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EIG Dispatch | January 8, 2016

January 8, 2016

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Wage Increases in Ireland and Belgium
  • USCIS Online Tools Unavailable on January 10th
  • Certain Tourists Can Travel to Brazil Olympics without a Visa
  • UPDATE: DHS Proposed Rule Published

Wage Increases in Ireland and Belgium

On January 1, 2016, Ireland’s minimum wage increased from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour, which equates to a new annual minimum salary of €18,556 per year, effective immediately. Pursuant to this new law, the salaries of all foreign national employees in Ireland must meet the new annual minimum salary.

Also on January 1, 2016 in Belgium, the minimum annual salary for highly skilled foreign nationals applying for Type B work permits increased from €39,802 to €39,824. The minimal annual salary for Blue Card applicants also increased from €51,466 EUR to €51,494 EUR.

Employers in Ireland and Belgium should review the salaries of any current and future foreign national employees to ensure that all salary requirements are met according to these changes.


USCIS Online Tools Unavailable on January 10th

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) customer service will be temporarily unavailable this Sunday, January 10th, from 12 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. The outage is due to system maintenance. Several online tools will be down, including Check My Case Status, Change of Address Online, Civil Surgeon Locator, and Check Processing Time. Other services, such as e-Request, FOIA Status Check, Office Locator and Forms by Mail, will also be effected.


Certain Tourists Can Travel to Brazil Olympics without a Visa

In preparation for the Summer 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, Brazil has announced that nationals from the United States, Japan, Australia, and Canada can enter the country as tourists without having to first obtain a visa. This will allow easier travel for these nationals and help keep visa processing times down by lowering the volume of visa applications. The visa-free travel period will run from June 1, 2016 to September 18, 2016.


UPDATE: DHS Proposed Rule Published

As an update, a proposed rule was published December 31, 2015 by  the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The proposed rule confirms many practices already in place regarding retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 immigrant workers and proposes program improvements affecting highly-skilled nonimmigrant workers.

The proposed rule, if put into effect, would confirm the following practices:

  • Authorizes H-1B extension beyond six years because of the unavailability of visa numbers.
  • Allows the use of priority dates from previously filed EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 immigrant petitions for future petitions unless the original petition is denied or revoked because of misconduct or error.

The proposed rule includes the following modifications to current practices:

  • The definition of revocation would no longer include when an employer withdraws an immigrant petition or closes its business. This would allow an employee to continue using an approved EB-1, -2, or -3 immigrant petition to support their extension under these two circumstances if the petition has been approved for at least 180 days.
  • Applies the new definition of revocation (described above) to employees with pending AOS applications. However, withdrawal of the petition or termination of the business does terminate the bona fide offer of employment. Thus a new immigrant petition must be filed and approved or a new offer of employment (if the employee is changing employers) must be obtained.
  • Clarifies the definition of “employed at” for cap-exempt purposes. An employer must prove there is a “nexus between the work performed by the H-1B nonimmigrant worker and the essential purpose, mission, objectives or functions of the qualifying institution, organization, or entity.” The majority of work performed by the employee must be at the exempt location, and the duties must “directly and predominately” further the purpose of the organization.
  • Extends the 10-day grace period before and after validity, currently available to H-1B employees, to E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, and TN employees and corresponding dependents.
  • Adds a one-time (up to) 60-day grace period during the validity period of H-1B, H-1B1, E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, and TN petitions to enable employees whose employment has ended to change employers. The grace period also extends to corresponding dependents.
  • Allows those in H-1B, H-1B1, E-3, O-1, or L-1 status to apply for employment authorization for one year if: 1) they have an approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition, and 2) there is no visa number available and they can prove compelling circumstances that warrant the need for employment authorization. However, the applicant must terminate their nonimmigrant visa status and rely on the employment authorization alone. The applicant would be ineligible to adjust status.
  • Automatically extends employment authorization documents (EADs) that are expiring for up to 180 days if the employee timely files a renewal request, is seeking to renew under the same category, and has employment authorization that extends beyond the expiration date due to an underlying status or qualifies under a category that does not require an adjudication of an underlying petition. It also removes 90 day adjudication requirement for EADs and the issuance of interim EAD cards.