SSA Resumes Issuing No-Match Letters

In March 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) resumed mailing notifications to employers identified as having at least one name and Social Security Number (SSN) combination submitted on the wage and tax statement (Form W-2) that do not match SSA's records. The purpose of the letter is to advise employers that corrections are needed.

A no-match letter is not necessarily an indication that a person is unauthorized to work in the United States. SSA noted that there are a number of reasons why reported names and SSNs may not agree with SSA's records, such as typographical errors, unreported name changes, and inaccurate or incomplete employer records.

Details: Click here for SSA information for employersclick here for sample response forms

USCIS and CBP Extend I-129 Pilot Program to Canadian L-1 Nonimmigrants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that they are extending the joint agency pilot program for Canadian citizens seeking L-1 visa status under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through April 30, 2020.

The pilot program allows Canadian citizens to request that USCIS adjudicate their employer's individual L-1 petition, or petition based on blanket L petition, before their arrival or when they arrive at the Blaine, Washington, port of entry.

Details: Read the USCIS announcement

President Issues Memo on Combating Nonimmigrant Overstay Rates

On April 22, 2019, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum on "Combating High Nonimmigrant Overstay Rates." Many of the measures mentioned in the memo are not law yet.

Among other things, the memo states:

  • Visa overstay rates are "unacceptably high for nationals of certain countries."
  • The Secretary of State will "engage with the governments of countries with a total overstay rate greater than 10 percent in the combined B-1 and B-2...visa category," with a goal of identifying conditions that contribute to "those overstay rates and methods to address those conditions."
  • Recommended measures to combat visa overstay include:
    • "Suspending or limiting entry of nationals of those countries who hold B-1 or B-2 visas;"
    • Imposing "targeted suspension of visa issuance for certain nationals; limits to duration of admission;" and
    • Enforcing "additional documentary requirements."
  • Measures may be developed for imposing "admission bonds" to improve compliance with the terms/conditions of visas.

Details: Read the Presidential memo

Visa Bulletin Shows Slight Forward Progress in Some Backlogged Preference Categories

The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for May 2019 shows slight forward progress for EB-1 for all chargeability areas except China and India, EB-2 for China and India, EB-3 and Other Workers China, India, and the Philippines, and EB-5 China and Vietnam. The remainder of the priority dates remain current with per-country quotas not reached.

Regarding EB-1 for China and India, the bulletin notes a continued "extremely high rate of demand" that may require temporary retrogression until October.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the agency will follow the "Final Action Dates" chart for the month for accepting I-485 Adjustment of Status applications.

Details: Click here for the Visa Bulletin for May 2019Read the USCIS announcement

New USCIS Policy Guidance Clarifies Marijuana-Related Activities Bar on Naturalization

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently issued policy guidance to clarify that certain marijuana-related activities generally bar naturalization even if they are decriminalized under applicable state laws. Such an applicant may be deemed to lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, the guidance states.

Federal law classifies marijuana as a "Schedule I" controlled substance whose manufacture (which includes production, such as planting, cultivation, growing, or harvesting), distribution, dispensing, or possession may lead to immigration consequences. Some practitioners are advising clients not to work for or invest in marijuana-related companies. Reportedly, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is also checking social media accounts.

Details: Read the announcementclick here for the policy manual updatewatch the video warning immigrants co-produced by Servicios De La Raza and the Marijuana Industry Group

USCIS Completes H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY 2020, Reaches Advanced Degree Exemption Cap

On April 10, 2019, USCIS used a computer-generated random process to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally mandated regular cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption for fiscal year (FY) 2020.

USCIS received 201,011 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 1, 2019, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption.

Details: Read the USCIS announcementclick here to read Foster LLP blogs

Some POEs Refusing Canadian L-1 Renewal/Extension Petitions Under NAFTA

According to reports, contrary to previous practice, various U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ports of entry (POEs) and preclearance locations have begun to refuse to process L-1 renewal and extension petitions from Canadians pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Anecdotally, the affected POEs include Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Pearson, Edmonton, Seattle, Pembina, Warroad, Pt. Roberts and Sumas.

Some practitioners have sent their Canadian L's to consular posts instead to file their I-129S (Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition).

Details: Read the Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. report (report prepared with the assistance of the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers)

DHS Increases Greece's ESTA Validity Period to Two Years

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has increased Greece's Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) travel authorization validity period for travel by nationals of Greece under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to two years, following a reduction in 2016 from two years to one year due to identified shortcomings in meeting VWP requirements. In November 2018, DHS determined that Greece has satisfied the requirements for normalizing Greece's ESTA validity period to two years again.

Details: Read the Federal Register notice

U.S. Embassy in Israel to Accept E-2 Visa Applications Based on Investment

The U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, Tel Aviv Branch, has confirmed that E-2 visa applications based on investment are now being accepted. The Israel-America Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first U.S. and Israel Treaty Investor Seminar immediately following a convocation, with participation from the U.S. Consul, Tel Aviv Branch, and Director of the Israel Population and Immigration Authority.

This development resulted from a reciprocal agreement under which Israelis and Americans can invest in the other country and obtain a visa based on the investment.

Details: Read the U.S. Embassy announcementclick here for the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem application requirementsread the Israeli news report

Appeals Court Temporarily Blocks Order to Stop Trump 'Remain in Mexico' Policy for Asylum Seekers

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has temporarily blocked an order that would have stopped the Trump administration's "remain in Mexico" policy for asylum seekers while they await processing of their U.S. asylum claims. Arguments by advocates on why the policy should not be in effect were due April 16 and the government's arguments on why it should continue were due April 17, the three-judge panel ruled. An earlier order by a judge in San Francisco was set to temporarily halt the change in U.S. asylum policy.

Kirstjen Nielsen, then-Secretary of Homeland Security, directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to immediately expand the "remain in Mexico" policy for asylum seekers and other migrants during a border visit in early April. She directed CBP to return hundreds of additional migrants per day above current rates to Mexico, including individuals apprehended or encountered at or between ports of entry, and to plan for further expansion of the program, called the Migrant Protection Protocols, "beyond the locations in which it currently operates in California and Texas," according to a DHS statement. Ms. Nielsen has since left her position.

Details: Read the Ninth Circuit orderread the San Francisco orderclick here for the Trump administration statement on policyread the DHS statement

USCIS Reaches FY 2020 H-1B Regular Cap

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received a sufficient number of petitions projected as needed to reach the 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020. USCIS said it will next determine if the agency has received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.

The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not prohibited multiple filings. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.

Details: Click here for the USCIS news alert

New Study Shows Companies Pay Billions in Job Training, Scholarships for U.S. Students Through H-1B Fees

New research shows H-1B fees paid by companies have funded approximately $5 billion since 1999 in training and scholarships for U.S. students and teachers to enter science fields and have funded nearly 90,000 college scholarships in tech fields for U.S. students, as well as about $2.5 billion in job training through the Department of Labor. The study by the National Foundation for American Policy also details how expensive it has become to petition for an H-1B professional.

Although critics have argued H-1B visa holders represent "cheap labor," employers pay government-imposed fees and attorney costs of up to $16,560 for an initial H-1B petition and $28,620 for the combined cost of an initial H-1B petition and an extension.

Details: Read the study

USCIS Launches Data Hub on H-1B Employers

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched an H-1B Employer Data Hub to provide information on employers petitioning for H-1B workers. The data hub will allow the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year (back to FY 2009), NAICS code, employer name, city, state, or zip code.

The new hub gives the public the ability to calculate approval and denial rates and to review which employers are using the H-1B program.

Details: Read USCIS news alertclick here for the H-1B Employer Data Hubread the data broken down by fiscal yearclick here for the summary and description.

USCIS Outlines Changes in InfoPass Appointment Process, Reducing In-Person Support

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently explained changes in the way it provides support services to applicants under an initiative called the "Information Services Modernization Program" (InfoMod). A goal is to limit in-person support to those who truly need assistance that can be provided only in person, such as issuing emergency documents, providing ADIT stamps, and conducting in-person interviews, the agency said.

InfoMod will enable USCIS to shift applicant support services from self-scheduled InfoPass appointments toward support services provided online or through USCIS Contact Centers. The agency encouraged users to visit myUSCIS, an online public portal.

Details: Read the USCIS teleconference summary

New Publications and Items of Interest

Advisories and tips:

Government Agency Links

Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of State's latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers:

Attorneys at Hodkinson Law Group

Kehrela Hodkinson

Principal/Immigration Lawyer - California State Bar, 1980

Since 1994, Mrs. Hodkinson has exclusively practiced U.S. immigration law in London. She represents a broad range of corporate and individual clients in connection with temporary (non-immigrant) visas and both employment and family-based permanent (immigrant) visa petitions.

She also provides advice relating to complex issues of waivers on grounds of inadmissibility, maintenance, and abandonment of permanent resident status, and renunciation (expatriation) of U.S. citizenship.

Publications

Kehrela Hodkinson's
Publications

Kehrela Hodkinson quoted in Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, regarding potential issues of inadmissibility resulting from arrest of professional golfer, Thobjorn Olesen.

August 6th, 2019

Discussion Leader on Panel entitled Consular Processing: What Things go Wrong”, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Orlando, FL

June 1st, 2019

Renunciation of US Citizenship – Why Would a Client “Give It All Up”.

April 15th, 2019

Invited to serve on the Editorial Board of the AILA Law Journal which will cover current and pragmatic topics related to the rapidly changing immigration law landscape and will be produced biannually, commencing 2019.

December 1st, 2018

Discussion Leader for an American Lawyers Association teleconference on the topic of visa processing in London.

December 1st, 2018

Kehrela Hodkinson, US immigration lawyer and founder of Hodkinson Law Group, told The Independent any presidential order over birthright citizenship would face “many constitutional challenges”, including requests for an injunction against implementation, much like what happened with Mr Trump’s initial travel ban on a number of Muslim-majority countries.

October 30th, 2018

Interviewed by The Independent, a UK newspaper, regarding the immigrant visa category by which Melania Trump’s parents obtained their permanent resident status.

February 22nd, 2018

A chapter The Waivers Book, 2nd Edition, published by American Immigration Lawyers Association

December 1st, 2016
Memberships and affiliations

Kehrela Hodkinson's
Memberships and affiliations

ABIL (Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers)

Founding member of ABIL, which is comprised of 19 of the top U.S. business immigration law firms, has over 140 attorneys devoted to business immigration in 21 major U.S. cities, plus Cologne, Hong Kong, London, Monterrey, Mumbai, Shanghai, Tokyo, Toronto, and Vancouver. Founding member and first Chair of Rome District Chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association.


Multiple leadership roles in the American Immigration Lawyers Association

  • 2011-2012 B-1 in lieu of H-1 Task Force
  • 2011-2012 Department of State Liaison Committee
  • 2011-2012 Military Assistance Program Task Force
  • 2011-2012 Rome District Chapter Pro Bono Committee Chair
  • 2010-2011 Department of State Liaison Committee
  • 2010-2011 Distance Learning Committee
  • 2010-2011 Rome District Chapter Pro Bono Committee Chair
  • 2009-2010 Midyear Conference Committee
  • 2009-2010 Department of State Liaison Committee
  • 2008-2009 Chair Rome District Chapter
  • 2007-2008 Interim Chair Rome District Chapter

American Bar Association


International Bar Association


American Women Lawyers in London


Society of English and American Lawyers


Nominated by peers to the International Who’s Who of Business Immigration Lawyers

Sharon L. Noble

Of Counsel

Sharon Noble has exclusively practiced U.S. immigration law since 1996, concentrating on business-related immigration matters with an emphasis on both non-immigrant visa petitions for corporate employees, individual investors and entrepreneurs as well as employment based immigrant petitions, extraordinary ability petitions and outstanding researcher petitions. Ms. Noble worked with Ms. Hodkinson in London for seven years before returning to the United States in 2003. She is now Of Counsel to Hodkinson Law Group, working remotely from California. Prior to 1996, Ms. Noble practiced corporate real estate and health care law in Los Angeles. With Ms. Noble’s prior corporate experience, she possesses a strong business background and exceptional writing skills, both of which have proven invaluable to her immigration practice.

Publications

Sharon L. Noble's
Publications

A chapter The Waivers Book, 2nd Edition, published by American Immigration Lawyers Association

December 1st, 2016

Tasha N. Cripe

Of Counsel

Tasha Cripe continues to assist our clients in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications of waivers of grounds of inadmissibility. She is a member of the Illinois State Bar and is actively involved in The American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program.

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