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2016 ()

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is increasing its enforcement of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Occupational Practical Training (STEM OPT) Program through site visits. Though ICE has possessed the authority to make site visits since the rule Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students went into effect in May 2016, it wasn’t until recently that they conducted inspections. While the debate rages over the intention of this action—with some arguing that it’s another attempt by the White House to stifle legal immigration and others insisting it’s merely oversight—there are some important takeaways from ICE’s latest actions. 
 
What is STEM OPT?
 
The STEM OPT programs enables eligible students with STEM degrees from U.S. colleges and universities to apply for 24 months of Occupational Practical Training (OPT) in the U.S. This OPT is granted in addition to the one-year OPT awarded to all non-STEM-degree F-1 students. In order to qualify for OPT, a student must graduate from an accredited U.S. college or university, secure employment, and work a minimum of 20 hours for that employer. 
 
Employers participating in STEM OPT are responsible for providing a formal, practical training and learning program that’s related to the F-1 student’s degree. Employers must outline the details of their training program on Form I-983, which is submitted and approved by the Designated School Official at the F-1 student’s academic institution.
 
Explaining a STEM OPT Inspection
 
According to the aforementioned 2016 rule, the purpose of on-site inspections is “intended to ensure that each employer meets program requirements, including that they are complying with their attestations and that they possess the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences outlined in students’ Training Plans”—or, more simply, that the information on an F-1 student’s Form I-983 is accurate and that the employer is following the outlined training plan. 
 
What to Expect from a STEM OPT Inspection
 
ICE will review any number of aspects of a student’s work at an employer. ICE officers may wish to conduct interviews with immediate supervisors, management, and human resource personnel. They may also want to inspect the F-1 student’s workspace and take a tour of the workplace. It’s also likely that ICE will want to review documents such as training plans, evaluations, and pay reports. In the words of ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell, “Site visits are a general compliance measure… The visits help ensure that students and employers are engaged in work-based learning experiences consistent with the purpose of the STEM OPT program and the information supplied on the student’s Form I-983.” 
 
STEM OPT Inspection for Employers
 
In light of the recent STEM OPT inspections, employers should familiarize themselves with the training plans of the F-1 students they employ. Likewise, they should have a strong understanding of the statements and promises made in Form I-983 and have evidence to prove their compliance with the form and with regulations. In some cases, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—the agency responsible for overseeing employer site visits—may choose to request information concerning STEM OPT compliance via email or phone rather than send ICE officials for an on-site visit.  
 
STEM OPT Inspection at a Third-Party Site
 
If a STEM OPT student is working at a third-party site, it’s vital for employers to know that ICE might conduct their visit there. If your company is placing F-1 students off site, it’s vital that you communicate with vendors and clients to discuss the potential of an on-site visit and formulate a plan to ensure they’re prepared in the event of one.
 
STEM OPT Inspection for Students
 
The people most threatened by STEM OPT inspections are students. Currently, there are no regulatory or enforcement penalties for employer violations. However, if either the student or their employer is found out of compliance, the DHS may deny, revoke, or terminate the STEM OPT of the F-1 student. 
 
Notice of a STEM OPT Inspection 
 
In most cases, a company will receive 48 hours advanced notice of a STEM OPT inspection, along with a list of the STEM OPT trainee(s) selected for inspection, a request for their Form I-983s, and other documentation relating to the company’s STEM OPT training program. In the event that a complaint is made to ICE, or there is evidence of noncompliance, no notice is required in advance of a site visit. 
 
Planning for a STEM OPT Inspection
 
To quote Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” With these inspections becoming more commonplace, it’s advisable that employers take the following steps to protect themselves and the students they employ:
  • Regularly review F-1 students’ Form I-983s to ensure compliance
  • Maintain files containing all relevant STEM OPT form copies and supporting documents
  • Make sure the duties, hours, and compensation of STEM OPT students is aligned with those of the company’s U.S. workers
  • Designate a company representative to contact upon ICE’s arrival—this person should accompany the officer on their visit and take notes on what documents were provided, who was spoken to, and what questions were asked. 
In the End
 
It’s still early in ICE performing STEM OPT inspections and, as of this moment, it’s unclear just how in depth ICE will get. Employers and students alike are advised to familiarize themselves with the content of their Form I-983s and be prepared to describe their training to ICE. If you or your organization have any questions about what the increase in STEM OPT inspections means for you, contact GoffWilson today. For over 30 years, GoffWilson has helped businesses and individuals navigate the ever-changing U.S. immigration system. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion. 
 

 

Having recently moved to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in countries such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Sudan, Haiti, and Nepal, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) announcement to extend TPS for 18 months is welcome news to the roughly 7,000 Syrian refugees living in the United States dependent on the status. Protections for Syria were officially set to expire on September 30, 2019, but will now allow currently eligible TPS beneficiaries to retain their status—meaning they’re able to legally reside and work in the U.S.—from October 1, 2019, to March 31, 2021. 
 
What is Temporary Protected Status?
 
TPS offers immigrants from countries devastated by temporary emergencies—such as war and natural disasters—the ability to legally live and work in the U.S. However, TPS does not provide a pathway to permanent residency. This leaves beneficiaries in limbo, as they’re able to live, work, and build lives in the U.S., but also with uncertain futures as their protected status is, as the name implies, only temporary.
 
Who Extended TPS for Syria Affects 
 
Through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) notice Extension of the Designation of Syria for Temporary Protected Status, re-registration is limited to individuals who previously registered for and were granted TPS under the designation for Syria. These individuals must have continuously resided in the U.S. since August 1, 2016, and have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since October 1, 2016. 
 
Current Syrian beneficiaries of TPS must submit Form I-821 to USCIS by November 22, 2019, to renew their status. Additionally, if the beneficiary wishes to extend their employment authorization, they must also submit a timely Form I-765 application for an employment authorization document (EAD). Because not all re-registrants will receive their new EAD before their old one expires on September 30, 2019, the USCIS is automatically extending the validity of those EADs for 180 days. This extension also covers individuals who applied for a new EAD during the last registration period who haven’t received their new EAD. 
 
Why DHS Decided to Extend TPS to Syria 
 
According to Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, “The decision to extend TPS for Syria was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s designation is based, which was ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions, as well as an assessment of whether those conditions continue to exist as required by statute.” 
 
Extension Rather Than Re-designation
 
In just 18 months, the DHS will re-evaluate conditions in Syria and choose to renew, re-designate, or end protections. While there is reason to celebrate the extension of TPS for Syria, it fails to offer a long-term solution for the nearly 7,000 beneficiaries. It also fails to address the other roughly 7,000 Syrians in the U.S. who don’t qualify for TPS because they arrived after the deadline in August 2016. 
 
What the TPS Extension Means for Employers
 
Through March 28, 2020, a TPS-based EAD with an expiration date of September 30, 2019—or March 31, 2018, for individuals who applied for a new TPS-based EAD during the last re-registration period but have not yet received it—along with a copy of the September 23, 2019, Federal Register notice or a Form I-797C receipt indicating that the EAD is automatically extended through March 28, 2020, are acceptable documentation for I-9 employment eligibility verification. 
 
TPS can create confusion for employers and individuals alike; if you or your business need assistance navigating this complex program, or wish to explore other legal immigration options, contact GoffWilson today. GoffWilson solely practices immigration law and for over 30 years has been helping businesses navigate the ever-changing U.S. immigration laws and assisting immigrants in achieving their American dreams. At GoffWilson, immigration isn’t just what we do—it’s our passion. 
 
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it’s making revisions to the current naturalization test and will start implementing an updated test beginning December 2020 or early 2021. According to USCIS, the changes are a step toward ensuring that the test is an accurate measure of an applicant’s knowledge of U.S. history, government, and values. However, since the White House is capable of exerting control over the test, critics are dubious of any proposed changes and the reasons for them. 
 
About the Naturalization Test
 
Debuted in 1986, the last revision to the naturalization test occurred over ten years ago in 2008, the result of a $6.5 million redesign taking place over six years of discussions with historians, immigrant organizations, and both liberal and conservative research groups. The 2008 revisions to the naturalization test did not change the format of the exam; rather, it shifted the focus of the test away from civics trivia to basic questions about the structure of government, U.S. history, and geography.  
 
In its current format, potential citizens must answer a minimum of six out of ten questions randomly generated from a list of 100 questions. All of the questions and answers for the naturalization test are found on the USCIS website. If it sounds like the naturalization test is merely a formality, consider that a 2018 survey by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation discovered that just 1 in 3 U.S. citizens could pass the current test.
 
USCIS’s Reasons for Changing the Naturalization Test
 
When announcing the upcoming changes to the naturalization test in May, then-USCIS Director Francis Cissnac wrote, “Citizenship is the culmination of an immigrant’s journey to fully join our nation and live with us in a common bond... By revising this test every 10 years, we can ensure that the civics education requirements remain a meaningful aspect of the naturalization process.”
 
USCIS acting Director Ken Cuccinelli says the reason for the overhaul of the naturalization test is that “updating, maintaining, and improving a test that is current and relevant is our responsibility as an agency in order to help potential new citizens fully understand the meaning of U.S. citizenship and the values that unite all Americans.”
 
Other Notable Changes to the Naturalization Test
 
In addition to changing the questions asked on the naturalization test, alterations to the speaking section of the test are also expected. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, candidates for naturalization must have “an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language.” USCIS has yet to reveal any specific changes to the speaking portion of the test. 
 
Concerns About Changes to the Naturalization Test
 
Critics of the White House and its immigration policy fear that this is another attempt to increase the difficulty of naturalization and slow down the process. The naturalization test affects a large number of individuals; in Fiscal Year 2018, USCIS naturalized nearly 757,000 people—a five-year high in new oaths of citizenship—up from 707,265 people in 2017. 
 
GoffWilson Immigration Law 
 
GoffWilson is monitoring the revisions to the current naturalization test so we can best strategize with our clients and help them prepare to pass this important test. Given the problematic changes expected and unknown future of the exam, we urge those planning to apply for citizenship to do so as soon as they’re eligible. 
 
GoffWilson is a full-service immigration law firm assisting everyone from multinational businesses to families and individuals navigate the complex U.S. immigration system. If you have a question about what the changes to the naturalization test mean for you, or any other immigration questions, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion!
 

You may have recently learned about the new piece of immigration legislation before Congress called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, H.R. 1044. The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act is intended to clear the backlogs facing skilled workers, primarily from India and China, seeking permanent residency in the U.S. for themselves as well as their spouses and children. With bipartisan support from Congress, and a similar bill with bipartisan support in the Senate, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 attempts to surgically correct an obvious flaw in the U.S. immigration system. At its simplest, this bill doesn’t add any new visas, it merely eliminates roadblocks for workers who have lived in, worked in, and contributed to the U.S. for years and who want to become citizens. 
 
Under the Current Immigration System 
 
Today’s immigration system imposes quotas on the number of visas given to citizens of a particular country—currently no more than 7% of the total number of visas allocated can be allocated to any single country. Because this system fails to account for the different population sizes of other countries, it negatively affects immigrants originating in larger countries. For example, India has a population of 2.5 times larger than the European Union (EU); this means India, with a population of over a billion people, is apportioned the same number of visas as a country such as Iceland, which has a population of approximately 340,000 people.  
 
The disparity in the number of available visas and the size of the originating country has resulted in decades-long wait times for immigrants from India and China. The Cato Institute has an interesting article, 150-Year Wait for Indian Immigrants With Advanced Degrees, that describes the situation facing highly skilled Indian immigrants trying to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. 
 
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act 
 
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act will remove the per-country caps pertaining to employment-based visas, and shift to a first-come, first-serve basis. The bill will also increase the per-country allocation of visas from 7% to 15%. It’s predicted that passing the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act will lead to a significant reduction in visa backlogs for Indian and Chinese foreign nationals, and speed up the process of gaining permanent residency for the spouses and children of H-1B visa holders—the latter of which risk aging out of their visas and being sent back to their home countries. 
 
Seeing that the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act will not add any additional visas, immigrants from smaller countries with lower demand for visas will face longer wait times. 
 
Conclusions
 
Although the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act doesn’t correct all of the issues with our current immigration system, it does address an obvious flaw and offers a sensible solution for the multitude of foreign professionals living and working in the U.S. today. Receiving overwhelming support in Congress, the bill passed by 365 to 65 votes. However, companion legislation in the Senate is facing a less certain future despite support across the aisle, meaning it could get caught up in committees before being put to a vote on the Senate floor. After that, the bill’s future is even more uncertain, as it gets passed along to an executive branch with a history of being unfriendly to immigration. 
 
GoffWilson Immigration 
 
While the U.S. government attempts to correct imperfections in its immigration system, GoffWilson is here to help you. Soley practicing immigration, GoffWilson can assist you in navigating the complexities of the green card process. Practicing both employment and family immigration, we help individuals and families come to the U.S. to live their American dreams. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion. Contact us today!


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced changes to the fees charged by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to international students, exchange visitors, and SEVP-certified schools. The revamped fees are scheduled to go into effect on June 24, 2019, and in addition to increasing the expense for both students studying in the United States and the institutions they’re attending, the move could have a lasting impact on the U.S.’s position as a world leader in international education. 
 
The reason for the update to the fees associated with SEVP is to cover the cost of maintaining the program’s technological systems, paying operational staff, and making enhancements to the program. According to Rachel Canty, SEVP program director, “SEVP’s fees have not changed since 2008, although our costs have continued to grow due to inflation, expanded program operations and enhancements to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The new and increased fees will enable the program to continue to provide oversight of international students and SEVP-certified schools.”
 
SEVP acts as a conduit between the government and students coming to the United States to study—working on the behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DoS) to manage schools and nonimmigrant students on F and M visas. The DoS manages the Exchange Visitor Program and nonimmigrant exchange visitors on J visas. Both SEVP and the DoS use SEVIS to track and monitor schools and nonimmigrants in the U.S. participating in these programs.  
 
For students, the most notable fee increase is the I-901 charge for international students on F and M visas, which will go from $200 to $350—a rise of 75%. Also expanding is the full I-901 SEVIS fee for J exchange visitors, growing from $180 to $220. However, the $35 partial I-901 fee for J exchange visitors in the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work travel program participant categories will remain the same. 
 
Colleges and universities are also seeing consequential swelling of fees. The SEVP school certification petition fee that is required for the initial certification of an institution is increasing from $1,700 to $3,000—an increase of over 75%. Additionally, these schools will have to pay a new $1,250 fee bi-annually for recertification. Another new fee facing SEVP-certified schools is a $675 charge when schools file the Form I-290B, “Notice of Appeal or Motion,” and a $655 fee when a school changes its physical location or adds a new physical location or a new campus to its Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student.”

Fee Type

Current Fee

Final Fee

Incremental Fee Adjustment

I-901 F/M

$200

$350

$150

I-901 J-Full

$180

$220

$40

I-901 J-Partial

$35

$35

$0

I-17 Initial Certification

$1,700

$3,000

$1,300

I-17 Recertification

$0

$1,250

$1,250

Site Visit-Initial

$655

$655

$0

Site Visit-New Location

$0

$655

$655

Appeal Fee

$0

$675

$675


Prospective international students and exchange visitors are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before being issued a visa—those who pay the fee before the price increase do not need to pay the difference between the old fee and the new fee. Schools filing an initial certification or recertification petition, petition update, or Form I-290B before the fee increase (even if it’s not adjudicated before the fee implementation date), are not required to pay the new or increased fee. 
 
The main concerns over the lofty increases in fees is that it could threaten the U.S.’s position as a world leader in international education, disrupt an important sector of the economy, and damage the other contributions—both academic and cultural—that these valuable students bring to the U.S. 
 
The U.S. is currently home to 1,078,822 international students, more than double the country with the second largest international student population, the U.K., with 501,045. According to the National Association of International Educators (NAFSA), international students contributed $36.9 billion and supported more than 450,000 jobs to the U.S.
the economy during the 2016-2017 academic year. The fear is that, as the U.S. makes it more expensive and challenging for international students to study here, other English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia are striving to be more welcoming to international students. 
 
If you have questions about what the increased SEVP fees mean for you or your school, contact GoffWilson today. Solely practicing immigration, for decades GoffWilson has helped the world’s best and brightest people pursue their education in the U.S. while assisting educational institutions host these brilliant minds. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion. 

The Trump administration has made its intentions on immigration clear through its actions over the past two-plus years. While the border and proposed wall grab nightly headlines, immigration enforcement is increasing in intensity in all sectors—including higher education. This makes it imperative that higher-ed officials are aware of immigration policies and the actions of the people responsible for handling them, as the momentary lapse in judgment of one person in a position of authority is all it takes to land in the headlines, be subjected to fines, and face jail time. This was the case of Daniel Cabanillas, a Designated School Official (DSO) at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania.
 
Daniel Cabanillas found himself in the sights of federal prosecutors for knowingly making a false statement on a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. In his position as DSO at Mercyhurst University, Cabanillas falsely claimed that a student had been accepted into a master’s degree program—the false Form I-20 was then used by the student to obtain a student visa to gain entry to the United States. Although Cabanillas plead guilty to this one incident, the court was advised that Cabanillas falsified acceptance documents for dozens of other students while working as a DSO for Mercyhurst University.  
 
Cabanilla’s transgression cost him his job; he was terminated on February 19, 2015. Additionally, Cabanillas was sentenced in federal court to two years probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine—although the law provides for a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine up to $500,000, or both. For its employment of Cabanillas, Mercyhurst University has received negative attention making national headlines in the hot-button topic of immigration. 
 
Marlon V. Miller, the special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said: “This investigation is an example of how those that abuse the immigration process will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Mr. Cabanillas, while serving in his capacity as a designated school official at Mercyhurst University, abused his authority and undermined the integrity of the international student visa process.” 
 
Designated School Officials play a vital role in the operation of any college or university enrolling international students. DSOs serve under a Principal Designated School Official (PDSO)—the main point of contact for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)—and are responsible for the oversight and assistance of students enrolled with an F or M visa. One of the administrative functions of DSOs is the updating of student records in SEVIS, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) web-based system for maintaining information on international nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in the United States. Because DSOs are the connection between colleges/universities and the government, it’s imperative that they provide accurate information. 
 
According to U.S. Attorney Scott Brady, “The Student Exchange and Visitor Program relies on the honesty and integrity of Designated School Officials to truthfully certify to the information contained in Visa application documents, and when DSOs provide or certify false information, our system of lawful immigration into the United States for educational purposes is frustrated.”
 
In today’s era of heightened immigration enforcement, all institutions should be prepared to have their immigration programs audited or investigated—including colleges and universities. Smart schools shouldn’t wait for the government to look into their immigration practices; rather, they should self-audit and establish best practices to ensure they’re compliant with all rules and regulations to avoid penalties and negative press. If your school has a question about its immigration practices or is interested in developing a system to ensure compliance, contact GoffWilson today
 
With over 30 years of experience and solely practicing immigration, GoffWilson has helped numerous educational institutions enroll brilliant students from across the globe and we can assist you as well. Immigration is what we do! 

There are still some good seats remaining for our informative must-do seminar, Understanding the Current I-9 Form in an Aggressive Enforcement Environment. Register today to be on top of your game! 
 
This half-day seminar is Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 2 Delta Drive in Concord, NH, and includes a scrumptious breakfast.
 
Here are a few reasons (on top of the breakfast) to register now:
  • You want to be in compliance and current on the latest trends in I-9s.
  • You need a refresher—review with us the choices made when completing I-9s, how to correct flawed forms, and how to avoid them.
  • You have some nagging questions about completing I-9s that you really want to be answered by the pros.
  • Your remote hires, a recent merger, potential merger, or federal contracts present challenges that can be met following this informative seminar.
  • HRCI credit and a certificate are provided to you so you maintain your HR accreditation.
  • Knowledgeable speakers and assistants will walk you through real examples and you will leave with an up-to-date workbook to use as a future reference guide.
Visit our website for more information or click here to register now. We look forward to seeing you! 


Learn to successfully navigate in a more aggressive worksite enforcement environment. Sign up for our next I-9 training here
 
The current administration has made it clear, through Executive Orders, that enforcement of employment verification laws will be more rigorous. There is a new proposal to hire 10,000 more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, many of whom will focus on I-9 audits (often referred to as “desktop raids”). 
 
The I-9 form affects all employers in the country, and the Trump administration has vowed to assess millions of dollars in civil penalties for I-9 violations and employment discrimination. Small businesses across the U.S. have already been assessed thousands of dollars in civil penalties for I-9 violations, with some companies losing their business licenses and being squeezed out of the bidding process for government contracts
.  
HR professionals, recruiters, and anyone who works with the I-9 form should attend this important seminar to keep themselves, and their compliance programs, up to date on current I-9 regulations. GoffWilson’s experienced I-9 team will teach tips on compliance and the E-Verify process, and answer any I-9 questions you may have. Participants are given hands-on exercises to put education into practice and learn about the civil and criminal penalties associated with non-compliance.
 
At the conclusion of this seminar, you’ll have the information you need to avoid the pitfalls of the I-9 landscape—and the confidence that comes with knowing you’re in compliance. If you need to understand the array of compliance-related regulations or simply want to brush up on the latest I-9 info, sign up today! GoffWilson I-9 Workshops offer participants recertification credit hours through the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) for PHP, SPHR, and GPHR.
 
GoffWilson offers I-9 training in public and private settings several times throughout the year. Contact our office today to sign up or to request more information! Also, stay tuned to our bLAWg for more updates on I-9 compliance and keeping your company up to date. It’s what we do and it’s our passion. 

 
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted a final rule in an effort to create a more effective and efficient H-1B visa program. The rule will go in effect April 1 and changes the way in which petitions are selected in the annual H-1B visa lottery. The new rule also paves the way for further changes—namely electronic registration—in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 cap season. Keep reading to learn what exactly these changes are and how they will affect your business. 
 
Change of Lottery Selection Order
 
The most immediate change brought by the new rule is restructuring of the order in which the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) selects H-1B visa allocations. Beginning this year, the USCIS will select 65,000 H-1B petitions for all applicants first, followed by the selection of 20,000 petitions from applicants with a U.S. master's degree or higher. 
 
In the past, the USCIS has selected the 20,000 applicants with a U.S. masters degree or higher before selecting 65,000 H-1B petitions from all applicants. According to a press release from the USCIS, the rule change will result in a 16%—or 5,340 workers—increase in individuals with a master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution having their petition selected.   
 
Electronic Registration 
 
While the revised selection process goes into effect this year, the electronic registration process that was proposed along with it—as we detailed in our blawg, A Step Forward for the H-1B Visa Process, Or Is It?—will be delayed until the FY 2021 cap season. The decision to delay the rollout of electronic registration is in response to public feedback—and is embraced by many immigration lawyers, including us—as it allows the USCIS more time to ensure the system and process are fully functioning before going live. 
 
Once implemented, the electronic registration process will present a large shift in the way H-1B visas are processed. Beginning in FY 2021 cap season, electronic registration will be required of all H-1B cap petitioners, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, to electronically register—rather than submitting a complete H-1B petition—with the USCIS during a designated period. 
 
What These Changes Mean for Employers
 
Depending on an employer’s hiring strategy, this rule may or may not be beneficial. For employers seeking to hire foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. colleges and universities, the odds of being selected in the H-1B visa lottery has improved. However, there could be unintended consequences to the new rule, such as putting businesses that employ professionals in fields that don’t require a masters degree—for example, architecture, accounting, and public education—at a disadvantage. It could also have an impact on the healthcare sector, which heavily relies on foreign physicians, many of whom completed their medical education overseas. The rule will also lower the odds for some of the most skilled and qualified applicants with foreign advanced degrees—like those from prestigious universities such as Oxford University, Sorbonne University, and the University of Toronto.
 
The new electronic registration process will make it easier for employers to participate in the H-1B lottery and USCIS believes it will make the H-1B cap process more cost-effective for petitioners and more efficient for the USCIS. But, will this be the result? 
 
On the surface, only needing to simply register for the H-1B lottery, rather than submit a completed petition, would seem like a positive for employers. However, in many ways, this could end up costing employers additional time. The most notable potential problem is that the registration system could become inundated with non-meritorious applications. 
 
Why GoffWilson 
 
GoffWilson solely practices immigration law and has successfully assisted thousands of employers and employees with their H-1B petitions. If you have a question about the H-1B visa, how to put your petition together with the best chance for success, and how the new rule will affect your business, contact GoffWilson today. Put our thirty-plus years of experience and success with immigration and deep knowledge of the H-1B visa to work for you. Immigration—it’s ALL we do!


With H-1B filing season upon us as of April 1, 2019, we take this opportunity to remind you that the H-1B cap is expected to be reached much faster this year. This, coupled with higher denial rates of applications and with a staggering RFE (Request for Evidence) rate, a clear, "culture of no" message from the USCIS is making it more difficult for skilled foreign nationals to work in the USA with increasing denial rates for both the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. It is undeniable that Tech Firms, Medical Institutions, and others rely heavily on these professional workers. It is still possible for these employers to secure H-1B visa approvals for their employees.
 
Employers report the time lost due to the increase in denials and Requests for Evidence is costing them millions of dollars in project delays and contract penalties while aiding competitors that operate exclusively outside the United States beyond the reach of USCIS adjudicators and U.S. consular officers.
 
Small to medium-size companies and IT consultants and staffing agencies often bear the burden of these overbearing RFE's. Working with smart immigration practitioners and preparing your case strategy in advance to address both your strengths and weaknesses, will pay off greatly. Here are some tips that we highly recommend be incorporated in your filings:
 
  • Incorporate a detailed brochure and description of the employer's products or services and why you require a professional with a bachelor's degree to perform the offered position. Include promotional materials, press releases or news articles to illustrate the nature of the business, new trends and growth factors
  • Consider including a copy of your corporate tax return or financial statements
  • Explain in detail why the position cannot be performed by an employee without a bachelor's degree; i.e. is it standard in your industry? Provide detail (such as examples of work to be done) concerning the complexity of the position
  • Explain that all workers in that position within your company hold a Bachelor’s Degree or higher 
  • Provide a real, detailed job description with the percentage of time spent on the duties of the position. Further, explain any discretionary judgment that the employee will have in their job and other such areas of responsibility that are demanding or highly advanced
  • Provide evidence that you have a current and past practice of hiring bachelor's degree employees for the subject position
  • IT and staffing agencies must be prepared to evidence the "employer-employee relationship" in H-1B offsite placement work situations by clearly evidencing the employer's ability to "hire, pay, fire, supervise, or otherwise control the work of the employee. Include a copy of the end-client agreement showing the duration of the stay
 
Again, we emphasize that planning in advance for successful case approval is imperative. These are a few tips to help you start planning for H season. If you currently have employees working for you in OPT or STEM, now is the time to move them into H visa status. We hope that you will find this information helpful. If you'd like to set up a time to discuss your H-1B visa needs with our attorneys or to engage our services, please feel free to contact us. We recommend you do so now as it takes time to adequately prepare these applications. Let us put our team to work for you. Immigration—it’s what we do.
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