Virginia, US

Apr 20 2017

Weekly Immigration Update: April 14 – 20, 2017

Australia, Bahrain, Chile, European Union, Oman, United States

In United States immigration news this week, President Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order that directs federal agencies to propose tougher eligibility standards for the H-1B and other employment-based immigration programs, and reiterates the Administration’s determination to increase immigration enforcement.  Many of the changes contemplated by the executive order would require legislation or new regulations.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 37,000 fewer H-1B cap petitions for employment in fiscal year 2018 – a 15.7 percent decrease over last year’s total. Foreign nationals in the United States should take steps to protect themselves from fraudulent immigration schemes and websites falsely claiming to be affiliated with the U.S. government.

The European Commission will meet at the beginning of May to either issue a report explaining the progress that has been made toward full visa reciprocity with the United States or to adopt an act proposing to suspend short-term visa free-travel for U.S. nationals to the European Union.

In Australia, a Consolidated Skilled Occupation List impacting Subclass 457 visas, which took effect on April 19, was significantly shortened. Employers will be unable to sponsor foreign nationals assigned to occupations removed from the list, which include some occupations in the information communication technology and engineering sectors. Additionally, the Subclass 457 Visa Program will likely be replaced with a more restrictive visa program called the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa, effective March 2018.

These items and other news from Bahrain, Chile, Iraq, Oman, and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, April 20, 2017
May Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Employment-Based Final Action Dates Only Next Month

In May, USCIS will only accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is current for final action under the State Department's May Visa Bulletin. However, EB-5 Regional Center program adjustments will not be accepted unless the program is reauthorized by Congress.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, April 19, 2017
Protecting Against Immigration Fraud Schemes Targeting Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals should take steps to protect themselves from fraudulent immigration schemes and websites falsely claiming to be affiliated with the U.S. government.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, April 19, 2017
Preparing for a Possible Federal Government Shutdown

If Congress is unable to pass a budget agreement or a stopgap measure by April 28,  immigration operations at the Department of Labor would be suspended; State Department and USCIS application processing would continue but could be delayed.  Congress continues to debate whether to reauthorize E-Verify, the EB-5 Regional Center program and other programs, which are set to expire unless reauthorized by April 28.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, April 18, 2017
New Executive Order Calls for H-1B Reforms and Increased Enforcement

The “Buy American and Hire American” executive order directs federal agencies to propose tougher eligibility standards for the H-1B and other employment-based immigration programs, and reiterates the Administration’s determination to increase immigration enforcement.  Many of the changes contemplated by the executive order would require legislation or new regulations.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, April 17, 2017
USCIS Receives 199,000 FY 2018 H-1B Cap Cases, Runs Selection Lotteries

USCIS received 37,000 fewer H-1B cap filings than last year’s record. The overall chance of selection in the cap lotteries for this year is 42 percent.

To view entire article, click here.


Australia, April 19, 2017
Subclass 457 Visa Program to be Replaced in 2018 and Amendments to the Permanent Employer Sponsored Skilled Program Forthcoming

The Australian Prime Minister has proposed to replace the Subclass 457 Visa Program with a more restrictive visa program called the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa, effective March 2018. Most of the proposed program's features exist in the current Subclass 457 Visa system, but the actual impact and level of restrictions will only be known once the practical details are announced. The Permanent Employer Sponsored Skilled Migration Program will also be restricted, including a reduction in the maximum age limit from 50 years to 45 years for applications under the Direct Entry eligibility stream effective July 1, 2017, among other limitations.

To view entire article, click here.

 

European Union, April 19, 2017
Next Steps on Decision on Visa-Free Travel for U.S. Citizens Expected in May

Following the adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament in March, the European Commission will meet at the beginning of May, earlier than previously announced, to either issue a report explaining the progress that has been made toward full visa reciprocity with the United States or to adopt an act proposing to suspend short-term visa free-travel for U.S. nationals to the European Union.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Australia, April 18, 2017
Shortened Skilled Occupation List Impacting Subclass 457 Visas Effective April 19

Effective April 19, 2017, the Consolidated Skilled Occupation List - which assigns eligible occupations for the Subclass 457 Visa program and the Direct Entry stream for the permanent Employer Nomination Scheme Visa program - will be significantly shortened. Employers will be unable to sponsor foreign nationals assigned to occupations removed from the list, which include some occupations in the information communication technology and engineering sectors. Notably, pending Subclass 457 Visa nominations and applications in the removed occupations will not be approved.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Chile, April 18, 2017
Streamlined Visa Program for Technology Company Workers Forthcoming

A new Tech Visa expected to be implemented in the next few months will offer 15-business day visa processing for eligible foreign nationals seeking to work for a technology company.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

United States: USCIS To Issue Redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (also known as a Green Card) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017. The new card designs, which use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features, are a part of an ongoing effort between USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter counterfeiting and fraud.

The new cards will display the individual's photos on both sides; show a unique graphic image and color palette; have embedded holographic images; and will no longer display the individual's signature. Green cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palate and no longer have an optical stripe on the back. EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette.

Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card. Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Some older Green Cards that do not have an expiration date remain valid.

United States: TPS for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone Expires on May 21 – The designations of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will terminate effective May 21, 2017, according to a USCIS reminder. TPS-related employment authorization documents issued under these three designations are also only valid through May 20, 2017, and will not be renewed or extended.

In September 2016, beneficiaries under these three designations were provided advance notice to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible. Although TPS benefits will no longer be in effect starting May 21, TPS beneficiaries will continue to hold any other immigration status they have maintained or acquired while registered for TPS. Individuals with no other lawful immigration status on May 21 will no longer be protected from removal or eligible for employment authorization based on TPS.

Bahrain: Self-Sponsored Work Permits Soon Available for Expired Residence Visa Holders – The Labour Market Regulatory Authority has announced that foreign nationals with expired residence visas will soon be able to obtain a self-sponsored work permit, which will allow them to work temporarily for any company or individual in Bahrain for up to two years with the possibility of renewal. The program will apply to low- and medium-skilled workers in any profession that does not require a professional license. Foreign nationals under expired visit visas and those with criminal charges will not be eligible for the work permit. Applicants will be required to submit a security deposit equal to the return airfare to their home country and obtain health insurance. Further details, including additional eligibility criteria and the start date of the program will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

Iraq: Ministry of Interior Urges Oil and Gas Contractors to Adhere to its Rules – The Ministry of Interior (MOI) has urged contractors operating in the oil and gas industry to adhere to its rules and to interface only with the respective concession-holding companies for inquiries regarding any immigration-related matters. The structure of the immigration process for oil and gas companies in Iraq does not allow the company representative to work directly with the MOI’s Directorate of Residence; instead, contractors are required to transact with one of the state-controlled concession-holding companies within the Ministry of Oil, which will interface with the MOI for necessary approvals. Noncomplying employers may face immigration application issues or sanctions.

Oman: Tourist Visas to be Processed by Hotels and Tour Operators for Some Foreign Nationals – The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) has announced that three-, four- and five-star hotels and tour operators with a valid MOT license will be able to apply for tourist visas on behalf of Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Russian passport holders staying at their facilities. The hotel or tour operator will have to submit a bank guarantee to the Royal Oman Police Authority (ROP) and tour operators will be required to provide the MOT with a list of travellers arriving to Oman on charter flights prior to their arrival. The MOT will work with the ROP to facilitate the visa process.

Oman: New Visa Categories to be Added to E-Visa System – The Ministry of Tourism has announced that new visa categories will be added to the e-visa system. The e-visa system is currently being upgraded and offers a streamlined service for visa-on-arrival nationals to obtain pre-approvals for travel to Oman.

 

Global Immigration News Links

Reason Magazine argues that President Trump's new H-1B executive order will discourage the use foreign talent and hurt American companies and workers.

In advance of France’s presidential election, National Front Candidate Marine Le Pen vowed to restrict immigration and to make France “more French,” the New York Times reports.

Faced with potential labor shortages, the Danish Finance Ministry makes the case that more foreign workers are needed.

New Zealand announced it is introducing tougher requirements for skilled overseas workers in an effort to control immigration numbers.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.

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