US Headlines: USCIS Expands Acceptance of Credit Card Payments / High-Skilled Visa Reform Proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch
Global Headlines: e-FRRO Introduced for Foreign Nationals in India / Israel Expands B-2 Visa Program for Indian Business Travelers / Israel Introduces Changes to Visa Process for Hi-Tech Employees and their Spouses
Feature Story: Basics of Marriage-Based Green Card Process
USCIS Expands Acceptance of Credit Card Payments. On February 14, 2018, USCIS announced that it will accept credit card payments (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover) for 41 additional forms, including the I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status, and I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Foreign nationals using credit cards will be required to submit Form G-1450 to authorize USCIS to make the appropriate charges.
High-Skilled Visa Reform Proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch. On February 14, 2018, Senator Orrin Hatch introduced proposals to the high-skilled immigration visa process. The proposed amendments aim to make it easier for foreign workers to receive work visas by:
- Allowing individuals with US Master’s degrees to apply for H-1Bs free of the annual cap.
- Eliminating the country-specific cap on employment green cards.
- Giving employment authorization to spouses of H-1B holders.
The amendments also aim to reduce abuse of the H-1B program by penalizing companies that do not start employing an H-1B worker over a period of three months after obtaining an approval notice. This is not the first time these types of reforms have been proposed. EIG will monitor and inform as policy changes develop.
Aisha Farooq, Legal Writer
e-FRRO Introduced for Foreign Nationals in India. On February 12, 2018, the Indian Bureau of Immigration (BOI) introduced an online system for foreign nationals staying in the areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore for over 180 days. The electronic registration for the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (e-FRRO) now requires qualifying foreign nationals to register and apply for various visas and immigration services such as Registration, Visa Extension, Visa Conversion, Exit Permit, etc., without physically reporting to an FRRO office.
Users of the system must create an online account to submit applications and receive the necessary immigration documents via mail as well as updates regarding their pending application(s). Emergency applications for expedited processing may be submitted directly to an FRRO office for discretionary review & approval.
Israel expands B-2 Visa Program for Indian Business Travelers. Effective immediately, Israeli Consulates in India may issue, at their discretion, long-term B-2 visitor and multiple entry visas for Indian business people for a period of up to five (5) years, with up to a 90-day maximum period of stay for each trip. The new regulation aims to encourage and develop business relations between India and Israel—specifically, Indian companies and their employees seeking to expand business operations in Israel. Qualified candidates are “participating in business meetings, engaging in negotiations, investing in local businesses, attending conferences and/or conducting market research.” However, individuals performing mostly standard occupational functions during the standard course of employment are not eligible for this visa benefit.
Applications should apply at an Israeli Consulate located in New Delhi, Mumbai, or Bangalore. The sponsoring company must be registered in the Indian Company Registry and active for at least 6 months before applying for the visitor’s visa.
Israel Introduces Changes to Visa process for Hi-Tech Employees and their Spouses. The Israeli Ministry of Interior created a new expedited application process for foreign nationals working for Israeli registered companies operating in certain technology fields. To qualify as “Hi-Tech,” companies must be registered in Israel and have received at least one of the following from the Innovation Authorities within 3 years prior to the visa application:
- Monetary assistance,
- Tax exemption, or,
- Approval for public listing on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange as a Research and Development Company.
If the company does not meet the above criteria, the Innovation Authority may still allow eligibility if the company focuses on certain research & development, manufacturing or computer programming related fields/industries.
Changes include expedited processing for the new B-1 Hi-Tech Visa (HIT Visa), employment authorization for spouses (EAS Visa), and employment of Israeli academic institution graduates.
Highlights of the 1-year HIT Visa
- One year initial validity with extensions available for up to five years and three months.
- Can only be utilized by foreign workers in a visa waiver program.
- Workers apply via an online application.
- Processing times are about 6 days and the B-1 work visa must be processed in the passport within 2 work days of the employee’s entry to Israel at the Ministry of Interior.
- Prevailing wage requirement will continue to be twice the average Israeli salary, estimated at approximately NIS 19,604 / month.
Highlights of Employment Authorization for Spouse (EAS B-1)
- The new process is applicable to spouses of HIT visa applicants who anticipate working in Israel for over 90 days.
- The High Tech Company can request the employment authorization for the spouse, which will allow the spouse to work for any employer in Israel.
- No prevailing wage requirement.
- Visa application can be made at the Ministry of Interior and requires the applicant and spouse to be physically present.
Cheryl Gardner, Attorney
Feature Story: Basics of Marriage-Based Green Card Process
A foreign national living in the United States can pursue the marriage-based green card process if married to a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
The first step in applying for a marriage-based green card is for the US Citizen or LPR to file the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on behalf of the foreign national spouse. Form I-130 demonstrates that a valid relationship exists between the foreign national (beneficiary) and the US citizen or LPR spouse (petitioner). Approval of the Form I-130 acknowledges that a bona fide marriage exists between the beneficiary and petitioner.
If the foreign national is married to a US citizen, the Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status may be filed concurrently with the Form I-130. This is because there are no numerical limits on immediate relatives of US citizens to obtain a green card.
Marriage Between Foreign National and LPR
On the other hand, if the foreign national is married to an LPR:
- Form I-485 may not be filed concurrently with the Form I-130.
- The foreign national must wait to file the Form I-485 until a visa becomes available.
- A visa becomes available when the foreign national’s priority date (i.e., the date the Form I-130 is filed with USCIS) is current.
When establishing the priority date, the foreign national should look at the current month’s visa bulletin for the F2A preference category in the Dates for Filing Chart for family-sponsored filings. Only applicants with a priority date earlier than the listed date for the F2A preference category may file their Form I-485.
Evidence Needed to Establish Bona Fide Marriage
To establish that a bona fide marriage exists between the beneficiary and petitioner, EIG recommends the following evidence (if available) be provided with the Form I-130:
- Marriage certificate
- Lease agreement or deed in both spouses’ names
- Joint bank statements (checking and/or savings accounts)
- Utility bills (e.g., gas, electric, cable) that lists both spouses’ names
- Evidence that one spouse has made the other a beneficiary on his/her life or health insurance
- Auto registration that shows joint ownership
- Joint income tax returns
- Wills, trusts, or power of attorney, naming both spouses
- Photographs of the couple, especially at the wedding with family, as well as trips taken together before the marriage, during the wedding, and after the wedding
- Letters and messages between the couple before the marriage
- Birth certificates of the children (if any)
Conditional Permanent Residence
If the couple has been married for less than two years when the foreign national’s Form I-485 is approved, a conditional permanent residence card will be issued and valid for two years.
- A conditional resident has the same rights as a permanent resident, including the rights to travel in and out of the United States and accept employment without separately applying for work authorization.
- Conditional residency expires after two years. Within 90 days before the conditional green card expiration date, the couple must jointly file the Form I-751 to apply to remove the conditions of residence. Evidence needs to be included with Form I-751 that the marriage still exists and that the couple is genuinely establishing a life together.
Even if the marriage has ended after the foreign national has received the conditional green card, there are certain exceptions available that may allow him/her to still remove the conditions of residence and become a permanent legal resident.
Melissa Saldivar, Attorney
Stephanie Cohen, Jeff DeCruz, Aisha Farooq, and Theresa Meehan