Visas

Problems with E-Verify Continue

By Peek & Toland on January 17, 2019

The purpose of the E-Verify Program is to identify and prevent unauthorized workers from gaining employment in the U.S. While E-Verify is current a voluntary program for employers to use, it may become mandatory as part of a larger immigration reform movement.

In order to use this program, employers use an Internet-based application to check with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and verify that prospective employees are legally eligible to work. The federal government already utilizes the program, as do some states as part of state government hiring procedures.

 

Problems with E-Verify Continue

One of the most common mistakes with E-Verify is incorrect data. If using E-Verify incorrectly designates a person as ineligible to work, he or she may lose out on employment opportunities. This is the case because if a employee receives notice of ineligibility to work, then he or she only has eight working days within which to contact the federal government and try to sort out the problem. If he or she fails to meet this deadline, then DHS issues a final non-confirmation notice and the employer must fire the employee.

Unfortunately, these errors are not unusual. As recently as federal fiscal year 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported that about one in every 400 verifications was erroneous and later reversed after an appeal by the worker. Plus, those numbers include only those workers who took steps to contest the notices of ineligibility. It is estimated that about one percent of applicants, or 1.3 million people, did not contest the E-Verify findings.

Furthermore, correcting these errors often takes a great deal of time and money. Individuals must navigate the huge bureaucracies of the Social Security Administration and/or DHS in an attempt to have even simple errors resolved, such as typographical errors.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain the visa that you need, based on your situation. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

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Immigration Application Mistakes to Avoid

By Peek & Toland on January 16, 2019

While it always has been wise to avoid mistakes on your immigration application, if for no other reason than to save time in processing, it has never been more important that it is now, due to some recent policy shifts by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). From now on, failing to include a required document or some other information in your application packet could result in an automatic denial of your application, with no recourse but to reapply. Plus, in some situations, this denial notice could immediately trigger deportation proceedings.

This past summer, USCIS announced that it would deny any immigration application that lacks a required document. Under this policy, USCIS will simply issue a denial of any such application without notice to the applicant or giving the applicant a chance to correct the deficiency. This will require individuals to completely resubmit their completed applications and pay the filing fee again in order to have USCIS consider their applications. Previously, USCIS remedied errors in applications by issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) to obtain any missing documentation or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), which is a notice that sets forth the errors in the application. It was only if there was no possibility that USCIS would approve the application that it would issue a denial notice.

Additionally, if the denial of the application results in immigrants being present in the U.S. with no lawful immigration status, USCIS may immediately place them in deportation proceedings. This is a lengthy and expensive process with serious consequences, including detention and deportation.

Immigration Application Mistakes to Avoid

As a result of these policy changes, it is essential that applicants, regardless of the type of applications they are submitting, take the time to review their applications and ensure that all required documents are included. Some of the more common mistakes seen on immigration applications include:

·         Failing to disclose criminal history

·         Failing to include the application fee, or including the wrong amount

·         Forgetting to sign the application

·         Putting incorrect names on the application

·         Filing the wrong application form

·         Not being completely truthful on the application

All of these mistakes could lead to a summary denial of your application, and in certain situations, could place you in deportation proceedings. Given these consequences, it is worth taking additional time to remedy any mistakes and ensure that you have included all required documents prior to submitting your application.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to helping both individuals and businesses resolve their immigration-related issues. Immigration law is a complex, ever-changing area of the law that necessitates legal advice from experienced immigration lawyers who keep up-to-date with all relevant changes in law and policy. We will work with you to achieve the most positive outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

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Should I Apply for a Fiance(e) or Spousal Visa?

By Peek & Toland on January 15, 2019

You can acquire citizenship for an individual through marriage either by using a fiancé(e) visa or a spousal visa, depending on which program is right for you. Although both types of visas require a showing of a bona fide relationship, there are pros and cons to both visas. As a result, you should take some time to educate yourself about those options prior to deciding which visa to pursue.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can use the K-1 visa to bring a fiancé(e) to the U.S. with the intent to marry and live with him or her. The K-1 visa allows the fiancé(e) to travel to the U.S. and marry the U.S. citizen within a 90-day window. This tends to be quicker than obtaining a spousal visa, since it typically only takes about six to seven months to obtain the K-1 visa and then another ten to 11 months for the newly married spouse to become a conditional permanent resident. However, the cost to obtain a K-1 visa is significantly higher than that to obtain a spousal visa.

 

                                       Should I Apply for a Fiance(e) or Spousal Visa?

There are some requirements that you must meet in order to obtain a fiancé(e) visa. Typically, you must have seen your fiancé(e) in person within the last two years prior to seeking a fiancé(e) visa, although this requirement may be waived in cases of extreme hardship or religious practices.  Both of you must be single and eligible for marriage. If either of you have previously been married, you must provide proof of your divorce or a death certificate for your former spouse. The U.S. citizen must have income that is at least 100% of the federal poverty guidelines, and in order to later apply for a green card for the spouse, the U.S. citizen must have income that is at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines.

If you are a U.S. citizen who already married an immigrant outside of the U.S., and you now wish to bring your spouse to the U.S., you may be able to do so by filing the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This process allows you to sponsor your spouse for a green card. It is cheaper to obtain a spousal visa than a fiancé(e) visa, but the process is lengthier. It often takes ten to 13 months or longer to get a spousal visa.

When you or a loved one is facing an immigration law dilemma, you need legal advice and counsel from experienced Texas immigration attorneys. At Peek & Toland, we are here to help you with your immigration case. We will devote all our efforts to representing your interests, answering your questions, and calming your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact Peek & Toland and schedule a time to meet with us today. We can help protect your rights and get you the relief that you need.

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Changes to Health Examinations for Legal Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on December 23, 2018

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has implemented some changes to the health examination process for legal immigrants. This exam is required as evidence that an immigrant is not inadmissible to the country due to some health-related condition.

First, as of October 1, 2018, USCIS will no longer accept the tuberculin skin test (TST) as part of the required I-693 Form Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. Now, all applicants who are age two and older will be required to undergo a TB blood test or the initial TB screening method. USCIS cautions that this new requirement will result in an increase in the price of the medical exam and a processing time of four to five business days, as opposed two days.

 

Changes to Health Examinations for Legal Immigrants

Next, effective November 1, 2018, a completed Form I-693 will remain valid for a maximum period of two years from the date of the civil surgeon’s signature on the form, as long as the surgeon signs the form 60 days before the date on which the applicant files his or her application for an immigration benefit with USCIS. Prior to this date, Form I-693 only was valid for one year, which resulted in applicants sometimes having to obtain another medical exam due to long wait times for the processing of their applications. In particular, long wait times for adjustment of status applications have caused the expiration of medical exams in many cases. The hope is that the change will eliminate the time and money necessary to obtain an additional exam. Nonetheless, the USCIS examiner still have the discretion to request updated medical information from applicants as needed.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have the experience and knowledge that are necessary to represent your interests when you are dealing with an immigration law issue. We are here to gather the necessary information on your behalf and develop the best strategy for achieving your goals. Take the first step by contacting us today and learning what we can do to help.

Posted in Visas

Proposed Changes to the H-1B Legal Landscape are Coming. Are You Ready?

By Peek & Toland on December 18, 2018

H-1B Cap season is quickly approaching; the visas are capped at 85,000 issued per year (65,000 initially allocated and 20,000 cap exempt advanced degree numbers). The Department of Homeland Security has proposed rule changes that may affect you.

In 2017 the Trump Administration issued the “Buy American Hire American” executive order, which greatly changed the immigration landscape. As a result, employment-based immigration processes have encountered increased scrutiny. For example, one section of the order instructed The Department of Homeland Security to, “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest paid petition beneficiaries.” The recently proposed order strives to do that.

The proposed change comes in two parts:

  • An online registration system would be put into place. H-1B Petitioners would create an online account prior to filing the petitions and only those selected accounts would submit petitions to USCIS.
  • The “cap” process would be reversed. In an attempt to increase the number of advanced applicants, all applicants (including those marked as “Masters Cap Exempt”) would compete for the initial 65,000 H-1B’s. Once all initial numbers are used, then the remaining advanced degree holders would compete for the remaining 20,000 slots.

The first change would require petitioning companies and applicants to provide basic information (i.e. employer name, address, EIN, etc. as well as beneficiary name, country of citizenship, degree held, etc.). It would also require employers to confirm their intent to file an H-1B application for that specific beneficiary. A separate registration would need to be filed for each beneficiary. Government spokespersons have said this would save companies money by ensuring they did not have to pay filing fees until the petition was selected. The secondary change, per USCIS Spokesman Michael Bars, “would help ensure more of the best and brightest workers from around the world come to America under the H-1B program”.

The proposed order is similar to a hotly contested proposed order under the Obama Administration. In 2011 when this similar order was considered the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) responded to The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services raising their concerns. The general concerns of the association, consisting of over 11,000 immigration attorneys, were:

  • The registration system would create a rush of registrations, creating a false H-1B Demand;
  • The Cost to Benefit assessment was flawed; and
  • This would add an unnecessary layer to an already complicated process.

The government has posted the currently proposed changes on the Federal Register, and is taking comments until January 2, 2019. USCIS has informed the public that they would like to enact this change prior to the FY2020 H-1B Cap season, beginning April 1, 2019.

What does this mean for you as an employer?

While it is unlikely that these changes will be enacted in 2019 due to regulatory requirements, H-1B visas will still be limited to 85,000 and employers will need to be prepared to file as early as possible.

Peek Toland & Castañeda has a strong team of immigration attorneys, including Partner Jeff Peek and Senior Corporate Immigration Attorney, Maria Pilar Llusá. With over seventeen (17) years of Employment Immigration experience, they are prepared to tackle any issues your company may have with regards to their immigration needs.

Looking for legal help for your H-1B applications?

To help employers get a jump start and be prepared for a successful cap season, our firm will be offering free 30 minute consults to companies with new H-1B cap season needs starting January 3, 2019.

It is important you be prepared and informed of the requirements for the H-1B Cap season. Please contact our offices to schedule your consult today. We look forward to working with you and serving all your immigration needs.

Posted in Citizenship, Immigration, Immigration Reform, Visas

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F-1 Visa Students with Pending H-1B Petitions Risk Accruing Unlawful Presence

By Peek & Toland on December 7, 2018

Thousands of recently international student graduates are likely to lose their jobs with the American companies who have hired them due to delays in processing their H-1B visa petitions. Although they can remain in the U.S. while their visa petitions are pending, they no longer are able to work according to new policy guidance by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This can make remaining in the U.S. financially impossible; although these individuals have the option to reenroll in classes to maintain lawful presence in the interim period, that, too, can be a financial burden.

Furthermore, if these individuals are still present in the U.S. after their F-1 student visas expire, but before their H-1B visa petitions are approved, they risk accruing unlawful presence, which can have serious implications for their futures. If they accrue unlawful presence, they could be banned from returning to the U.S. for years at a time.

 

F-1 Visa Students with Pending H-1B Petitions Risk Accruing Unlawful Presence

Initially, the Trump administration granted immigrants with expired student visas or recent graduates who worked under the Optional Practical Training program an extension on their ability to work. Meanwhile, the government eliminated premium processing of these visas, which allowed them to be fast-tracked by paying a fee, claiming that doing so would expedite normally processing. However, this strategy seems to have backfired, since this so-called “cap gap” expired October 1, 2018 and the federal government has failed to process all the cap-gap visas prior to the deadline. This has left American employers with no choice but to temporarily lay off foreign employees that still have H-1B visa petitions pending, for what seems to be an indefinite period of time.

Essentially, USCIS has managed to eliminate or at least severely stifle the existing H-1B visa program, which provided a larger employee pool for American companies and better opportunities for immigrants who have been educated in America. Although American companies had the option of requesting “expedited” processing in time-sensitive cases, this avenue has proved to be completely unreliable, as the federal government failed to process all of the cap-gap visas prior to October 1, 2018, which made them extremely time-sensitive.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have the experience and knowledge that are necessary to represent your interests when you are dealing with an immigration law issue. We are here to gather the necessary information on your behalf and develop the best strategy for achieving your goals. Take the first step by contacting us today and learning what we can do to help.

Posted in Visas

Increasing Crackdown on Artists’ Visas

By Peek & Toland on December 6, 2018

Individuals involved in some artistic industries, such as dance and ballet productions, have noticed increasing scrutiny of and crackdown on issuing visas for dancers and other artists to perform in the U.S. Whereas theatre directors reported virtually no difficulties in securing visas for these artists over the last 25 years, they now report the necessity of canceling performances and booking last-minute, fill-in performances when dancers are unable to secure the visas required for travel to the U.S.

 

Increasing Crackdown on Artists’ Visas

The types of visas most commonly requested in the dance industry are O-1B visas and P-1B visas. O-1B visas are for individuals of “extraordinary ability in the arts” to travel to the U.S. to work. P-1B visas are for groups of two or more artists who wish to enter the U.S. solely to perform. These visas may allow entry into the U.S. for a few performances or a brief tour, or for a longer period of time, such as a 12-month contract to perform with a company. Both of these visas require an extensive amount of documentation to obtain, including press clippings, marketing materials that feature the artist, letters of support, and an in-person interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate prior to the individuals being able to enter the U.S. Plus, one artistic director of a dance company estimates that it costs about $5,000 or more to process a single application.

U.S. employers, sponsors, and agents are responsible for assembling these lengthy visa applications, which are now subject to heightened scrutiny by the U.S. government in its efforts to allegedly prevent fraud. Experts now recommend starting the visa application process at least six months prior to the expected entry of the artist into the U.S. While some choose to pay the $1,225 premium processing fee, it often slows down the regular processing time for visa applications. This is compounded by the fact that only two U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing centers in the country handle O and P-type visa applications, and that the numbers of O and P-type visa applications have increased in recent years.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain the visa that you need, based on your situation. We will focus all of our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Posted in Visas

Consequences for Visa Overstays

By Peek & Toland on December 1, 2018

In some cases, foreign nationals travel to the U.S. on a work, school, or visitor’s visa, and then decide for various reasons to stay in the country past their visa expiration dates. Individuals should understand the potential consequences and harsh penalties for a visa overstay before they make the decision to overstay. Once their visas expire, they are unlawfully present in the country.

 

Consequences for Visa Overstays

Once you have overstayed your visa by 180 days, you start to be subject to penalties by federal immigration authorities. The penalties for an overstay depend upon the length of the stay following the expiration of the visa. If your overstay ranges between 180 days and one year past the expiration of your visa, the U.S. government can ban you from reentering the country for three years following your departure. If you overstay your visa by more than one year, then you may be banned from reentry for ten years. A lengthy ban on reentry into the U.S. can be very harsh for individuals who have family members in the U.S. or who had planned on continuing attending school or working in the U.S.

The penalties become harsher if you refuse to leave after an immigration court has issued a final order of removal for you. If you are caught in the U.S. following a final order of removal, then you could face criminal charges and substantial fines.

There are some exceptions that can stop or toll the length of your unlawful presence in the country that may apply to your situation. For instance, if you are under 18 at the time that you are unlawfully present, you have a valid and pending asylum petition on file with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or you have a pending application for adjustment of status, the duration of your overstay may not increase until after these matters are resolved.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any type of relief or benefit under federal immigration laws, regardless of your situation. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your case. It is our intention to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas immigration attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you through this complicated situation.

Posted in Visas

DOJ Charges CEO with H-1B Visa Fraud

By Peek & Toland on November 22, 2018

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged a Seattle-area CEO, Pradyumna Kumar Samal, with visa fraud, alleging that he falsified documents in order to hire over 100, and as many as 200, foreign workers. Samal is the CEO of two technology firms in Washington: Divensi, an IT services firm, and Azimetry, a geospatial data processing company.

 

DOJ Charges CEO with H-1B Visa Fraud

H-1B visas are meant to provide a way for U.S. companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers in industries where they are unable to hire American workers due to shortages in a particular industry. Samal allegedly created fictitious projects that he claimed required the use of foreign workers by using fraudulent statements and letters in support of the projects. Once a worker obtained a H-1B visa, Samal would assign the worker to a different project than listed on the visa application whenever a project for which the individual was qualified would arise; during the interim period, the worker would remain “benched” and unpaid.

The federal fraud charges that Samal is facing could result in as much as ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The DOJ claims that it has been investigating Samal’s companies since 2015. Foreign workers also were allegedly paying Samar a “fee” in order for one of his companies to sponsor their visa applications, which sometimes was as much as $5,000. The DOJ is continuing to sift through visa applications filed by Samal’s companies from 2016 and 2017.

At Peek & Toland, we care about defending you against whatever type of criminal charges you are facing, including federal fraud charges and other white-collar criminal offenses. We will focus all of our efforts on standing up for your rights and representing your interests throughout the criminal proceedings. Additionally, our lawyers regularly assist and advise CEOs and businesses about legally bringing foreign workers to the U.S. Allow us to handle your criminal defense and immigration law needs by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

 

Posted in Visas

Landscape Businesses Suffering Due to U.S. Visa Policies

By Peek & Toland on November 18, 2018

For many years, American landscape companies have relied on H-2B visas to bring foreign seasonal, non-agricultural workers to assist them during their busiest seasons of the year. Landscape company owners are reporting an inability to get requested H-2B visas for foreign workers this year, which has resulted in permanent staff working longer hours, contracts not being fulfilled in a timely manner, lost profits, and more customer complaints.

Companies are required to try to find American workers to fill positions before they can apply for H-2B visas. However, these companies indicate that the demand for foreign workers has increased, simply because fewer Americans are out of work and willing to accept seasonal positions in the landscaping industry.

 

Landscape Businesses Suffering Due to U.S. Visa Policies

The federal government has 66,000 slots for H-2B visa workers each year, which are issued on a semi-annual basis. When the process began for the second half of federal fiscal year (FFY) 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor received applicants for 81,600 workers, which is almost two and one-half times the number of visas available. For this reason, the federal government conducted a lottery process to fill the 33,000 remaining available spots.

Due to this high demand, the federal government offered an additional 15,000 visas for FFY 2018 only, but businesses still claim that the numbers are insufficient. The additional visas were too little, too late, since many seasonal businesses are poised to become relatively dormant during the rapidly approaching winter months. Companies find it difficult to accept business and enter into contract when they cannot be certain that they will have the workers that they need to complete the work.

Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to fight for your rights and work toward a resolution of your immigration law case. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of USCIS forms, regulations, and policies, and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today and secure the future of your family in the U.S. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Visas

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