- Reminder: New USCIS Filing Fees to Become Effective on December 23, 2016
- Congress Extends Four U.S. Immigration Programs Through April 28, 2017
- Canada Eliminates the Four Year Rule for Temporary Foreign Workers
- Israel Clarifies Application of the Short-Term Employment Authorization (SEA) Permit
- Kazakhstan Expands Visa Waiver Program
Reminder: New USCIS Filing Fees to Become Effective on December 23, 2016
Effective Friday, December 23, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will increase filing fees for most immigration and naturalization applications in accordance with a new fee schedule which was published on October 24th, 2016 in the Federal Register. According to the new fee schedule, filing fees for immigration applications will increase by a weighted average of 21 percent. Immigration applications mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed with USCIS on or after December 23, 2016 must include the new filings fees, otherwise USCIS will reject the application. EIG would like to remind employers and impacted foreign nationals to budget for the new fees.
Congress Extends Four U.S. Immigration Programs Through April 28, 2017
On December 10, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 2028 (Pub. L. 114-254), a short-term spending bill to keep the federal government running through April 28, 2017. H.R. 2028 includes a continuing resolution that extends four key immigration programs without alteration through April 28, 2017. These programs were set to expire on December 9, 2016.
The immigration programs that are extended by the bill are:
- E-Verify. An electronic system which allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of employees by checking an employee’s Form I-9 data against data from U.S. government records.
- EB-5 Regional Center Program. This program allows foreign entrepreneurs to apply for U.S. permanent residency if they make substantial investments in commercial enterprises through regional centers in the United States.
- Conrad 30 Waiver Program. This program permits certain foreign physicians who have trained in the United States on J-1 visas to apply for a waiver of the two-year foreign residency requirement in exchange for providing medical care in a medically underserved area in the United States for at least three years.
- Non-Minister Special Immigrant Religious Workers Program. This program permits non-ministers in religious vocations or occupations to immigrate or adjust status in the United States.
Congress must approve a longer-term spending bill in order for these programs to be extended beyond April 28, 2017.
Notably, the continuing resolution did not authorize an extension of the H-2B Returning Worker Exemption. The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers Program allows foreign workers to temporarily enter the United States to perform non-agricultural work that is needed on a seasonal, intermittent, peak load, or one-time occurrence. There is an annual H-2B cap of 66,000 visas. The exemption had previously allowed foreign workers who had been in the United States in H-2B visa status in the previous three years to apply again for the visa without being subject to the annual H-2B quota.
Canada Eliminates the Four Year Rule for Temporary Foreign Workers
Effective immediately, the Canadian government has cancelled the four-year rule, a regulation that limited the amount of time a temporary foreign worker could work in Canada to 4 years.
As a result of the current announcement, foreign nationals that left Canada as a result of the four-year rule will be allowed to apply to return to Canada without having to wait the four years. Moreover, individuals who are reaching the four-year limit and who have an application for an extension to remain in Canada in process will be advised that the four-year rule no longer applies.
Israel Clarifies Application of the Short-Term Employment Authorization (SEA) Permit
The Israeli Ministry of Interior (MOI) recently re-emphasized that at any “productive” work done in Israel for less than 45 days will require a Short-Term Employment Authorization (SEA) permit prior to entry. By using this process, successful applicants will be able to obtain expedited work permit approvals that will allow them to enter Israel and work immediately, thus avoiding the standard consular B-1 visa process which can take up to 8 weeks to process. Once in Israel SEA permit holders are required to apply for the B-1 work visa through the MOI within 2 business days. Please note, that the SEA program applies to visa waiver nationals only.
In addition, business visitors who travel for meetings, negotiations, passive training, and other activities that are not productive, can continue to travel under a visitor visa.
Kazakhstan Extends Visa Waiver Program
Starting January 1, 2017, ten additional countries will be added to the list eligible for the Visa Waiver Program in Kazakhstan. Foreign nationals from a total 39 countries traveling to Kazakhstan will be able to enter, leave and transit without a visa.
In July 2014, Kazakhstan initiated a one-year pilot program that allowed visa waivers for a small number of countries to ease travel and increase investments. The government has now decided to expand the program and add additional countries to the visa-exempt list. To date, the visa waiver applies to nationals of the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
Foreign nationals of the countries listed above may travel with a valid passport and obtain entry at the border.