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The Trump administration just announced raids in nine major cities wherein undocumented immigrants will be rounded up and deported with immediate effect. Anyone not having valid paperwork, sufficient identity or legal authority to reside in the US will be checked by ICE officials. While this is being implemented by ICE for undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants especially H1B and L visa holders too, will be facing similar site visits from USCIS officials under the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program (ASVVP).

Employers who are foreign-workforce dependent should anticipate these targeted site visits. USCIS recently released a data-hub with information on such employers. Another target will be employers who have team-members who work at off-site locations and may not be available at the employers’ main office. Both employers and employees should be vigilant about these visits and prepare a clean game-plan in the event USCIS officers make a visit.

What to Expect During a Site Visit?
  • Increased Frequency of Site Visits: With additional staff added under USCIS specifically for these site visits, H1B and L visa holders should anticipate more compliance visits.
  • Fraud Detection: Since the main purpose is to identify and evaluate fraudulent petitioners, all documentation should be compliant and valid. Anyone requiring responses to Request for Evidences (RFEs) should have receipts reflecting action taken, extensions applied for and all current paperwork up-to-date. Employers with pending petitions among its employers should be extra vigilant.
  • Required Documentation During Site Visits: All documentation pertaining to employees’ job duties, work-hours broken up to reflect percentage distribution of time applied to each task, work location and salary should be readily made available. Employers should educate their employees as to which of their personal documents come under the orbit of such inspections.
  • Timing of Site Visits: USCIS officers come unannounced and therefore, all H1B and L visa holders should be prepared at all times with answers, legal paperwork as well as the required amount of training to answer these efficiently and to the point.
  • Contact Team: Employers, in anticipation of such visits should have an available team ready to meet these USCIS visiting Officers. This should include staff from the front-end, HR representatives, company’s legal counsel, if available as well as the said H1B and L visa employees who are trained accordingly.
  • Off-site Employees: For employees who may be unavailable onsite and may have to work at a client site at the time of the site visit, employers should have sufficient documentation justifying employee-employer relationship. All oversite should be done by the petitioning employer and not the client. Reasons for being offsite and the work involved offsite should be well documented.

What Can You Expect To Be Asked During a Site Visit?

Keep up with the changes to H1B processes here

New H1B Regulations

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The latest Visa Bulletin released for August by USCIS has made a splash among the EB3 cases by announcing a three-year retrogression in its dates. Starting August, Employment Application Final Action Dates which determine when Form I-485 can be approved for legal permanent residency in the US has moved back by two-and-a-half-years for Indian applicants under the EB-3 category and by three years for Rest of the World (ROW) under the same category. They are now poised at January 1, 2006 and July 1, 2016 respectively.

As for the remaining Employment based (EB) categories, EB-1 India has seen no change while EB-2 has moved up by one week. All other EBs for other countries including China, Mexico and Philippines and ROW have all had cutoff dates assigned to them that go back anywhere from six months to three years. These cutoff dates were introduced by USCIS for most of the EB-2 and EB-3 ROW to combat the increasing demand adjustment of status for EB applications within the maximum allowed under the annual limits for FY 2019. This is said to be a temporary arrangement until the loads are processed. Once October rolls in, the chances of these dates returning to original final action dates are high.

The filing dates for all of the employment based categories will be seeing no changes in August.

The family-based (FB) category is showing a better picture with most of it being pushed forward by one week to six months. This is applicable to both final action and filing dates.

So, all future I-485 filers have the remaining part of July to file before these dates will retrogress in August and those who have already have them pending will have to wait until October and hope that these cutoff dates will bounce back to the original.

As mentioned in our July analysis of the Visa Bulletin, family-based 2A category applicants, both future and current in the US presently can file for an adjustment of status right away since these dates are current. Concurrent filing of I-130 and I-485 are also possible and should be taken advantage of.

Stay tuned for the latest changing dates on Trackitt where we bring you every discussion on visa bulletins to your doorstep.

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The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has announced a new e-Chipped version of the Indian Passport that will go into effect shortly. This version will be equipped with an Immigration Control System software containing details of the passport owner electronically. All eligible Indian citizens and nationals including non-resident Indians will be expected to upgrade to this new passport before leaving the country to travel internationally.

Looking for more pertinent information on the Indian Passport?

Indian Passport: Important Facts

The intent in issuing this machine-readable, electronic chipped passport is to strengthen its security features and prevent circulation of fake passports. It is also an upgrade from the handwritten version that had photographs manually stuck to it. In order to achieve this and successfully execute an electronic transference of private information within the passport, the passport database of the Ministry of External Affairs has been integrated with the Immigration Control System Bureau of Immigration. If the information therein does not match, the passport will be immediately flagged and legal action will be taken against the owner of the passport.

Designed in compliance with the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the new Indian passport has quite a few new electronic features –

  • e-Chip: The Indian passport will be embedded with a postage-sized electronic chip that will be more secure that the written version.
  • Personal Information: It will contain the name, date of birth, and primary residing address of the passport owner.
  • Travel History: The chip will also be able to pull up all details of the past 30 trips taken by the passport owner in real time.
  • Biometrics: The chip will have a sensor to record the unique fingerprint and retinal image of the passport holder.
  • Appearance: The new Indian passport will have a laminated protective layer, including reverse stitching and non-tearable pages, making it impossible to damage, eliminate or duplicate.
  • Additional security: The new Indian passport will also have Supplementary Letter Screen Image (LSI) to prevent forgery within the data pages.
  • Accessing this electronic information: Similar to 120 other countries who have implemented this e-Chip passport system, all international port of entries within India will have Passport Reading Machines (PRMs) and Questionable Document Examiner (QDX) machines that will read these passports to verify originality and personal details along with travel history.

Once your passport is upgraded and you are planning to travel abroad, here’s another precaution to take

Travel Insurance

To avoid being duped by fake organizations and websites, make sure you only access the official passport portal of the Ministry of External Affairs for upgrading to this new e-Chip passport. For a step-by-step guide on how to get the new passport if you are outside of India check out the documents required for Indian Passport in the US

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The Indian government announced its annual budget today and after the recent elections, where Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) played a bigger role in its government’s victory, the Indian budget has certainly taken into consideration its NRI brethren. While it has been an ongoing process to incorporate and integrate NRIs within the Indian fabric (Read: NRI Vote for Indian elections), the latest budget does outline a couple of benefits specifically aimed at NRIs. It is a testimony to the $70 billion remitted to India by NRIs from across the globe that has helped it build a $400 billion forex reserve.

If you are looking to send money to India, here are your best options

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At the beginning of the year, the NRI population of over 15.6 million had presented a wish-list for the forthcoming budget announcements. These included –

  • Reduced barriers to NRI investments in India
  • Ability to bring back internationally earned wealth back to India with minimum penalties
  • Better and improved implementation of GST
  • Introduction of a financial inclusion initiative (Jan Dhan Yojana) customized for NRIs
  • Reduction in taxes on interest income
  • Open other forms of investments for NRIs besides the current mutual fund option
  • Reduce the customs duty on gold purchased abroad and instead provide some additional concessions in this regard.
How is the Indian Budget 2019 Going to Affect NRIs?

Having made and presented a wish-list, the recent budget plan announced by its first lady Finance Minister India did not disappoint its NRI diaspora. Here are the highlights –

Real Estate Boost for NRIs in India Budget 2019
  • Tax deducted at source on rental income is now Rs. 240,000. This increase in the TDS threshold should encourage NRIs to purchase more investment properties in India in a major way. It was originally at Rs. 180,000.
  • Additionally, the national rent charge on second homes not occupied by the NRI has been exempted thus encouraging NRI’s to buy a second investment property going forward.
  • With respect to capital gains on the sale of a property within Rs.20 million, it can now be rolled over into the purchase of two housing units instead of just one and eliminate the capital gains incurred from the sale. This is applicable only once in a lifetime and good news for NRIs who still have large ancestral properties in India.
NRI Taxation with the Indian Budget 2019
  • Although may not affect all NRIs equally, across the different income slabs, the new budget offers 100% tax rebate for annual incomes between Rs.500, 000 and Rs. 650,000.
  • Under the Foreign Black Money Act, and effective retrospectively from July 1, 2015 all Indian residents who acquired property overseas and unaccounted income but did not pay taxes since they moved abroad and became NRIs will be prosecuted and penalized and imprisonment up to seven years. This could apply if he was a resident in India the prior to buying the property.
  • NRI investments in India will get a major boost since the NRI investment portfolio will be merged with the foreign investment portfolio. The proposed Annual Global Investors Meet is going to be a huge pull for NRI investors.
Other Influences of Indian Budget 2019 on NRIs
  • NRIs to get Aadhaar card on arrival in India.
  • Digital India to take a new facelift with more emphasis on digital payments across the board making it very convenient for NRIs abroad.
  • Big improvements in infrastructure with big developments of airports and railway systems making it more welcoming for NRIs in India.

For more information, on what to expect as a NRI, here are the steps you should take on becoming a NRI.

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Spouses and unmarried children of green card holders are now eligible to file Form I-485, Applications for adjustment of status (AoS), application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and for Advance Parole (AP), international travel document. After two years of being backlogged, the 2A category under Family-based immigration’s Final Action Dates are current in July! If the preliminary Form I-130 was not filed, the green card holder wishing to sponsor his spouse and children can do so along with the Form I-485.

For more information on Final Action Dates

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Join a discussion on the pros and cons of traveling abroad on a US Green Card

Got Greened

If you are outside of the United States and looking to submit Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence Status, you will have to take into consideration the time it takes to mail it to a PO box in the US instead of simply submitting it at a local US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. From July 1, 2019, all international USCIS offices will stop accepting Form I-407s. This is in keeping with the announcement to shut all USCIS international offices and bring home all administrative tasks. Going forward all Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence Status should be mailed to –

USCIS Eastern Forms Center
Attn: I-407 Unit
124 Leroy Road
PO Box 567 Williston, VT 05495

To be kept in mind, no couriers will be accepted at this PO box address.

Are you considering a long stay outside of the US on a Green Card?

Here’s what else you should consider

Avoid Revocation of GC

Why is this Important to US Green Card Holders?
  • If, for whatever reasons, a legal US permanent resident does not plan on maintaining his US resident status and fails to submit the Form I-407 in a timely manner, if he wishes to come back, this abandonment will be used against him. Filing the form is always advisable.
  • Once filed and acknowledged by USCIS, the green card holder need not file income taxes as a US resident.
  • A legal US resident living outside of the US does not have to be concerned about the many requirements of maintaining US residency if he has filed the Form I-407.
  • This is particularly important for EB-5 visa holders who have to strictly maintain their residency or risk inadmissibility.
  • If not filing for Form I-407, EB-5 petitioners have to ensure they have a reentry permit on hand and be able to show substantial ties to the US if gone for a long duration.
  • A Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence Status prevents the struggle of removing conditions on the green card or applying for naturalization by filing the N-400 form.
  • If you are traveling outside the US, here are the requirements for international travel on a Green Card.

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    At the end of June, we are at the half way mark into the year FY 2020 and the number of changes to US immigration have already crossed a milestone by this time. We have collated the most significant ones and bring out a list from rules so far as well as the ones anticipated for the remaining part of the year.

    USCIS Backlogs
    • By the end of FY 2017 there were more than 2.3 million net cases stuck in backlog
    • USCIS Processing time have gone up by 46% in the last two years
    • There has been a 91% increase in delays since 2014
    • The overall processing timelines reflect a 94% slower pace now than since 2014
    • EAD renewals now taking 6-8 months as compared to six weeks in the past which is posing a big problem since people are being out of status in the meantime.
    H1B – Non-Immigrant Work Visa
    • Redefine ‘Specialty Occupation’ & ‘Employer-employee relationship’: Come August, USCIS plans to relate ‘Specialty Occupation’ with higher degrees, higher salaries and alluding to a higher pedestal for the jobs under the specialty banner. Employer-employee relationship to emphasis more control of the worker by the employee should he be working at any other location than the primary petitioning employer’s, i.e. third-party sites. Substantiating evidence in the form of contracts and letters from end-clients will be now expected.
    • Annual Lottery System: FY2020, people with an advanced degree from the US will be given two chances to figure in the lottery system giving them a 16% higher chance of getting selected. Also, starting FY 2021 employers will have to first register, get a code of approval and then submit a H1-B petition within the next 60 days for the lottery.
    • Premium Processing: Was rolled out in two phases in order to counter the delays happened in the past. First applicants with extension were given a chance and then all cap-subject petitions were accepted under premium processing.
    Fees
    • USCIS and State Department fees: In August, USCIS is expected to change the filing fee and consular structure for quite a few petitions. This, for all purposes, means a hike for most petitioners and categories.
    • H1-B Pre-registration: The new rule to pre-register as a company seeking H1-B petitions will have to accomplish this rep-registration with a fee. Whether it is refundable or not is yet to be ascertained.
    Form I-539A
    • All petitioners requesting an extension of a non-immigrant visa will have to petition independently of the primary beneficiary. This applies to minor as well.
    • There will be $85 biometric fees for each petition
    • Premium Processing will not applicable to Form I-539
    Green Card

    Starting in September 2019, a new proposal is anticipated to eliminate the concurrent filing of adjustment-of-status applications with employment-based visa petitions. If the proposal musters a pass, workers eligible to file for adjustment of status would have to wait for their green card petitions to be approved before filing for adjustment of status.

    This would also delay the right to apply for an Employment Authorization Document indefinitely.

    Social Media

    With 15 million foreign nationals in the US at a given point of time, the Department of Homeland Security is upping its security measures by extending their background check to inspecting all your social media handles as well as addresses you may stayed at for the past five years along with telephone numbers owned. This is especially true for DS-160 petitioners.

    USCIS’ Known-Employer-pilot-program

    If there are employers that frequently hire foreign workers, this new program will simplify the application process by pre-approving and therefore, saving time and paperwork and ensure consistency with adjudication.

    New Immigration Plan

    Yet to be placed on the Congress floor for vote, President trump’s new immigration plan aims to drastically lower family-based immigration and direct the rest towards a point-based system wherein it is expected to increase the skill-based immigration by 57%

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    International students on F1 student visas in the US are facing the brunt of the huge processing backlogs at USCIS. While a majority of them are still awaiting an adjudication of their Employment Authorization petitions, the lot of them are giving up hope and returning to their home countries without being able to get the offered opportunity of Optional Practical Training (OPT) and experience on the field.

    Previously, the Trump government had tried to impose a drastic penalty for accruing unlawful presence at a drop of a hat. The courts subsequently put an injunction on it and prevented yet another hurdle before the F1, M and J visa holders. Recently, there has been huge increase in the SEVIS fee for students on F1 visa as well. As students are offered Optional Practical Training after the completion of the coursework, they are allowed to apply only 90 days before the start date of the OPT and the approval used to come in within two months. Today, these students can’t expect an answer for up until five months which is an increased delay of 46%. This kind of delay has put a huge strain on everyone involved.

    Are you an international student awaiting to start OPT?

    Here are real cases of F1 students.

    EAD timelines

    Hundreds of applications are still awaiting an answer for when they can begin to work in the limited time they are allotted after doing a coursework in the US. However, thanks to the severe backlog at the USCIS tables right now, many are facing delayed visa applications that has caused financial distress for both applicants as well as for the organizations that had promised them jobs. Not being able to join in a timely manner, has left the students surviving on student loans stranded. A lot of these companies are even rescinding their job offers now that most of them can’t join.

    A recent data released by educational institutions shows a decline in international enrollments in the past couple of years. This has a major impact on the financial profits of these institutions since a majority of their funds come from international tuition fees. This decline in student enrollment has also resulted in a negative impact on foreign talent recruitment and retention which in turn, reflects how many prestigious companies come in campus for campus placements.

    Expedited EAD

    If you are looking to expedite your EAD, track other similar cases and see how they succeeded in getting it faster.

    I-765 Expedited

    Universities, in an attempt to mitigate such F1 barriers presented before the international student community, are announcing courses that will allow the university, rather than the federal government, to approve off-campus employment for international students over the summer. But these temporary solutions are just a stop gap arrangement and USCIS will have to step up with their solutions and fix it before it become an issue as big as the 150-year old lock-jam with permanent residency applicants in the US today.

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    The Government of India has announced that the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card will be redundant beginning October 1, 2019. If you are traveling before this deadline, ensure your journey begins on or before September 30, 2019 to be able to travel unrestricted. In the meantime, holders of the PIO card should work on acquiring an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card instead.

    PIO cards will be invalid after September 30, 2019 and therefore, all PIO cards should be converted to an OCI before then. There is fee of $275.00 attached to this process and can be done with the local Cox & King Global Services office. This is in addition to a nominal fee for CKGS consular services fee and a ICWF fee. To identify the CKGS office closest to you, refer to CKGS locations in the US.

    Non-resident Indians were previously issued a Person of Indian Origin card as an alternate to a visa. This acted as an identifying travel document for Indian citizens who had taken up citizenship of another country and had origins in India or were simply abroad for over 183 days in a year for work or otherwise.

    The OCI has certain advantages over the PIO in that it has a validity of a lifetime unlike the PIO which expired in 15 years. It also allows multiple entries to India and the OCI holder can stay in India indefinitely. A PIO card holder has to report to the FRO if his stay exceeds 182 days. Similar to the PIO card holder, an OCI card holder may get a PAN card, driver’s license, open bank accounts, invest, and earn their income like regular citizens.

    For information on how to apply for an OCI card in lieu of a PIO card before the deadline, follow guidelines at OCI Application Procedure.

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    Petitioners who have filed for N-400, Application for Naturalization and I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status forms for US citizenship and Permanent residencies will begin to see reduced processing times, thanks to USCIS’s decision to redistribute cases among different field offices around the US.

    If you are filing N-400, follow these useful tips to help you through the N-400 filing process.

    N-400 Useful Tips

    FY 2016 saw an increase of 25.5% and FY 2017 saw a 15.6% increase in N-400 and I-485 receipts and this amounted to much longer processing times than anticipated. This in turn, led to uneven backlogs among different field offices leading to delays of up to two years in busy offices while the less busy ones took only six months or so. This has prompted USCIS to shift caseloads accordingly so that the distribution is even and processing times reduced.

    What you Should Know About Reduced Processing Times
    • Your case may be processed in a field office other than the one you submitted it to;
    • This means the subsequent interview may take place at a different location/field office.
    • This could mean the petitioner may have to incur additional expense to travel beyond their normal jurisdiction for the interview;
    • USCIS will give sufficient time to cater to the extra travel requirements;
    • USCIS has also expanded the number of field offices and staff functioning on these cases;
    • The applicant should also anticipate notices such as appointment notices or Request for Evidence (RFEs) from a totally different field office or an office unknown within their jurisdiction;
    • Having said that, all biometric appointments will happen within the applicant’s jurisdiction.
    • All applicants are advised to pay heed to the instructions on all notices being sent over that will have specific directions regarding their next steps.

    What are the current processing times at various field offices?

    Here is a list of fast and slow districts for your reference.

    USCIS Field Offices

    About 5.6 million green card or US naturalization applicants are going to benefit from this expedited course of action. If you are in the process of applying for Form I-485, here’s what you should know about Adjustment of Status.

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