Hurry up and file

By | Business Immigration, CIS, Citizenship and Naturalization | No Comments

Dear Client,

This is a letter addressed to you, and all it contains is my opinion. So please read this like you do an opinion piece in a newspaper. However, I have been practicing business immigration law for the past 24 years, and this opinion is based on things I have perceived over the years.

On 10/16/2020 the Citizenship and Immigration Service announced that effective immediately the filing fee for Premium Processing would be increased from $1440 to $2500/- The fee was increased from $1225 to $1440. In October 2019 the Citizenship and Immigration Service raised that fee from $1410 to $1440/- When Premium was introduced in 2010, the fee was $1225/- Venture to guess what the next increase would be?

The reason for this increase is that apparently Citizenship and Immigration Service is short of money. Citizenship and Immigration Service does not receive US funding and it is entirely funded by the filing fees. It had worked so far. Why then, all of a sudden are they short of money? The answer lies in the fact that fed up with arbitrary denials and blatant disregard of the law, lawyers have taken to sue the Citizenship and Immigration Service. When we file lawsuits, Citizenship and Immigration Service does not receive any fees. They have to defend themselves with their own money.

Folks who know me, know that I only advocate for Premium filing if the employee needs to go outside US urgently during the pendency of their case. I spend time talking clients out of Premium, some listen, some don’t. This stems for the desire to end the anxiety of waiting to get the result. I do feel for you. But this is what happens on both ends of the spectrum when you want to do a rush filing.

In our law firm we always strive to do the very best job we possibly can. In an ideal world we would work fast and do the same job. But we live in the human world. Sometimes it is simply not possible to do our best job fast. But when you pressure us, we do the best job we can under pressure.

Similarly let’s view this from the Citizenship and Immigration Service Officer’s perspective. When you file Premium, the officers are also rushed. So, they flip through the petition and hit the pre-made Request for Evidence button. And then, once it is answered, you get an approval, depending on the officer’s mood or quota or experience. The more experienced officers tend to make rational decisions.

Now let’s explore the history of Computer Consulting Company’s H-1B immigration petition. Since about 2007 Citizenship and Immigration Service had conducted fraud investigations on Computer Consulting company and there is no doubt that fraud is rampant in that industry. In an attempt to control the fraud, the bright minds at Citizenship and Immigration Service instituted the control memo in 2010. When that failed they harped upon Specialized Knowledge. When tRump came to power, he espoused that H-1B employees need to be the most highly paid employees. This was also struck down by the court. All this led to inconsistent adjudication resulting in decisions all over the place. Lots of petitioners sued and the court consolidated a bunch of those cases in the IT Serve case. That case took away the whole specialized knowledge and control issues.

The Citizenship and Immigration Service is thus looking for ways to deny these cases. Their most recent attempt is to deny those individuals whose underlying degree is not in computer science, never mind that the law states otherwise. I am copying and pasting the law:

“For purposes of determining equivalency to a baccalaureate degree in the specialty, three years of specialized training and/or work experience must be demonstrated for each year of college-level training the alien lacks. For equivalence to an advanced (or Masters) degree, the alien must have a baccalaureate degree followed by at least five years of experience in the specialty.”

There will be more lawsuits, which would not have happened if Citizenship and Immigration Service had only followed the law. But generally, less experienced officers in Premium tend to make hasty negative decisions. And within Citizenship and Immigration Service there are no consequences for the officer, even if the decision gets overturned by a court of law, and Citizenship and Immigration Service wastes money defending these illegal decisions. There are other proposals on the books, like getting the Labor Condition Application signed by both employer and end clients. I don’t want to discuss these proposals until they are passed.

And now let’s get to the real cause of writing this letter. You, my dear client is worried, and justifiably so. I would be too, if this was my case. And I know its extremely hard to work when your status in this country is nagging you.

I hear you.  Like many of you, I grew up in India and it was not until my daughter became a psychiatrist that she diagnosed that I have what is called in this country, “anxiety disorder.” She prescribed medicine and it has helped me tremendously. By no means am I belittling your anxiety. All I am saying is that paying $2500/- to get a swift denial is not prudent.

CIS’s Delays and Denials

By | Business Immigration, CIS, Citizenship and Naturalization, Employer/Employee, H1-B, Houston Immigration, Immigration, Immigration Policy, Uncategorized | No Comments

I am sure that most of you know by now the inordinate processing delays and Request for Evidences in almost every case, no matter what evidence we give the CIS initially. Citizenship and Immigration Service has distanced themselves from us Immigration Attorneys, and is no longer talking to American Immigration Lawyer’s Association. It has also changed its infopass system, so members of the public cannot go and ask questions.
The other thing that Citizenship and Immigration Service is doing is arbitrary denials. There is no uniformity or accountability and each officer is left to deny cases as they please.
These delays and arbitrary denials are causing needless hardship for Immigrants.
The Administrative Appeals Office, which is supposed to be a non partisan agency, who is supposed to be reviewing the case like new (ie without Citizenship and Immigration Service’s interpretation) has now rubber stamped the agency’s decision 100% of the time for the past 2.5 years.
So our ONLY remedy is to go to federal courts. Mandamus the Citizenship and Immigration Service to act, or appeal to federal courts for Citizenship and Immigration Service’s arbitrary decisions. But those of us who live in red states would probably not get a fair trial, unless we file in DC, who has jurisdiction, because that is where Citizenship and Immigration Service is located. That is of course an added time and travel expense. Especially Business Immigration, because private companies don’t work at the speed of Government.
The Citizenship and Immigration Service had always given the excuse that the delay was due to the number of petitions filed. Yet, when they published their report, it showed that there was a 13% reduction of applications filed. Simultaneously, the processing times increased by 8%.
With this knowledge in hand, the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association testified to the Congressional Immigration Committee on July 16, 2019. This is a bi partisan committee. Sharvari Dalal-Dheini, AILA Director of Government Relations, noted, “It is not hyperbole to say that the consequences of these delays are dire. In recent months, dozens of Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have demanded that USCIS address what are unacceptable low performance measures. We greatly appreciate the work the Committee is now doing to hold the agency accountable for its failure to administer immigration benefits, as Congress mandated. AILA’s more than 15,000 members have been urging USCIS to address these delays for years, only to see them worsen. Today’s hearing is vitally important, but Congress should also pass legislation to ensure greater transparency and accountability within USCIS going forward. These failures harm our economy, American businesses, families and communities. America deserves a strong, effective legal immigration system to keep businesses competitive and our families and communities prospering.”
Yesterday Forbes reported that Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) asked the Citizenship and Immigration Service about the delays and denials. USCIS Associate Director for Service Center Operations Donald Neufeld said, “I can tell you that a number of changes have been made affecting H-1B processing over the last couple of years”—-thereby admitting that changes made were a result of this administration.
I do not know if anything will change under this administration. I know I have been slower to respond to clients. But it is virtually impossible to get back to everyone at the rate we used to in 2015, because we now live in a world where Immigrants are told to go back to where they came from, even at the very top of our administration and useless Request for Evidences are the rule rather than the exception of the day. We know you are anxious. We are too. But rest assured we will fight for you as best as we can.

The Proposed changes to H-1B lottery

By | Business Immigration, Citizenship and Naturalization, H1-B, Immigration, Immigration Policy, Uncategorized | No Comments

Please note that Citizenship and Immigration Service has been talking about changing the lottery system for years. Nothing was done until December 3, 2018, when Citizenship and Immigration Service published a notice and comment period with the intention of doing the lottery first with some information. Then, after the employee gets selected, the Citizenship and Immigration Service would require the whole petition.
While most attorneys, including American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, do not want this change, (hurts lawyers’ pocket books) I actually am in favor of it. However, the only thing I am concerned about is employers using it to file for numerous employees, many of whom will not qualify, thereby skewing up the lottery. The proposed rule also makes it easier for U.S. Master’s Degree Holders to score a lottery number.
When an agency like Citizenship and Immigration Service propagates a rule, the law demands that the agency propose the rule and gives the public 30 days’ notice to comment on the process and then make a rule after reading all the comments. Given the fact that this comment period ended on Jan 2, 2019, we doubt very much whether the new rule will be promulgated by March 2019. Agencies typically take at least 90-180 days to act.
Citizenship and Immigration Service also realizes the time crunch, and has said that it might not be possible to implement the new process this year. However, as we await the Citizenship and Immigration Service to release how many comments it received and its ability to act on the process, we are going to send out questionnaires for the employees, as well as a list of documents. I am just waiting on my questionnaire and forms program to be updated by software engineers with new questions that I designed myself. I was supposed to have that delivered last Friday, however I will wait one more week before sending out the previous questionnaires and document list.
Also note: that our fee structure will be based on the type of filing procedure, but will not exceed the current rate for this fiscal year. With the new procedure, the rates for entering the lottery is expected to be significantly lower.

For more information, visit Banerjee & Associates

H-1B transfer of Employer in an age of No Premium

By | Business Immigration, CIS, Citizenship and Naturalization, Employer/Employee, H1-B, Immigration, Immigration Policy | No Comments

AC-21 (ACWIA) was passed by Congress to bring business immigration into the 21st Century. It recognized the speed of modern business and deemed that an H-1B Employee can change employer and work for the new employer, “upon filing” of the H-1B case. The AC-21 law did not define “filing” and common law dictates that “filing” is done when the petition is dropped in the mail. The law also created fees ($750 for employers under 25 employees, and $1500 for employers with more than 25 employees) to educate the American workforce to reduce foreign dependence.

Citizenship and Immigration Service has slowly chipped away at the AC-21 law. If the employee changes jobs and the subsequent petition is denied, then the employee does lose status.  Usually such petitions were filed under Premium Processing and the results were received within two weeks.

However, since September 11, 2018, the Citizenship and Immigration Service took out Premium Processing for Change of Employer and new H-1B cases.  As of now it is scheduled to start again from February 19th 2019This does put the employee at risk of losing status if the petition is denied. At the same time, business in the 21st Century does not wait for Citizenship and Immigration Service to take forever.

The Ombudsman, who is a liaison between the public and Citizenship and Immigration Service is having a conference with the public on November 01, which I will be attending (via phone) and will input my comments on this issue.

So the question becomes can an employer reasonably wait for that length of time? If the employer does not wait, the options are:

  1. Take a risk and jump ship. Usually if the offer is from a large company, the petition should get approved
  2. Stay with the present company and risk losing the job

 

The answer will depend on: TAKE RISK IF:

  • Are you working in house?
  • The petitioner is a Large Company?

 

DO NOT TAKE RISK IF:

  • Your petition is filed by a computer consulting company, and especially if the end client is not a direct client. However even in this scenario, it will depend on what type of document is produced.

Contact Banerjee & Associates for more information

Take the Agency to Federal Court

By | Business Immigration, CIS, Citizenship and Naturalization, Employer/Employee, H1-B, Houston Immigration, L-1 | No Comments

For some time now, Citizenship and Immigration Service has been acting against legal Immigration, under a “policy” expressed in 4 words by Mr. Trump, “Buy American, Hire American” (hereinafter referred to as BAHA.) However 4 words are not adequate to form a solid policy, and it has been largely left up to the individual adjudicators on how they adjudicate Legal Business Immigration.

H-1B

The Citizenship and Immigration Service has since then tried to interpret the term Specialty Occupation, with no legal authority whatsoever that (1) Level 1 wage is not good enough; (2) Systems Analyst is not a specialty occupation, (although it was fine even 1 year ago—and there has been numerous Systems Analyst approved by Citizenship and Immigration Service)

L-1A and B

For L-1A for small companies it is virtually impossible, with Citizenship and Immigration Service raising questions about “managerial position” viability and anything under the sun. For L-1B, unless you have a patent, nothing is specialized knowledge.

There are huge number of denials, and appeals to Administration Appeals Office (AAO) are 1. Taking forever; and 2. The AAO is being told to rubber stamp the agency’s decision.

Therefore the time has come for us to sue the Citizenship and Immigration Service in federal court. The law is on our side! We DO NEED to “forum shop”. However, with I-129 petitions being mainly adjudicated in Vermont and California, those federal courts are still quite liberal.

There are two types of lawsuits:

  • MANDAMUS

This one compels the Citizenship and Immigration Service to adjudicate the case. However note that Citizenship and Immigration Service can adjudicate the case and deny it. This is advisable when there is a very strong case, and the OPT or other restrictions will render harm to the employee

 

  • DECLARATORY JUDGEMENT

This is applicable for denials. Business Immigration litigation is in an early stage. And the Citizenship and Immigration Service does not have the resources to hire experts, let alone defend many law suits. If we have a strong case, we will win. A word of caution though—Bad facts+ Bad lawyering = Bad laws. Therefore these cases should be handled by attorneys who specialize in Business Immigration and practices mainly business immigration

For more information visit Banerjee& Associates

 

STEM OPT

By | Business Immigration, Citizenship and Naturalization, Uncategorized | No Comments

Employer’s obligations

If you are going to hire a trainee on her post education completion OPT (Optional Practical Training)
1 You must sign up with E Verify
2 Need to have the contact information of the student’s DSO—and report:

• Have a planned formal training program-on form I-983-Customized for each student with evaluation
• Any Material Change (like different location) on a new I-983
• Termination of employment —-report within 5 days of termination

2 EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIP-
Kind of similar to the H-1B control issue, this is more specific. While employers maybe able to send employee to another location, it cannot be labor for hire. The employer or an employer’s representative should be there to supervise and implement the training described in the 983. For instance if Employer CCC employed OPT student X and deployed them to work for Amazon. Employer CCC must have another employee at Amazon to supervise X at amazon’s presence.

Small consulting companies, who cannot have the above or staffing companies should not hire OPT student. Employers need to make sure that they have enough resources and trained personnel available to train the OPT student.

STUDENTS

One gets 24 months on STEM for any STEM degree. For instance Student X does a Bachelor’s in Engineering—he gets 24 months. The he does a Master’s in Engineering. He gets another 24 mts.

UNEMPLOYMENT PERIOD :

Initial post completion 12 months: 90 days
24 month extension: 150 days

For more information please contact Banerjee & Associates

 

Employment Based Visa Retrogression

By | Business Immigration, Citizenship and Naturalization, Retrogression, Uncategorized, Visa | No Comments

Please note that for the month of September 2018, the Employment based EB-1, 2 and 3 are oversubscribed worldwide. This means no one can file their Employment based I-485 petitions. Additionally if anyone who had an Employment based interview starting August 8—-will not receive their Green Card (Permanent Resident Card), until at least October. This is the first time in history for this to happen.

Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of Visa Section predicts that:
From October, EB-1 both from China and India will be able to file the I-485 petitions

He predicts that EB-1 and EB-2 for all other countries will be current from October 2019. This means that applicants who were interviewed in August will be able to get their Green Card (Permanent Resident Card).

EB-2 for China will retrogress in September 2018 from March 1, 2015 to Jan 1, 2013. This means that EB-3 for China will have a faster Priority Date. However Mr. Oppenheim does predict that China EB-2 will recover from October 2018. It will stay ahead of EB-3 until at least Jan 2019.

For India, both EB-1 and EB-2 will retrogress to 2007 and 2003. But the EB-2 numbers are expected to come up to 2009. EB-3 will move slowly pending demand.

Charlie Oppenheim is the head of the visa numbers at Department of State, and is the best possible source on visas. Please note that these are mere predictions, and may not be true

 

For more information contact Banerjee & Associates

CPT/OPT and H-1B portability Dangers

By | Business Immigration, Citizenship and Naturalization, Employer/Employee, H1-B, Immigration Policy, Immigration Reform | No Comments

 

On June 28, 2018 and July 13 2018, the CIS issued 2 memos that might drastically change the practice of Immigration law. Since I practice mainly Business Immigration Law, I will discuss the ramification of these two memos as they pertain to Business Immigration.

The RFE memo (July 13th) seems to say that RFEs will be issued for only those cases that does not meet the prima facia evidence. That evidence is just filing ALL THE REQUIRED FORMS. This memo starts from Sept 11.

The Notice to Appear memo (NTA Memo-June 28 ) says that That CIS will issue NTA (ie start removal proceedings) if CIS denies an application.

The guidance for the RFE memo is that we need to do our very best. It has not been interpreted yet, but we do need to file all control letters and Specialty Occupations letters at the filing stage.

But the NTA memo will have more far reaching consequences to Employment based applicants, particularly Stem students and H-1B portability.

An NTA is a document sent by ICE, when CIS refers the case to them. It starts the process of Removal. NTA’s are issued with no dates given on the Notice to Appear. It says TBD.  According to the Supreme Court Case Pereira V Sessions, 2018, the court ruled that writing TBD makes the NTA flawed. It has to specify the date, time and place to appear. Since that is not ICE’s procedure, lawyers have had varied success in getting those cases dismissed. Basically it depends on the judge. But those cases were before Pereira. Now though ICE has to give dates and times, so it remains to be seen what ICE will do.

 

Students on STEM

Current Request for Evidences are not based on third party sites, but on period of stay after obtaining the OPT. Students CANNOT have more than 90 days in a 12 month OPT, more than 120 days for 17 months; and more than 150 days for 24 months. Please note that voluntary work IS counted as work, so they will need employer verification.

What happens if the stem applicant gets a denial of their H status and does not have time left on their OPT?

We would like to have individuals maintain status. Please study in your subject in as good a school you can get in. Please do not take CPT. Please do NOT work illegally.

 

What happens if an H petition for transfer gets denied?

We are advising clients to file with Premium and not quit the first job. Of course the CIS will give an RFE, esp if this is a computer job, and can and does deny with no proof.

 

What happens with folks filing for Adjustment of Status has been on CPT, or has worked with no authorization?

Increasingly CIS officers, during Employment based interviews, are going through an applicant’s status and can deny based on any status issues. However, there is a remedy applicable for Employment based applicants. Under Section 245 K of the INA, the government can only look at status 180 days from the last entry. So as soon as any of these individuals receives their Advance Parole documents, we are sending them to Canada or Mexico just before the interview, so Citizenship and Immigration can ONLY adjudicate status from the last entry.

For more information contact Banerjee&Associates

 

H-1B and Computer Consulting Company

By | Business Immigration, CIS, Citizenship and Naturalization, H1-B, Uncategorized | No Comments

H-1B lottery is upon us again. This post will deal with some common Request for Evidences for H-1Bs for computer professionals.
Let’s start by saying that the government hates Computer Consulting Company, and they in turn do commit the most amount of fraud. But measures to shore up the H-1B should come from Congress. The Citizenship and Immigration Service as an agency cannot act on its own and impose restrictions that violate the rule of law. Add to that the fact that many senior managers at all agencies have quit, and officers are left to adjudicate on their own, giving birth to a disaster. There is no rhyme or reason why Citizenship and Immigration Service makes things up, and why officers adjudicate however way they feel like.
A couple of years ago, the Citizenship and Immigration Service decreed that the title of “Computer Programmer” is not a specialty one. Even though the requirement of a Computer professional is the same as Systems Analyst, software engineer, software developer. Now they don’t like Computer Programmer and Systems Analyst.
As many of you know, new H-1Bs are filed on March 31, to reach the Citizenship and Immigration Service office on April 1. The Citizenship and Immigration Service made an ultra vires declaration on March 31, 2017 that level 1 job for computer professionals, and computer professionals only, are not “Specialized” jobs. In 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Service had held that a petitioner must “control” employees. When challenged by an ex-Congressman, now an attorney who represent nurses and wrote the H-1B law, the Citizenship and Immigration Service selective applies this control doctrine only to Computer professionals.
The Citizenship and Immigration Service also routinely denies cases on the ground that the Computer job is “vague, non specific, and not specialized.” You can give them a 10 page detailed job description, they come back with form denials, which they copy and paste. How do officers judge that a certain job, which they presumably do not understand is “vague” ? Even with expert opinions, the Citizenship and Immigration Service claims, “we don’t have to take expert advice. We can tell that this is a vague description.” These officers earn less than computer professionals. Why they stick to their Government jobs is beyond me.
As I started by saying, there is fraud in the dealings of the computer consulting that has to be remedied. But this is not the way to do it. Because after all it is our freedom that the government guarantees in our Constitution. This will only lead to a slippery slope, whereby other agencies will also make law themselves, until we cease to be a democracy.

For more information contact Banerjee & Associates

Business Immigration in 2017

By | Business Immigration, Citizenship and Naturalization, H1-B, Houston Immigration, I-94, Immigration, Immigration Policy, Immigration Reform, Uncategorized | No Comments

In 2016, before the elections, my staff and I had a discussion as to what Immigration will look like in 2017, when Hillary wins. One of them asked, “what if Trump wins”. I brushed her off, saying, “oh, then we all will be annihilated, we will think survival, not immigration.” Of course, that was a joke, but here we are after a year with Trump in the White House.

I will confine myself to changes in Business Immigration during this year. In November of 2016, the US published its “final rule” on Employment based Immigration, an Obama era legacy, making life better for most business non immigrants. With a stated purpose of helping US Employers retain highly skilled individuals, the rule clarified porting, grace periods and other issues in non immigrant and immigrant business visas. So the year actually started with this gift from President Obama.

Of course that euphoria was short lived. Around March of every year, businesses get ready to file the new H-1Bs. Each year the quota for new H-1B is 65,000 +20,000 for US educated personnel. Since more than 200,000 people apply, there is a lottery held. One can file 6 months before the Government year, which starts at October 1. Therefore most petitions are mailed on March31, to reach Citizenship and Immigration (CIS) office on April 01.

On March 31, USCIS issued a “guidance memo” where they said that they do not believe that a level I wages for Computer Professionals does not qualify the employees as “professional employees.” While I do understand the Government’s concern about Computer Consulting Companies (See below), this memo is wrong for so many reasons.
1. Wage levels are set by Department of Labor, (not CIS). This memo is thus ultra vires.
2. To selectively have this for one particular industry violates the rule of law.
3. This memo is not backed up by either law or by a notice and comment period, and thus violates 14th Amendment
But then, the Constitution is not a necessary text for Trump supporters. Subsequently many if not most of those consulting company jobs, which were picked in the lottery, was denied. All those quota numbers were wasted.

Now lets look at the way big business gets its computer business needs. Lets say Macy’s wants to build a new website that would allow customers to browse on what is available in their local store and have something held for them before customers went out to shop. Macy’s will need to build a program. That is a temporary job. The Macy’s Corporation does not want to put in the time and effort to secure these temp jobs. So Macy’s will have a contract with a vendor to provide their computer needs. Sometimes these vendors are intermediary vendors, and they have contracts with sub vendors to get the computer professionals.

Now like many businesses (think Greek diners or Chinese laundromats), the business of supplying Computer Professionals were held by Indian. Not even the whole of India, it was utilized mostly by one state-Andhra Pradesh. Many Colleges there had poor standards. Many systems analysts did not know how to do the job and learned “on the job”. Companies like Macy’s are too big to monitor this. Besides many computer consulting companies were engaged in unethical business practices.

The Computer Consulting owners say that American grads don’t want to do these jobs. The lifestyle is hard—-they need to move from one location to the other with the projects. Usually they have a home base, and work long hours from Monday to Thursday. They fly home on Thursday and leave Sun day night.
Whatever the reason is I think the Government has a legitimate interest to cut back on the fraud. The Obama administration tried to deny H-1Bs with the Control issue, saying that those employees work at end client’s places (Macy’s) and are therefore not employees of the H-1B employer. However that has not had much success, since its inception in 2010.

I do think the current administration is in the correct path by insisting that Computer Consulting H-1B jobs are to be paid more. At least that will ensure that the US gets properly trained individuals. However the means which the current Government took to undertake this was underhanded and violated the Rule of Law.

 

For more information contact Banerjee & Associates