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EIG Dispatch | July 17, 2015

July 17, 2015

HIGHLIGHTS

  • USCIS Resumes Premium Processing of H-1B Extensions
  • USCIS Returns Unselected Fiscal Year 2016 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions
  • I-9 and Immigration Violations Resulted in a Fine over $600K
  • Additional Documentation Required at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco
  • New Restrictions on UK Student Visas Announced

USCIS Resumes Processing of H-1B Extensions

As previously reported, USCIS has resumed acceptance of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for H-1B extension petitions as of July 13, 2015. USCIS is ahead of schedule, as premium processing service was originally temporarily suspended until July 27, 2015. USCIS initially implemented the temporary suspension in order to process H-4 EAD applications in a timely manner following the new regulation permitting certain H-4 visa holders to apply for work authorization.


USCIS Returns Unselected Fiscal Year 2016 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions

On Tuesday USCIS announced it has finished processing the returns of H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in this year’s computer-generated lottery. USCIS received approximately 233,000 petitions during the FY 2016 H-1B filing period, which began on April 1, 2015. USCIS completed the lottery in April and subsequently began returning petitions that were not selected. All returned petitions are expected to be received within the next week.


I-9 and Immigration Violations Resulted in a Fine over $600K

On Wednesday July 8, 2015, Hartmann Studios Inc., a California event production company, was ordered to pay over $600,000 for 808 violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This was a result of a complaint filed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) alleging that Hartman had violated 818 rules of the INA after an I-9 inspection conducted in 2011. In its complaint, ICE sought $813,000 in penalties.

Some of the allegations mentioned Hartmann’s failure to prepare or present I-9 Forms to certain workers; failure to timely prepare other workers’ Forms; and failure to ensure that employees completed all the appropriate sections of the Forms. Further court documents stated that Hartmann had neglected to complete Section 2 of the I-9 Forms for individuals with an I-797 and Section 3 for handful of other employees.

The Administrative Judge with the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) adjusted ICE proposed baseline fine of $935 for each violation to $700, stating that Hartmann’s violations were not egregious. The judge added an additional $200 fine for each of the 205 unauthorized workers.

The OCAHO emphasized that “A penalty cannot be set so low that the employer can comfortably pay it simply as a cost of doing business”. The purpose of the penalty should be to motivate a change in behavior.

Please contact EIG if you’d like more information regarding our I-9 compliance services, such as internal auditing and training.


Additional Documentation Required at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco

Starting this week, the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, CA will require additional documentation from U.S. nationals applying for a business visa at the Indian Consulate. The new documents required include: 6 months of personal bank statements, hotel and flight itineraries, and an additional letter of support from their US employer, which must state the exact nature of the traveler’s purpose in India and list the name and company address of the individual who signed the additional support letter.

At this time, this process is only being implemented at the San Francisco, CA location however implementation of these additional documentary requirements may also occur at other Indian Consulates throughout the U.S. For the most current procedures and guidelines visit the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, CA website and FAQs.


New Restrictions on UK Student Visas Announced

As part of the UK’s recent efforts to curtail immigration and battle visa fraud, the immigration minister announced that non-EU students at publicly-funded colleges are no longer permitted to work 10 hours per week. This restriction already exists at privately-funded colleges due to the concern of “bogus” colleges that are used not to educate foreign students but to give them backdoor access to the UK economy. The extension of the work restriction to publicly-funded colleges, which foreign students often attend before going on to UK universities, will take effect on August 3, 2015.

The new restrictions will also reduce the time a student visa can be valid for from three to two years and require students to return to their home countries to extend their student visas or change to a work visa. This change does not affect university students who are already allowed to work 20 hours a week during school and full-time during holidays as this restriction is only aimed at college students. There is concern that this new restriction will reduce the number of students going to UK schools, and limit the number of foreign students going to UK universities.