign nationals for visual inspection (such as reading technical specifications, plans, or blueprints), when technology is exchanged orally, or when technology is made available by practice or application under the guidance of persons with knowledge of the technology. Such exports of controlled technology or technical data must be authorized through an export license issued by the Commerce or State Department before release to the nonimmigrant foreign national. To properly complete the new I-129 form, an employer must first classify the technology or technical data that will be released to or be accessed by a prospective foreign national employee to determine whether an export license may be required.
The Commerce Department lists items subject to export licenses at http://www.access.gpo.gov/bis/ear/ear_data.html#ccl.
The State Department’s export regulations are at http://www.pmddtc.state.gov/regulations_laws/itar.html.
The Commerce Department has a series of six training modules, “Essentials of Export Controls,” at http://www.bis.doc.gov/seminarsandtraining/essentials_of_export_ctrls.htm.
The training modules can also be downloaded in PDF format at http://www.bis.doc.gov/seminarsandtraining/training-modules/essentials_of_export_controls_modules_1_6.pdf.
A two-page fact sheet focusing on universities, which includes suggested questionnaire content for the new export controls certification, is available at http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/15854395/2106905181/name/I-129%20AUECO%20Practice%20Tips.pdf.
A related USCIS announcement is available here.
For additional advice on the new I-129 and deemed export attestations, contact our team at http://www.fredlaw.com/areas/immigration/index.html.
USCIS reports that as of December 17, 2010, 53,900 cap-eligible petitions have been approved or were pending. USCIS has also receipted 19,700 H-1B petitions for individuals with advanced degrees, near that separate cap of 20,000. Once the caps are reached, no new H-1B cap-subject petitions will be accepted until April 1, 2011. We recommend filing cap-subject H-1Bs as soon as possible.
For advice or help in filing an H-1B petition, contact our team at http://www.fredlaw.com/areas/immigration/index.html.
USCIS plans to propose a rule to establish electronic pre-registration for H-1B petitions. Reportedly, this would mean that an employer would first register online and wait for an H-1B number before filing the full petition with documentation. The idea is to reduce the burden on both employers and the agency in preparing and submitting petitions, entering data, and returning non-selected petitions. Details of the proposed rule and a date of publication have not yet been released.
USCIS issued a final rule on December 20, 2010, that creates a nonimmigrant investor visa classification in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The “E-2 CNMI Investor Visa” allows foreign long-term investors to reside in the CNMI through December 2014. Petitions for the E-2 CNMI Investor classification will be accepted beginning January 18, 2011. Petitions received before that date will be rejected.
Authorized by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act (CNRA) of 2008, the E-2 CNMI Investor Visa will be issued for two years, is renewable, and is valid only in the CNMI. The investor’s spouse and children may also apply for status as dependents of the investor.
Long-term investors are individuals with certain CNMI-issued investor permits that required a fixed minimum investment amount and whose permits can be renewed over a period of multiple years.
Those eligible for E-2 CNMI Investor status include long-term business, foreign, and retiree foreign investors. To qualify, the investor must:
- have been admitted to the CNMI with a long-term investor visa under CNMI immigration law before November 28, 2009;
- have continuously maintained residence in the CNMI with long-term investor status;
- currently maintain the investment(s) that formed the basis for the CNMI long-term investor status; and
- otherwise be admissible to the U.S. under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Investors must file an initial petition before January 18, 2013, and must use the existing Petitioner for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, with Supplement E. After the initial petition is granted, extensions are available until December 31, 2014. The processing fee is $325, plus an $85 biometrics fee for certain beneficiaries who require an initial grant of status in the CNMI. Fee waivers for inability to pay are available.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published two Federal Register notices on December 29, 2010, announcing the expansion of Global Entry benefits. One notice extends Global Entry enrollment to eligible Mexican nationals; the other notice extends Global Entry benefits to SENTRI and NEXUS members.
Global Entry is a CBP trusted traveler program that allows pre-approved members an alternative to regular passport processing lines. CBP reports that the program “reduces average wait times by 70 percent while maintaining and enhancing security.”
To become a member of Global Entry, eligible Mexican nationals must complete an online application available at the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES, available at https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/), pay a non-refundable $100 application fee, pass a background investigation conducted by both CBP and the Mexican government, and undergo an in-person interview with a CBP officer at an enrollment center. Mexican nationals must satisfy all requirements of the Global Entry pilot program to become members. CBP began accepting applications from eligible Mexican nationals on December 29.
Also as of that date, SENTRI members may now apply for Global Entry benefits for no additional fee. CBP advises SENTRI members to check their status on the GOES Web site and indicate their wish to use Global Entry. SENTRI members who are Mexican nationals must pass a risk assessment conducted by the Mexican government before receiving full Global Entry benefits.
All NEXUS members will also be able to receive the benefits of Global Entry at no additional cost via automated kiosks at participating airports. CBP advises NEXUS members to check their status in their GOES accounts to confirm whether they need to submit 10 fingerprints or any other necessary documentation to receive Global Entry benefits.
The Global Entry pilot program is available at 20 major airports in the U.S for approved U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and citizens of the Netherlands over 14 years of age who have a valid machine-readable passport and who consent to background screening.
Global Entry applicants may complete their interview and biometric data collection at enrollment centers at any of the 20 sites. Approved members may use kiosks at any of the sites to complete their CBP processing upon arrival from international travel. At the kiosk, Global Entry members insert their passport or lawful permanent resident card into a document reader, provide digital fingerprints for comparison with fingerprints on file, answer customs declaration questions on the kiosk’s touch screen, and then present a transaction receipt to CBP officers before leaving the inspection area.
CBP has signed arrangements with the governments of the United Kingdom and Germany to reciprocate Global Entry benefits with citizens from their countries.
USCIS is seeking Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval for a new information collection to survey 900 employers about the E-Verify program. The University of Arizona will conduct the survey, and final summary results will be publicly released.
According to a USCIS letter to be sent to potential participating employers, “[t]he goals of the evaluation are to understand the knowledge and perception of the E-Verify program and its utility and barriers to utilization of E-Verify. Congress is interested in this information to help it determine whether E-Verify should be made mandatory for a larger group of employers and, if so, what modifications to the current Program need to be made.”
For the first time, USCIS has introduced a standardized form for requesting waivers of the fees charged for immigration benefit processing. Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, became available for use on November 23, 2010, the same day USCIS’s latest fee schedule took effect.
USCIS said it heard concerns expressed in stakeholder meetings that the absence of a standardized form led to confusion about the criteria and standards used to approve waivers. The new form states requirements for documenting a fee waiver request and gives information on the methodology USCIS uses to evaluate the requests. For example, if an applicant can show that he or she is receiving a means-tested benefit and presents evidence to document that claim, the applicant is not required to submit further evidence. USCIS said it will use the same methodology in reviewing all fee waiver requests, whether submitted on the new I-912 or in a written statement generated by the applicant.
Chipotle Mexican Grill reportedly fired an estimated 50 Latino employees recently as a result of an I-9 (work authorization verification) audit. Brad Sigal of the Minnesota Immigration Rights Action Committee said, “An action like this on a mass scale before the holidays is not consistent with the image [Chipotle’s has] cultivated.” In a statement, Chipotle’s confirmed that the company is “fully cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Minnesota in connection with a document request they have made.”
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced on December 7, 2010, that it had obtained a consent order to recover $638,449 in back wages and interest from Peri Software Solutions, based in Newark, New Jersey, and its owner, Saravanan Periasamy, for H-1B violations. The company sponsored H-1B nonimmigrant programmer analysts to work in various locations in the U.S. The company and its owner also were fined $126,778 in civil money penalties and interest for failing to provide notice of the labor condition applications at each job site and for filing lawsuits against H-1B workers for early cessation of employment. The company and Mr. Periasamy also were debarred from participation in the H-1B program for one year.
WHD said common violations include the employer’s failure to post notice of the filing of labor condition applications at every worksite where an H-1B worker may be employed, and failure to pay nonimmigrant workers the required wage rate for all nonproductive time caused by conditions related to employment, such as lack of assigned work, lack of a permit, or studying for a licensing exam.
During a 60-day period that ends on January 31, 2011, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is seeking comments on whether to revise the Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions (Form I-829). The form is used by conditional resident entrepreneurs who obtained such status through a qualifying investment to apply to remove conditions on their conditional residence and on that of their spouses and children.
Written comments may be submitted via one of the methods outlined in the notice, which is available at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-30143.pdf.
Turkey’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security released a communiqué on July 28, 2010, regarding criteria to be considered in adjudicating work permits. The communiqué is pursuant to Article 13 of the Implementation Regulation on the Foreigner’s Work Permit Code (#4817). It is unprecedented for the Ministry to publicly announce concrete details of adjudication factors.
The Ministry indicates in the communiqué that in adjudicating work permits, the following criteria must be met:
- New 5:1 Ratio: There must be at least five Turkish citizen employees per foreign national applicant, as evidenced on payroll records.
- (Exception: Newly established legal entities can be founded by a foreign individual. If such an investor owns at least 20 percent (but amounting to no less than Turkish Lira/TRY 40,000 - the current exchange rate is 1.5 TRY to 1 USD) worth of shares of the entity and, within 6 months, the five-employee criterion can be met, a work permit may be approved for the foreign partner/investor.)
- Capital requirements: The employer’s paid in capital must be at least TRY 100,000. In the alternative, the employer may show gross (assumedly annual) sales amounting to TRY 800,000, or exports with a gross annual value of US $250,000.
- (Exception: In the case of a nonprofit or private employer, criterion #2 will not apply.)
- Salary: The foreign employee’s salary must be commensurate with the position offered. More specifically, certain managers, pilots, and engineers/architects and teachers cannot be paid less than a specified amount times the minimum wage. (Gross minimum wage is TRY 760.50 for the period of July 1, 2010, through December 31, 2010.) All others must be paid at least 1.5 times the minimum wage.
The communiqué offers guidance on other professions and workplaces as well.
Additionally, issued in the Official Gazette on July 31, 2010, were changes to the “Application Regulation of Law No. 4817 Related to Work Permits for Foreigners.”
The two most significant amendments specify:
- Online filing: Work Permit applications must be filed online. The signed application form and supporting documents must be sent to the Ministry within 6 business days from the online application date.
- Employer’s finances: The Ministry now again requires the prior year’s profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet approved by the certified financial advisor or Tax Office. (This reverses a decision in February 2010 to no longer require them in most cases.)
2010 has seen an unprecedented level of change in Turkish immigration law, both in procedures and details of adjudication criteria. Late in the year, the implementation of the online filing system caused a tremendous increase in adjudication time and formal “requests for further documentation.” It is hoped that in 2011, many of the above changes will be integrated fully so that adjudication will return to a smoother process.
New Publications and Items of Interest
New E-Verify newsletter. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has published the first issue of E-Verify Connection, available at http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Verification/E-Verify/Publications/E-Verify-Connection.pdf.
On January 12, 2011, Loan Huynh and Debra Schneider will be presenting a webinar entitled “Immigration Issues to Consider when Recruiting and Hiring Foreign National Physicians”. This webinar will begin at noon CST.
On February 4, 2011, Laura Danielson will be presenting at the Ontario Bar Association Conference Institute 2011 on the topic of “Global Employees”.
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, visit http://www.fredlaw.com/areas/immigration.
* Fredrikson & Byron's Immigration Department offers complete services in all areas of immigration law, with special emphasis on business, family, and arts-related immigration. The lawyers in the Immigration Group are experienced practitioners who speak frequently at national and international conferences in their areas of expertise as well as volunteer their time for various immigrant organizations. All of the individuals working in the Immigration Department share a common philosophy of wanting to provide the best, most personal representation available. Members of the Immigration and International Groups are fluent in written and spoken English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Vietnamese. To contact attorneys Laura Danielson, Loan Huynh, or Debra Schneider, please call 612-492-7648.
This newsletter was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (www.abil.com), of which Laura Danielson is an active member.
This does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.