News

Premium processing to resume for FY 2018 cap H-1B petitions

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on September 18, 2017 that they have resumed premium processing for all H-1B petitions subject to the cap filed this past April in the lottery.

Premium processing is service offered by USCIS at an additional fee of $1,225 for certain business nonimmigrant visas. Premium processing guarantees a fifteen (15) -day processing time. Note, it does not always result in an approval during the allotted time period. Premium processing just guarantees processing. If USCIS does not process the petition in 15 days, it will refund the premium processing fee.

USCIS will resume premium processing for all H-1B petitions as their work load lightens. Our office will continue to monitor premium processing updates and provide them to you as they become available. For any further questions about premium processing or if you would like to upgrade your H-1B cap petition to premium processing, contact one of the immigration lawyers in our office today!

USCIS now conducting interviews for employment-based green cards

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced beginning, October 1 2017, adjustment of status applications based on employment will be scheduled for in-person interviews. Previously, applicants applying for an employment-based immigrant visa did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers in order for their application for permanent residency to be adjudicated.

According to USCIS, the purpose of the interviews was to provide “the agency with the opportunity to determine applicant’s credibility.” The interviews are part of USCIS’ comprehensive strategy under the Trump administration to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and further enhance the integrity of the immigration system. USCIS will be slowly phasing in in-person interviews for other categories where interviews have not been previously required.

USCIS has not provided guidance as to whether or not it will be requiring interviews for all cases filed prior to October 1, 2017, or if the requirement is applicable to all cases filed on or after the October 1st date. Our office will continue to monitor this situation and provide any updates as they become available.

It is important for applicants who are scheduled for an interview to contact an immigration attorney prepare and accompany them to the interview. The interview will be in-depth and requires significant preparation. There are concerns USCIS may not have sufficient trained staff to handle complex EB-1A, EB-2/3 or EB-5 cases. As a result, there could be unnecessary delays in your case. In order to avoid a delay in your case in such uncertain times, contact our office to schedule a consultation or interview prep session with an immigration attorney in our office.

TRUMP “WINDING DOWN” DACA PROGRAM

Today, September 5, 2017 Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump Administration is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program and ordered an “orderly, lawful, wind down” of DACA. Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Elaine Duke, has already issued a memorandum rescinding the June off 2012 memorandum that created DACA and ordered a phase out of the program over the next six (6) months. The Trump Administration believes this process will limit disruption to current DACA beneficiaries while providing time for Congress to seek a legislative solution. The memo states the following:

  • All those currently enrolled in DACA will be allowed to work until their employment authorization document (EAD) expires.
  • Permits that expired by March 5, 2018 have one month to apply for their two-year renewal.
  • All new and renewal applications received by DHS before Tuesday will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • New applications received after Tuesday will not be considered.
  • No new advanced parole (I-131) documents will be approved. All pending travel document applications will be administratively closed and all associated fees will be refunded.

The DACA program was first establish in 2012 through executive order by President Obama. DACA protects nearly 800,000 individuals, known as “DREAMers” from deportation who were brought to the US by their parents and through no fault of their own. The program was never meant to be considered a legal pathway to citizenship nor an amnesty. Ninety-five percent (95%) of participants are either working or in school. The DREAMers also pay taxes, but yet are unable to receive government benefits. DREAMers contribute to our economy and society.

If you are a DREAMer, you should consult with an immigration attorney in our office immediately for possible pathways to legal solutions. We will continue to monitor the issue and update as more information becomes available.

 

Dept. of State halts issuing nonimmigrant visas to Russia.

The U.S. State Department has temporarily stopped issuing nonimmigrant visas (NIV) to Russians in response to Moscow’s decision to impose a personnel cap on the U.S. Mission as of August 23, 2017. Beginning 9/1/2017,  NIV interviews will only be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. On their website, the U.S. Mission posted the following:

“As a result of the Russian government’s personnel cap imposed on the U.S. Mission, all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia will be suspended beginning August 23, 2017. Visa operations will resume on a greatly reduced scale. Beginning September 1, nonimmigrant visa interviews will be conducted only at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. NIV interviews at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice. As of 0900 Moscow time Monday, August 21, the U.S. Mission will begin canceling current nonimmigrant visa appointments countrywide. The NIV applicants who have their interviews canceled should call the number below to reschedule their interview at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for a later date. NIV applicants originally scheduled for an interview at the U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok should call the number below if they wish to reschedule their interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

The staffing changes will also affect the scheduling of some immigrant visa applicants. Affected applicants will be contacted if there is a change as to the time and date of their interview.”

We will continue to monitor the situation closely. If you or your company do not have an immigration attorney, are affected by this change in operations, and in need of an expedited interview, please contact our office to schedule a consultation (in-person or virtual).

“‘Snowball’s chance in hell’ of US immigration bill passing”

On August 2, 2017, President Trump, along with Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia introduced a new immigration bill that would take away the focus from family reunification and institute a merits-based system.

The proposal would cut legal immigration in half. The proposed system, similar to Canada and Australia, would favor granting legal permanent residency to foreign nationals who are highly skilled, highly educated and speak English, rather than based on family relationships. The points would be calculated based  on the following categories:

  • Age;
  • Education;
  • English ability;
  • Job Offer;
  • Nobel Prize;
  • Olympian; and
  • Investors.

The Irish Times contacted Attorney Foley to get his opinion on President Trump’s proposal.

“I don’t think it has a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming law,” says Boston-based immigration attorney John Foley, whose four grandparents were from Co Galway. “

For more information and to read more of Attorney Foley’s opinion, please visit https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/snowball-s-chance-in-hell-of-us-immigration-bill-passing-1.3175928

Individuals may not be held solely for immigration detainers in MA!

On July 24, 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts ruled that state law does not permit state and local law enforcement to arrest and hold individuals solely for immigration detainers at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The SJC stated that “Massachusetts law provide[d] no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from State custody.”

In this case, Mr. Lunn, a Thai refugee from Cambodia, came to the US as a seven-month-old infant in 1985 to flee the Khmer Rouge. He has lived his entire life in the US and now has two US citizen children. On October 24, 2016, Mr. Lunn was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court for a single count of unarmed robbery. The day before his arraignment, ICE issued a civil immigration detainer against him. The detainer requested “he be held in State custody or up to two days after he would otherwise be released, in order to give officers of the department time to arrive and take him into Federal custody.”

At his arraignment, bond was set, however, Mr. Lunn was unable to post bond. He was incarcerated until his next hearing date. On February 6, 2017, Mr. Lunn’s case was dismissed for lack of prosecution because the Commonwealth was not ready for trial. At that point, Mr. Lunn had no criminal charges pending against him, and the judge or law enforcement officials declined act on Mr. Lunn’s request to be released custody as a result of the immigration detainer. As a result, Mr. Lunn remained in detention, despite the fact there were no longer any criminal charges pending against him. While Mr. Lunn was ultimately freed in June, before the case was decided, this case is important for all individuals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who are being held solely on immigration detainers.

If you believe you or a family member is currently being detained without any cause, call our office to set up a consultation today.

A Grandmother Deported…..

A Grandmother Deported…..

By John Foley, Esq.

It was difficult to understand what the daughter on the other end of the phone was saying through her sobs. “Pleeeeeeze” she cried repeatedly “please, please, please don’t let them deport my mother. It was all my fault. She didn’t do anything. She was only there because of me. Please, please, pleeeeeze promise me you won’t let them deport her.”

I waited for a break in her cries and between sobs told her I would do whatever I could but “in immigration law there are no guarantees. Sorry but it’s as simple as that.”

The daughter was in jail. She knew she was going to be deported. She had a drug problem that brought her to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—more commonly known as ICE. That same drug problem convinced her to give up custody of her only child, a U.S. citizen to her mother.

The mother’s world came crashing down after she stood by her daughter as the daughter was arraigned on the drug charges. As they were leaving the Court parking lot, their car was blocked by two ICE vehicles and they were swarmed by ICE agents. Both mother and daughter were taken into custody.

The daughter went to a county jail where she was placed in solitary confinement.

The mother, who has lived under the radar outside of Boston for the past twenty years had a meeting with ICE.

ICE did an FBI fingerprint check and other than driving without a license and a minor domestic matter, the mother has no criminal history.

She has a 15-year old son who is a U.S. citizen and a Probate Court order naming her the Guardian of her 10-year old grand-daughter. The Court order prevents her from taking the 10-year old outside Massachusetts much less the United States.

According to ICE she last entered the U.S. on a flight in 2006 and has been here illegally since then. When asked what she should do with the two U.S. citizen children in her care, one ICE agent shrugged his shoulders in an “I don’t know or care” kind of way and another simply said “not my problem.”

Copies of the U.S. birth certificates and Social Security cards for the children were provided, with records detailing medical issues for both children and the Court order preventing relocation of the 10-year old. After a somewhat tense exchange the ICE officer said “just enforcing the law. It’s that simple.”

A black battery operated ankle bracelet was fitted on her right leg and she was told what to do if it started to vibrate and how to recharge it. She was told not to try to take the ankle bracelet off and that she could wear it in the shower and there was no chance of getting a shock from it. The ICE officer who put it on said he would meet her at the airport and “discretely take it off” and watch as she boarded the plane out of the U.S.

She was told to report to ICE once a week and to show up in two weeks with an airline ticket out of the United States. She was also warned ICE could come to her home any time day or night to check on her.

She was given five weeks to get her affairs in order before she was returned to a country where she no longer had family, a home or any prospect of employment   She is being forced to begin life again at the age of 52.

Neither ICE officer answered when asked what she should do with the two minor U.S. citizens.

A neighbor, who kept saying he was a U.S. citizen, had driven her to the meeting with ICE. “She is a good person” he said “I’ve known her for years. She takes care of her family, she works hard, she pays her taxes. She is not the kind of person who should be deported. She’s not a criminal or in a gang. Why are they doing this?” he asked as he fought back tears.

I explained that none of that mattered to ICE. He asked if they knew she was the mother and grandmother of US citizens and that they’d be affected by their actions. I assured him ICE did know there were other U.S. citizens who would be affected by her deportation. But, to use the words of ICE they’re “just enforcing the law. It’s that simple.”

Unfortunately, it is anything but simple.

 

 

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.