Visa applicants will now face stricter scrutiny during the vetting process!

Since his campaign, President Donald Trump has stated that he will increase national security at all cost. Over the past few months, President Trump has implemented travel bans, proposed giving more money to the military to keep immigrants out at the borders, and claimed that he will make Mexico pay for a wall to divide the borders.Most recently, the Trump administration has implemented a new questionnaire that will affect visa applicants, making the processes more difficult for visa applicants. This new questionnaire aims to provide stricter scrutiny during the vetting process.

Visa applicants will now be asked to produce their social media handles, email address, and phone numbers from the last five (5) years. This information was not previously required by the U.S Department of State (USDOS). Additionally, applicants will also be asked to produce all biographical information; including their past employment and travel information from the last fifteen (15) years. The United States Office of Management and Budget (US OMB)  has approved this questionnaire, despite the fact that the questionnaire will make it overly burdensome for applicants, create long delays in processing, and discourage international students and scientists from traveling to the United States. Immigration attorneys fear this questionnaire will delay the lengthy-process even further as applicants may not remember their information from so long ago. Additionally, there is significant concern for the negative consequences for applicants who make an innocent mistake on the supplemental questionnaire. The questionnaire appears to be on a trial run, however, as the form has been approved for a six-month period rather than the typical three years.

Our office will continue to monitor this process and provide any updates and new information. A sample of the supplemental questionnaire can be found here. For more information or questions regarding the new supplemental questionnaire and how this will affect your case, please contact Attorney Nicole Fink at (617) 973-6448 or via e-mail at Nicole@Foleylawoffices.com.

UPDATE: HAITI TPS EXTENDED FOR SIX MONTHS

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti for six (6) months. This extension is effective July 23, 2017 through January 22, 2018.

During this six-month period, DHS will re-evaluate Haiti’s TPS designation and make a decision in the form of an extension, re-designation or termination of TPS for Haiti. DHS is recommending Haitian TPS recipients to seek alternate avenues of relief, if possible, or to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States—including proactively seeking travel documentation.

If you are currently hold TPS for Haiti and need further guidance, please contact our office right away to schedule a consultation.

USCIS Recommends Termination of Haiti’s TPS Designation

Acting Director, James W. McCament, recently issued a memo to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommending that the designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti be terminated. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has determined that the conditions in Haiti no longer support the TPS designation. Currently TPS for Haitians is extended through July 22, 2017. USCIS has recommended that the effective date of termination be delayed until January 22, 2018. This would provide all Haitians holding TPS an additional six (6) months to plan accordingly either through a visa or return to Haiti. There has not been any comment by the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) as of today.

To end Haiti’s TPS designation, DHS must make public notice in the Federal Register at least sixty (60) days in advance of the expiration date of the current designation. If a decision is not made by May 23, 2017, Haiti’s designation will be extended for a minimum of six (6) months.

Our office will continue to monitor this situation and provide any updates as soon as they become available. If you are on TPS status for Haiti, you should contact our office immediately to determine if you have any avenues of relief.

 

 

 

USCIS Issuing Redesigned Green Cards And Employment Authorization Cards as of May 1, 2017

 

On May 1, 2017, USCIS began issuing redesigned Green Cards and employment authorization cards (EADs). The purpose of the redesigned cards is to enhance the fraud-resistant security measures and deter counterfeiting and fraud.

The new Green Cards and EADs will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
  • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
  • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.

Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

If you have received a card after May 1st, and it does not have any of the above-mentioned features, you should contact our office right away in order to obtain a Green Card or EAD that is compliant with the USCIS re-design. All other cards issued prior to May 1st, 2017 are still valid until its expiration date.

Speak up, be heard, and demand change with Congress!

Attorney Foley with Congressman Stephen Lynch at a New England Council meeting.

I was able to catch up with Congressman Stephen Lynch of South Boston at a recent New England Council meeting in Boston.  Always quick with a joke, Congressman Lynch said “the presidency is supposed to age the occupant of the office, not us!”  He talked about the “frustration of Washington” where everything ended in a battle based on political party lines and “nothing gets done.”

I updated the Congressman on a couple of immigration matters in his district and invited him to an upcoming immigration forum at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton which is part of his district.  I asked about the possibility of immigration reform under the Trump administration and Congressman Lynch said “I don’t see it but it’s early (in the administration) yet.”  He talked about areas, like infrastructure improvement where there could be agreement with the Trump administration “to get something done.”

I told the Congressman that the phones in our law office were ringing off the hook and that people with immigration issues were scared.  I also told the Congressman that in many cases there was little that I or any immigration lawyer could do to help.  Congressman Lynch said it was the same in his office and that “these are indeed scary times.” 

U.S. immigration law is federal law, as opposed to state or local law, so making changes to it must be done on the federal level by the U.S. Congress.  For that reason, I believe it is important to continue to meet with and encourage our Congressional delegation to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.  The only way forward is to speak up, to be heard, to demand change.

If you or a family member has immigration issues, let me know if I can help.  Email me at John@FoleyLawOffices.com or call me at (617) 973-6448 for a quick chat.

I look forward to speaking with you.

John Foley

Foley Law Offices, P.C.     

BOSTON BIOMETRICS OFFICE TO MOVE TO REVERE, MA

Beginning May 1, 2017, all biometrics appointments for USCIS will no longer be held at 170 Portland Street, Boston, MA. Moving forward, all biometric appointments will be at 7F Everett St, Revere, MA 02151.

This location is easily accessible by the Blue Line on the MBTA. Additionally, there is ample parking, unlike the previous Boston location.  Please review your biometric appointment notices carefully. The address where you should attend to your appointment will be listed

 

 

USCIS to Increase Site Visits for H-1B Beneficiaries

 

On April 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new measures to deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse by increasing the amount of unannounced worksite visits across the country.

USCIS will be conducting site visits, especially for companies:

  • Who cannot be validated by their basic public business information;
  • Who have a high amount of H-1B workers compared to U.S. workers; and
  • Whose H-1B employees are working off-site at another company or organization’s location.

Site visits will be focused to detect fraud and abuse of employers who are failing to make a good faith effort to hire U.S. workers. To further these efforts to detect fraud and abuse, USCIS created an email (REPORTH1BABUSE@USCIS.DHS.GOV) where anyone can report suspected abuse.

 

These new measures are heightened efforts from the 2009 measures implemented by USCIS and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In the past, suspected fraud or abuse cases were referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for further investigation. Other past measures taken were through the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division’s Form WH-4 for reporting employer fraud and abuse.

If you have any questions about these new fraud and abuse measures for H-1B workers, or should your office receive a site visit and you need further assistance; please contact Attorney Nicole Fink via e-mail at Nicole@foleylawoffices.com or by phone (617) 973-6448.

 

 

 

PREMIUM PROCESSING TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED FOR ALL H-1B VISAS

On Friday, March 3, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the temporary suspension of premium processing (Form I-907) for all H-1B visas, beginning April 3, 2017 due to the back log in currently filed H-1B petitions. Premium processing is an expedited service which guarantees fifteen (15) calendar day processing for certain employment-based petitions and applications. This temporary suspension affects all H-1B cap cases for the Fiscal Year 2018 that are subject to the annual quota and all H-1B cap-exempt cases such as extensions of stay, amendment, and change of employers.

All Form I-907s received on or after April 3rd will be rejected. If a Form I-129 is submitted with a Form I-907 with a combined check, USCIS will have to reject both forms. USCIS has indicated that the temporary suspension may last up to six (6) months.

In lieu of the premium processing service, petitioners may request expedited processing. Requests will be granted on a case-by-case basis. It is the burden of the petitioner to prove that they meet one of the expedited request criteria. Petitioners are encouraged to submit as much documentary evidence as support.

If you have any questions about premium processing or you have an H-1B petition that has been pending close to two hundred and forty (240) days, please contact Attorney Nicole Fink via e-mail at Nicole@foleylawoffices or by phone (617-973-6448).

UPDATE: An Overview of President Trump’s Executive Orders

Since his inauguration on January 20, 2017, President Trump has signed a handful of Executive Orders causing several drastic changes in immigration law. These orders have created a great deal of concern and confusion in both the interpretation and enforcements of the orders for immigration attorneys and the federal agencies. Find below a list of President Trump’s Executive Orders and how they may impact you.

Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was the most significantly impacted as this order suspends the program for 120 days and decreases the number of allowed by more than half. Additionally, all Syrian refugees have been indefinitely banned from resettling in the U.S. Other individuals, excluding green card holders, seeking immigration benefits from seven designated countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – are prohibited from entry. The order allows for an exception for the admission of individual refugees on a case-by-case basis, particularly where the person is a religious minority in his or her country.
The order also discontinues the Visa Waiver Interview Program for individuals who are citizens of a visa-waiver country but have visited the above mentioned countries. Foreign nationals who have traveled to the seven countries named must now attend interviews at the Consulate before entering the U.S. For example, if you are an Irish citizen, you are eligible for the visa waiver program, however if you have visited Libya, you will no longer be allowed to register for the visa-waiver and must schedule an appointment at the Consulate in Dublin to obtain permission to enter the country.

On February 3, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western Division of Washington issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the government from enforcing the following sections of the order:

  • Entry into the U.S. cannot be prohibited where a person has a current, validly-issued visa;
  •  Admission of refugees cannot be prohibited;
  • Processing of refugee claims and admission of refugees cannot be prioritized based on religion; and
  • Syrian refugees cannot be prohibited from being admitted to the U.S.

The government filed for a stay of the restraining order with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, the Court denied the government’s request. It is excepted the government will appeal the ruling to the U?S.  Supreme Court.

Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

This order poses very significant implications for non-citizens who have ever been arrested. The order expands the definition of a “criminal alien” and sets forth new removal priorities for noncitizens. These priorities include individuals with:

  • Criminal convictions;
  • Unresolved criminal charges;
  • Committed acts that constitute an offense;
  • Engaged in fraud;
  • Abused public benefits;
  • Are present in the U.S. with a deportation order; and
  • Pose a risk to public safety or national security.

Further, President Trump’s order facilitates cooperation between the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The order allows state authorities to execute functions normally performed by federal immigration officers. In addition, cities that refuse to cooperate with the federal government may be denied federal grants if the city refuses to enforce immigration laws.

Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements
Through this order, President Trump aims to “secure” the southern border through the construction of a wall and an increase in detention facilities. This order terminates President Obama’s policy of “catch and release,” where individuals caught at the border with unlawful immigration status were released from detention while waiting for a hearing with an immigration judge. Under the Obama administration, the government lacked resources to detain individuals for a lengthy period of time, as the process from apprehension to an order of deportation may take years. Lastly, this order expands agreements between federal and state/local law enforcement agencies to assist in federal immigration enforcement functions. As of February 10, 2017, Congress has not yet funded these efforts.
Congress and the courts are making attempts to challenge the enforcement of these executive orders through Congress and in courts around the country. We will continue to monitor these orders and provide any updates. Should you have any questions about the new executive orders and their impact on your immigration status, please contact Attorney Nicole Fink at: Nicole@foleylawoffices.com.

“What do you think Donald Trump is going to do?”

I bumped into an immigration client at the gym on Saturday and he had an “I need to talk with you look on his face.”

Michael* is from Peru and he is in the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

DACA was created in June of 2012 by executive order by President Barack Obama.  DACA allows undocumented immigrants, like Michael, who entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday to receive a work permit and an exemption from deportation.

Michael said “I’m scared.  What do you think Donald Trump is going to do?”  President-elect Trump’s victory has left thousands of undocumented immigrants, including the 750-thousand young people in the DACA program facing an uncertain future.

Because DACA was created by executive order and was not a law passed by Congress and signed by the President, the Trump Administration could decide to end it with a stroke of the new President’s pen.  It could mean U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) could stop renewal applications and could stop accepting new DACA applications.  It could mean people, like Michael, would lose employment authorization cards and eventually state driver licenses.  It could also mean that people like Michael, who came to the U.S. when he was 10-years old and has never had trouble with the law could be deported from the U.S.

Michaels’ mother is a U.S. Citizen and he said, “She’s a wreck.  She’s afraid there’s going to be a knock on the door and I’ll be dragged away in handcuffs.  If she’s not praying and lighting candles, she’s watching the news and crying.”

Michael said, “There must be something you can do.”  Unfortunately, I said “not really.”  I have known Michael for several years.  I know him to be an honest hardworking young man who cares a great deal about his family.  If he’s not taking a college class, he works two jobs.  He is, in my opinion, the type of person we want living in our country.

I offered to call Michaels’ mother and told him to keep an eye on the news and to call me is he had questions or concerns.  I also told him not to fall for any immigration solutions that are too good to be true because there are plenty of scammers preying on vulnerable people looking for an immigration solution.

U.S. Immigration is federal law and it requires a federal solution.  There’s news today Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.), is collaborating with Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), to introduce a bill that could protect young immigrants in the DACA program.  Durbin, a longtime advocate for immigration reform took to the Senate floor to confirm that he’s been speaking with Graham regarding introducing legislation that would provide for a “temporary stay” so that young unauthorized immigrants could be shielded from any action President-elect Trump might take.

In addition to calling Michaels’ mother to assure her I am trying to protect her son, I will also be contacting all of the members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to encourage them to continue to support and protect DACA.

*The name has been changed to protect the person’s confidentiality.