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How to count to 12: USCIS clarifies L1A visa requirements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rules regarding qualifying employment abroad, required for an L-1 intracompany transfer visa, are clarified, if not changed, in a new US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy memorandum (PM).

Dated November 15, 2018, USCIS PM-602-0167, states that:

  • All visa requirements must be satisfied as of the date the agency receives the L-1 visa petition;
  • The employee must be physically outside the US for the required 1 continuous year of employment; and
  • In certain cases, time spent in the US will not break the continuity required, but that time will not be counted towards the required 1 year.

The PM does not create new law or effect a change in policy. Its stated purpose is to clarify existing rules.

The requirement that a visa petitioner meet all legal requirements at the time the petition is filed is longstanding. It already was not possible to file a defective petition and then cure that defect with facts that occur subsequent to filing. That is why L-1 petitions could never be filed before an employee completed the full 12 months of employment abroad.

The PM repeats the agency’s regulation that brief trips to the US for business or pleasure do not interrupt the required 1 continuous year of employment abroad. The regulations never defined “brief” and the PM, regrettably, doesn’t either. There is an example in the memo of brief trips totaling 60 days during the 1 year. It would have been better if the PM stated whether, for example, 1 trip for 60 days is brief, or 2 trips for 30 days, etc. As a result, the situation is neither improved nor worsened by the PM’s issuance.

Even though the law already clearly states that only days when the employee is physically outside the US may be counted, the PM states that time spent in the US working for a qualifying organization does not count, and updates Chapter 32.3 of the Adjudicator’s Field Manual to reflect this needless clarification.

For the full text of the Policy Memo, can be found at the USCIS website.

Please contact the authors for more information about this PM, the L-1 intracompany transfer visa or other business visas for the US or any other of the many countries where Dentons guides clients on business and cross-border mobility matters.

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How to count to 12: USCIS clarifies L1A visa requirements

Tier 2 immigration skills charge – another fee to pay

As part of the government plans to reduce Britain’s reliance on migrant workers, from April 6, 2017 employers may have to pay an immigration skills charge of £1,000 per employee.

The skills charge will apply to a sponsor of a Tier 2 worker assigned a certificate of sponsorship in the “General” or “Intra-Company Transfer” route and who applies from:

  • outside the UK for a visa
  • inside the UK to switch to this visa from another
  • inside the UK to extend their existing visa

The skills charge does not apply if you are sponsoring:

  • a non-EEA national who was sponsored in Tier 2 before April 6, 2017 and is applying from inside the UK to extend their Tier 2 stay with either the same sponsor or a different sponsor
  • a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainee
  • a worker to do a specified PhD level occupation
  • a Tier 4 student visa holder in the UK switching to a Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Tier 2 family members (“dependants”)

As the charge applies to the sponsor and not the individual, if a sponsor has paid it in respect of an individual who then seeks to change sponsor, the new sponsor will also be required to pay the levy.

A lower rate of £364 per certificate of sponsorship applies for smaller sponsors and charities. You will usually be considered a small business if:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer

The charge is in addition to all other application fees. Its purpose is to cut down on the number of businesses taking on migrant workers and to incentivize employers to train British staff to fill those jobs.

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Tier 2 immigration skills charge – another fee to pay

US government immigration fee increase proposed

Rising Prices ahead

On May 4, 2016, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published notice of a proposal to increase certain government filing fees and create a new fee. The average increase is 21 percent, but the highest increases are for the visas used by American businesses to bring skilled workers to the United States, immigrant investors creating jobs for Americans and immigrants acknowledged to have extraordinary ability.

A 42 percent increase is proposed for the Form I-129 used for the most common work visas, including H-1B professional, O-1 extraordinary ability, and L-1 intracompany transfer visas, as well as E-1 treaty trader, E-2 treaty investor and E-3/FTA H-1B1/TN treaty professional visas processed in the United States rather than at an American consular post or Preflight Inspection Unit abroad. A 42 percent increase is also proposed for the Form I-140 used for EB1, EB2 and EB3 employment-based immigrant visas.

If 42 percent seems outrageous, the increase proposed for the Form I-526 required for an EB5 immigrant investor creating at least 10 jobs for American workers is 145 percent.

Family-based immigration fares better, with only a 27 percent increase proposed for the Form I-130 used by United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor certain close relatives to immigrate. The Form I-485 required for immigrants who process through the USCIS instead of an American consular post abroad is proposed to increase only 16 percent.

The USCIS explains that the fee increases are required to recover costs for their services and to maintain adequate service. Current service is far from adequate. Although Congress mandated USCIS processing timelines in the American Competitiveness of the 21st Century Act of 2000 (AC21), almost 16 years later the agency continues to consistently fail to meet the standards set by law.

AC21 set 30-day processing times for most employer-sponsored nonimmigrant visas and 180-day processing times for most employer-sponsored immigration. Processing times tend to be at least twice as long or worse. Instead of 30 days, five months is the processing time currently reported for Form I-129 H-1B visa extensions, for example, and the USCIS California Service Center reported that as of February 29, 2016, the agency was currently processing Form I-485 immigrant applications received before May 17, 2014!

The agency has not increased fees in many years. Proposed fee increases usually become final fee increases without significant, if any, change—most likely later this summer.

There is a 60-day comment period. Guidance on how to submit comments is in the notice. The full text of the USCIS notice can be found online at the Federal Register.

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US government immigration fee increase proposed

Changes to the Tier 2 and Tier 5 immigration regime

On March 24, 2016, the UK government responded to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) review of Tier 2 policy and has announced numerous changes to Tier 2 policy going forward.

For Tier 2 (General) migrants:

  • Minimum salary threshold: increases to £25,000 in autumn 2016 and to £30,000 for experienced workers, while maintaining the current threshold of £20,800 for new entrants.
  • Waiver of Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT): in cases where the migrant will be relocating with a high-value business to the UK or, potentially, supporting an inward investment into the UK.

For Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer [ICT]) migrants:

  • Single route for ICT migrants: all ICT migrants must qualify under a single route with a minimum salary threshold of £41,500. The Home Office will have closed the Skills Transfer and Short Term visa categories to new applications. Graduate trainees will have their own route with a lower salary threshold of £23,000 with an increased limit of 20 places per company per year.
  • New Immigration Health Surcharge: from autumn 2016, the charge will be extended to all transferees.
  • High earners’ threshold: reduced from £155,300 to £120,000 for migrants looking to stay in the UK for a period between five and nine years.
  • From April 2017, migrants paid more than £73,900 will not be required to have one year’s experience.

For both Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) routes:

  • New Immigration Skills Charge: employers must pay a levy designed to encourage them to invest in training UK employees. The levy is set at £1,000 per year per Tier 2 migrant from April 2017. A reduced rate of £364 per person per year will apply to small and charitable sponsors.

Several other recommendations made by the MAC on January 19, 2016, will not be implemented by the UK government. Accordingly, the government has confirmed the following:

  • ICT overseas service: migrants will not be required to have worked for their overseas company for 24 months, which would have been an increase from the current requirement of 12 months.
  • Tier 2 (General) in-country switching applications from Tier 4 will not be subject to the RLMT.

Finally, it should be noted that the Home Office has introduced the following changes which affect Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors:

  • Record-keeping duties: for new migrant employees, sponsors must keep copies of references, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, job descriptions and qualifications.
  • RLMT: when a sponsor advertises a vacancy on Universal Jobmatch, it must take a screenshot on the date the vacancy is first advertised.
  • Genuineness test: if the Home Office refuses an entry clearance or leave to remain application because it does not consider the job role to be genuine, it may suspend the Sponsor License to carry out further investigation.

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Changes to the Tier 2 and Tier 5 immigration regime

LMIA Exempt Work Permit Applications – New Procedure

Effective February 21, 2015, there will be changes to the work permit application process for categories that are currently exempt from obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and employer specific. The changes follow amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations focused on employer compliance in the employment of foreign workers.

As a result of the regulatory amendments, most work permit applications will now require a 2 step process:

Step 1. Either an LMIA application to Service Canada OR a new procedure involving an application form to be submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for LMIA exempt categories (Form IMM 5802 – Offer of Employment to a Labour Market Impact Assessment Exempt Foreign National) with an additional $230 employer compliance fee.

Step 2. Work permit application.

This new procedure is applicable to all LMIA exempt work permits that are employer specific including work permit extension applications, visa office applications, port of entry applications. The new procedure will apply to most LMIA exempt work permit applications including work permits under NAFTA, intra-company transfers, PNPs, signficant benefit, etc. (Note: step 1 is not required for open work permit applicants, however, open work permits will be subject to an additional $100 privilege fee).

The new IMM 5802 Form and online fee payment (through their current CIC online fee payment site) will be available on Wednesday, February 18, 2015. The new form will require general corporate information about the employer (including contact information), the terms of the offer, information supporting the LMIA exemption and an attestation by the employer on the terms of the offer of employment.

Third party representatives will be able to submit the IMM 5802 Form for employers as long as the employer contact has signed a Use of Rep form (IMM 5476). The process requires that the IMM 5802 be completed by employers and submitted with the $230 payment to CIC.

Once the IMM 5802 Form is submitted to CIC, a confirmation will be generated by CIC. This confirmation along with a copy of the IMM 5802 Form and the $230 fee payment must be provided to the foreign worker to make an application for a work permit (i.e. at the visa office, online or at POE etc.)

There is not an advance “adjudication process” for the IMM 5802 Form before the work permit application is processed. For example, although proof that the IMM 5802 Form was submitted is required for an applicant to apply for a work permit at the POE, it was indicated that this could be done 5 minutes prior to arriving at the port of entry, as long as the applicant had a copy of the submitted IMM 5802 Form and payment confirmation with their work permit application.

There will also be a process for receiving a refund of the $230 employer compliance fee (and $100 privilege fee) if a work permit application is refused

More information will be posted by CIC this week and the link to the CIC site can be found at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/work/admissibility/specific.asp

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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LMIA Exempt Work Permit Applications – New Procedure