Eligibility for U Visa, T Visa, and VAWA

By Peek & Toland on September 9, 2020

U Visa 

U visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who have been victims of violent crimes who are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in prosecuting criminal activity. 

Serious crimes include aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, domestic violence.

T Visa 

It’s a very uncommon used visa by most immigrants. This type of visa allows certain human trafficking victims and immediate family members to remain and work temporarily in the United States. Typically if they report the crime to law enforcement and agree to help them in the investigation or prosecution of the crime committed against them.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 

VAWA provides protections for immigrants of violent domestic crime. To qualify for VAWA, a victim must prove that they have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by a U.S-citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent.

We’ve had clients come in for a consult who were completely misguided by unethical attorneys. Hence, it’s essential to be highly informed of the requirements and eligibility before you spend thousands of dollars and have more than one opinion from experienced attorneys. 

To learn more about how our firm can help you through any immigration process, contact us at 512-474-4445 or visit our website www.peekandtoland.com.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

Options You Have If Your Visa Expires During COVID-19

By Peek & Toland on July 22, 2020

Many flights are getting canceled, and different countries are closing their borders due to COVID-19. A question our firm has heard frequently as of late is, what do I do if my visa is about to expire and I can’t go back to my home country because of COVID-19? 

Immigration Attorney Jeff Peek discusses three options that could apply to your case and help you avoid illegal presence in the United States.

1. Extension of Status 

Assuming your permit has not expired, you can file through USCIS and ask for more time. You will need to explain why it is that you’re asking for an extension. You’re going to need to show proof of your intent to return, a return ticket already purchased, your plans, where you’re going to be living, and what you will be doing. It might help if you have a sponsor who is a citizen or a resident to sign a letter.

From experience in the past years, this will typically give you about 5-6 months while they process your application and decide. Therefore, this allows you to be in the U.S. without an accumulation of unlawful presence. 

2. Change of Status 

Change of status is when you change to a different type of visa. This can be a little tricky because the visa you want to switch to has to be immediately available. For instance, if you change from a B1/B2 tourist visa to an F-1 student visa, you have to ask yourself, are you going to be able to enroll in the school immediately? Is the school willing to issue an I-20 to you even though you’re technically on a B1/B2 visa? Can you do that before your temporary visitor visa expires and before the school year starts? Maybe there are other visas like an investor visa or work visas that you could apply. Still, you have to keep in mind that it has to be immediately available. 

3. Adjustment of Status 

Adjustment of status is where you change from any non-immigrant visa to the intent to reside in the U.S. permanently, so you would apply for residency. There are lucky few who are eligible for adjustment of status. Those Individuals are spouses of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens, or minor children of U.S. citizen parents.

We recommend talking to one of our attorneys to see which option is the right fit. We’ve helped many families and individuals further their stay here in the United States legally, especially in the midst of this global pandemic. 

We hope this information has been helpful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. 

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Posted in Immigration, Visas

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Student Visas F-1/M-1 and DACA Immigration News Update

By Peek & Toland on July 16, 2020

Attorney Jeff Peek shares the latest news concerning immigration law that may affect you or someone you know. 

F-1/M-1 Student Visa Update 

Last week, the Trump Administration announced some changes to the F-1/M-1 student visas. The announcement indicated that if there was a full-time online program, you would be out of status as an F-1/M-1 visa holder and would have to leave the country immediately.

The great news is that the Trump Administration just announced that they’re going to rescind the previously issued order and that they will not implement that rule. Therefore, you can take a deep breath if you’re an F-1 or M-1 student visa holder. You will still maintain good status with your F-1/M-1 visa even if all classes are online. 

DACA Update 

The second piece of information is pretty interesting and exciting. In a recent speech, President Trump announced that he wants to extend the DACA program and provide a pathway to citizenship. Now it remains to be seen if he has the authority to do so. Trump hasn’t made it completely clear yet what it’s going to be, but he said that soon he would make a big announcement. 

Until then, we would advise anybody who is either renewing DACA or is eligible for DACA to continue to renew your DACA. If you are eligible, but never filed, definitely get your application ready to go and get ready to file. If you’re somebody who may have had a criminal record in the past but got the case dismissed, now it might be a great time to apply. If you live in Texas, you can get criminal cases expunged, so that it will not appear on your record. We certainly can help you with any of those questions. Watch our latest immigration videos for more information about expunctions: 

Stay tuned as we will keep you informed on any immigration law updates. In a matter of time, we will hear new news from president Trump. 

We are here to help you in any way that you can, so if you have any questions, please call us at 512-474-4445 or you can find more information on our website at www.peekandtoland.com.

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Posted in Immigration, Latest News, Visas

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TN Visas Under the USMCA

By Peek & Toland on July 7, 2020

TN Visas Under the USMCA

Last Wednesday, July 1, 2020, came and went without much fanfare. Still, it was the first day of the implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which, in essence, is a new and revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

The new trade agreement for North America took effect July 1, ushering in tougher labor, content, and wage requirements. The agreement includes an annex to address labor conditions and oppressed wages in Mexico. Specifically, the USMCA calls for collective bargaining and secret votes for unions to dilute the influence of business owners in Mexico and allows U.S. labor inspectors to visit facilities in Mexico. The original NAFTA text on work visas has been preserved in Chapter 16 of the USMCA.

The average Texan/American may not think that USMCA affects them. However, the trade agreement is estimated to support nearly 12 million American jobs (700,000 Texas jobs) due to the trade with Mexico and Canada. A result of $173 BILLION worth of goods between Texas and Mexico every year.  

Employers in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada will be excited to know that the TN visa was not altered under the new USMCA agreement.  The list of professions eligible for a TN visa has not changed. No occupations were added or eliminated.

If your business is interested in hiring talented employees from Mexico or Canada, please reach out to Peek & Toland. We have almost 20 years of helping immigrants and American companies work together to keep the economy moving forward. Contact our office at 512-474-4445 to set up an appointment today.

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U.S. Companies that Most Frequently Utilize the H-1B Visa Program

By Peek & Toland on June 14, 2020

According to a recent article published by reporters at Bloomberg Law, Deloitte LLP, a global accounting and consulting firm, uses skilled foreign workers through the H-1B visa program more than any other U.S. company. Although H-1B visas are often primarily associated with information technology (IT) companies, figures from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that during the fiscal year 2019, over 57,000 workers were approved to work at Deloitte by using the H-1B visa program. This high number of skilled foreign workers is far greater than the number of these workers employed by Qualcomm, Inc., which was associated with just under 30,000 H-1B visas in 2019.

The number of H-1B visas that Deloitte procured in 2019 is only a fraction of the total number of visa applications that they submitted. The number of requests for H-1B visas by the firm has increased in large part due to the push by Deloitte to offer more technological services, such as cybersecurity, blockchain, and machine learning.

U.S. Companies that Most Frequently Utilize the H-1B Visa Program

Additionally, Deloitte also contracts H-1B visa workers out to other firms, much like IT-staffing firms do. Only two IT staffing service firms, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and Infosys Ltd., placed more H-1B visa workers into contracts with other businesses than Deloitte. As a result of these contracts, H-1B visa workers are increasingly working for companies whose names are not usually synonymous with the H-1B visa program, such as Wells Fargo, Verizon, and American Express, among others.  

Proponents of the H-1B visa program say that it fills the needs of businesses to fill gaps in their workforce with talented workers from abroad. Critics of the program, however, claim that it allows companies to bypass qualified American workers to pay foreign workers cheaper wages. Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration 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 and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

Posted in Visas

What is Automatic Visa Revalidation?

By Peek & Toland on May 12, 2020

The automatic visa revalidation process allows some temporary visitors who have expired nonimmigrant visas to reenter the U.S. at a port-of-entry if they meet specific requirements. These individuals include the following:

  • Nonimmigrants who were briefly traveling to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island for 30 days or less (F and J nonimmigrants)
  • Nonimmigrants with a valid admission stamp or Form I-94 – Arrival/Departure Record, endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The “adjacent islands” refer to nearby islands often visited for tourism or vacation purposes, such as The Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, you must have a valid visa to return from Cuba, and you may need a visa to enter Cuba. However, you do not need a valid visa to visit and return from Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Northern Mariana Islands, which are U.S. territories, unless you plan to visit any other country while en route to one of these territories.

What is Automatic Visa Revalidation?

It is often nonimmigrant students who take advantage of the automatic revalidation process. In addition to a valid Form I-94, students also must have a valid Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Form I-20 confirms that an individual is legally enrolled in a course of study in the U.S.

In other situations, nonimmigrants with expired visas typically would have to reapply and obtain a reissued visa to be eligible to reenter the U.S. These nonimmigrants would need to reapply for a visa even if they had valid admission stamps or DHS-endorsed Forms I-94.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any 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 situation. We intend 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

USCIS Proposed Changes to Premium Processing Program Likely to Cause Delays

By Peek & Toland on April 13, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated changes to its premium processing program by publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register in December 2019. The proposed rule, if enacted, is likely to cause significant delays in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) premium processing of some employer-based immigrant and non-immigrant petitions. Premium processing allows employers to pay an additional fee to obtain a response to their petitions within 15 days. Due to the increasing backlog of immigration applications and petitions generally, however, USCIS has suspended premium processing for specific categories of visas at times as they are unable to meet the 15-day required response time.

First, DHS has proposed changing the definition of “day” for premium processing from “calendar day” to “business day.” Practically speaking, this definition change would exclude weekends, federal holidays, and days on which the federal government is closed due to unanticipated circumstances, such as weather. As a result, the premium processing period necessarily would take longer than it does now.

USCIS Proposed Changes to Premium Processing Program Likely to Cause Delays

An additional portion of the rule would relate to the termination and restating of the 15-day premium processing timeframe. Currently, if USCIS cannot make a final decision for an application or petition submitted via premium processing, USCIS will return the premium processing fee and continue to process the case. The revised rule would require a refund of the premium processing fees only if USCIS did not take specifically adjudicative action on an application or petition requested via premium processing within the 15-day timeframe. Furthermore, if USCIS takes some forms of adjudicative action, such as issuing a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID), the 15-day clock will stop running. The issuance of either an RFE or a NOID instead will trigger a new 15-day period in which USCIS must adjudicate the application or petition.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Visas

What Are J Visas?

By Peek & Toland on March 11, 2020

J visas are the category of visas that citizens of foreign countries can use to become exchange visitors or participating members in work and study-based exchange programs in the U.S. These individuals can obtain J-1 visas to participate in one of several visitor exchange program categories. These categories include:

  • Professors, research scholars, and teachers
  • Trainees and interns
  • College, university, and secondary school students
  • Specialists in specific fields
  • Camp counselors and au pairs
  • Physicians
  • Summer work travelers

J-1 visas also may be available for individuals who want to enter the U.S. as government or international visitors. Most of these programs operate under privately funded programs that work under the direction of the Office of Private Sector Exchange in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Currently, more than 1,500 for-profit, non-profit, or government entities conduct these private sector programs. More than 300,000 people from almost all countries in the world come to the U.S. on J-1 visas each year.

What Are J Visas?

Another type of J visa is the J-2 visa, which allows spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of J-1 exchange visitors to accompany or later join them in the U.S. However, some J visa categories do not permit spouses or children to accompany the recipients. These categories include au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student, and summer work traveler. In situations in which spouses and children can obtain J-2 visas, they typically can work in the U.S. after they get an Employment Authorization Document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Generally, they also may study or attend school while in the U.S. Individuals on J-2 visas only can remain in the U.S. as long as the J-1 visa holders stay in the U.S.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Visas

USCIS Issues Official Guidance on H-1B Visa Electronic Registration System

By Peek & Toland on February 26, 2020

USCIS recently published its formal notice in the Federal Register about the implementation of the H-1B visa electronic registration system. All employers seeking to submit H-1B cap visa petitions for the fiscal year 2021 must first register using this automated tool and pay a $10 registration fee per named beneficiary.

The initial registration period will run from March 1, 2020, to March 20, 2020. Employers must submit a separate registration for each prospective employee whom they wish to sponsor. If USCIS receives enough registrations, then USCIS will randomly choose the number of registrations that they project is necessary to meet the H-1B visa numerical allocations for FY 2021. USCIS will notify registrants whether their registrations have been selected no later than March 31, 2020. Those employers with registrations chosen will have an eligibility period in which to file their full H-1B visa applications.

USCIS Issues Official Guidance on H-1B Visa Electronic Registration System

Although employers can submit multiple registrations during a single online submission, they can only submit one registration per foreign worker during any fiscal year. If an employer provides any duplicate registrations for the same beneficiary during the same fiscal year, USCIS will invalidate all registrations submitted by an employer for that beneficiary.

USCIS also announced its intent to provide updated guidance and step-by-step instructions online closer to March 1, 2020. As of this date, USCIS has not published additional guidance. However, USCIS plans to hold a webinar for registrants on February 6, 2020, and a webinar for attorneys and applicants on February 11, 2020.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Visas

USCIS Showing Preference for Immigrants Holding Advanced Degrees in H-1B Visa Program

By Peek & Toland on February 24, 2020

In the past, the H-1B visa program consisted of a total of 85,000 H-1B visas. Out of the total number of these visas, 65,000 went to applicants with bachelor’s degrees, and the remaining 20,000 went to applicants with advanced degrees. There were separate random pools for workers who only held bachelor’s degrees and workers who held advanced degrees.

Last year, for the 2020 H-1B cap season, USCIS selected visa applicants only from a single pool of applicants. As a result, USCIS first randomly chose the regular 65,000 visa applicants, regardless of whether they had bachelor’s degrees or advanced degrees. The remaining 20,000 spots went only to applicants with advanced degrees. As a practical matter, this means that more individuals who held advanced degrees were awarded H-1B visas than in the past. USCIS states that this change increased by approximately 16% of the H-1B visa holders having a master’s degree or higher, which is about 5,300 more workers with advanced degrees.

USCIS Showing Preference for Immigrants Holding Advanced Degrees in H-1B Visa Program

For the 2021 cap season, however, the order by which USCIS selections H-1B visa petitions will be wholly reversed. USCIS first will select 65,000 applicants who hold master’s degrees or higher from a U.S. institution or a foreign equivalent. The remaining 20,000 visas will be for applicants who hold only a bachelor’s degree. This significant change in the H-1B visa selection process will result in far more workers with advanced degrees than in the past.

USCIS also is debuting its new electronic registration system this season, which will open for submissions on March 1, 2020, and close on March 20, 2020. Employers will need to create the appropriate online accounts and pay a $10 registration fee for each intended worker. At this point in the registration process, employers will only provide basic information about their company and intended workers. USCIS then will choose randomly from the registrations that employers have submitted, and only those employers will be eligible to proceed with filing H-1B visa applications.

An experienced Texas immigration attorney can help you with all aspects of immigration law. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and present your options. Finally, we can help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in Visas

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