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Scott Railton Testifies in Canada Senate on Impact of Cannabis Legalization on Border

Thursday, April 19th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

I was honored to speak this week with Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence concerning Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, insofar as it relates to Canada’s borders. Legalization hasn’t happened at the U.S. federal level, and this begs many questions about border travel after legalization. Increasingly, I am asked, “What happens when Canada legalizes marijuana for all to use, like in Washington State?” Parliament is now taking up the query, as it studies moving forward with Bill C-45.

There are still many unanswered questions. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act and the U.S. Controlled Substances Act haven’t changed on marijuana, despite the sea change in legalization in many other jurisdictions, including Washington State and soon Canada. In our observation, this has led to issues for persons seeking admission or other immigration benefits, with some regularity.

The Senators had questions about how legalization might impact border traffic. My co-panelists were the Mayor of Windsor, Drew Dilkens, and Jonathan Blackham, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Canadian Trucking Association. Like me, they expressed concerns. These included possible slow-downs in inspections and increased wait-times; cannabis or cannabis residue being found increasingly in cars and trucks; trusted traveler and FAST interviews; and the queries made by U.S. officers.  The Mayor and I both emphasized the need to educate the public on the conflicts of laws, concerning immigration and cananbis.

I used my introductory remarks to lay out the bases for inadmissibility to the United States that involve cannabis. Even if Canada legalizes cannabis, there are several bases for inadmissibility that may still involve cannabis and affect persons seeking admission. These include admitting to past violations of a Controlled Substance law; health-related grounds related to being deemed a drug abuser or drug addict; national security grounds for inadmissibility relating to seeking entry for an illegal purpose (e.g. to purchase cannabis in a state where it is legalized); misrepresentation related to cannabis questions; involvement in cannabis-related businesses associated with the U.S. (e.g. aiding/abetting illicit trafficking); and customs violations for having cannabis in a vehicle or on a person.

The United States laws on admissibility are more complicated than many might imagine. We know, since this is what we do daily. As I told the Committee, cannabis continues to be listed as a Schedule 1 substance under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, making it as a matter of law equal to cocaine, heroin, or L.S.D. A Schedule 1 substance is one which has no medical purpose and has a high propensity of abuse. I also acknowledged to the Committee that this is not the popular opinion of the majority of the States, based on voter initiatives. The conflict of federal and state laws will also likely present an issue at the border, should Canada legalize. I said I think there will be “growing pains” as the public and the border adjusts to such a significant change in Canadian law.

The hearing garnered significant attention in the Canadian media, with stories appearing in Global News, CBC, the Windsor Star, and many other outlets. I anticipate the border and legalization will continue to be a matter of public interest to both Canada and the United States, if Bill C-45 moves forward.

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USCIS Receives 190k H-1B Applications for 85k Spots

Thursday, April 12th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

Demand continues to outpace supply for H-1B petitions. For this year’s cap lottery, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 190,098 applications for 85,000 spots. This is actually less applications than in some recent years. Of course, this is the full allocation of H-1B slots for the 2019 Fiscal Year, received in the first five days.

For those reading who do not know, H-1Bs are the United States’ professional temporary visa for high skilled workers. These include certain information technology workers, high skilled health care professionals, engineers, accountants, and the like. While there are other temporary and permanent work authorization categories, the H-1B is the typical work authorization category that foreign students might pursue upon completion of studies in the United States. Over half of the students in STEM graduate programs in the U.S. are foreign students.

We speak to many employers who want to hire these students, but run into issues with the H-1B cap. Increasingly, it seems that students who don’t get picked either look for other employers or go to other countries. In some cases, they can wait another year, and apply again, but eventually time runs out. There are other options, like continuing education, or finding employment with certain cap-exempt employers. Fundamentally, though, the current system has many flaws, based on our observations from working with employers and prospective employees.

Good luck to all who applied! Here is the excerpted announcement from USCIS:

On April 11, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally-mandated cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap, for fiscal year (FY) 2019.

USCIS received 190,098 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 2, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS announced on April 6, that it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 and the master’s cap of 20,000. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees unless the petition is a prohibited multiple filing.

USCIS conducted the selection process for the master’s cap first. All unselected master’s cap petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 cap.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted towards the FY 2019 H-1B cap.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:
• Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
• Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
• Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
• Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

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L-1 Pilot Program Coming to Peace Arch and Pacific Highway Crossings

Thursday, March 29th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

The Peace Arch and Pacific Highway Crossing in Blaine, Washington are implementing a “Pilot Program” for L-1 Intracompany Transfer petitions, beginning on or about April 30th. L-1 Intracompany transfers are employees who are Executives, Managers, or employees with specialized knowledge who are transferred from a commonly owned foreign company to a U.S. company. For decades, Canadian beneficiaries of L-1 petitions have been permitted to submit their applications at Class A Port of Entries, and receive immediate adjudication. The Pilot Program, while introduced with promises of efficiencies, threatens a long-standing benefit for Canadian businesses.

On Monday, I attended a briefing session on a Form I-129 Pilot Program for Canadian L Nonimmigrants Pilot Program, held at the Peace Arch. The briefing was hosted jointly by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and was led principally by USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. The meeting was attended by more than a dozen officials of CBP, USCIS, and about ten attorneys representing stakeholders. The meeting was open to phone participants as well.

Director Cissna said that the stated intention of the L Pilot Program is to try to move Port of Entry adjudications out of CBP’s hands and into USCIS’s hands. Director Cissna views this work as USCIS work, since it involves immigration benefits. CBP doesn’t seem happy with the function (my observation), as they consider themselves an enforcement agency first and foremost. There were indications that if the Pilot Program works, perhaps TN adjudications can be handled on the same process.

Under the Pilot Program, the petitioning company will send the petition to USCIS with a special cover sheet. USCIS will then try to adjudicate the applications with the cover sheet “super fast…faster than premium processing,” in an effort to provide adjudication service similar to what is now available at the Port of Entry for Canadians. Approvals and Requests for Evidence will be sent to employers directly. While USCIS says it would be best to wait for the approval, Applicants can go down to the Port of Entry with just a receipt notice, and granted admission if the matter is adjudicated favorably. This was all described as “good organizational management.”

The goal is to launch the program at the Peace Arch and the Pacific Highway by April 30th, and then test run program for 6 months. If it works, they’ll look at expansion to other northern ports of entry, and may need to commence the public notice and comment processes required under the Administrative Procedures Act.

The Pilot Program is exclusive to Blaine, and so Canadian applicants who want immediate Port of Entry adjudication may still go to other Port of Entries. The process will be mandatory for Canadians at the Peace Arch and Pacific Highway. The process includes L blankets. The California Service Center is the designated USCIS service center for adjudication.
Some interesting statistics were mentioned during the meeting. We were told there are about 6200 Canadian L petitions submitted each year, which is about one-sixth of the overall total. The Blaine POEs are not handling too many per week now. One person said about half a dozen; another said about 50 per month. Issues raised by attorneys included the Request for Evidence rate at the USCIS Service Centers, which is very high; as well as the benefit from instant adjudication at the Port of Entry v. the issues in presenting a petition there sometimes.

This could end up being a step back for Canadian businesses who may clearly qualify and benefit from on-the-spot adjudication. There was a time when port of entry adjudication was a pretty quick process, and this method of application really helped Canadian businesses quickly get the people they need into the U.S. temporarily. USCIS has created a whole lot of red tape for legitimate businesses in recent years, and this presents another opportunity for government delays. A more favorable view of the program is that this allows pre-adjudication by USCIS of petitions, at a rate faster than Premium Processing’s fee based 15 day guarantee.

If its not obvious, I am skeptical about the Pilot Program. In the big picture, this Administration is taking every step it can to cut legal immigration, in addition to its focus on illegal immigration. There are some in the Administration who only want to “put a pause” on immigration, and seem to have decided that most if not all immigration is bad. The L visa is a poor target, as the visa is dedicated to executives and managers—people who typically create jobs, and pour money into the economy.

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Cascadia Attorneys Speak on NAFTA, the Border and Consular Processing

Saturday, March 17th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

Greg Boos and I had the pleasure and honor of speaking again at the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Annual Northwest Conference last week.  The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the professional association for immigration lawyers. Reportedly, this conference was exceptionally well-attended, as interest in immigration law seems to only be increasing.

Greg’s panel was entitled “NAFTA and Border Issues.” Issues affecting cross-border travel include NAFTA TN applications, intracompany transfers, admissibility and waivers, customs seizures, and NEXUS, to name a few. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is currently in renegotiation, which has the potential of impacting U.S. immigration. Inadmissibility at the border due to concerns related to work authorization, marijuana, and immigrant intent continue to be noteworthy. Greg has long been one of the leading experts on northern border issues in the United States and Canada.

My panel was the Consular Processing Update. Consular processing involves the issuance of visas at consulates around the world. Consular officers from Montreal and Vancouver discussed recent changes that impact visa applicants. The latest challenges in consular processing include the widely reported travel bans for persons from certain countries; extended delays and administrative processing due to vetting; E visa investor and trader changes; the expansion of definitions of misrepresentation; prudential revocations of visas for DUIs,; and major processing changes for certain visas. The Department of State is working hard to update its immigrant visa processing to an all-electronic system, and is taking many steps to more closely evaluate all candidates for visas.

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The Heightened Vetting of Legal Immigration Applicants

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

The Administration is moving forward with its goal to increase vetting of all applicants for immigration benefits. We’re seeing this play out in a number of immigration settings. The most immediate effects we are seeing are longer delays for applications. Higher request for evidence and denial rates are also being reported. Immigration processing is not business as usual.

This month, the National Vetting Center was created by the White House. The National Vetting Center will be run out of the Department of Homeland Security, and will coordinate with other agencies like the Department of State and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The announcement states, in part:

The NVC, which will be led by the Department of Homeland Security, will help fulfill the President’s requirement that departments and agencies improve their coordination and use of intelligence and other information in the vetting process.

The Federal Government’s current vetting efforts are ad hoc, which impedes our ability to keep up with today’s threats. The NVC will better coordinate these activities in a central location, enabling officials to further leverage critical intelligence and law enforcement information to identify terrorists, criminals, and other nefarious actors trying to enter and remain within our country. The NVC’s operations will adhere to America’s strong protections for individuals’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. The Administration’s top priority is the safety and security of the public, and the NVC will empower our frontline defenders to better fulfill that obligation.

Other immigration-related agencies have also instituting increased vetting measures.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will interview all or most applicants who apply to remove the conditions on their permanent residence. This will be after one or more interviews previously to get the immigration benefit initially. In the past, a couple could mail in their application, with proof of marriage (e.g. shared home ownership or lease; kids had together; shared bills), and usually the agency would mail the green card after several months. Now, in addition to sending in these materials, the agency is calling people in for a second interview, and also in some cases conducting family home visits, even at odd hours if fraud is suspected. While combating green card is a necessary and vital part of USCIS’s mission, there has been no additional funding for all these interviews, which probably means lots of delays moving forward for all sorts of applications, as the agency reassigns resources.

USCIS has also said that it will move forward with interviewing beneficiaries of employment based immigration cases. While the agency has always had this authority, the practice has been to only interview where fraud concerns were triggered. Now, the agency is calling people in, and in some cases revisiting earlier I-140 approval adjudications. These are complicated applications, and the concern among some practitioners is that the field office adjudicators are not typically trained in the legalities, as are Service Center employees. Also, the added interview creates the potential for additional bias to be introduced in to the process, and again more delays.

USCIS also indicated this past year that it will no longer apply deference to renewals of approved petitions. This longstanding practice led to somewhat predictable results for employers with employees on occupational visas. We haven’t seen a rash of readjudications, but the guidance is now in place for adjudicators.

At the Consulates, there is reportedly an increase in the use of “administrative processing,” which the Department of State will not typically provide reason for. While cases usually are resolved in due time, it’s not unheard of for nonimmigrant visa renewals to suddenly take much longer (e.g. weeks), as they go through this process. This can be a real headache for visa renewal applicants, as well as for their families and employers who want them back.

At the border, it seems like there has been an increase in the use of expedited removals in the past year.  On the northern border, we most commonly see this with cases of misrepresentation, which occur after a lengthy interview. It was recently reported that searches of digital media are up by about 60% from 2016.

A safer America is a better America. However, finding the right balance between safety and practicality is also at issue. Applicants need to be aware that processes are slowing down. Changes are on-going, and we will continue to publish updates as circumstances and practices change.

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H-1Bs Are Now In Season

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

H-1B season is officially upon us.

H-1Bs are the nonimmigrant work authorization for persons in specialty occupations. Specialty occupations are meant to be professional positions, but in the past year U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services has gone to great lengths to narrow the class of professionals eligible for H-1Bs. In particular, the agency has made obtaining an H-1B much more challenging for information technology professionals.

The H-1B category requires that the employer pay the greater of the prevailing or actual wage for the position. Prevailing and actual wage calculations can sometimes be complicated matters, depending on the position. Employers are required to obtain a certified labor condition application from the Department of Labor prior to filing. This process can take a few weeks in some cases, if the employer is not already registered to file.

On April 1st, the annual cap will be open, and for five days employers will submit applications. We have every reason to expect that the agency will receive more than the maximum number of applications under the H-1B quotas. In total, there are about nearly 85,000 spots. In recent years, the agency has received more than 200,000 applications.

H-1Bs are often used as a bridge status for employers who have initially hired foreign students to work for them based on pre-approved optional practical training.

Filing fees vary depending on the employer, but there is a $460 I-129 form fee, a $500 fraud fee, and a $750 or $1500 training fee.

In light of the recent challenges employers have faced with this category, careful evaluation and planning is best. Job descriptions with particularized duties need to be provided, in order to withstand up to agency scrutiny, This can be challenging for some employers, where they know they have a professional position, but have never had to precisely articulate professional duties.

We can help.

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CBP Electronic Searches Up 50%, New Standards Announced

Monday, January 8th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that manages the border, published new officer standards for searching electronic devices. We have noticed in recent months an increase in these types of searches (phones, computers, cameras, etc.), and related Question and Answer sessions.

Now, with its recent announcement, it appears that reported searches by the agency are up by about 50% for the fiscal year. The agency’s announcement focuses on the limited number of searches that are conducted. We hear of cases all the time where officers hold on to the phone for 15 minutes in another room. Given the confidential nature of information on phones, whether personal or business, it can be a significant invasion of privacy.

The new guidance limits searches from reaching into the cloud on devices. It also provides some lipservice to the protection of confidential information. However, the agency stands firm in its belief that it can conduct such searches. In the past, Senator Cantwell and others have proposed legislation to limit this authority to a more reasonable level, but the courts have largely upheld the authority under current law.

Here’s the announcement, which includes a link to the guidance to officers:

CBP Releases Updated Border Search of Electronic Device Directive and FY17 Statistics

Release Date:
January 5, 2018

CBP searches the electronic devices of fewer than one-hundredth of 1 percent of all arriving international travelers

WASHINGTON—U.S. Customs and Border Protection released today an update to the agency’s Directive governing Border Searches of Electronic Devices. This Directive, which supersedes the previous directive released in August 2009, enhances the transparency, accountability and oversight of electronic device border searches performed by CBP.

“In this digital age, border searches of electronic devices are essential to enforcing the law at the U.S. border and to protecting the American people,” said Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, John Wagner. “CBP is committed to preserving the civil rights and civil liberties of those we encounter, including the small number of travelers whose devices are searched, which is why the updated Directive includes provisions above and beyond prevailing constitutional and legal requirements. CBP’s authority for the border search of electronic devices is and will continue to be exercised judiciously, responsibly, and consistent with the public trust.”

Noting the evolution of the operating environment since the 2009 directive was issued, advances in technology and continuing developments, along with the requirements of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, codified at 6 U.S.C. § 211(k), Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan directed the review and update of the Directive.

In FY17, CBP conducted 30,200 border searches, both inbound and outbound, of electronic devices. Approximately 0.007 percent of arriving international travelers processed by CBP officers (more than 397 million) had their electronic devices searched (more than 29,200). In FY16, 0.005 percent of arriving international travelers (more than 390 million) had their electronic devices searched (more than 18,400).

The need for border searches of electronic devices is driven by CBP’s mission to protect the American people and enforce the nation’s laws in this digital age. As the world of information technology evolves, techniques used by CBP and other law enforcement agencies must also evolve to identify, investigate, and prosecute individuals who use new technologies to commit crimes. CBP border searches of electronic devices have resulted in evidence helpful in combating terrorist activity, child pornography, violations of export controls, intellectual property rights violations, and visa fraud.

Below is a month-to-month comparison for FY16 and FY17.

International Travelers (Inbound and Outbound) Processed with Electronic Device Search
FY 2016 FY 2017
October 857 2,561
November 1,208 2,379
December 1,486 2,404
January 1,656 2,760
February 1,484 2,303
March 1,709 2,605
April 1,578 2,275
May 1,626 2,537
June 1,487 2,304
July 1,656 2,359
August 2,385 3,133
September 1,919 2,580
Total 19,051 30,200

CBP is responsible for securing our nation’s borders, to include, among other things, ensuring the interdiction of persons and goods illegally entering or exiting the United States; enforcing the customs and trade laws of the United States; detecting, responding to, and interdicting terrorists, drug smugglers and traffickers, human smugglers and traffickers, and other persons who may undermine the security of the United States; and safeguarding the border of the United States to protect against the entry of dangerous goods. In furtherance of these critical responsibilities, CBP exercises its border search authority judiciously and in a manner that preserves the public trust.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Last published:
January 5, 2018
Tags:
Border Security

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California, Legalization, and Immigration

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017 by W. Scott Railton

On January 1st, California will join Washington State, Colorado, and others in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Proposition 64 was passed by the voters of California in November, legalizing possession of up to one dry ounce of marijuana. Federal government officials are already saying that they will continue to enforce the Controlled Substances Act, which treats cannabis the same as heroin and LSD. As with other legalized states, the federal/state conflict of laws will persist, uneasily.

One group caught square in the middle are the noncitizens.  Noncitizens include lawful permanent residents, temporary visitors, undocumented aliens and all others who are not U.S. citizens.  Noncitizens routinely have to deal with the Federal Government: immigration court proceedings, applications for immigration benefits (e.g. naturalization, work authorization, permanent residence, green card renewal), seeking entry to the U.S.; CBP checkpoints; visiting national parks; and so on.

Immigration law can be very harsh for the noncitizen when it comes to marijuana. We have seen people denied entry, denied green cards, and denied naturalization, all in relation to legalized marijuana. This year, I wrote extensively on Marijuana and Immigration for the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice magazine.

In a nutshell, the federal government does not need a conviction to find a person inadmissible to the United States. Inadmissibility can be established with an admission to the essential elements of a controlled substance offense; a “reason to believe” a person is engaged in drug trafficking, or a family beneficiary of its proceeds; misrepresentation; a determination that a person is a drug abuser or drug addict; or for being inadmissible at time of entry. Employment in the budding industry can also have unintended consequences. The laws for removability are different but similar. The legalities can get real complicated, fast, but the point is marijuana and immigration do not mix well.

USCIS officers will  sometimes ask questions about the legal use of marijuana, and this may lead to the denial of adjustments of status and naturalization applications. CBP officers will also ask, and deny admission based on admissions. CBP checkpoints are another point of contact where the issue may arise.  Other things will trigger immigration questions, such as finding marijuana on a person or in their car based on a stop on federal land (e.g. National Park), admission to past illegal use, or marijuana involved in a non-removable offense, such as a DUI.  The agencies are inconsistent in their application of the law.

Legalization will be terrific for immigration in some regards. Minor marijuana convictions in the past have created a basis for removability. These prosecutions in state court will not continue, and thus, they will no longer form the basis for removability. This alone could lead to keeping more families together, decreasing court dockets, and increasing government focus on other concerns.

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New Rules Restricting H-1Bs and H-4 Work Authorization May Be Coming Soon

Friday, December 22nd, 2017 by W. Scott Railton

The Office of Management and Budget recently published its Agency Rule List for Department of Homeland Security for Fall 2017. The list signals upcoming changes to the H-1B and H-4 categories. Also listed are rules concerning ESTA at land port of entries and increased collection of biometrics on entries and exits.

Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security anticipates that it will remove regulations which allow certain H-4 spouses to have work authorization. We don’t know if this will come about, but it is consistent with the Administration’s approach to restricting legal immigration. For this to happen, the Department of Homeland Security will publish a rule in the Federal Register, and receive public comment on the removal of the rule. Subsequently, it will propose final action. In all likelihood, there will not be a revocation of current work authorizations, but at some point affected persons will be unable to apply to renew. It is possible that in the interim legislation will be passed affecting this proposal. It is also possible the Administration may refrain from publishing the rule, though this seems unlikely. It is likely that there will be litigation involving this matter, which could delay things further.

The list also includes notice of the intent of the Department of Homeland Security’s to revise the definition of a specialty occupation, which will affect H-1Bs, and presumably H-1B1s, and E-3s. The proposal says that the agency will focus the process on “obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B program.” The notice states that the agency will revise the definition of employment and the employer-employee relationship, and will look at measures regarding compensation to H-1B workers.

The Rule List also says that the agency will propose another rule, requiring electronic registration beforehand for the H-1B lottery. This has the potential to be a good thing, since so many employers spend time and money on H-1B applications which are never selected in the H-1B lottery. However, if this is a means to pre-adjudicate applications, that could turn problematic.

Additionally, the Rule List contains a final rule on collecting biometrics on exit and departures, and registering for ESTA in advance at land borders.

Here are excerpts of the proposed rules from the list:

DHS/USCIS RIN: 1615-AC15 Publication ID: Fall 2017

Title: ●Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization

Abstract:

On February 25, 2015, DHS published a final rule extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. DHS is publishing this notice of proposed rulemaking to amend that 2015 final rule. DHS is proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorization.

Agency: Department of Homeland Security(DHS) Priority: Economically Significant
RIN Status: First time published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Proposed Rule Stage
Major: Yes Unfunded Mandates: Undetermined
EO 13771 Designation: Other
CFR Citation: 8 CFR 214 8 CFR 274a (To search for a specific CFR, visit the Code of Federal Regulations.)

Legal Authority: 6 U.S.C. 112 8 U.S.C. 1103(a) 8 U.S.C. 1184(a)(1) 8 U.S.C. 1324a(H)(3)(B)

Legal Deadline: None
Statement of Need:

DHS is reviewing the 2015 final rule in light of issuance of Executive Order 13788, Buy American and Hire American.

Summary of the Legal Basis:

The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) has the authority to amend this regulation under section 102 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135, 6 U.S.C. 112, and section 103(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1103(a), which authorize the Secretary to administer and enforce the immigration and nationality laws. In addition, section 214(a)(1) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1184(a)(1), provides the Secretary with authority to prescribe the time and conditions of nonimmigrants’ admissions to the United States. Also, section 274A(h)(3)(B) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1324a(h)(3)(B), recognizes the Secretary’s discretionary authority to extend employment authorization.
Alternatives:

Anticipated Costs and Benefits:
DHS anticipates that there would be two primary impacts that DHS can estimate: the cost-savings accruing to forgone future filings by H-4 spouses, and labor turnover costs that employers of H-4 workers could incur.

—————————————————————————————————-

DHS/USCIS RIN: 1615-AC13 Publication ID: Fall 2017
Title: ●Strengthening the H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Classification Program
Abstract:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will propose to revise the definition of specialty occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B program, and revise the definition of employment and employer-employee relationship to better protect U.S. workers and wages. In addition, DHS will propose additional requirements designed to ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders.

Agency: Department of Homeland Security(DHS) Priority: Other Significant
RIN Status: First time published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Proposed Rule Stage
Major: Undetermined Unfunded Mandates: Undetermined
EO 13771 Designation: Other
CFR Citation: 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)

Legal Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1184

Legal Deadline: None
Statement of Need:
The purpose of these changes is to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded only to individuals who will be working in a job which meets the statutory definition of specialty occupation. In addition, these changes are intended to ensure that the H-1B program supplements the U.S. workforce and strengthens U.S. worker protections.
Summary of the Legal Basis:
Alternatives:
Anticipated Costs and Benefits:
DHS is still considering the cost and benefit impacts of the proposed provisions. In general, DHS anticipates that there may be some filing fees and opportunity costs of time in preparing and filing forms for the eligible population. DHS also anticipates benefits in the form of reduced fraud and abuses of the current H-1B program.

Risks:
Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM 10/00/2018

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Undetermined Government Levels Affected: Undetermined
Federalism: Undetermined
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes
RIN Information URL: www.regulations.gov
Public Comment URL: www.regulations.gov

RIN Data Printed in the FR: No
Agency Contact:
Kevin Cummings
Division Chief, Business and Foreign Workers Division
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Office of Policy and Strategy, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.,
Washington, DC 20529
Phone:202 272-8377
Fax:202 272-1480
Email: kevin.j.cummings@uscis.dhs.gov

———————————————————————————————————-

DHS/USCIS RIN: 1615-AB71 Publication ID: Fall 2017
Title: Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Aliens Subject to Numerical Limitations
Abstract:
The Department of Homeland Security proposes to amend its regulations governing petitions filed on behalf of alien workers subject to annual numerical limitations. This rule proposes to establish an electronic registration program for petitions subject to numerical limitations for the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. This action is being considered because the demand for H-1B specialty occupation workers by U.S. companies has often exceeded the numerical limitation. This rule is intended to allow USCIS to more efficiently manage the intake and lottery process for these H-1B petitions. The Department published a proposed rule on this topic in 2011. The Department intends to publish an additional proposed rule in 2018. The proposal may include a modified selection process, as outlined in section 5(b) of Executive Order 13788, Buy American and Hire American.

Agency: Department of Homeland Security(DHS) Priority: Other Significant
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Proposed Rule Stage
Major: No Unfunded Mandates: No
EO 13771 Designation: Other
CFR Citation: 8 CFR 214

Legal Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1184(g)

Legal Deadline: None
Statement of Need:
This regulation would help to streamline the process for administering the H-1B cap process and to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.
Summary of the Legal Basis:
Alternatives:
DHS is currently in the process of considering policies that align with our overarching goals of ensuring the allocation of H-1B cap numbers are provided to the best and brightest foreign national beneficiaries, and ensuring that the operational process is as efficient as possible.
Anticipated Costs and Benefits:
While DHS is currently in the process of assessing the costs and benefits of the policy changes under consideration, DHS believes that in aggregate the proposed changes would result in better resource management and predictability for both USCIS and petitioning employers. DHS anticipates that implementing a pre-registration process could benefit the regulated public by potentially reducing the cost and time involved in petitioning for H-1B nonimmigrants, through an up-front cap selection process where only those employers who have obtained a cap number would be required to submit the entire Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129.
Risks:
Timetable:
Action Date FR Cite
NPRM 03/03/2011 76 FR 11686

NPRM Comment Period End 05/02/2011
NPRM 02/00/2018

Additional Information: USCIS 2443-08. Includes Retrospective Review under E.O. 13563.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes Government Levels Affected: None
Small Entities Affected: Businesses Federalism: No
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes
RIN Information URL: www.regulations.gov
Public Comment URL: www.regulations.gov

RIN Data Printed in the FR: Yes
Agency Contact:
Kevin Cummings
Division Chief, Business and Foreign Workers Division
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Office of Policy and Strategy, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.,
Washington, DC 20529
Phone:202 272-8377
Fax:202 272-1480
Email: kevin.j.cummings@uscis.dhs.gov

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DHS/USCBP RIN: 1651-AB12 Publication ID: Fall 2017
Title: Collection of Biometric Data Upon Entry to and Exit From the United States
Abstract:The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is required by statute to develop and implement an integrated, automated entry and exit data system to match records, including biographic data and biometric identifiers, of aliens entering and departing the United States. In addition, Executive Order 13780, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, published in the Federal Register at 82 FR 13209, states that DHS is to expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system.  Although the current regulations provide that DHS may require certain aliens to provide biometrics when entering and departing the United States, they only authorize DHS to collect biometrics from certain aliens upon departure under pilot programs at land ports and at up to 15 airports and seaports.  To provide the legal framework for CBP to begin a comprehensive biometric entry-exit system, DHS is amending the regulations to remove the references to pilot programs and the port limitation.  In addition, to facilitate the implementation of a seamless biometric entry-exit system that uses facial recognition, DHS is amending the regulations as they pertain to the provision of photographs upon entry and exit.
Agency: Department of Homeland Security(DHS) Priority: Other Significant
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage
Major: No Unfunded Mandates: Undetermined
EO 13771 Designation: Other
CFR Citation: 19 CFR 215.8    19 CFR 235.1
Legal Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1365a    8 U.S.C. 1365b
Legal Deadline:  None
Statement of Need:This rule is necessary to provide the legal framework for DHS to begin implementing a comprehensive biometric entry-exit system.  Collecting biometrics at departure will allow CBP and DHS to know with better accuracy whether aliens are departing the country when they are required to depart, reduce visa fraud, and improve CBP’s ability to identify criminals and known or suspected terrorists before they depart the United States.
Summary of the Legal Basis:Numerous Federal statutes require DHS to create an integrated, automated biometric entry and exit system that records the arrival and departure of aliens, compares the biometric data of aliens to verify their identity, and authenticates travel documents presented by such aliens through the comparison of biometric identifiers.  See, e.g. , Immigration and Naturalization Service Data Management Improvement Act of 2002, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, and the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  In addition, Executive Order 13780, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, states that DHS is to expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system.
Alternatives:
Anticipated Costs and Benefits:This rule will allow CBP to know with greater certainty whether foreign visa holders depart the country when required. It will also prevent visa fraud and allow CBP to more easily identify criminals or terrorists when they attempt to leave the country. The technology used to implement this rule could also eventually be used to modify entry and exit procedures to reduce processing and wait times. This rule imposes opportunity and technology acquisition and maintenance costs on CBP and opportunity costs on the traveling public.
Risks:
Timetable:

Action Date FR Cite
Interim Final Rule 04/00/2018
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Undetermined Government Levels Affected: Undetermined
Federalism: Undetermined
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No
Agency Contact:
Michael Hardin
Deputy Director
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Customs and Border Protection, Entry/Exit Policy and Planning, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Office of Field Operations, 5th Floor,
Washington, DC 20229
Phone:202 325-1053
Email: michael.hardin@cbp.dhs.gov

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DHS/USCBP RIN: 1651-AB14 Publication ID: Fall 2017
Title: Implementation of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) at U.S. Land Borders–Automation of CBP Form I-94W
Abstract:This rule amends Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations to implement the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) requirements under section 711 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, for aliens who intend to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) at land ports of entry.  Currently, aliens from VWP countries must provide certain biographic information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at land ports of entry on a paper I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94W).  Under this rule, these VWP travelers will instead provide this information to CBP electronically through ESTA prior to application for admission to the United States.  DHS has already implemented the ESTA requirements for aliens who intend to enter the United States under the VWP at air or sea ports of entry. 
Agency: Department of Homeland Security(DHS) Priority: Other Significant
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage
Major: No Unfunded Mandates: No
EO 13771 Designation: Other
CFR Citation: 8 CFR 212.1    8 CFR 217.2    8 CFR 217.3    8 CFR 217.5    8 CFR 286.9
Legal Authority: Pub. L. 110-53
Legal Deadline:  None
Statement of Need:This rule is necessary to implement the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) under section 711 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 for aliens who intend to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program at land ports of entry.  ESTA was implemented at air and sea ports of entry in 2008.  At that time, however, CBP did not have the ability to implement the program at land ports of entry.  This rule will ensure that ESTA is now implemented at all ports of entry.
Summary of the Legal Basis:
Alternatives:
Anticipated Costs and Benefits:In addition to fulfilling a statutory mandate, the ESTA Land rule will strengthen national security through enhanced traveler vetting, streamline entry processing through Form I-94W automation, reduce inadmissible traveler arrivals, and produce a consistent, modern VWP admission policy in all U.S. travel environments, which will benefit VWP travelers, CBP, and the public.  The rule will also introduce time and fee costs to VWP travelers required to complete an ESTA application.
Risks:
Timetable:

Action Date FR Cite
Interim Final Rule 04/00/2018
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: No Government Levels Affected: None
Federalism: No
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No
Agency Contact:
Suzanne Shepherd
Director, Electronic System for Travel Authorization
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.,
Washington, DC 20229
Phone:202 344-2073
Email: suzanne.m.shepherd@cbp.dhs.gov

 

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

USCIS Narrows Economist TN Category

Monday, December 18th, 2017 by W. Scott Railton

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Services (USCIS) continues to finds to limit legal immigration to the U.S. Today’s announcement concerned NAFTA–specifically, the Economist category. The press release is posted below.

NAFTA’s schedule of TN professions is out of date. It was created in the early 1990s, before so many changes brought on by new technologies. The new guidance specifically excludes Financial Analysts, Marketing Analysts, and Market Research Analysts. Undoubtedly, many person filling these roles with companies are trained in economics, and are providing valuable advice to their employers related to economics. Nevertheless, this is the current state of immigration reform at USCIS. So many of these reforms will simply drive valuable professionals to Canada and Mexico. The Administration’s premise that American companies are looking abroad for employees first is fundamentally flawed.

We’ve been asked what to expect with NAFTA. This announcement is one of the clearest yet that the Administration is looking at individual TN categories. Employers should not wait until the last minute consider renewals of TNs.

Here’s the announcement:

WASHINGTON —U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it is clarifying policy guidance on the specific work activities its officers should consider when determining whether an individual qualifies for TN nonimmigrant status as an economist.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) TN nonimmigrant status allows qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily enter the U.S. to engage in specific professional activities, including the occupation of economist. The agreement, however, does not define the term economist, resulting in inconsistent decisions on whether certain analysts and financial professionals qualify for TN status as economists.

TN nonimmigrant status is intended to allow a limited number of professionals and specialists to work temporarily in certain specifically identified occupations in the United States. This updated guidance provides USCIS officers with a specific definition of one such category – economists – allowing them to adjudicate applications in a way that complies with the intent of the agreement.

This policy update clarifies that professional economists requesting TN status must engage primarily in activities consistent with the profession of an economist. Individuals who work primarily in other occupations related to the field of economics — such as financial analysts, marketing analysts, and market research analysts — are not eligible for classification as a TN economist.

This policy update is consistent with the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Standard Occupational Classification system. DOL defines economists as people who conduct research, prepare reports, or formulate plans to address economic problems related to the production and distribution of goods and services or monetary and fiscal policy. Economists may collect and process economic and statistical data using sampling techniques and econometric methods. The definition specifically excludes market research and marketing analyst occupations.

Interim and final policy memos are official USCIS policy documents and go into effect on the date the memos are issued.

USCIS is committed to carrying out the directives of the President’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order to better protect the interests of U.S. workers. Ensuring the integrity of guest worker programs is consistent with our Buy American, Hire American initiatives.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook(/uscis), and Instagram (@USCIS).

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

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