Visas

U.S. Government Reveals Reasons for Delays in Processing H-1B Visa Applications

By Peek & Toland on April 29, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released data showing the most common reasons for the high rates of delays in the processing and denials of H-1B visa applications. These visas are designed to allow highly-skilled foreign nationals to work for companies in the U.S.

Overall, the rate of H-1B visa approvals dropped from 96% in 2015 to 85% in 2018. Similarly, delays in the processing of these visas rose by 60%, due to the federal government’s “requests for evidence” to prove the legitimacy of the visa applications. Furthermore, delays in processing made it much more likely that USCIS ultimately would deny an H-1B visa request. The approval rate for delayed applications fell to 60% by 2018, as compared to 80% in 2015.

U.S. Government Reveals Reasons for Delays in Processing H-1B Visa Applications

The top reason given by USCIS for issuing requests for evidence from visa applicants is a failure of the petitioners to establish that the positions qualify as specialty occupations. Although the technology industry has heavily relied on H-1B visas to hire foreign nationals with special skills, the visa program has come under attack as being abused by outsourcing companies and used to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor.

Other common reasons for USCIS issuing requests for evidence, thus slowing the processing of H-1B visa applications, include a failure of the applicant to prove the existence of a valid employer-employee relationship with the foreign national or qualifying off-site work for the foreign national in a specialty occupation for the entire duration of the visa requested. Another common reason for delays in processing was the failure of an employer to prove that the foreign national was qualified to perform the services in a specialty occupation.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. 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.

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State Department Visa Denials Greatly Increased in 2018

By Peek & Toland on April 28, 2019

A recent Forbes article highlighted new data from fiscal year (FY) 2018, which shows that federal government policies that have hindered legal immigration have caused a significant decrease in the number of visas granted. Among other policies, “extreme vetting” of visa applicants, the Buy American and Hire American executive order, and changes to the State Department’s definition of “public charge” all have led to more potential immigrants receiving visa denials.

According to the National Foundation for American Policy, between FY 2017 and 2018, visa denials increased 39% for immigrants and five percent for non-immigrants, or those seeking only temporary visas. These denials resulted in the federal government issuing seven percent fewer temporary visas and five percent fewer immigrant visas during the same time period.

State Department Visa Denials Greatly Increased in 2018

These statistics also show that the number of denials based on “public charge” grounds increased over 300% during this time period, which is directly attributable to the administration’s changes in the policies in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual. This amounted to 13,450 denials of visas on this basis. Almost 8,000 individuals were able to overcome the initial denial, but an unknown number of those are traceable to denials from previous years, rather than from the time period at issue. Plus, those who successfully overcame the initial visa denial simply could show new evidence, such as evidence of increased incomes since the time of the denial.

From the perspective of American businesses seeking to hire foreign workers, “extreme vetting” procedures have caused workers with approved temporary employment petitions to remain stuck in administrative procedures for months and months. This has an adverse economic effect on the U.S. economy. The more cases stuck in administrative processing results in even longer delays for immigrants seeking to enter the country for both employment and family-based reasons. 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.

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DHS Publishes Final Rule for H-1B Visa Process

By Peek & Toland on April 19, 2019

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published the final rule that makes significant changes to how it will choose which H-1B visa applications it will grant that are subject to an annual cap. H-1B visas historically have allowed U.S. employers to hire highly specialized foreign national employees in industries like biotechnology, but the number of visas available each year is limited to 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 spots for foreign nationals with advanced degree from U.S. colleges and universities. Changes to the rule became effective on April 1, 2019 and are designed to prioritize those foreign nationals with American advanced degrees, reduce the overall costs of the H-1B visa program, and further protect the jobs of U.S. workers.

Before the changes to the rule, the 20,000 slots designated for advanced degree-holders were filled first, followed by the remaining 65,000 visas. Now, the randomized selection process will be used to first fill the general 65,000 visas, followed by the 20,000 designated slots. DHS officials forecast that the rule changes could result in up to 5,340 additional postgraduate degree-holders from American educational institutions filling these spots than before.

DHS Publishes Final Rule for H-1B Visa Process

This is only one of several changes that DHS intends to implement by the end of the 2019 to ensure that H-1B visas are granted only to the most highly specialized foreign workers. For example, DHS also intends to launch an online portal for employers to participate in the H-1B visa process, including the completion of an extensive questionnaire. By 2020, employers also must file a separate petition for each foreign national whom they intend to hire, as opposed to the current practice. No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to successfully resolve your immigration law case.

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What Should I Do if My Visa is Denied?

By Peek & Toland on March 28, 2019

With increasing security measures and other policy changes put into place by the Trump administration, individuals seeking all types of visas are seeing more and more denials of their applications. For example, when applications were deficient or missing information in the past, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) simply sent applicants a notice of the deficiency and gave them an opportunity to remedy it. Now, a Trump administration-era policy change permits USCIS officers to simply deny these applications with no prior notice. For these individuals who receive visa denials, their only recourse may be to start over and reapply. This obviously can add months or years to the application process, as well as thousands of dollars in additional fees.

Although reapplication may be the only way to seek a visa, repeatedly reapplying for a six-month visitors’ visa may be a bad idea. Rather, taking time between applications to figure out what caused the denial in the first place may be more productive then simply reapplying immediately using the same information that already has resulted in a denial. For example, if you received a denial because you had insufficient proof of your ties to your current country of residence, then you should take the time to develop this evidence prior to reapplying for a visa.

 

What Should I Do if My Visa is Denied?

Similarly, if you are denied a student visa by the consulate, you should ask specifically what resulted in the denial of your visa application. If you can correct the problem, then you can reapply for a student visa, perhaps successfully.

In the case of a denial to change your status from one visa to another, you must act quickly by consulting a lawyer and applying for reconsideration. If you fail to do so, you risk being placed in deportation proceedings if your original visa has run out. Unless you have some other legitimate basis for being in the U.S., you will be asked to voluntarily depart by a certain date or face deportation.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys today.

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Average Delay for Immigrant Visas Has Increased 46% Since 2014

By Peek & Toland on March 27, 2019

A recent article published by Houston Public Media details the findings of a new study by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). In that study, statistics show that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times have increased by 46% since Trump took office, although the number of petitions received by USCIS in fiscal year 2018 decreased.

 Overall, processing times have nearly doubled since 2014, which is an increase of 91%. The delays are affecting families, businesses, and the most vulnerable populations, including women fleeing violence. AILA characterizes the current status of the delays as crisis-level. Individuals waiting on the processing of their applications are often unable to work, reunite with their families, or get out of refugee camps.

The USCIS backlog, as of the end of fiscal year 2017, had reached more than 2.3 million. This figure demonstrates a 100% increase in a year’s time, although the receipt of petitions during that same year increased only 4%. Immigration advocates are characterizing the massive delays and backlogs as an “invisible wall” that is preventing legal immigration processes from operating in an efficient and timely manner.

 

Average Delay for Immigrant Visas Has Increased 46% Since 2014

Although the AILA report attributes much of the delays to new policies enacted by the Trump administration that make immigration processes more difficult, delays also increased to some degree during the last two years of the Obama administration. Nonetheless, new security protocols have mired USCIS processing of most types of petitions down substantially. For instance, every employment-based green card applicant now must undergo a personal interview, which takes substantially more time than processing applications without personal interviews.

These processing delays have a significant impact on cities with high rates of immigrant residents, such as Houston. The city of Houston has 1.66 million foreign-born residents. About 531,000 of these residents hold green cards, and another 83,000 are legally present in the U.S. pursuant to temporary visas. Another 30% of this population is undocumented, a figure which includes those currently protected by DACA and TPS programs.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. 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.

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Can I Get a Visa to Come to the U.S. if I Am Self-Employed?

By Peek & Toland on March 23, 2019

The H-1B visa is for foreign nationals with bachelor’s degrees, or the foreign equivalent, to come to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation. Normally, a U.S. company must sponsor the foreign national through the H-1B visa program. Now, however, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts H-1B visa petitions filed by U.S. companies that the prospective visa beneficiary owns. This is widely referred to as the H-1B visa for entrepreneurs.

Can I Get a Visa to Come to the U.S. if I Am Self-Employed?

This visa allows skilled professionals with the necessary academic qualifications to come to the U.S. to set up their own businesses. In order to qualify as a specialty occupation, the employment must be one of the following:

·         The work is so complex or unique that only an individual who holds a bachelor’s degree or higher can complete it,

·         The minimum requirement for the job is a degree or its equivalent, or

·         The work is specific that the knowledge required to perform it is that usually associated with those who hold bachelor’s degrees.

Since the company must have the ability to pay the visa holder’s salary, investments of less than $150,000 rarely qualify for this type of visa. Additionally, the individual must be able to establish an employer-employee relationship. For a company that you own, you cannot be self-employed in the traditional sense and obtain an H-1B visa. Rather, there must be someone other than yourself who exercises control over your work, such as investors, a board of directors, or shareholders. The required level of control must include the right to hire, fire, and review the employee’s work. This is the only situation in which a self-employed individual can obtain an H-1B entrepreneur visa.

Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration law matter. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of immigration 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.

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What is the Difference Between L-1 and L-2 Visas?

By Peek & Toland on March 22, 2019

Employers must petition on behalf of individuals seeking to enter the U.S. on L-1 visas. This type of visa allows foreign employees of international companies to relocate to the U.S. and work in the companies’ U.S. offices. These employees typically are executives or managers or have specialized skills that the companies utilize. The employees generally must have worked for the company for at least one year in their countries of residence before seeking to work for the company in the U.S.

An L-1 visa is a dual-intent visa, which means that its holders can apply for resident status in the U.S. without jeopardizing their current L-1 visas in any way.

An L-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa that is available for spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of L-1 visa holders. This visa allows the immediate family members of those immigrants with L-1 visas to accompany them to and remain in the U.S. during the term of the L-1 visa.

 

What is the Difference Between L-1 and L-2 Visas?

L-2 visas remain in effect based on the status of the L-1 visa holder. For L-1A visa holders, the L-2 visa duration for dependents is a maximum seven years, and the duration for L-2 visa dependents of L-1B visa holders is a maximum five years. If the status of the L-1 visa holder changes, then the status of the L-2 visa holder changes, as well.

Under an L-2 visa, spouses and children of L-1 visa holders may live and attend school in the U.S. Spouses present in the U.S. on L-2 visas can work full-time or part-time after they obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If they choose, they also can apply for nonimmigrant status under various types of visas, as well as apply for green cards.

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. 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.

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Removing the Conditions on an EB-5 Visa

By Peek & Toland on February 26, 2019

An investor with an EB-5 visa is admitted to the U.S. as a conditional permanent resident. This visa lasts two years. If investors wish to remain in the U.S. at that point, they will need to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to remove the conditions from their permanent resident status.

Within 90 days of the second anniversary of the date that they were admitted to the U.S. as conditional permanent residents under EB-5 visas, investors should file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status with USCIS. If USCIS grants the petition, the conditions will be removed from the EB-5 visa investor’s permanent residence and any dependents who were included on the visa.

Removing the Conditions on an EB-5 Visa

Along with the petition, you must submit a $3,750 fee, plus a $85 biometrics fee for the petitioner, as well as for each current or former conditional permanent resident spouse or children included on the petition as a dependent. Additionally, you must provide evidence that:

• A lawful business entity has been established in the U.S.
• If applicable, the enterprise was established in a targeted employment area
• The investor has invested or is in the process of investing the amount required for the area in which is the business is located
• The capital used for the investment was earned or derived from lawful means
• The business is expected to create at least 10 full-time positions for American workers
• The investor will be engaged in the day-to-day management of the business operations

When you or a loved one is facing an immigration law dilemma involving an EB-5 visa or another issue, 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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Fight Over Work Permits for Spouses of H-1B Visa Workers Rekindles

By Peek & Toland on February 10, 2019

Almost two years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its intent to strip the spouses of H-1B visa holders of their work authorization. The estimated 90,000 foreign nationals are spouses of skilled guest workers, which include tech workers and medical professionals, were granted H-4 work permits starting in 2015, which made H-1B visas a more attractive option for guest workers with families.

A legal challenge was filed against the work permit program long ago based on displacement of American workers due to the issuance of H-4 work permits. The federal district court ruled against the U.S. workers, and they appealed that decision. This litigation had been on hold since April 2017 to allow the federal government more time to come up with a regulation to end the program. After almost two years, DHS has yet to produce a regulation. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently revived the lawsuit by setting briefing deadlines for both sides to the dispute.

Fight Over Work Permits for Spouses of H-1B Visa Workers Rekindles

In response to the newly set lawsuit deadlines, DHS now has been rushing to promulgate a regulation to eliminate the work permit program, with the goal of completing it prior to the briefing deadlines in the lawsuit expiring. The consensus is that DHS would rather eliminate the program completely rather than attempt to defend it in court. The hope of DHS is apparently that the court will defer to the administrative rulemaking process based on its interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If DHS can publish the regulation in time, then it is widely assumed that the court will again put the lawsuit on hold.

The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to assist you with all your immigration needs. Trust us to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration case.

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How Can I Remove Conditions From My Green Card?

By Peek & Toland on January 24, 2019

When you received your green card, or legal permanent residence in the U.S., you may have been granted conditional residency, which is valid for a period of two years. This can be due to receiving your green card based on marriage or as an entrepreneur. Whatever the case may be, you must take action to remove the conditions from your green card at least 90 days prior to its expiration. Otherwise, you risk losing your green card, no longer having a lawful immigration status, and being potentially subject to removal from the country.

 

How Can I Remove Conditions From My Green Card?

To remove the conditions on your green card due to marriage, you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence. You generally are eligible to remove the conditions on your green card if you are still married to the same U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident after two years, if you are now widowed but entered into the marriage in good faith, your marriage was divorced or annulled, but you entered into the marriage in good faith, or if you entered into the marriage in good faith, but you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your spouse. You also can include your children on your petition if they received a conditional green card at the same time that you did. However, if your child received a conditional green card more than 90 days after you did, then the child will need to file a separate Form I-751.

With a few exceptions, you generally must apply together with your spouse to remove the conditions from your green card. If you are no longer married to your spouse or you or your child has been abused by your spouse, then you can apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement.

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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