Supreme Court and Undocumented Workers: Another Arizona Law Being Tested

December 21st, 2010

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in early December on a controversial 2007 Arizona law that would revoke the business license of companies who knowingly hire undocumented workers. The legislation, known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act, is being challenged by a coalition of business groups who argued that the law intrudes on the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government over immigration. While both sides agree that the federal government, through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), preempted states from enacting legislation that would use employer sanctions to control immigration, Arizona has argued that a parenthetical clause in IRCA allows states to act “through licensing or similar laws.”

The case, while important in its own right, also is being watched closely because it could give some indication on how willing the Justices are to allow states to pass legislation to curb undocumented immigration. In particular, it may serve as a bellwether for a Supreme Court challenge to the high-profile Arizona law passed earlier this summer requiring local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country without legal status. That law — S.B. 1070 — garnered extensive, national media attention and spurred protests across the country when Governor Jan Brewer signed it into law in May. S.B. 1070 is currently moving through the courts as the Obama Administration challenges its constitutionality. It is expected to reach the Supreme Court during the 2011 or 2012 term.

Zulkie Partners is nationally recognized for its command of immigration law. We offer services that cover all aspects of corporate immigration law, including nonimmigrant work visas, permanent residence sponsorship and more.

Connect with us today to learn how we can help you further your hiring goals.

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify, I-9, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Worksite enforcement policies

PERM Labor Certification Program

December 21st, 2010

Most foreign nationals who wish to be eligible for employment-based green cards must do so through the PERM labor certification process by having their employer file a labor certification application with the Department of Labor (DOL). The PERM application certifies that there are no U.S. workers who are willing, able, or available to fill a position offered by an American employer, and the employer must undertake extensive recruitment to prove such. The PERM application also certifies that the employer will pay the sponsored employee the prevailing wage for the job. Once approved or “certified,” the foreign-national employee can petition USCIS for eligibility under one of the employment-based preference categories by filing an I-140 immigrant visa petition.

The largely automated PERM program was introduced in March 2005 and touted by DOL as a new and retooled expedited labor certification process through which employers could begin their sponsorship of valued employees. Nevertheless, the PERM process remains laborious and complicated.

Over the past five years through the issuance of FAQs — DOL’s 11th and latest was issued in August — DOL has retroactively applied new rules to old cases and used the informal FAQ process to create or change its requirements. By forgoing the more formal route of promulgating regulations, which would afford public comment and mandate government consideration, the program remains riddled with deficiencies and uncertainties for employers. Moreover, the application takes about four to six months to prepare, plus another six to ten months for processing by DOL (from online submission to adjudication). And, if DOL requests that the employer’s recruitment and other records be audited, another 15 months will be tacked on for a DOL audit response. Beyond the changing rules and lengthy processing times, perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the process is how unforgiving it is — even the tiniest error on the PERM application can completely derail a case.

So why do employers and their employees bother? Despite these and other hurdles inherent in the PERM labor certification process, this route to permanent residence is often the only viable option for many needed employees. And, the process eventually works: long-time nonimmigrant employees and their families can become green card holders and, later, citizens of the United States. However, employers who anticipate long-term sponsorship of current employees must take particular care to ensure consistency throughout what can be a multi-process, nine- to ten-year immigration odyssey. This can be difficult, especially when the immigration laws are not consistent. For example, a foreign national can be a “professional” for H-1B purposes on the basis of experience and education but not for immigrant visa purposes. Employers also must take care to timely file their PERM applications, especially when their H-1B employees are approaching their final year of their visa status. Indeed, long-term immigration strategies must be considered when hiring H‑1Bs.

Until this system changes, employers and their immigration counsel should actively review pending cases to determine whether additional documentation is required to meet ever-changing DOL requirements. Counsel and employers also are advised to determine from the start the best short- and long-term strategies for their employees.

Zulkie Partners is nationally recognized for its command of immigration law. We offer services that cover all aspects of corporate immigration law, including nonimmigrant work visas, permanent residence sponsorship and more.

Connect with us today to learn how we can help you further your hiring goals.

Comment » | Department of Labor, I-140, I-485, Lawful permanent resident

“Deemed Export” Attestation by Employers To Be Required on some I-129 Petitions

December 21st, 2010

Beginning December 23, 2010, a new “deemed export” attestation will be required on Form I-129 nonimmigrant visa petitions for H-1B, H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore), L-1, and O 1A petitioners.

The Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) require U.S. persons to seek and receive authorization from the U.S. government before releasing controlled technology or technical data to foreign persons in the United States. Under both the EAR and the ITAR, release of such information to a foreign national, even by an employer, is deemed to be an export to that person’s country or countries of nationality. One implication of this rule is that a U.S. company must seek and receive a license from the U.S. government before it releases controlled technology or technical data to its nonimmigrant workers employed as H-1B, L-1, or O-1A beneficiaries.

While these licensing requirements will affect only a small percentage of employer-petitioners because most types of technology are not controlled for export or release to foreign persons, a new certification attestation will be included on Form I-129. Most employers will simply certify that no license is required, but if an export license is required, then the employer must further certify that it will not release or otherwise provide access to controlled technology or technical data to the foreign national until it has received the required governmental authorization to do so.

For many years now, companies as well as universities have been required to comply with export control laws, but compliance is generally not managed by the same units that prepare I-129 petitions. Even though many activities at companies and universities can benefit from several exclusions to the export license requirement (e.g., the “basic research” exemption), to properly complete the new deemed export attestation on Form I 129, the petitioner would first have to inquire with the appropriate office at his or her company or university that handles export control issues. It would behoove these institutions to develop an institutional protocol for completing the form and assuring the signatory of the I-129 that their attestation is true and correct.

Employers considering sponsoring foreign workers should familiarize themselves with these laws and discuss with immigration counsel their impact on future visa petitions.

The technology and technical data that are controlled for release to foreign persons are identified on the EAR’s Commerce Control List (CCL) (generally “dual use” items) and the ITAR’s U.S. Munitions List (USML) (generally defense-related articles).

The CCL is found at www.access.gpo.gov/bis/ear/ear_data.html#ccl; the USML at www.pmddtc.state.gov/regulations_laws/itar.html. Additional information about applying for the appropriate licenses can be found at www.bis.doc.gov/deemedexports and www.pmddtc.state.gov/faqs/license_foreignpersons.html.

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, H-1B, I-129

Updated Guidance on Green Card Visa Number Availability

November 15th, 2010

The U.S. Department of State has just released the December Visa Bulletin which contains the following updated guidance on visa availability.

F. VISA AVAILABILITY IN THE COMING MONTHS

Family-sponsored: From early 2009 through September 2010, the level of demand for numbers in the Family-sponsored preference categories was very low. As a result, the cut-off dates for most Family preference categories were advanced at a very rapid pace, in an attempt to generate demand so that the annual numerical limits could be fully utilized. As readers were advised in previous Visa Bulletins providing projections of visa availability (e.g., April 2009, January 2010, May 2010, July 2010), such cut-off date advances could not continue indefinitely, and at some point they could slow, stop, or in some cases retrogress.

The level of demand which has been experienced during FY-2011 has resulted in most of the worldwide cut-off dates being held for the month of December. At this time it is not possible to predict when or if these dates may advance further, and there is a distinct possibility that retrogressions could occur as early as January if demand within the established cut-off dates does not appear to be subsiding.

Employment-based: At this time it is unlikely that there will be any cut-off dates in the Employment First preference during the coming months. It also appears unlikely that it will be necessary to establish a cut-off date other than those already in effect for the Second preference category. Cut-off dates continue to apply to the China and India Second preference categories due to heavy demand.

Based on current indications of demand, the best case scenarios for cut-off date movement each month during the coming months are as follows:

Employment Second:

China: none to two weeks

India: no movement

Employment Third:

Worldwide: three to six weeks

China: one to three weeks

India: none to two weeks

Mexico: although continued forward movement is expected, no specific projections are possible at this time.

Philippines: three to six weeks

Please be advised that the above ranges are estimates based upon the current demand patterns, and are subject to fluctuations during the coming months. The cut-off dates for upcoming months cannot be guaranteed, and no assumptions should be made until the formal dates are announced.

Comment » | Department of State, I-140, I-485, I-551, Lawful permanent resident

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