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EIG Dispatch – December 12, 2014

December 12, 2014

Highlights

  • Texas Governor Issues Executive Order Requiring E-Verify Participation by All Texas State Agencies
  • Union Brings Federal Suit to Challenge OPT for Foreign Students
  • Ireland Reports Delays in Obtaining Re-Entry Visas for Foreign Nationals and Amends Occupations Eligible for its Critical Skills Employment Permit
  • Minimum Wage Increases in Belgium for Certain Foreign Workers

Texas Governor Issues Executive Order Requiring E-Verify Participation by All Texas State Agencies

Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order, effective immediately, requiring the participation of all Texas state agencies and all businesses contracting with the state to use E-Verify to confirm the identity and work authorization of all employees.

This executive order pertains to all Texas state employees as well as contractors and subcontractors for the duration of the contract.  The Governor strongly encouraged that all other agencies and businesses not under his direction also participate in the E-Verify system for their current and future employees.  This executive order is expected to bring challenges as currently the E-Verify regulations prohibit the use of the system to verify the employment eligibility of individuals not yet hired by the employer. Furthermore, the regulations only allow employers subject to certain federal contracts to submit current employee information through the E-Verify system.

Union Brings Federal Suit to Challenge OPT for Foreign Students

Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech), a labor union representing U.S. workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, brought a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in federal court, challenging the agency’s authority to approve the OPT Program and its seventeen-month STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) extension.  While the court dismissed WashTech’s challenge to the OPT program, it has allowed WashTech’s claim against the 17-month STEM extension program to proceed.

WashTech’s arguments against the STEM extension to the OPT program are summarized as follows:

  • The government’s basis for justifying the 17-month STEM OPT extension was flawed because there was no shortage of STEM workers in the U.S.; and
  • DHS did not fulfill the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act in enacting the STEM extension in 2008, nor when expanding the eligible categories in 2012.

The court has allowed WashTech’s lawsuit to move forward, finding that WashTech successfully established that its members were harmed by the regulation due to increased competition for STEM employment following the creation of the 17-month OPT extension program in 2008.  As it stands, if the court rules in favor of WashTech, making 17-month OPT extension unlawful, work under the extension program could be affected.  Additionally, a ruling in favor of WashTech could affect the OPT expansion plans proposed in the Immigration Accountability Executive Action, announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014.

Ireland Reports Delays in Obtaining Re-Entry Visas for Foreign Nationals and Amends Occupations Eligible for its Critical Skills Employment Permit

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) is reporting high demand for re-entry visas as foreign nationals prepare to travel over the winter holidays.  Hundreds of people have lined up at the Garda National Immigration Bureau office in Dublin to obtain re-entry visas, some even waiting in line overnight.  Re-entry visas are required for any foreign national who has not yet attained Irish residency.  Immigration officials have promised the integration of an online appointment scheduling system in 2015.  The visa office urges those planning to travel after the 2014 holiday season to refrain from joining the line in order to avoid additional delays.

In addition, Ireland’s Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation (DJEI) has amended the official list of occupations eligible for the Critical Skills Employment Permit.  The most notable change is DJEI’s addition of a language requirement to the Sales, Marketing, and Related Associate Professionals category.  This category is now defined as “business sales executives specialising in International Sales Roles or ITB2B sales roles and with fluency in the official language, apart from English, of a state which is not a Member State of the European Economic Area (EEA)”. Sales executives who are fluent only in English or an official language of an EEA member state are now ineligible for Ireland’s Critical Skills Employment Permit.

Minimum Wage Increases in Belgium for Certain Foreign Workers

Beginning January 1, 2015, minimum wages for foreign workers in Belgium will increase to account for inflation. The changes are as follows:

  • The minimum wage requirement for Type B work permits will increase from €39,422 to €39,802, roughly a $470 USD equivalent increase at the current exchange rate. Type B work permits are available for high-skilled workers, tied to one employer, and valid for one year;
  • The minimum wage requirement for senior management and executives holding Type B work permits will increase from €65,771 to €66,405; and
  • The minimum wage requirement for certain Blue Card holders will increase from €50,974 to €51,466, depending on the region of Belgium in which the foreign worker is employed.