Prepare Now for Upcoming Changes to ID Requirements for Domestic Air Travel

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the REAL ID Act to establish minimum security standards for state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses. The provisions of this act have been phased in over time but will be fully enforced beginning Oct. 1, 2020. For New York residents, this means that starting October 1, 2020, a REAL ID or higher form of identification will be required to fly domestically. Suitable identification includes an enhanced license or passport. Residents enrolled in travel programs, including TSA Precheck, NEXIS, Global Entry and SENTRI do not need a REAL ID. For New York residents who only hold a standard driver’s license, now is the time to act to ensure the ability to fly domestically and enter secure federal buildings and military bases once this change takes effect. An application for a REAL ID or enhanced license requires an in-person visit to a local Department of Motor Vehicles Office. For individuals who hold a valid New York driver’s license with a current address that is not up for renewal, a REAL ID can be obtained with the current license, proof of Social Security number (i.e. Social Security car or W-2), and two proofs of state residency […]
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Court Enjoins USCIS from Enforcement of Unlawful Presence Memo Impacting Students and Exchange Visitors

A Federal Judge has enjoined USCIS from enforcing a policy memorandum issued in August 2018 relative to the accrual of unlawful presence for nonimmigrant student or exchange visitors. The ruling found that the policy memorandum amounts to a “legislative rule” in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act because the government did not publish in the Federal Register or allow for a period of public comment on the rule.  A person can accumulate unlawful presence by (1) entering the U.S. without inspection; (2) overstaying their period of lawful status in the U.S.; or (3) violating their immigration status. Previously, for students and exchange visitors, accrual of unlawful presence began only when DHS or an immigration judge made an out-of-status determination and notified the individual of the same. Pursuant to the USCIS policy update, a determination of retroactive violation is made and can result in the denial of a green card application and bar the individual from entry for a period of three years (if the violation occurred before August 9, 2019) or 10 years (if after August 9, 2019). The Court’s decision in Guilford College v. USCIS prohibits the USCIS from enforcing the policy outlined in its August 2018 memorandum.  If […]
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The ‘Buy American and Hire American’ Executive Order Two Years Later

On April 18, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Buy American and Hire American.” The President insisted that the Executive Order would favor American workers more so than the policies already in place. He also intended, among other things, for the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order to address his concerns with the H-1B visa program. The President thought that the H-1B lottery system should be modified so that H-1B visas would only go to the most skilled and highest-paid applicants. He also insisted that the H-1B system should not be allowed to replace American workers with foreign workers. The new Executive Order was meant to address these flaws in the H-1B program. Technically, the executive order did not create any laws or modify any that already existed. Instead, the Order set in place a policy for the maximization of the production, and sale of goods, products and materials produced in the United States. With an eye toward fulfilling the mandate of the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has applied new rules, directives and adjustments to safeguard the jobs of American workers and to avert abuses of […]
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Restrictions on Travel to Cuba

United States citizens remain restricted from traveling to Cuba. For instance, traveling to Cuba solely for tourism or vacations remains strictly prohibited. However, there are exceptions in the government regulations. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) allows travel to Cuba via either a general license or a specific license. In order to travel to Cuba on a general license, a U.S. citizen must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel enumerated in 31 CFR § 515.560. The categories include such activities as family visits, educational activities religious activities, and “Support for the Cuban People.” “Support for the Cuban People” is one of the most familiar and applicable general license categories for travel to Cuba. Travel to Cuba for the purpose of “Support for the Cuban People” is described and clarified by 31 CFR § 515.574, which requires that three criteria are met. First, the activities in Cuba must be carried out by human rights organizations, organizations designed to promote a transition to democracy, or organizations intending to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Second, each traveler must be engaged in activities that enhance contact with Cubans, support civil society or promote Cuban independence. Finally, the traveler’s schedule must […]
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The Modernization of the InfoPass System

In 2004, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented InfoPass, a free online service providing applicants with the option to schedule an appointment with a USCIS immigration officer through the USCIS website. Since then, InfoPass has been modified, updated and refreshed many times. More recently, USCIS developed a pilot program to replace InfoPass entirely.  The pilot program, titled the Information Services Modernization Program, was introduced for testing in the Spring of 2018. USCIS was pleased with the results of the program and it became implemented nationwide in November of 2018. The Information Services Modernization Program will ultimately replace the traditional InfoPass system entirely by September of 2019. Based on surveys and other data, USCIS determined that most people who made in-person information service appointments through InfoPass could have received the same information by calling the USCIS Contact Center or checking the USCIS website. The new system is intended to streamline information services by centralizing case status inquiries and information resources in the USCIS Contact Center. There, applicants can receive immediate assistance through online messaging and live phone-based support. By ending InfoPass and redirecting applicants to the Contact Center, USCIS hopes to focus more support on those applicants facing emergency […]
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USCIS Reaches the H-1B Cap for 2020

The H-1B program provides an avenue for businesses in the United States to bring foreign nationals into the country to work. But, not just any foreign national will qualify for an H-1B visa. H-1B visas apply only to foreign workers with at least a bachelor’s degree and to occupations that require “highly specialized knowledge.” For example, H-1B visa holders often work in the fields of science, engineering, information technology, teaching and accounting. Making H-1B visas even more selective, the United States Congress has mandated a cap for the number of H-1B visas that will be offered every year. The cap is currently 65,000. There is, however, an exemption from the cap for an additional 20,000 foreign nationals who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher. Of course, the number of applications from businesses in the United States for H-1B visas greatly exceeds the cap. The open filing period for H-1Bs began on April 1, and by April 5, USCIS announced that they had received enough applications to meet the cap of 65,000. In total, USCIS received 201,011 H-1B petitions during the filing period. Due to the large number of applications, the applicants that will receive H-1B visas are chosen […]
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USCIS Launches H-1B Employer Data Hub

On April 1, 2019, USCIS launched the H-1B Employer Data Hub, a search tool/information base that provides information to the public. Some employers in the United States use the H-1B program to temporarily employ foreign workers in certain occupations. The Data Hub helps the public to view which employers petition for H-1B workers and calculate approval and denial rates. A petitioner can be searched by fiscal year, NAICS code, employer name, city, state or ZIP code. Data for individual fiscal years is available to download on the H-1B Employer Data Hub Files page. USCIS has also created the Understanding Our H-1B Employer Data Hub page to help the public use the data hub and understand the terminology used within.  USCIS will provide quarterly updates and annual releases of the data and anticipates updating the data hub on a quarterly basis. For example, data for the first quarter of a fiscal year (October through December), will be provided in April of that fiscal year.  If you have questions on the H-1B category or are interested in applying for an H-1B visa, be sure to contact Berardi Immigration Law today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys!
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