Guidance for Trump's New Travel Ban

President Trump has rolled out a new travel ban, after the previous 90-day travel ban expired yesterday.  This new policy continues the existing travel restrictions to the U.S. for most citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, and now adds the countries of Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.  The new restrictions range from full travel bans on nationals from countries like Syria, Chad, and North Korea to more targeted restrictions for Venezuela, Iran, Libya, and Yemen.  For example, the suspension of nonimmigrant visas to citizens for Venezuela, applies only to senior government officials and their immediate families.  Iranian nationals will only be allowed to enter the U.S. using valid student and exchange visitor visas, but such visitors will have to undergo "enhanced screening and vetting requirements."

These news restrictions, which will take effect on October 18, 2017 and will be in place for an indefinite period of time.  The order does not apply to lawful permanent residents, existing visa-holders, or foreign nationals currently within the United States.  The Department of Homeland Security may also grant waivers on a case-by-case basis for students and workers with significant U.S. ties who happened to be outside the country when the order was enacted, among others.

Once again, as a result of these actions, many in the immigrant community are confused and scared – I understand!  Despite all that you read or hear in the news or from your friends and family, this is not a time to panic or to make hasty decisions.  It is a time for calm, rational thinking and for informed, conservative and proactive planning.  In that regard, I suggest the following:

  1. If you are a citizen of one of the countries listed in this new travel ban, do not travel out of the U.S.  The Executive Order does not apply to you if you merely visited one of these countries.
  2. If you have a non-immigrant visa and you plan to travel out of the U.S. please consult with an Immigration Attorney first.  In this climate of enhanced enforcement it is prudent to be able to document your status as much as possible in the event you are subject to additional scrutiny by an overly aggressive immigration officer upon your return.
  3. Consideration should be given to accelerating any immigration planning (i.e. extensions of status, green card processing, etc.) in order to take advantage of the existing laws and regulations. It is possible that these policies may continue to become more restrictive.

As evidenced by the prior travel bans, the current administration is intent on restricting travel to the U.S..  Once again, I sympathize with the fear and uncertainty many may be feeling right now - I come from a family of immigrants.  It pains me that the country whose doors gave my family refuge in their time of need is now trying to close those same doors to others.  I believe that these times too shall pass and that better times lie ahead.  Until then I will do everything I can to ease your fears and help you through this difficult period.

Please sign up for updates on the current situation and I will provide you with developments as they take place.  In the interim, please feel free to call me any time to discuss any of your concerns.

What DACA Recipients & Employers Need to Know About The End of DACA

President Trump has announced his plans to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides “temporary relief from deportation” and work authorization for certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. when they were minors. There are over 800,000 DACA beneficiaries across the country, the majority of whom are legally employed by U.S. employers.

As of September 6, 2017, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer be accepting new DACA applications, however, current DACA recipients will be permitted to retain both the period of deferred action and their employment authorization until they expire. Individuals who currently have an initial DACA request pending with USCIS will have their cases adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. Those individuals with their deferred action expiring before March 5, 2018 must apply to renew their DACA (for a two-year period) before October 5, 2017. After March 6, 2018 no more DACA renewal applications will be accepted by USCIS.

WORK AUTHORIZATION

Through the DACA program, beneficiaries receive Employment Authorization Documents (also known as “work permits” or “EAD” cards) which provide lawful work authorization with U.S. employers. These cards are issued for limited periods of time and have expiration dates. Despite this new policy which will terminate the ability to renew EAD cards, current valid EAD cards will continue to provide lawful work authorization for those beneficiaries, until the EAD expires. This means DACA beneficiaries are allowed to legally continue working for U.S. employers with their EAD card until the expiration date on the card. While employers may not be aware of their employees who are on DACA until it comes time to reverify an employee’s work authorization in the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification process, employers are not legally obligated to terminate an employee until after their EAD card has expired. 

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS, DRIVER’S LICENSES, AND ADVANCE PAROLE CARDS

Social security numbers for DACA recipients will remain valid and can continue to be used for banking, education, housing, and other reasons. Driver’s licenses should also remain valid until the expiration date of the card (but double check with your State’s motor vehicle department to confirm). While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has indicated they will still honor valid Advance Parole documents, which provide immigration officers with discretionary authority to permit an individual to return to the U.S. after foreign travel, DACA beneficiaries are advised not to travel internationally, due to the risk of being denied re-entry into the U.S. upon return.

IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT

Information which DACA recipients provided to DHS in their DACA applications will not be proactively provided to Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or shared with other law enforcement entities for the purpose of immigration enforcement proceedings, unless an individual poses a risk to national security or public safety. ICE has said that it has no plans to target DACA holders as their permits expire and that they will continue to remain low enforcement priorities. 

OTHER IMMIGRATION OPTIONS

DACA recipients may be eligible for other immigration relief either through family or employment. Employers with overseas offices may be able to employ affected individuals abroad. DACA recipients may be able to obtain work authorization and/or lawful residence in another country and may even be able to do so from within in the United States. 

Individuals and employers should contact qualified legal counsel to understand their options. As always, we will continue to monitor this recent DACA update and continue to provide additional analysis as information continues to become available. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Supreme Court Allows Partial Travel Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to partially unblock President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel to the U.S. from the following predominantly muslim countries: Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.  The ruling will keep in place part of the lower court injunction, but will reinstate a travel ban for foreign nationals “who lack any bona fide relationship” with any person or entity in the United States. 

The practical upshot of this is that foreign nationals of these 6 countries should expect that the travel ban will now be enforced against them, thereby barring their travel to the U.S. for a period of 90 days, unless they are able to demonstrate a relationship with a person (e.g., a family member) or an entity (e.g., school, employer, host organization) in the U.S.  In other words, the travel ban may not be enforced against individuals from these 6 countries so long as the individual can prove they have a family relationship with someone in the U.S. or a relationship with a U.S. entity, (i.e. attendance at a U.S. university or employment with a U.S. employer).  While other relationships may also qualify, none were specifically mentioned in the decision.

Foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. from Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen should now plan to travel with evidence of their family relationships in the U.S. (i.e. affidavits, birth certificates, marriage certificates), or evidence of their enrollment in a U.S. school (i.e. student visa, Form I-20), or employment (work visa, visa petition approval notices, pay stubs, letters verifying employment).  Additionally, travelers from these countries should be prepared to answer questions about their U.S. family members or employment.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the merits of the executive order in October 2017.  In the meantime, if you have any questions on how this ruling may impact you or your employees, please feel free to contact us.

Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order 

President Trump signed an Executive Order on April 18th, which directs the Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Labor, and Secretary of Homeland Security to propose new rules and issue new guidance to “rigorously enforce and administer the laws governing entry into the United States of workers from abroad.”  The Executive Order also directs these agencies to suggest reforms to prioritize “the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries” in awarding H-1B visas.

While the Executive Order does not provide any specific details or actions to change any visa program, it does indicate that the administration is considering such changes to the H-1B visa program as giving greater weight to H-1B applicants with advanced degrees and higher wages in the H-1B lottery and increasing application fees.

This Executive Order does not have any impact on this year’s H-1B visa process or lottery.

Increased Visa Scrutiny Announced

The U.S. Secretary of State has directed all U.S. consulates to take all possible steps to increase scrutiny of all visa applications and applicants themselves for security threats.  These diplomatic cables direct officers to ask more detailed questions about the background of all applicants and requires applicants whose nationality or background may raise security concerns to provide additional information, including: travel history over the last 15 years; names of siblings, children and former spouses not already recorded in the DS-160/260 or NIV/IVO case notes; addresses over the last 15 years; prior passport numbers; prior jobs and employers, including brief descriptions if applicable, for the last 15 years; any phone number the applicant has used in the last five years; email addresses and social media handles the applicants has used in the last five years.  The cables also will now limit consular officers to no more than 120 interviews per day, a change that will likely cause backlogs and processing delays.

These additional stricter screening requirements, along with the limits on interviews are likely to result in potential administrative processing delays for some applicants.  Additionally, these new directives will likely cause slowdowns in visa issuance and an increase in visa denials.

Immigration Guidance for Trump's Executive Orders

Three Executive Orders were issued by President Trump last week – one related to the building of a wall along our border with Mexico, one related to enhanced immigration enforcement and one related to a travel ban for citizens of certain countries and limitations on refugees.  These actions have been drastic in terms of their impact as well as vague in terms of how they will be applied.  As a result of these actions, many in the immigrant community are confused and scared – I understand! 

I am writing this to help you navigate these turbulent waters.  Despite all that you read or hear in the news or from your friends and family, this is not a time to panic or to make hasty decisions.  It is a time for calm, rational thinking and for informed, conservative and proactive planning.  In that regard, I suggest the following:

  1. If you are a citizen of one of the “seven countries” listed on the Executive Order (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen), do not travel out of the U.S.  The Executive Order does not apply to you if you merely visited one of the “seven countries”.
  2. If you are a citizen of any other country which has a predominantly Muslim population, do not travel out of the U.S. without consulting with an Immigration Attorney first.
  3. If you have a non-immigrant visa (even if you are a citizen of a country which is not predominantly Muslim) and you plan to travel out of the U.S. please consult with an Immigration Attorney first.  In this climate of enhanced enforcement it is prudent to be able to document your status as much as possible in the event you are subject to additional scrutiny by an overly aggressive immigration officer upon your return.
  4. Consideration should be given to accelerating any immigration planning (eg; extensions of status, green card processing, etc.) in order to take advantage of the existing laws and regulations. It is possible that these may become more restrictive as the policies of the current administration continue to evolve.

It is my belief that more executive orders will be forthcoming - which are likely to add to the fear and uncertainty that you may be feeling.  I sympathize with what you may be feeling right now - I come from a family of immigrants.  It pains me that the country whose doors gave my family refuge in their time of need is now trying to close those same doors to others.  I believe that these times too shall pass and that better times lie ahead.  Until then I will do everything I can to ease your fears and help you through this difficult period.

Please sign up for updates on the current situation and I will provide you with developments as they take place.  In the interim, please feel free to call me any time to discuss any of your concerns.

DACA Expansion Applications Accepted Starting February 18th

USCIS has announced that it will begin accepting expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications on February 18, 2015.  Here's a quick look at some of the changes to the expanded DACA program.

  • No more requirement to be under 31 on June 15, 2010.  Individuals who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, no matter their current age, are now eligible for DACA so long as they have been continuously residing in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
  • The date of entry to qualify for DACA has changed.  You must now have lived in the U.S. from January 1, 2010 until now to qualify.
  • First-time and renewal DACA applicants will now received deferred action and work permits for 3 years (instead of 2).  If you currently have DACA, though, your DACA is still only valid until the expiration date printed on the card.  

To qualify for DACA you still must meet all other eligibility requirements: 1) arrived in the U.S. before your 16th birthday; 2) be currently enrolled in school, graduated from high school or obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, and 3) have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or 3 or more misdemeanors, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

For additional questions on DACA or DAPA, please feel free to contact us or check out our recent FAQ.

Answers To Your Questions About DAPA & DACA

How and when do I apply for DACA or DAPA?

If you are newly eligible for DACA under the expanded criteria, USCIS will begin accepting applications on February 18, 2015.  If applying for deferred action as a parent (DAPA), USCIS expects to begin accepting applications by May 19, 2015.  Instructions for DAPA are still pending. Based on the evidence required for DACA applications, you will need documents that establish your identity, your relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident son or daughter, and your continuous residence in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. Also, all documents that are not in English need to be translated into English. 

Am I eligible for DAPA?  Will I be able to work?

To be eligible applicants will have to show they have been in the US since January 1, 2010;  they are a parent of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident born sometime before November 20, 2014; have no serious criminal history.  If approved the applicant may be able to apply for employment authorization by showing economic need. 

How long does DAPA last?

Three years, as with the new DACA application and renewal periods.

How has DACA eligibility been expanded?

Individuals who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, no matter their current age, are now eligible for DACA so long as they have been continuously residing in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. Prior to this announcement, applicants must have been under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012 and have been living in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007.

What about DACA recipients who already received a two-year renewal?

U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is currently considering ways to extend already issued two-year renewals and work authorizations to three years.  

After I apply, how long do I have to wait for a decision?

USCIS aims to complete all applications received by the end of 2015 before the end of 2016. USCIS will provide each applicant with a notification of receipt within 60 days of receiving the application. 

What will happen after 3 years?  Will the next President continue DACA and DAPA?

DACA and DAPA are both discretionary processes. A new president could continue or cancel either or both processes after 3 years. Only Congress can change the law. 

Can I apply for DACA or DAPA if I have been deported?

No.  DACA and DAPA only apply to qualified individuals present in the U.S.

Can I travel with DACA or DAPA?

It is expected that individuals granted DAPA may separately apply for a travel document (formally known as advance parole) under certain circumstances.  Please speak with a licensed attorney to evaluate your eligibility.

Will the state where I live give me an ID or drivers license because of DAPA?

Neither DACA nor DAPA require state authorities to issue state identification documents or driver's licenses. The decision whether or not to issue driver's licenses is made by each state individually, so check with your local department of motor vehicles to find out.

What if my case is denied or I fail to pass a background check?
Under USCIS's current policy, only cases involving criminal offenses, fraud, or a threat to national security or public safety will be referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation proceedings. Those who knowingly misrepresent or fail to disclose facts will not receive "favorable consideration." If you have ever been arrested or convicted of any crime, please consult with an attorney before you apply.  

Will the information I share in my request for consideration of deferred action be used for immigration enforcement purposes?
Unless USCIS determines that you meet the criteria for issuance of a Notice to Appear or a referral to ICE, the information you provide in a deferred action application will be protected from disclosure to ICE or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the purpose of immigration enforcement proceedings. However, the information may be shared with ICE, CBP, and other national security and law enforcement agencies for reasons other than removal proceedings, including: 

Where can I get additional information on DACA and DAPA?

The executive actions, including the enforcement priorities and DACA/DAPA memoranda are posted on the Department of Homeland Security's website at http://www.dhs.gov/immigration-action. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services also has comprehensive information about the deferred action processes on their website at http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction. Please remember, while President Obama announced the broad outlines of the immigration executive actions on November 20, 2014, neither the expanded DACA nor the DAPA processes are in place yet. Be careful not to get scammed.