Hello and Welcome to our February Immigration Update.
As an immigrant myself, it is with great pleasure that I share my recently published article about how I found my own “Rhythm of Success” despite my complex immigration journey.
Like many over the holidays, I reviewed last year’s challenges and successes and set fresh goals for the New Year.
This year, after watching the Broadway musical “Get On Your Feet” and reading Emilio Estefan’s book “The Rhythm of Success, How an Immigrant Produced His Own American Dream,” I went a little further and looked back at some of the boldest and challenging times of my life. Read more…
As a follow-up to our January Bulletin, please see below an update on events that I am currently following.
Thank you for your readership, support and referrals.
The High Court to Hear the Challenge to Obama’s Executive Action
The U.S. Supreme Court announced January 19, 2016, that it will hear the challenge to President Obama’s executive action on immigration.
In November of 2014, President Obama announced plans under his executive action to allow certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and immigrants that were brought here as children, to apply for protection from deportation and receive a work permit.
His executive action was blocked by the lower courts after Texas and 25 other states sued to stop his action, contending he exceeded his presidential powers under the U.S. Constitution.
The appeals process has brought the case before the Supreme Court, which will have final say on the constitutionality of his action.
The Court is expected to release a ruling on the highly debated issue around June – just as the 2016 presidential election enters its prime-time.
Canada Mandates New Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) Program
Canada has started to accept applications for its new eTA program, which applies to many individuals who wish to travel to Canada by air. Prospective travelers have until March 15 to submit their application through Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) website for pre-screening and approval. The program is mandatory for many visa-exempt individuals traveling to Canada by air. Individuals traveling to Canada by land or sea are exempt from registering. United States Citizens are exempt from the eTA system, but legal permanent residents are not. For more information, click here to read our summary of frequently asked questions regarding this topic.
OSC Issues Guidance on Internal I-9 Audits and Veracity of Documentation Provided
When performing internal I-9 audits, employers might find copies of supporting documents attached to the I-9s that might not appear to be facially valid.
On January 7, 2016, OSC issued a Technical Assistant Letter (TAL), to respond to what steps an employer should take when he or she finds that the documentation presented by an employee does not appear to be facially valid during an internal I-9 audit.
OSC re-iterated that to prevent immigration discrimination, the employer (or its representative) conducting an internal I-9 audit should conduct the audit in a consistent manner, meaning that similarly-situated employees should be treated in a similar manner and that employees should not be treated differently based on citizenship, immigration status or national origin. OSC also reminded employers that they "are required to accept original Form I-9 documentation that reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the individual presenting the documentation."
When conducting an internal I-9, if the employer determines, based on a photocopy, that a document does not appear genuine or to reasonably relate to an individual, the employer "should address its concern with the employee and provide the employee with the opportunity to choose a different document to present from the Lists of Acceptable Documents." The employee also has the option to give the employer the originally presented document to resolve the employer's concerns, and the employer is not prohibited from reviewing the original document and determining that it appears to be genuine and to reasonably relate to the employee.
To read the TAL in its entirety, click here
STEM OPT Program Extended
A federal court granted the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) motion to extend the current STEM OPT program through May 10th, 2016. During the extension time, DHS is expected to review over 50,500 responses that it received to its proposed new STEM OPT rule. The extension also provides F-1 students in valid STEM OPT status ongoing work authorization pursuant to that status.
According to DHS, there are approximately 23,000 STEM OPT participants, 8,000 pending applications for STEM OPT Extensions and 434,000 foreign students who might be eligible to apply for STEM OPT authorization.
DHS Proposed Rule for High Skilled Workers re: Extension of Grace Periods
Currently foreign nationals in H-1B status have a 10-day grace period under the law at the beginning and end of their work validity period. In its new proposed rule, DHS is suggesting to extend this grace period to those in E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1 and TN status. They are also proposing a one-time grace period of up to 60 days to allow for a change in employment for certain work visa classifications, including the E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1 and TN categories. Employees in the grace period would be maintaining status, but not authorized to work until a new petition is approved for a new employer. If enacted, this is of benefit to foreign nationals who often have very little or no time to remain in the U.S. to change employment after a termination. USCIS is taking and evaluating comments on this and other proposed rules until February 29, 2016. Thereafter, they will potentially modify the rules.