October 25 2013 - A Small Window to Finally Pass Updated High Tech Industry Immigration Laws
Now that the government shutdown is over, Immigration reform is being brought back to the front burner. Things are not however warm and fuzzy across the aisle in Washington, DC. So the prospect of a comprehensive immigration reform bill passing in the House of Representatives is probably extremely low. So maybe we can concentrate on areas of common ground.
And there is common agreement on the need for more highly educated and skilled high technology (STEM) professionals. And also the need to make it easier for foreign high tech entrepreneurs to get visas so that they can found start-up companies in Silicon Valley and across the country. Notable Silicon Valley venture capital professionals including Dave McClure and Brad Feld launched their Start Up Visa proposal several years ago to remedy this issue. To date, it has not been realized despite considerable efforts. Since it has been bundled with other issues in a comprehensive reform approach, it has failed to move forward due to disagreements over other areas of immigration reform, notably the legalization and border control issues.
Both visas for STEM tech professionals and Entrepreneurs are covered in the SKILLS ACT which has already been introduced in the House. And they are also included in the Gang of Eight bill which was passed by the US Senate in June. The Republicans in the House have indicated that they want to tackle immigration reform on a step by step basis. And recently, President Obama, and Senate leaders like Chuck Schumer have indicated that they would be amendable to such an approach if it facilitates progress on immigration reform.
So high tech related immigration reform would seem to be the logical first step along this path. Moreover the high tech industry, led by McClure, Feld, Paul Graham, Mark Zuckerberg and others, is highly motivated to see the needed improvements happen. Passing one piece of the immigration reform puzzle may also serve to rebuild some small degree of cooperation and trust between the warring factions in DC. Then further more contentious immigration issues can be tackled. But even if nothing happens on those other fronts, fixing the high tech related immigration issues will be a significant achievement in of itself.
Everyone, including both Republicans and Democrats, wants to create more US based high paying jobs. Nowhere in the world does this happen better than in Silicon Valley. The creation of new companies and the expansion of existing high tech companies are however impeded by our outdated immigration laws. This has long been a problem. And there have been several failed attempts to fix it over the last decade. It is time to finally get it done. And with looming budget battles coming in early 2014, the time to do it is now. We have a small window in November and December to get this done. Letís see if Republicans and Democrats can do something positive for a change. The country will be better for it. High Tech is one of the brightest parts of the US economy. Letís try to keep the lights on.
in2usanow.com blog post by Ronald Rose
October 17 2013 - Updates on the Government Reopening
CIS Ombudsman: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ombudsmanís Case Assistance webpage has been restored.
USCIS: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued an alert that E-Verify has resumed operations following the federal government shutdown, and all E-Verify features and services are available. The alert includes Q&As regarding how the shutdown affected E-Verify and Form I-9.
EOIR: The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) alert that detained cases will be heard as scheduled. However non-detained cases scheduled for 10/17/13 will be rescheduled for a future date. Effective 10/18/13, all non-detained case dockets will proceed with all scheduled cases. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) have also returned to normal operations.
USDOL: The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) iCERT and PERM websites are still offline, although employees are expected to return to work today.
October 16 2013 - Senate Leaders Reach Bipartisan Deal!
U.S. Senate leaders have struck an 11th-hour agreement to avoid a U.S. debt crisis and fully reopen the federal government, putting lawmakers on track toward ending a stalemate that worried investors world-wide and provided striking evidence of congressional dysfunction.
Senate leaders are expected to complete their agreement on terms for raising the debt ceiling and fully reopening the government.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, said House Republicans will allow the Senate deal to come up for a vote. "Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us," Mr. Boehner said.
U.S. Government Shutdown October 1, 2013
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL): The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that the Office of Foreign Labor Certification's (OFLC) functions are not "excepted" from a Federal Government shutdown and its employees would be placed in furlough status should a lapse in appropriated funds occur. Consequently, in the event of a shutdown, OFLC will neither accept nor process any applications or related materials (such as audit responses) it receives, including Labor Condition Applications, Applications for Prevailing Wage Determination, Applications for Temporary Employment Certification, or Applications for Permanent Employment Certification. OFLC's web site, including the iCERT Visa Portal System, would become static and unable to process any requests or allow authorized users to access their online accounts.
DOL's Office of Administrative Law Judges will be unable to perform any case-related activities, including conducting hearings. Hearings that have been previously scheduled will therefore be cancelled prior to the date of the hearing, and they will not be rescheduled for hearing until an appropriations bill or continuing resolution takes effect.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Due to the lapse in federal funding, the U.S. Department of Homeland Securityís website will not be actively managed.
U.S. Department of State (DOS): The U.S. Department of State will continue as many normal operations as possible; operating status and available funding will need to be monitored continuously and closely, and planning for a lapse in appropriations must be continued.
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR): Court functions that support the detained caseload will continue, but other functions are suspended. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is processing emergency stay requests as well as cases where the alien is detained, including case appeals, motions, federal court remands, and bonds.
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE): ICE Detention and Enforcement Operations shall continue. ICE Chief Counsel Trial Attorneys will work on the detained docket only during a shutdown. The ICE Community and Detainee Helpline will remain operational.
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS): All USCIS offices worldwide are open and individuals should report to interviews and appointments as scheduled. E-Verify is currently unavailable due to the government shutdown.
Employment-Based Immigrant Visa annual limits
The U.S. Department of State has confirmed that Employment-Based Immigrant Visa annual limits for Fiscal Year 2013have been reached, as is often the case at the end of a fiscal year. The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services will continue to process pending adjustment of status cases, and is able to submit visa number requests for all cases which are being finalized. The State Department will place requests in a ďPending DemandĒ file. Eligible cases which have been submitted to the State Department that are within the October cut-off dates will be automatically authorized effective October 1, 2013.
Federal Government shutdown info
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that the Office of Foreign Labor Certification's (OFLC) functions are not "excepted" from a Federal Government shutdown and its employees would be placed in furlough status should a lapse in appropriated funds occur. Consequently, in the event of a shutdown, OFLC will neither accept nor process any applications or related materials (such as audit responses) it receives, including Labor Condition Applications, Applications for Prevailing Wage Determination, Applications for Temporary Employment Certification, or Applications for Permanent Employment Certification. OFLC's web site, including the iCERT Visa Portal System, would become static and unable to process any requests or allow authorized users to access their online accounts.
Update on Receipt Notices for FY2014 H-1B Cap Cases
USCIS Service Center Operations indicated on a May 15, 2013 call with AILA that as of Friday, May 10th all data entry was completed and receipt notices have been sent. Rejection notices have also started to be sent out. Please allow until the end of May for delivery of receipt/rejection notices.
Employers Must Use Revised Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification
USCIS will no longer accept previous versions of Form I-9. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds employers that beginning today, May 7, 2013, they must use the revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (Revision03/08/13)N for all new hires and reverifications. All employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each employee hired to work in the United States.
The revision date of the new Form I-9 is printed on the lower left corner of the form. Employers should not complete a new Form I-9 for existing employees, however, if a properly completed Form I-9 is already on file.
A Spanish version of Form I-9 (revision 03/08/13)N is available on the USCIS website for use in Puerto Rico only. Spanish-speaking employers and employees in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. territories may use the Spanish version for reference, but must complete and retain the English version of the form.
The revised forms are available online at www.uscis.gov/I-9. For more information, please call 888-464-4218. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. USCIS maintains a website, I-9 Central, to support Form I-9 users. USCIS has also scheduled free webinars to help employers learn about the new form.
To order forms, call USCIS toll-free at 1-800-870-3676. For free downloadable forms and information on USCIS programs, immigration laws, regulations, and procedures, please visit www.uscis.gov.
New I-94 Process Effective 4/30/2013
On April 30, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will no longer require international non-immigrant visitors to fill out a paper I-94 upon arrival to the U.S. by air or sea. CBP will gather the travelerís information automatically from their electronic travel records. CBP will annotate the passport or other travel document with the non-immigrant status information and expiration date.
CBP will, however, still issue paper I-94s to individuals entering through a land border.
If travelers entering by air or sea need information from their Form I-94 to verify immigration status or employment authorization, they will need to access the CBP site and print out an I-94 record. The record will be available at: CBP.gov/I-94.
H-1B 2014 Cap Case Update
According to information released from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today, USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the first week of the H-1B filing period. On April 7, 2013, USCIS used a computer generated random selection process to select 65,000 petitions for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first, and all advanced degree petitions not selected were then part of the random selection process for the regular cap. For cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, USCIS will reject and return the petition with the filing fees, unless it is found to be a duplicate filing.