State Dept. Notes Continued Heavy Demand, Retrogressions in Several Employment-Based Visa Categories

The Department of State's (DOS) Visa Bulletin for the month of June 2019 notes heavy demand in several employment-based visa categories:

  • There continues to be an "extremely high rate of demand" for India employment first preference (E-1) visa numbers, which has resulted in retrogression of the final action date for the month of June to October 1, 2017. This action will be temporary.
  • Continued heavy applicant demand is expected to result in the India employment fifth preference (E-5) category approaching the per-country annual limit during July. This is likely to result in the imposition of a July final action date in 2017. This action will be temporary, with the E-5 date for India "most likely" advancing to the summer or fall of 2017 for October.
  • High demand also is expected to result in the Vietnam employment fifth preference (E-5) category reaching the per-country annual limit in July. This action will be temporary, with the Vietnam E-5 date "most likely" advancing to the fall or early winter of 2016 for October.

Click here for the DOS Visa Bulletin for June 2019

USCIS Requests Info on EB-5 Experience

On May 30, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) emailed a request for information, titled "Help Shape the EB-5 Digital Experience," from attorneys, accredited representatives, regional center owners, and petitioners about their experiences filing for regional center designations under the Immigrant Investor Program (I-924), annual certifications of regional centers (I-924A), or petitions by alien entrepreneurs (I-526). USCIS said it aims "to understand challenges and pain points of the application or petition process."

USCIS said it specifically wants feedback from representatives who have filed petitions or applications related to the EB-5 program in the last 12 months and work for a law firm with five or more employees; regional center owners who have filed regional center applications or annual certifications in the last 12 months; and petitioners who have filed a petition related to the EB-5 program in the last 12 months.

USCIS said that those with questions or who are interested should email and include the emailer's experience with EB-5 filings and role in the submission process; case-specific information should not be included. Some may be asked to participate in a group discussion.

Online Visa, ESTA Applications Include New Social Media Question

The Department of State's (DOS) online visa application (Form DS-160) now includes a new question about social media. The applicant is instructed to provide the names of each social media platform used within the last five years and the "username or handle you have used on that platform."

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application also has a social media question, although providing this information is optional, reportedly.

Click here for the DOS online visa application

Click here for the ESTA application

State Dept. Introduces New 'K' Risk Indicator for Travelers

The Department of State (DOS) has announced a new "K" risk indicator added to its travel advisories for U.S. citizens, to communicate "the risks of kidnapping and hostage-taking by criminal and terrorist actors around the world."

Travel advisories for 35 countries have been updated to include the "K" indicator: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russian Federation, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine (in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine), Venezuela, and Yemen.

Read the DOS announcement

Read the travel advisories

Regulatory Agenda Includes Stripping Employment Eligibility From H-4 Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders, Other Actions

The Trump administration recently announced its spring 2019 regulatory agenda.

On the list for the Department of Homeland Security are proposals (not final yet), among others, to:

  • Revise the definition of "specialty occupation" to "increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest" foreign nationals via the H-1B program, revise the definition of "employment" and "employer-employee relationship" to "better protect U.S. workers and wages," and add requirements to "ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders"
  • Increase monitoring and oversight of the EB-5 program and encourage investment in rural areas, including soliciting feedback on proposals for redefining components of the job creation requirement and defining conditions for regional center designations and operations
  • Remove employment eligibility for H-4 spouses of H-1B workers
  • Withdraw a regulatory provision stating that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must grant or deny an asylum applicant's application for employment authorization within 30 days
  • "Promote greater accountability in the application process for requesting employment authorization and...deter the fraudulent filing of asylum applications for the purpose of obtaining Employment Authorization Documents"
  • Raise fees for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program

Read the announcement

Click here for the Department of Homeland Security list

Click here for the Department of State list

USCIS Accelerates Transition to Digital Immigration Processing, Announces I-539 Online Filing

On May 22, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new strategy, eProcessing, to accelerate USCIS's transition to a "digital business model." USCIS said eProcessing "will be a complete digital experience, from applying for a benefit, to communicating with USCIS, through receiving a decision on a case."

  • As a first step, certain visitors for business, visitors for pleasure, and vocational students can now file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, online. Additional visa classifications are coming soon, USCIS said.
  • Included are single applicants (without co-applicants or legal/accredited representation) wishing to extend their stay who hold status as B-1 temporary visitors for business, B-2 temporary visitors for pleasure, F-1 academic students with a specific status expiration date, F-2 spouses or children of academic students with a specific expiration date, M-1 vocational students, and M-2 spouses or children of M-1 students.

Read the USCIS announcement re eProcessing

Click here for online I-539 filing

Read the USCIS announcement re I-539 online filing

Trump Proposes Merit-Based Immigration Plan

President Donald Trump proposed an immigration plan on May 16, 2019, that shifts the emphasis to a merit-based system to admit highly educated, high-skilled immigrants.

In a speech announcing the proposal on May 16, 2019, President Trump said the biggest change would be to "increase the proportion of highly skilled immigration from 12 percent to 57 percent," and possibly higher. Immediate family of new U.S. citizens, defined as spouses and children, would go "right to the front of the line."

President Trump also said the plan makes no change to the number of green cards allocated each year, but will "establish simple, universal criteria for admission to the United States," to be accomplished by an "easy-to-navigate points-based selection system." A would-be immigrant "will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs," he said.

Reaction to the proposed plan was mixed, according to reports. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) quickly proclaimed the plan "dead on arrival." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), minority leader in the Senate, said the White House plan was "a political document that is anti-immigration reform." Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), majority leader, said he "look[s] forward to reviewing the President's proposal."

Click here for the video and transcript

USCIS Clarifies Period of Authorized Stay for P-1S Essential Support Personnel of Individual Athletes

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its Adjudicators Field Manual to emphasize that, under current regulations, the periods of initial authorized stay are different for individual athletes (P-1A visa) and their essential support personnel (P-1S visa).

The P-1S classification is for "Essential Support Personnel" who are an integral part of the performance of a P-1 individual athlete, and who perform support services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker.

  • Under existing DHS regulations, P-1A individual athletes have an initial period of authorized stay of up to 5 years, while their P-1S essential support personnel have an initial authorized stay limited to the period of time necessary to complete the sporting event, but not to exceed 1 year.
  • USCIS also may authorize visa extension petitions for P-1S essential support personnel for a period necessary to complete the event, not to exceed 5 years, for a total period of stay not to exceed 10 years.

Read the USCIS announcement

Read the USCIS policy alert

Click here for the P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete page

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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