April 5, 2012

Immigration Option for Gay Men & Lesbians in Deportation

Thumbnail image for rainbow_flag.gifThe immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong -- with clients from the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs, to Southern California and Los Angeles, and throughout the world -- have been closely watching the implementation of the prosecutorial discretion policy as it affects gay men, lesbians, and persons in nontraditional family relationships.

As readers of this blog may recall, in the latter half of 2011, the Obama administration instructed its enforcers of the immigration laws (also known as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security) to consider exercising its discretion to dismiss "low priority" deportation and removal cases. The "Morton Memo" indicated that the following criteria may be viewed as positive factors:

Circumstances of arrival - especially if the person came to the US as a child
Pursuit of education - if they have graduated from high school in the United States and/or are pursuing higher education
U.S. Military service
Ties to the U.S., including family relationships
Pregnant or nursing women
Age, especially for minors and the elderly
If the person is a primary caretaker of another person with a severe illness or disability
Persons who are likely to be granted temporary or permanent status because they are an asylum seeker, victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, or other crime

In the months that have followed, many questions were raised and Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to tweak the memo's implementation. However, one question that seems to be resolved is that the government appears to recognize that an individual in removal proceedings who is in a bona fide same-sex relationship may be deserving of prosecutorial discretion.

Earlier this month, a gay Costa Rican man was spared from deportation based in part due to his 2008 marriage to a U.S. citizen. Last year, an Immigration Judge in New Jersey granted a reprieve in the deportation proceedings against a Venezuelan man married to a U.S. citizen. However, the policy does not appear to be uniformly applied, as a couple in Philadelphia still faces the prospect of separation.

The immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong cannot stress enough: This is not "amnesty." There is no new program for legalization here. The government is not providing any lawful permanent resident status or employment authorization. However, in some circumstances, the Government IS viewing a same-sex marriage as a positive factor and allowing some non-traditional families to stay together inside the United States.

If you are a gay man or lesbian or in a nontraditional family relationship, or if you or a loved one is facing the prospect of removal from the USA, you should consult with the immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong. We have offices in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. Attorneys at our firm have served the gay and lesbian community with pride for over a quarter of a century. --jcf & ra

April 5, 2012

2013 H-1B Quota Numbers

pie.png
USCIS reported yesterday that 22,323 cap-subject petitions were received already. About one-quarter of those will be counted against the advanced degree cap. Thus far, usage is about the double the amount of last year's usage. If you are considering an H-1B petition this year, call the attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong for your consultation now or contact us at here.---ecf

April 3, 2012

F-1 Cap Gap and H-1B Issues

help button.jpgF-1 cap gap issues cause a lot of confusion, but here is a quick guide to help you all you need are clear answers. I posted a similar blog entry last year. The full guidance from USCIS can be found here:

  • Can an F-1 student file an H-1B petition during the so-called grace period or 60 days after their I-20 or OPT expires? Yes.

  • Do the cap gap protections extend to someone who requested consular processing on their I-129? No.

  • Does the 90 day limitation on unemployment still apply during an OPT extension granted from a cap gap application? Yes.

  • Can an F-1 student travel while on the automatic cap gap employment extension and return as an F-1 student? No.
  • While these quick tips are meant to provide a few quick answers, it's always best to have your situation analyzed by the business immigration attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong. Our attorneys have the experience you need, and are often requested by llocal and national bar associations to provide training courses to other attorneys. Call today for a free consultation. ---ecf

    March 23, 2012

    Applying for TPS - Syria

    Map Syria.jpgTime to apply? Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians in the US! The USCIS has just announced that Syria will now be a designated country for temporary protected status. Due to the political instability in Syria, Syrians who are now in the United States will soon be able to apply for TPS which will allow them to be granted employment authorization and for extensions of the TPS designation is extended for Syria. The initial TPS designation will be for 18 months. USCIS has instructed applicants NOT to submit applications yet but applications may be prepared now in anticipation of more guidance next week. Remember that TPS is not automatic and applicants will have to show their eligibility, and background checks will still be conducted of all applicants. Those who will be found ineligible are those who have multiple convictions or other factors but certain noncriminal and non-security grounds can be waived. If you are interested in applying for TPS, call Law Offices of J Craig Fong for a consultation. ---ecf

    March 23, 2012

    EB-2 China and India Update: Predicted Regression Date of Aug. 15, 2007

    backwards moving clock.jpgThis is just in from AILA. It has been reported that in the May 2012 visa bulletin, the USDOS will retrogress the priority dates for China and India EB-2 to August 15, 2007. The April 2012 priority dates are at May 1, 2010. It's still too early to know how long the regression will last, or when there will might be forward movement again this fiscal year. USDOS did report that demand for this preference category from China and India remains very high. Cases will still be "preadjudicated" and held by Dept. of State under their "pending files" in order to be ready when visa numbers can be used for cases filed after May 1, 2010. ---ecf

    March 21, 2012

    EB-2 Retrogression on the Horizon

    U Turn arrow.jpgBad news for those watching in the China and India EB-2 preference category priority dates. It is reported on March 16 that the US Department of State will likely retrogress the EB-2 priority dates to around August 2007 in the May or June 2012 visa bulletin. The April 2012 visa bulletin priority dates for China and India are at May 1, 2010. All other countries are current.

    The reason given for the anticipated retrogression is that USDOS anticipates there will be no "spill down" from any unused EB-1 numbers, meaning all the allocated immigrant visa numbers for Fiscal Year 2012 will likely be used this year in the employment first preference category. This is also an important note for EB-1 applicants: if you are planning an employment first preference case, you might want to get that case in earlier than later. Call the business immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong to plan your employment cases now. ---ecf

    March 19, 2012

    PERM Processing Times

    forest for the trees2.jpgThe days of PERM processing within a week or two are long gone, but the business immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong, have seen a decrease in time for adjudications at US Dept of Labor.

    Although processing times still vary, we have recently seen certifications within 2 months of filing. The icert portal reports that analyst reviews are hovering around the submission date of November 2011. That's about 4 months from submission to getting an initial response.

    In the world of audits, Department of Labor reports that they are working on cases originally submitted around July 2011. As many had expected, supervised recruitment is still an issue. In a report summarizing PERM cases filed between October 1, 2011 to March 5, 2012, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) confirmed 26,100 active cases as of March 5 with only 4% of cases undergoing supervised recruitment. While it's still early in the fiscal year, we also know it takes time for a case to proceed from submission to audit, it was notable that a full 26% are in audit review. We may expect an increase in supervised recruitment requests.

    Understanding how to protect your PERM case from audit or denial is tricky. There are no guarantees with this system and it is fraught with risk. One must see the forest for the trees. There are very specific timeframes and requirements that have to be observed with precision, but your attorney must help you keep sight of the big picture, too. Many people contact me after a labor certification is approved but with a denied I-140 in hand. While you can always start over if you've extra time left on your current nonimmigrant status, it's a given that processing times are still significant. This makes it as important as ever to know that your labor certification application is in the hands of someone with experience, someone who can get the job done the first time. Call The Law Offices of J Craig Fong for a consultation to discuss your PERM case to get a real view of what you might be dealing with in PERM. ---ecf

    March 14, 2012

    April 2012 Visa Bulletin

    For you eager watchers of the USDOS Visa Bulletin, you know that the visa bulletin gets published about 2 weeks prior to the start of the new month. This month, we are seeing steady movement in the employment-based third preference. We are still working our way through the bulge of 2006. It has been excruciatingly slow, but those of you with 2006 priority dates are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and now is the time to call Law Offices of J Craig Fong to ensure that your documentation is updated and ready for adjustment or consular processing, at long last. If you have changed employers and are unsure of your status, or ported, perhaps travelled and entered on advanced parole or have been terminated from your job, we'll need to talk! ---ecf

    The family-based chart:
    april 2012 visa bull.png

    The employment-based chart:
    Employment visa bull april 2012.png


    March 13, 2012

    Preparing H-1B Petitions With Multiple Worksites

    Vector arrows.jpgH-1B news. April 1, is just around the corner. The so-called "H-1B season" is upon us with preparations in high gear for early filings. While I won't give predictions or insight into how long this quota will last, the important thing is to prepare your case well and do it as early as possible.

    This blog entry will focus on a 2010 H-1B USCIS memo that was updated on March 12, 2012 discussing "employer-employee" relationships. Simply put, this memo gives guidance on how to prove up cases involving independent contractors, self-employed beneficiaries, and beneficiaries placed at third-party worksites. Having represented a range of employers with H-1B workers who travel about for their jobs in technology, accounting and finance, and business consulting, the attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong know the challenges facing employers in initial H-1B petitions, updating LCA requirements, and keeping employees in status throughout their H-1B stay, wherever they may be performing services. Such employers must know that they have additional responsibilities in preparing itineraries and documenting prevailing wages in different geographic areas.

    If you or your employer have a non-traditional employment arrangement, such as one involving different worksites, contact the attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong for a free initial consultation. ---ecf

    March 1, 2012

    March 2012 Visa Bulletin

    The March 2012 Visa Bulletin has been published and we are seeing some movement.

    The family-based chart:
    Family Based March 2012 at 9.45.27 AM.png

    The employment-based chart:
    Employment based visa bull march 2012-03-14 at 9.46.10 AM.png

    For those of you who may be seeing the visa bulletins for the first time, or just need a refresher in how to actually read the charts, have a look at our June blog entry: Are we THERE yet? The Mysteries of the Visa Bulletin.

    I'll continue to post future visa bulletins here. Give us a call if you see your priority date nearing! ---ecf


    February 7, 2012

    H-4 Work Authorization and Other Reforms to Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Workers

    Magnet with Key.jpg
    Last week, Department of Homeland Security announced several proposed reforms to "attract and retain highly skilled workers." These reforms include employment authorization of certain H-4 spouses and other concrete incentives.

    DHS released a press release describing these administrative reforms, which would impact the benefits and the adjudications process in several different ways, ultimately benefiting employers, universities, scholars and workers (and their spouses):

  • Allowing H-4 dependent spouses to apply for EADs (employment authorization documents) if the principal H-1B spouse has extended their period of stay under AC 21 Section 104(c) or 106(c)
  • Expanding STEM OPT extensions to F-1s whose underlying or previous degrees were STEM related, even if their current course of study is not a STEM major
  • Expansion of the list of eligible STEM majors
  • Allowing F-1 spouses to engage in part-time studies other than vocational or recreational classes
  • Giving universities and colleges more flexibility to increase the number of DSOs or Designated Student Officers at universities and colleges to meet both the administrative and guidance needs of incoming students
  • Increase the type of evidence that Outstanding Professors and Researchers can provide in order to establish eligibility to include "comparable evidence"
  • Allow for the 240-day continued employment authorization of E-3s and H-1B1s upon timely extension, which is already the case for H-1s and L-1s

    At present, the proposed reform to allow EADs for H-4 dependent spouses is in rulemaking, though at a very early stage. We should be prepared to hear updates on the process of each of these administrative reforms, though we have been notified that changes will take time. It is still encouraging in that we have some concrete information on how such reform will impact the highly skilled workers and their spouses who are waiting in the priority date queues or just beginning to prepare for H-1Bs, labor certifications, national interest waivers, extraordinary ability workers and outstanding researcher or professor petitions, etc.

    If you are interested in learning more about these administrative reforms, be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates. If you have a case that you'd like for us to assess, call the business immigration law attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong. ---ecf

  • February 6, 2012

    Circuit Court to Announce Prop. 8 Decision on Tuesday

    Thumbnail image for rainbow_flag.gifThe issue of same-sex marriage is an important issue. The immigration law offices of J Craig Fong gets questions all the time at our offices in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, and throughout the nation from US citizens who wish to immigrate a same-sex spouse. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, California will release its decision regarding the constitutionality of Marriage Equality and Proposition 8 on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 at 10:00 a.m. (PST).

    at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong, we are counseling our clients that whether the decision is a positive one or not, couples should not submit I-130 Family Petitions and I-485 Applications for Adjustment of Status based on a same-sex marriage without first consulting with an immigration attorney experienced in working with non-traditional families. --jcf

    January 24, 2012

    No Reliability from Republican Candidates on Immigration Reform

    Question Mark.jpgThe 2012 Republican presidential candidates have done nothing to speak clearly about immigration law and reform. Instead of speaking in clear, grown-up terms about immigration policy, they are using volatile language, demonizing immigrants. This does not advance any discussion; it is just pandering and solves nothing. This cheap talk from the Republican field is causing concern, dismay, and even panic for some of the clients of the Law Offices of J Craig Fong, in our offices in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and elsewhere.

    In a recent article in the New York Times, candidate Mitt Romney has reportedly abandoned his usually anti-immigrant rhetoric. Why? Because he's campaigning in Florida, where over 22% of the population is of Hispanic origin! So, what is his true position? And can he be relied on to stick to it?

    Candidate Newt Gingrich is not much better, because although Gingrich has rightfully observed that the USA cannot simply deport all undocumented immigrants, he has proposed few concrete solutions.

    Both Romney and Gingrich have spoken in favor of one part of the so-called DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would allow young people who were brought to the USA, and who have gone to high school in the USA, to legalize their immigration status, PROVIDED (1) they perform military or other public service, or (2) they pursue post-high school education. Romney and Gingrich are saying that they would support part of the DREAM Act for those who would serve in the military -- but not for those who complete college. In other words, Romney and Gingrich would legalize those who would risk death in the name of the USA, but NOT for those who would go to college to improve the US workforce!

    As we move further into this election year, it is important to recognize that the Obama Administration has tried to get the cooperation of Congress on some types of immigration reform -- and Congress has refused. It is NOT a question of whether Obama should be doing more. It is MORE a question of whether Congress will cooperate on anything the Obama Administration would propose. And given that Congress cannot even agree on when to have LUNCH, I doubt they're going to agree on immigration reform.

    As the year wears on, we will try to discuss some possible immigration reforms -- reforms which will NOT create a new amnesty, NOT create a new program, but will create humane solutions. --jcf

    January 23, 2012

    Employment Based Visa Numbers the Outlook for Fiscal Year 2012

    2012 calendar.jpgFiscal year 2012 began on October 1, 2011 and as expected, we saw some movement in the visa bulletin. Here is a brief summary of what the US Visa Office reports seeing in terms of usage in the first 3 months of the FY 2012.

    Employment-based usage has been quite slow, but we can still expect to see some advances in the EB bulletin. There are still some EB-2 cases from 2007 in the USCIS pipeline, so we will probably see EB-2 hover around that date until cases are cleared out before forward movement is consistent.

    There has been a severe slowdown in the usage of EB-1 numbers, with some speculation that recent USCIS interpretation and clarification with regard to the standard for extraordinary ability cases has created a stricter standard and perhaps has dissuaded some applicants from filing cases.

    The immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong have been practicing employment-based immigration law for nearly than 50 years in total. While the early FY 2012 numbers reflect some slowdown in usage either due to a sluggish economy or stricter adjudications by USCIS, each case is fact-specific so if you have questions regarding an employment-based immigration case for yourself or someone you want to hire, give us a call for a free consultation. We can assess your situation in detail to help you chart a path through 2012! ---ecf

    January 15, 2012

    H-1B Petitions - How to Prepare for April 1 Filings

    Checlist list image.jpgIt's H-1B season again. The beginning of a new year and less than 3 months from the first date that USCIS will accept new H-1B petitions on April 1, 2012. It's time to prepare your H-1B.

    The immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong have been receiving many phone calls from potential H-1B employers and H-1B job seekers in preparation of filing H-1B petitions in April and early summer. Let's review some of the H-1B basics:

    • The job offer must be for a position which requires specialized knowledge in a certain field.
    • The employer must be ready to detail the job duties and have evidence ready in case of a Request for Evidence (RFE) if the USCIS questions whether the job requirements are an industry norm
    • The employer must be willing and able to pay the prevailing wage for the occupation
    • The employee must be able to show that he or she has status until October 1, 2012 or leave the US and apply for an H-1B visa abroad before re-entering

      Although these are the general requirements for an H-1B petition, this is enough for an experienced immigration attorney to begin assessing your case for strengths and weaknesses. The attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong are often consulted several times before an H-1B applicant and employer are ready to begin the process. If you have questions about your specific job offer or your qualifications for an H-1B, call the business immigration attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong for a free consultation. ---ecf