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Nov 13 2015

Fragomen Immigration Update: November 6 - 12, 2015

Belgium, Colombia, Republic of the Philippines, Senegal, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States
 
In United States immigration news this week, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) have introduced a bill that would impose significant new obligations and limitations on H-1B and L-1 employers. According to the State Department’s December Visa Bulletin, the EB-2 India cutoff date for final action will advance by ten months for EB-2 India, with modest advancements for most other backlogged employment-based preference categories except EB-2 China.
 
The United Kingdom Home Office is considering proposed changes to the Immigration Rules, including a minimum salary for Tier 2 applicants applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). 
 
In Belgium, a new law will reduce the waiting time between a request for asylum and access to a work permit from six to four months. Once the law is signed and published, it will become effective, which is likely to happen within the next few weeks.
 
These items and other news from Colombia, Philippines, Senegal, Turkey and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.
 
 
Important Updates in Immigration This Week
 
United States, November 12, 2015
Senators Durbin and Grassley Propose Significant Restrictions on H-1B and L-1 Programs
 
The Durbin-Grassley bill would introduce a new system for allocating H-1B visas, toughen H-1B and L-1B eligibility standards, impose new wage minimums and other employer obligations, and limit the ability of employers to place H-1B and L-1 employees at third-party worksites or otherwise contract for their services. Though the bill is not expected to become law, it is likely to influence future legislative debate.
 
To view entire article, click here.
 
 
United States, November 9, 2015
December 2015 Visa Bulletin: Final Action Date Advances Significantly for EB-2 India
 
Cutoff dates for final action will advance by ten months for EB-2 India, to June 1, 2007, and will advance modestly for most other backlogged employment-based preference categories, except for EB-2 China. Cutoff dates for filing eligibility will not advance next month. 
 
To view entire article, click here.
 
 
Colombia, November 12, 2015
Visa System Shutdown to Delay In-Country Visa Processing
 
Due to a system outage at the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, those with appointments yesterday, November 11, and today were told to return tomorrow, November 13, in case the system is restored. Due to the outage as well as the office closure on November 16 for a national holiday, delays can be expected for new and pending visa applications filed online or in person in Colombia, as well as registration card processing and identification card procurement and collection. Colombian consulates have not been affected.
 
To view entire article, click here.
 
 
Belgium, November 9, 2015
Asylum Seekers’ Waiting Period for Work Permit to be Reduced
 
Due to the influx of asylum seekers, a new law will reduce the waiting time between a request for asylum and access to a work permit from six to four months. After the four-month waiting period, asylum seekers can perform any work under a C Work Permit for any employer without any specific eligibility conditions. 
 
To view entire article, click here.
 
 
United Kingdom, November 9, 2015
Higher Tier 2 Minimum Salary Part of Proposed Changes to Immigration Rules
 
The Home Office has proposed reforms to the Immigration Rules to Parliament, that, if approved, would affect applications submitted on or after November 19, 2015. The major proposals include the introduction of a minimum salary of GPB 35,000 for Tier 2 applicants applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain and an English language test for Indefinite Leave to Remain and naturalization applicants.
 
To view entire article, click here.
 
 
Other Immigration News This Week
 
United States: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Injunction Against Expansion of Deferred Action – A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on November 9 upheld a lower court’s injunction that blocked a key Obama Administration executive action – the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.  The Administration immediately appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
The existing DACA program remains in place. The Fifth Circuit ruling does not affect any employment-based executive actions on immigration, though several of those initiatives are facing separate court challenges.
 
United States: Latest PERM Processing Times – As of November 2, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst reviews for PERM applications filed in April 2015 or earlier and processing audited cases filed in August 2014 or earlier. The government error queue is current. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in July 2015 or earlier.
 
PERM processing times are available on the iCERT home page.
 
United States:  Employment Authorization for Nepali F-1 Students – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has suspended certain regulatory requirements for Nepali F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015. Effective November 9, 2015 until December 24, 2016, eligible Nepali F-1 students may request employment authorization, work an increased number of hours while school is in session, and reduce their course load while continuing to maintain F-1 status. 
 
In addition to being a citizen of Nepal, eligible applicants must have been lawfully present in the United States in F-1 status on April 25, 2015; be enrolled in a school that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified for enrollment of F-1 students; be currently maintaining F-1 status; and must be experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the damage caused by the earthquake.
 
Philippines: Understudy Training Program Submission Requirements Eased – To further clarify the recently-implemented Understudy Training Program (UTP) requirement, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has advised that pending the issuance of specific guidelines on the UTP, Alien Employment Permit (AEP) applications submitted without a UTP will still be accepted and processed by the DOLE. This does not negate the requirement to submit the UTP, but merely allows applicants to delay their submission for up to 30 days from the time the AEP is issued. AEP applicants should contact their immigration professional to discuss the requirements of the UTP.
 
Senegal: Business Visa Requirement Eliminated – Senegal has generally eliminated visa requirements and fees for business travelers and tourists for visits up to 90 days. Foreign nationals can obtain an entry stamp upon arrival without any pre-travel processing, unless the government considers them to be from a country with known terrorism activities. Previously, business travelers were required to obtain a visa or electronic authorization prior to travel. Since nationals of certain countries may not qualify for this exemption, travelers are strongly advised to confirm with a Senegalese consulate and their airline to ensure they are visa-exempt before traveling.
 
Turkey: Appointment Backlogs Reach All Residence Permit Applicants; New Application Centers Opening – Foreign nationals applying for Istanbul-based residence permit applications on the Migration Directorate's online appointment system are experiencing significant backlogs. The backlog of appointments not only impacts dependents filing residence permit applications, but also all initial residence permit applications filed in Istanbul. Because appointments only appear up to 90 days ahead (and there are generally no appointments showing as available), it is almost impossible to schedule an appointment on the online system at this time. If an appointment opens, there is no way to schedule an appointment for an entire family on one day. Likely due to the backlogs, the Migration Directorate is opening two new offices in Istanbul (in Besiktas and Beylikduzu) for applicants living in those districts. It is not clear if the new offices will open up more appointments in other offices.
 
 
Global Immigration News Links
 
 
A decade-long project run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has fallen short of achieving its goal of digitizing U.S. immigration forms, the Washington Post reports.
 
A huge backlog of immigration cases is building up in the United Kingdom amid claims that the Home Office and Ministry of Justice are in dispute over who pays for tribunals.
 
This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.