June 2019
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DOS Will Now Request Visa Applicants to Provide Social Media Information

On May 31, 2019, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application forms to request social media identifiers used for the past five (5) years for virtually all U.S. visa applicants.

Applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications use the DOS’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to complete online forms, including form DS-160 for nonimmigrant visa applications and form DS-260 for immigrant visa applications. Under a new department policy, DOS now will request the applicant’s social media history.

The updated forms will now request the visa applicant to identify specific social media platforms used and, furthermore, require the applicant to provide any account names they have held. Applicants do have the option of stating that they do not use social media. However, failure to provide accurate and truthful responses in a visa application may result in a denial.

DOS has indicated the reasoning behind this policy change is to amplify the measures outlined by the President’s March 6, 2017, Memorandum on Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits and Section 5 of Executive Order 13780 regarding implementing uniform screening and vetting standards. According to DOS, collecting this additional information will strengthen the process for vetting all visa applicants and confirming their identity.

For more information regarding this update and how its implications may potentially affect a visa application, contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com .
Important Updates to Processing of H-1B FY 2020 Cap-Subject Filings

On May 17, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced completion of data entry for all fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in the USCIS’s computer-generated random selection process. As in previous years, USCIS has now begun the process of returning unselected H-1B cap-subject petitions.

Furthermore, as a reminder, USCIS is currently in the first phase of the reinstatement of the premium processing service. In March, USCIS announced it will permit premium processing for FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions in two (2) phases:

  • The first phase, currently underway, includes only cap-subject petitions, filed on or after April 1, 2019, which requested a change of status (e.g. F-1 to H-1B). These petitions were concurrently filed with a request for premium processing and are currently being adjudicated.

  • The second phase will begin on June 10, 2019. This phase includes applying for premium processing service for all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions, i.e. those which did not request a change of status.

For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com .
Denaturalization Efforts by USCIS

The Trump administration has launched an office that specifically focuses on identifying immigrant individuals who are suspected of having obtained their legal permanent residency through fraudulent means. The focus of this new office is to “denaturalize” these individuals, i.e. to revoke the individual’s U.S. citizenship status.

In September 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report finding that USCIS had granted U.S. citizenship to more than 800 ineligible individuals who, according to the office, had obtained the requested benefit due to a lack of proper digital fingerprint records. OIG now recommends that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) finish uploading the digital repository of fingerprints identified so that DHS may resolve these cases.

From 2004 to 2016, denaturalization cases pursued by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) averaged at 46 cases yearly. In the last two (2) years, prosecutors have doubled the amount of cases filed yearly. In fact, in a budget requested by this office for FY 2019, the administration requested more than $200 million to investigate denaturalization leads.

For more information on denaturalization efforts and how it may potentially impact a case, please contact the office of Monty & Ramirez, LLP to speak to an experienced immigration attorney at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com .
U.S. Investor Visa Now Available for Israeli Citizens

In April 2019, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that a treaty investor agreement between the U.S. and Israel had been finalized and executed. As a result, effective May 1, 2019, Israeli citizens may now apply for the temporary E-2 visa classification at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

The E-2 visa is made available to citizens of qualifying countries who must have already invested, or be in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital into a U.S. enterprise. In addition to other requirements, the E-2 visa applicant must also be able to demonstrate that they are actively engaged in the development and direction of a U.S. company.

While the qualifications to obtain a E-2 visa are outlined by DOS and USCIS, it is important to note that the U.S. Embassy abroad may have a specific filing or submission process it uses and/or a recommended list or format of required evidence that must be followed. Thus, for this reason, it is important to contact an experienced immigration attorney to ensure the proper submission procedure is timely followed.

For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com .
USCIS Reflects on Second Anniversary of BAHA

On April 18, 2019, USCIS posted a news release on their website commemorating the second anniversary of the President’s Buy American and Hire American (BAHA) executive order initially signed on April 2017. Since this time, USCIS has implemented the order through rules, policy memoranda and operational changes that, according to USCIS, ultimately protect the economic interests of U.S. workers and prevent abuse and fraud in employment-based visa programs.

Some of USCIS key accomplishments in implementing BAHA are as follows:

  • In August 2017, USCIS issued a policy guidance related to fees that certain H-1B Petitioners must now pay that ultimately help to train U.S. workers.

  • In October 2017, USCIS issued a policy guidance instructing officers to apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial and extension requests for certain employment-based visa programs, thereby eliminating deference to prior determinations of eligibility.

  • In February 2018, USCIS issued a policy guidance regarding demonstrating eligibility for petitions of H-1B workers who will work at third-party worksites.

  • In November 2018, USCIS issued a policy memorandum clarifying calculation guidelines for the one-year foreign employment requirement for L-1 petitions in order to “ensure consistent adjudication.”

  • In January 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized a rule making changes to the H-1B cap selection process in order to increase the chances of selection for beneficiaries who have earned a master’s, or higher, degree from a U.S. institution.

  • In May 2018, USCIS and the DOJ signed a Memorandum of Understanding explaining an expansion of their collaboration in order to better detect and eliminate fraud by employers.

  • Enhanced USCIS’ targeted site visit program to ensure that H-1B and L-1 employers and employees are complying with the terms of their approved petitions.

  • In April 2019, USCIS created a H-1B Employer Data Hub to provide information to the public on employers petitioning for H-1B workers.

For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com .
Certain Individuals May Now Submit Extension Petitions Online

On May 22, 2019, USCIS announced that certain visitors for business (B-1), visitors for pleasure (B-2) and temporary students (F-1/M-1) may now use an online version of the Form I-539 to apply for an extension of their stay in the U.S. USCIS additionally announced that this option will soon be made available for certain other nonimmigrant classifications.

This announcement identifies a new “eProcessing” effort by USCIS, in which the agency seeks to accelerate their transition to a new digital business model. According to USCIS, eProcessing will be a completely “digital experience”, from applying for the requested immigration benefit, to communicating with USCIS, to finally receiving a decision on the case.

It is important to note that individuals in the above-enumerated statuses must first confirm if they meet the requirements to file Form I-539 online. To confirm eligibility for the new eProcessing procedure, contact the experienced attorneys at Monty & Ramirez, LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com .
Presidential Memorandum Issued Targeting High Visa Overstay Rates

On April 22, 2019, the Trump administration issued a memorandum initiating a process that federal agencies shall follow in order to assist the administration in combating high nonimmigrant visa overstay rates. This memorandum directs the DOJ, DHS and DOS agencies to take the following actions:

  • Within 120 days of the date the memorandum was issued:
  • The agencies must provide to the President recommendations to reduce B-1 and B-2 nonimmigrant visa overstay rates from countries whose total B-1/B-2 overstay rate exceeded 10% in the DHS’ published FY 2018 “Entry/Exit Overstay Report.”
  • The DOS and DHS must provide a status report to the President on steps they are taking to develop measures required for imposing admission bonds as a means for improving compliance with the terms and conditions of nonimmigrant visas.

  • Within 180 days of the date the memorandum was issued:
  • DHS must additionally provide to the President a summary of the agency’s ongoing efforts to reduce overstays from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

  • Immediately:
  • Furthermore, the DOS and DHS agencies must now immediately begin taking all appropriate actions that are within the “scope of their respective authorities” to reduce overstay rates for all classes of nonimmigrant visas.

For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com .
The June 2019 Visa Bulletin has arrived!

The Visa Bulletin for June 2019 has been released by the Government. For more details, go to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin/2019/visa-bulletin-for-june-2019.html.

If you have questions about the June 2019 Visa Bulletin, contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 713-289-4546 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com .

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