Iraqi SIV Applicants Face Longer Path To Green Card Due to More Security and Background Checks

July 22, 2011

Iraqi SIV applicants can expect even longer delays in processing due to a more extensive background check process out of concerns for U.S. national security.

The end of the long road to a green card used to be the visa interview at the U.S. Embassy, the background checks having been done before this stage.

Now, under a new policy, background checks are done again at the time of the interview to ensure no new negative information about the applicant has surfaced.

These delays are also occurring with Iraqi SIV applicants who are already in the United States and applying to adjust their status there. [The SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) is available to eligible Iraqis who have worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a year since March 20, 2003 and have experienced an ongoing serious threat because of that work.]

Our clients began experiencing these delays late last year. These delays can last weeks or months, or worse, years. There is no way of knowing when the person will be cleared and there is almost no way to rush the process.

For the Iraqis already in the United States, the delays are an inconvenience since most are in another valid status. For the Iraqis oversees, and in particular those still in Iraq, however, the delay puts their lives more at risk, thereby undermining the purpose of the SIV. Knowing a long wait exists may also be a deterrant for those seeking legal immigration, provoking  into attempting illegal migration to the United States or elsewhere.

We wish something could be done to speed up this clearance process, but there is little to do but wait at this point. Eventually, after an excessive wait –  normally excessive in the immigration context is years, not months – litigation may be an option.

The trigger for the revised and enhanced background check process was the arrest in the United States of an Iraqi who was admitted as an asylee despite being accused of planting roadside bombs in Iraq, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

As a result, more than 58,000 Iraqi asylees and refugees already in the United States will be re-screened, according to the Los Angeles Times article. In addition, those applying for asylee, refugee or SIV status will be subjected to a multi-step background check that due to the work overload on the agencies involved in this process inevitably will delay their application process

The following is an excerpt from an USCIS report on Iraqi refugee statistics that explains the revised background check posture.

Ensuring Security

We are committed to conducting the most rigorous screening in order to ensure that those being admitted through the refugee program are not seeking to harm the United States. In May 2007, DHS announced and implemented an Administration-coordinated, enhanced background and security check process for Iraqi refugees applying for resettlement in the United States. The security check regime, including both biographic and biometric checks, has been enhanced periodically over the last several years as new opportunities and interagency partnerships with the law enforcement and intelligence communities have been identified.

These enhancements are a reflection of the commitment of DHS and other agencies to conduct the most thorough checks possible to prevent dangerous individuals from gaining access to the United States through the refugee program. The latest enhancement to the refugee security check regime involves a new “pre-departure” check shortly before refugees are scheduled to travel to the U.S. It is intended to identify whether any new derogatory information exists since the initial checks were conducted. These pre-departure checks went into effect in late 2010. No case is finally approved until results from all security checks have been received and analyzed.

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EB-5 Regional Center List Grows; 2 New FL Projects

November 28, 2008

[NOTE: USCIS HAS UPDATED THIS LIST AS OF DECEMBER 2008. PLEASE SEE OUR LATEST ARTICLE HERE]

The Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Pilot Program is designed to encourage foreign investment by providing a vehicle for investment in the form of an economic unit called a “Regional Center.” The Regional Centers are private or public entities that have received government approval to participate in the program. They enable the amassing and pooling of capital for targeted investment in designated regions in the United States.

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USCIS List of EB-5 Regional Centers; 2 New Centers in CA Approved

May 17, 2008

[NOTE: THE REGIONAL CENTER LIST HAS BEEN UPDATED. PLEASE SEE THE REVISED LIST HERE: EB-5 Regional Center List Grows; 2 New FL Projects]

The Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Pilot Program is designed to encourage foreign investment by providing a vehicle for investment in the form of an economic unit called a “Regional Center.” The Regional Centers are private or public entities that have received government approval to participate in the program. They enable the amassing and pooling of capital for targeted investment in designated regions in the United States.

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India Hits Limit for EB-2 Visas for FY 2008

January 10, 2008

India has hit its annual limit for second-preference, employment-based immigrant visas (EB-2), meaning no more are available effective immediately, according to the February 2008 Department of State Visa Bulletin.

The category will remain unavailable for the remainder of fiscal year 2008, which ends Sept. 30, 2008. New numbers should be released Oct. 1, 2008.

Second-preference employment visas are those for members of the professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability, including National Interest Waiver cases.

During the last couple of months, this category for India had been retrogressing due to heavy demand, signaling it would soon be oversubscribed. Between the November and December bulletins, the cut-off date moved from April 1, 2004 to Jan. 1, 2002, then in January it moved back to Jan. 1, 2000.


Updated List of Regional Centers for EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program as of October 2007

November 12, 2007

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: SEE OUR UPDATED LIST AS OF MAY 2008 HERE USCIS LIST OF APPROVED REGIONAL CENTERS; 2 NEW CENTERS IN CA APPROVED.  

The Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Pilot Program is designed to encourage foreign investment by providing a vehicle for investment in the form of an economic unit called a “Regional Center.” The Regional Centers are private or public entities that have received government approval to participate in the program. They enable the amassing and pooling of capital for targeted investment in designated regions in the United States.

For the Investor, these Regional Centers are attractive because they allow for a less restrictive job creation requirement. Instead of having to prove direct job creation, the investor may show indirect job creation through such methods as economic and statistic forecasting tools.

Please note that this pilot program expires in November 2008 unless reinstated

In November 2007, USCIS released to AILA the following list of “active” regional centers as of October 2007.

Regional Centers that may have been approved, but were not designated as “active” by USCIS are not included in this list.

As the status of these Regional Centers as participants in the Pilot Program can change, before investing any money, verify the center is still approved and active in the Pilot Program.

For more information on the EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa see our other article EB – 5 Permanent Residency through Investment.

In alphabetical order by state, the Regional Centers deemed “active” as of March 2007 include:

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EB-2: Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Abilities

November 2, 2007

Overview: The second-preference, employment-based immigrant visa is available to the following two subcategories of foreign nationals: 1) members of the professions holding an advanced degree or its equivalent or 2) foreign nationals who possess exceptional abilities in the sciences, arts, or business.

Once an approved labor certification is obtained through PERM or a foreign national qualifies for the streamlined labor certification process under Schedule A II, a foreign national can then file for an immigrant visa with USCIS.  (The PERM labor certification process is described in our other article PERM Labor Certification for Immigrant Work Visas and the Schedule A II process is described in Avoiding Labor Certification: Schedule A II Occupations – Exceptional Ability.)

Professionals holding an advanced degree or its equivalent

Eligibility criteria: To be eligible for this category, the foreign national must be working in certain fields deemed “professions” and must hold an advanced degree or its equivalent.

What types of jobs are considered “professions”?

The term “profession” includes, but is not limited to architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians, surgeons, and teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges, academies, or seminaries. 8 CFR 101(a)(32). USCIS also considers professions to include any other occupation for which a U.S. baccalaureate degree or its foreign equivalent is the minimum requirement for entry into the occupation.

What is considered an advanced degree or its equivalent?

An advanced degree means any United States academic or professional degree or a foreign equivalent degree above that of baccalaureate. A U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree followed by at least five years of progressive experience in the specialty is considered the equivalent of a master’s degree. If a doctoral degree is customarily required by the specialty, the foreign national must have a U.S. doctorate or a foreign equivalent degree.

Supporting documentation required: To establish the foreign national holds an advanced degree, he or she will need to submit an official academic record showing that the foreign national has a United States advanced degree or a foreign equivalent degree.

To establish degree equivalency, the foreign national must submit an official academic record showing that the foreign national has a United States baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent degree, and letters from current or former employer(s) showing at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate experience in the specialty.

Foreign nationals with “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts, or business

Eligibility criteria: To be eligible for this category the foreign national must possess an “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts or business and be offered a job in his area of specialty.

What is considered “exceptional ability.”

The 8 CFR 204.5(k)(2) defines “exceptional ability” as a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business. The USCIS “exceptional ability” standard is different from that of DOL; it is actually a slightly lower standard. Thus, if a foreign national meets the DOL standard for exceptional ability he or she should also be able to meet the USCIS standard.

Supporting documentation: To establish “exceptional ability” the foreign national must submit supporting documentation for at least three of the following:

(A) An official academic record showing that the foreign national has a degree, diploma, certificate, or similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to the area of exceptional ability;

(B) Evidence in the form of letter(s) from current or former employer(s) showing that the foreign national has at least ten years of full-time experience in the occupation for which he or she is being sought;

(C) A license to practice the profession or certification for a particular profession or occupation;

(D) Evidence that the foreign national has commanded a salary, or other remuneration for services, which demonstrates exceptional ability;

(E) Evidence of membership in professional associations; or

(F) Evidence of recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, governmental entities, or professional or business organizations.

If the above standards do not apply to the foreign national’s occupation, other comparable evidence of eligibility is also acceptable.

Application requirements: For either subcategory, the employer must file the labor certification (Form ETA 9089) and Form I-140 along with the requisite supporting documentation with USCIS. If the I-140 is approved, the foreign national can they apply for permanent residency (green card).

Employer requirement: The employer must establish it has the ability to pay the wage offered to the foreign national. Evidence of this ability can be in the form of copies of annual reports, federal tax returns, or audited financial statements. If the U.S. employer has 100 or more workers, USCIS may accept a statement from the company’s financial officer which establishes the ability to pay the proffered wage. In some cases, additional evidence, such as profit/loss statements, bank account records, or personnel records, may be submitted or requested by USCIS.

Quotas: There are worldwide and country-wide quotas. Whether a country is backlogged is shown on the monthly State Department visa bulletin. Visa availability and cut-off dates can change monthly, moving backwards or forwards. The countries that traditionally have been vulnerable to backlogs in the employment-based categories are China and India.

For more information about employment-based permanent residency or other visa options, please contact Attorney-Author Vandaveer at Vonda@vkvlaw.com or 202-340-1215.

 


PERM Labor Certification for Immigrant Work Visas

November 2, 2007

What is labor certification?

Certain employment-based immigrant visas require approval from two different agencies: the Department of Labor (DOL) and USCIS. The approval required from the DOL is the first step and is known as labor certification.

To obtain labor certification from DOL, the employer must establish no Americans are qualified for and want the particular job and the employment of a foreign national will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers. The process for doing so is known as PERM, which stands for Permanent Electronic Review Management.

(Please note: The PERM labor certification process for EB-2 and EB-3 categories is not necessary if the foreign national possesses an “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts or performing arts, known as Schedule A II occupations. See our related article Avoiding Labor Certification: Schedule A II Occupations – Exceptional Ability)

What are the requirements of PERM

PERM describes the recruitment procedures an employer must follow in order to obtain a labor certification from the DOL. The PERM procedures vary somewhat depending on whether the job is a professional or non-professional job. Also, special procedures exist for sheepherders, college or university teachers and professors, and Schedule A occupations.

This article will only address requirements for professional and non-professional jobs.

General job requirements: The position offered must be full-time, permanent (as opposed to seasonal or temporary) and it must be a bona fide job opening available to U.S. workers. The employer must pay at minimum the prevailing wage for that type of position in the region of intended employment.

The job requirements must conform to what is normally required for the occupation in the United States. It may not be tailored to the desired foreign worker’s qualifications and it cannot be unduly restrictive, such as requiring foreign language capability, unless these restrictive requirements can be established to arise out of business necessity.

Recruitment steps: PERM requires the employer to follow a series of recruitment steps, the details of which differ depending on if the job is a professional or non-professional occupation.

Professional Occupations

20 CFR 656.3 defines a professional occupation as “an occupation for which the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree is a usual education requirement.” Work experience may be accepted in lieu of a degree, however, provided certain PERM recruiting and application procedures are followed. Generally, the law requires that if the employer is willing to accept work experience in lieu of a baccalaureate or higher degree, such work experience must be attainable in the U.S. labor market and must be stated on the application form. If the employer is willing to accept an equivalent foreign degree, it must be clearly stated on Form ETA 9089, the Application for Permanent Employment Certification form.

In addition, alternative recruiting procedures exist for college and university teachers, which is outside the scope of this article.

Types of advertising: There are several forms of advertising and recruitment an employer must conduct as part of the labor certification process, including:

• Mandatory advertising:  There are two forms of mandatory advertising: The position must be advertised 1) via a job order placed with the state and 2) in two print advertisements (i.e. Sunday newspaper and a professional journal).  This advertising must be conducted at least 30 days, but no more than 180 days, before the filing of the application.

• Additional recruitment steps: The employer must do at least three of the 10 recruiting steps named in the list below. Only one of these additional steps may consist solely of activity that took place within 30 days of the filing of the labor certification application. None of the steps may have taken place more than 180 days prior to filing the application.

1. Job fairs.

2. Employer’s Web site.

3. Job search Web site other than the employer’s.

4. On-campus recruiting.

5. Trade or professional organizations.

6. Private employment firms.

7. Employee referral program with incentives.

8. Campus placement offices.

9. Local and ethnic newspapers.

10. Radio and television advertisements.

Non-Professional Occupations

For a non-professional job, the employer must at a minimum, place a job order with the state and advertise in two different Sunday editions of a general circulation newspaper. The steps must be conducted at least 30 days but no more that 180 days before the filing of the application.

No other recruitment steps are required.

Labor Certification Employee Notice Requirement: The employer must give notice of the intent to file a labor certification application in connection with the available position to the employees’ bargaining representative. If no such representative exists, the employer must inform its employees by posting a notice in a conspicuous place at the job site for 10 days. This posting must take place between 30 and 180 days of filing the labor certification application. The notice must also be published on any in-house media.

 

Post-advertising requirements: After advertising, the employer must interview all qualified candidates who responded to the advertisements. For all candidates not selected, the employer must document the reason. The employer must prepare a recruitment report for submission to the DOL describing the recruitment steps taken and the outcome.

Employers must keep in mind that a U.S. worker is considered qualified for the job if the worker can acquire the skills necessary to perform the job duties during a reasonable period of on-the-job training. In other words, an employer cannot reject a U.S. worker because he lacks the necessary skills if that worker can acquire the skills through on-the-job training.

The employer must maintain documentation of the recruitment and be prepared to submit this documentation in the event of an audit or in response to a request from the DOL prior to rendering a final determination.

Application Process: Once the recruitment phase is finished the employer will fill out DOL Form ETA 9089, Application for Permanent Employment Certification and file it electronically with the DOL. Paper submissions are also accepted. When an approved labor certification is received, the employer may then file the I-140 immigrant visa petition. Upon receiving an approved I-140, the foreign national can then apply for an immigrant visa at his home consulate. If the foreign national is already in the U.S. he can apply for permanent residency based on the approved I-140.