News

Update on Employment Authorization for E and L Spouses

03.20.22

On November 12, 2021, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that spouses of nonimmigrants in the E-1, E-2, E-3, and L-1 status did not have to file for separate employment authorization documents to prove that they were eligible to work in the United States. Their status alone was sufficient. That said, non-spouse dependents of such nonimmigrants remained unauthorized to work. The practical question then was how the spouses would be able to prove to prospective employers their employment authorization.

On January 30, 2022, USCIS and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency that handles the admission of nonimmigrants into the US at the border and airports, started to issue Forms I-94 with new codes distinguishing between spouses and non-spouses of E-1, E-2, E-3, and L-1 nonimmigrants which could be used as proof of their employment authorization.

What remained unanswered was what would be done for those who entered the US prior to January 30, 2022. Would CBP allow these individuals to obtain such revised Forms I-94 by going to the border and airports, without traveling abroad and reentering the US? The official announcement was that CBP would not update Forms I-94.

As of this Friday, March 18, 2022, USCIS announced that starting April 1, 2022, USCIS will be sending individuals who are over the age of 21 and who are spouses of E-1, E-2, E-3, and L-1 nonimmigrants notices that reflect the new codes as proof of employment authorization. If an eligible individual does not receive the notice by April 30, 2022, they can contact the USCIS by emailing E-L-married-U21@uscis.dhs.gov These notices will only go to those who had previously filed a Form I-539 that indicated that they were the spouses of E-1, E-2, E-3, or L-1 nonimmigrants. For those who have not ever filed a Form I-539, stay tuned for further updates!

Please note that the above information has been provided for educational purposes only. Please contact your Clark Lau LLC attorney to see how this may apply to your specific circumstances.

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New Guidance on Employment Authorization for E and L Spouses

02.10.22

Everyone needs permission from the US government to remain in the US and to work in the US. US employment-based immigration laws govern who and how one can obtain work permission, i.e., work visas. The ability to remain in the US and the ability to work in the US however are not necessarily entwined. Spouses of individuals who receive work visas are given visas that allow them to accompany the principal visa holder, i.e., the worker, but does not always allow them to work.

Spouses of E-1 (treaty trader), E-2 (treaty investors), E-3 (specialty occupation individuals who are citizens of Australia) and L-1 (intracompany transferees who are executives, managers, or individuals with specialized knowledge of the company) may receive E-2 and L-2 dependent visas respectively. If these individuals wanted to have employment authorization, these individuals would have to file separate applications for an employment authorization document (EAD). Since the COVID pandemic, the processing times for EAD applications have gotten so bad, that a lawsuit was brought against the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In deposition testimony, USCIS admitted that the processing times were much longer than usual due to staffing issues. In a settlement of the lawsuit, USCIS revised its policies and indicated that spouses of E-1, E-2, and L-1 visa holders could work incident to their status. That is, the spouses would no longer need to apply for the EADs to have work authorization. While this was welcome news, it was still unclear as to how such individuals would be able to prove to prospective employers that they did have employment authorization when other rules required them to show proper verification of their employment authorization before they could work.

As of January 31, 2022, and most recently confirmed but the government, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) updated its systems to offer individuals entering the US with the following designations:

E-1S – Spouse of E-1
E-1Y – Child of E-1
E-2S – Spouse of E-2
E-2Y – Child of E-2
E-3S – Spouse of E-3
E-3Y – Child of E-3
L-2S – Spouse of L-1A or B
L-2Y – Child of L-1A or B

Those with E-1S, E-2S, E-3S, and L-2S designations may now work without applying for separate EADs. They can now show these designations to prospective employers as proof that they have employment authorization. CBP has indicated that individuals entering the US on or after January 31, 2022 should be subject to this new system. As for individuals who were in the US prior to January 31, 2022, they would not receive these new designations until they reenter the US after traveling abroad any date after January 31, 2022. The official response is the local CBP offices will not change one’s designation without the reentry. As a practical matter, individuals who are eligible for these new designations should check their I-94 records after their next entry into the US to ensure that CBP has properly admitted them into the US.

The above information has been provided for educational purposes only. Please check with your Clark Lau LLC attorney to see whether the above applies to your specific circumstances. Stay tuned for more information.

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Biden Administration Issues STEM-Friendly Policies

01.23.22

Biden Administration Just Announced New STEM-Friendly Policies

J-1 visas are available for individuals entering the U.S. temporarily, measured in months and years, in connection with a wide range of purposes, including training and research. The Biden Administration just announced the following

  • The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA) will have an “Early Career STEM Research Initiative” to facilitate nonimmigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors coming to the U.S. to engage in STEM research. There will be new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on a J-1 visa for periods up to 36 months.
  • To be eligible for this program, exchange visitors must be undergraduate and pre-doctoral degree-seeking college and university students who are pursuing or recently completed STEM-related studies. The maximum length of the program is 36 months (including a single extension).
  • Non-degree seeking students are not-eligible.

F-1 visas are held by international academic students. Upon completion of U.S. degree programs, F-1 students may apply for employment authorization in the form of Optional Practical Training (OPT) which lasts 12 months. Those with degrees in specific STEM fields, and who have employers signed up for the E-Verify program, are eligible to apply for 24 additional months of OPT, referred as STEM OPT.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas announced adding 22 new fields of study which will be eligible for the STEM OPT program. Information on the new fields of study will be communicated to schools and students in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. The new fields of study are primarily new multidisciplinary or emerging fields.

O-1A visas are available for nonimmigrant individuals in the U.S. who meet certain criteria demonstrating that they are individuals of extraordinary ability. DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual as to what evidence may satisfy O-1A evidentiary criteria.

  • Update provides examples of evidence that satisfies O-1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations relevant to evaluating the evidence, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields
  • Update emphasizes that if a petitioner demonstrates that a particular criterion does not readily apply to the occupation, comparable significance would be acceptable.

National Interest Waiver Policy Update. Many individuals seeking to be in the US longer than the duration of a nonimmigrant visa must have an employer test the labor market before petitioning for permanent residency (green card) for them. Those individuals who can prove that they are accomplished in an area that of a “national interest” to the US can seek a waiver of this labor market test. DHS will be updating its policy manual regarding how USCIS adjudicates such waivers, referred to as National Interest Waivers (NIWs). Specifically, DHS will clarify how the NIW can be used for persons with advanced degrees in STEM fields and for entrepreneurs; the update will also discuss the weight given to letters of recommendation/support from governmental and quasi-governmental entities.

While the policies take effect immediately on January 21, 2022, Clark Lau LLC will continue to monitor to see how these will practically play out. The above has been prepared by the Clark Lau LLC team for informational purposes only. Please contact a Clark Lau LLC attorney to determine how the above may impact your specific circumstances.

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New Rules for Travel Take Effect November 8

10.25.21

Today the White House announced the overarching details of the long-awaited lifting of the “travel ban.” Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House has prohibited entry into the United States of individuals who had been present in a list of countries within 14 days of seeking admission into the United States, with certain exceptions. These countries include the United Kingdom, Ireland, countries of the Schengen region, China, Brazil, India, and South Africa. As of November 8, 2021, this ban will no longer be in place. Instead, the White House is requiring travelers to the United States to be fully vaccinated, unless they meet certain criteria. What “fully vaccinated” means, what vaccinations would suffice, and what proof would be acceptable will be announced later and presumably in advance of November 8, 2021.

As a general rule, nonimmigrants, i.e., visa holders, who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may not enter the U.S. by air. Exceptions will include those who comply with “applicable public health precautions established by the Director of the CDC” which may include “vaccination [or promise to vaccinate within a certain period of time, such as 60 days of entry], testing, mask-wearing, self-quarantine, and self-isolation.” Examples of actions that the CDC may invoke include “proof of pre-departure testing for COVID-19,” “precautions during air travel to protect against the further introduction, transmission, and spread of COVID-19, including by wearing a face mask,” “proof of having arranged for post-arrival testing for COVID-19,” and “proof of having arranged to self-quarantine or self-isolate after arriving in the United States.” Further any “noncitizen who is a nonimmigrant, who is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and who … is permitted to enter the United States by air travel … must agree to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States, within some other timeframe as determined by the Director of the CDC, or as soon as medically appropriate as determined by the Director of the CDC, and must provide proof of having arranged to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 after arriving in the United States.” Exceptions exist for those entering the United States in certain government/diplomatic visa classifications, for humanitarian or emergency reasons, as crew members, in connection with COVID-19 clinical trials, in the national interest, and for whom legitimate medical reasons exist.

The above information has been provided for educational purposes only. The White House’s announcement contains more in-depth details regarding exceptions and requirements. Please contact your Clark Lau LLC attorney if you have any questions.

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White House to Change International Travel Rules in November

09.20.21

The White House just announced today that it will be taking an individualized approach, versus a categorical approach, to curb the spread of COVID-19 arising out of international travel.

Currently, individuals who have been in any of the restricted countries within 14 days of traveling to the U.S. are prohibited from entering unless they meet certain exceptions. Such countries include China, Brazil, South Africa, India, the U.K., Ireland, and the Schengen countries. The White House announced today that starting in early November these restrictions will be dropped. Instead, all adults traveling into the United States will need to provide proof of vaccination, be subject to certain testing requirements, and also participate in a contact tracing program. More details will be released as the White House works out the details; stay tuned!

This information has been provided for informational purposes only. Please check with your Clark Lau LLC attorney to see how this impacts your specific set of facts.

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Clark Lau LLC Announces Eric Lockwood as Partner

06.12.21

Clark Lau LLC is pleased to announce the promotion of Eric F. Lockwood as Partner. Eric has been practicing law since 2006 and joined Clark Lau LLC in 2014. Eric serves individuals, professionals, and employers in both employment-based and family-based immigration matters. He currently serves as one of the members of the AILA New England chapter US Customs and Border Protection Committee members. Find out more about Eric: https://www.clarklau.com/our-team/eric-f-lockwood.

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India Joins List of Countries with Travel Restrictions to the US

04.30.21

As of Tuesday, May 4, 12:01AM ET, India joins the list of countries with travel restrictions to the U.S.

Currently, anyone who has been in any of the restricted countries within the last 14 days cannot enter the U.S. These countries include the U.K., Ireland, the People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and countries from the Schengen region (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland).

Some of the exceptions to the travel restrictions include the following:

  • U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States (green card holders);
  • Spouses of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents;
  • Parents/Legal Guardians of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, so long as the U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Sibling of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, so long as both are under the age of 21;
  • Child, foster child, or ward of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents or prospective adoptee;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • Individuals traveling at the invitation of the U.S. Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  • Certain individuals entering the U.S. for government business, law enforcement objectives, or in the national interest;
  • Individuals whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the CDC Director or his designee.

Clark Lau LLC is monitoring the above and related developments. The above is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact your Clark Lau LLC attorney to see whether the above impacts your circumstances.

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What Travel and Visa Bans Remain?

03.31.21

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the former administration issued a number of Presidential Proclamations that impacted both visa issuance and international travel.

Of note, there was one Presidential Proclamation that prohibited the issuance of immigrant (green card) visas and another on the issuance of the H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 visas. Earlier this year the Biden Administration lifted the immigrant visa issuance ban. The visa issuance ban on H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 visas will also be sunsetting as of tonight, March 31, 2021. It is our understanding that the Biden Administration will not seek to renew this ban.

The international travel bans, however, remain. That is, currently, individuals are not able to travel directly to the United States if they are coming from any of the following countries. Please note that a layover in any of these countries will trigger the travel restrictions:

  • Any of the 26 Schengen countries
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau)
  • Iran
  • Brazil
  • South Africa

For those needing to travel directly to the United States from any of these countries, they may apply directly to the U.S. Consulate where they are located for a National Interest Exception (“NIE”). NIEs are available where individuals can prove that they are coming to the United States, among limited other reasons, to provide vital support to the critical infrastructure of the United States. Such NIEs are only valid for a single entry and must be used within 30 days of the issuance. At this time, there is no information as to when these travel restrictions will be lifted.

All of the above information has been provided for informational purposes only. Please contact your Clark Lau LLC attorney to see how this impacts your specific circumstances.

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USCIS Completes H-1B Lottery for FY2022

03.30.21

USCIS just announced today that they completed its H-1B lottery selection process for FY2022. Attorneys across the country are reporting a yield of about 28%, a much lower rate than before.

One can only surmise that this means that the number of registrations were higher this year, which leads to the conclusion that more employers have the need for H-1B professional workers. The H-1B visa program offers employment authorization where an employer has a position that requires a degree in a specific field and where the individual has such a degree. An employer must also promise to pay a specific salary that is the higher of the US Department of Labor's prevailing wage or what the employer is paying other similarly situated US workers. H-1B workers are not cheap labor. The high demand is an ongoing indication of the need to have a system that keeps talent in America and to help our employers grow and stay competitive on the global scale.

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H-1B Registration Period March 9 -25

02.05.21

USCIS just announced that the initial registration period for the upcoming H-1B lottery will run from March 9, 2021 (noon) until March 25, 2021 (noon). Employers and attorneys will be able to register individuals needing an H-1B visa at any time during this period. Preference will not be given to those who register earlier. If by noon March 25, 2021 there are more registrants than available H-1B numbers, USCIS will conduct a random lottery afterwards. Please note that should a lottery be conducted, 20,000 numbers will be allocated to registrants with US Master’s degrees or higher first, and then another lottery will be conducted for the remaining 65,000 numbers.

The above has been provided for educational purposes only.

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