Immigrant Population In U.S. Reaches All-Time High

New data from the Census Bureau is telling us that the number of immigrants entering the United States – both with and without documentation – is not only growing but accelerating. According to a report released in November by the Center for Immigration Studies – an organization that lobbies for lower levels of immigration and opposes comprehensive immigration reform – about three million new immigrants entered the United States in the years 2014 and 2015.

In the United States in 2015, the total foreign-born population, 43.3 million, was a record high. Despite the Center for Immigration Studies’ reputation as “opponents” of immigration, there’s no reason to doubt the accuracy of their November report, which is based on the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies said, “We are now certain that immigration surged in 2015.”

About 1.5 million new immigrants entered the United States in 2014, a 17 percent increase over 2013. In the first six months of 2015, another 914,000 new immigrants arrived in the U.S. At 13.5 percent, the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. population is larger than at any time since 1910, and according to Census Bureau projections, the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. will reach a record level by 2022.

WHY IS THE PACE OF IMMIGRATION PICKING UP?

Why is the pace of immigration picking up right now? Camarota speculated that an improving economy is one reason, but he also pointed to procedural changes in federal immigration policies such as allowing the spouses of guest workers to obtain work permits in the United States. Congress also amended the rules for non-agricultural seasonal workers, so that those who worked in the U.S. last year and return this year do not count against the visa cap for workers in that category. Progressive legislation in states like California has also had a role in drawing immigrants to those states.

What are the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations? If you’re thinking New York, Florida, Texas, and California, you’d be entirely wrong. Surprisingly, from 2010 through 2015, the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations are North Dakota (up by 72.2 percent), Wyoming (38.9 percent), West Virginia (31.1 percent), South Dakota (25.2 percent), and Delaware (21.8 percent). However, in terms of overall population as of 2015, California still has the highest percentage of immigrants (27.3 percent). The other top states are New York (22.9 percent), New Jersey (22.1 percent), Florida (20.2 percent), and Nevada (19.3 percent).

One key aspect of the new report is the changing demographics of the immigrants themselves. The percentage of those entering the United States from Mexico is declining, while the numbers  of new immigrants arriving from east Asia and South Asia are rising. In 2004, 35 percent of the new immigrants in the U.S. were from Mexico; by 2014, that number had declined to 11.6 percent. East Asian and South Asian immigrants constituted only 24.1 percent of the new immigrant population in 2004; that number grew to 38 percent in 2014.

Immigration from Central America is also rising. Non-Mexican immigrants from Latin America comprised 18.7 percent of the new immigrant population in 2011 and 23 percent in 2014. In 2015, the number of people from all Latin American nations living in the U.S. was 22.1 million, a 10 percent increase over 2010. Immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations constitute a far smaller number of people entering the U.S. – only 2.7 million in 2015 – but that still represents a 24 percent increase since 2010. Although they are frequently discussed in the news media, only 13,210 Syrian refugees have entered the U.S. since the beginning of 2016.

WHERE ELSE ARE THE NEW IMMIGRANTS ARRIVING FROM?

From everywhere, people are trying to get into the land of the free and the home of the brave any way they can. The arrests of more than 8,000 people from India, China, Romania, Bangladesh, and Nepal between October 2015 and August 2016 presents new challenges to immigration agents whose job is to apprehend those caught crossing the border without documentation. Surprisingly, India and China are now also among the leading nations of origin for people caught trying to enter the United States without documentation.  Of course, the best way to enter the U.S. is by the rules, with the help of someone like an experienced Ohio immigration attorney.

Victor Manjarrez, the director of the Center for Law & Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso – and a one-time Border Patrol sector chief – says the increase in migrants from countries far beyond the western hemisphere should be considered a growing concern. “In the grand scheme, as a percentage, it’s relatively small but the raw numbers are such a big jump historically,” Manjarrez said. Why should immigrants from faraway nations be a growing concern?

Most Mexican immigrants caught at the border without documentation are sent home after just several days – they can basically be “just turned around.” But for those from nations on the other side of the world, the deportation process is lengthier and costlier. These immigrants may be held in immigration facilities for months, waiting for legal documents from their home nations or waiting for an immigration judge to determine their fate.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE IMMIGRANTS?

Of course, the best way to enter the United States is with full documentation and the counsel of an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. An immigration attorney helps international students, professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors obtain visas to enter the U.S., helps families reunite in the U.S., and helps employers hire immigrants and stay compliant with the plethora of immigration-related employment laws and regulations.

The rising number of immigrant arrivals from other continents, along with a rise in border crossings, has filled U.S. immigration facilities with more than 40,000 people in September and October. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s budget allows them to house only 34,000 at any given moment, and immigration authorities may face a budget crisis in the first months of 2017 if the trend persists.

Gillian Christensen, speaking for the Department of Homeland Security, says that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has enough resources to operate “at current levels” through December 9, when a temporary budget resolution expires. After that, Christensen said, Homeland Security will have to shift resources from other agencies in the department or find an “alternative” budget strategy.

Behind The Scenes, Immigrants Keep The USA Running

Many of us in the 21st century spend a big part of our lives “online,” yet the virtual world still depends on the physical, including the labor of those who create, manufacture, and provide the essential goods and services that everyone requires. Many of us connect to this behind-the-scenes, virtually invisible economy only when we purchase the final product from a retailer, but at every stage in the economic chain, real people by the millions contribute real muscle and sweat every day.

In the United States in the 21st century, for example, it’s almost a certainty that the blueberries, strawberries, peaches, asparagus, or lettuce you purchase from any grocer passed through the hands of Latin American migrant labor. Closer to home, many of us see – and hire – housekeepers and lawn service providers who are immigrants. They’re servers and cashiers. In many cities, immigrants drive most of the taxis and deliver most of the newspapers. They perform many of the mundane essential functions that keep the economy running.

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If you hire immigrants to work for your company in the United States, or if you are yourself an immigrant in the United States – with or without documentation – you can learn more about your legal rights, obligations, and options by speaking with a trustworthy and experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney. Immigration law is complicated and constantly changing, which sometimes makes compliance quite challenging for both employers and the immigrants they hire.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BOSTON GLOBE?

At one newspaper, the Boston Globe, reporters and editors earlier this year encountered for the first time a world previously invisible to them. In their climate-controlled offices and conference rooms, these professional journalists and their bosses had only the vaguest notion about how their work actually, physically gets into a reader’s hands in the form of a morning newspaper. For the most part, newspapers are delivered by low-paid immigrants. The story began late last year when the Boston Globe contracted a new company to deliver the newspapers.

If you thought newspapers were dead, they’re not in Boston, where several hundred thousand subscribers to the Globe expect delivery 365 days a year. Although the change to a new contractor should have been routine, it wasn’t. Like so many other behind-the-scenes services, the delivery of newspapers in many cities is provided by mostly marginalized immigrant workers, and many of them lack documentation.

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To move a printed newspaper from the presses into hands of thousands of Boston subscribers takes a small army of people willing to work 365 nights a year – without regard to snow or road conditions. At a distribution center, they fold and stack newspapers, load them, and use their own vehicles, driving in the last several hours before sunrise. As independent contractors, they pay for their own gas and insurance. Most barely make the minimum wage. Many of the delivery people are immigrants.

ACI Media Group promised to cut the Globe’s costs for delivering newspapers by paying delivery workers less – while demanding more. ACI, based in California, had trouble hiring enough workers in the Boston area to deliver the Globe, and many who were hired walked off the job due to low pay and unreasonable working conditions. Newspapers went undelivered – news that quickly made it to the Globe’s newsroom.

HOW DID THE NEWSPAPER HANDLE THE DELIVERY CRISIS?

After a week, the newspaper was in crisis. Writers, photographers, and editors were recruited to make sure the Sunday Globe got delivered – an unprecedented move. According to the New York Times, two hundred reporters and other staffers stayed up all night and “bagged thousands of newspapers and stacked them in their cars.” Reporter Kevin Cullen wrote, “whatever they pay the delivery people, it’s not enough, and it’s more than a little depressing to think this debacle has been brought about by a desire to pay them even less.”

Globe Columnist Marcela García wrote that delivering the newspaper was “an unbelievably eye-opening experience.” A Mexican-born bilingual journalist, columnist, and editorial writer who frequently reports on immigration issues for the Globe, Garcia added, “Reporters delivering their own work – that’s a story. But off camera, and working side by side with us as we assembled the Sunday paper, were the people who are there every night, making not much more than minimum wage.”

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The following Tuesday, the Globe’s publisher, John W. Henry offered a public apology to the newspaper’s subscribers. Henry wrote, “Getting a daily newspaper to your front door is a complicated exercise in logistics – this is something the Globe has been innovating in for more than 150 years…. Until Globe staffers embarked on an effort to save more than 20,000 subscribers from missing their Sunday paper, we had underestimated what it would take to make this change.”

WHAT DID THE BOSTON GLOBE FINALLY ADMIT?

The following Saturday, January 9, almost two weeks after the newspaper’s delivery problems first emerged, Globe reporter Michael Levenson wrote about the “long hours, little pay, [and] no vacation for delivery drivers.” Levenson graphically explained for readers the “grueling nocturnal marathon for low-income workers who toil almost invisibly on the edge of the economy.” On January 13, a Globe editorial admitted that “drivers get no vacation, and lack worker protections.”

The editorial called on the Massachusetts attorney general and federal authorities to investigate the delivery companies. The present system depends on mostly immigrant, often undocumented workers who are often manipulated and bullied by unscrupulous employers. The Globe offered a rare look at how just one company relies on immigrant workers. A similar story could be told about thousands of U.S. companies in a number of labor-intensive industries, from agriculture to manufacturing to construction.

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Recent data released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) tells us that immigrants in the United States pay sales taxes, property taxes, and state and federal income taxes. Half of all working immigrant families file income tax returns, but if they don’t, the taxes are still paid because they’re deducted from paychecks. ITEP says “the 11.4 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States pay billions of dollars in local, state and federal taxes.” Hard-working immigrants deserve the same reasonable wages and benefits that U.S.-born workers expect and routinely enjoy.

If you are an immigrant in the United States – with or without documentation – and you have questions about your legal status, work authorization, visas, or any other immigration concern, speak at once with an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration lawyer. An experienced immigration attorney can also discuss immigration-related labor concerns with U.S.-based employers.

Immigration and The Flight From El Salvador

Two years ago – in 2014 – thousands of unaccompanied minors poured into the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The U.S. government was unprepared. The young people from Central America and the immigration authorities were caught in what President Obama called at the time an “urgent humanitarian situation.” In 2016, another crisis at the border may be imminent.

Entire families from El Salvador are flowing into the U.S. in what could be record numbers. The number of Salvadoran families apprehended along the Mexican-U.S. border has jumped by 96 percent in only a year, and more undocumented families are coming to the U.S. from El Salvador than from any other nation. This year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data, for every Mexican family detained at the border, ten Salvadoran families are apprehended. Salvadorans also face removal proceedings more often than immigrants from any other nation.

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Why are entire Salvadoran families fleeing their homes and doing whatever it takes – sometimes at great personal risk – to make it to the United States? Observers believe that El Salvador is on the edge of civil war. El Salvador’s attorney general’s office said in August that government forces recently thwarted a terrorist scheme designed to turn El Salvador’s gang-and-drug violence against the government itself. Prosecutors charged 78 leaders of “MS-13” with conspiring to buy high-caliber weapons in Guatemala and Mexico to attack government targets in the capital city, Managua, and across the nation.

The Salvadoran government charges that MS-13 was raising $1 million to buy assault rifles and ammo, surface-to-air missiles, bulletproof vests, and commando uniforms. The scheme, prosecutors say, was ultimately a nationwide assault to gain control of territory while disrupting El Salvador’s fragile economy and challenging the nation’s entrenched political leadership. By targeting police officers and politicians for daily assassinations, MS-13 hoped to both incite fear in the general populace and to bankrupt the government. Basically, the rebels intended to raise the fear level dramatically in what is already one of the world’s deadliest places.

WHAT DO OPPONENTS OF THE SALVADORAN GOVERNMENT SAY?

Opponents of the Salvadoran government are insisting that the case against the MS-13 leaders is fabricated entirely for propaganda purposes and that none of the charges are true. “This is an operation of psychological warfare,” according to Paolo Luers, a former gang truce mediator and opposition political activist. Luers says the government is trying to justify the harsh measures it adopted earlier this year to crack down on gang violence and to create distrust among MS-13’s leadership.

Luers told the Fusion Media Group that the gangs would never fight a war against the government. He says even trying to launch such a war would mean “the beginning of the end” of gang influence in Salvadoran villages, communities, and neighborhoods. The MS-13’s members themselves, in a “communique” released in June, insisted that “we don’t have any interest in involving the country in war.”

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Whether or not the insurgents in El Salvador are planning war, the number of Salvadoran families arriving in the United States suggests that most Salvadorans have no faith in their government to keep the peace. For these families, the risks of traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border are small compared to the danger of continuing to live in violence that could quickly turn into civil war.

IS REFUGEE OR ASYLUM STATUS RIGHT FOR YOU?

If you have fled from El Salvador, you may qualify for either refugee status or asylum status in the U.S. If you are currently not in the United States, you must apply for refugee status, but those who make it to the U.S.-Mexican border may apply for asylum status. Both statuses give legal protection to immigrants who are afraid to return home. Those approved for refugee or asylum status are authorized to seek work in the U.S. and may apply for lawful permanent residence – a green card – after only a year.

Not every Salvadoran will qualify for refugee or asylum status. Immigrants applying for asylum or refugee status should first discuss their particular case with an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney. The right immigration lawyer can also see to it that all of your legal paperwork and documents are in order, since any errors could delay approval for refugee or asylum status.

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Honestly, very few immigrants are eventually approved for asylum status in the United States. Only one in twenty of the immigrants who received green cards in 2011 entered the U.S. as asylum seekers. Yet the imperative for legal protection is greater now than ever. Drug wars and gang violence dominate much of Central America, while ethnic violence and religious warfare continue to pose threats in north Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of the globe.

HOW CAN AN IMMIGRANT BE APPROVED FOR ASYLUM STATUS?

To petition for asylum status, you must submit a USCIS Form I-589 (Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal) within a year of entering the U.S. Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 already in the United States may be included in your petition. After a year, those granted asylum may apply for a green card by submitting USCIS Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status). You must submit a separate Form I-485 for a family member who was granted derivative asylum on the basis of your own case.

You’ll have to wait 150 days – or until your asylum status is approved, whichever comes first – to apply for employment authorization. After 150 days, if no determination regarding asylum status has been made, you may petition for work authorization by submitting USCIS Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). Make sure that an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney helps you with the application forms and other legal documents.

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Historically, the United States has been a beacon of hope to immigrants everywhere who seek a better life for themselves and their families. Immigration law in the United States is exceedingly complex – in fact, it’s a broken and antiquated immigration system badly in need of reform. But with a bit of patience, a bit of effort, and sound legal advice from the right immigration attorney, most immigrants can move ahead successfully with their plans for a better life in the United States.

Business Coalition Asks Congress To Renew EB-5 Investor Visa Program

For more than two decades, the EB-5 investor visa program has benefitted U.S.-based businesses as well as international investors. It’s created tens of thousands of jobs here in the United States. It’s also been criticized for a number of reasons. Congressional authorization for the EB-5 program is scheduled to expire in 2016 at the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Hopefully, Congress will act to protect and strengthen the EB-5 program and safeguard its ongoing success.

With the September 30 deadline rapidly approaching, international investors who would like to learn more about the EB-5 investor visa program and about the variety of investment opportunities in the United States may want to speak right away with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. Congress will almost certainly renew the EB-5 program this year, but the lawmakers will also almost certainly make some important changes. The $500,000 minimum investment level may increase, the definition of a Targeted Employment Area will likely change, and there will almost certainly be new requirements for participating investors.

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Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Real Estate Roundtable, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and others have joined in a coalition urging Congress to renew – permanently – the often-controversial EB-5 investor visa program before it expires in September. In July, the coalition called on lawmakers to renew the EB-5 investor visa program with additional security measures, adjustments to the controversial investment incentives, and streamlined processing of visa requests.

WHAT DOES THE EB-5 INVESTOR VISA PROGRAM OFFER?

The EB-5 investor visa program promises international investors in the United States eventual lawful resident status and an opportunity for naturalized citizenship. In a letter to both the House and Senate Judiciary committees, the coalition wrote that “Congress must not let this important job-creating program lapse, in large measure because of the immediate negative consequences to U.S. businesses and projects counting on EB-5 investment to create jobs for Americans.”

The coalition’s July letter also mentions that the EB-5 investor visa program was responsible for more than $15 billion in investment and for creating approximately 100,000 jobs between 2005 and 2010. Some critics, however, allege that the EB-5 program is riddled with fraud, and others charge that the current operation of the program fails to meet the goal of reinvigorating economically depressed communities and regions. There’s wide agreement in Congress that additional security measures and some adjustments to the program are needed. Several lawmakers have even proposed the creation of a new “EB-6” visa.

The most acrimonious aspect of the EB-5 debate regards investments in economically depressed areas designated as Targeted Investment Areas (TEAs). Critics charge that wealthy real estate developers have unfairly taken advantage of the lower investment minimum required for TEAs, and that rural and depressed regions are not obtaining the benefits from the EB-5 program that they’ve been promised.

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The coalition of business groups did not offer a specific proposal for new EB-5 legislation, but they want to reduce the gap between TEA and non-TEA minimum investment requirements. Their July letter to the two Judiciary committees says, “Lawmakers and stakeholders with diverse perspectives should all be involved to build consensus and forge a compromise reform package.”

HOW HAS THE EB-5 PROGRAM BENEFITTED THE UNITED STATES?

Since the recession, the EB-5 investor visa program has emerged as a popular source of investment funds, particularly for real estate development projects. In the nation’s capital alone, EB-5 investors have put up more than $110 million and created more than 1,500 jobs. In 2013, about 85 percent of the EB-5 visas issued went to investors from China, with the others were spread among investors mostly from Japan, Great Britain, Russia, and South Korea.

Congress wants to tighten oversight of the popular program, so a number of changes to the EB-5 have been offered by lawmakers. The ideas include increasing the minimum investment, not counting derivative visas toward the annual cap of 10,000 EB-5 visas, and heightened scrutiny of applications and investments. The variety of proposals proves how important the EB-5 program is to the U.S. and to its job creation and economic growth. Between 2005 and 2013, the EB-5 program brought roughly $5.2 billion investment dollars directly into the United States.

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Under the current regulations, an international investor seeking to obtain an EB-5 visa must invest at least $1 million – or at least $500,000 in a TEA – in a new business that will create ten or more full-time U.S.-based jobs. The EB-5 program additionally offers participating international investors and their immediate families the benefits of lawful permanent residency in the United States.

WHAT IS REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE EB-5 PROGRAM?

To participate in the EB-5 investor visa program, investors must go through a process which determines that they are admissible to the United States as well as eligible for the EB-5 visa. It begins with the filing of an eligibility petition. For the EB-5 visa, this is the I-526 petition, which asks about the source of the investor’s funds and how he or she intends to invest those funds. Upon approval of the eligibility petition, if the investor now lives outside the of the U.S., he or she must submit a visa application to the U.S. Department of State, and a consular affairs officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate eventually determines if the investor is admissible.

If the investor is in the United States with another visa, an application for adjustment of status must be submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS conducts background checks and may ask the applicant for a personal interview. USCIS may also be assisted by the State Department or other federal government agencies when conducting background checks of EB-5 applicants.

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If the investor is admissible, a conditional visa will be issued that allows the investor to reside for two years in the United States. Prior to the conclusion of that two-year period, the EB-5 investment must create at least ten full-time U.S.-based jobs. If all of the other requirements of the EB-5 investor visa program have been satisfied in the two-year period, the investor obtains lawful permanent resident status.

International investors should also speak with an Ohio immigration attorney about two additional immigration options apart from the EB-5 program: the E-2 visa program, which requires a “significant” investment and does not provide the investor with a green card, and the EB-1(c) visa, which requires an applicant to be sponsored by a qualifying employer. Immigration is complicated, and obtaining an investor visa takes some persistence, but in the end, international investors are almost always quite pleased.

U.S. Lawmakers Propose Revisions To Prevent H-1B Visa Misuse

Abuse of the H-1B visa program is now a national controversy. In June, the New York Times reported that H-1B visas are “being used by American employers to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor.” That abuse, which potentially threatens the future of the H-1B visa program, needs to stop, because attracting talented workers in science, math, engineering, and technology is essential for U.S. economic success and growth in the years ahead. U.S. employers who genuinely need H-1B employees are also victims of the abuse because it makes fewer H-1B visas available for their legitimate, intended purpose.

H-1B visas are designed for college-educated international employees in occupations requiring highly specialized knowledge, but only when such hiring will not depress prevailing wages. Nevertheless, in many cases, laid-off American workers have reportedly been forced to train their lower-paid foreign replacements. Companies accused of abusing the H-1B visa program include Abbott Laboratories, the health care conglomerate based in Illinois, Southern California Edison, Disney, Toys “R” Us, and New York Life.

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Loopholes in the immigrations laws are at least partially responsible for the abuse. In many cases, U.S.-based businesses that employ H-1B international workers are not even required to consider U.S. workers before hiring from abroad. Many businesses outsource the actual hiring of H-1B workers to companies like Infosys and Tata, temporary staffing firms mostly located in India.

IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR QUICK IMMIGRATION REFORM?

Comprehensive immigration reform has been stalled in Congress for several years, and there’s little hope now for any significant reform until a new Congress convenes in 2017. U.S. employers who genuinely need to hire H-1B workers should consider seeking legal advice and services from an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney who can explain the H-1B program and its requirements.

Until recently, abuse of the H-1B visa program has been overlooked by lawmakers because attention has been so focused on other immigration issues – problems with border security and the controversy over President Obama’s executive orders regarding deferred action. While lawmakers are only now focusing on H-1B visa abuse, the U.S. workers impacted by it have been silent for only one reason.

Most displaced U.S. workers had to agree not to criticize their former employers as a condition of severance pay. As explained by the New York Times in June, these “nondisparagement agreements” – gag orders, for all practical purposes – have kept laid-off employees away from the public’s attention while allowing the employers to defend their hiring procedures as legal. Technically, the employers are in fact operating within the law – they’re simply exploiting its loopholes.

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However, that’s changing. More than a dozen ex-employees at Abbott have filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging they were discriminated against because of their U.S. citizenship. Ex-Disney employees have also filed federal lawsuits charging Disney and two outsourcing firms of colluding to replace U.S. workers with foreign nationals holding H-1B visas.

Leaders of both political parties have questioned the use of nondisparagement agreements. Senator Richard Durbin, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, have both offered proposed revisions to current immigration laws that would allow laid-off U.S. employees replaced by international workers to challenge their layoffs legally.

WHAT ARE LAWMAKERS SAYING ABOUT H-1B ABUSE?

“I have heard from workers who are fearful of retaliation,” Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told the New York Times. “They are told they can say whatever they want, except they can’t say anything negative about being fired.” Senator Durbin, who is from Illinois, vigorously criticized the layoffs and said that Abbott’s nondisparagement clause was “overly broad.”

Do foreign nationals participating in the H-1B visa program fill a legitimate gap in the U.S. labor force, or is the H-1B program exploited by some U.S. employers merely to save dollars at the expense of U.S. workers? That’s the concern that many are now expressing. Professor Hal Salzman, a labor expert at Rutgers University, told the Times that because of the loopholes, in the last five years, thousands of U.S. workers have been replaced by foreign nationals holding H-1B temporary visas.

Although many suspect that some U.S. businesses take advantage of the H-1B visa program simply to reduce labor costs, the Brookings Institution has published statistics demonstrating that foreign nationals holding H-1B visas, in fact, earn more than equally qualified U.S. workers in comparable jobs. Exploiting the H-1B visa program to boost the corporate bottom line is wrong, but it’s something we can all understand. Although the Department of Labor announced in 2015 that it is cracking down on U.S.-based businesses that exploit the H-1B visa program, what Congress really must do is close the loopholes that allow the abuses to continue legally.

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CAN U.S. EMPLOYERS STILL OBTAIN AND BENEFIT FROM H-1B VISAS?

Does the ongoing controversy mean that a U.S.-based business can no longer benefit from the H-1B visa program? Absolutely not. Despite the abuses, no employer in the United States has an edge over any other company in the pursuit of H-1B visas. And it’s never too early for employers to start preparing for next year’s H-1B filing period. The qualifications for H-1B visas are quite strict, and as you probably are aware, the demand for H-1B exceeds the supply.

U.S.-based employers are supposed to use the H-1B visas exclusively to hire international workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge. Raising the current cap on the number of H-1B visas that Congress authorizes each year would help close the gap between the low number of H-1B visas and the continually-expanding needs of growing U.S.-based businesses.

Stopping the abuse of the H-1B visa program is also an absolute imperative. Visas now being used by some employers simply to save money would become available to the employers who genuinely need highly-skilled international workers. International employees who receive H-1B visas must hold at least a bachelor’s degree. They are allowed to work in the U.S. for up to six years.

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Since 2005, Congress has capped the number of H-1B visas made available annually at 85,000, with 20,000 of those visas set aside for workers holding advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. H-1B visas will continue to be difficult – but not impossible – for employers to acquire until comprehensive immigration reform passes and the current abuses are ended. If you’re an employer in the United States attempting to acquire one or more H-1B visas, a Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney can handle the visa petitions on your behalf and help you to understand your legal obligations as an employer of H-1B visa holders.

Who Qualifies For EB-5 Investor Visas?

International investors who are seeking a great investment opportunity should speak to an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer about the EB-5 investor visa program. International investors who are not familiar with the EB-5 immigrant investor program may appreciate a brief summary regarding what the EB-5 visa is, who qualifies, and why it’s important. The Immigration Act of 1990 creates five employment-based immigration categories. As the fifth employment-based immigration category, the immigrant investor program is designated “EB-5.”

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Like many nations, the United States seeks international investors who can create jobs and boost the national economy. The EB-5 immigrant investor visa allows those investors to become lawful permanent residents immediately upon entering the United States. Investors applying for the EB-5 visa must invest between $500,000 and $1 million in a U.S.-based business, take an active role in the business, and create at least ten full-time jobs. Only 10,000 EB-5 visas are made available each year, so if more than 10,000 investors apply for the visa in a single year, some of them may be placed on a waiting list.

The EB-5 investor visa is one of the most difficult immigrant visas to obtain. Investors must meet not only the eligibility requirements established for all immigrants to the United States, but the investment itself must also be approved. It’s best to work from the very beginning with a U.S.-based immigration lawyer located near your investment site – a Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney, for instance.

WHY DO EB-5 VISA APPLICANTS NEED AN ATTORNEY?

If you apply to obtain an EB-5 visa on your own, and you are unsuccessful, you may damage your chances of success in the future. And because you are expected to make the investment first and then subsequently apply for the visa and green card, you could be putting your money at risk if you make an investment or apply for a visa without first seeking an immigration attorney’s advice. EB-5 green cards expire in two years. That’s the amount of time an EB-5 investment has to create the necessary ten or more full-time jobs. If it hasn’t, or if an investor fails in some other way to maintain EB-5 eligibility, the green card is canceled.

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As long as an investor has the money to invest, and as long as the investment is in a for-profit business, the investor is not required to have any particular business training or experience. An investor who receives a green card must actually reside in the U.S. upon receiving it. The investor’s spouse and unmarried children under age 21 receive derivative green cards provided they meet all other immigration eligibility requirements.

An EB-5 investor can lose his or her visa and green card by living outside of the United States, committing a crime in the United States, or even by failing to report a change of address. A conviction for a crime or the violation of any terms of the visa makes a visa holder deportable. However, if an international investor retains a green card for five years and lives in the U.S. continuously during that time (which includes the first two years as a conditional resident), an investor can apply for naturalized U.S. citizenship.

WHAT INVESTMENTS QUALIFY FOR THE EB-5 PROGRAM?

EB-5 visas may be obtained with several types of investment. Most EB-5 applicants invest in an EB-5 “regional center,” a group that operates a business created by EB-5 investments. EB-5 regional centers are attractive because investors do not have to create their own businesses, and the minimum investment is only $500,000 rather than the $1 million minima that is otherwise required.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) designates and approves regional centers, which are designed to meet USCIS requirements for the initial, conditional EB-5 visa. Investors must take care to select a regional center that will actually deliver on its promises to meet USCIS requirements – not all can or do. An immigration lawyer in the U.S. – a Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney, for example –  can help you make the right EB-5 investment choice.

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Investors can also obtain an EB-5 visa by directly investing in their own businesses. The minimum requirement is a $1 million investment to create a new business in the United States or to expand or restructure an existing U.S.-based business. In certain designated rural settings and in other designated locations in the U.S. where unemployment is high, the investment minimum is $500,000.

WHAT ARE EB-5 APPLICANTS REQUIRED TO PROVE?

EB-5 investors are required to prove to USCIS that their investment money is theirs and that it was legally obtained. Investors will need to provide evidence such as pay records, tax records, and/or inheritance documents. Within two years, the business receiving the investment must create at least ten full-time jobs requiring at least 35 hours a week. Jobs held at the business by the investor or by his or her spouse or children do not count toward the ten-job requirement.

It’s also important for investors to understand that EB-5 investments require the investor’s active participation in either a management role or a decision-making role. Passive investments such as land speculation typically do not qualify for the EB-5 program. If an investor works with a regional center that is a limited partnership (most regional centers are), USCIS considers that to be sufficient participation. A direct EB-5 investment must create a new business, purchase a business that was established since November 29, 1990, or buy a business and restructure or reorganize it so that a new business entity is the result.

EB-5 is the only immigration category that allows international investors entry into the U.S. as automatic legal permanent residents. Even though the EB-5 program started slowly after the Immigration Act of 1990 became law, in recent years, international investors have expressed rising interest. In 2014, for example, EB-5 investments totaled approximately $2.6 billion and created more than 16,000 full-time jobs in the United States.

For those with the resources, the EB-5 investor visa is probably the best path to lawful permanent residency and naturalized U.S. citizenship. If you seek to become a lawful permanent U.S. resident, and if you have the ability to invest in a U.S.-based business, the EB-5 investor visa program may be right for you. Every visa and every immigration procedure takes time, so interested investors should speak with a U.S. immigration lawyer promptly to begin the process.

What are The Best Practices For U.S. Business Visa Interviews?

Several options for immigration are available for business visitors to the United States. There are five categories of “EB” visas (employment-based visas) for immigrants eligible to work in the United States as permanent residents, and employer sponsorship is sometimes required for those visas. Temporary, non-immigrant visas are also offered to those who want or need to work in the United States for a specified and brief amount of time. In most cases, healthcare workers, scholars, professionals, athletes, artists, investors, and business persons will qualify for a temporary non-immigrant visa.

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The Visa Waiver Program allows business visitors from 38 nations to visit the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa, but if you are not entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you will have to be interviewed for your visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. After you have applied for your visa, the National Visa Center will notify you regarding the date, time, and location of your interview.

You and any family member who is also applying for a visa to accompany you to the United States must schedule and complete a medical examination, along with any required vaccinations, before your visa interview date. Your interviewer will want to determine that you are a genuine and legitimate business visitor, that you are eligible for the visa, and that you do not intend to violate any of the terms of your visa. Be prepared to provide information during the interview regarding:

  • your company or business, its history, and its current prospects
  • your reasons and plans for visiting the United States
  • evidence of your plans, appointments, and meetings, especially letters or emails inviting you (If you plan to invest in the United States or buy U.S. products, this is in your favor.)
  • your strong ties to your home, community, family, and property, and your intention to return at the end of your authorized stay in the United States
  • your reservations and round-trip travel tickets
  • your resources to cover your expenses while traveling and staying temporarily in the United States

Be prepared and confident when you interview for a business visa. If you are even the least bit hesitant or nervous, the interviewer may think you are hiding something or being dishonest. Your interviewer will have a great deal of discretion regarding your business visa, but your interviewer will also probably have only a few brief moments to “size you up” and make a decision regarding your visa petition.

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If you speak English, interview in English and do not ask for an interpreter. Many business people are experts in their business, but they may not know English. If you don’t, you will need to request an interpreter. However, if you can communicate in English, it is in your favor, because English is still the predominant language in the U.S. business community. Almost no one speaks English perfectly, and no one expects you to speak it perfectly, either.

Nevertheless, you should be able to communicate clearly with your interviewer regarding your age, education, experience, your relationship with the company that is sending you to the United States, your employment with them, your marital status, and details about your children. You should be ready to provide the proof for all of these matters to the extent that it is possible. It is difficult to say precisely what documents will be required from you, as every visa petitioner’s circumstances are different. Of course, any fraud or misrepresentation while petitioning or interviewing for a visa could make you permanently ineligible for a nonimmigrant visa.

Applicants should dress formally for the visa interview, but they should also dress appropriately for their professional status. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer throughout the interview. Do not show any signs of nervousness such as tapping your fingers or tapping your foot. If you are going to the United States on behalf of your company, and if you can, wear your company’s ID to the interview in a visible manner.

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Do not wear inappropriate clothing or excessive makeup or jewelry to the visa interview. If others who work for your company have traveled to the United States on a business visa, it may be a good idea to ask them first about the kinds of questions they were asked and the documents they were asked to produce. Their situation may be comparable to yours, and your colleagues may be able to give you a clear idea of what to expect. Listed here are some of the questions you may expect to be asked:

  • Why do you wish to go to the United States?
  • When will you be traveling, and how long do you intend to remain in the U.S.?
  • How much will your visit cost, and who is paying for it?
  • What does your company do, and what is your role there?
  • Where will you go in the U.S., and whom will you meet?
  • How will this visit benefit you and/or your employer?
  • Who is going to accompany you to the U.S.?
  • Have you been to the United States before?
  • Can you prove that you will return at the end of your period of authorized stay?

After you have entered the United States on a temporary, nonimmigrant business visa, consult with an experienced immigration attorney before you do anything like starting a business, opening a bank account, investing, or purchasing life insurance. Those are all actions that indicate that someone may be planning to remain in the United States, so you will need an immigration attorney’s help and advice to avoid the suspicions of immigration authorities.

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If you are coming to the U.S. on business, a good immigration lawyer can answer your questions, address your concerns, help you with your visa petition, and discuss your visa interview. Today, of course, you can speak to an immigration attorney by phone or email from anywhere in the world. A good immigration lawyer will also defend your rights and help you achieve your goals. Still, the only person who can prepare you for a visa interview is you. Full preparation for the visa interview is essential if you want or need to do business in the United States.

What’s Next For The Supreme Court’s Dapa/Daca Immigration Case?

Back in 2014, when President Obama issued executive orders regarding immigration, no one foresaw the legal battle that would ensue. Now that two lower courts have ruled on the challenge to the president’s executive actions, the Supreme Court has made the case a priority. The justices will hear oral arguments in U.S. v. Texas on Monday, April 18th. The court could render a decision as early as June, ruling on several questions concerning the proposed “DAPA” program and the expanded “DACA” program. The decision – certain to be controversial – could be issued just days before this summer’s Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Texas and other states are disputing the authority of the president to allow the issuance of temporary work permits and to offer relief from the possibility of deportation to as many as five million immigrants in the U.S. who are here without documentation. Neither DACA nor DAPA offers a path to citizenship or even legal permanent residence. What the programs do offer to qualifying individuals is temporary authorization to work in the United States and temporary protection from deportation.

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WHAT ARE DACA AND DAPA, AND WHO QUALIFIES?

DACA offers deferred action on immigration to qualified immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as minors by their parents. DAPA offers deferred action on immigration to qualifying immigrant parents of children with citizenship or lawful permanent residence. The case the Supreme Court will hear does not impact the existing DACA program but only the president’s efforts to expand it. Qualifying immigrants may still request an initial grant or a renewal of DACA according to the original regulations implemented in 2012.

The White House argues that the executive actions are merely prosecutorial discretion – the government cannot possibly pursue five or eleven million people, so the White House believes that DACA and DAPA will free up enforcement resources so that immigration authorities can focus on dangerous criminals. Opponents of the president’s approach say it amounts to amnesty for lawbreakers and sidesteps the normal legislative process.

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Texas represents a coalition of states that oppose the Obama Administration. The president announced the DACA expansion and DAPA programs in executive actions in November 2014, and the dispute has been working its way through the lower courts since that time. The Supreme Court is currently short one justice after the unexpected death of Antonin Scalia in February, so in the case of a 4-4 tie, the lower court ruling – favoring the states and freezing the DACA and DAPA programs – would stand.

HOW WOULD DAPA BENEFIT EVERYONE?

The Center for American Progress says the DAPA program could create more than 20,000 new jobs a year for the next ten years. The Center additionally says DAPA could boost GDP by $164 billion over the next decade and add $88 billion to the personal incomes of working Americans. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), 72 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the U.S., despite their lack of legal status, will participate in the work force this year, and 3.7 million of them would qualify for DAPA. Those workers could pay up to $16.7 billion in taxes in the next five years if the Supreme Court gives DAPA a green light to proceed.

Some observers were surprised to see the court ask both sides in the case to address whether the president’s actions violate the “Take Care” clause of the Constitution, which says a president must “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Neither of the lower courts, which heard the case, addressed this legal claim. The Supreme Court’s request suggests that the justices want to resolve all of the issues in the case now, rather than to leave open a constitutional loophole that could be the basis for future litigation.

Alternately, the justices could dismiss the case for the lack of legal standing to bring a challenge. In other words, the Supreme Court may decide that the states may have no legal grounds to stand on. Texas and the other plaintiff states have argued that their legal standing is based on the added costs that states might incur to issue drivers’ licenses to beneficiaries of the deferred action programs.

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It’s likely that the DAPA program will proceed – possibly as early as this summer. Speaking for the Obama Administration last year, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do.” Immigrants who qualify for the DACA or DAPA programs should be prepared to act if the Supreme Court rules in their favor.

WHERE CAN YOU TURN TO LEARN MORE?

Some immigrants in the U.S. may be hesitant to speak with an attorney. Don’t be afraid or intimidated. When you obtain the advice of a licensed and practicing Ohio immigration attorney, anything you say or disclose to that attorney will remain confidential. When immigrants seek legal counsel, they’re sometimes surprised to find that they qualify for immigration benefits and that their legal situation was not as dire as they thought.

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If you are an immigrant who qualifies for the DACA or DAPA program, or if you are a U.S.-based employer who hires immigrant workers, right now is the best time to discuss with an immigration attorney how immigration law impacts you. While the final determination regarding the DACA and DAPA programs is being made by the U.S. Supreme Court, this is the best time for immigrants – and the employers who hire them –  to seek legal advice.

WHAT ELSE NEEDS TO BE DONE?

An estimated eleven million immigrants still live “in the shadows,” and honestly, even if the president’s executive actions are approved by the Supreme Court – and the DACA and DAPA programs proceed – much more needs to be done in the way of comprehensive immigration reform. Only Congress has the legal ability to do what ultimately needs to be done to fix immigration.

Until comprehensive immigration reform takes place, immigrants and the employers who hire them will continue to need legal help. A good Ohio immigration attorney, for example, can help employers, investors, and business professionals obtain the visas they need and can also provide legal advice and services to anyone seeking a visa or dealing with immigration issues. The Supreme Court’s ruling this summer in U.S. v. Texas will be vitally important to millions, but whatever the justices decide, plenty of concerns with the immigration system will remain.

Infographic – The Wait To Come To America

Applying for permanent residence in the United States can be quite the complicated process and each year the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) limits the number of visas available. These limits currently stand at 226,000 for family-sponsored visas and 140,000 for employment-related authorizations. Also, each month, the government announces wait times for visa applications, which vary based on the type of visa sought, the number of visas available, and the applicant’s current citizenship. Additionally, the wait could be even longer if you come from countries deemed “oversubscribed,” such as the Philippines, Mexico, India, and China. For more information and legal assistance on immigration-related issues, speak with an experienced immigration attorney.

The Wait to Come to America

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Where Do H-1B Visas Go?

In January 2010, the senior executives at Molina Healthcare, located in Long Beach, California, conducted a staff meeting. Dozens of people in Molina’s IT department would have to be laid off, the executives announced, because the company had done so poorly in the preceding quarter. What the laid-off employees did not suspect at the time was that on the day before the staff meeting, the U.S. Department of Labor had approved applications for forty temporary workers from India to replace them at Molina Healthcare. The laid-off workers, all U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, earned an average of $75,000 a year plus benefits. Their replacements would earn $50,000 a year with no benefits.

Big companies have been just as guilty of abusing temporary worker visas as smaller companies. In October 2014, 250 IT employees at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Florida were told that they would be laid off. Layoffs, of course, are not uncommon, but what made this layoff newsworthy was the sense that the workers had been insulted. They were told that in order to receive their severance pay, they would be obligated to train their own replacements – IT workers from India entering the United States with H-1B visas.

In response, two former Disney tech employees filed federal lawsuits against the company in January 2016, accusing Disney of conspiring to replace the workers with less costly foreign employees using H-1B visas. The lawsuits were filed in federal court in the Middle District of Florida by Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, who were among 250 Disney tech workers laid off in October 2014. The lawsuits seek class-action status.

Separately, more than twenty of the laid-off Disney workers have also filed complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). Those complaints remain under EEOC review. The complaints allege employment discrimination by Disney based on nationality, race and age. The incident at Disney also launched another round of contentious debates about the use – and some would charge, the abuse – of H-1B visas. For international workers with a college degree and specialized skills in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), the H-1B is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa that is good for three years and renewable for a second three years.

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WHY THE CONTROVERSY?

Two competing, conflicting narratives confuse the H-1B visa debate and to some extent the entire question of immigration in the United States. One narrative tells us that immigrants are taking jobs from U.S. workers, and it emphasizes stories like the incidents at Molina and Disney. The other narrative says that attracting talented workers in science, math, engineering, and technology is essential for U.S. economic success and growth in the years ahead. Currently, Congress caps the number of available H-1B visas at 65,000 a year (and another 20,000 for post-graduate degree-holders in STEM fields). Google’s Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are all strong advocates of increasing the number of available H-1B visas as a means of increasing U.S. technical and commercial ingenuity and strength.

The question many are asking about H-1B visas is simply this: Do international workers in the H-1B visa program fill a genuine gap in the labor force, or is the H-1B program being abused by some U.S. corporations simply as a way to save a few dollars at the expense of U.S. workers? Even the most expert economic researchers disagree. A report by the Economic Policy Institute alleges that some U.S. companies exploit the H-1B program merely to cut their labor costs. The Brookings Institution, however, has figures showing that the international workers who hold H-1B visas are actually making more than their comparably-talented American counterparts in similar positions. The H-1B visa program was designed so that U.S. companies could fill gaps in the work force with specialized employees they cannot find in the United States, but some companies apparently try to take advantage of the H-1B program’s technicalities and loopholes.

In fact, one corporation has already been fined for engaging in visa fraud. Infosys paid the government a $34 million penalty in 2013. Exploiting the H-1B visa program to boost the corporate bottom line is something we can all understand, but that is not what H-1B visas are for, and the government is now taking measures to ensure that the program remains fair to U.S.-based workers like those laid off by Disney and Molina. A large number of workers flooding into the United States and displacing U.S.-based workers is not what Congress intended when the H-1B visa program was established, so in 2015, the Department of Labor announced that it is beefing up its enforcement efforts and will be investigating companies that may be taking unfair advantage of the H-1B visa program.

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WHO GETS THE VISAS?

Where do H-1B visas actually go? One-fifth of all H-1B petitions approved in 2012 went to just four companies: Cognizant Technology Solutions, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, and Wipro. The latter three are among India’s biggest outsourcing giants. Cognizant, based in New Jersey, emerged out of a partnership between Dun & Bradstreet and an Indian firm. Many U.S. companies – Walmart and 7-Eleven, for example – hire these outsourcing firms for their IT needs. When Molina Healthcare fired its IT staff, for example, it did not apply to the government for H-1B workers to replace them. Instead, Molina got its new employees through Cognizant. And Infosys isn’t the only outsourcing company that has been investigated and targeted for legal action. In 2013, Tata Consultancy Services paid $29 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by Indian workers who were being forced by the company to hand over their U.S. income tax refunds.

Of course, when the H-1B visa program was invented by Congress back in 1990, no one thought that Indian outsourcing firms would be the biggest participants and beneficiaries. Does any of this mean that a typical small or midsize U.S.-based business cannot benefit from the H-1B visa program? Not at all. Even with the annual visa cap still set at 65,000, the government is working harder now than ever to ensure that the awarding of visas is conducted fairly and that no U.S.-based employer has an advantage over any other employer in the H-1B competition. Employers across the nation are already preparing for this year’s April 1 filing date, but if you haven’t started preparing, it’s probably too late to begin for this year, although it’s never too early to start preparing for next year’s H-1B filing period. The qualifications for H-1B visas are quite strict, and as you already know, the demand far exceeds the supply for these visas.

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WHERE CAN EMPLOYERS FIND HELP?

If you are an employer in the United States, a good immigration lawyer can help your company meet all of the requirements for obtaining H-1B visas, provide you with precise, comprehensive information, and help you avoid the mistakes and misunderstandings that keep many employers from obtaining the H-1B visas they need. In other words, an experienced immigration attorney can put employers in the best possible position to obtain H-1B visas and can probably also help employers identify appropriate visa alternatives to the H-1B. Employers who need H-1B visas should arrange to speak at once with an experienced Ohio immigration attorney.

Work authorization through the H-1B program is strictly limited to employment offered by a sponsoring U.S.-based employer. H-1B regulations do not compel a visa holder to remain with the sponsoring employer for a specific length of time, provided that a new qualifying employer agrees to sponsor the employee for another H-1B visa. And while a handful of companies still receive quite a large number of H-1B visas, there’s nothing preventing your company from obtaining H-1B visas if the other immigration and employment requirements are met.

U.S.-based companies applying for H-1B visas must prove they are “real” companies by showing the government documents like tax returns, a tax ID number, or financial statements. An H-1B visa petition will be rejected without adequate accompanying documentation. The application may also be denied if the job that’s being offered is not a “specialty” occupation. A good immigration lawyer can tell employers exactly what will be required.

Ohio immigration attorney

U.S.-based companies that hire foreign national employees with H-1B visas should understand from the start that they will have to comply with scores of sometimes confusing immigration laws and related employment regulations. Several federal government agencies may inspect and scrutinize your records and operations to verify your compliance. Investigations of employers are routine, and those investigations may be initiated by USCIS or by the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or the U.S. State Department.

Admittedly, U.S. immigration laws are antiquated, exceedingly complicated, and sometimes just plain impossible to understand. If you are a U.S. employer who is interested in hiring temporary international workers, obtain the legal help you need right away from an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. You may not make this year’s April 1 H-1B deadline, but you can prepare for next year and learn about your other options and the alternatives to the H-1B visa. Employers, hiring managers, and international workers may speak to an experienced Ohio immigration attorney by phone or by e-mail to have your questions answered or to begin the complicated visa petition process.