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Past Articles


2016 ()
Why You Should Register for Our January I-9 Training | 12/06/2016 H-2B Country Expansion for Temporary Workers | 11/10/2016 Are You Equipped to Handle the Proposed I-9 Changes? | 11/03/2016 Hiring Professionals in the “No H-1B Zone”: The L-1B Alternative | 10/19/2016 No H-1B for October 1st? No Problem! Exceptions Mean H-1Bs are Still Available for You | 09/14/2016 New Rule Could Welcome International Entrepreneurs to the U.S. | 08/30/2016 Interim Final Rule Brings Steep I-9 Fine Increases | 08/23/2016 Question and Answer from Our Recent India Trip | 07/28/2016 Settlement Against Macy’s in Discrimination of Non-U.S. Citizens | 06/29/2016 Attention H-1B Employers–You Could Owe Back Wages Over "Benching" | 06/02/2016 What's Trending at GoffWilson | 05/26/2016 Are You Ready for an I-9 Audit? | 05/19/2016 Our I-9 and E-Verify Seminar is Almost Here | 05/09/2016 Exploring Alternatives to the H-1B Visa | 05/05/2016 Examining the Distribution of H-1B Visas | 04/21/2016 I-9 and E-Verify Seminar Announced | 04/12/2016 Lessons from the University of Northern New Jersey | 04/07/2016 Alternative Paths to H-1B | 04/01/2016 Meet EVUS | 03/24/2016 Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Innovators | 03/17/2016 New STEM OPT Extension Ruling | 03/10/2016 Get Ready for H-1B Visa Filing Frenzy | 03/03/2016 Immigration's Impact by the Numbers | 02/25/2016 H Cap Exemption | 02/17/2016 How an Immigrant Workforce will Help Healthcare | 02/11/2016 5 Things to Know About Being in the U.S. on an F-1 Visa | 02/08/2016 The Value of an Expert Witness | 02/04/2016 Update on Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extensions | 01/26/2016

On May 1, 2017, a new guidance on the role and use of interpreters in domestic field office interviews will go into effect. The intent of the guidance is to ensure that those who bring interpreters to certain types of interviews are getting competent language assistance, a situation that we most commonly encounter in family-based applications such as status adjustments. 
 
Along with the new guidance, the USCIS will also introduce a new form—Form G-1256, Declaration for Interpreted USCIS Interview—which needs to be signed by both the interviewee and the interpreter in the presence of a USCIS officer before the interview. The form states that the interpreter must accurately, literally, and fully interpret for both the interviewee and the interviewing officer. It also serves as a reminder that personal information may be disclosed during the interview, and whatever is heard during the interview should remain confidential. 
 
The new guidance also seeks to increase the consistency in interpreted interviews by establishing basic standards for interpreters. According to the new guidance, interpreters should be fluent in both English and the interviewee’s language, and able to competently translate between the two. Further, interpreters should be able to interpret impartially and without bias. 
 
In an effort to better define who can serve as an interpreter, the guidance offers restrictions on those who can serve in the role. To serve as an interpreter, a person must be 18 years of age or older; however, in some cases, exceptions will be made for individuals between 14 and 17 years old. There will be no exemptions made for individuals under 14. Also restricted from serving as an interpreter are witnesses, but, once again, there are some instances where an exception may be made. Lastly, the interviewee’s attorneys or accredited representatives are not permitted to act as interpreters. 
 
If a USCIS officer determines that an interpreter doesn’t fit the requirement or is restricted, the interpreter will be disqualified. In the event of a disqualification, the applicant may continue the interview using a qualified interpreter or reschedule the interview so they can bring a qualified interpreter. They may also choose to continue with the interview without an interpreter if the applicant and officer can communicate effectively in English. 
 
Immigration rules and laws are changing rapidly, and it’s important to have someone familiar with the ins and outs of immigration on your side. At GoffWilson, our focus is solely on immigration law, and we’ve handled a multitude of cases like this over the years. If you have a question about an upcoming interview with the USCIS, contact us today. Immigration is what we do.  
 

I-9 Updates

04/21/2017


On April 19, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would begin issuing redesigned Permanent Resident Cards (i.e. green cards) and Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards) on May 1st. The redesigned cards will each feature the individual’s photo on both sides, and will also omit the holder’s signature. The permanent resident card will no longer have an optical stripe on the back, but will have enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features.
 
Employers should note that both the redesigned cards and the previously-issued cards can be used for Form I-9 purposes through their respective expiration dates. Therefore, it is important to examine the differences of each and familiarize yourself with them. This will ensure that you are not wrongfully rejecting a valid document in the future.
 
The USCIS also announced this week that the updated Form I-9, released on November 14, 2016, contained a software error in the social security number section. For forms downloaded between November 14th and 17th that were completed on a computer, the social security numbers could appear transposed on the form. Employers should review any Forms I-9 completed during this window (or with a form downloaded during this window) to verify that the employee’s social security number appears correct. If the digits were transposed, you should have your employee draw a line through the incorrect number and enter the correct number underneath the section. Then, the employee should initial and date the change. In addition, you should include a written explanation with the Form I-9 regarding the reason for the correction.
 
We have seen that I-9 Audits are on the rise and employers should take action now to ensure properly completed forms are on file. Non-compliant companies can expect hefty fines due to the August 1, 2016, U.S. Department of Justice fee increase, which was previously discussed in our August 23, 2016, bLAWg post.
 
If you are contacted by the Immigration Service seeking to review your I-9s, call us! GoffWilson offers I-9 training in public and private settings several times throughout the year. Contact our office today and put your mind at ease and to sign up for our next session. It’s what we do.
 


One of our favorite things about attending the Granite State Human Resource Conference is the chance to meet with HR professionals and explain to them the various ways GoffWilson can be an asset to their business. Today’s most successful companies recognize the importance of operating on a global scale, and whether they’re looking to cherry pick the world’s best minds or simply hire someone with skills that the native-born population doesn’t possess, GoffWilson is there to help. 
 
New Hampshire employers are particularly challenged as its companies need more top talent and the unemployment rate continues to shrink. It’s here that GoffWilson can be a great benefit to New Hampshire businesses by giving them access to a larger pool of potential employees while making sure they remain in compliance of the nation’s complex and ever-changing immigration laws. 
 
If you’re planning on attending the Granite State Resource Conference, don’t forget to stop by the GoffWilson booth to learn about the many ways we can help your business, talk about changes in immigration, and let us answer any questions you may have about the new I-9 form. While you’re at our booth, sign up to win a pair of Bose Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones. And if you just can’t wait for the conference, you can always find us at GoffWilson.com
 
 

On Monday, President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on immigration that bars people from six predominantly Muslim countries without visas from traveling to the United States. The new order represents a do-over moment for Trump, as his first executive order on immigration—commonly referred to as the “travel ban” or “Muslim ban”—has been met with criticism and has been tied up in courts across the country. Although this new executive order will most likely do nothing to damper its criticism, it has addressed many of the holes that lawyers and judges have poked into the original order. 
 
One of the most noticeable changes to Trump’s executive order is the removal of Iraq from the list of barred countries, leaving only six (Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Libya). Although Iraq has been removed from the ban, Iraqi nationals seeking admission into the U.S. will be subject to additional scrutiny. 
 
Another revision to the old executive order is that the new travel ban only applies to people from the six banned countries without visas, and includes exemptions for lawful residents and visitors of the United States. Under the latest executive order, all green card holders and current visa holders are exempt from the travel ban. 
 
The new executive order still bans refugees for 120 days, but no longer indefinitely bars Syrian refugees. At the conclusion of the 120 days, the administration will determine which countries they will reinstate refugee admissions from. At that time, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will also likely decline from 110,000 to 50,000. The new ban also does away with the prioritization of religious minorities, one of the provisions of the first ban that was challenged as religious discrimination. 
 
With all the changes made to the executive order, the bad news for business travelers is that the elimination of the Visa Interview Waiver Program remains. This means that every time a visa expires, travelers will be required to attend a sit-down interview with the consular office in their home county for renewal. Previously, visa applicants were able to get their visa applications processed without an interview. 
 
Not only have the contents of the travel ban been revised to increase its legality, but the order’s timing has also been changed to allow smoother implementation. In an effort to avoid the scenes created at airports nationwide in the wake of the original travel ban, the new executive order does not go into effect until March 16, allowing time for travelers to plan, government officials to get processes in place, and legal challenges to occur—in effect minimizing or eliminating the chaos created by the immediacy of the first order. 
 
Immigration in the United States is changing faster than ever. This week alone has seen two policy-shifting events (click here to find out the temporary suspension of premium processing for H-1B visas). Because of this, it is more important than ever to have someone to help you navigate the complexities of immigration law. For more than thirty years, GoffWilson has worked exclusively on immigration law, and can help you meet the challenges of operating in a global world. Contact our office today to discover how GoffWilson can help you. 
 


On Friday, March 3, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily suspended Premium Processing for all H-1B petitions, with the suspension becoming effective on April 3, the first day H Visa applications can be filed for the new fiscal year. Before the suspension, companies were able to pay a $1,225 fee for the expedited (premium) processing of their visa application, ensuring a response from the USCIS within 15 days, or a refund of the fee. Recently, the standard processing of H-1B applications submitted without premium processing has been approaching one year, creating workforce uncertainty in vital sectors of the U.S., such as the high-tech and medical communities. Although the suspension is only temporary, according to the USCIS, it could be in effect for up to six months. 
 
Premium processing has been an important tool used for staffing some of the nation’s most advanced and innovative companies, as it allows them to make quick adjustments to their employment needs in fast-moving industries while giving them access to highly skilled workers from across the globe. High-tech employers using premium processing would know if their staffing needs would be met in a matter of weeks. But with premium processing suspended, now they’ll be left in limbo while they wait for months to learn of a key employee's visa status.
 
Equally damaged by the suspension of premium processing is the medical community, as thousands of foreign-born doctors rely on the H-1B visa to continue working in the U.S. after the expiration of their J visa (which allows them to complete their residency in the U.S.). In fact, over the past 15 years, more than 15,000 foreign doctors have worked in the U.S. on H-1B visas. The lack of premium processing will delay vitally needed doctors from working and worsen the medical community’s shortage of physicians. 
 
The announcement of premium processing suspension is huge news in immigration and will dramatically affect the way companies hire highly skilled foreign-born employees. With businesses no longer able to get expedited processing, it’s more important than ever to have a well-developed and long-term strategy developed with consideration to your visa needs, as well as an excellent understanding of the complexities of the U.S. immigration system—and GoffWilson is here to help. 
 
For more than 30 years, GoffWilson has focused exclusively on immigration and can help you navigate today’s rapidly changing immigration laws and maintain access to the world’s best and brightest people. GoffWilson can help you discover solutions to the challenges of employing a foreign-born workforce presented by the rapidly changing rules and laws found in the U.S. Contact us today to learn how we can help your business.
 


In our February 8th bLAWg post, we discussed the emergency motion to stay pertaining to the temporary restraining order (TRO) in the federal case, State of Washington v. Trump. Late yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit published an order upholding the TRO and denying the government’s motion for a stay. In its order, the court states, “we hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury….”
 
Due to the court’s ruling, the prohibitions on President Trump’s January 27th executive order, Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States remain in effect. This means that refugee, immigrant, and nonimmigrant travel to the U.S. from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen can continue. However, as the government is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and a decision could be issued as early as next week, those that can travel to the U.S. should do so at the earliest available date.
 
We will continue to post additional information as it becomes available. Those with questions should contact our office.
 
Looking for additional information on the executive orders? Check out our GoffWilson January 27th and February 2nd bLAWg posts.
 

 
On February 3, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the federal case, State of Washington v. Trump. The State of Washington originally filed its lawsuit on January 30th, challenging President Trump’s January 27th executive order, Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States. The TRO prohibits enforcement of the following portions of Trump’s order:
 
•U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) 120-day suspension.
•Indefinite halting of Syrian refugee admissions to the U.S.
•90-day suspension of immigrant and nonimmigrant entries into the U.S. from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (excluding U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents).
•The Department of State (DOS) provisional revocation of all valid immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for individuals from the countries listed above.
 
Therefore, the above sections are no longer being enforced (for the time being), and refugee, immigrant, and nonimmigrant travel to the U.S. has resumed. The DOS has confirmed that provisionally revoked visas have been reversed and are now valid for travel. If your employees, relatives, and/or friends have been stuck outside the U.S. as a result of the executive order provisions listed above, now is the time to have them return to the country. As the situation is fluid, this could change at a moment’s notice.
 
On February 4th, in response to the TRO, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an emergency motion to stay (i.e. stop the TRO from going into effect). Yesterday, February 7th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard oral arguments pertaining to the motion. A decision is expected by the end of this week. Many experts believe that this issue will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
Stay tuned for additional updates. Background information pertaining to all of President Trump’s immigration executive orders can be found in our GoffWilson January 27th and February 2nd bLAWg posts.
 
Questions? Contact our office.
 

On January 25, 2017, President Trump began issuing executive orders pertaining to immigration. A comprehensive review of the first two orders can be found in our earlier bLAWg post, What You Need to Know About Trump’s Executive Orders. On January 27th, the President issued another, more stringent order, Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, which has been the subject of constant media reports over the past week. Rumors are circulating, causing additional anxiety for many employers and employees alike. GoffWilson has been closely monitoring the situation and can confirm the following as of February 2, 2017:
 
•U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) has been suspended for 120 days.
•Number of refugees to be accepted into the U.S. reduced from 110,000 to 50,000.
•Syrian refugee admissions to the U.S. have been halted indefinitely.
Immigrant and nonimmigrant entries into the U.S. from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen have been   halted for 90 days (excluding U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents). This has not been expanded to include any other countries. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has confirmed as of today that no amendment is currently being worked on to expand the list of countries.
•The DOS has provisionally revoked all valid immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for individuals from the countries listed above.
•Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP) has been suspended, requiring an in-person visa interview for most applicants. As of today, some consulates still have active VIWP’s, including India. Applicants under the age of 14 and over the age of 79 are still eligible for the VIWP. Additionally eligible are applicants having a previous issuance of the same visa within one year.
•As of today, there have not been any rules, regulations, or orders proposed or issued pertaining to the H-1B process specifically. Furthermore, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not confirmed whether it has suspended immigration benefit applications for individuals from the affected countries, who are already residing in the U.S.
 
There are numerous federal lawsuits ongoing that could affect the above-stated points. Just today, Lufthansa announced that it will permit travelers to Boston from all countries until February 5th due to a Massachusetts Federal District Court decision.
 
We will continue to monitor issues related to the executive orders, so stay tuned for updates.
 
GoffWilson is your source for immigration updates! Contact our office today with any questions.
 

The first week of Trump’s presidency has given the immigrant community a glimpse of what the next four years will look like, and has certainly dispelled any hopes that he would soften his hardline stance on immigration once inaugurated. On Wednesday, January 25, President Trump signed two executive actions, and in those statements are an expansion of enforcement priorities, an expansion of International Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) officers as well as Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers, reinstatement of the Secure Communities Program, and defunding of “sanctuary cities.” Furthermore, Trump reaffirmed to uphold his campaign promise of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 
 
Expansion of Enforcement 
 
In Trump’s first interview after the election, he told 60 Minutes that he planned on deporting between 2 and 3 million people—and with Wednesday’s executive action, he is one step closer to keeping that promise. One of the primary actions of Trump’s executive order is the expansion of enforcement, or, more simply, broadening the scope of what constitutes a deportable offense. Under the Obama administration, only undocumented immigrants convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanors, or multiple misdemeanors were considered priorities for deportation, but that has changed. 
 
Under Wednesday’s executive action, enforcement is expanded to include illegal immigrants with “any criminal offense” (a general definition that can include anything from stealing a pack of gum to serious crimes) and individuals who have “committed uncharged acts that constitute a chargeable offense,” which include immigration offenses like illegal entry into the U.S. or driving without a license. It further reaches to include those who engaged in "fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter” (like working under a false social security number), and empowers ICE agents to prioritize anyone they feel is a “risk to public safety or national security” (giving broad and sweeping power to immigration agents).  
 
While this section of the executive order may pose a frightening reality for undocumented immigrants, it’s not a done deal yet. In order to carry out expanded enforcement, Trump has proposed hiring an additional 10,000 ICE and ERO officers—something he cannot do without congressional approval. Additionally, in order to identify the criminal offenses of undocumented immigrants, Trump will need the cooperation of state and local law enforcement. 
 
“Sanctuary Cities”
 
In another move away from Obama-era policies, Trump’s executive order ends the Priority Enforcement Program and reinstates the Secure Communities Program. The Secure Communities Program relies on a partnership between federal, state, and local law enforcement with ICE to identify immigrants in jail who may be deportable. The executive order also calls for the defunding of “sanctuary cities,” a loose term for communities that protect undocumented immigrants.
 
Although it’s within the President’s power to reinstate the Secure Communities Program, state and local authorities are under no obligation to cooperate with the program. At the moment, at least 39 cities and 364 counties nationwide count themselves as sanctuary communities according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. Included in that list are major metropolises such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and, ironically, Washington D.C. Many of the mayors of these cities have already made very public statements in support of their immigrant communities. Furthermore, any attempt to defund “sanctuary cities” will be challenged in the courts. 
 
The Wall 
 
It seems impossible to talk about Trump and immigration without talking about the wall he promised to build during his campaign. Many believed that Trump’s wall would be symbolic, seeing that much of the U.S.-Mexico border runs through desolate terrain. Also, the incredible cost (depending on who you listen to, it could cost as little as $12 billion or upwards of $40 billion) and the fact that the number of undocumented Mexicans in the United States has been declining in recent years seemed to indicate the lack of need for a wall. 
 
During his campaign Trump promised that the cost of building the wall would be paid by Mexico, but so far Mexico has flatly refused. With the question of who will pay for the wall if Mexico doesn’t looming, many are asking if the wall is even necessary. The 650 miles of fencing already up on the U.S.-Mexico border has cost the U.S. $7 billion, and that fencing is on the most accessible and easy-to-build-on land. Trump’s plan to add 1,000 more miles of fence would quickly exceed that cost when considering the logistics required to build a wall in more remote areas. Not to mention that the proposed fencing conflicts with private land, as well as Native American land. 
 
Once again, here is where Trump's order runs into difficulty: The executive order allows President Trump to use existing funds to begin building the wall, but Congress will have to appropriate funding if he wants to see it created.   
 
There’s More 
 
Buried beneath the main talking points of Trump’s immigration policies, there are further anti-immigrant policies. For example, the White House intends to publish a weekly list of all the crimes committed by immigrants (it doesn’t specify undocumented) and the cities that refused to deport them, and create an “Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens” that will be dedicated to helping U.S. citizens who have been victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants. 
 
Conclusion
 
While this first week of Trump’s presidency has challenged the nation’s immigrant communities, there is concern that it could worsen. There has been a lot of talk about another executive action in regards to how—and how many—refugees will be accepted into the United States. And there is still the question of how Trump will handle DREAMers. 
 
GoffWilson has spent decades advocating for foreign-born people to come to the United States for their personal betterment and the betterment of the nation. Immigration laws are going to get stricter and more heavily enforced over the next four years, so whether you have questions on how to protect your business or you have personal immigration questions, contact us today to find out how we can assist you.  
 
“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.” –George Washington
 

H-1B visas—those hard-to-get, always-valued professional visas—will be up for grabs in about 60 days! Don’t miss out this year as we expect the cap of H visas (only 65,000 released) to be filled by mid-April. With qualified US workers in short supply, there is more and more call from employers wanting to hire IT consultants, healthcare workers and other high-tech folks all needing H visa status. Keep in mind we can file within the first 5 days of April for a visa that allows the person to work for your company beginning October 1, 2017.
 
There are always a lot of things to consider for an H visa, such as cap-gap issues, travel, job descriptions, industry standards, staffing and consultant workplace issues, and more. Also, if you hope to employ a graduate now working for you in OPT status when that status runs out, you’ll want to file for the H visa on April 1st. Contact us now—we are immigration pros with decades of experience. We will discuss your options so we can get your H application in on the first day of filing. It’s what we do!
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