President Trump has approved a memorandum that would enforce the obligations of sponsors to reimburse the government when immigrants receive means-tested public benefits.
As part of the permanent residence process for family-based immigrants, a US resident signs an I-864 Affidavit of Support. The sponsor accepts legal responsibility for financially supporting this foreign national. This legally enforceable responsibility lasts until the foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen or can be credited with 40 quarters of work (usually 10 years), even if the relationship (e.g. marriage) ends before that time.
In most cases, the Affidavit is completed only by the US family member that is petitioning for the foreign national (e.g. a US citizen woman bringing her foreign spouse to the US). In some cases, the petitioner's income is not enough for her to act as sponsor, however, so a joint sponsor is needed. Fore more information about Affidavits of Support, see here.
The Affidavit of Support has been required since 1997, pursuant to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act requires that any government or non-government entity that provides a means-tested public benefit to a sponsored alien shall request reimbursement from the sponsor in an amount equal to the unreimbursed cost of such benefit.
In reality, this reimbursement provision has rarely been enforced, although it is a significant responsibility that sponsors should be very aware of. In my practice, I have always insisted on counselling the sponsor about the importance of the Affidavit and the obligations under it, even though I have never seen it enforced.
White House statement.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) just published a flyer for lawyers to share with clients, explaining why processing times are now at frustratingly long.
Why Hasn’t Your Case Been Decided Yet?
Nationwide, you and millions of families, businesses, and people applying for humanitarian relief are waiting longer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process and approve your applications and petitions. Five years ago, an average case was taking about five months to process. By Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, that same applicant waited nearly 10 months. Those extra months of waiting halt business operations, keep families separated, and jeopardize people’s lives.
Who Is Affected?
You and other people applying for family-based benefits, employment-based benefits, naturalization, travel documents, and employment authorization are all experiencing delays. In FY2018, a staggering 94% of all immigration petitions and application form types took longer to process when compared to FY2014.
Why Are Cases Taking Longer?
Many factors can slow down your case. New policies at USCIS are restricting legal immigration. For example, one policy requires USCIS officers to conduct duplicate reviews of past decisions, adding unnecessary work to each case. Such inefficient policies help explain why processing times are increasing even as USCIS application rates are decreasing. Recent USCIS data shows that USCIS’s average processing time rose by 19 percent from FY2017 to FY2018, even while overall numbers of case receipts declined by 13 percent during that same period.
Congress intended USCIS to function as a service-oriented agency on behalf of the American people. But the agency is failing its mission with unacceptably and increasingly slow case processing.
What Can I Do?
*All data from USCIS sources.
After many years of negotiations, the E-2 visa category is finally available to Israeli nationals, starting on May 1, 2019.
The U.S. Embassy in Israel made the announcement on their website, and already has detailed instructions for visa applications. This is an important announcement for the Israeli high-tech sector and the U.S. economy because it opens new possibilities for Israelis wishing to create start-ups in the U.S. or open subsidiaries in the U.S.
Israelis have been eligible for E-1 Treaty Trader status since 1949. E-1 status requires that the majority of the trade of the company is between the US and Israel, and that the trade be substantial.
In contrast, E-2 status does not require any continuing business between the US company and the treaty country. E-2 status is available to nationals of treaty countries who enter the US as managers/executives, or with "essential skills" and will be employed by a US company that is at least 50% owned by treaty nationals. A common misconception is that the E-2 visa holder must herself be the investor. This is not the case. E-2 visa holders fall into two general categories:
1. Treaty nationals who are creating a new US business or buying an existing business.
2. Treaty nationals who are entering the US to work for a company that is owned by people of the same nationality. For example, a German person coming to the US to work for a German-owned company could get E-2 status, assuming she met all other requirements.
For more information about E-2 visas (one of my favorites), contact Elaine Martin, Immigration Lawyer. Se also this link: http://www.martinvisalawyer.com/uploads/3/8/6/0/38600843/e-2_info_sheet.pdf
USCIS notice on Israel E-2 here.
March 19, 2019: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the start of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap season, start dates for premium processing of cap-subject H-1B petitions, and the launch of its new H-1B data hub. It also reminded petitioners of its new H-1B cap selection process.
H-1B FY 2020 Cap Season
USCIS will begin accepting H-1B 2020 cap petitions subject on April 1, 2019. Any cap cases filed before that date will be rejected.
Premium processing (PP) will be offered in a two-phased approach during the FY 2020 cap season. USCIS says that this will allow it to manage premium processing requests without fully suspending it as it has done in the past.
Premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension of stay requests, remains available.
New H-1B Data Hub
USCIS announced a new H-1B Employer Data Hub that will be available on April 1. The data hub is part of USCIS’ continued effort to increase the transparency of the H-1B program by allowing the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year, NAICS industry code, company name, city, state, or zip code. Memners of the public will be able to calculate approval and denial rates and to review which employers are using the H-1B program.
For any questions about H-1B cases, please contact Elaine Martin, immigration lawyer.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.