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Articles Posted in Immigration Reform

Despite insistence by some in the U.S. House of Representatives that effective immigration reform is dead in the water for 2014, polls have shown that Americans will be let down if immigration reform is not dealt with this year and feel strongly that any immigration reform should include a pathway to citizenship for the millions of unauthorized immigrants currently residing in the United States.

A recent Gallup Poll found that a majority of Americans believe that addressing issues with unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. was more important than securing our borders. While the split was close (44 percent in favor of dealing with the undocumented and 43 percent believing our borders first need to be secured), it shows a marked change from a Gallup poll taken in 2011 in which 53 percent of Americans believed that securing borders should take priority.

A CBS poll showed that 54 percent of Americans favored a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants living within our borders. That majority felt strongly that approaches to solving this issue that left those immigrants as second-class citizens was unacceptable. Only a small percentage of those polled (12 percent) believed in legalization without citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

NJ Worker ImmigrationIt is no secret that the current H-1B visa cap is not working for businesses. It took less than a week for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to hit the cap of 65,000 H-1B visas for fiscal 2015.

This may not sound like an exceptionally low number until you consider that the agency received 124,000 applications for the visas. The “specialty occupation” visa gives U.S. companies the chance to temporarily hire foreign professionals that have a bachelor’s degree in a specialized field. U.S. companies are especially seeking professionals with degrees in technology, engineering, science, or mathematics — fields where it is tough to find enough qualified American workers to fill slots.

The competition for H-1B visas has become so keen that the USCIS has been forced to use a lottery to dole out the restricted visas. The 65,000 cap was established in 1990. An additional 20,000 visas for graduate degrees was added in 2006; however, it did little to satisfy the voracious demand for qualified foreign workers.

The law firm of Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo realizes that constant awareness of the trends at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is essential when it comes to a Permanent Labor Certification or PERM. Although there have been no changes in the regulations, there has been a noticeable trend of increased PERM application audits and denials at DOL.

What this means for a company seeking to hire foreign nationals is that it is essential they choose an experienced immigration law firm that will guide them through the process and ensure that they meet the DOL’s exacting standards.

DOL demands that companies seeking to file an immigrant petition for foreign nationals first conduct recruitment of U.S. workers and prove to the department that there are no American workers who are willing and qualified to fill a position. This requires that a company conduct recruitment through various means, such as newspaper ads, internet postings, in-house postings and other recruitment sources as outlined under the PERM application process.

New Jersey Immigration ReformThere is new evidence confirming that strict state immigration laws have negative effects on a particular state’s economy. The Council on Foreign Relations published an article describing preliminary evidence of the negative effects of the strict current immigration laws in the states of Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia.

This evidence may challenge law-makers to rethink their methods for combating illegal immigration. The principal goal of these harsh laws was to keep illegal immigrants from taking away jobs that American citizens want and need in light of the high unemployment rates in the US.

However, an in-depth study by the Council of Americas suggests “that cities with restrictive immigration laws lower local employment numbers by nearly 20 percent, compared to similar cities without such ordinances. One reason the report suggests is that immigrants largely complement rather than substitute native workers, expanding jobs for all.” (O’Neil, Council on Foreign Relations).

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made public its plan to propose an immigration reform that is promising to many families in which a member, most commonly a spouse, is an illegal immigrant.

Currently, a U.S. citizen can petition a relative for an immigrant visa even if they are living unlawfully in the U.S. However, if the relative has entered the United States illegally or has been in the U.S. for more than 180 days without status, he or she cannot be granted an adjustment of status to U.S. permanent resident.

The remedy will be to seek a waiver for the unlawful presence so that obtaining a visa is still possible. To receive the waiver, the USCIS must determine that separation would cause “extreme hardship” for the U.S. citizens in the immigrant’s family.

In December of 2012, federal immigration agents were instructed by the Obama administration to let illegal immigrants go instead of detaining them for minor crimes and infractions. This was the first sign that illegal immigrants waiting for the beginning of the promised immigration reform would soon start to feel relief. The current president seems to be moving towards the kind of massive reform that could lead 11 million illegal immigrants to citizenship.

Since August, 300,000 illegal immigrants under the age of 30 have applied for work permits granted to college students and teenagers who are law abiding but were brought to the US as children.

As of January 2013, those patiently waiting for immigration reform are celebrating a new development that will allow families to remain intact and in the US instead of traveling back to their native countries to apply for U.S. residency. Immigrants who have gone through this long and arduous process in the past have experienced months or in some cases, years of time away from their families. In many cases, the separation is devastating and causes financial ruin. The emotional damage is great as well. Families with children had to choose between moving the entire family away from the U.S. or stay at home but be apart.

Both political parties agree that immigration reform is needed in our nation. The US Immigration Bill just passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the bill passes through the Senate and House of Representatives, it could have far-reaching effects for many immigrants. Consider four measures included in this largely-debated legislation.

  1. More "green cards" available. The law calls for a significant increase in work-related permanent resident visas, also known as "green cards."
  2. Increase in H-1B visas. The legislation will increase temporary work visas or H-1B visas to 110,000 immediately and eventually to 180,000 annually. Currently, only 65,000 H-1B visas are granted each year. H-1B visas are good for three years and are especially helpful to university graduates who wish to remain in the U.S. upon graduation.
  3. Merit-based visa available. This visa would allow especially talented employees to remain in the U.S. They would be distributed based on a reward system that looks at education, employment, length of time in the U.S. and other metrics. This visa would not be available until five years after the legislation passes. At that time, 120,000 would be available annually. There is a provision for the number to increase five percent each year if the allotted visas run out and the U.S. unemployment rate is below 8.5 percent. The merit-based visa allotment will max out at 250,000.
  4. Creation of new "w-visa." This visa targets low-skilled workers who enter the U.S. legally. It would be available to persons who come to the U.S. to work for a registered employer for a period of three years, but could extend if the job continues. Another feature is that the w-visa would allow the worker to bring his or her spouse and children as well.

We are seeing an evolution of our nation's immigration system. If you or your family need assistance navigating this challenging period in immigration, seek the assistance of an immigration attorney.

On April 17, 2013, eight US Senators introduced the highly anticipated immigration reform bill entitled: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. This bill is the result of a bipartisan effort from both Republicans and Democrats. This is the first step towards a meaningful and practical comprehensive immigration reform. The bill attempts to meet the needs of the US economy, business owners, immigrants and their families.

The proposed law will still undergo changes and will be subject to compromises, as most controversial bills do. In its present form, the bill directly addresses those critical issues necessary for any successful immigration reform such as: legalization (amnesty), backlog reduction, family unification, border control and enforcement. This is a very promising start and hopefully the contents of the bill will not be watered down by too many amendments.

To deal with the undocumented and overstaying aliens, the bill introduces a new status: Registered Provisional Immigrant Status (RPI). This is an amnesty provision. Those who were present in the US prior to December 31, 2011 will be eligible to register upon payment of a penalty fee. RPI status will be for a 6-year period and may be renewed. The applicant will be able to work for any employer and will be able to travel outside the US. The applicant can petition his spouse and children as derivatives. After 10 years, aliens in RPI status may adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident status.

There are many reasons to hire an Immigration Attorney. Immigrating to the United States can be a long and complex process with changes that can occur in both the law and the regulations. Individuals who try to navigate alone may be denied immigration benefits. The consequences of a denied petition can be grave.

Changes in the Law

An immigration attorney will be familiar with changes in immigration law and procedures. There are frequent changes and it can be very difficult for an individual to keep up with the proper process to proceed. Changes may be made during the process of gaining permanent residence or citizenship and these changes may impact what needs to be done to continue the process without starting over.

Liaison with Agencies

Any foreign national who is working towards working and staying in the United States or in becoming a citizen of the United States will need to provide information to Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Sometimes, the process will involve the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Department of State (DOS). An immigration attorney will help process the requests to and from these agencies as well as ensure that all forms are completed and filed correctly. This includes making sure documents are filed at the correct office with the correct supporting documentation and proper filing fees.

The hope for immigration reform is still alive. The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 is a proposed law that will bring a bright spot on the horizon for students in high-tech fields who would like to work in the US after graduation.

The bill has plenty of bipartisan support and is a result of a meeting of the minds between leaders in the high-tech industry and immigration community. It aims to keep the US competitive in the global economy. The common sense components of the bill keep families intact and allow college educated immigrants to contribute to society here in the states.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) had this to say about the bill:

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