July 2016 Newsletter

In This Issue

Split Supreme Court Decision Blocks DAPA

In a one-sentence 4-4 split decision on June 24, 2016, U.S. v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand lower court rulings that block the Obama administration's plan, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), to allow approximately 4 million parents of U.S. citizen children to remain in the United States and obtain work authorization.

President Barack Obama called the decision "heart-breaking" for those affected by the ruling "who made their lives here, who've raised families here, who hope for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military, and fully contribute to the country we all love in an open way." Hillary Clinton, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said the ruling threw "millions of families across our country into a state of uncertainty." She pledged to "introduce comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship within my first 100 days."

The decision was not expected to lead to any immediate removals due to the Obama administration's enforcement priorities. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said on June 23, 2016, that he was "disappointed" by the Supreme Court's ruling. He noted:

It is important to emphasize that this ruling does not affect the existing DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] policy, which was not challenged. Eligible individuals may continue to come forward and request initial grants or renewals of DACA, pursuant to the guidelines established in 2012.

We are also moving forward on the other executive actions the President and I announced in November 2014 to reform our immigration system. This includes our changes to the Department's immigration enforcement priorities. Through these priorities, we are more sharply focused on the removal of convicted criminals; and threats to public safety and national security, and border security. We have ended the controversial Secure Communities program. We are expanding policies designed to help family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents stay together when removal would result in extreme hardship. And we are taking several actions to make it easier for international students, entrepreneurs, and high-skilled immigrants to contribute to the U.S. economy.

On the other side, Donald Trump, presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said the decision "blocked one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a president." Ken Paxton, Texas' Republican Attorney General, said it was "a major setback to President Obama's attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law."

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CBP Announces Additional Enhancements to ESTA

United States Customs and Border Protection continues to make changes to the online system for travel authorisation (ESTA) that is required for travel on the Visa Waiver Program. The additional questions will relate to applicants’ travel to Libya, Somalia, and Yemen and will allow applicants to enter their Global Entry Program Numbers, if applicable.

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Increased fees for some H-1B and L-1 petitions

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has published an information sheet to assist H-1B and L-1 petitioners determine if they will be required to pay the recently-increased additional $4,000 fee or $4,500 fee. The determination of whether the additional fee is required fee is based on the number and visa status of the petitioner’s employees in the US.

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State Dept. Releases DV-2017 Results

The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for July 2016 includes the diversity visa lottery 2017 (DV-2017) results.

The bulletin notes that the Kentucky Consular Center in Williamsburg, Kentucky, has registered and notified the winners of the DV-2017 diversity lottery. Approximately 83,910 applicants have been registered and notified and may now apply for an immigrant visa. Because it is likely that some of the first 50,000 persons registered will not pursue their cases to visa issuance, the State Department noted, this larger figure should ensure that all DV-2017 numbers will be used during fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2016, until September 30, 2017).

The bulletin explains that applicants registered for the DV-2017 program were selected at random from 12,437,190 qualified entries (19,344,586 with derivatives) received during the application period that ran from October 1, 2015, until November 3, 2015. The visas have been apportioned among six geographic regions with a maximum of seven percent available to persons born in any single country.

During the visa interview, principal applicants must provide proof of a high school education or its equivalent, or show two years of work experience in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience within the past five years. Those selected will need to act on their immigrant visa applications quickly, the bulletin notes. Applicants should follow the instructions in their notification letters.

Registrants living legally in the United States who wish to apply for adjustment of status must contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for information on the requirements and procedures. Once the visa numbers have been used, the program for fiscal year 2017 will end. Selected applicants who do not receive visas by September 30, 2017, will derive no further benefit from their DV-2017 registration. Similarly, spouses and children accompanying or following to join DV-2017 principal applicants are only entitled to derivative diversity visa status until September 30, 2017.

Dates for the DV-2018 program registration period will be widely publicized in the coming months. Those interested in entering the DV-2018 program should check the Department of State's Visas webpage.

The Visa Bulletin for July 2016 includes a chart showing the statistical breakdown by foreign-state chargeability of those registered for the DV-2017 program.

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EB-4 Visa Limits Reached for Special Immigrants from Mexico

The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for July 2016 reflects a final action date of January 1, 2010, for EB-4 visas for special immigrants from Mexico. This means that starting on July 1, 2016, applicants from Mexico who filed Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, on or after January 1, 2010, cannot obtain an immigrant visa or adjust status until new visas become available.

Mexico has reached its EB-4 visa limit as congressionally mandated for fiscal year 2016, which ends September 30. Information on EB-4 visa availability for fiscal year 2017 will appear in the Department of State's October Visa Bulletin, which will be published this September.

EB-4 visas are for special immigrants. These are individuals who may be eligible for lawful permanent resident status based on specific classifications, including Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ).

The following are details on what this action means to EB-4 applicants from Mexico:

Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Petitioners from any country, including Mexico, may continue to file an I-360. There is no annual limit on the number of I 360 petitions USCIS may approve.

Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The final action date is January 1, 2010. This final action date will became effective July 1. USCIS will accept all properly filed I-485 submissions under the EB-4 classification until June 30, 2016, and will continue to adjudicate applications while visas remain available.

For those who file Form I-485 under the EB-4 classification on or after July 1, 2016:
  • USCIS will process and make a decision on the I-485 only if the applicant filed his or her I-360 petition before January 1, 2010, and the I-360 is ultimately approved.

  • USCIS will reject and return other I-485 applications but will continue to process I-360 petitions (even if submitted together with an I-485 that gets rejected).

For EB-4 applicants from other countries, as of July 1, 2016, there is a final action date of January 1, 2010, for special immigrant applicants for adjustment of status from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Applicants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras should refer to Employment-Based Fourth Preference (EB-4) Visa Limits Reached for Special Immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Read more.

Read the announcement.
Read the Visa Bulletin.

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USCIS Clarifies CW-1 Extension of Stay Petitions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on May 20, 2016, that it had received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the numerical limit (cap) of 12,999 workers who may be issued CW-1 visas or otherwise provided with CW-1 status for fiscal year (FY) 2016. May 5 was the final receipt date for CW-1 worker petitions requesting an employment start date before October 1, 2016. USCIS subsequently clarified that although extension of stay petitions for current CW-1 workers are counted toward the CW-1 cap, these petitions will be accepted under certain circumstances.

All CW-1 workers are subject to the cap unless the worker has already been counted toward the cap in the same fiscal year. The U.S. government's fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends the following September 30.

If CW-1 workers were already counted toward the CW-1 cap for FY 2016, meaning that their previous employment start dates were on or after October 1, 2015, their employers can file a petition to change employer or extend CW-1 status in FY 2016, even though the FY 2016 CW-1 cap was reached on May 5, 2016.

Additionally, USCIS said it is currently accepting CW-1 petitions requesting employment start dates on or after October 1, 2016, which are counted toward the FY 2017 CW-1 cap.

USCIS encourages CW-1 employers to file a petition for a CW-1 nonimmigrant worker up to 6 months in advance of the proposed employment start date, and as early as possible within that time frame. USCIS said it will reject a petition filed more than 6 months in advance.

Read the notice.

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Justice Dept. Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims Against 121 Residency Programs and AACPM

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on June 20, 2016, that it reached agreements with 121 podiatry residency programs and the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) to resolve claims that they discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

DOJ's investigations found that between 2013 and 2015, the programs and AACPM created and published discriminatory postings for podiatry residents through AACPM's online podiatry residency application and matching service. Specifically, DOJ said hundreds of job postings limited podiatry residency positions to U.S. citizens. Several work-authorized non-U.S. citizens stated that they were discouraged or deterred from applying to residency programs because of the citizenship requirements, and the agency concluded that two lawful permanent residents were denied consideration for positions because of unlawful citizenship requirements.

Under the settlement agreements, the programs must remove citizenship requirements from podiatry residency postings except where required by law, train staff involved in the advertising and hiring of podiatric residents, and ensure that future residency postings are reviewed by staff trained in equal employment opportunity laws or by legal counsel. Some of the settlements also require the programs to pay civil penalties from the programs totaling $141,500.

The settlement with AACPM requires it to pay $65,000 in civil penalties, train its staff on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and ensure that all participating programs receive such training before they may use AACPM's online system to advertise residency positions. The settlement also requires AACPM to refund the fees that the charging party paid to use AACPM's residency application and matching system.

The agency began its investigations of the programs and AACPM in 2015 after receiving a charge against AACPM from a podiatry medical student with lawful permanent residence. The charge alleged that AACPM published a series of podiatry residency job announcements that unlawfully restricted positions to U.S. citizens through AACPM's online application service. The charge further claimed that AACPM used its online service to collect citizenship status information from residency applicants and share that information with residency programs.

DOJ noted that unless a legal exception applies, jobs may not be advertised as available only to U.S. citizens because doing so excludes other work-authorized individuals, such as U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), asylees, and refugees.

Read the notice.

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New Publications and Items of Interest

New FAQ on H-2A Form ETA-9142A, Appendix A. The Department of Labor published a new FAQ for the H-2A program on the updated Form ETA-9142A, Appendix A. The FAQ is posted as Round 11: June 2016 on the H-2A program page.

Teleconference on H-2A and H-2B visa classifications. USCIS invites stakeholders to a teleconference on June 29, 2016, on the H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant visa classifications. USCIS officials will provide brief overviews of each program and highlight updates, then answer non-case-specific questions. For more information or to register, click here.

USCIS virtual assistant in Spanish. USCIS expanded the capabilities of "Emma," a virtual assistant that allows users to find immigration information. Emma can answer questions and direct users to relevant USCIS Web pages in Spanish as well as English. Read more.

The latest E-Verify webinar schedule from USCIS is available here.

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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

Kehrela Hodkinson participated as a Speaker at the American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she discussed ‘Consular Processing in London’. 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 now relocated to Chicago from where she will remotely continue 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
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