October 2016 Newsletter

In This Issue



Congress Averts Government Shutdown, Extends Immigration Programs to December

On September 29, 2016, President Barack Obama signed a continuing resolution (CR), H.R. 5325, that provides funding for the federal government through December 9, 2016. Among other things, the legislation extends four expiring immigration programs to December 9. The Senate passed the legislation 72-26 and the House of Representatives passed it 342-85. The CR allows Congress to return to work after the November 8 presidential election and take up an omnibus appropriations bill before the new deadline.

The immigration-related programs extended by the bill include E-Verify, EB-5 regional centers, EB-4 non-ministerial religious workers, and Conrad 30 for J-1 medical workers. EB-5 observers expect a battle between urban legislators like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who wants to maintain the status quo, and rural legislators like Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who are adamant about getting more EB-5 visas for rural projects.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it would update the information related to the EB-5 and EB-4 programs on its adjustment of status filing charts from the October 2016 Department of State Visa Bulletin shortly. A related USCIS announcement is available here. The Visa Bulletin information will be updated here.
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New Photo Specifications for Visa Applicants

Starting November 1, 2016 eye glasses will no longer be allowed in visa photos.

Read more

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State Dept. Announces Potential Visa Availability in the Coming Months

The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for the month of October 2016 provided an overview of potential visa number availability in the coming months:

The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for the month of October 2016 provided an overview of potential visa number availability in the coming months:

EB-1: Current

EB-2: Worldwide: Current

China: Up to three months
India: Up to four months

EB-3: Worldwide:

The rapid forward movement of this final action date during the past year should generate a significant amount of demand for numbers. When such demand begins to materialize, the Visa Bulletin notes, it will be necessary to limit movement of this final action date.

China: Up to three months
India: Up to one week
Mexico: Will remain at the worldwide date
Philippines: Up to three weeks

EB-4: Current for most countries

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras: up to two months

EB-5: Current for most countries

China-mainland born: Slow forward movement

The Visa Bulletin notes that the above projections indicate what is likely to happen on a monthly basis through January based on current applicant demand patterns. However, determinations of the actual monthly final action dates are subject to fluctuations in applicant demand and a number of other variables, so the Visa Bulletin warns that these dates are not guaranteed.

Read the Visa Bulletin for October 2016.

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Medical Requirements for Immigrant Visa Applicants

The Department of State has announced new gonorrhea testing requirements for immigrant visa applicants. All immigrant visa applicants aged 15 and older will be tested for gonorrhea during the standard, required medical examination. US Embassy, London has released an updated informational packet describing the procedure and requirements (now including the gonorrhea test) for the medical performed by its panel physicians, Knightsbridge Doctors. For applicants aged 15 and older, the fee has now increased from £250 to £290.

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State Dept. Announces Expiration of Two Employment-Based Visa Categories

The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for the month of October 2016 announced the expiration at the end of September of the employment fourth preference "Certain Religious Workers (SR)" category and the I-5 and R-5 employment fifth preference categories.

Employment fourth preference SR. The non-minister special immigrant program expires on September 30, 2016. No SR visas may be issued overseas, or final action taken on adjustment of status cases, after midnight on September 29, 2016. Visas issued before that date will only be issued with a validity date of September 29, 2016, and all individuals seeking admission as non-minister special immigrants must be admitted into the United States by midnight on September 29, 2016.

The final action date for this category has been listed as "Unavailable" for October. The Visa Bulletin notes that if there is legislative action extending this category for FY 2017, the final action date would immediately become "Current" for October for all countries except El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which would be subject to a June 15, 2015, final action date.

Employment fifth preference I5 and R5. I5 and R5 visas may be issued until the "close of business" on September 30, 2016, and may be issued for the full validity period. No I5 or R5 visas may be issued overseas, or final action taken on adjustment of status cases, after September 30, 2016.

The final action dates for the I5 and R5 categories have been listed as "Unavailable" for October. If there is legislative action extending them for FY 2017, the final action dates would immediately become "Current" for October for all countries except China-mainland born I5 and R5, which would be subject to a February 22, 2014, final action date.

Congress is expected to extend the EB-4 special religious worker and EB-5 immigrant investor categories as part of a bill to fund the federal government temporarily past September 30. The temporary extension is likely to last until early December. Stay tuned.

Read the Visa Bulletin for October 2016.

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Sens. Grassley, Leahy Oppose Reauthorization of Unaltered EB-5 Regional Center Program; Rep. Goodlatte Introduces EB-5 Reform Bill

A lot has been happening the last few days in the EB-5 world. The regional center part of the EB-5 immigrant investor green card program is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2016. On September 8, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively, wrote a letter to Senate leadership opposing a straight reauthorization of the EB-5 regional center program without any changes. According to the letter, the EB-5 regional center program "has become plagued with fraud and abuse, and if not reformed it should be allowed to expire on September 30th."

Then, late Friday afternoon, September 9, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, released a draft of an EB-5 reform bill. The 123-page bill would make significant changes to the EB-5 program, such as increasing the minimum investment amount from the current $500,000 to $800,000, and adding anti-fraud and securities law oversight provisions. The bill was re-released on September 12 with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) as a co-sponsor. The revised bill contains a two-page addition for good faith defrauded investors. The revised bill was introduced as H.R. 5992.

Among other things, the bill would:
  • Reauthorize the EB-5 regional center program for five years, until September 30, 2021
  • Set aside 4,000 EB-5 visas for rural and "priority urban investment" areas to take effect October 1, 2016
  • Allow investors 180 days after a regional center is terminated or debarred to associate the new commercial enterprise (NCE) with a new regional center or to invest in a new NCE
  • Require investors to be at least 18 years old, effective after enactment
  • Require an EB-5 investor’s tax returns for the last seven years

More info
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DHS Updates Lists of Officials Authorized to Perform Various Immigration Functions

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended its regulations on September 9, 2016, to update provisions that list specific immigration officials authorized to perform various immigration functions, including the issuance of notices to appear, warrants of removal, and arrest warrants. DHS said the lists are outdated and do not reflect the current DHS organizational structure, so the agency updated the lists with the specific officials who are currently authorized to perform these various functions. DHS is also making some technical corrections to update nomenclature and outdated references in the affected provisions.

Read the notice.

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Government Agency Links

Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of State's latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers:
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Hodkinson Law Group News

We have some very exciting news to share, we’re moving! We will be in our new offices on 10th October. Our new offices are directly across from London Bridge Station at 6 Hays Lane, London SE1 2HB. Our phone, fax and email addresses will remain unchanged. Our offices are more convenient to the new US Embassy, London, which will be moving to Nine Elms next year. Between planning the move and continuing the surge of new clients we’ve been very busy lately!

Kehrela Hodkinson will be addressing London Business School – MBA students this month, discussing visa options for working, interning and studying in the US. She has once again been named one of the 10 most highly regarded corporate immigration lawyers outside of the United States by Who’s Who Legal in its 2016 Corporation Immigration Analysis. Kehrela has been practising US immigration law since 1981 and has been in London since 1994. Her passion for assisting both individual and corporate clients resolve their US immigration issues has never waned in her 35 years of practising law.
 


Sharon Noble has been practicing U.S. immigration law with Hodkinson Law Group since 1996. Her areas of expertise include non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions for corporate employees, individual investors and entrepreneurs. Ms. Noble worked with Ms. Hodkinson in London for seven years before returning to the United States in 2003. She is now Of Counsel to Hodkinson law Group, working remotely from California.
 

Allison Ouvry has practiced business immigration law since 2000. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the New York Bar, and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Women Lawyers in London group, and the London Library. Allison works with the firm’s corporate clients to find creative solutions to enable the companies’ employees to work in the United States on both a short term and long term basis.
 


Tasha Wiesman has relocated to Chicago from where she remotely continues to assist our clients in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications of waivers of grounds of inadmissibility. She is a member of the Illinois State Bar and is actively involved in The American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program.
 
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Kehrela Hodkinson has been named as one of the ten most highly regarded immigration lawyers outside of the US by "Who's Who Legal, Corporate Immigration 2016".





Sharon Noble has been practicing US immigration law since 1996. She is Of Counsel to Hodkinson Law Group, working remotely from California.





Allison Ouvry has practiced law since 1996, concentrating in the field of business immigration since 2000.




Tasha Wiesman assists in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications for waivers of inadmissibility.
Hodkinson Law Group | www.usvisalawgroup.com | +44 (0) 20 7299 2490
6 Hays Lane | London | SE1 2HB | United Kingdom

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