In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (July 20, 2016), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie examines the final action date movements in the August 2016 Visa Bulletin and his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

Check-in with DOS’ Charlie Oppenheim: July 20, 2016

Reflections as We Approach the End of the Fiscal Year. The unveiling of the August Visa Bulletin leads us to contemplate possible Final Action Date movement for September, the final month of the fiscal year. In this month’s column we will review the August Bulletin, and consider predictions for September and prospects for recovery in key retrogressed preference categories in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. Next month, we will cover predictions for Filing Date movement as we enter FY 2017.

EB-4 and Certain Religious Worker (SR) Preference Categories. The January 1, 2010 cut-off date which was imposed earlier this year for EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico will remain through September, the end of the fiscal year. The imposition of a cut-off date for these countries is largely due to high demand for Special Immigrant Juvenile visas. A January 1, 2010 cut-off date will also be imposed on EB-4 India starting in August, consistent with Charlie’s predictions.

Though EB-4 Mexico and EB-4 India will become current again in October, the prospects for a full recovery for EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are much less likely. A 2015 cut-off date will likely be established in these categories for October, with date(s) moving forward slowly through the next fiscal year. However, uncertainty surrounding the movement of the EB-4 Final Action dates for these Central American countries remains, given the lack of visibility into the number of adjustment of status filings that were received in April 2015, prior to the establishment of the cut-off date in May.

Family-Based Projections. In September, most of the family-based categories will likely hold or retrogress from where they are in August. Only F-4 Worldwide has the potential to advance in September. Charlie expects a full recovery from retrogressions in all of the family-based categories in October, with the exception of F-4 China and F-4 India which will take some time. Beginning in November 2015, beneficiaries of F-4 China and F-4 India started responding to NVC Agent of Choice letters in larger numbers, which has given Charlie better visibility into the demand in these categories, but ultimately resulted in the retrogression of these cut-off dates.

F-4 China, which previously shared the F-4 Worldwide Final Action date until retrogressing in June to January 1, 2003, will remain at that cut-off date through August. While this category will not advance in September, there should be a full recovery to the prior Final Action date of July 22, 2003 by November.

Similarly, F-4 India also shared the F-4 Worldwide Final Action date until it retrogressed in June. Charlie continues to predict that the Final Action date for F-4 India will remain at January 1, 2001 through September. A full recovery of this category to the Worldwide level will not happen in October. Given the high level of demand, the Final Action date should advance to around November 2002 in October, with a full recovery unlikely to happen prior to June 2017.

Charlie will be watching the F-2A and F-3 preference categories very carefully. Both categories are likely to retrogress temporarily in September, and then return to their respective August 2015 Final Action dates in October.

EB Preference Categories. The Final Action date of January 1, 2010 that was imposed in June for both EB-2 and EB-3 China remains the same in August with no forward movement in either of these categories expected this fiscal year. Although Charlie had hoped for more dramatic forward movement, EB-3 India should advance modestly into a 2005 Final Action date in September. EB-2 India will continue to track one week ahead of the EB-3 India Final Action date in September.

EB-3 Worldwide has been hovering close to “current” for some time, and is expected to do so through at least October.

A February 1, 2014 Final Action date for EB-2 Worldwide was imposed in the August Visa Bulletin, with the hope of holding number use to within the EB-2 annual limit. That date should hold at February 1, 2014 in September and is expected to fully recover to “current” in October. Although Charlie predicts the EB-2 India and EB-2 China cut-off dates will advance in October, they will not fully recover at that time. It is hoped that they will recover fully as soon as possible, with EB-2 China possibly recovering as early as November.

October Final Action dates for the EB-5 Regional Center categories remain uncertain as that category will sunset unless Congress acts prior to the end of the fiscal year. In setting cut-off dates for EB-1 China and EB-1 India, Charlie hoped to avoid having to establish a cut-off date for EB-1 Worldwide. Charlie expects that EB-1 China and EB-1 India will become current again in October, or November at the latest.

You may access the August 2016 Visa Bulletin here and the July 2016 Visa Bulletin here.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

Since September 30, 2015 Congress has considered several immigration bills that would have completely overhauled the EB-5 program. All of us in the space, especially attorneys, had prepared ourselves for the inevitable change of the current EB-5 regulations. We all knew that the minimum capital threshold requirement would increase to $800,000. In addition, the targeted employment area (“TEA”) definition would change, thereby eliminating important metropolitan areas such as New York City from consideration. All of this was occurring against the backdrop of Congress trying to pass the appropriations bill so that our government would not run out of money.

Congress has been wanting to revamp the EB-5 program for a significant period of time. All of the recently introduced EB-5 bills contained measures to increase compliance and make the program safer for foreign investors that were seeking a “Green Card”.  Developers and attorneys lobbied for reform that would not be onerous and would provide a certain amount of compliance. Most of us did not want the new legislation to be the “death knell” of the EB-5 program.

Well, we all got our wish. Congress voted to renew the EB-5 program in its present state until September 30, 2016.  What will happen between now and the expiration of the legislation is anyone’s guess.  But I think the writing is on the wall. Congress seeks to reform the EB-5 program on two fronts. The first is the minimum investment capital threshold requirement. It is a foregone conclusion that prior to September 30, 2016 Congress will pass EB-5 legislation that increases the minimum investment in a targeted employment area (“TEA”) to $800,000. The second is on the compliance front. Congress will include provisions in the new bill that require “on-site audits” of projects and regional centers.  In addition, Congress will require all principals that have equity in a regional center to submit to a Federal background check. This will ensure that the players in the EB-5 space are not unscrupulous characters.

All in all, the changes would be welcome by most in the industry. The impact that the higher investment amount would have in China and other markets is something that is yet to be seen. All of us though are breathing a sigh of relief for the EB-5 extension.

 

43580386_s (1)

What will Congress do with the soon to expire EB-5 regional center program?

That is the question that most everyone in the EB-5 world is asking each other. Congress chose on September 30th of this year to “kick the proverbial can down the road” until December 11, 2015 with an interim extension of the current legislation. As of the date of the writing of this blog Congress has before it several bills that seek to extend the EB-5 Pilot Program.

The possible changes on the horizon include increasing the minimum investment amount to $800,000.00 for TEA’s and $1,200,000.00 for other areas. Since there has been no change in the capital contribution amount since the creation of the program, most think this amendment will proceed.

The other change that would be controversial would modify the definition of a targeted employment area. The TEA’s would be limited and potentially not include state designations based on aggregated census tracts. This could eliminate many TEA’s.

In addition, it is anticipated that the regional centers will come under greater scrutiny by USCIS. This could include more comprehensive and frequent reporting requirements, as well as the ability of the agency to suspend regional center designation for those centers that do not fulfill reporting requirements or have little or no business activity.

Congress will also examine whether regional center principals can be non-resident aliens. Most regional centers currently are owned by U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents.  There are many non-resident aliens that are interested in creating regional centers and developing projects, especially in South Florida.

Developers, as well as investors are rushing to complete exemplars for projects and file individual I-526 immigrant visa petitions in order to “grandfather” their projects and/or investor applications under the present statutory requirements. It is noteworthy however, that no one is certain that “grandfathering” will be part of the final legislation. Will this all be for naught?

What we can be sure of are that changes to the EB-5 regional center program will occur before the end of the year. The changes to the program will hopefully make it better. The program will survive.

 

In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).

This month, before we move into Charlie’s comments and analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories, we’d like to provide you with an overview of the changes introduced with the October 2015 Visa Bulletin.

The release of the October 2015 Visa Bulletin represents an historical shift in how the State Department presents data regarding the availability of immigrant visa numbers. The October Bulletin, and all Bulletins going forward, now lists important dates for both the family and employment based immigrant visa applicants:

(1) the “Final Action Dateschart, which is the date when DOS or USCIS may render a final decision on the applications (i.e. approve the grant of permanent residency because an immigrant visa number is available).  This chart contains the same “cut-off” data that has historically been published in the Visa Bulletin.

(2) the “Dates for Filing” chart, which is the date upon which individuals may file their permanent residence applications (Adjustment of Status).

As part of the Obama Administration’s Visa Modernization Proposal, the State Department is now publishing the “qualifying dates” within the newly named “Dates for Filing” chart. Other than the publication of these dates in the Visa Bulletin, the Department of State/NVC process for issuing “agent of choice” letters has not changed.

The “qualifying dates” or “dates of filing” is representative of the demand, based on the information available at the time of the determination, that the State Department anticipates will be available for that particular preference category and country of chargeability at some point in the upcoming 8 to 12 months. The purpose of setting “qualifying dates” has been to elicit from applicants the necessary information and documents for their immigrant visa applications to be considered “documentarily qualified” or ready to adjudicate once their priority date is reached. Once the priority date for a documentarily qualified case becomes current (i.e., is earlier than the “final action date”), the immigrant visa interview can be scheduled (or the application may be approved, if no interview is required). In general, USCIS will continue to follow the “Final Action Date” chart for the acceptance of adjustment of status applications. However, if USCIS determines that there are additional visas available it may exercise its discretion to accept adjustment of status applications in accordance with the “Dates for Filing” chart. Each month, the Visa Bulletin will indicate whether USCIS will accept adjustment applications during the upcoming month in accordance with the “Dates for Filing” chart. For the month of October, USCIS has agreed to permit both family- and employment-based immigrants to use the “Dates for Filing” chart to file adjustment of status applications. Thus, individuals who have a priority date earlier than the “Filing Date” cut-off for the month of October may submit an adjustment of status application in October.  In the future, applicants should refer to USCIS’ site to determine when to file for adjustment of status.

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (September 14, 2015), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories as well as his insights on the new “dates for filing” chart.

QUESTION 1: What Is the Anticipated Impact of the Addition of “Dates for Filing” to the Visa Bulletin?

Until now, the Visa Office had limited visibility into the employment-based demand for immigrant visas primarily being processed by USCIS. Though the Visa Office made educated estimates as to future demand, since these predictions were based on limited information (e.g., historical patterns, demand filed prior to subsequent retrogression of dates), unanticipated surges in demand would sometimes arise. As a result, cut-off dates in the employment-based categories have been vulnerable to fluctuation, often advancing significantly, then suddenly stopping, retrogressing, or becoming unavailable with little to no warning.

The State Department anticipates that as USCIS begins to accept adjustment applications based on the “Dates for Filing,” it will eventually have better information regarding overall immigrant visa demand. When USCIS receives an I-485 case, it pre-adjudicates the case and requests a visa number from the State Department. If the “Final Action Date” is current, the State Department will authorize an immigrant visa number and USCIS will approve the case and proceed with production of the permanent resident card. If the “Final Action Date” is not current, the State Department will be unable to authorize a visa number and the case is placed in the Visa Office’s “pending demand file.” The data maintained in the pending demand file data enables Charlie to better assess demand and move the “Final Action Dates” at a more reasonable and predictable pace over time. Based on published USCIS processing times it takes approximately six months for these cases to be received and pre-adjudicated by USCIS, so Charlie expects that he will have a better sense of overall employment-based immigrant visa demand at USCIS starting in the spring of 2016.

QUESTION 2: How will the “Dates for Filing” Change?

Charlie will determine the need for changes to the various “Dates for Filing” at the same time he is making the determination of the upcoming month’s cut-off dates. They will generally remain the same or may move forward slightly throughout the fiscal year.

QUESTION 3: Will Adding “Dates for Filing” to the Visa Bulletin Negatively Impact the “Final Action Dates”?

Although some members have expressed concerns that the addition of the “Dates for Filing” might negatively impact “Final Action Dates,” Charlie assures us that is not the case. The “Final Action Dates” listed in the October Visa Bulletin are conservative while he sees the time impact of recent changes in the dates, and they are not expected to retrogress in the foreseeable future, or without prior warning. Instead, USCIS allowing I-485 submission based upon the “Dates for Filing” will provide much needed visibility into USCIS demand which will ultimately result in more predictable and steady movement of the “Final Action Dates.” For example, earlier this year, the lack of visibility into demand initially resulted in the rapid forward movement of the cut-off date for EB-2 China in an effort to generated number use within the annual limit, which then abruptly rolled-back when demand materialized at a much higher rate than could have been anticipated. This “whiplash” phenomenon is likely to cease to occur once the new system is implemented and more reliable employment-based visa demand data is available to the State Department when determining Final Action dates.

You may access the September 2015 Visa Bulletin here and the October 2015 Visa Bulletin here.

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-september-2015.html

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2016/visa-bulletin-for-october-2015.html

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

In our continuing series of reports, Charles (“Charlie”) Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, shares his most recent analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association).

Below are highlights from the most recent “check-in with Charlie” (August 14, 2015), reflecting his analysis of current trends and future projections for the various immigrant preference categories.

This month, Charlie answers a series of questions from the public, with no individual commentary on the immigrant visa preference categories for this month or next:

QUESTION 1: Last month you were hopeful that EB-2 India/China would hold steady or possibly advance for September. However both categories have retrogressed significantly. What caused this to occur?

ANSWER: The September retrogression of EB-2 China and India can primarily be attributed to skyrocketing demand for EB-2 Worldwide, which has left fewer numbers available for India and China. Currently, the availability of visas for India and China is largely driven by Worldwide demand. Earlier this year, EB-2 Worldwide demand was around 2,400 per month and started creeping up in March. In June, demand peaked at 6,700, and with July usage totaling 4,400 it was necessary to take corrective action for EB-2 China and India to limit future number use.

Similarly, fewer EB-1 numbers are available to fall down to EB-2 China and India. During the second quarter of the fiscal year, 9,300 EB-1 numbers were used. That jumped to 13,500 EB-1 numbers in the third quarter.

In particular, overall EB-2 India usage is down significantly this year due to the fact that fewer unused numbers are available for this category. Last fiscal year, EB-2 India used approximately 23,000 numbers. This year, it is expected that EB-2 India will use approximately 7,500 numbers. This is approximately 9,700 fewer numbers than that which were used in FY 2013.

 

QUESTION 2: How likely is it that EB-2 India and China will advance significantly with the start of the fiscal year on October 1?

ANSWER: It remains to be seen what will happen in October as we enter the new fiscal year.

 

QUESTION 3: Is it expected that all numbers in all categories will be exhausted by the end of the fiscal year?

ANSWER: Yes. All visa numbers in all categories will be exhausted. There has been some concern about EB-3 number use because there appeared to be a decrease in demand which caused the Worldwide cut-off date to advanced rapidly. There is sufficient EB-3 India applicants in the pending demand file to ensure that all “otherwise” unused numbers will be used this fiscal year.

 

QUESTION 4: The “Visa Modernization” proposal promises to refine the monthly allocation of visas, increasing the number of visas allocated during the first three quarters, and implementing new processes for allocation during the final quarter of the fiscal year. Can you please elaborate on this plan? Do you expect to implement the changes effective 10/1/15?

ANSWER: This is still a work in progress but members should be happy with what is ultimately rolled out. Some changes have already been implemented. As stated in the Visa Modernization proposal, members may see more aggressive cut-off date movements for some preference categories earlier in the year. Similar movement occurred earlier this year with regard to EB-2 India; advancement of that category started much earlier than in prior years to allow USCIS sufficient time to complete processing of the cases, many of which were EB-3 upgrades, earlier within the fiscal year. However, aggressive movement earlier in the year can have “negative” consequences during the final quarter when there are fewer numbers available. As a result it could be necessary to take corrective action if it becomes clear that there would be fewer numbers available from other categories.

In addition to accelerating cut-off date movements earlier in the fiscal year, other options are being explored. As plans are refined, the information will be made available to the public.

You may access the August 2015 Visa Bulletin here and the September 2015 Visa Bulletin here.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

USCIS Publishes Draft EB-5 Policy Memorandum for Public Comment

USCIS issued a DRAFT policy memo relevant to EB-5 adjudication of Form I-526 and Form I-829 regarding the requirements for job creation and to sustain the investment during the conditional residence period.

Any interested party may submit comments to the draft memorandum by email to ope.feedback@uscis.dhs.gov by Tuesday, September 8, 2015.  USCIS asks that all commentators  include the following to make the comments clear:

  • State the title of the relevant memo in the subject line of your message;
  • Refer to a specific portion of the memo;
  • Explain the reason for any recommended change; and
  • Include data, information, or authority that supports the recommendation.

 

You may review USCIS has draft policy memorandum here:  Guidance on the Job Creation Requirement and Sustainment of the Investment for EB-5 Adjudication of Form I-526 and Form I-829

 

For complete information on the comment process, visit the Feedback Opportunities section of www.uscis.gov.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

Much has been reported regarding President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action (IAEA). And, of course, there is still uncertainty regarding when and exactly what measures will be implemented by the Immigration Service.

With so much speculation on the topic, and an abundance of DACA and DAPA information, it’s not particularly easy to understand what the Immigration Executive Action contains relating to the country’s legal immigration system. Below is a quick summary of USCIS’s January 29, 2015, notice [http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction].

In the notice, USCIS indicated that it will work toward to goals of:

• Using all available immigrant (i.e., greencard) visa numbers when there is sufficient demand.

• Simplifying the Visa Bulletin system with regard to determinations of visa number availability.

• Clarifying I-485 portability (i.e., adjustment portability) to remove uncertainty relating to job mobility/career progression of the individual worker.

• Clarifying the National Interest Waiver I-140 (NIW I-140) greencard standard for foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up companies.

• Providing parole eligibility to certain inventors, researchers and founders of start-up companies who are not eligible for the NIW I-140, but who:

o Have been awarded substantial financing from US investors, OR

o Demonstrate promise of innovation and job creation through new technology development OR through the pursuit of “cutting-edge research”.

• Finalizing H-4 work authorization for the spouse of an H-1B worker whose greencard paperwork is in progress.

• Expanding and extending Optional Practical Training (OPT) for certain foreign students.

• Consolidating and clarifying L-1B Specialized Knowledge employee guidance to improve consistency in adjudications. Using these as a basis, there is great potential for an improved immigration system.

For now, we eagerly await additional details from USCIS regarding the provisions.

______________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP. She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

Why isn’t there an E-1 Trader or E-2 Investor Treaty between the US and India? 

This question came to mind again while I was working on an E-2 Treaty Investor case for a Canadian citizen who was born in India.  It occurred to me how peculiar it was that except for being a Canadian citizen, the client would not have been eligible to apply for an E-2 Treaty Investor visa.  

Admittedly, I haven’t researched the issue of why we don’t have an E Treaty with India.  There are no doubt complex political and other reasons at play, but I do know that visa options are often based on reciprocity between countries.  And, with regard to reciprocity, the US and China very recently announced that the duration of certain short-term visas will be extended…so significant change certainly is possible.  (See http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/10/us-china-usa-visas-idUSKCN0IU0Q020141110.)

Now may be the time for an E Treaty with India given that long gone are the days of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s restrictive foreign exchange policies.  India’s 1973 Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) was repealed in 1998 and replaced by a policy which liberalized foreign exchange controls and restrictions on foreign investment in India.  Based on my nearly annual travels to India since 1988, I can confirm that there is now a strong presence of American companies/products in India.  Perhaps the time has come to explore the E Treaty issue further.  It could be a win/win for both countries.

And, of course, it’s not only Indian nationals who can bring benefits to the US by their investments and trade when they are able to live and work in the US.  Citizens of more than 80 countries are eligible for the E visa.  Some treaties date back the 1840s others are as recent as 2012.  (See http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/fees/treaty.html.)

________________________________________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Group of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She can be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

     

 

 

 

Although the rules are clear that Section 1 of the I-9 form must be completed by the employee, the recent introduction of the new Form I-9 in a PDF fillable format and the more widespread use of computerized systems for the I-9 process have raised questions about how information may be entered into Section 1.

Previous information from the Department of Homeland Security (prior to the release of the new form) indicated that it was permissible for someone other than the employee to enter information into Section 1, so long as the Preparer/Translator Section as also completed.  Further, many newer the electronic systems for the preparation of the Form I-9 enable the pre-population of information in Section 1 through the system. 

ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Worksite Enforcement Unit has now confirmed that any pre-population of Section 1 of the Form I-9, such as by an electronic I-9 program, is impermissible – regardless as to whether the employee provided the original information that is pre-populated and regardless as to whether the preparer/translator section is completed.

This prohibition against pre-population by electronic I-9 programs applies to both an employer’s existing and future electronic I-9 forms.

Accordingly, employers must be careful about their use of electronic systems for the ‘streamlined’ preparation of the I-9 form.  It is important that you ensure that any programs or computerized systems require that the employee fill out Section 1 him or herself.  Since ICE has now confirmed this, it is very likely that future I-9 Inspections conducted by ICE will involve confirming your internal procedures and a review of any programs/systems you employ in the execution of the I-9.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

Following up on my recent story on the matter, I had the opportunity to speak with Colin O’Keefe of LXBN regarding the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act moving swiftly through the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the interview, I explain a little about what this happened and what this may signal for the future of the Act.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.