On August 2, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that it has made preliminary selections for five new public-private partnerships and is continuing progress on an additional existing project. These six projects in California, Florida and Texas are designed to provide greater flexibility for CBP to work with the stakeholders thereby supporting growth in cross-border trade and travel.

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 allows CBP to create a reimbursable fee agreement program to increase CBP’s ability to provide new or enhanced services on a reimbursable basis by creating partnerships with five entities. The entities selected for these partnerships are Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; The City of El Paso, Texas; South Texas Assets Consortium; Houston Airport System; and Miami-Dade County.

CBP Acting Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski believes that such a partnership we can better facilitate the four to five percent continued growth anticipated over each of the next five years. The reimbursable services proposals were reviewed and ranked based on criteria including: impact on current CBP operations, health and safety issues, community and economic benefits, and the feasibility of instituting the agreements in a timely manner. CBP will complete the negotiations with the five applicants by December 31, 2013. These agreements will not replace existing services, and new services can include all customs and immigration inspection-related matters.

The reimbursable services authority is a key component of CBP’s Resource Optimization Strategy, and will allow CBP to provide new or expanded services at domestic ports of entry reimbursed by the partner entity. This will have a positive impact on the Nation’s economy – particularly through a reduction in wait times.

CBP is also making progress on an existing public private partnership by finalizing the terms of Tijuana Cross Border Terminal (TCBT).The TCBT will allow ticketed travelers to cross directly between Tijuana’s A.L. Rodríguez International Airport in Mexico and Otay Mesa, Calif. CBP expects to begin the twelve to fourteen month construction project as early as August.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is dedicated in its advocacy and community involvement efforts towards achieving effective comprehensive immigration policy reform. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

The Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) labor certification process is the first step in the employment based green card process. The PERM to green card path always begins with the Department of Labor (DOL). It is at this step in the process that the DOL will expect an employer to test the labor market for qualified U.S. workers before filing a labor certification on ETA Form 9089 for a foreign worker. Essentially, the DOL wants the employer to certify that it will not displace U.S. workers by hiring a foreign one for a permanent position. In order for an employer to certify that there are notable, willing, qualified, and available U.S. workers for the permanent position, the employer must comply with multiple pre-filing rules. These rules are what make obtaining a green card for a foreign national employee a complicated effort. Not only are the DOL requirements strict and time sensitive, but they are intended to keep the best interest of the U.S. worker in mind. Thus, if initial efforts are not conducted properly, the entire process can be compromised and will surely be noticed by the DOL. By keeping this in mind, it is easy to understand why pre-filing efforts are so important. Always remember, compliance is the building block for the entire process.

Complying with PERM rules and regulations requires the U.S. employer, foreign national and counsel to work together. We have provided a general overview of the pre-filing process for your knowledge:

1. Review of Qualifications: An attorney will coordinate with your employer to review your qualifications in order to determine whether you are suited for the existing position your employer is sponsoring you for.

2. Job Description: Once it is determined that you are qualified for the position, your employer will send an attorney a draft advertisement for the position, which includes all requirements for the job opportunity. The attorney will verify that the job requirements are the minimum requirements for that position. This step can take up to 20 days to complete depending on your employer.

3. Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD): Once the advertisement has been approved by your employer, our firm will submit a wage application to the National Prevailing Wage and Helpdesk Center. The PWD is defined as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment. It will take approximately 2 months for the Prevailing Wage Center to issue its determination.

4. Receipt of PWD: Once we receive the PWD, your employer will have to approve the given wage. Subsequently, our firm will coordinate with your employer to begin advertising for the position.

5. Advertising: PERM regulations impose strict requirements regarding the length of time advertisements must be posted. Therefore, generally, the earliest your case can be filed once we receive the PWD is 60 days (MINIMUM). Note: It is the employer’s decision as to when adverting will begin.

a. Mandatory Recruitment for All Occupations (professional and nonprofessional): All PERM applications, whether professional or nonprofessional, require the following recruitment efforts:

i. 30 day job order with the SWA serving the area of intended employment;

ii. Two Sunday print advertisements in the newspaper of general circulation; and

iii. Notice of Filing to be posted for a period of 10 business days.

b. Additional Recruitment for Professional Occupations: In addition to the mandatory recruitment requirements for all PERM applications, employers must select 3 additional recruitment methods from the list provided by the DOL:

i. Job Fairs;

ii. Employer’s website;

iii. Job search website;

iv. On-campus recruiting;

v. Trade or professional organizations; Private employment firms;

vi. Employee referral programs;

vii. Campus placement officers;

viii. Local or ethnic newspapers; and

ix. Radio or television advertisements.

c. 30 day quiet period: After completing all required recruitment efforts, there is a mandatory 30 day “quiet” period immediately following the last day of each recruitment effort. The employer cannot file ETA Form 9089 until this quiet period is over. The end of the quiet period determines the “maturity” date for the advertisements.

6. Advertising/Recruitment: Once advertisements have been posted, your Employer will be required to conduct recruiting depending on whether or not seemingly qualified U.S. workers have applied for the position you are being sponsored for. This recruiting process must continue up until filing the labor certification, ETA Form 9089, on your behalf.

7. Finalizing ETA Form 9089: Once advertising/recruitment requirements have been fulfilled, it will be time to finalize the labor certification application. This will include making sure we have all appropriate documentation from your end and finalizing all the information you have provided to us on the draft ETA Form 9089.

8. Attorney Review: Once your application has been finalized with our firm, your entire case will be further reviewed by an attorney. The attorney may have further questions for you at this time.

Because of time limitations and strict requirements set by the Department of Labor, unfortunately, this is not an overnight process. Therefore, one should be prepared for a waiting period of 4-5 months minimum before we can file the case with the Department of Labor.

Please note, this estimated time period is calculated from the time we submit the PWD application on behalf of an employer. This time period primarily applies to cases where an employer will not commence the recruitment process until the PWD is received. If an employer has opted to commence the recruitment process prior to receiving the PWD, the filing time will decrease.

Once ETA Form 9089 is filed with the DOL, it is currently taking approximately 7 months to adjudicate. (If a case is audited, this time frame increases). Once a labor certification is approved, the next step would be to file an I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker and eventually an I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. We fully understand that this wait can be tedious, but we will work with you every step of the way to help provide you with the best possible outcome.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is a boutique business immigration law firm based in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the nation in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. The attorneys of Reddy & Neumann, P.C. are highly experienced in guiding employers and employees through the PERM Labor Certification process by advising clients on the PERM advertising requirements, Prevailing Wage issues, and priority date establishment.  From filing the PERM Form 9089  through certification, and onto the I-140 petition and adjustment process we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in a Federal Register Notice published July 23, 2013 that the agency will expand its single window Document Image System (DIS) pilot in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) to include three new Partner Government Agency (PGA) forms, for a total of six including Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

“A single point of input for the trade community is a major component of CBP’s efforts in trade transformation,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski. “With DIS, filers can electronically submit documentation into one location during the importation and exportation process, reducing paperwork costs and allowing for faster, more efficient cargo processing, strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness.”

Expansion benefits to the trade community include:

- Reduced data submission requirements. The expanded pilot benefits the trade by reducing the number of data elements required to accompany the electronic forms to only four.

- Helping to facilitate compliance with all federal requirements by increasing the amount of Partner Government Agency (PGA) forms eligible for electronic submission via DIS.

- Providing the ability to submit specific Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) forms at time of manifest.

CBP encourages the trade community to begin testing the expanded DIS capabilities. Implementation Guides describing how to prepare for the upcoming pilot expansion and information on the expanded DIS pilot are available online. A Federal Register Notice was published, July 23, 2013 announcing the details of the expanded pilot, including eligibility requirements.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is dedicated in its advocacy and community involvement efforts towards achieving effective comprehensive immigration policy reform. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

Rahul Reddy & Emily Neumann, Attorneys at Law, Reddy & Neumann PC

The H-1B program was created as a way for U.S. employers to meet shortages of skilled workers by allowing them to recruit from an international pool of applicants. The visas, which require an employee to hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and work in a specialty occupation, are used in large part by technology companies as well as computer and IT consulting firms. But, as is the nature of many large government programs, the H-1B visas currently have a potential for extraordinary abuse.

Testimony before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary highlighted areas of abuse under the current immigration system with regard to skilled labor visas. One of the main areas of focus was the H-1B program and how employers can use it to the detriment of foreign workers.

While most companies who utilize H-1B visas do so in a manner that preserves jobs in the U.S. and provide at-will employment, many of the companies with the highest numbers of H-1B employees do not. According to the testimony before the Senate committee, most of the companies accused of abusing the visa program are large information technology firms who base almost all of their operations in India. They typically hire a single H-1B worker who is placed at a U.S. location, and then outsource the work of three or four additional employees to India. The pay differential between the U.S. and India lowers the cost of doing business for these companies. They are then able to outbid other companies offering the same services with a U.S.-based staff.

The companies outsourcing jobs from the U.S. are often the same firms who force H-1B workers to sign draconian employment contracts in India before beginning work in the U.S. While these contracts are often unenforceable in the U.S., the company could sue the employee in India for a hefty sum should an H-1B worker leave the company.

Most H-1B workers are seeking to acquire a green card, and receiving H-1B sponsorship is a common first step in this process. Due to the nature of acquiring an employment-based green card, workers holding an H-1B visa are at the mercy of their employer when it comes to gaining legal permanent residency. Most of the outsourcing consulting companies with the largest H-1B workforces have withheld green card applications on behalf of their employees, keeping the employees bound to an H-1B visa and bound the company.

The top ten outsourcing companies obtaining new H-1B visas in 2012 combined to control nearly half of the visas, which are capped at 85,000. At the same time, these companies combined to apply for less than 2,000 green cards for their H-1B employees, a filing rate of less than three percent. One such outsourcing company who applied for over 7,000 initial H-1B visas in 2012, applied for just ten green cards on behalf of its H-1B employees last year.

The Department of Labor reports that 82% of labor certification approvals in 2012 were for employees who had been on H-1B visas (the labor certification is the first step in the green card process). Based on DOL statistics, approximately 57,000 labor certifications were filed on behalf of H-1B visa holders, yet the top ten outsourcing companies filed for less than 2,000 of them. The rest of the applications for labor certifications submitted on behalf of H-1B workers were filed by all other companies, including smaller, domestic computer consulting firms, universities, and non-profit organizations.

The higher rate of green card filings by these non-outsourcing entities reflects their desire to retain the expertise of professionals with advanced degrees for the long-term, rather than to hold them in bonded labor during the short-term. Combined, these companies and organizations filed roughly one green card application for every two initial H-1B petitions. This filing ratio of roughly 50% stands in stark contrast to the outsourcing companies’ paltry 3%.

These outsourcing companies have little incentive to change their practices of holding a large H-1B workforce without offering a path to the green card. The H-1B visa keeps the employee tied to the company for the duration of the visa, whereas a green card holder is at liberty to change employers at any time. If an H-1B employee were to be fired, he could fall out of legal status and be forced to return to his home country. An employee who is able to obtain a green card would be free to seek employment elsewhere. The result is that many of the large IT outsourcing companies hold their H-1B employees in limbo, requiring them to perform a type of bonded labor for the company. Fortunately, many smaller computer consulting firms based in the U.S. avoid this practice and typically apply for green cards for a high percentage of their H-1B employees.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Our experienced team of immigration lawyers in Houston & Dallas advises clients throughout the H-1B visa application process, including responding to various requests for evidence and consular processing issues. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.