EIG Dispatch | October 10, 2017

Global Headlines: Turkey Suspends All Non-Immigrant Visa Services for U.S. Citizens/ U.K. Expands its Registered Traveler Service/ Visa-Free Travel to Taiwan for Qualified Nationals of Southeast Asia/ CETA to Benefit Short Term Business Visitors and Temporary Foreign Workers

US Headlines: Lee Cisna Confirmed as USCIS Director/ Trump Administration Sued for DACA Decision/ Trump’s Immigration Reform Agenda to Congress

Feature Story: Dispelling Myths about the J-1 Program

Global Headlines:

Turkey Suspends All Non-Immigrant Visa Services to U.S. Citizens. Over the weekend, the US Embassy in Turkey announced it would be halting the processing of non-immigrant visas in Turkey, explaining that the U.S. Government needs to “assess the commitment” of the Turkish Government “to the security of our diplomatic facilities and personnel.” Previously issued U.S. visa stamps for Turkish citizens will remain valid.

In response, using nearly identical language, Turkey announced it would suspend all non-immigrant visa services for U.S. citizens, including applications for visa stamps, e-visas, and border visas. It is unclear at this moment if the Turkish government will revoke existing visas. U.S. citizens with travel plans to Turkey should postpone their trips until further information is made available.

United Kingdom Expands its Registered Traveller Service. Effective October 5, 2017, the United Kingdom (U.K.) expanded its Registered Traveller service to 15 new countries. A total of 40 countries, including the United States, Australia, and Canada, can now benefit from this service. The expanded service also now allows children, aged 0 to 17, to become members, thereby allowing families to travel together more easily. Similar to the U.S. Global Entry program, the Registered Traveller service allows approved frequent visitors a quicker and easier way to enter the U.K. through ePassport gates or the U.K./E.U. passport lane.

Visa-Free Travel to Taiwan for Qualified Nationals of Southeast Asia. Nationals of the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos may now apply for free Travel Authorization Certification (TAC) if they intend to visit Taiwan for tourism or a short visit. To be eligible, the applicant must meet several requirements. Applications for a TAC can be completed online.

CETA to Benefit Short-Term Business Visitors and Temporary Foreign. On September 21, 2017, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a trade agreement between Canada and the EU, came into provisional effect (CETA will take full effect once all EU member states ratify it). Under this new agreement, EU business visitors may enter Canada for up to 90 days out of a 180 day period, and EU contractors in several fields may obtain LMIA exempt work authorization for up to 12 months. CETA does not impact long-term work permits, permanent migration or citizenship.

US Headlines

UPDATE: The Senate Confirms Lee Cissna as USCIS Director. On Thursday, October 5, 2017, the Senate confirmed Lee Francis Cissna to be the new Director of USCIS. Notably, in his confirmation hearing, Mr. Cissna pledged to implement President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and extensively review the Service’s internal procedures.

Opposition Grows in Response to DACA Repeal.   As of Thursday, October 5, a total of fifteen states and Washington D.C. have joined to sue the Trump administration in federal court over its decision to rescind DACA. The suit contends that the President’s decision is unconstitutional, and its sudden cancellation subjects DACA recipients to arbitrary punishment. The latest revision has requested federal immigration authorities to be barred from using personal information from DACA applications to justify deportations.

President Trump’s Immigration Reform Agenda to Congress.  On Sunday, the Trump administration proposed to Congress an immigration reform agenda focused on border security, interior enforcement, and curtailing legal immigration. Many of the reforms outlined in the proposal are ideas that Trump called for throughout his presidential campaign, including building a border wall and cracking down on illegal immigration. In the agenda, the administration also proposed harsher penalties for individuals who attempt to re-enter the U.S. after being deported. Focusing on interior enforcement, President Trump requested hiring an additional 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operation agency. Additionally, Trump requested that the current legal immigration system is changed into a merit-based system, weighing skill sets of candidates to favor those who meet industry needs.

Feature Story: Dispelling Myths about the J-1 Program

In pursuing its goal of restricting immigration, the Trump administration is reportedly seeking to reduce or eliminate parts of the J-1 nonimmigrant visa program. The administration has not taken any concrete steps to change the J-1 program yet, but as we expect changes in the coming months, we want to dispel myths and ensure you’re prepared.

What is the J-1 Program? The J-1 program is primarily an exchange program. It was created as a diplomatic tool to provide young foreign nationals training and/or educational opportunities in the U.S. that they can then share with their home countries. Within the J-1 program, there are several different categories, including categories for scholars and researchers, doctors, interns, trainees, students, au pairs, summer camp counselors, teachers, and summer work travel.

What are the requirements of the J-1 Program? All applicants must meet the specific eligibility and English language requirements, in addition to being sponsored by either a university, private sector or government program. The specific duration and eligibility requirements vary by category. In addition to the eligibility requirements, many J-1 visas are subject to a two-year home residency requirement, which ensures that, with some exceptions, the visitors return to their home countries to share the skills they have gained.

How many J-1 exchange visitors come to the US each year?  According to the Department of State, the J-1 program admits approximately 300,000 foreign visitors from 200 countries per year. (85% of the participants are 30 years old or younger, and 55% are women or girls.)

What are the most popular J-1 categories? The SWT (Summer Work Program) program  allows foreign students an opportunity to live and work in the U.S. during their summer vacation to work in seasonal, temporary jobs in the U.S. Several seasonal industries such as the resort and hospitality industries, rely on J-1 SWT employees. The Au Pair program allows foreign graduates to live with a host family in the U.S. to attend schooling and provide childcare for the host family. The Au Pair provides childcare to the host family and may also take courses at an accredited college or university.

What changes are expected to the J-1 program? The administration has announced plans to review several categories, with the Summer Work Travel and Au Pair programs facing the most scrutiny. These programs could be reduced or eliminated. The administration is not seeking to reduce or eliminate the educational categories of the J-1 program.

Why is the administration targeting these categories? In furtherance of the Buy American, Hire American, the administration is looking to cut these specific programs as it claims that they bring in cheaper, foreign workers that are reducing jobs for Americans and driving down wages.

What has changed already? Nothing, so far. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.