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President Trump’s New Immigration Proposal and What It Means for H-4 Spouses

Posted June 7, 2019H-1B, Immigration Reform

President Trump recently introduced his senior adviser and son-in-law’s immigration reform proposals. While Trump claims that his plan is “pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker,” there is little merit to back this claim.

Most notably, part of this reform suggests rescinding the H-4 employment authorization document (EAD) rule, which allows spouses of highly-skilled foreign worked who come to the U.S. under its H-1B visa program. This rule was initially introduced in 2015 under the Obama administration, and has since demonstrated considerable significance to enhance the attrition of highly-skilled workers into the U.S. with the presumption that their H-4 spouses may also pursue their careers. A ban of these work permits would affect countless families of specialized workers in the U.S. and likely deter professionals from seeking employment opportunities in the U.S., ultimately deteriorating the economic necessity for foreign talent.

While this news is incredibly jarring, there are no formal plans of enforcement. It should be noted that efforts to redesign the immigration system has failed to come into effect despite efforts over the past three decades, and Trump’s reformed proposal is merely that; a proposal. It is not set in stone and has yet to take effect.

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Department of State to Require Disclosure of Social Media and Prior Contact Information

Posted June 6, 2019Kristen KellarArticles

The State Department has updated its Forms DS-160 and DS-260 to require all foreign nationals to provide social media and contact history when applying for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. Specifically, applicants will need to provide the following:

  • Social media platforms used in the last five years
  • Username(s) for each of the social media platforms used, however, passwords are not required at this time
  • All email addresses and phone numbers phone numbers used in the last five years

Consular offices can review this information and the other information provided in the DS-160 or DS-260 to determine whether additional information or security is necessary, or whether to refuse to issue the visa. Applicants should ensure that they have all of the above information on hand and complete the applications to the best of their ability.

In 2017, consular officers were temporarily given authority to collect additional information to further vet applicants. In 2018, the Department of State announced a new form to collect supplemental information from applicants during a consular interview. The new change to the DS-160 and DS-260 represent an increase in data collection from applicants as it applies to all visa applicants required to submit one of the forms.

If you have any questions about how this may affect your visa application please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung LLC attorney.

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Social Security "No Match" Letters and What to Do as an Employer

Posted May 30, 2019Stephanie WedelArticles

“No-Match” letters are issued by the Social Security Administration when an employer submits at least 10 Social Security numbers that do not match the names that were submitted with them.  These letters pose a compliance problem for employers.  They cannot simply terminate employees whose names appear on these no match letters because of employment discrimination laws, yet if they fail to take action they can be found to have “constructive knowledge” of the employees illegal status and will face consequences from the Department of Homeland Security.

Best Practices for Responding to No-Match Letters

When an employer receives a “No-Match” letter, they should first check their personnel records for any clerical records.  If they find a clerical error, they need to immediately report the error to the Social Security Administration for correction.

If there is not a clerical error, as is typically the case, the employer must then talk with the employee about the contradiction.  When talking with the employee, the employer should not require the employee to show his Social Security card, as this could be deemed document abuse under employment eligibility verification laws.  Rather, the employer should ask the employee if there is a possible reason for the discrepancy.  If the employee admits to submitting a false Social Security number, then the employee must be terminated immediately.  If the employee confirms that all the information is correct, the employer must allow the employee a reasonable amount of time to get the situation corrected.  After the given time period, the employer should follow up with the employee about the status of the matter.  If the employee can show credible evidence that the issue has been resolved or is in the process of being resolved, the employer should document the steps that are being taken. If the employee has not resolved the matter or cannot show that they are in the process of doing so, termination of employment is necessary.

It is very important that employers document every step that they take in this process.  It is best that all requests and contact with the employee regarding the “no-match” letter be in writing.  After meeting with an employee, the employer should document what transpired in a memo to the file and keep a copy of the memo in the employee’s personnel file.

An employer’s failure to follow up with an employee after receiving a “no-match” letter from the Social Security Administration, or a failure to investigate further if an employee repeatedly appears on “no-match letters” can be grounds for a finding of constructive knowledge, which can lead to fines or criminal charges.  

If your company receives a no-match letter from the SSA, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney.

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New, Increased Fees Charged by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program to Take Effect in June 2019

Posted May 28, 2019Kristen KellarArticles

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that certain fees for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will increase on June 24, 2019. SEVP monitors students and dependents in F and M statuses, certifies schools and programs to enroll international students, and monitors J-1 exchange visitors and dependents.

Fee increases include:

  • The I-901 SEVIS Fee for F and M international students will increase from $200 to $350.
  • The $35 I-901 SEVIS Fee for J exchange visitors in the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work travel program will remain the same, but it will increase the full I-901 SEVIS Fee for other J exchange visitors from $180 to $220.
  • The SEVP school certification petition fee for initial certification will increase from $1,700.

All prospective international students and exchange visitors are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee before a visa can be issued. Any student or exchange visitor who pays the fee prior to the June 24 implementation date will not need to pay the difference even if the visa is issued after June 24.

New fees for schools will also be implemented such as a $1,250 fee for recertification and a $655 fee for SEVP-certified schools changing or adding a physical location or campus.

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USCIS Announces Additional Guidance Regarding Spousal Petitions with Minors

Posted May 28, 2019Kristen KellarArticles

USCIS is strengthening its guidance regarding I-130 spousal petitions involving minors. Typically, USCIS reviews the legitimacy of a marriage when the alien spouse applies for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status to permanent residency. USCIS will now require in-person interviews earlier when the petition involves a minor.

USCIS officers will conduct interviews earlier in the process for I-130 spousal petitions in the following situations:

  • The petitioner or the beneficiary is less than 16 years old;
  • The petitioner or the beneficiary is 16 or 17 years old and there are 10 years of more difference between the ages of the spouses.

USCIS also created a flagging system to alert USCIS to cases where a minor spouse or fiancé is involved. Cases flagged by the system will be sent to a special unit within USCIS for age verification.

If you have any questions about how this update may related to your case, please reach out to your Meltzer Hellrung LLC attorney. 

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