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What you Need to Know about Immigration Law Today

Attorneys Russell Ford and Sara Fleming present to nearly 30 professors and students at UNH.

Attorneys Russell Ford and Sara Fleming present to nearly 30 professors and students at University of New Hampshire.

On Friday, March 9, FordMurray attorneys Russell Ford and Sara Fleming presented at the University of New Hampshire. In a presentation targeted to foreign born faculty and students, Sara and Russell delved into changes to immigration law and policy, discussing the implications for residents with work or student visas. With about 30 attendees present, we were able to have productive conversations about specific immigration questions and concerns regarding President Trump’s Impact on Immigration Law.

As business immigration attorneys we are often asked to weigh in on immigration news of the day, such as President Trump’s travel bans, the Supreme Court ruling on DACA recipients, or the end of TPS eligibility for workers from El Salvador and Haiti. While these stories are important and have far-reaching impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, there are also critical changes to policy that aren’t in the daily conversation about immigration. These subtle shifts in policy are equally disruptive to hardworking US residents who rely on immigration visas, and include:

RFE Delay and Denials

As President Trump sought to fulfill his “America First” campaign promises, request for Evidence challenges from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) increased 45% in 2017. RFE delays and denials can frustrate an already high-stakes process. It is crucial – now more than ever – to make sure applications are completed thoroughly, job and wage information is accurate, and all deadlines are adhered to. For more information, see these 6 Tips to Avoid RFE, or download our H-1B Visa Guide.

End of deference in extension and amend petitions

When the USCIS announced it was no longer giving deference to an individual’s prior approval for a status, it was a big change in policy and further indication that this administration was tough even on legal immigration. Russell and Sara discussed the importance of maintaining status, keeping strong records of your work history and performance, and documenting the continuing job offer in the extension and amendment petitions.

Suspension of H-1B Premium Processing

During the H-1B cap push in 2017, the USCIS temporarily suspended H-1B premium processing for most applications. Expecting a similar circumstance this April, Sara and Russell advised the audience to be prepared for suspension of H-1B premium processing beginning in April 2018 and to plan accordingly as most H-1B processing can take between 4-5 months.

I-485 Interviews for Employment Based Applicants

The USCIS changed the process for employment-based applicants for US Lawful Permanent Residence by requiring such applicants to undergo an interview at their local USCIS office prior to obtaining the “green card”. Because the USCIS did not provide much guidance or background on this change, individuals were left wondering how this new process would impact them. Sara and Russell, drawing upon their experiences with clients and through the Immigration Bar, reassured the audience that the interviews were not creating significant delays in the process nor were these interviews resulting in outlandish decisions.

Many changes are at policy level – not in national debate

When people read headlines about President Trump’s wall and ending the Diversity Visa lottery, they assume all changes are subject to debate in Congress or another public sphere. In fact, many of the changes being made take place at the internal policy level at USCIS and reflect a change in the way current immigration law is applied and enforced.

Russell Ford and Sara Fleming lead a Q&A session following their presentation.

Russell Ford and Sara Fleming lead a Q&A session following their presentation.

What you can do

Our clients at UNH are highly skilled professors and students who are involved in post-graduate and post-doctoral work – truly the best and the brightest. Our advice to them is the advice we would give to anyone in the United States on a work visa at this moment in time.

Plan ahead. Just because you have filed an extension before, doesn’t mean you can expect the same outcome. Leave yourself enough time to gather all of the materials you need to clearly state your case for continued employment and residence in the United States.

File multiple petitions. If you have considered becoming a permanent US resident, consider filing a National Interest or Extraordinary Ability waiver – which can be filed concurrently with your work visas or other green card proceedings. If you have considered naturalizations and U.S. Citizenship, apply now.

Have a good lawyer. We aren’t saying that for self-promotion. Of course we would love to work with you, but the most important thing is that you have representation who can keep you abreast of changing policy and keep your status legal and current. If you would like more information about how we can help, contact us today.