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Ten Things to Know About Temporary Visas

Employers facing a shortage of seasonal workers–including resorts in places like Jackson and West Yellowstone, landscaping businesses in places like Idaho Falls and Pocatello, and other non-agricultural employers–can look outside the U.S. for hiring options using the H-2B Temporary Worker Program.

Here are a few things to know about the H-2B visas:

  1. The rules change literally every year. This means that some of the information here may not be entirely up-to-date when you read it.
  2. H-2B visas are especially useful for getting a lot of seasonal workers here who have the same job duties. They become much more expensive per worker if you only need one or two workers.
  3. There’s an annual limit on how many seasonal workers are allowed into the U.S., so it’s important that you start the process well in advance of actually needing the workers. In fact, for those looking for summer help in 2017, time is very quickly running out (as of mid-September 2016) to start the process. It wouldn’t hurt to contact an immigration attorney regarding the H-2B visa process up to a year before you need workers.
  4. The process is complex, and involves working with a few different state and federal organizations. This isn’t a do-it-yourself kind of thing.
  5. The process is expensive. You’ll pay several thousand dollars for the first worker and several hundred for each subsequent worker. And you can’t make the workers pay the fees–the employer has to pay the fees.
  6. The visa is temporary in nature. Workers can come here for up to nine months on the visa, but, unless the visa is extended, they’re limited to nine months. The following year you’ll have to go through the whole process again.
  7. While on the H-2B visa, the workers cannot legally work in the U.S. for another employer unless that employer also goes through the H-2B visa process.
  8. An entirely different process applies for employers who bring in seasonal agricultural workers; this process is also complex.
  9. Employees can’t come from every country for the H-2B visa; however, citizens from many countries are allowed to participate. USCIS provides a list of those countries. Be aware that that list changes from time to time.
  10. The H-2B visa is underused in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming. It’s a fantastic way to get seasonal, hard-working employees when you’re not able to get enough local workers hired.

The H-2B visa is a fantastic way to get a large number of employees for temporary or seasonal work, but it does have its downsides. An immigration attorney can let you know how much the process will cost, and can answer other questions you might have.

Hiring an Immigrant Chef or Cook

I receive a lot of phone calls from individuals wanting to hire an immigrant to be a cook or chef in their restaurant. While it’s certainly possible to obtain a green card for a cook or chef, keep in mind that it’s a complex process. Here’s some of what Idaho immigration attorney Tim Jones does to assist employers:

  1. Like for any green card, the cook or chef needs to have a fairly clean record, both with the police and with immigration. Their record doesn’t necessarily need to be spotless; if there’s a history of any charges or arrests (regardless of where they occurred) or any trouble with immigration (including overstaying visas) the attorney will need to review the incidents in order to recommend whether to move forward with the green card or not.
  2. The cook or chef will need to have some applicable experience; the attorney will review the future employee’s resume.
  3. The attorney will check with the U.S. government to find out what you’ll need to be paying the employee.
  4. The attorney will create an ad for you to run (typically in your local newspaper). You’ll work with your attorney to determine if anyone who already has the right to work in the U.S. is willing and qualified to take the job. The attorney will assist you with reviewing job applications, etc.
  5. Assuming no qualified individuals were willing and able to fill the job, your attorney will then file paperwork with the U.S. government in order to get permission to proceed.
  6. Once permission is given, your attorney will fill out the green card paperwork and file it.
  7. Once the green card is approved, your new employee will be able to start work.

Obviously, the more exotic cuisine your restaurant serves, the easier it will be to get the employee a green card. If the food’s not exotic (for example, standard American or Mexican food) there are visa options out there that don’t involve a green card–various visas, especially visas aimed at seasonal workers, can be a good option.

Total cost is quite expensive. You’ll pay around $1,500 or more just for the green card filing fees (fees will probably go up within a few months of the date of this post) and probably a few hundred in advertising costs. Attorney fees vary, and you’ll need to contact me for a quote, but they’re typically several thousand dollars. In fact, some immigration attorneys charge around $10,000 for the whole package. I’m not that expensive, but this is not a cheap process. As the employer, you’ll be responsible for paying all or most of the cost–you won’t be able to charge your future employee for it.

If the potential employee has close relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, we may be able to get them a green card more cheaply. There may also be other options that are less expensive. An immigration attorney can discuss these options with you and the future employee.

The process will take a good share of a year. If your potential employee is from India, China, or the Philippines, it could take much, much longer. Mexico has also traditionally been on that “much longer” list, and may be on that list again soon.

If you’re looking to employee multiple chefs or cooks, the attorney fees may be considerably less per person, although the total cost will still be several thousand dollars per employee.

Hiring the right chef can really make or break a restaurant. An immigration attorney can help you get that right individual into your restaurant so that your business can be a success.

Legal Help for Religious-based Asylum

Attorney Tim Jones offers legal help for religious-based asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers face persecution and sometimes even death upon their return to their home country. We believe in the freedom of religion, and we want to provide legal help to individuals who want to remain in the U.S. so they can practice their religion without facing persecution.

The first step will be to assess your case in order to determine the likelihood of success. Essentially, we’re looking at the same factors the U.S. government will look at when they examine your case. We look at what conditions are like in your home country for individuals who practice your religion.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are. What matters is how your country behaves towards your religion. Many countries in the Middle East and Asia discriminate against minority religions–including but not limited to various Christian, Islam, and Hindu religions.

If we believe your case has a good chance of success or is otherwise important, we can provide you with further assistance.

About five months after you apply for asylum, as long as your asylum claim isn’t rejected at the early stages, you’ll be able to apply for a work permit. Unfortunately, asylum claims currently take years. In the meantime, however, you’ll be able to remain in the U.S., and after six months or so you’ll be able to get a work permit and work here legally.

USCIS fees will probably increase soon

Anyone who’s applied for a green card knows how expensive USCIS filing fees can be. They’re likely to become even more expensive. According to USCIS, they’ll likely go up 21% within the next few months. That’s a substantial amount.

Do yourself a favor. If you’re currently eligible for an immigration status (a green card, naturalization, DACA, or whatever else) consider applying for it now, instead of waiting and paying more later.

And yes, I do charge flat rates for my work. But those flat rates will need to go up a bit too, because I typically include the filing fee in my quote. So a $2,000 quote may be $2,200 in a couple of months.

Why are the rates (likely) increasing? When you pay a USCIS fee, it allows USCIS to operate without tax dollars. But the value of money decreases over time. Additionally, according to the above-liked USCIS report, part of your fee goes to pay for asylum fees (asylum doesn’t have a filing fee). Asylum claims are backed up–they’re supposed to be decided quickly, but there’s currently a backlog of several years. Perhaps the additional funds will help clear that backlog up.

In any case, consider filing now while it’s cheaper.

Immigration, Idaho, and the Supreme Court

On Monday, April 18th, the Supreme Court will hear a case that will have an enormous and direct impact on over 20,000 people living in Idaho as well as millions of others throughout the United States. Depending on the Supreme Court’s decision, these individuals will have an opportunity to obtain a work permit and will be able to work legally. As long as they apply and meet certain criteria, they will be granted “deferred status” and, as long as they stay out of trouble, they will have some protection from deportation.
First, a brief background. In 2012, a program called DACA was initiated. DACA allowed undocumented immigrants who were under the age of 16 when they last entered the U.S., graduated from high school in the U.S. or met other narrow criteria, and who passed a thorough background check the ability to apply for deferred status and a work permit. This allowed many individuals who had been brought into the U.S. as children the opportunity to legally work in the U.S. Those who received deferred status had to renew it every two years, and had to continue to stay out of trouble. DACA still applies for individuals who entered the U.S. prior to June 5, 2012, and who were under the age of 16 at the time. Unfortunately for those brought over as children, it is not a pathway to citizenship or even a green card. It doesn’t come close to doing what President Reagan’s immigration plan did in the 1980’s. Nevertheless, it has blessed the lives of many young people in and around Eastern Idaho and the rest of the United States.
While comprehensive immigration reform was a major priority for both parties following the last presidential election, very little progress was made in actual reform. Tired of the lack of reform, in November 2014 President Obama announced the DAPA program, which would give the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, already living in the United States, deferred status and a work permit, as long as they applied and met certain criteria. The timeline for the DACA program was also extended, and the renewal period for both DACA and DAPA was changed to three years instead of two. By giving deferred status to undocumented immigrants who pass a background check and have more significant ties to the U.S., the federal government would be able to more easily focus its deportation proceedings on individuals who commit crimes and who are a danger to others.
The next month, several states sued, putting a halt to both DAPA and the DACA extension, as well as the three year renewal period. These states arranged to have the case heard in front of a federal judge known for his anti-immigrant views. The judge decided as expected, and the decision was appealed. On Monday, almost a year-and-a-half after DAPA was announced, the Supreme Court will hear the case and, hopefully, will issue a final decision on the matter. The decision is not expected until, at the earliest, June. Even then, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of DAPA and DACA extension, it will probably be an additional wait before the federal government is prepared to process applications.
How does this affect Idaho? If DAPA and the DACA extension become law, 20,000 undocumented immigrants, most of them young parents, will be able to obtain work permits and will be able to work legally. They’ll be able to work better-paying jobs, eliminating the need for their U.S. citizen children to be on food stamps, Medicaid, or other government programs. Since their jobs will be legal, there’s a greater chance they’ll contribute to and help pay for Social Security. There will be less concern about a deportation splitting a family up.
Idaho businesses, and especially Idaho farms and dairies, will be able to flourish. Make no mistake, many of these businesses currently employ undocumented immigrants, knowingly or not. But undocumented immigrants who have deferred status and a work permit won’t be deported as a result of workplace ICE raids. Idaho businesses won’t be decimated by these raids if their workers have work permits due to DACA and DAPA.
Many of the people who will be affected are married to U.S. citizens, but are unable to get green cards. Once they’ve been granted deferred status, their U.S. citizen spouses and children will have less to worry about.
DAPA won’t protect undocumented immigrants if they commit a violent crime. It won’t give them a pathway to citizenship. But it will provide a better income for their families, including many U.S. citizens.

The Cost of Deportation–Idaho

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz both want to deport all undocumented immigrants. Obviously, the federal government would need to spend vast sums of tax money to do so, and it’s unlikely either would be willing to raise taxes meaning such a plan would put the U.S. even further into debt.

The costs don’t end there, though. The Idaho economy would be significantly harmed if all undocumented immigrants were deported. Idaho is famous for its potatoes and other agricultural activity, and a lot of the hardworking men and women who do the hard farm work are undocumented immigrants. If they’re deported, many farmers will be unable to manage and harvest their fields, and the economy in Idaho would suffer. Consider these facts from the AIC:

 

  1. About 4.6% of Idaho’s workforce is composed of undocumented immigrants. That’s about 35,000 people. That’s more than the population of Rexburg or Lewiston. If working undocumented immigrants in Idaho had their own county, they’d be the 12th-largest county in the state, right between Madison County and Jefferson County.The total number of undocumented immigrants is even higher, as many children are undocumented and not yet working. That number is closer to 50,000, which would be the 7th largest county in Idaho, right between Twin Falls and Bingham County.
  2.  If this group were deported, Idaho would lose over $400 million in economic activity. Plenty of jobs would disappear too.
  3. Idaho would also miss out on over $26 million in state and local taxes.

What would happen if, instead, these unauthorized immigrants were granted legal status? Obviously, they would pay millions more in taxes, especially income tax. Unfortunately, the kind of legal status that President Ronald Reagan offered during his time as president is not on the table right now. Comprehensive immigration reform just hasn’t happened. The only significant reform involving undocumented immigrants that has happened in recent years–DACA–does provide some very limited relief to people in specific categories, but its impact is limited. To qualify for a work permit, immigrants need to have no significant criminal record, have graduated from high school (or get a GED or meet other very narrow criteria) and have been under the age of 16 when they last entered the U.S. Other criteria also need to be met. So it helps some who came to the U.S. before they were old enough to drive in most states. It doesn’t help anyone else. And even those it helps need to renew it every two years and are not eligible for a green card.

In fact, if a program called DAPA makes it through the Supreme Court–and it’s scheduled to be heard soon–close to two-thirds of unauthorized immigrants in Idaho would be eligible for work permits and deferred status. They would not be eligible for green cards, but they would be able to get legal jobs where they would pay income tax, and they would have some limited protection against deportation. Those who are undocumented should pay close attention during the next several months to see what changes occur.

Immigration reform needs to happen. The economy in Idaho, and many individuals in Idaho, would benefit.

 

The I-864 and the I-864A

So you’re getting a family-based green card. Your relative doesn’t make enough to sponsor you, so you find some family friends (or perhaps more distant relatives) to be joint sponsors. They both fill out the I-864, right?

Not quite.

If, for example, a married couple becomes the joint sponsors, you’ll need the following forms to be signed by sponsors:

  1. An I-864 from your main sponsor. Even if they don’t make enough money, they still need to acknowledge that they’ll support you. They still need to do an I-864.
  2. An I-864 from one of the joint sponsors.
  3. An I-864A from the other joint sponsor. The I-864A allows the income of the first joint sponsor to be combined with the income of the second joint sponsor.

These forms are in addition to the I-130, I-485, and everything else USCIS requires.

As always, make sure you go to the appropriate USCIS website to pull up the forms. If you get the forms from somewhere else, they might be outdated and unacceptable.

And of course, make sure to include all the correct paperwork: taxes, proof of income, identification, and everything else that’s required. And follow the instructions at the USCIS website carefully. It’s very easy to make mistakes here.

Make complete copies of your application before you mail it to USCIS.

The easiest way to apply for a green card, of course, is to find an immigration attorney in Idaho Falls to handle everything. There will be less of a chance of getting a RFE (Request for Evidence) from USCIS, and you’ll be able to get your green card faster.

Big Supreme Court case on immigration and deferred status

The big Supreme Court case on immigration and deferred status is scheduled to be heard on April 18. The Supreme Court’s decision here will determine if millions of immigrants are eligible for deferred status–if they’ll be able to obtain work permits and remain in the U.S. The Court will likely not actually make a decision until sometime in June.

Lower courts ruled against these immigrants. Because Justice Scalia died recently, and because he has not yet been replaced, there’s a good chance that a Supreme Court decision could be tied at 4-4, which means that there won’t really be a decision made, and the lower court’s ruling will stand.

If, however, immigrants and President Obama win here, and the Supreme Court decides that deferred status (DAPA) can move forward, immigrants who qualify will be able to get deferred status and work permits. It will most likely take a couple of months after the decision is made–sometime in the fall of this year–before the government has a system put in place to allow individuals to apply.

If this does pass, here are some things you can do to prepare:

  1. Put together evidence that you’ve been in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. Common kinds of evidence: school transcripts, bills, rental leases, receipts, medical records, etc.
  2. That you were actually in the U.S. on November 20, 2014. This is the date when the program was announced. Again, school transcripts, bills, rental leases, receipts, medical records, etc.–dated from early November to early December 2014–can be useful here. Don’t worry if you can’t find evidence with the specific date of November 20, 2014, as long as you can find plenty of dates around that time.
  3. As of November 20, 2014, you must have a child who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Most often, this means that you must have a child who is born in the U.S. Make sure you have a copy of their birth certificate.
  4. If you don’t have any children who are citizens or permanent residents, you may still be able to obtain deferred status if you can meet the other criteria, and if you were under the age of 16 when you entered the U.S. In order to do this, you’ll need to graduate from high school, obtain a GED, currently be a college student, or meet certain other criteria. If you’ll be taking this route and you don’t have a high school degree and aren’t currently a student, it may be a good idea to start working on your GED.
  5. Find your criminal record. If you have too big of a criminal record, you’re not eligible. This is a complicated area–if you do have any kind of criminal record, even misdemeanors, you’ll want to talk to an attorney before moving forward. Meanwhile, get all the records you can–police reports, court documents, etc. Even if you were a minor at the time, and even if you were not charged as an adult.
  6. Don’t screw things up. I’ve seen this happen too many times and it’s always tragic. Don’t do anything that would put you at risk of getting arrested. Even something as small as a DUI can ruin things. If you do get a DUI or some kind of other charge, don’t depend solely on a public defendant attorney to help you out. An immigration attorney can help you know what charges would be best to plead guilty to, and what charges you need to avoid.

We’ll have to wait and see what the Supreme Court gives us in June. Hopefully they’ll make the right choice and allow millions of immigrants who’ve been in the U.S. for six years or longer, and meet other criteria, the ability to obtain work permits here.

Immigration and Presidential Candidates

Election contests have narrowed down the number of candidates currently running for president. Idaho’s holding an election today–so get out and vote.

Here’s where the major candidates stand on immigration:

Democrats:

  1. As I’ve previously stated, Hillary Clinton supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. This sets her apart from the Republican candidates. However, her immigration stance hasn’t always been so immigrant-friendly. It’s not clear that immigration issues are a big priority for her.
  2. Bernie Sanders also supports a pathway to citizenship. However, he’s against expanding the number of temporary work permits, perhaps due to the fact that employers often exploit temporary workers, or perhaps because he wants to protect U.S. citizen workers.

Republicans:

  1. Donald Trump’s stance on immigration is extreme. He wants to change the Constitution in order to make it so people who are born in the U.S. don’t automatically become U.S. citizens, he wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and magically get Mexico to pay for it, he wants to deport every undocumented immigrant, and he wants to prohibit all Muslims from entering the United States. As far as legal immigration, Trump also wants to put a stop to much of that.
  2. Ted Cruz shut down the U.S. government because he didn’t like a pro-immigration bill. He’s against deferred action. He’s stated that he’ll deport anyone here who’s not here legally.
  3. Marco Rubio was historically moderate on the issue of immigration. He helped write moderate immigration reform bills in 2013. Unfortunately, he has since said he’d reverse President Obama’s deferred status program. He’s also stated that we need to “secure the border” (whatever that means) before taking on other elements of immigration reform.

There are other candidates, but right now their chances of winning are slim. If Mitt Romney or someone else ends up being a serious contender, I’ll provide an update.

Rubio was the best chance Republicans had to holding on to some of the pro-immigrant vote, but he’s moved so far to the right on immigration that he’s no longer a viable option. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will not be immigrant-friendly. So the options are Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell which of these two will do more to help immigrants.

 

 

EB-5 Investor Visas and China

Wealthy Chinese have been using investor visas, or EB-5 visas, to enter the United States for a long time. In the past, there wasn’t much of a wait time. Unfortunately, over the last year or two, so many Chinese have signed up for EB-5 visas that they’ve surpassed the quotas, meaning that the process is no longer relatively quick. In fact, it may take several years.

That being said, if you’re Chinese and you want to obtain a U.S. green card for–and eventually citizenship–for yourself and your family, this is probably your best route.

Keep in mind that you’ll only need $500,000 if you’re investing in a rural area. “Rural” does not mean isolated. In fact, you can put your “rural” business 15 minutes from a city of 100,000 if you located it somewhere like Shelley, Idaho. In fact, since you need to employ 10 people for your investor visa, a place like this would be perfect–lots of hardworking individuals willing to work for lower wages.

If you don’t mind being a bit further from a city, nearby western Wyoming and western Montana are also very rural. In fact, if you want to set up your company near the famous Yellowstone Park or in the Tetons (Jackson Hole area), you’ll not only be able to do so for $500,000 or so (because almost all of the areas around here are classified as “rural”), you’ll also be close to some of the most amazing place in the U.S. And with an estimated 500,000 Chinese visitors per year in the Yellowstone area (yes, that’s correct–500,000 a year just from China), a business run by Chinese that caters to Chinese could be very successful here.

Again, the process may take more time now, but for most wealthy Chinese it’s the best way to live in the U.S. However, it’s also a complicated procedure. Make sure you hire an experienced immigration attorney to assist you.