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DHS publishes final rule governing FY 2020 H-1B cap season. Now it’s time to prepare your cap-subject petitions

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the final rule amending regulations governing H-1B cap-subject petitions. For a detailed discussion of the proposed rule, see our recent blog post here. The final rule, however, makes some changes different from those set out in the proposed rule.

No online registration for FY 2020 H-1B cap season

Though suggested in the proposed rule, the final rule clearly states that an online registration requirement will not be implemented for the FY 2020 cap season. The agency explains that before implementation, it wants to complete user testing and other evaluative tools to ensure the system and process are fully functional. Employers should be ready in 2020 for the FY 2021 H-1B cap season, when the process change will likely take place. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will announce the implementation in advance of the cap season in which it will implement the requirement.

Changing the order of the H-1B lottery selection for the FY 2020 H-1B cap season

Currently, H-1B cap-subject petitions filed under the advanced degree cap are selected first, and unselected petitions get a second bite at the apple—an opportunity to compete, along with the regular cap petitions, for one of the 65,000 visas available for workers holding bachelor’s degrees. The final rule reverses this order. Effective April 1, 2019, USCIS will first select 65,000 petitions from all submissions, including both regular and advanced degree petitions. USCIS will then run a second lottery to select enough qualifying petitions to meet the 20,000 cap exemption for individuals with advanced degrees from US institutions. DHS states that the change will increase the chances of H-1Bs being awarded to individuals with US master’s degrees or higher by up to 16%, or 5,340 workers. Time will tell. Why DHS thinks random holders of US master’s degrees will better serve American competitiveness than will holders of bachelors’ degrees in targeted fields of study, such as STEM, or who otherwise meet the goals articulated in President Trump’s April 2017 executive order directing an interdepartmental review of the H-1B visa program, was not addressed in the final rule.

Dentons analysis

Employers need to submit full H-1B cap-subject petitions during the first week of April. Please contact your lawyer now to be fully prepared.   

Meanwhile, Dentons will continue to closely monitor any changes to the regulations surrounding the H-1B program, particular regarding the pre-registration requirement, and update you as needed.

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DHS publishes final rule governing FY 2020 H-1B cap season. Now it’s time to prepare your cap-subject petitions

Proposed end of H-4 employment authorization likely to affect over 100,000 families

Time appears to be almost up for more than 100,000 foreign citizens working in the United States under an Obama-era special authorization for spouses of foreign workers here on the H-1B visa.

When Congress failed legislatively to address the lengthy wait times for many professionals and their families to be granted resident status, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2015, under the Obama administration, issued a regulation to allow H-4 visa spouses of qualified H-1B professionals to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD). Some members of Congress complained that the executive branch was overstepping its authority by making law—which is Congress’s job—and the regulation was the subject of much debate during the last presidential election. Now the Trump administration is seeking to make good on the President’s campaign promise to eliminate EADs for H-4 spouses.

This change especially impacts US employers of people born in India.

The reason why Indian-born professionals are impacted is because there are numerical limits on the number of green cards granted each year. To promote the diversity of new immigrants to the US, there are quota limits on the place of birth. No more than 7 percent of the total number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas available in a fiscal year may be issued to natives of any one independent country. As the demand for Indian-born professionals is far greater than the annual supply of green cards under the quota, this has created a backlog.

In 2018 for instance, the backlog of Indian-born professionals waiting their turn to get a green card was well in excess of a half million individuals. As a result, it now takes many years for an Indian-born professional to receive his or her green card. As a consequence, Indian-born professionals comprise the bulk of H-4 EAD holders.

Under the current regulation, an H-4 spouse can request an EAD if the H-1B professional is the beneficiary of either an approved employment-based immigrant visa petition, or a Department of Labor alien employment certification application or employment-based immigrant visa petition filed at least 365 days prior to the end of the sixth year of the professional’s H-1B status.

In April 2017, President Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, which, among other things, directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with other agencies, to review H-1B-related policies. The H-4 EAD regulation was one of the policies reviewed and the result was its proposed elimination.

US employers rely on H-1B professionals to make up for the shortage of qualified American professionals while keeping jobs in the US. CEOs of major US companies, sent a letter to DHS opposing the plan to eliminate the H-4 EAD. The letter pointed out that “[t]hese spouses are often highly skilled in their own rights,” and “revoking their US work authorization will likely cause high-skilled immigrants to take their skills to competitors outside the United States.

These US employers found some support in Congress. Senators Kamala D. Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to DHS and USCIS opposing rescission of the H-4 EAD, pointing out that the proposed change would disproportionately impact South Asian women (in 2017, 94 percent of H-4 EAD were women and 93 percent were from India).

But the administration has not changed its position. In November 2018, DHS published its mid-year regulatory agenda, which included a proposed rule to revoke the H-4 employment authorization final rule. DHS stated that “[s]ome U.S. workers would benefit from this proposed rule by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H-4 workers currently hold, as the proposed rule would no longer allow H-4 workers to enter the labor market early.” With record low unemployment levels and US employers already complaining of recruiting problems, it is unclear where the DHS thinks employers will find these US workers.

The new rule, if adopted, is expected to become effective in the first half of 2019 and would impact all 100,000+ individuals currently holding an H-4 EAD. Researchers also estimate that the proposed rule will affect entire families, including the H-1B professionals themselves, because many will not be able to afford to live on one income if their dependent spouse is forced to abandon his or her career. This is especially true in areas such as Seattle and the Silicon Valley, which employ high numbers of H-1B workers and have a high cost of living. Entire families may leave the US, taking their job skills to other countries to compete with their former employers—whose only options to remain competitive may be to outsource the jobs or set up their own offshore facilities. Nearshoring to Canada has become increasingly popular, due to the relatively lower cost of doing business there and proximity to the US.

The direct cost of each failed expatriate assignment is estimated to range from $250,000 to $1 million, according to researchers. More important, the departure of these highly skilled workers represents a brain drain and a significant loss of talent for most companies.

Dentons helps employers develop strategies to recruit the world’s best and brightest to fill posts in the US and abroad. For more information, please contact the authors or your Dentons lawyer.

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Proposed end of H-4 employment authorization likely to affect over 100,000 families

DHS new rule on H-1B lottery process: Who’s the winner?

 

Following President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order issued back on April 18, 2017, a long-awaited new rule has been proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would change the existing H-1B selection process, although perhaps not before the April 2019 filing season.

Online registration

The proposed rule would require petitioners seeking to file cap-subject H-1B petitions to first electronically register with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period, which would begin at least two weeks before April 1. The registration would require information about the employer, as well as the individual H-1B beneficiary.

USCIS would then select at random from the online registration database until the limited supply available under the quota (65,000 regular cap and 20,000 US advanced degree holders) is exhausted.

The big change is that US employers would only file complete H-1B petitions for the named beneficiaries who have been selected. Government processing fees would only be paid for selected petitions.

Similar to current processing, DHS would prohibit more than one registration from the same petitioner for the same beneficiary during any given year. Further, the new rule would require petitioners to attest to their intent to file an H-1B petition for the named beneficiary in the position for which the registration is filed.

DHS believes that this will prevent US employers from submitting a large numbers of registrations but not following up with complete filings of H-1B petitions for the selected beneficiaries—something that was not possible under the existing system. The proposed rule states that USCIS would closely monitor whether selected registrations are resulting in the filing of complete H-1B petitions. If USCIS finds that petitioners are registering numerous beneficiaries but are not filing petitions “at a rate indicative of a pattern and practice of abuse of the registration system,” it would investigate and could hold the employers accountable.

Selection process

The proposed rule would reverse the order by which the H-1B cap petitions are selected. Currently, USCIS first selects 20,000 with US graduate degrees, and then allow the unselected to be considered a second time, with the rest of the world, for the 65,000 quota. The proposed rule reverses this order. The proposed rule claims that it would increase the likelihood that a US graduate degree holder would be selected by up to 16 percent, but no explanation for that calculation is provided in the rule.

Petitioners whose petitions are selected will be notified to file complete H-1B petitions for the named beneficiaries within a designated filing period, expected to be at least 60 days.

Dentons analysis

The new rule reduces USCIS’ workload, since it does not have to handle the return of unselected petitions. However, this is not likely to speed up the slow processing of H-1B petitions, since the agency generally relies on contractors to handle mailroom services, rather than the officers who adjudicate petitions.

While the new rule may reduce some paperwork for US employers, it will not likely reduce the costs, since the cost of evaluating potential H-1Bs and registering is still incurred prior to the employer signing the petition. In fact, the extra step of registration creates extra work for employers and lawyers.

The anti-fraud provision of the rule attempts to address some of the realistic problems in the H-1B problem, but at the same time creates uncertainty for US employers and would most likely result in employers that have made bona fide job offers backing out for fear of the heightened scrutiny and potential liabilities.

DHS estimates that it will spend nearly $280,000 to develop the new system and $200,000 per year to maintain it. The proposed rule does not charge employers for the registration. How long the agency will forgo charging employers for registration is hard to predict, but USCIS has very few services that it provides to employers without a fee.

It is clear that this change will detrimentally impact the ability of US employers to continue to employ foreign workers. Current law allows the continued employment of F-1 OPT/STEM OPT and J-1 workers while the H-1B is pending, until their petitions are selected and approved OR even until the government announces they are not selected or not approved. The new rule means that fewer employers will have fewer H-1B petitions pending. The situation will be even worse if the new rule speeds up adjudications, as faster adjudications means faster denials. In sum, the new rule will result in fewer US employers being able to meet their staffing needs with pending H-1B petitions.

The announcement warns that the new rule may not be implemented in time for the April 2019 H-1B filing season, since there may not be enough time to fully test the system. If the new system has not gone into effect at least two weeks prior to the filing deadline, employers should be prepared to submit full H-1B petitions for all candidates on the first business day of April 2019.

Employers and stakeholders have until January 2, 2019 to submit comments on the proposed rule.

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DHS new rule on H-1B lottery process: Who’s the winner?

Where’s my green card?

Longer waiting times expected for EB-5 immigrant investors

The US Department of State estimates longer waiting periods for EB-5 immigrant investors from the top six participating countries: China, Vietnam, India, Brazil, Taiwan and South Korea.

Waiting periods have long existed for immigrant investors born in mainland China and recently, EB-5 visa applicants from Viet Nam have been facing them. The State Department’s Visa Bulletin for June 2018 shows that EB-5 immigrant visas are only available to people born in China and Vietnam who applied before August 1, 2014. Now, the State Department predicts the likelihood, in the near future, of waiting periods for people born in the other four above-named countries.

The State Department predicts that, for people born in India, EB-5 will remain currently available until 2019 and that EB-5 is likely to remain available without longer waiting times for people born in Brazil, Taiwan and South Korea until 2020.

The US limits the number of immigrant visas and green cards issued each fiscal year. The limits are based on both visa category and country of birth. Each country has potentially the same supply. Only 10,000 EB-5 immigrant visas are available each fiscal year (October 1, 2017, was day one for FY2018). This small allocation is shared by immigrant investors and the family members who immigrate with them.

In addition to the countries mentioned above, the State Department reports increases in demand from Russia, Japan, Colombia and Venezuela.

While each country is entitled to 7 percent of the annual supply (i.e., 700 visas), any unused visas are allocated in order of immigrant petition receipt date, regardless of place of birth. In the past, that resulted in more China-born immigrants. As the demand from other countries increases, expect fewer unused visas and longer waiting periods.

For example, in FY2017 China received 75 percent (or 7,567) of all EB-5 immigrant visas because of unused visas allocated to other countries. Due to increasing demand from other countries, China will likely get fewer visas this year and in the future. The State Department puts the number at 4,500 in FY2018 and 3,500 in FY2019 (or less than half that of FY2017).

The bottom line: It is more important than ever for immigrant investors to file their petitions as early as possible. The date that the government receives the petition is the priority date.

The Visa Bulletin allocates immigrant visas by priority date. The sooner immigrants make their investment and file the petition, the faster they will get resident status. Petitions are processed slowly by the government. Since the priority date is the date that petitions are first received, immigrant investors are already in line during processing.

There are federal legislative and regulatory proposals pending that would at least partially address this problem. But these are only proposals and it is not clear when they will become law, if ever. One thing is certain: Unless and until Congress increases the annual supply of EB-5 visas, increasingly long waiting periods will create hardships on immigrant investors that will likely result in less job creation for American workers.

EB-5 refers to the employment-based, fifth preference immigrant visa classification. EB-5 is the US immigrant investor program that grants immigrant visas and resident status (or green cards) to individuals who make an at-risk investment that creates, directly or indirectly, full-time equivalent jobs for at least 10 American workers. The required dollar amount of investment is currently US$1 million, although US$500,000 is acceptable in targeted employment areas where the government wants to encourage job creation, generally high-unemployment or rural areas.

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Where’s my green card?

Stricter unlawful presence rules for foreign students and exchange visitors

Individuals in the United States on F, J and M visas (including F-2, J-2 and M-2 dependents) who fail to maintain their status will start accruing unlawful presence earlier, potentially spelling trouble for future immigration benefits, according to new US rules.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Friday May 11, 2018, that the agency is changing the way it calculates the accrual of unlawful presence for nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors. The changes increase the likelihood that individuals in these two nonimmigrant visa categories will have problems on future immigration benefits.

Non-US citizens can be barred from obtaining visas, entering the US, and obtaining immigration benefits based on extended periods of unlawful presence in the US. If the individual accrues more than 180 days (but less than 1 year), he or she may be barred from re-entry for 3 years. Unlawful presence greater than 1 year can result in a 10-year bar.

The new policy, which becomes effective August 9, 2018, provides that nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors will start accruing unlawful presence either:

(1) the day after the visa holder no longer pursues the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after they engage in an unauthorized activity; or

(2) the day after they complete the course of study or program, including any authorized practical training plus any authorized grace period.

In addition, visa holders start accruing unlawful presence on:

(3) the day after their I-94 expires; or

(4) the day after an immigration judge orders their deportation or removal of the individual.

Under the previous policy, an F, J or M visa holder would start accruing unlawful presence the day after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified the visa holder that the individual violated his or her nonimmigrant status while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit. Accruing unlawful presence under this criterion required notification by the USCIS to the visa holder of the violation.

This change is very important. There has always been a clear distinction between violating status and being unlawfully present, with only the latter situation having severe consequences for visa holders. A person could be in violation of status and not be unlawfully present. For instance, a foreign student on an F visa could drop out of school or perform unauthorized work and not accrue unlawful presence.

This situation is very specific to nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors because their Form I-94 and admission stamp usually list duration of status (or D/S) and not a specific date. Typically, F, J and M visa holders can maintain status as long as they remain enrolled or continue to participate in the activity for which they were admitted in the first place. The situation is different from other nonimmigrant visas, such as H-1B and L-1A visas, where unlawful presence generally starts accruing on the day after their visa stay permission on Form I-94 expires.

Under the new rule, even foreign students and exchange visitors who violate status unintentionally and without being aware of it, will start accruing unlawful presence—and may be in for an unpleasant surprise when they later apply for a new visa.

This announcement comes less than a month after USCIS updated its web page regarding the optional practical training (OPT) extension for international students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). USCIS now specifically provides that the training experience of STEM OPT workers may not be conducted at the place of business or worksite of the employer’s clients or customers. Combined with last week’s policy change, such an arrangement could cause the visa holder to accrue unlawful presence and later trigger a re-entry ban and visa denial.

We encourage employers who currently employ workers on F, J or M visas or who plan to do so, to carefully review the applicable rules, especially if you intend to subsequently apply for a new visa (e.g., H-1B, EB1, EB2) on their behalf.

For more information, please contact your Dentons lawyer and see the USCIS website for additional information.

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Stricter unlawful presence rules for foreign students and exchange visitors

EB5 immigrant investor visas are available again

EB5 immigrant visas of all types are once again available to investors who create job opportunities for American workers. The Omnibus Spending Bill signed by the president on March 23 included the extension of the US immigrant investor EB5 regional center program to the end of September 2018.

The US State Department’s April 2018 Visa Bulletin will be revised soon to show that EB5 regional center immigrant visas are immediately available for all countries of birth, except mainland China, which is expected to have the same waiting period as the EB5 non-regional center program.

Media around the world has been warning readers of the demise of the EB5 regional center program. The US Embassy at Hanoi, Vietnam, announced on March 20 that no EB5 regional center immigrant visas would be issued after March 23. Now that advisory is no longer effective and immigrant visa appointments will continue to be scheduled at US embassies and consulates.

EB5 refers to the US employment-based fifth preference immigrant visa category. EB5 allows an investor, spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to obtain resident status in return for creating at least 10 full-time equivalent jobs for American workers through a business investment. The EB5 non-regional center program considers only jobs for workers directly employed at the business investment, while the EB5 regional center program also counts the larger number of indirect and induced jobs created as calculated by government-approved economic models.

Both types of EB5 generally require a US$1,000,000 investment, but a US$500,000 investment can qualify if the business is located in a targeted employment area. Such areas either have an unemployment rate 150 percent above the national average or meet the legal definition of rural.

There are proposals to raise these EB5 target investment levels, which have not changed since being set in 1990. Most experts expect substantial increases, along with other changes to EB5 regulations, but no one knows when this will happen. As a result, immigrants may want to act quickly to invest and file their EB5 immigrant visa petition as soon as possible. They should especially be sure to do so before September 30, 2018, when the EB5 regional center program is next set to expire.

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EB5 immigrant investor visas are available again

Trade deals and immigration

How will future trade deals impact UK immigration policy?

With Brexit negotiations between the UK and the European Union progressing, the UK is keen to start trade talks with the EU as soon as possible. While a trade deal with the EU is a priority, other countries, including India and Australia, have expressed that, in the fullness of time, they also would like to negotiate their own trade deals with the UK.

The UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, has stated that he is looking for a “Canada Plus Plus Plus” trade deal with the EU, a reference to the recent deal between the EU and Canada. Labor mobility is a key element of that deal, making it easier for certain skilled professionals from Canada to work temporarily in the EU, and vice versa.

We can also learn from other trade deals:

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently being negotiated between 11 Pacific Rim countries (notably not including the US, which withdrew from the pact) is also looking to include an element of labor mobility. For example, it is proposed as part of this deal that it will be easier for Australian employers to recruit people from Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam by exempting them from the usual requirement of advertising the role to Australians as part of the immigration process. In return, Australians will get reciprocal access to the labor markets of these six countries.
  • Likewise, one of the outcomes of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUFTA), which came into effect in 2005, was the US E-3 visa, which is available only to Australians. The E-3 visa is similar to the H1-B visa, however more generous in that it has a separate quota of 10,500, is renewable indefinitely and has the additional benefit of the spouse of the main visa holder being able to work. In contrast, the H1-B visa has a quota of 65,000 (for applicants of all other nationalities), is capped at six years and the spouse of the main visa holder is not able to work. Singapore and Chile enjoy similar preferential immigration routes to the US as a result of their free trade deals.

One of the key arguments for voting to leave the EU was that the UK would be able to negotiate its own trade deals. So what are our likely trading partners saying?

  • Australia has spoken of the need for “greater access” to the UK for Australian business people.
  • India has already stated that the UK will need to relax immigration rules and make it easier for professionals and presumably students from India to come to the UK.
  • The EU is another matter entirely with many competing priorities and parties. The degree of labour mobility post Brexit will depend on whether we see a “soft Brexit” or a “hard Brexit”, which is still very much to be decided.

What is certain is that any trade deal the UK negotiates after Brexit will be about more than goods and services. Labor mobility will be a key element and it is therefore inevitable that any future trade deals the UK agrees will have an impact on immigration policy.

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Trade deals and immigration

UK Immigration Update: Monthly quota exhausted?

Monthly allocation of Tier 2 (General) Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS) could be exhausted for the first time since 2015

When an organization wants to sponsor a new hire or permanent transfer from outside the UK they will more than likely need to be allocated a Tier 2 (General) RCoS via a monthly cycle managed by UK Visas and Immigration. This monthly cycle ranks applications against a points test with higher paid roles, and those where the occupation is recognized as being in shortage, or skilled to PhD level, scoring more points.

In total there are 20,700 RCoS to be allocated each year, divided into monthly allocations. Any RCoS not allocated in a given month are rolled over to the next month. The allocation is front-end loaded, meaning that there are a high number available earlier in the year, to ensure that there are sufficient numbers available for the busy summer months (when we typically see more demand due to recent graduates applying, together with families moving to the UK for the start of the school year).

Below are some statistics from the year so far. We can see from this that front-end loading the allocation ensures that there are sufficient RCoS over the summer; however, as soon as the allocation decreases to 1,500 we see that the balance rolled over immediately drops.

Application period

New RCoS allocation

Balance rolled over from previous month*

Total RCoS available for allocation*

Number allocated

March 6 –  April 5

2,200

0

2,200

1,844

April 6 – May 5

2,000

332

2,240

1,832

May 6 – June 5

2,000

408

2,326

2,005

June 6 – July 5

2,000

321

2,591

2,440

July 6 – August 5

2,000

151

2,385

2,245

August 6 – September 5

2,000

140

2,387

2,008

September 6 – October 5

1,500

379

2,213

2,182

October 6 – November 5

1,500

31

1,759

1,747

November 6 – December 5

1,500

12

TBC

TBC

*when other factors taken into account (for example, RCoS that have been returned unused to be allocated again, certificates allocated to Croatian nationals and exceptional approvals outside the monthly allocation).

Full statistics are available on the UKVI website.

The lower monthly allocation since October, coupled with limited rollover, means that for the December 2017 allocation there may be as few as 1,512 RCoS available for allocation. Official figures from December have yet to be released; however, we should be prepared to see lower-scoring applications rejected. Applications likely to be impacted are those where the salary is at the lower end of the scale and the occupation is not recognized as being in shortage or skilled to PhD level. If the allocation is not exhausted in December, then the risk remains that the allocation will be exhausted in January. The last time we saw the monthly limit exhausted was in summer 2015.

This could continue to be an issue for employers until April 2018, when the year starts again with the higher allocation of 2,200 RCoS. Employers should manage expectations and be prepared for lead times to increase due to the need to resubmit RCoS applications where they are not successful in a given month’s allocation.

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UK Immigration Update: Monthly quota exhausted?

The rights of EU citizens in the UK

The UK government has published a policy paper setting out its offer to EU citizens and their families residing in the UK regarding their right to remain in the country post-Brexit. The offer differs depending on how long a person has been in the UK.

People who have been continuously living in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting “settled status.” A settled status residence document will be issued to prove an individual’s permission to continue living and working in the UK. Those already with an EU permanent residence document will be required to apply. The application process should come online before the UK leaves the EU, hopefully in 2018. The government has pledged to make the process as streamlined and user-friendly as possible.

Other EU citizens in the UK will be subject to a “cut-off date” after which they will no longer be automatically entitled to stay. The date is still to be negotiated, but may fall at any point between March 29, 2017 (the date that Article 50 was triggered) and the date that the UK leaves the EU.

EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the cut-off date, but who have not been here for five years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay temporarily until they have reached the five-year threshold, at which time they also can apply for settled status as set out above.

EU citizens who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under future immigration arrangements for EU citizens. The arrangements have yet to be determined, but the government stated that there should be no expectation by this group of people that they will obtain settled status.

Please visit The Global Mobility Review next month for further information on this development.

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The rights of EU citizens in the UK

Supreme Court allows travel ban

The US Supreme Court partially lifted preliminary injunctions that had blocked President Trump’s revised executive order suspending US entry by foreign nationals from six, rather than the previous seven, mostly Muslim countries. However, the Court carved out an exception for foreign nationals who have a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the United States,” raising such questions as “What is a bona fide relationship?” and “What is an entity in the US?” that will likely be the subject of further court action.

Supreme Court allows travel ban

The US Supreme Court partially lifted preliminary injunctions that had blocked Executive Order No. 13780, signed by President Donald J. Trump in March 2017 (EO-2), banning travel to the US for citizens of six countries. The Supreme Court scheduled a full hearing of the case for October 2017.

“Bona fide relationship” exception

The Supreme Court found that the preliminary injunction shall remain in place and the travel ban will not impact foreign nationals who have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Further, refugees will continue to be allowed to enter the US, subject to the 50,000 person cap on refugee admissions, except that the cap cannot be used as a means to bar an individual with a bona fide relationship with the US.

The Supreme Court defined “bona fide relationship” as either (with respect to individuals) “a close familial relationship” or (with respect to entities), a relationship that is “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course.” What constitutes a sufficiently close familial relationship is likely to be the subject of further court action.

As for what constitutes a sufficiently established relationship with an entity, the Supreme Court provided three examples:

  • Students admitted to attend university in the US
  • Workers who have accepted an offer of employment from a US company
  • Lecturers invited to the US for a speaking engagement

The travel ban will apply to individuals whose relationship with an entity was formed to purposefully circumvent the ban.

It is worth noting that EO-2 in its original form applies only to the new issuance of visas, and not the US entry of individuals who have already been issued visas, green cards or asylum/refugee status.

Also, there is a chance that the Supreme Court will not have to hear the case in its entirety in October. If EO-2 goes into effect as scheduled by the Trump administration, the 90 day temporary ban will conclude at the end of September, several days before the Supreme Court begins its term. This would, then, remove any controversy over the legality of that piece of the order.

Citizens from these countries impacted

Citizens from the following countries are detrimentally impacted:

  • Iran
  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

EO-2 does not apply to citizens of other countries who merely visited the listed countries. Further, it does not apply to citizens of these six countries who are dual citizens and use the passport of a non-affected country to apply for a visa and enter the US.

When does the ban start?

In a June 14 memorandum, President Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State and other relevant agencies to wait 72 hours from the release of the Supreme Court decision before banning refugees and travelers from the six affected countries to “ensure an orderly and proper implementation” of the changes.

Background

During his first six months in office, President Trump signed two travel ban executive orders. The first, Executive Order 13797 (EO-1), issued on January 27, 2017, took a number of steps, including:

  • Suspending for 90 days the entry of foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries identified as presenting heightened concerns about terrorism and travel in the US [1]
  • Suspending for 120 days the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), during which an adequacy review is to be undertaken
  • Reducing to 50,000 per year the total number of refugees that could be admitted to the United States, starting in fiscal year 2017
  • Suspending indefinitely admission of refugees from Syria

EO-1 was quickly blocked  by the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, which issued a nationwide temporary restraining order. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied an emergency motion by the US government to stay the district court order pending appeal. In response, the government rescinded EO-1 and went back to the drawing board.

On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed EO-2, which closely mirrored the directives in EO-1, but was intended to correct some its perceived errors, including:

  • Reducing the reach of the 90-day temporary suspension of entry to foreign nationals from six (rather than seven) mostly Muslim countries, with Iraq no longer included [2] and with a case-by-case waiver of the entry bar.
  • Directing the Secretary of DHS to undertake a 20-day global review of whether foreign governments provide sufficient information about nationals applying for visas.

EO-2 was immediately challenged in court, which challenges led to prompt nationwide preliminary injunctions by the US District Court for the District of Maryland and (as stated above) the Western District of Washington, which were then appealed to the US Courts of Appeal for the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, respectively.

The Fourth Circuit concluded that the EO-2 ban on entry from the six named countries was primarily motivated by religious considerations and, as such, violated the First Amendment. In that case, the preliminary injunction only applied to the suspension of entry of foreign nationals from particular countries. The 120-day ban on USRAP and the quota on total refugee immigration would still be in force.

The Ninth Circuit, meanwhile, found that EO-2 exceeded the president’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and, on that basis, upheld the injunction with regard to the entirety of EO-2.

The federal government appealed both decision to the Supreme Court, certiorari was granted, and the two cases were consolidated and oral argument scheduled for October Term 2017. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, heard the government’s application to stay the aforementioned injunctions.

Dentons will continue to issue further information as it becomes available.

[1] Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

[2] Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

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Supreme Court allows travel ban