Categories News & Updates

UNITED STATES – Immigration Reform on Congressional Agenda

Now that healthcare reform has been passed, Congress has turned its attention to immigration reform.? However, some in Washington, D.C. have indicated that the issue might have a very difficult time finding enough votes to pass.

The immigration reform push has been strong with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who faces a challenging re-election contest in Nevada.

Although a bill has not yet been formally proposed, it would likely contain provisions similar to those included in the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform effort.? In the 2007 proposals, there was a strong emphasis on enforcement, as well as additional immigration benefits for the employment-based process.

The Obama administration has expressed a desire to create a system to allow those without valid documentation to come forward and earn an opportunity to become a U.S. citizen.? Such individuals would likely have to pay a fine, as well as wait until visa numbers become available after those who are going through the process legally have received their opportunity.

President Obama has also indicated that he would target U.S. employers in enforcement efforts to reduce incentives to enter the country illegally.? The impetus is to remove the availability of jobs for those who wish to enter the United States without inspection.

To succeed, the Democrat-led Congress will need bipartisan support.? The 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill did have bipartisan support.? It does not appear that there will be significant bipartisan support for this bill given early comments from previous immigration reform supporter John McCain, who has indicated that now is not the right time for the legislation.?

We will be providing regular updates on the issue of immigration reform.

Categories Global News & Updates

CANADA – Special Visa Program for Mexican Business Visitors Created

Canada imposed visa restrictions on those travelling from Mexico to Canada last year. This policy angered Mexican authorities and damaged the relationship between the governments of the two U.S. neighbors. The visa restrictions were imposed to reduce the number of refugees from Mexico applying for valid status in Canada.

A special visa program for business visitors from Mexico has been implemented. The new Business Express Program was created to enable qualified businesses and their employees to benefit from more efficient visa processing. Specifically, they will be encumbered less paperwork, will benefit from priority processing of visa applications, and will have a dedicated service team to respond to specific issues. This new program will also allow Mexican business visitors to have their visa applications processed within twenty-four hours.

The program is designed to benefit individuals employed by companies in Mexico who have a documented need for regular business travel to Canada and makes use of Canadian businesses, such as using short term apartments for rent Scarborough based, as well as other locations. Participation in the program is by invitation only. Companies with good immigration track records will be identified and invited by the Embassy of Canada to register for the program. This means that companies wishing to participate should be sure they are in full compliance with Canadian immigration law in all aspects. Namely, their employees must be admissible, their employees have previously travelled to Canada and adhered to Canada?s immigration laws, and they have a significant number of business visitors working with Canadian businesses.

So far, the embassy has invited 113 companies to enroll. Qualified applicants can apply for visas at visa application centers in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara.

Canada has recognized that Mexico is one of its largest trading partners, and this program is intended to help Mexican and Canadian companies cooperate in renewing economic growth.

Categories News & Updates USCIS

UNITED STATES – Automatic Cap-Gap Solution for F-1 Students

Last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced an interim rule that generates an automatic extension of status for certain F-1 students with approved H-1B petitions filed under the FY2010 H-1B cap.? This interim rule remains in force for the FY2011 H-1B cap this year.

A gap in status can occur between the time an employer files a petition for an F-1 student to change to H-1B status and the time the H-1B status becomes active on October 1st.? Specifically, in years where all H-1B numbers are exhausted, employers may not file an H-1B petition earlier than April 1st for the following fiscal year, which starts October 1st.? So, for example, if an F-1 student has approved optional practical training (OPT) work authorization that expires on July 1st, and her H-1B status cannot begin until October 1st, there would be a 3-month gap during which she could not work.? (And, incidentally, in this example she would be required to return to her home country until her H-1B status became active, at which time she would need to apply for an H-1B visa stamp at a U.S. consular post before she could re-enter the United States in H-1B status.)?

Once a timely H-1B petition has been filed, the automatic cap-gap extension will be invoked and will continue until the petition is approved.? If the student?s H-1B petition is selected and approved, the student?s extension will continue through September 30th.? If the petition is ultimately denied, withdrawn or revoked, the cap-gap protection is removed.? In that case, the student would have the standard 60-day grace period from the date their OPT ends to depart the United States.?

An F-1 student benefiting from cap-gap provisions will need to get an updated Form I-20 from his designated school official (DSO). ?Indeed, a new I-20 will be the only document a student will have to demonstrate continuing OPT work authorization. In some cases, the student?s DSO may need to update the student?s SEVIS record to have the cap-gap extension properly applied.

F-1 students should not depart the United States during cap-gap periods.? The reason for this is that, technically, the EAD card of an F-1 student on OPT will have expired under a cap-gap situation.? Therefore, if the student departs the United States during the cap-gap extension period, she will not be able to return in F-1 status.? Instead, she would have to apply for an H-1B visa at a U.S. consular post abroad and plan to re-enter the United States after her H-1B becomes active on October 1st.

Categories Global News & Updates

TAIWAN ? Former Director for the American Institute in Taiwan Supports ECFA

Former American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas H. Paal believes the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) will have a significant economic impact throughout the world. ?He believes it will demonstrate that closer economic ties with the People?s Republic of China are good for Taiwan and its financial future.

The ECFA is a proposed agreement between the governments of Taiwan and mainland China that would enable Taiwan to generate economic integration China.? The agreement is still under negotiation and stands to be finalized sometime in June of this year.

Taiwan?s political status currently prevents it from signing free trade agreements with other countries.? The ECFA would change that.? However, it is not without controversy in Taiwan.? Some see it as part of a larger plan to unify Taiwan with the People?s Republic of China.? There is also a concern that it will allow easier access for professional Chinese workers to take desired positions in Taiwan, potentially displacing Taiwanese professionals.

Proponents see the ECFA as a landmark agreement that offers Taiwan the opportunity to increase its economic influence and cross new frontiers. Specifically, Taiwanese companies may experience new opportunities in the technology, services and manufacturing industries.? The ECFA is designed to level the playing field with neighboring competitor countries.? This is especially critical for Taiwan as mainland China continues to push forward as an economic superpower.

Categories Global News & Updates

CANADA ? Canada Plans to Launch E-passports Program

Canada is set to introduce a biometric passport system patterned after U.K.-style e-passports. Starting as early as 2011, Canadian citizens will begin receiving passports embedded with chips that contain digital images and personal information, including the individual?s name, gender, date of birth, and place of birth.?

Over 60 countries have e-passports, and Canada is the only member of the G7 that had not yet implemented them.? Some experts have expressed concern over the adequate protection of the holder?s privacy.? These concerns may have arisen due to recent research by British scientists who have uncovered weaknesses in electronic passports issued by the United States, United Kingdom, and approximately 50 other countries.? The research indicates movements of individuals as they enter or exit buildings are traceable by those with adequate technology.? Indeed, remote tracking of a given e-passport in real time is possible, and due to the e-passport?s radio-frequency identification, data in the passports cannot be turned off.? This makes the threat persistent unless the passport is shielded in a special identity document pouch that interrupts its radio transmissions.

A biometric passport, also known as an e-passport, uses biometrics to authenticate the identity of its holder. It uses smart card technology, including a microprocessor chip embedded in the cover or center page of the passport. ?The passport’s information is printed on the data page of the passport and stored in the microprocessor chip.? Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is used to authenticate the data stored in the chip, making it virtually impossible to tamper with or fraudulently replicate.