Tuesday, May 30, 2017

H-1B lottery: update on the "fat lady"

In a previous post, I explained the phrase "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." With respect to the H-1B lottery, only when you receive a blue sheet from USCIS, along with your original filing and uncashed filing fee checks will you be sure that you failed the lottery.

In fact, USCIS has cashed filing fee checks as late as May 17, more than one and half months after the filing period. I would not be surprised if even now other checks are cashed. In other words, you still might have a chance of being selected.

In a later post, I will explain the consequences of not being selected.

The above information is not legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
We Chat: calvin_t_sun

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

H-1B lottery: still waiting for the fat lady

The late American baseball player Yogi Berra used to say that "it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." He meant that because baseball (unlike football, soccer, hockey or basketball) has no game clock, a team can never run out of time. Regardless of how far behind a team is, they still can win so long as they avoid making the third out of an inning. His mentioning a "fat lady" is a reference to opera, the ending of which is signified by a (usually female) opera singer's performance.

I mention this point because this morning, May 2, 2017, a client called me. She was happy because she learned that the H-1B filing fee checks of a co-worker had just been cashed.

Therefore, even though more than a month has passed since the H-1B filing period, one still could have been selected. If you are still waiting, you still might have a chance. For you, the fat lady might not have sung yet.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client privilege.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
We Chat: calvin_t_sun

Friday, April 28, 2017

H-1B lottery results: check cashing can precede mailing

If your employer filed an H-1B cap-subject petition for you at the beginning of April, you might still be unsure of whether or not you survived the lottery. The clearest indication, of course, is that your attorney or employer received the I-797 notice, which would contain your receipt number. However, that receipt can take awhile to arrive.

In many cases, a better indication is the cashing of your filing fee checks. For this reason, you might want to consider checking with your company's accounts payable people. In particular, the government might cash the checks before sending you the receipt.

You may be encouraged to know that some employers are still having those checks cashed. Yesterday, for example (April 27) one current F-1 student called to say that it happened with him and his employer. I was happy to hear this news, because I still had not received his receipt. I expect to get it in the next few days. In other words, the government can cash the filing fee checks before sending you the receipt.

Therefore, even if you haven't heard anything by now, you still could have been selected. It isn't over until your employer receives back your petition papers, along with the uncashed checks.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
610-296-3947, cell 215-983-3723
We chat: calvin_t_sun

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New green card format effective May 1, 2017

USCIS is changing the format of green cards effective May 1, 2017. See this link. The new format will contain features that make forgery more difficult.

Please remember that the use of fraudulent or false immigration documents is NOT COOL, and could prevent you from becoming a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. It also could lead to your being prosecuted.

If you are holder of a "conditional" green card, which is good for only two years, you MUST apply in time to remove the conditions. Otherwise, you are subject to removal. Examples of conditional green cards are those based on a fewer-than-two-years-old marriage, as well as the initial EB-5 investment green card.

Text follows:

USCIS Will Issue Redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents
Release Date:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (also known as a Green Card) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017.

These redesigns use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant than the ones currently in use.

The new card designs demonstrate USCIS’ commitment to continue taking a proactive approach against the threat of document tampering and fraud. They are also part of an ongoing effort between USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter counterfeiting and fraud.

The Redesigned Cards
The new Green Cards and EADs will:
  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
    • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
    • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.
Also, Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

How To Tell If Your Card Is Valid
Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Certain EADs held by individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other designated categories have been automatically extended beyond the validity date on the card. For additional information on which EADs are covered, please visit the Temporary Protected Status and American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act web pages on uscis.gov.

Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date.  These older Green Cards without an expiration date remain valid. Individuals who have Green Cards without an expiration date may want to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date. Obtaining the replacement card will reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen.

Eligibility for Green Cards and EADs
For more information about the Green Card application process, please visit USCIS.gov/greencard.
To request an EAD, you must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Visit uscis.gov for more information about EADs.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
we chat: calvin_t_sun

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Many USCIS filing fees will increase on December 23, 2016

Just in time for Christmas, USCIS will be increasing many of its filing fees. https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-announces-final-rule-adjusting-immigration-benefit-application-and-petition-fees. The increase is effective December 23, 2016. A complete schedule of affected forms is at https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees.

In particular, the fee increases apply to, among others, forms I-129 (used in H-1B and other temporary worker filings), I-130 (petition for an alien relative e.g. a spouse of a U.S. citizen), I-485 (application to adjust status), I-751 (application to remove conditions on conditional residence) and I-765 (application for employment authorization). Note, however, the form I-907, for premium processing, is EXCLUDED from the fee increase. In order to avoid the increased fees, you must postmark or file any affected form prior to December 23.

If you are considering an early filing to avoid the fee increase, make sure that you are truly able to file early. For example, at this writing, an employer who wishes to file a cap-subject H-1B petition can do so only on or after April 1, 2017, and thus is unable to avoid the fee increase. In other words, an employer who filed such a petition prior to December 23 would receive a denial of that petition, because the cap is now full. Furthermore, make sure that any such early filing does not compromise the quality of your submission.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
Immigration and nationality law
175 Strafford Ave., Suite 1, Wayne PA 19087
Office 610-296-3947, cell 215-983-3723
Skype and We Chat: calvin_t_sun
Pr. 17:15,
http://yi2min2.blogspot.com/ http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/19301-pa-calvin-sun-1935383.html

Monday, October 17, 2016

Are you using CPT as a bridge to the next H-1B filing?

Last year, I prepared an H-1B petition for a company that wanted to hire a woman, “Gloria” (not her real name of course) as a financial advisor. Unfortunately, that petition did not get selected in the lottery. Therefore, following the end of her optional practical training (OPT), Gloria enrolled in a local college that provided an immediate curricular practical training (CPT). She therefore was able to remain in lawful status until this year. At that time, in April of this year, I prepared another petition by this same company for Gloria, and asked for change of status processing. The petition was selected and later approved, and Gloria is now working at that company in H-1B status.

This strategy of using CPT as a “bridge” to the next H-1B filing is a common one. Doing so allows a person to remain in status in the U.S., to work or continue to work for an employer (for example, the same employer as during OPT) and thus spares the person the trouble and expense of leaving, then later re-entering the U.S. However, if you are doing so now or are considering doing so, please keep the following pointers in mind to avoid potential problems. You and others know about this idea, but so does the immigration service. Therefore, they could review a CPT-to-H-1B petition more carefully than an OPT-to-H-1B petition.

If the immigration service believes that you failed to maintain the condition of CPT, or believes that the CPT is invalid, then they could deny any change of status associated with an H-1B petition.

For this reason, I strongly suggest you consider the following points in connection with any plans for CPT.

·         Choose a reputable school

Be careful when you choose a school. In particular, you want to avoid a school that is similar to Tri-Valley University. That school’s founder was sentenced to federal prison on charges of immigration fraud. The school allegedly issued fraudulent I-20s to students but never had true requirements for admission or graduation. As a result of the shutdown of the school, many students faced removal from the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tri-Valley_University

For this reason, thoroughly investigate any school you are considering for CPT. At a minimum, the school should be accredited by the respective regional accreditation agency for the school’s location. Here is a directory of such agencies: http://www.chea.org/Directories/regional.asp.  Of course, your investigation should include more than just confirming such accreditation. However, the lack of such accreditation by a school should make you pause before considering that school. Not surprisingly, Tri-Valley University lacked accreditation.

You also could check online reviews of the school, such as on Yelp, or talk with current or former students or with the school’s international student advisor(s).

·         Comply with the conditions of the school and respective courses

Just as with a “regular” F-1 program, make sure you comply with all conditions of the school and courses you are taking. Attend all classes and complete all your assignments. According to immigration regulations, you must be making “normal progress toward completing a course of study.” If the immigration service determines, while reviewing your H-1B petition, that you failed to make such progress, they could conclude that you failed to maintain your F-1 status.

·         Keep evidence of attendance

Make sure you have evidence that you attended classes, for example, a sign-in sheet for the class sessions for your course. In Gloria’s case, in addition, we submitted a statement from the person who drove her, and included dates, times and starting and ending places. We also included gasoline, restaurant receipts and credit card statement entries that corresponded with times she was attending classes. This evidence will help convince the immigration service that you did attend classes.

·         Consider consular processing as an alternative to change of status, if necessary

Let’s suppose that in fact you are approved for H-1B status as a result of your employer’s petition filing. While this news is great, it is not the end of the story. You probably want to receive your H-1B status while remaining in the U.S., that is, without having to leave the U.S. In other words, you want to have this H-1B status via a change of status from F-1 to H-1B.

Therefore, USCIS must make TWO decisions regarding your petition. First, they must decide if you are eligible to have H-1B status, based in large part on the complexity of your job and your qualifications. However, they also must decide if you are eligible to receive a change of status. Suppose, for example (God forbid) USCIS finds a problem with your CPT, or problems with your F-1 status in general. In this case, even though they might separately grant you H-1B status, they still would deny the change of status portion of your petition. The result would be a requirement that you leave the U.S. and return with an H-1B visa in order to have your H-1B status.

Furthermore, this denial of the change of status means that you are unlawfully present following the denial. In this case, you are best served by leaving the U.S as soon as possible. Otherwise, depending on your length of unlawful presence, you could be subject to a bar of up to 10 years on returning to the U.S. you most likely would be limited to only your home country as the place for getting your visa. You most likely would not, for example, go to Canada or Mexico for that visa, unless those countries were your home countries.

You can avoid the risk of being denied a request for change of status by simply not asking for it in the first place. In other words, rather than ask for a change of status for the processing of your H-1B petition, you instead request consular processing. Under this type of processing, you and your employer specify, on the petition, the embassy or consulate that USCIS should notify if and when they approve your petition. Following such approval, you would leave the U.S., go to that consulate or embassy, receive an H-1B visa stamp, then return to the U.S. using that visa.

By following these steps, you can increase the chances of changing status from F-1 CPT to H-1B.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Understanding when to use premium processing for your H-1B petition

Certain petitions that a petitioner files with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including for H-1B, can receive premium processing. For an additional (at this writing) fee of $1225, via form I-907, a requester (such as a petitioner or attorney) can ask for a faster decision on the petition, possibly within 15 calendar days. This decision period is significantly faster than the normal H-1B period of two to three months.

Here are some reasons that premium processing might be a good choice.

1.       Begin authorized employment sooner

Let’s say that you and an employer are ready for you to start work in an H-1B job, but the only thing that holds you up is the approval of the petition. For example, consider John, who is finishing his F-1 program of study on June 15. He has found a job and his H-1B petition is exempt from the cap. That is, this petition is not subject to the 65,000 per year H-1B approval limit. John’s employer IS NOT required to file the petition only within the first five business days of April. John and his employer DO NOT have to worry about surviving any lottery. Most importantly, should John’s petition be approved, he NEED NOT wait until October 1 to begin work.

In this case, John’s employer could file a petition on (for example) May 30, request premium processing and ask for a start date of (for example) June 16. Should John be approved, then he could start working on June 16. Without a request for premium processing, John might not be able to work until perhaps the middle or end of August.

Note that this reason does not apply if your petition is subject to the cap, and if, at the time of filing, the cap is full. In such a case, your employer should have filed during the first five business days of April. However, assuming you are approved, the earliest you can begin working is October 1, because only on that date are new H-1B approvals available. In other words, receiving an approval notice on (for example) April 25 DOES NOT permit you to start working on that date. However, please see below for other reasons, in this case, for selecting premium processing.

2.       Reduce the risk of unauthorized employment

In many cases, a person who seeks H-1B status must wait for approval before starting work. However, in one situation, a person need not wait for approval. This situation is called “H-1B portability,” and it refers to a person who changes H-1B employers under certain conditions. If such a person changes jobs from a cap-subject employer to another employer (and of course, the second employer would need to file a petition for the person), then the person need not wait for the petition of the second employer to be approved before starting work.  Rather, the person need only wait until after the second employer has filed the petition, and then the person can begin working for the second employer. In other words, the portability provision allows an employee to begin working prior to an H-1B approval.

While this feature may sound attractive, in terms of saving time, please remember what the Bible says: “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.” That is, simply because a person CAN do something doesn’t necessarily mean that the person SHOULD do it. In this particular case, working for the second employer prior to getting approval for that employer, though lawful, involves the risk that the petition could be denied. In such a case, the person will have been working without authorization.

For this reason, I suggest a more conservative approach: the second employer files the H-1B petition, and at the same time requests premium processing. In the meantime, the person stays with the first employer. Then, once the second petition is approved, presumably in 15 days (and only if approval occurs), the person leaves the first employer and joins the second. This approach involves a longer wait than if the person had started work immediately, but in my view, it reduces risk.

3.       Peace of mind and reduced uncertainty

Some people might want to request premium processing even if a faster petition approval gives them no earlier start date for employment. This situation is a common one, in which an employer files a cap-subject petition in the first five business days of April. If this petition is approved, and if (as has been the case in the past few years) the cap already is full during the filing period, then the person can work only on October 1.

Premium processing DOES NOT advance the start date for authorized H-1B work in this situation. In other words, the start date still must be October 1. Nonetheless, a person simply might want to have peace of mind and reduced stress by knowing, more quickly, the result of the decision. That is, such a person would want to know sooner (perhaps mid-May with premium processing) rather than later (perhaps June or July, with regular processing).

Choosing premium processing is your decision. Unlike other H-1B attorney and filing fees, I believe that it is OK for the employee to pay the premium processing filing fee. Premium processing does not require either the employer to sign the I-907, though it can if it wants. Rather, an attorney is able to submit the request.

 If you do choose premium processing, be sure of your reason, and be aware of what it does and does not allow you to do in your particular case. Also, please be aware that according to USCIS, choosing premium processing does not give your petition any additional chance of selection in the lottery.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.