September 2017 Newsletter

In This Issue



USCIS Denies Pending Advance Parole Applications for H-1B, L Applicants Traveling Outside the United States

According to reports, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been denying pending advance parole applications for abandonment when applicants travel outside the United States in H-1B or L status. The reason the agency gives is that the instructions to the Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, state that if the applicant leaves the United States before the advance parole document is issued, his or her application for an advance parole document will be considered abandoned. This is despite the fact that for the past 15 years, USCIS reportedly has approved such applications for such individuals traveling abroad with a valid advance parole document or a valid H-1B or L visa while their adjustment of status applications are pending.

Immigration lawyers are advising their H-1B and L clients to avoid traveling internationally while their advance parole applications are pending.

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U.S. Non-immigrant Visa Operations Suspended/Reduced in Russia

As a result of the Russian government's personnel cap imposed on the U.S. Mission, the U.S. embassy in Russia has announced that all non-immigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia were suspended as of August 23, 2017, and will resume on a "greatly reduced scale."

Beginning September 1, NIV interviews will be conducted only at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. NIV interviews at the U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice. As of August 21, the U.S. Mission began canceling current NIV appointments countrywide. The embassy said that NIV applicants who have their interviews canceled should call the number below to reschedule their interviews at the U.S. embassy in Moscow for a later date. NIV applicants originally scheduled for an interview at the U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok should call the number below if they wish to reschedule their interviews at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

The staffing changes will also affect the scheduling of some immigrant visa applicants, the embassy said. Affected applicants will be contacted if there is a change in the time and date of their interviews.

For rescheduling of non-immigrant visa interviews and other questions, call: +7 (495) 745 3388 or 8 800 100 2554 (ITFN).

The U.S. embassy in Moscow and three consulates will continue to provide emergency and routine services to U.S. citizens, although hours may change. (For U.S. citizen services hours, check the U.S. Mission to Russia website.)

Also, the U.S. embassy in Moscow and the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg will no longer accept new visa applications for residents of Belarus. NIV appointments for Belarussian applicants who have already paid the application fee will be rescheduled. The embassy encourages residents of Belarus to schedule NIV appointments at the U.S. embassies in Warsaw, Kyiv, or Vilnius.

Additional information

Click here for the announcement, which includes questions and answers.

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President Trump Pardons Controversial Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

President Donald Trump announced on August 25, 2017, that he has pardoned controversial former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff Joseph Arpaio. President Trump released a statement noting, among other things, that throughout his time as sheriff, Mr. Arpaio "continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration." The statement, noting that Mr. Arpaio had provided more than 50 years "of admirable service to our Nation," said he is a "worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon."

Mr. Arpaio, who had been sheriff of Maricopa County for 24 years, was convicted in July of criminal contempt for violating a court order to stop detaining people unconstitutionally without charges based on Latino ethnicity and a belief that they were in the United States illegally. Mr. Arpaio had vowed to continue detaining people, making various statements over the years that drew publicity along with his actions, such as that he would not "back down" and would "never give in to control by the federal government." He detained hundreds of undocumented immigrants in a jail he called a "concentration camp" and forced them to wear pink underwear.

Reaction was swift and widespread. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tweeted that "POTUS's pardon of Joe Arpaio, who illegally profiled Latinos, undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law." A spokesperson for Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Speaker of the House of Representatives, said that Rep. Ryan "does not agree with this decision. Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) said Democrats are "sick to our stomach." Phoenix mayor and Democrat Greg Stanton said, "Pardoning Joe Arpaio is a slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County, especially the Latino community and those he victimized as he systematically and illegally violated their civil rights."

Mr. Arpaio said he was grateful to President Trump, tweeting his thanks to the President "for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!"

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USCIS to Expand In-Person Interview Requirements for Certain Permanent Residence Applicants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that effective October 1, 2017, it will begin expanding in-person interviews for certain green card applicants. USCIS said this change complies with Executive Order 13780, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States," and "is part of the agency's comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and further enhance the integrity of the immigration system."

Effective October 1, USCIS will begin to phase in interviews for:
  • Adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status); and
  • Refugee/asylee relative petitions (Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition) for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant.
Previously, applicants in these categories did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers for their applications for permanent residence to be adjudicated. This policy change appears to be part of the Trump administration's "extreme vetting" plan, referenced in the President's executive order instituting the travel ban (Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, issued in January and revised in March). The revised order requires the "development of a uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures, such as in-person interviews." According to attorneys, the result will likely be more than 100,000 more USCIS in-person interviews per year, which is expected to lengthen wait times for permanent residence applications.

Beyond the immediately affected categories, USCIS said it is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.

USCIS said that conducting in-person interviews will provide USCIS officers with "the opportunity to verify the information provided in an individual's application, to discover new information that may be relevant to the adjudication process, and to determine the credibility of the individual seeking permanent residence in the United States." USCIS said it will meet the additional interview requirement through enhancements in training and technology as well as transitions in some aspects of case management.

Additional information

Read the USCIS notice.

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ICE Seeks Private Help in Gathering Data on 500,000 Undocumented Immigrants per Month

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)'s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Targeting Operations Division (TOD) is seeking commercial subscription data services to conduct customized analysis, screening, and monitoring of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) priority criminal alien information. According to a recent notice, the TOD will provide targeting information for the provider to set up in a continuous monitoring and alert system to track 500,000 identities per month for specified new data, arrests, and activities.

According to the notice's draft Statement of Work (SOW), the continuous monitoring and alert system must be able to securely process and return information and addresses using the following types of specified data: FBI numbers; state identification numbers; real-time jail booking data; credit history; insurance claims; phone number account information; wireless phone accounts; wire transfer data; driver's license information; vehicle registration information; property information; payday loan information; public court records; incarceration data; employment address data; Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) data; and employer records.

The draft SOW states that the contractor will track daily address changes and credit activities of targeted persons (e.g., new aliases, new addresses, new jail bookings, insurance claims, date-of-birth changes, and Social Security numbers) using information available from open sources and commercial data sources. 

The contractor will securely return to ICE any information that identifies the possible location of the target and changes in the target's identifiers. 

Additional information
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Labor Dept. Announces Revisions to H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 Forms, Comment Period

Pursuant to the Secretary of Labor's June 6, 2017, news release calling for proposed form changes "to better protect American workers, confront fraud, and increase transparency," the Department of Labor has published a 60-day notice in the Federal Register announcing its intent to revise its information collection for the H-1B, H-1B1 and E-3 programs.

The revisions include the Labor Condition Application for Non-immigrant Workers (LCA) Form ETA 9035/9035E (electronic), Form ETA 9035CP accompanying instructions, a new Appendix for the Form ETA 9035/9035E, and the Wage and Hour Division's WH-4 Non-immigrant Worker Information Form collection.

The Department says it seeks revisions to the Form 9035/9035E and Form 9035CP Instructions to "streamline parts of the current information collection to assist the regulated community with form completion; provide greater clarity of existing employer obligations under the programs; and promote greater program transparency by collecting additional information on the employment of temporary non-immigrant workers by U.S. employers." The Department also seeks revisions to the WH-4 "to provide the form in a LIVECYCLE document to improve accessibility and compliance" with the Rehabilitation Act and the Workforce Investment Act; to "assist the regulated community with form completion"; and to "collect additional information to facilitate complainant communication for the enforcement of Forms 9035 and 9035E."

Additional information
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State Dept. Announces Oversubscription of EB-2 Category, Annual Numerical Limits for Immigration, Change-of-Address NVC Reporting Requirements

The Department of State's Visa Bulletins for August and September 2017 include news on several topics.

The August bulletin notes the oversubscription of the employment-based second preference (EB-2) category. High demand for numbers for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjustment-of-status applicants has required the establishment of cut-off dates for August for Worldwide, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Philippines EB-2 visa numbers. The bulletin says this action will allow number use to be held within the Worldwide annual limit. The Department expects the date for these countries to once again become Current for October, the first month of fiscal year (FY) 2018.

The September bulletin notes that any changes of address for applicants processing their cases overseas should always be reported to the National Visa Center (NVC). The bulletin provides details about what to include in communications with NVC and contact information.

The September bulletin also notes the annual determination of the numerical limits on immigrants for FY 2017. The worldwide employment-based preference limit is 140,000. For FY 2017, the per-country limit is 25,620 and the dependent area annual limit is 7,320.

Additional information
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CBP Says Attorneys not Allowed in Secondary Inspection Areas of Ports of Entry

According to reports from attorneys serving clients in New York, the Buffalo office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is advising that effective August 21, 2017, attorneys cannot accompany clients in the secondary inspection area of any ports of entry, and that this is a national policy.

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CBP Deploys Facial Recognition Biometric Exit Technology at More Airports

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced the deployment of facial recognition biometric exit technology to several more airports, including McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, for one daily flight from the United States to Guadalajara, Mexico; and William P. Hobby International Airport in Houston, Texas, for select flights. This follows recent deployments of the technology to Washington Dulles International Airport; George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas; and O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. An initial pilot was also conducted at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Additional deployments are planned in the near future.

John Wagner, CBP's Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations, said, "With the expansion of this technology we will be looking at different flights, airports, lighting conditions, and internal IT configurations to demonstrate to our stakeholders that this solution is flexible, reliable and easy for travelers to use." Using the flight manifest, CBP builds a flight-specific photo gallery using photographs from the travel document the traveler provided to the airline. CBP then compares the live photo against the document photo in the gallery to ensure that the traveler is the true bearer of the document. If the photo captured at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the traveler—having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen—is automatically determined to be out of scope for biometric exit purposes and the photo is "discarded after a short period of time," CBP said, adding that it "remains committed to protecting the privacy of all travelers."

Additional information

Read the announcement here.

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New Publications and Items of Interest

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent out a notice on August 31, 2017, reminding federal contractors and subcontractors of a Department of Homeland Security notice summarizing E-Verify requirements.

A national database of occupational licensing, launched by the Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation, St. Francis University, documents and tracks the occupational licensing regulations for many professions. The database, which is free and open to the public, includes regulatory information affecting physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, massage therapists, and physical therapists, among others. From the Find Occupations page, users can select their State, Industry, and Occupation.

The E-Verify User Manual has been updated to include the latest system enhancements and policy updates. Some sections have been reorganized and consolidated. Read the manual. Click here for a table of changes.

Travel ban FAQ, by David Isaacson of Cyrus D. Mehta & Partners PLLC, updated July 19, 2017.

Community Advisory: Social Media, Criminalization, and Immigration has been published by the National Lawyers Guild's National Immigration Project. This advisory summarizes ways in which immigration agents may use social media against those in removal proceedings or involved in criminal cases.

How to safeguard your data from searches at the border is the topic of several recent articles and blogs. Click here for an example, and click here for a second example.

Airport Lawyer is a free Web app that is intended to help ensure that immigrants are treated fairly at airports. Arrivals information can be securely passed along to large groups of volunteer attorneys who have been organized to monitor arrivals.

Listings and links to cases challenging executive orders, and related available pleadings.

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

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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 is often asked to act as a mentor to other immigration lawyers, providing advice regarding visa processing in London as well as answering numerous questions relating to eligibility criteria for various visa categories. She was selected as one of the top three Thought Leaders in Corporate Immigration in Europe by Who's Who Legal in its 2017 Corporate Immigration Analysis. "Kehrela Hodkinson is a 'brilliant' lawyer who is 'really, really good with clients' and a 'very helpful, efficient' practitioner on immigration issues. She continues to be regarded as one of the leading experts in US immigration practising abroad." Kehrela is a founding member of Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL). She has been practising U.S. immigration law since 1980 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.
 


Tasha Cripe 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 top three Thought Leaders in Corporate Immigration in Europe by "Who's Who Legal, Corporate Immigration 2017'.





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





Tasha Cripe 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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