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UK announces changes to Immigration Rules

uk-flag-and-passport

On November 3, 2016, the UK Home Office announced several changes to its visa policies. The new Immigration Rules, which go into effect on November 24, will primarily affect Tier 2 migrants and nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

Tier 2

The following changes will affect all certificates of sponsorship assigned by Tier 2 sponsors on or after November 24, 2016:

Increasing the Tier 2 (General) salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000, with some exemptions

  • Increasing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) salary threshold for short-term staff to £30,000
  • Reducing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainee salary threshold to £23,000, and increasing the number of places to 20 per company per year
  • Closing the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) skills transfer sub-category

The government has not yet announced a date from which intra-company transfer migrants will be liable for the immigration health surcharge.

Non-EEA partners

The government has introduced a new English-language requirement for non-EEA partners and parents. This affects those applying to extend their stay after 2.5 years in the UK on a five-year route to settlement under Appendix FM (Family Member) of the Immigration Rules (introduced in July 2012).

The new requirement will apply to partners and parents whose current leave under the family Immigration Rules is due to expire on or after May 1, 2017.

The English-language requirement applies to most immigration applications. This includes those seeking to enter the UK for employment under the points-based system, and students seeking to enter the UK under Tier 4 of the points-based system.

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UK announces changes to Immigration Rules

New rule extends US work authorization for certain foreign students

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Important new US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations allow F-1 foreign student visa holders with degrees from American universities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to extend optional practical training (OPT) for 24 months beyond the 12-month period generally available to F-1 students on OPT. This 24-month extension effectively replaces the 17-month STEM OPT previously available. The new rule is effective May 10, 2016.

Requirements

To qualify:

  1. The employer must be enrolled in the voluntary e-verify program (see USCIS website)
  2. The student must have completed a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field
  3. The job offered must directly relate to the student’s STEM degree

Transition rules

Pending STEM OPT extension applications adjudicated prior to May 10, 2016, will only be valid for 17 months. Beginning on May 10, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will issue Requests for Further Evidence asking students with pending STEM OPT extension applications whether they wish to amend their application from 17 to 24 months—perhaps one of the few times when lengthy government processing times will benefit students.

The new rule gives students with pending applications the option to withdraw now and file a new application with a 24-month request, but with the important reminder that a student can only file for a STEM OPT extension if post-completion OPT has not expired prior to government receipt of a new STEM OPT application.

Also, students who already have received a 17-month STEM EAD will be able to file for a 7-month extension between May 10, 2016 and August 8, 2016, so long as 150 days still exist before the expiration of their 17-month STEM EAD and they file within 60 days of the date their Designated School Official (DSO) enters the recommendation for the 24-month STEM OPT extension into the student’s SEVIS record and other requirements are met, and they meet all other requirements for the 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Background

An August 2015 blog post offers background about F-1 OPT, STEM OPT extensions and the litigation that called into question the validity of the old 17-month rule.

We also addressed this issue in October 2015, when DHS first published the proposed rule to address the litigation.

The new rule was expressly written to resolve the defects found in the administrative procedures used to pass the old rule. In addition to reviving the STEM OPT extension in compliance with required rulemaking procedures, DHS took the opportunity make the validity period even longer. This is certainly not the result desired by those who challenged the original rule in an attempt to limit executive authority to grant US employment authorization to foreign nationals.

Further information

The complete text of the DHS notice of the new rule is available at the Federal Register’s website. Furthermore, DHS has opened a website that contains more information on the new STEM rule.

Dentons lawyers help employers obtain and maintain E-Verify status, as well as regular and STEM OPT employment authorization document applications, employment eligibility verification I-9 records and visas to authorize employment in the US and in the more than 50 countries around the world where Dentons has offices.

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New rule extends US work authorization for certain foreign students

Good news for US employers and foreign students—DHS STEM OPT extension rule published

STEM 2

On October 19, 2015, the US Department of Homeland Security published the much anticipated proposed new regulation authorizing the amendment of F-1 student visa regulations regarding employment authorization for foreign students. This will give much needed relief to US employers and the foreign students who work for them.

Since 2008, F-1 foreign student visa holders who graduate from US universities with a degree in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degrees are eligible to apply for 17 months of employment authorization in the US beyond the 12 months normally available. In addition, the 2008 regulatory change allowed F-1 students to apply for optional practical training (OPT) employment authorization up to 60 days after completion of the academic program. Finally, the 2008 change addressed the “Cap-Gap” program by making available additional employment authorization to F-1 OPT holders who are beneficiaries of H-1B temporary worker change of visa status petitions beginning on October 1 whose employment authorization would otherwise expire prior to September 30.

On August 12, 2015, the Washington, DC federal district court in Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. USDHS found that the DHS violated the Administrative Procedures Act in 2008 when DHS first created the STEM OPT regulation without the notice and comment period required by law. The court stayed its ruling to February 12, 2016, to give DHS time to take corrective action to minimize “substantial hardship for foreign students and a major labor disruption for the technology sector.”

The court effectively gave DHS until December 14, 2015, to publish a final regulation to correct the error (with some exceptions, a proposed regulation must be published a minimum of 60 days prior to a final regulation). That means the DHS should have published the proposed regulation no later than October 15. Failure to do so increases the chance of disruption. That said, the case was appealed to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and DHS attorneys will likely ask the appellate court to stay the lower court order and suspend the February deadline.

For the complete text of the DHS proposed rule.

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Good news for US employers and foreign students—DHS STEM OPT extension rule published

Student employment authorization for certain foreign students in the US could be jeopardized

DC of Columbia

Employment authorization for student visa holders could be jeopardized because the USCIS failed to properly publish its April 2008 rule with the required notice and comment.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the USCIS STEM extension rule in an August 12, 2015, decision.  The court stayed the ruling until February 12, 2016, to give the USCIS opportunity to correctly publish the rule with proper notice and comment; however, until that date, USCIS will accept STEM extension applications and already approved STEM extensions will not be affected. The USCIS is expected to act before the deadline.

In general, F-1 foreign student visa holders are eligible for 12 months of employment authorization, called Optional Practical Training (OPT), after graduation.  In 2008, an “extension” of 17 months of employment authorization became available to F-1 visa holders who graduated from American universities with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM).  In addition, STEM employment authorization is limited to employers enrolled in the voluntary e-Verify program.

The case is Wash. Alliance of Tech. Workers v. DHS.

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Student employment authorization for certain foreign students in the US could be jeopardized

US executive action promises important new immigration benefits for some

 

President Obama Speaks On Homeland Security's Announcement About Deportations

US President Obama announced on November 20, 2014 a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the US without fear of deportation.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) announced that it is not yet accepting any applications for benefits under this program, stating that “[s]ome initiatives will be implemented over the next several months and some will take longer.”

Among the President’s initiatives is a plan to modernize, improve and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs.  This is intended to primarily benefit US businesses, foreign investors, researchers, inventors and skilled foreign workers.

The USCIS states that it will implement this initiative as follows:

  • Work with the Department of State to develop a method to allocate immigrant visas to ensure that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals when there is sufficient demand for such visas.
  • Work with the Department of State to modify the Visa Bulletin system to more simply and reliably make determinations of visa availability.
  • Provide clarity on adjustment portability to remove unnecessary restrictions on natural career progression and general job mobility to provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.
  • Clarify the standard by which a national interest waiver may be granted to foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the US economy.
  • Authorize parole, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but who:
    • Have been awarded substantial US investor financing; or
    • Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.
    • Finalize a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status.
    • Work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and comment to expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students, consistent with existing law.
    • Provide clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to bring greater clarity and integrity to the L-1B program, improve consistency in adjudications, and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.

There is an additional, well publicized initiative to provide temporary legal status to certain individuals who have been in the US unlawfully for a continuous period of more than 5 years, if they are the parent of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.  More details on all of the initiatives can be found at the USCIS web site.

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US executive action promises important new immigration benefits for some

Upcoming changes to visas between US and PRC aim to facilitate travel and decrease need for renewals

BVisa

Effective November 12, 2014, the US and the PRC will both increase the validity of business, tourist, student and exchange visitor visas issued to each other’s citizens.

Chinese business visitors and tourists may be issued multiple-entry B-1 and B-2 visas for up to 10 years. Students and exchange visitors and their accompanying family members will be eligible for F, M and J visas for multiple entry for up to 5 years or the length of their program.

US citizens going to China for short-term business and tourism will also receive multiple-entry F and L visas for up to 10 years, while American students may receive X student visa residence permits for up to 5 years, depending on the length of their program.

This change will facilitate business travel and decrease the time and cost that has been spent on more frequent visa renewals without any change in government processing fees. This change does not impact the length of authorized stay.  Visas only authorize travel to another country and the immigration officer at the port of entry/airport inspection unit will determine the length of authorized stay.

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Upcoming changes to visas between US and PRC aim to facilitate travel and decrease need for renewals

NINETEEN IS THE NEW TWENTY-TWO: AMENDING THE DEFINITION OF “DEPENDENT CHILD” IN THE CANADIAN IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS

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On August 1, 2014, the Canadian government amendments to the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, changing the definition of a “dependent child”, came into force. Under the old definition, a dependent child was considered a child under the age of 22 and financially dependent on their parents. Under the new definition, a dependent child must now be under the age of 19. Additionally, the exception for full-time students, under the old definition, was removed. This means children that are 19 or older, still financially dependent on their parents, and who are full-time students will not be processed as a dependent child in the Canadian immigration process.

The amendments have no impact on children who are dependent on their parents because of mental or physical conditions, they will continue to be treated as dependent children under the Canadian immigration process regardless of their age.

The amendments were made to reflect the provincial definitions of “age of majority”.

Dependent children who are full-time students and who are 19 or older may still apply to come to Canada but will be assessed on their own merits. They can apply as foreign students or through various economic and immigration programs that Canada has.

Any application submitted prior to August 1, 2014, when the amendment came into force, will continue under the old definition. Additionally, there are transitional measures that will allow certain applicants to continue the multi-step application using the old definition. The transitional measures apply to applicants who commenced the multi-step permanent resident immigration programs prior to the amendments taking effect. The transitional measures will apply to the certain groups, including:

  • Provincial Nominee Program applicants;
  • Applicants who have applied under one of Quebec’s economic programs;
  • Live-in caregivers;
  • Refugees abroad and refugee claimants;
  • Quebec humanitarian cases;
  • Parents or grandparents whose sponsorship applications were received before November 5, 2011; and
  • Privately sponsored refugees whose sponsorship applications were received before October 18, 2012.

For a dependent child entering a multi-step permanent resident immigration program, they will have their age “locked in” at the first formal step of the immigration program. This means that the age of a dependent child will be considered under 19 for entire immigration process if they were under 19 at the time they started the formal process of an immigration program regardless of whether they are under 19 when the submit their immigration application.

The official government notice can be found here.

For more information, please contact Dentons Canada LLP Immigration group.

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NINETEEN IS THE NEW TWENTY-TWO: AMENDING THE DEFINITION OF “DEPENDENT CHILD” IN THE CANADIAN IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS