EIG Dispatch | August 1, 2017

USCIS News: Mobile-Friendly Form to Replace Green Card / Biometric Policy Update for Naturalization Applicants

DC Insights: John Kelly Named Chief of Staff / Funding for US-Mexico Border Wall Introduced in Spending Bill

Headlines: New Requirements for India Visa Applicants from South Africa

Feature Story: DOS, USCIS, and DOL Employment-Based Immigration Initiatives

The Latest in USCIS News

USCIS Introduces Mobile-Friendly I-90 Filing. USCIS has redesigned the online version of Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, and introduced a mobile solution to allow permanent residents to file their I-90 applications and supporting evidence directly from their mobile device.  The new mobile Form is designed for permanent residents who wish to complete the process on their own.  Other ways of filing Form I-90 remain available. For more information, including requirements to use the mobile form, please see here.

Policy Update: Naturalization Applicants Must Provide Biometrics Regardless of Age. On July 26, 2017, USCIS announced that all naturalization applicants must now provide biometrics regardless of age. The previous policy exempted applicants 75 or older because of difficulties in capturing a readable fingerprint from individuals in this age group. According to USCIS, improved technology now allows them to capture fingerprints for applicants of all ages.  USCIS will continue to make special arrangements for individuals with disabilities, or those applicants that are homebound or hospitalized.

DC Insights: What We Learned in the Past 7 Days

John Kelly’s Move to Chief of Staff and the Implications for Immigration. Last Friday, President Trump announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, John Kelly, would replace Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff. This move has raised questions as to whether his approach to immigration policy as Chief of Staff would similarly reflect his tenure at DHS. At DHS, Kelly called for the revival of the 286(g) program, which grants local and state police officer the acting power of immigration agents. In February, DHS began pursuing policy that emphasized the removal of all undocumented immigrants, in contrast to the Obama-era policy that prioritized the deportation of those convicted of serious crimes. DHS under Kelly also formally ended DAPA, and in last month’s memo proposed expanding the scope and use of expedited removal. As the new Chief of Staff, no official announcements have been released on John Kelly’s intended approach to immigration. The President has not yet nominated anyone to replace Mr. Kelly as head of DHS.

House Decides to Introduce Funding for Border Wall into Government Spending Bill. On Thursday, The House leaders opted to add the $1.6 billion funding for the US – Mexico Border Wall to a government spending bill that provides funding for defense programs. The House looks to increase chances of a successful vote by incorporating wall funding in the government spending package for defense programs rather than proposing a standalone vote on wall funding. The spending bill has passed the House and is waiting for Senate Review.

Headlines: Immigration News from Around the World

New Biometric Requirements for all India Visa Applicants from South Africa. On July 17, 2017, the High Commission of India in Pretoria, South Africa, announced that all visa applicants in any category will be required to submit fingerprints and facial image scans at the time of the visa appointment. Those traveling on Electronic Tourist Visas will be required to submit biometric information upon landing at certain Indian airports. For more information, please see here.

Feature Story: Insight into the Department of State, USCIS, and the Department of Labor on Employment-Based Immigration Initiatives

In July, EIG attorneys attended an Employment Visa Engagement event hosted by USCIS. At the event, representatives from USCIS, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of State (DOS) spoke about current employment-based immigration initiatives.

DOS – Visa Bulletin Predictions
The head of the office responsible for the Visa Bulletin, Charles Oppenheim from the U.S. Department of State Visa Control and Reporting Division, made several notable predictions for the coming months:

  • EB-1 China and EB-1 India priority dates will likely be back to current in October 2017
  • EB-3 India will likely advance in September

Mr. Oppenheim also noted that setting the visa bulletin’s final action dates is a complex process that involves disparate data from various sources including consular posts, USCIS offices, and the National Visa center. He also needs to adjust for budgets and resources available to different offices, as this affects how quickly cases are processed and available visa numbers are used.

USCIS – Beginning H-1B Targeted Site Visits to Combat Fraud
In April, USCIS announced it would be replacing its random site visits with more targeted site visits. At the engagement, USCIS clarified several key features of this new fraud detection program:

  • Focus is on H-1B dependent employers and employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site, not individual beneficiaries.
  • Situations which may trigger targeted site visits include:
    • Employers who fail to pay beneficiaries the certified LCA wage
    • Beneficiaries who are not performing the duties listed on their petition
    • Beneficiaries with fewer qualifications than U.S. workers in the same or similar roles
    • Beneficiaries who are not working at the site listed on the LCA
  • USCIS may show up unannounced. However, the USCIS officer must show a valid ID upon arrival, should notify the employer as to whether the visit is a targeted fraud abuse visit or a random administrative visit, and the employer has the right to refuse the visit at that time.

DOL – Highlighting Best Practices for H-1B Employers
In response to recent allegations of H-1B abuses and displacement of U.S. workers, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) clarified their role in combatting H-1B fraud, clarifying that they have authority to investigate businesses in a limited set of circumstances, usually triggered by a complaint. The best way to avoid a DOL investigation is to strictly adhere to all DOL requirements including:

  • Posting LCAs,
  • Paying the required wages, and
  • Not requiring employees to pay the H-1B filing fees