US: Presidential Proclamation on the Travel Ban – Courts temporarily block implementation

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Oct 17
18


In brief

Federal courts issue temporary restraining order blocking travel ban which would have restricted individuals from certain countries from entering the U.S.

Discussion

President Trump signed a Proclamation on 24 September 2017, imposing new indefinite travel restrictions on citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and North Korea.  The Proclamation also barred entry into the US by certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate families.  The travel restrictions were set to take effect in full on 18 October 2017.

On October 17, 2017, Federal District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland issued nationwide orders against enforcement of the Presidential Proclamation.  Both judges found that the challengers to the Proclamation were likely to win their claim that the restrictions exceeded the President’s power.

The travel restrictions on certain Venezuelan government officials and on nationals of North Korea remain in place.

To learn more about the Proclamation, please visit our prior alert.

Impact and Recommendations

Citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen can continue to apply for visas and apply for entry into the United States.  However, the Trump Administration is expected to appeal the District Court rulings which could lead to the restrictions being enforced.

Nationals of the countries listed still remain subject to higher scrutiny security checks under the Administration’s extreme vetting policies.

Caution is still advised to those from the affected countries, whether they are in the US and seek to travel internationally, or are currently outside the US and will be seeking re-entry.  US immigration counsel should be sought before any travel.

For further details, please contact a member of our team.


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US: USCIS has resumed Premium Processing for all H-1B petitions

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Oct 17
6


In Brief

As of October 3, 2017, USCIS has resumed premium processing for all H-1B petitions.

Discussion

USCIS’ premium processing service guarantees a 15 calendar day processing time for certain petitions filed at a Service Center, including H-1Bs, L-1s, and certain I-140 petitions. In April, USCIS suspended premium processing for all H-1B petitions for up to a six month period. At the 2017 AILA Annual Conference, representatives of USCIS confirmed that the reason for the suspension of premium processing was to allow adjudicators to focus on adjudicating backlogged H-1B extension cases. With 69% of H-1B petitions being premium processed, and therefore moved to the front of the line, USCIS adjudicators did not have the ability to focus on, and adjudicate, backlogged cases. Although premium processing offers a significant source of revenue for USCIS, the agency made the decision to temporarily suspend the service and then reintroduce it in a phased approach, to avoid an insurmountable surge in caseload. As a result, in June, USCIS resumed H-1B premium processing under the Conrad 30 Waiver program and, in July, it resumed premium processing for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions. In September, USCIS resumed premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the annual cap. Finally, on October 3, USCIS announced that it resumed premium processing for all H-1B petitions, including H-1B extensions, amendments, and change of employer petitions.

Impact

Premium processing has been a very important part of the H-1B program and its resumption is significant for employers and employees alike. Below are some examples of how the ability to premium process cases is beneficial to both employers and employees:

–  Premium processing allows for employers to know which cap-subject beneficiaries are approved well in advance of the October 1 start date, thus assisting with workforce planning
–  Cap-subject H-1B workers can know whether they have approved H-1B employment in advance of the October 1 start date
–  Employers can know whether an H-1B change of employer case is approved before having to accrue onboarding costs
–  H-1B workers can move to a new employer with some certainty that their H-1B change of employer case has been approved
–  H-1B workers with expiring driver’s licenses can apply for driver’s license renewals from those states that make it difficult to obtain a driver’s license without an H-1B approval notice
–  H-1B workers who have international travel plans can obtain an H-1B approval prior to departing the US, thus facilitating H-1B visa processing and re-entry into the US

For more information on how the premium processing service may be utilized, please contact a member of our team at
PwC Law LLP.


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US: Presidential Proclamation on the Travel Ban

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Sep 17
26


In brief

President Donald Trump signed a Proclamation on September 24, 2017, imposing new indefinite travel restrictions on citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea.  Entry into the US by certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate families is also barred.  The travel restrictions will take effect on October 18, 2017, with certain sections of the Proclamation already in effect as of September 24, 2017.

Background

In an effort to encourage foreign governments to improve their information-sharing and identity-management protocols and practices and to regularly share identity and threat information with US immigration screening and vetting systems, President Trump has issued a new proclamation.  In order to support the US Government’s ability to confirm the identity of individuals seeking entry into the US as immigrants and nonimmigrants, a baseline of the necessary information required by foreign governments was established in a review produced by the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the Directory of National Intelligence.

The three categories that incorporate this baseline are: (1) identity-management information, (2) national security and public-safety information, and (3) national security and public-safety risk assessment. DHS collected information and evaluated each country against the baseline. DHS identified 47 countries as either “inadequate” or “at risk” and encouraged all foreign governments to improve their performance with respect to the baseline. After the 50-day engagement period, DHS identified the following countries as still being “inadequate” in respect to the baseline: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Somalia was also identified as a country that falls short of the baseline for identity-management information. It was also identified as a terrorist safe haven. On September 24, 2017 President Trump suspended entry for certain nationals of the 7 countries identified. For nationals of Somalia, entry as immigrants is suspended and applications for nonimmigrant visas will be subject to additional scrutiny.

These restrictions will be reevaluated against the baseline in 180 days from September 24, 2017 and every 180 days thereafter.

Impact

President Trump’s Proclamation makes the following significant changes to his previous Executive Order:

–  Foreign nationals from Sudan are no longer included in the travel restriction
–  The travel restrictions are indefinite
–  The restrictions are targeted at countries that the DHS says fail to share sufficient information with the US or have not taken the necessary security precautions
–  Citizens of Iraq will not be subject to the travel restrictions but will face enhanced screening and vetting requirements.

The following chart provides a country-by-country breakdown of the new travel restrictions:

Country Nonimmigrant Visas      Immigrant and Diversity Visas
Chad No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas      No immigrant or diversity visas
Iran No nonimmigrant visas except F, M, and J student visas      No immigrant or diversity visas
Libya No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas      No immigrant or diversity visas
North Korea No nonimmigrant visas      No immigrant or diversity visas
Syria No nonimmigrant visas      No immigrant or diversity visas
Venezuela No B-1, B-2, or B-1/B-2 visas of any kind for officials of the following government agencies: Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Immigration; the Corps of Scientific Investigations, Judicial and Criminal; the Bolivarian Intelligence Service; and the People’s Power Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their immediate family members      No restrictions
Yemen No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas      No immigrant or diversity visas
Somalia Subject to additional scrutiny      No immigrant or diversity visas

Please note that the Proclamation does allow for the granting of waivers on a case-by-case basis. US immigration counsel should be sought for assessment of waiver eligibility.

Recommendations

Citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea who already have travel plans to the US and a valid nonimmigrant visa or immigrant status are advised to enter the US before October 18, 2017. Citizens of these countries who are already present in the US and are in valid immigrant or nonimmigrant status are advised not to leave the US after October 18, 2017, as they may be barred from reentering. US immigration counsel should be sought before any travel.

PwC continues to monitor this matter and will be sure to update you as changes occur.

For further details regarding the Proclamation, or any other immigration matters, please contact a member of our team.


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US: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be winding-down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Sep 17
6


 

In brief

In a statement on September 5, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be winding-down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Background

Enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA granted two distinct benefits to foreign nationals who entered the US before the age of sixteen without valid status or who overstayed their valid status. Foreign nationals who were enrolled in high school or a GED program, have obtained a high school degree, or completed a GED program were eligible to request protection from deportation and employment authorization

Impact

Pending applications for initial DACA requests that were received by Tuesday, September 5, 2017, will continue to be processed.  Any applications received after this date will not be processed.

Individuals who have already been granted DACA benefits that will expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 should submit DACA renewals before October 5, 2017 in order to extend their benefits for an additional two years.  Applicants who have already filed renewals should expect the benefits to be processed per the standard timeframes.

All existing DACA approvals and associated Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) will be honored until their date of expiration.

Recommendation

We recommend that eligible DACA recipients timely file extensions and all limit their international travel, regardless of whether they have an approved Advance Parole document. If international travel cannot be avoided, a consult with an attorney is highly recommended to discuss the risks.

In the meantime, President Trump has advised DHS that DACA recipients continue to remain a low enforcement priority, unless they are criminals, involved in criminal activity, or members of a gang. The President has asked Congress to legislate the question of DACA benefits within the next six months, and has subsequently announced that he will “revisit” DACA if Congress has not acted.

For further details regarding the recent change in policy regarding DHS and DACA, or any other immigration matters, please contact a member of our team.


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US: Interviews to be required for all Employment-Based Green Card Applicants

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Aug 17
30


In brief

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that as of October 1, 2017, an interview will be required for all employment-based green card applicants. This includes applicants in the EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 visa categories. Interviews will also be required for individuals requesting refugee and asylee status.

Background

The law currently provides that all green card applicants should be interviewed unless USCIS waives the interview.  For many years USCIS’s policy has been to waive interviews for employment-based green card applicants where: (1) the applicant is employed by the same petitioner who submitted the approved underlying employment-based visa petition; (2) the applicant has been approved as a person of extraordinary ability or exceptional ability; or (3) the applicant has been approved as a multinational executive/manager and has a continuing offer of employment from the same petitioner who submitted the underlying approved petition. This policy resulted in a majority of employment-based green card applicants having the interview requirement waived.

As part of President Trump’s Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”, USCIS has confirmed that there is now a new directive whereby all employment-based green card applicants will be required to appear for an interview prior to the adjudication of their green card applications.

Impact

On October 1, 2017, USCIS will begin to schedule interviews for employment-based green card applicants and refugee/asylee petitions. USCIS is also planning on an incremental expansion of interviews for other types of green card applicants in the future.

The USCIS has not yet clarified whether the interview requirements will be mandated for existing cases, or whether the interview requirements apply only to new applications.  We expect further guidance from the USCIS will be released in the coming weeks.

This new directive will impact approximately 180,000 people a year and is likely to increase processing times for employment-based green card applications.  To mitigate the delay in processing times , USCIS plans to implement enhancements in training and technology, and transition certain aspects of case management.

Recommendation

Should you receive a notification that an interview has been scheduled for your permanent residency matter, applicants are encouraged to reach out to their legal counsel for support and further guidance.  While PwC Law should receive all notifications of scheduled interviews for applications it has filed, there is no guarantee that we will always receive them, so it is imperative for applicants to stay vigilant and let PwC Law know immediately when a notice has been received.  

PwC Law continues to monitor this matter and will be sure to update you as changes occur.

For further details regarding the recent change in policy regarding green card interviews, or any other immigration matter, please contact a member of our team.


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US: Proposal for immigration reform receives endorsement from President Trump

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Aug 17
3


On August 2, 2017, President Donald Trump provided an endorsement of a new bill in the Senate intended to reform the current employment-based immigration system and reduce certain non-employment categories within the current immigration framework.

The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (the RAISE Act) is a modified version of a bill previously introduced by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (AR) and David Perdue (GA) which would replace the current employment-based immigration system with a skills-based points system.  President Trump heralded the RAISE Act as prioritising immigrants based on skills while safeguarding the interests of American workers.

The RAISE Act would eliminate the Diversity Visa lottery program and limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year.  Family-based immigrant categories offering permanent residency to extended family and grown adult family members of US residents would also be eliminated under the RAISE Act, and a renewable temporary visa would be established for US residents who need to bring elderly parents to the US for care taking purposes.  Spouses and minor children of US residents would continue to be eligible to immigrate.The RAISE Act would also condition naturalisation on the immigrant fulfilling its obligation to reimburse the federal government for means-tested public benefits, as required under current law, and immigrant households arriving through the points system would be ineligible for federal means-tested benefits for a period of 5 years.

The RAISE Act would fundamentally change the current immigration system, and estimates project a 50% reduction in overall immigration levels over 10 years, primarily by slashing immigrants entering the US through family connections.  Though touted as prioritizing skills-based immigration, the proposal would maintain the current levels of employment-based immigration at 140,000 per year.  Modeled after the merit-based immigration system used by Canada and Australia, the RAISE Act’s immigration system would award points for education, age, English proficiency, extraordinary achievement, high-paying job offers, and entrepreneurial initiative.

Under the points-based system, applicants would require a minimum number of points to enter the pool of potential immigrants from which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would invite the highest scorers to file applications every six months.  To be eligible to enter the applicant pool, immigrants without a degree higher than a bachelor’s would require a job offer with an annual salary of at least 150 percent of the median household income in the State in which the applicant will be employed.

Although the prospects of the proposed bill appear to be limited, the endorsement may draw increased attention to legislative efforts to modify the existing immigration laws.  While the RAISE Act would have the effect of increasing the proportion of employment-based green cards through cutting other family-based categories, actual employment-based immigration levels would remain largely unchanged.

As changes within the political and immigration landscape in the US continue to develop, PwC Law LLP will remain at the forefront of these changes and keep our clients informed. The reforms proposed in the RAISE Act face opposition from both parties in Congress, and in the unlikely event that the legislation succeeds, the implementation of such changes would not be immediate. Understanding the impact of future policy changes on businesses is essential to making strategic decisions from a global mobility perspective, and PwC Law will ensure clients are kept abreast of any developments.

For further details regarding the recent immigration proposals, or any other immigration matter, please contact a member of our team.


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United States: Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Jun 17
26


In brief

On Monday June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed parts of President Donald Trump’s executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” to go into effect.  The Supreme Court will hear full arguments as to the order’s legality in October.  However, in the meantime the decision allows the Executive Order to go into effect for people with no strong ties to the United States.

Background

The Executive Order calls for a 90-day travel ban of nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and directs heads of executive agencies to review and determine the procedures that should be required for individuals seeking admission from these countries.  Furthermore, the Order seeks to reduce the cap on the admission of refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 for the 2017 fiscal year.

On March 15, 2017 the Federal District Court of Hawaii granted a temporary restraining order with nationwide effect, preventing the enforcement of the travel restriction.  The District Court’s ruling was challenged by the government and upheld by The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on March 30, 2017.  The Ninth Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling, completely blocking the Executive Order, on the basis that it was discriminatory and failed to provide sufficient rationale as to why the entry of foreign nationals from the designated countries would be detrimental to the United States’ interests.

On Monday June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court granted parts of the Trump administration’s request to put the order into effect while the legal battle continues.  The court narrowed the scope of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling and determined that the Order will go into effect “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”  The ruling indicates that people from the six countries and refugees who have family, business or educational ties would not be barred from entry.  But those seeking visas to enter the United States with no such ties could be barred.

The Supreme Court’s opinion explained that “for individuals, a close familial relationship is required.” For people who want to come to the United States to work or study, “the relationship must be formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, not for the purpose of evading” the travel ban.

Recommendations

Although the travel ban remains suspended for U.S. workers with formal ties to the United States, nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who are physically present in the US are advised to either extremely limit their international travel or not travel out of the country at all.  Those concerned that they are not eligible for entry should seek counsel regarding entering the US as soon as possible. Additionally, affected nationals should closely monitor the situation over the coming months, especially since the Order’s legality is expected to be decided by the US Supreme Court this fall.

PwC Law continues to monitor these developments and will be sure to provide updates as changes occur.

For further details regarding the Executive Order, or any other immigration matters, please contact a member of our team.


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United States: Ninth Circuit Affirms District Court’s Injunction Against Travel Ban and Refugee Program Limitations

Posted by Immigration Law Team|US Immigration
Jun 17
12


Ninth Circuit Affirms District Court’s Injunction Against Travel Ban and Refugee Program Limitations

 

In brief

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed an earlier District Court order suspending enforcement of President Trump’s revised Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”  The revised order was to take effect on March 16, 2017 and was to reinstate a 90-day ban on travel of nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.  The order directed heads of the executive agencies to review processes in order to determine additional procedures that should be required for individuals seeking admission as refugees.  Furthermore, the Order reduced the cap on the admission of refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 for the 2017 fiscal year.  The Ninth Circuit ruling continues to make the Executive Order unenforceable.  It is anticipated that the United States Department of Justice will appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.

Background

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order suspending the entry of nationals of seven countries, with limited exceptions, into the United States as immigrants and nonimmigrants for 90 days. The initial travel restriction remained in effect until February 3, 2017, when the Federal District Court in Washington issued a temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of the travel restriction. Despite a request for a stay of the temporary restraining order, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously denied such a request, thereby making the travel restrictions unenforceable. On February 16, 2017, the Trump Administration stated that the Executive Order would be replaced with a new one.

On March 6, 2017, a new Executive Order was signed, which revoked and replaced the previous Order, and which was to become effective on March 16, 2017. The revised Order contained several changes that were supposed to address the deficiencies of the prior Order. Despite these changes, on March 15, 2017, Federal District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland granted temporary restraining orders with nationwide effect, preventing enforcement of the travel restriction.

On March 30, 2017 the Government filed a notice of appeal for the Federal District Court of Hawaii’s ruling with The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, requesting that the court vacate the preliminary injunction.  Today the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling and upheld the District Court ruling.  The judges largely affirmed the District Court’s decision which found the core provisions of the revised executive order—namely the 90 day ban on travel for citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen including all refugees—violated the Constitution because the Order’s primary purpose was to discriminate on religious grounds.  The court also held that the Executive Order failed to provide a sufficient rationale as to why entry of foreign nationals from the designated countries would be detrimental to the United States’ interests.  For these reasons, the Ninth Circuit ruled to affirm in large part the District Court’s order suspending enforcement of President Trump’s revised Executive Order.

Recommendations

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling today continues to suspend the enforcement of the Executive Order and consequently the enforcement of a “travel ban”.  Despite the rulings, nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who are physically present in the US are advised to either extremely limit their international travel or not travel out of the country at all.  Those concerned that they are only eligible for entry as a result of the temporary restraining orders should seek counsel regarding entering the US as soon as possible. Additionally, affected nationals should closely monitor the situation over the coming months, especially since it is widely anticipated the Ninth Circuit ruling will be appealed and ultimately decided by the US Supreme Court.

PwC Law continues to monitor these developments and will be sure to provide updates as changes occur.

For further details regarding the travel restriction, or any other immigration matters, please contact a member of our team.

 


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