DHS Clarifies Immigration Benefits for Family Members of Selected Reserve and Veterans

December 12th, 2013 by Margaret Stock

On November 15, 2013, United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sub-agency that administers immigration benefits, announced a new national “parole in place” policy that affects the immigrant parents, spouses, and children of current military members on active duty or who serve in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, or veterans of such service. The policy clarifies that USCIS should generally allow such immigrant relatives to be granted an immigration “parole” so that they may adjust to a lawful immigration status while in the United States. Previously, some USCIS offices had required these military family members to leave the United States in order to obtain a lawful immigration status, but the family members’ departure from the United States often triggered a lengthy separation—sometimes more than ten years—because of overseas visa processing rules.

United States immigration law has long been excessively complicated, [2] and one of the complications is an infamous “Catch-22” that affects the immigrant parents, spouses, and children of American citizens and lawful permanent residents. Noncitizens who are the parents, spouses, and children of American citizens are normally eligible for an immediate relative immigrant visa—but typically they cannot obtain lawful status in the United States based on that visa unless they can prove that they have been “inspected and admitted or paroled” into the United States by immigration authorities.[3] If they cannot prove that they have been admitted or paroled, they must depart the United States and apply for an immigrant visa outside the United States. Under Section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration & Nationality Act; however, a person who leaves the United States after being unlawfully present for more than six months is punished by being prohibited from returning for a three-year or ten-year period, depending on how long the person has been unlawfully present.[4] This punishment does not kick in if the person does not leave the United States; but a person who has entered the United States without the permission of the United States Government is generally barred from adjusting to legal status in the United States, so such a person necessarily must leave the United States to obtain proper legal status by applying for a visa at a consulate outside the United States.

This Catch-22 has affected thousands of military family members adversely. In 2009, for example, a U.S. Army captain serving in Germany married a German woman and filed an immigrant visa petition with USCIS to bring his spouse to the United States. Visa processing times are lengthy, and while the captain was waiting for USCIS to approve the visa petition, he received orders to return to the United States. On the advice of a military attorney, he brought his wife back to the United States with him—but when his wife entered the United States at Tampa, Florida with her family member ID card, she was never given an entry document by US Customs and Border Protection. As a German citizen, the wife was eligible to enter the United States for up to ninety days under a visa-free travel program that waives the visa rules for certain countries like Germany that have bilateral agreements with the United States. After residing with her husband on an Army post in the United States for more than a year and a half, the wife traveled back to Germany to attend her immigrant visa interview. At the interview, she was advised by a United States Department of State consular officer that she was banned from the United States for ten years because she had departed after being “unlawfully present” in the United States for more than a year; the consular officer took the position that she had only been admitted to the United States for ninety days, and she had stayed for more than a year after the initial 90-day period, and hence her departure to Germany to seek an immigrant visa had triggered a ten-year bar to her return to the United States. Luckily in this particular case, the U.S. Army captain was able to obtain an “extreme hardship” waiver after several months of effort, and his wife was allowed to return—but many military family members trapped in this dilemma have not been so fortunate or are not eligible for a waiver.

The United States Government has long recognized the dilemma posed by this legal Catch-22, and the law provides a remedy—DHS agencies are permitted by law to grant an immigration “parole in place” to anyone who has not been admitted or paroled previously, as long as the parole is “for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”[5] For decades, this parole authority has been used to benefit Cubans who have entered the United States unlawfully; such Cubans would normally be barred from adjusting status and would be required to return to Cuba to obtain an immigrant visa, but the immigration agencies have for decades had a formal policy of granting Cubans an immigration “parole in place” that allows them to adjust status in the United States, rather than forcing them to return to Cuba. The parole authority has similarly been used in the past to benefit other groups such as battered spouses or government informants.

In 2008, under the Bush Administration, the parole authority was first publicly used to benefit a military family member. Michael Chertoff, then the Secretary of DHS, ordered his agency to grant parole in place to the wife of a missing US Army soldier; the woman was then permitted to adjust status and obtain a “green card” without leaving the United States.[6] Following this incident, grants of parole in place to military family members became increasingly common, and in August 2010, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano wrote to Congress that her agency was granting parole in place on a case-by-case basis to the parents, spouses, and children of members of the US Armed Forces.[7] The letter, however, was not a formal USCIS agency policy, and USCIS field offices differed widely in their interpretation of the Napolitano letter. Some offices, for example, would only grant parole-in-place to spouses, or would only grant the benefit to family members of active duty military members; or would only grant the benefit if a service member was deployed to a combat zone.

Accordingly, on November 15, 2013, USCIS published a formal policy memorandum directing that parole in place should ordinarily be granted to the parents, spouses, and children of current and past military members who have served on active duty or in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.[8] The policy does not change the law; it merely clarifies how the agency will apply the legal authority that it has been given by Congress.

The agency has stated that the policy is designed to reduce the “stress and anxiety” of military members and veterans who are worried about the immigration status of their family members in the United States; the policy is also designed to enhance military readiness. The policy does not apply to family members who have criminal convictions or “other serious adverse factors.”

Members or former members of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve may benefit from this policy. The law defines the Selected Reserve as including those persons who (1) participate in at least forty-eight scheduled drills or training periods during each year and serve on active duty for training at least fourteen days each year, or (2) participate in training at encampments, maneuvers, outdoor target practice, or other exercises at least fifteen days each year.[9] Most members of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard are in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, as are persons who perform paid duty each year in the Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve. The Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve includes some members of the Individual Ready Reserve who perform duty each year, but does not include inactive or retired Reservists or IRR members who perform no duty in the course of a year.

Military members or veterans who have immigrant parents, spouses, and children present in the United States who do not currently have a proper immigration status should consult an experienced immigration attorney. As stated above, US immigration laws and regulations are extremely complex, and this policy may help a family member adjust his or her immigration status, but it does not apply to every family member. An experienced immigration attorney can help a military member or veteran determine if it is appropriate or necessary for a family member to apply for benefits under this new policy.

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[1] Margaret D. Stock is an attorney admitted in Alaska who practices primarily in the areas of immigration, citizenship, and military law. She is the author of the book Immigration Law and the Military, published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association in 2012. She is also a Life Member of the Reserve Officers Association and a 2013 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

[2] Karen Kraushaar, a spokeswoman for the former Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS), once famously said on the record in the Washington Post that “Immigration [law] is a mystery and a mastery of obfuscation . . .” See Washington Post, Apr. 24, 2001, at B1.

[3] Section 245(a) of the Immigration & Nationality Act requires persons who apply to adjust their status inside the United States to demonstrate that they have been “inspected and admitted or paroled,” with few exceptions. The statute states that “[t]he status of an alien who was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States . . . may be adjusted by the Attorney General, in his discretion and under such regulations as he may prescribe, to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence if the alien makes an application for such adjustment, the alien is eligible to receive an immigrant visa and is admissible to the United States for permanent residence, and an immigrant visa is immediately available to him at the time his application is filed.”

[4] See INA §212(a)(9)(B) (“In general.–Any alien (other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence) who–was unlawfully present in the United States for a period of more than 180 days but less than 1 year, voluntarily departed the United States . . . , and again seeks admission within 3 years of the date of such alien’s departure or removal, or has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more, and who again seeks admission within 10 years of the date of such alien’s departure or removal from the United States, is inadmissible.”).

[5] See INA §212(d)(5)(A) (“The Attorney General may . . . in his discretion parole into the United States temporarily under such conditions as he may prescribe only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit any alien applying for admission to the United States . . . “).

[6] The author testified before Congress about this incident in 2008. See http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Stock080520.pdf (testimony of Margaret D. Stock, at pages 7-8)

[7] The Janet Napolitano letter to Congress may be found at page 60 of the hearing testimony for a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing held on July 26, 2011, see http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/printers/112th/112-50_67575.PDF.

[8] The USCIS policy may be found at the following link:
http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/2013/2013-1115_Parole_in_Place_Memo_.pdf.

[9] See 10 United States Code §10143(a) (“Within the Ready Reserve of each of the reserve components there is a Selected Reserve. The Selected Reserve consists of units, and, as designated by the Secretary concerned, of Reserves, trained as prescribed in section 10147(a)(1) of this title or section 502(a) of title 32, as appropriate.”).

See the original article here: DHS Clarifies Immigration Benefits for Family Members of Selected Reserve and Veterans

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J-1 Waiver Recommendation Rates Posted by Department of State

December 10th, 2013 by W. Scott Railton

The U.S. Department of State released its figures recently concerning the issuance of J-1 waiver recommendations. The Department of State has authority to issue waivers of the two year foreign residency requirement which often accompanies the issuance of a J-1.  The standards for obtaining a J-1 waiver are typically rigorous and fraught with bureaucracy. However, once a recommendation to approve a waiver has been made to the Department of State, the approval of the waiver seems to be largely a formality.

For example, for State Department of Health waivers, in 2013 there were 1033 favorable recommendations and 0 unfavorable recommendations. These waivers include the Conrad 30 waivers for physicians. For these waivers, the State Department of Health must issue a recommendation, and each State has different standards. For example, Washington State requires at least six months of specific forms of recruitment for the position, amongst many other requirements. As such, to be successful, a fair amount of advance Human Resource planning is required.

Similarly, the Department of State reports that in the Fiscal Year 2013 it issued 111 favorable findings for Interested Government Agency-Physician waivers, and none unfavorable.

Exceptional hardship waivers were approved more often than not, with 228 recommendations. However, in this case, there were 50 cases where there was an unfavorable finding. Similarly, most No Objection statements were approved (4269), but a slight number of cases (119) were not.  As far as the percentages go, a waiver based on Persecution had the least likely chance, with 31 approved and 6 cases not approved.

When it comes to obtaining a J-1 waiver, a certain amount of due diligence and planning is necessary.  Identifying the appropriate waiver to pursue in the first instance is paramount.  This decision will be made based on any number of program and person specific factors.

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Troubleshooting the New Automated I-94 Admission Document System

November 21st, 2013 by W. Scott Railton

One of the bigger changes in U.S. immigration law in the past year is the “automation” of the I-94. We’re hearing various stories from travelers, and so I thought it might be good to post a bit about this.

First, what is an I-94? An I-94 is the arrival/departure form issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to nonimmigrants, most typically upon entry to the United States. The document typically identifies class of admission (e.g. L-1A, or intracompany transfer), date of admission, and the date of status of status expiration.  I say “typically” because there are always exceptions, and often enough errors are made in the creation of this document. Not all admittees are issued an I-94. Most Canadian visitors for business or pleasure are not.

Second, what is “automation”? In an effort to save money, the government has stopped issuing the forms at airports and sea ports of entry, and instead is putting it upon admittees to print the form after arrival. The government calls it “automation” because they are still collecting and inputting the data related to the arrival.  They’re just not going through the process of having the inspectors issue the form to arrivals. The information still lives on-line.

Land ports of entry for now are operating as usual, and still printing the cards when required for arrivals.

Recommendation

So, if you are coming to the U.S. by air or sea, we recommend that you take the steps to print your I-94, as soon as possible after entry. You’ll have to do this if you need the I-94 for other purposes, such as obtaining a driver’s license, a Social Security Number, or establishing work authorization for an employer. Regardless, though, it is best to print the I-94, if only to verify its accuracy. Errors happen. They’re easier to fix the more quickly they’re caught.

Here’s how to obtain your I-94 information:

1. Visit CBP’s website at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
2. Input the information below exactly as it appears on the travel document you used to enter the U.S.
• Last/Surname
• First (Given) Name
• Birth Date
• Passport Number
• Country of Issuance of Passport
• Most Recent Date of Entry into the U.S.
• Class of Admission
3. Hit “submit”

Still have questions? CBP has a video you can watch, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions page.

For a more thorough step-by-step process of the electronic I-94 system, you can watch CBP’s video on the process here.  You can also view the FAQ page about the automated I-94 here.

Troubleshooting

If you can’t find your electronic I-94, there are a couple of things you can try. Obviously, double check that everything was inputted above as it should be. If that doesn’t work, here’s a few other troubleshooting tips:

• Do not use dashes or titles in names.
• If you entered your first and middle name, try using one or the other.
• Enter your name as it appears on your passport and not your visa, if these are different.
• Enter your country of citizenship, not which country you physically reside in.
• Enter the passport number that appears on the upper right hand corner of your passport.
• Enter the visa/status classification you were granted (i.e., H-1B, TN, B-1, L-1, E, etc.).

If you’ve followed all of these steps and you still cannot access your automated I-94, or you’ve found a discrepancy between the electronic record and the notation on your passport, you can contact CBP through a deferred inspection office, which can be found on CBP’s website here.  Of course, in some circumstances, it may be worthwhile consulting with us prior to further contacting the agency.

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The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

October 30th, 2013 by W. Scott Railton

One of the most common questions we are asked is “How long will it take?” I’m reminded of Tom Petty’s song, The Waiting, where he sings, “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part.”

“How long?” can be a tricky question to answer.  It requires a quick assessment of a client’s readiness to file, an idea of the current processing times with the agency or agencies in question, as well as a sense of the bureaucracy and delays that may be encountered along the way.  Delays are more predictable in some cases than others, but every case can get delayed.  Often times there are more than one way to file an application, with two separate timelines.

That said, here’s a sampling of current timelines for some common cases we handle:

USCIS Petitions.  The California Service Center for US Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicates most Washington State based petitions. They report relatively fast times for many common business petitions, and for the most part this is what I’ve observed of late. For example, they say they will adjudicate H-1Bs and E petitions in two months, and L petitions in 1 month. However, for a number of years now, the California Service Center has shown a propensity for issuing burdensome and time consuming requests for additional evidence. Nonimmigrant petitioners have the option of paying for premium processing, and receiving 15 day adjudication for the price of $1225. Sometimes this can be a prudent purchase, just to get guarantee a fast initial adjudication, and have the same 15 day response time in regards to any response to a request for evidence.

E-1 and E-2 Treaty Petitions in Vancouver. We help Canadian clients with a lot of E-1 Trader and E-2 investor visa applications at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver. Timelines here tend to be a few weeks, but really can depend on where the business is at and acquiring necessary documentation up front.

TN Petitions.  NAFTA TN professional applications can be submitted at the border, pre-flight inspection, or via the USCIS Service Center. CBP will adjudicate a TN petition on the spot. Adjudications vary, but the timeline doesn’t get any better. USCIS publishes that it will take one month to initially adjudicate a TN petition.

Prevailing Wage Determinations.  Initial prevailing wage requests for H-1Bs and PERM applications take between 45 and 60 days. Long gone are the days when we could get a wage determination in a day, or even a week or two. If the employer disputes the wage determination, a request for a redetermination can be filed, but these are taking about the same amount of time to adjudicate.

Labor Certifications. Initial analyst review for PERM application for labor certifications are taking about six months. The Department of Labor’s website today says that as of September 3, the agency was conducting review on cases received on February 28th, 2013. If an audit request is issued, review of that audit request will take about a year under current processing timelines.

Nonimmigrant Waivers.  I-192 nonimmigrant waivers for Canadians are taking about 5 months, though it can really vary. U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website says to wait over 130 days before making inquiry into the case.

Immigrant visas in Montreal. The immigrant visa process was taking nine months to a year through Montreal, but recent processing time reports from USCIS suggest this timeframe may be slowing down. If so, perhaps we’ll see more people interested in filing for the K-3 visa, which in the past used to be a way to reunite cross-border couples faster.

Naturalization. Naturalization applications are moving very fast, generally speaking. We’re seeing waits of two to four months in most cases from time of filing to taking the oath of naturalization.

As I said, you can’t trust the published timelines of an agency as to adjudication timelines, though sometimes they are worth noting and are sometimes spot on. For USCIS’s latest timeline, visit here.  For the Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s latest published timelines, visit here.  http://icert.doleta.gov/. And, for the Department of State’s interview wait time at Consulates around the world, visit here.

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Shutdown Over: What Happens Now

October 18th, 2013 by W. Scott Railton

Congress ended the self-imposed government shutdown this week. The shutdown was a bit odd, from my view, insofar as not everything shut down. In the immigration sphere, some immigration courts remained open, others didn’t. USCIS continued to adjudicate petitions, but the Department of Labor went on hiatus. Whatever the case, the bureaucracy is now finding its legs again.

A few items worth posting in the aftermath:

  • USCIS says that if an H-1B, H-2A or H-2B petition is now submitted with evidence establishing that the primary reason for failing to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request was due to the government shutdown, USCIS will consider the government shutdown as an extraordinary circumstance and excuse the late filing, if the petitioner meets all other applicable requirements. More specifically, this means if a petitioner was unable to work with Department of Labor due to the shutdown, to obtain labor condition application or a prevailing wage determination, such a delay will not be held against the petitioner.
  • The Office of Foreign Labor Certification is once again processing labor condition applications, prevailing wage requests, and labor certification applications. The on-line PERM and ICERT systems are reportedly running slow today, due to backed up demand and capacity.  The sites did not get up an running until this morning.
  • The electronic E-Verify system is back up and running.
  • All other immigration-related agencies seem to be up and running, with minor adjustments being made in scheduling as are practically required for those coming back to work.

Perhaps most importantly, there is some suggestion that immigration reform is the top agenda item for many legislators and the President, now that the budget and debt issues have been temporarily resolved. Some experts suggest that immigration is a good issue for the Republican Party to tackle right now, to try to recover a bit from the public opinion hit the G.O.P. has taken in relation to the shutdown. Time will tell.

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E-Verify System Out of Service During Government Shutdown

October 4th, 2013 by W. Scott Railton

USCIS’s E-Verify system is not operating during the government shutdown. This will be a hardship for some businesses.

E-Verify is the Internet-based system which compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification with data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.

To be clear, employers are still required to complete I-9s for all new employees and update them when necessary.

Here’s what USCIS says about the shutdown:

 E-Verify is currently unavailable due to a government shutdown.

While E-Verify is unavailable, you will not be able to access your E-Verify account. As a result, you will be unable to:

•Enroll any company in E-Verify
•Verify employment eligibility
•View or take action on any case
•Add, delete or edit any User ID
•Reset passwords
•Edit your company information
•Terminate an account
•Run reports
•View ‘Essential Resources.’ Please note that all essential resources may be found by visiting www.dhs.gov/e-verify.

In addition, E-Verify Customer Support and related services are closed. As a result:

•Employees will be unable to resolve Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNCs).
•Telephone and e-mail support will be unavailable. You may send e-mails, however, we cannot respond until we reopen.
•E-Verify webinars and training sessions are cancelled
•E-Verify Self Check will not be available

We understand that E-Verify’s unavailability may have a significant impact on your company’s operations. To minimize the burden on both employers and employees, the following policies have been implemented:

•The ‘three-day rule’ for E-Verify cases is suspended for cases affected by the shutdown. We’ll provide additional guidance once we reopen. This does NOT affect the Form I-9 requirement—employers must still complete the Form I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee starts work for pay.
•The time period during which employees may resolve TNCs will be extended. Days the federal government is closed will not count towards the eight federal government workdays the employee has to go to SSA or contact DHS. We will provide additional time once we reopen.
•For federal contractors complying with the federal contractor rule, please contact your contracting officer to inquire about extending deadlines.
•Employers may not take any adverse action against an employee because of an E-Verify interim case status, including while the employee’s case is in an extended interim case status due to a federal government shutdown (consult the E-Verify User Manual for more information on interim case statuses).

We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to serving you once we resume operations.

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H-1Bs and Labor Certifications Delayed By Government Shutdown

October 2nd, 2013 by W. Scott Railton

On October 1st, the U.S. Government went into shutdown due to the inability of Congress to agree on a budget. Nonessential employees are being furloughed until the matter is resolved. This is front page news in the U.S., and everyone hopes the disputes are resolved as soon as possible.

In the meantime, here’s a quick summary of how the shutdown affects immigration petitioners:

1. The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) will not be accepting or processing applications. Specifically, this means labor condition applications, which are a required element of H-1B petitions, labor certifications, and prevailing wage determinations, are all on hold. This seems to be the most immediate impact of the shutdown for immigration petitioners, as this development could skew timelines, particularly related to H-1B renewals and the need to timely file a labor certification.

Here’s what the DOL says:

OFLC functions are not “excepted” from a shutdown and its employees would be placed in furlough status should a lapse in appropriated funds occur. Consequently, in the event of a government 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.

2. All USCIS offices are open and applications continue to process, at least for now. USCIS handles all benefits petitions, such as naturalization applications, all work authorization types, and permanent resident applications.  The office continues to be open because activities are largely funded by fees paid by applicants.

3. By and large, U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to operate. All ports of entry are open, and so far there are no exceptional delays. The Admissibility Review Office, which adjudicates U.S. waivers, remains open and applications will continue to be adjudicated. The CBP website will not be updated, and approximately 6000 CBP workers will be furloughed.

4. The Department of State will continue operations and visa adjudications as routine for now, but the agency is monitoring the possible impact of the shutdown closely.  Now, in 2011, when the government was facing a shutdown, the Department of State said that only life and death circumstances would justify visa processing.  The more recent statement is tempered, clearly, but we’re only in Day 2 of the shutdown, as of this writing.

5. The Executive Office of Immigration Review (Immigration Courts) are implementing shutdown plans, and furloughs will occur for non-essential personnel. The detainee docket is considered an essential function and therefore will continue to operate.

6. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations will continue in regards to detention and enforcement operations.

7. The SEVIS system for students and exchange visitors will continue to operate, due to being a fee-funded program.

Let’s hope this gets resolved sooner than later. The longer the shutdown, the more likely other agencies and petition types will be impacted.

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Immigration Reform: Stalled, But Still Needed

October 1st, 2013 by W. Scott Railton

Earlier this year, with the passage of Senate Bill 744, it looked like we might be seeing a new comprehensive immigration law this fall. The Senate’s bill completely rewrote current law, addressing a wide range of issues, including the needs of business, labor, families, and states. Hopes were high.

They are not so high today. Immigration has temporarily stalled in the House, with a bipartisan “Gang of Seven” effort recently falling apart. A few piecemeal bill have passed out of committee, but they are largely restrictive. Meanwhile, other issues have taken Congressional precedence, such as health care reform, Syria, and an imminent government shutdown due to another budget impasse. Partisan brinkmanship, here we go again.

Still, immigration reform is an issue that doesn’t go away for the elected, with the electorate and interest groups constantly pushing the issue forward anew. Polls show that the Hispanic vote is getting frustrated with the G.O.P.’s approach, which may have implications to the mid-term election. Both parties are well aware of the political stakes involved.

Businesses need answers. The H-1B quota for professional occupations filled months ago, and will not reopen until next April 1st, for October 1st, 2014 start dates. Similarly, DREAMers still have no path—and a year is a long time for an 18 year old. Families too face separation and the dysfunction of the current law.

Possible good news: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat colleagues may introduce a comprehensive bill in the House this month. If so, it is anticipated that it will be largely similar to the Senate bill, except it will contain a less expensive border security package already passed by the House’s Homeland Security Subcommittee.

This is pure politics. The Democrat’s bill does not have immediate bipartisan support, although there is a hope that some Republicans may break ranks if it makes the floor. The introduction of the bill would provide another opportunity for businesses, families and persons in G.O.P. held districts to contact their Representatives, and advocate for action.

Stay tuned.

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U.S. Immigration Options Open Up for Same-Sex Couples

August 6th, 2013 by W. Scott Railton

Same-sex couples now have significantly greater immigration options to the United States, due to U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Windsor. The decision struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. Subsequently, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued its precedent decision, Matter of Zeleniak, which confirmed the impact of the Windsor decision in the immigration context.

Based on these two decisions and pronouncements from the government, DOMA no longer stands in the way of recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of immigration benefits, so long as the same-sex marriage is valid under the laws of the state or country where it was celebrated.

The Department of Homeland Security immediately announced that it will begin implementing this decision, and reports are now in that same-sex spousal immigrant petitions are being accepted and approved at the Service Centers. Similarly, the Department of State, which operates the Consulates abroad, has issued guidance to its adjudicators. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which manages the border, so far has not issued guidance to its officers.

Same-sex married couples will now have the burden of proving that they were married in a marriage-equality state or country. Currently, 13 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia recognize and issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Washington State is included in this group. Same-sex married couples seeking entry under a dependent status (E.g. L-2, H-4, E) should be prepared to prove the validity of their marriage, as well as the fact that that the marriage is legally recognized in the state where it occurred.

As this is a significant new development in immigration law, it is fair to anticipate evolving changes to the administration of the law. We’ll stay on top of these changes, and are prepared to advise accordingly.

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Doing Business in the USA Seminar scheduled for Surrey BC on November 14, 2013

June 25th, 2013 by Greg Boos

Seminar offers guidelines for USA sales, shipping and business transactions

 

A group of veteran Canada/USA and international trade professionals will provide practical guidelines to British Columbia entrepreneurs and professionals at an upcoming seminar entitled, Doing Business in the USA. This one-day seminar is designed to give Canadian manufacturers, importers, distributors, agents and other business professionals the tools they need to easily expand their business interests across the border. Key topics include:

1. Dealing with “border issues”, such as U.S. travel and immigration planning, U.S. Customs clearance, business planning, taxation, currency exchange, and legal considerations.

2. Understanding “logistics issues”, such as establishing a USA business identity, warehousing,
transportation, fulfillment, and handling of returned goods.

3. Introduction to “importing” lower-cost goods into the USA that have been “outsourced” or purchased in Asia, Europe and elsewhere.

4. “Sales/marketing strategies”, including market overview, sales/marketing fundamentals, lessons and pitfalls.

5. “Money, Money, Money!”, a lively open forum (with guest “experts”) to discuss various related topics of interest to the audience.

6. “Resource introductions”, including the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, which provides federal government programs and services at home and abroad.

The Doing Business in the USA seminar has welcomed over 4,000 attendees at various locations in BC since 1997. The main motivation for attendance by BC entrepreneurs hasn’t changed, namely the extra profit opportunity offered by a huge and affluent market of over 300 million buyers that is very receptive to foreign goods.

According to seminar organizer, Jim Pettinger, “Now is a great time for a Canadian company to invest in expansion to the USA. The strong Loonie will buy 20 to 50 percent more marketing services than it has in years (e.g., tradeshows, travel, hotel rooms, advertising).

The Doing Business in the USA seminar is targeted at three groups: (1) new exporters to the USA who need to know the basics, (2) new or inexperienced staff members of current exporters to the USA, and (3) professionals who advise the previous two. Plenty of time during the day is available for one-on-one and “round-table” meetings with the various resource people in attendance.

The Doing Business in the USA seminar will be held on Thursday, November 14, 2013, at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel, Surrey, BC,  from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Cost for the seminar is $195 pre-registered or $225 at the door ($145 each for 2 or more, and $25 further discount for registration before October 28). Also available is a special “after lunch only” rate of $75. For more information contact Carol Jackson at 1-800-799-8848 or visit www.UCanTrade.com

Greg Boos will be speaking at the event.

Greg Boos blogs from his office in Bellingham WA and his home in Vancouver BC. Please contact Greg the following address should you desire assistance on a US immigration matter:

Greg Boos, Attorney at Law
Cascadia Cross-Border Law
1305 11th Street, Suite 301
Bellingham WA 98225
CascadiaImmigrationLaw.com
360/671-5945
gdboos@americanlaw.com

At Cascadia Cross-Border Law, we create transparent borders!

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