Immigration

Travel Ban 3.0: A No-Go (for now)

October 19, 2017

By Alyssa N. Campbell

Two federal judges have blocked President Trump’s third try at implementing a nationwide travel ban.

The first ruling blocking the administration from enforcing the September 24th Presidential Proclamation, which restricts travel into the U.S. by foreign nationals from eight countries, came from the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, just hours before the travel ban was scheduled to go into effect. The Hawaii District Court issued a temporary restraining order (“TRO”), basing its decision on the same analysis used by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals when it set aside the earlier version of the travel ban – that is, that President Trump exceeded his authority under statutory federal immigration law. As a result of the TRO, nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen are exempt from the travel ban, but nationals from North Korea and Venezuela remain subject to the travel restrictions set forth in the Presidential Proclamation.

In his decision, Judge Watson noted that the latest travel ban is being challenged in part because the original travel ban, issued back in January of this year, was an attempt to create a “Muslim Ban”, and President Trump “has never renounced or repudiated his calls for a ban on Muslim immigration.” He wrote that the third iteration of the ban “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor”, and that it “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a way that is opposed to federal law.

The second ruling, issuing a preliminary injunction blocking the ban from being enforced, came from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on Wednesday, October 18, 2017. In a narrower decision, Judge Chuang blocked the administration only from enforcing the travel ban against travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Chad with a “bona fide relationship” with people or institutions in the U.S. Judge Chuang found that the Presidential Proclamation violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause since it is aimed at Muslims.

In response to the injunctions, the Justice Department has stated that it plans to appeal the Hawaii District Court’s ruling. We anticipate that the Maryland District Court ruling will also be appealed. In the meantime, the TRO and preliminary injunction are intended to maintain the status quo.

We will continue to apprise clients regarding any developments as they unfold.

Travel Ban 3.0: Trump's New Proclamation Broadens Travel Ban, Provides Different Levels of Travel Restrictions

October 6, 2017

By Alyssa N. Campbell

On September 24, 2017, President Trump issued a new Presidential Proclamation entitled, “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Process for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats.”  The Proclamation serves as a replacement for the travel ban implemented via Executive Order 13780, which was issued by President Trump on March 6, 2017.  The travel ban components of Executive Order 13780 expired on the same date as the Proclamation’s release.

The new Proclamation applies to a total of eight nations.  Five of these eight countries were previously included in Executive Order 13780 — Libya, Iran, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia.  Three additional countries — Chad, Venezuela, and North Korea — have been added in the Proclamation.  Notably, Iraq and Sudan have been removed from the travel ban list; however, the Proclamation explicitly recommends “additional scrutiny” for Iraqi nationals seeking permission to travel to the United States.

The Proclamation puts forth varying restrictions to each of the eight listed countries based on the U.S. government’s assessment of the security risk posed by the nationals from each of those countries.  For example, the Proclamation suspends all nonimmigrant and immigrant entries of citizens from North Korea and Syria, but permits the nonimmigrant entry of Somali citizens who have undergone enhanced screening and vetting processes.

For foreign nationals already subject to the travel restrictions of Executive Order 13780 (and who do not have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States), the Proclamation’s restrictions take effect immediately.  For all others, the Proclamation’s restrictions will go into effect on October 18, 2017.

As written, the restrictions set forth in the Proclamation appear to be indefinite, although, at the President’s directive, countries can be removed from the travel ban list based on the government’s review of an affected country’s security risks and a recommendation for removal by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  The Proclamation also contains a carve-out to allow additional countries to be added to the list in the future.

Similar to Executive Order 13780, the Proclamation does not apply to entry into the United States for the following individuals:

  • any foreign national with a valid visa as of the effective date of the Proclamation;
  • a lawful permanent resident of the United States (green card holders);
  • any person paroled into the United States on or after the effective date;
  • any person holding a valid travel document in effect on the effective date;
  • any dual nationals of a country covered by the Proclamation when the individual is traveling on a passport issued by a country that is not covered by the Proclamation; and
  • any person on a diplomatic visa or others, such as those granted asylum or already admitted to the United States as refugees.

Finally, the Proclamation states that a case-by-case waiver may be issued by consular and border officers, where appropriate, as determined by either the Department of Homeland Security and/or the Department of State.

Not surprisingly, after the Proclamation’s release, the U.S. Supreme Court cancelled the oral argument previously scheduled for those cases seeking to challenge Executive Order 13780.  Instead, the Court has directed the relevant parties to submit briefs on whether the Proclamation renders moot those cases challenging Executive Order 13780.

We will continue to report on any additional developments as they unfold.

Administration Announces Plan to End DACA

September 7, 2017

By Kseniya Premo and Alyssa N. Campbell

On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s formal plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program.

DACA was implemented in 2012, through an executive order by former President Barack Obama.  DACA allows illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action.  In addition, DACA recipients are eligible to receive an employment authorization document (“EAD”), which allows them to work legally in the U.S.  Currently, about 800,000 individuals are participating in the DACA program.  The Trump administration’s decision to phase out the DACA program will end the work authorization of DACA beneficiaries and open the doors for their deportation.

The DACA program is scheduled to end in six months, on March 5, 2018.  As of September 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) no longer accepts new DACA/work permit applications.  Individuals whose DACA/work permit expires prior to March 5, 2018 may apply for a two-year renewal, but their application must be received by the DHS on or before October 5, 2017.

Meanwhile, for planning purposes, employers may wish to identify those individuals who are employed pursuant to DACA work permits by reviewing the I-9 forms and copies of the I-9 documents (if any) already on file.  The individuals with DACA work permits will have EADs with a “C33” category and will remain employment authorized until the expiration date of their EADs.  Employers must reverify the employment authorization of these employees by completing Section 3 of Form I-9 no later than the expiration dates on the EADs.  Individuals who are unable to provide evidence of their continued employment authorization can no longer be employed.

As expected, the Trump administration’s decision to phase out the DACA program is already facing challenges in courts.  On September 6, 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in the federal court for the Eastern District of New York opposing DACA’s termination.  There is also the possibility that Congress will pass a bill to either reinstate the DACA program or replace it with a similar program.  We will provide you with updates regarding the status of the DACA program as they become available.

"Extreme Vetting" Comes to Fruition as USCIS Plans to Interview Employment-Based

August 29, 2017

By Joanna L. Silver

Last week, a spokesperson for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed that in-person interviews will now be required for employment-based nonimmigrant visa holders (e.g., H-1B, O-1, etc.) applying to adjust their status to permanent residents (“green card” holders).  Information currently available from the USCIS indicates that this interview requirement is expected to take effect on October 1, 2017.  This mandate appears to be a result of the Trump administration’s plan to apply “extreme vetting” to immigrants and visitors traveling to the U.S.

Traditionally, employment-based adjustment of status applicants have not been interviewed as part of the process, unless deemed necessary by the government. The interview mandate will most likely lengthen the processing times for green card applications as approximately 130,000 employment-based applications are filed annually with the USCIS.  Currently, the USCIS is taking more than 6 months to process employment-based green card applications at its various service centers throughout the United States.

There is no word on where the USCIS intends to conduct interviews pursuant to this mandate. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available.

USCIS Moves Forward with Revised I-9 Employment Eligibility Form

July 17, 2017

By Alyssa N. Campbell

Today, July 17, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) released a new Form I-9 to replace the prior form which it released back in late January  of this year. For now, employers will have a 60-day grace period, giving them the option to use the updated form (Rev. 07/17/17 N) or continue using the previous Form I-9 (Rev. 11/14/2016 N) until September 17, 2017. As of September 18, 2017, however, employers must use the updated form for the initial employment verification for all new hires, as well as any applicable employment re-verifications. All prior versions of the Form I-9 will no longer be valid. The new Form I-9 has an expiration date of August 31, 2019.

Initially, the planned revisions to the Form I-9 were primarily meant to address USCIS’ proposed International Entrepreneur Rule, which was originally set to go into effect on July 17, 2017. Under the proposed rule, a foreign passport and Form I-94 indicating entrepreneur parole would be considered acceptable documentation for a foreign entrepreneur to use for employment eligibility verification purposes.  However, with the Trump administration’s freeze on all new regulations, the effective date for the International Entrepreneur Rule has been pushed back until March 14, 2018. Despite the delayed effective date for the proposed rule, the USCIS has still implemented a number of revisions to the form.

The good news for employers is that the current changes are relatively minor and should not have a major impact on the hiring and employment verification process. A summary of the revisions to the new Form I-9 appears below.

Revisions to the Form I-9 instructions:

  • The anti-discrimination and privacy act notices on the instructions are revised to change the name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-related Unfair Employment Practices to its new name, “Immigrant and Employee Rights Section”.
  • The phrase “the end of” is removed from the phrase “the first day of employment”.

Revisions related to the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9:

  • The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (“Form FS-240”) has been added as a new “List C” document. Employers completing Form I-9 online are now able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Section 2 and Section 3. E-Verify users are also able to choose Form FS-240 when creating cases for employees who have presented this document for Form I-9.
  • All certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) are now combined into one selection within List C.
  • As a result of the combination, all List C documents (with the exception of the Social Security card) are now renumbered.

According to a press release issued by the USCIS, in an attempt to make the revised Form I-9 more user friendly, all of the latest changes to the form will be included in a revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274).

Although the changes to Form I-9 are minimal, with the new administration’s heightened immigration enforcement, employers should consider reviewing their I-9 procedures and records to ensure compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”). If you have questions about the new Form I-9 or I-9 compliance issues, please contact the Bond Immigration Practice Group.

The United States Supreme Court Temporarily Approves Part of Trump's Travel Ban

June 27, 2017

By Caroline M. Westover

On June 26, 2017, the final day of its judicial term before summer recess, the United States Supreme Court addressed the Trump Administration’s hotly contested travel ban. The Supreme Court issued a per curiam decision on June 26, 2017 allowing the federal government to implement a portion of the travel ban set forth in Executive Order 13780 (Protect­ing the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States), which was signed on March 6, 2017.  Recall, EO 13780 called for the suspension on the admission of all refugees for 120 days and also sought to impose a 90-day “temporary pause” on the admission of foreign nationals from six countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Supreme Court’s June 26th decision marks the latest move in the game of legal ping pong regarding the Trump Administration’s stated efforts to protect Americans and safeguard the nation’s security interests.  The Supreme Court will fully consider the legal arguments at stake when the fall session begins in October 2017.  For now, the Supreme Court’s decision will allow the Trump Administration to exclude foreign nationals from each of the six countries of concern, provided they have no “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”.  Stated differently, if a foreign national can establish the existence of a “close familial relationship” with someone already in the United States or a formal, documented relationship with an American entity, the travel ban will not apply.  It is expected that enforcement of this limited travel ban will begin on June 29, 2017, just as the nation’s peak summer travel season gets underway.

Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court’s decision leaves a number of unanswered questions regarding the meaning of the “bona fide relationshipstandard.  In an effort to shed some light on this issue, the Supreme Court provided several examples of the circumstances that would satisfy the “bona fide relationship” standard:

  • Individuals seeking to come to the United States to live or visit a family member (i.e., spouse, mother-in-law), though it remains to be seen just how far the federal government will go to recognize a “close” familial relationships (e.g., cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc.);
  • Students who have been admitted to an educational institution in the United States;
  • Foreign nationals who have been extended, and have accepted, an offer of employment with a corporate entity in the United States;
  • Foreign nationals who have been invited to temporarily address an American audience as lecturers; and
  • Refugees who have family connections in the United States or who have connections with refugee resettlement agencies.

While the examples provided by the Supreme Court are helpful to a certain degree, they do not address all scenarios that may arise for foreign nationals seeking to enter into the United States in the immediate future. Nevertheless, it appears that individuals who currently hold valid immigrant and/or non-immigrant visas will not be subject to the travel ban.

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In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement on June 27, 2017 noting that DHS’ implementation of EO 13780 will be “done professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers, and in coordination with partners in the travel industry”.

We will continue to apprise clients regarding any developments as they unfold.

Strike Two: Trump\'s New Travel Ban Halted By The U.S. District Court in Hawaii

March 17, 2017

By Joanna L. Silver
Late Wednesday, just hours before President Trump’s new travel ban was scheduled to take effect, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the implementation of Executive Order 13780.  Recall, President Trump issued Executive Order 13780, entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” (“EO 13780”), on March 6, 2017.  The temporary restraining order issued by the U.S. District Court in Hawaii prohibits the federal government from enforcing EO 13780 on a nationwide basis. As you know from our March 7, 2017 blog post, EO 13780 sought to suspend the entry of non-immigrants from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for an initial 90-day period if they were not physically present in the U.S. on March 16, 2017, did not have a valid visa at 5:00 pm EST on January 27, 2017, and did not have a valid visa on March 16, 2017.  EO 13780 also sought to suspend the entire refugee admission program for 120 days and to cap the admission of refugees to no more than 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.  As a result of the decision of the U.S. District Court in Hawaii on March 15, foreign nationals hailing from any of the restricted countries may continue to travel to the U.S. until further notice. At a rally in Nashville, Tennessee on Wednesday evening, President Trump criticized the ruling issued by the U.S. District Court in Hawaii and further declared that his administration will fight to uphold EO 13780, including the travel ban, all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.  Given the fluidity of this situation, we continue to advise that individuals from the restricted countries who are presently in the U.S. forego any unnecessary international travel at this time.

Update on Executive Order 13769: "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States"

February 5, 2017

By Kseniya Premo

We previously reported that on January 27, 2017, the Trump administration issued Executive Order 13769 entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”  EO 13769 suspends the entire U.S. refugee admission system for 120 days, the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, and the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants from seven designated countries of concern for an initial period of 90 days.  Exactly one week later, on February 3, 2017, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits the federal government from enforcing EO 13769 on a nationwide basis. On February 4, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") issued a statement announcing that "in accordance with the judge's ruling, DHS has suspended any and all actions implementing the affected sections of the Executive Order . . .” and that “DHS personnel will resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy and procedure.”  In addition, all airlines and terminal operators have been notified to permit the boarding of all passengers without regard to nationality. Similarly, the Department of State (“DOS”) confirmed that all visas that had been provisionally revoked pursuant to EO 13769 have now been reinstated and are valid once again. In response to these developments, the Trump administration announced that it would file an emergency stay of the order “at the earliest possible time.”  Late in the day on February 4, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) filed a formal notice of appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The appeal sought to resume the travel ban by requesting an emergency stay of the decision issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.  Early this morning (Sunday, February 5), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an initial decision denying the DOJ’s emergency request.  However, the federal appeals court has also asked both parties to brief their respective legal arguments before rendering its final decision.  For now, the travel ban remains suspended. Developments from this past week have demonstrated that the interpretations and implementation of EO 13769 continue to fluctuate and evolve.  Accordingly, individuals from the seven designated countries of concern who are currently in the United States would be well-advised not to travel outside of the United States until the issues surrounding EO 13769 have been clearly settled by the judicial system.

President Trump's Travel Ban and Its Impact on Your Employees

January 30, 2017

By Kseniya Premo

On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order ("EO") entitled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States."  The EO suspends the entire U.S. refugee admission system for 120 days and the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.  In addition, the EO suspends the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants from certain designated countries of concern for an initial period of 90 days.  It should be noted that after 90 days, travel is not automatically reinstated for foreign nationals from these countries of concern.  Instead, the EO has mandated that the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) be required to report whether countries have provided information "needed . . . for the adjudication of any . . . benefit under the INA . . . to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat."  If a country refuses to provide the requested information regarding its nationals to enable the United States to adjudicate visas, admissions, or other benefits provided under the INA, the EO states that foreign nationals from that country will be prohibited from entering the United States until compliance has been achieved.  The EO currently applies to individuals from seven designated countries:  Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. There has been significant confusion regarding the scope and implementation of the EO’s travel ban.  Currently, it appears that the travel ban includes and applies to the following groups of individuals:  non-immigrant visa holders, immigrant visa holders, refugees, derivative asylees, Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), etc.  Moreover, any foreign national holding a passport from one of the seven designated countries is considered to be "from" the designated country.  Accordingly, dual citizens who hold passports issued by both a designated country and non-designated country may also be subject to the travel ban.  Further adding to the confusion regarding the scope of this EO, the DHS Secretary John Kelly issued a clarification statement late yesterday which noted that status as a lawful U.S. permanent resident (a.k.a. “green card holder”) “will be a dispositive factor” used in the case-by-case analysis for determining re-entry and/or admission into the United States. Based on the information set forth in the EO, employers would be well-served to advise employees who are from any of these seven designated countries to refrain from traveling outside of the United States until further notice.  While the EO has specifically identified seven countries of concern, there is speculation that this list may evolve and expand in the future.  Therefore, foreign nationals who hold immigrant and/or non-immigrant visas and who are presently in the United States from other Middle Eastern countries should strongly consider avoiding any international travel, where possible. Legal challenges to this EO have already been filed on constitutional grounds.  We anticipate that more lawsuits by various stakeholders will be initiated in the coming days and weeks.  On Saturday, January 28, 2017, a federal judge in New York granted an emergency stay for citizens of 7 Muslim-majority countries who have already arrived in the United States and those foreign nationals who are already in transit (with valid visas).  The court ruled that these foreign nationals cannot be removed from the United States.  In addition, on January 29, 2017, two district court judges in Massachusetts issued a 7-day restraining order on the enforcement of the EO.  The restraining order permits individuals traveling to Boston from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen who are legally authorized to enter the United States to do so -- at least for the next seven days.  Even though these court decisions do not overrule or invalidate the EO on its face, they do send two messages:  (1) the subject matter contained in the EO will be subject to legal challenges; and (2) given the gravity of the situation, the courts will likely address any such legal challenges in an expeditious manner. As suggested above, until more practical guidance is issued from the courts, the DHS, and/or the White House, employers should advise their foreign national employees who could potentially be impacted by this EO not to travel abroad.

A New Year, A New Form I-9

January 23, 2017

By Caroline M. Westover
On November 14, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) released a new Form I-9 (Rev. 11/14/2016 N) to replace the prior form which expired on March 31, 2016.  Beginning January 22, 2017, employers must use this updated form for the initial employment verification of all new hires, as well as any applicable employment re-verifications.  Prior versions of the Form I-9 will no longer be valid.  The new Form I-9 has an expiration date of August 31, 2019. By way of background, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”) requires employers to verify the identity and legal work authorization of all individuals, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, hired after November 6, 1986.  Specifically, the I-9 verification process requires individuals to present facially valid documentation to enable employers to verify an individual’s identity and to further confirm that the individual is authorized to work in the United States.  For record-keeping purposes, an employer must retain completed Form I-9s for either three years after an individual’s date of hire or one year after the employment relationship ends -- whichever is later. According to a press release issued by the USCIS, the new Form I-9 is “designed to reduce errors and enhance form completion using a computer.”  Dubbed a “smart form,” the online version of this updated form now includes various enhancements intended to minimize technical errors commonly made by employers and employees.  For example, some of the new I-9 smart form features include the following:
  • Embedded prompts in the online Form I-9 which provide instructions on how to properly complete that particular question.
  • Drop down lists for certain questions (e.g., citizenship/immigration status, number of preparers/translators, state, document title, issuing authority, etc.) and calendar entries for requested dates (e.g., date of birth, document expiration dates, etc.).
  • The opportunity to list/enter information for more than one preparer and/or translator (if applicable).
  • Auto-population of “N/A” in certain blank fields (where applicable).
  • Auto-population of the employee’s name and citizenship/immigration status into Section 2 based upon responses provided in Section 1.
  • A mechanism which prompts an individual about missing information and/or incomplete fields -- highlighted in red -- before moving from one section to another within the form.
  • An “error-checking mechanism” which provides prompts and error messages where there may be potential response inconsistencies between citizenship/immigration status and proffered I-9 supporting documentation.
  • A “Start Over” option that enables an individual to clear the Form I-9 and start anew, if necessary.
  • A “Print” option that enables an individual to print the Form I-9 once data has been entered.
  • An “Instructions” option which automatically links an online user to a separate copy of the Form I-9 instructions.
  • Automatic generation of a quick response (QR) code.
Employers are reminded that even if they use the enhanced online version of the Form I-9, they must still print the document, gather the necessary handwritten signatures and store the completed form pursuant to the applicable I-9 recordkeeping requirements. In addition to the electronic enhancements mentioned above, the USCIS has made several other notable revisions to the new Form I-9.  A summary of the main changes within each section of the form appears below. Improved Instructions In this latest round of revisions, the USCIS has separated the instructions from the actual Form I-9.  In addition, the USCIS has amended the instructions to provide more detail and guidance in an effort to reduce errors during the verification process.  The Form I-9 instructions are now 15 pages in length.  Employers should note that they are still required to make either an electronic or hard-copy of these instructions available to employees when they complete the Form I-9. Section 1:  Employee Information and Attestation
  • The “Other Names Used” field has been renamed to “Other Last Names Used (if any).”  This field has changed to require only last name changes in an effort to protect the privacy of individuals (transgendered and others) who have changed their first names, as well as to avoid potential discrimination issues.
  • Foreign national employees are no longer required to provide both their Form I-94 number and foreign passport information in Section 1.  Instead, the updated form requires foreign national workers to supply one response from the following three options:  (i) an Alien Registration Number; or (ii) a Form I-94 Admission Number; or (iii) a foreign passport number.
  • The employer must now affirmatively answer whether he/she has used a preparer/translator for completion of Section 1 of the Form I-9.  If a preparer/translator has been used, the updated form now provides additional spaces to enter multiple preparers/translators.
Section 2:  Employer or Authorized Representative Review and Verification
  • Addition of the employee’s “Citizenship/Immigration” status at the beginning of Section 2.  (This information should be consistent with what the employee has listed in Section 1.)
  • A new dedicated box/blank section where employer representatives may enter additional information/notes previously written in the margins (e.g., annotations for OPT extensions, receipts, Temporary Protected Status, etc.).
As noted above, the new Form I-9 includes new electronic features to facilitate fewer errors during the completion process.  Reducing the number of technical/paperwork violations on the Form I-9 has become increasingly important since the federal government implemented higher civil fines against employers who commit immigration-related offenses, which includes, among other things, Form I-9 and E-Verify violations.  With respect to I-9 paperwork errors (e.g., errors or omissions on the Form I-9), the federal government raised the civil penalty range from $110-$1,110 (per relevant individual) to $216-$2,156 (per relevant individual) -- an increase of approximately 96%.  The new penalties took effect on August 1, 2016. Given the anticipation of heightened immigration enforcement by the new administration, employers may be well-served to review their I-9 procedures and records to ensure compliance with IRCA.  If you have questions about the new Form I-9 or general I-9 compliance issues, please contact Bond’s Immigration Practice Group.

USCIS Increases Filing Fees Effective December 23, 2016

November 29, 2016

By Joanna L. Silver
For the first time since November 2010, the filing fees for many of the petitions and applications filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will increase, effective December 23, 2016.  All applications or petitions mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed with USCIS on or after that date must include the new fee. Employers who regularly file H-1B visa petitions on behalf of foreign professionals should take special note that the base filing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, is increasing from $325 to $460, an increase of 43%.  This fee is in addition to the $500 Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee paid by employers for initial, change of employer, and concurrent employment H-1B visa petitions, the $1,500/$750 American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) Fee paid by employers who do not otherwise qualify for an exemption (e.g., institutions of higher education), the $4,000 fee paid by H-1B visa dependent employers (those that employ 50 or more employees in the U.S. and 50% of those employees are in H-1B status), and the $1,225 fee for premium processing service paid by those employers seeking processing of their petitions in 15 calendar days or less. Other commonly used petitions and applications that will see fee increases include, but are not limited to:
  • Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, will increase from $580 to $700;
  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, will increase from $985 to $1,140;
  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, will increase from $290 to $370; and
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, will increase from $380 to $410.
There is no increase to the Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing fee ($1,225), or the biometrics services fee ($85) that is required for certain petitions.  A complete list of the new fees for all petitions and applications can be found here.

Emergency Action Taken to Extend STEM OPT Program Rule Through May 10, 2016

January 28, 2016

By Joanna L. Silver
As reported in our November 9, 2015 blog post, the present STEM OPT rule which allows F-1 students with U.S. degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) to extend their optional practical training (OPT) by 17 months was to expire on February 12, 2016, unless the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could publish and promulgate a new rule.  The present STEM OPT extension rule had been vacated by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in August 2015 for procedural deficiencies in its promulgation, but the court’s ruling was stayed until February 12, 2016, so DHS could publish a new rule for public comment and prevent hardship to the thousands of F-1 students employed in the U.S. on STEM OPT and the companies that employ those individuals. Our November 9, 2015 blog post detailed some of the highlights of DHS’ proposed STEM OPT extension rule which was published for comment in the Federal Register on October 19, 2015.  The DHS received an overwhelming 50,000 plus comments to the proposed rule and, a few days before the Christmas holiday, asked the court for a 90-day extension of the existing STEM OPT rule so it could address the comments and begin to train DHS officers on the intended changes to the STEM OPT program.  Following additional pleadings by DHS and Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) — the plaintiff in the case that was before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — the court, last Saturday, delayed its order terminating the STEM OPT rule as of February 12, 2016, and granted the DHS an additional 90 days to revise its proposed STEM OPT rule.  The court extended the sunset date of the STEM OPT extension rule to May 10, 2016, and warned DHS that no further extensions would be granted. As a result of this determination, those F-1 student employees with STEM OPT remain authorized to work in the U.S., at least through May 10, 2016.  However, WashTech’s counsel has indicated that an appeal of the decision to extend the sunset date by 90 days would be filed with the D.C. Circuit immediately. We will continue to keep you informed of further developments in this matter so you and your employees can plan accordingly.