For the past six years, I have been a featured speaker and volunteer  at the Plano Multicultural Outreach Roundtable (MCOR) Citizenship Workshop.  The workshop always draws a large number of future citizens but this year, we saw three times as many attendees.  Why?  Some believe the Trump administration’s executive orders, like the travel ban, have many afraid that even permanent residents can lose their status and rights in the U.S.

Whatever your reason, if you plan to become a citizen, don’t delay.  Apply as soon as you are eligible.  For more information about citizenship requirements, visit our citizenship information page.
Here’s TV coverage of the Plano MCCOR Citizenship Workshop on February 11, 2017.

By court order, the travel ban and refugee ban are suspended for now. However, the Trump administration has appeal the court order.  Basically, the federal judge’s ruling in favor of the states of Michigan and Washington, temporarily stops the any actions under Executive Order until the court can fully consider the lawsuit.  The lawsuit seeks invalidation of the Executive Order (E.O.) as unconstitutional.  The court’s order places a nationwide block on the E.O.  The Trump administration has appealed but the appeals court has denied the administration request to continue the E.O. until further hearing.

According to current news reports, the Department of Homeland Security “announced it has suspended all actions to implement the immigration order and will resume standard inspections of travelers as it did prior to the signing of the travel ban.”

Also, according to CNN:

“CBP alerted airlines Friday night that the US government would quickly begin reinstating visas that were previously canceled, and it advised airlines that refugees in possession of US visas will be admitted as well, an airline executive said.

CBP told major US airlines Friday night that the government is in the process of reinstating visas and is “back to business as usual” before the situation that was in place before last week’s executive order, the airline executive told CNN. Airlines were expected to remove travel alerts from their websites and get messages out to customers to alert them about the change.”

Learn more with these resources:

The Department of State, which is the agency responsible for processing visa applications outside the U.S., posted this alert yesterday:

“The U.S. government’s national security screening and vetting procedures for visitors are constantly reviewed and refined to improve security and more effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the United States.  We welcome every opportunity to continue to review and improve our systems and procedures.  As a result of this executive order, the Department of State has temporarily stopped scheduling appointments and halted processing of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications for individuals who are nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

This Executive Order does not restrict the travel of dual nationals from any country with a valid U.S. visa in a passport of an unrestricted country.  Our Embassies and Consulates around the world will continue to process visa applications and issue nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to otherwise eligible visa applicants who apply with a passport from an unrestricted country, even if they hold dual nationality from one of the seven restricted countries. Please check with your local Embassy or Consulate for country specific information.”

In other words, if you are national of banned country and a country that is not banned, you may be eligible for a visa and entry into the U.S.

Of course, you should check with an immigration attorney for your specific situation, before taking any action.

For those that qualify, an employment authorization document (EAD) gives immigrants  permission to work for a specific period of time, usually one or two years.  For continued work authorization, workers should apply for renewal 180 days before the EAD expiration date to ensure timely approval of the extension.

What happens if the EAD is not renewed before the current EAD expires?  In that case, many workers must stop work until the EAD renewal is approved.  However, some workers can continue working if their EAD qualifies for the  new “automatic extension”  rule .

According to the new rule, an individual receives an automatic extension of employment authorization and can continue working for 180 days while waiting for the EAD renewal if:

  • The employee applies for renewal before the current EAD expires;
  • The employee applies for renewal based upon the same employment authorization category as the current EAD; and
  • The employment authorization category is one of the 15 categories which are eligible for the automatic extension.

The USCIS recently issued a fact sheet, providing further details about the rule and specific directions for employers to complete the I-9 form and an E-Verify case when an employee is eligible for an EAD automatic extension.  Employers are reminded to use the new I-9 form and use the fact sheet to ensure compliance.

Here are compliance resources for employers:

USCIS website page about automatic extension for EAD

USCIS Fact Sheet: Automatic Extensions of EADs Provided by the “Retention of EB-1, EB- 2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers” Final Rule

I-9,  Employment Eligibility Verification form and instructions

E-Verify – New Rule Effective Jan. 17 Affecting Form I-9 Completion for Certain Employees

I hope this article helps you understand basic immigration requirements, but please don’t consider it as legal advice or legal opinion about your specific circumstances.  Immigration rules are complex so contact a qualified immigration attorney for qualified advice and guidance.
For legal advice and guidance for your immigration compliance program, you are invited to schedule an immigration strategy session with me.

“Fake news” has been circulating that the travel ban and visa revocations have been or will be expanded to other countries.  In response to these rumors, the Department of State (DOS) recently told the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that  there are NO current plans to add other countries to travel ban or visa restrictions in the Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”

According to AILA, ” DOS confirmed that there is no information that supports such a rumor and asked that AILA members help end the spread of this false information.”

Plano Multi-Cultural Outreach Roundtable will host a free citizenship workshop on Saturday, February 11,  2017, 2 p.m. in Plano, Texas.

Scheef & Stone immigration attorneys are volunteers to help citizenship applicants with their applications.

Attorney Ann Badmus is a featured speaker as well.

For details, visit Plano MCOR.

The recent Executive Order (E.O.) banning visas and travel to the U.S. for citizens of seven countries has caused turmoil and distress for immigrants, their families, and their employers or businesses.   The E.O. also imposes other restrictions that could affect immigrants from other countries as well.  We are constantly monitoring the situation and expect changes to the implementation of the order at any time.

Here is what we know so far on the immigration restrictions imposed by the E.O.:

-Ban on entry of nationals of Muslim-Majority Countries.  For at least 90 days since January 27, 2017, nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are banned from entering the United States.  

–Who is banned? According to a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo, the ban includes “nearly all travelers, except U.S. citizens, traveling on passports from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen.”   Other countries could be added to this list at any time.

–Are Dual Citizens Banned? According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the DHS has stated that “the ban included dual citizens who hold passports from a designated country as well as a non-designated country, BUT that CBP would be processing people based on how they present themselves at primary inspection.”  However, there are conflicting reports on this from news sources.

–Are Those with Lawful Permanent Residence (“Green Cards”) Banned? The DHS has stated that “the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest” and so, “absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in [DHS’s] case-by-case determinations.” We understand this to mean LPRs should generally be allowed to board airplanes and enter the U.S. but could be subject to extended questioning before admitted. If asked to abandon or give up your permanent residence, do not.  You may be presented with a form I-407, Abandonment of Permanent Residence.  You are not required to sign the form and you should not do so even if threatened with court action.

-Suspension of Visa Processing and Other Immigration Benefits.  For at least 90 days since January 27, 2017, nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen cannot apply for or receive visas, including immigrant visas (green card). Other countries can be added to this list at any time.  There is a narrow “national interest” exception that allows issuance of visa or other immigration benefits to nationals of such countries.  Posted on the Department of State website: “ Per the Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals signed on January 27, 2017, visa issuance to nationals of the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time. If you already have an appointment scheduled, please DO NOT ATTEND. You will not be permitted entry to the Embassy/Consulate. We will announce any other changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available.”

-Immigration applications in the U.S. suspended for nationals of the 7 countries? According to AILA:  “Media articles have reported that USCIS has suspended the adjudication of certain affected immigration benefits. Given the language of the Executive Order and the reports, it appears likely there has been or will be some directive to USCIS on how to handle benefits applications. AILA has contacted USCIS, but has been unable to confirm these reports definitively.”

-Suspension of Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP).  The VIWP grants waiver of a consular interview to low risk travelers who have already been vetted previously by the government.  The suspension of this program means everyone must interview at the embassy, even for renewals of visas.  Expect longer wait times for visa issuance if you are applying for an H-1B or other work visa. 

-Suspension of Refugee Program.  Refugee admissions are suspended for 120 days for all refugee applicants and indefinitely for Syrian refugees. In addition, refugee limit is reduced to 50,000 from 110,000 for the rest of this fiscal year, ending September 30, 2017.

There are other requirements in the E.O. which will likely change or extend processing times for many immigration benefits. The situation is very fluid, especially considering the many lawsuits that have been filed and are pending. In these uncertain times, any immigrant should consult an attorney before travel or taking any action that could affect their immigration status.  Employers should also consult with an attorney to avoid disruption to operations.

This post is an educational service of Ann Massey Badmus, partner of Scheef & Stone, LLP and is not intended to be legal advice. For legal advice for your specific circumstances, you are invited to contact me

By Shawn Tuma, Cybersecurity Partner at Scheef & Stone, LLP

Hunting season just began — the season in which cybercriminals are hunting for W-2 information from your company. They do this by sending emails spoofing high level executives, such as the company President or CEO, to lower level clerical personnel requesting that W-2s for employees be provided by return email. The email is coming from — and then returned to — the criminal, not the executive, along with the W-2s. The company now has a serious data breach on its hands. Worse, your company’s employees’ information has been exposed and they now have this problem to worry about.

Tax Season is Prime Hunting Season for Cybercriminals

Law enforcement officers and cyber forensics professionals are reporting a drastic increase in this scam now, because it is tax season and these scammers are using this for tax related fraud. This week alone I have had 2 new cases come in that involve this scam. If you haven’t been targeted yet, it is likely that you will be very soon.

What Can You Do Now to Protect Your Company?

  1. Send this post to your employees so that they understand what the threat is and that they are the ones who will be targeted. You want to make them aware, discuss the issue with them, and help them understand that they should be very suspicious of any requests to email out anything of this nature (or make payments, such as with the very similar Business Email Compromise).
  2. Limit who has access to your company’s W-2s and other sensitive information.
  3. Put policies and procedures in place to require a second method of making sure that requests like this are valid, before complying (multi-factor authentication).
  4. Learn more about this scam from the FBI’s bulletin on this.

What Do You Do if it Happens to Your Company?

  1. Immediately contact experienced legal counsel who understands how to guide you through these compromises and, ideally, has appropriate contacts with law enforcement to assist in reporting this incident (See Reporting to Law Enforcement).
  2. Report the incident to the FBI or Secret Service and appropriate IRS investigators so that the IRS can implement appropriate procedures to protect your workers whose information was exposed in the W-2s.
  3. Prepare appropriate notifications (Incident Response Checklist) to the people whose information was exposed and be sure to stress to them that the IRS will never contact them directly, for the first time, via email, telephone, text message, social mediaor any way other than through a written “snail mail” letter from the IRS.

American Immigration Council explains the two Executive Orders related to immigration signed by the President today:

“Our American values and laws dictate that everyone receive a just and fair process, whether they have been in in this country for decades or are arriving at our border today in search of safety and protection. Today, President Trump signed two executive orders on immigration that seek to shut America’s doors and label immigrants as invaders and criminals.

The first, the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement” is an attempt to fulfill his campaign pledge to build a wall at the southern border, to provide additional resources to Border Patrol agents, to curtail due process at the border, and to increase detention along the southern border, including for those who are seeking protection. It also encourages expanded collaboration with state and local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. Much of what is contained in this order would require vast amounts of funding and additional appropriations from Congress.

The second order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, will ramp up interior enforcement by dramatically expanding the enforcement priorities to include anyone who committed an act that could be considered a crime, no matter how small. The order also  includes a revival of the problematic Secure Communities program (which was ended under the Obama Administration), orders the Secretary of Homeland Security to consider stripping federal funding from so-called Sanctuary Cities, and encourages additional criminal prosecutions of immigrants for illegal entry.

Over the next few weeks and months, we expect the President’s cabinet and agency staff to begin implementing the directives in the orders and issuing additional orders that adversely impact refugees and nationals of Muslim-majority countries.

These executive orders double down on an enforcement-only approach, a costly, ineffective, and mean-spirited strategy that runs counter to our American tradition of welcoming immigrants.

Immigrants strengthen America by bringing skills, talents and new energy to our economy and most Americans believe in a welcoming and inclusive America, one where all individuals are treated with respect and fairness, no matter where they were born or how they arrived in this country.

Our nation needs a practical and efficient immigration policy that honors immigrants’ contributions, fuels our economy, protects families, and benefits all Americans.”

Are you seeking to adjust your status and become a U.S. permanent resident under a family-sponsored or employment-based preference immigrant visa? If you have not yet had a relative or employer file an immigrant visa petition on your behalf, please learn more about the Adjustment of Status Filing Process. If you already have a petition filed or approved on your behalf, you may have to wait for an available visa in your category (if applicable) before you can file your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Key points to remember:

  • You must use the Department of State (DOS) visa bulletins charts listed on the USCIS website (not the DOS website) to determine when to file your adjustment of status application.
  • You need to know your priority date, which is generally the date when your relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on your behalf with USCIS. If a labor certification is required to be filed with your immigrant visa petition, the priority date is the date the labor certification application was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor.
  • You need to check the visa bulletin monthly  if you have already applied for adjustment of status and but have not been approved.  Visa availability can move backwards (retrogress) so even if you have applied for adjustment, your priority date must be current and a visa available before your green card application can be approved.

Visit the USCIS website for further details on when you can apply for adjustment of status if you are in the green card queue.

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