January 24, 2011


US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revised its Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (M-274). Revised as of January 5, 2011, http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf., the handbook includes expanded guidance on lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, and acceptable documents for employees in temporary protected status (TPS). An update on the most recent changes can be found here, http://www.cyrusmehta.com/news.aspx?SubIdx=ocyrus2011123211626

The handbook now states that an employee in valid H-1B status who changes (ports) to a new employer can begin to work with the new employer upon filing an H-1B petition with USCIS. The prior version of the handbook required the porting H-1B employee to obtain a Form I-797 (Receipt Notice) from USCIS before beginning work with the new employer. This approach created considerable delay because it often takes USCIS weeks to issue the official I-797. The new requirement is more consistent with INA § 214(n), which requires only a “filing,” and this can be proved through an overnight courier delivery confirmation rather than waiting for the I-797 receipt notice.

The new version of the handbook explains that a porting H-1B employee may begin employment by presenting his or her Form I-94/I-94A (Arrival-Departure Record) issued for employment with the previous employer, along with his or her foreign passport, as a List A document. The employer should write "AC21" on the I-9, record the date that the new H-1B petition was submitted to USCIS in the margin next to Section 2 of the I-9, and attach documentation as specified in the handbook.

Unfortunately, there is another aspect of portability that still remains unresolved. INA § 214(n) is broad enough to allow an H-1B worker to exercise portability even though he or she changed to another status. Thus, one who originally entered in H-1B status and then changed to F-1 student status can still “port” to a new job if a new employer files a petition for H-1B status, along with a request for change of status from F-1 to H-1B. In Keeping Track: Select Isues In Employer Sanctions and Immigration Compliance by Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta, http://www.cyrusmehta.com/News.aspx?SubIdx=ocyrus20101218204951&Month=&From=Menu&Page=2&Year=All#_ftn2, the authors make the following observation:

What does E-Verify have to say about work authorization during H-1B portability?
While this paper presents a general overview of E-Verify, the importance of a recent development in the delicate relationship between E-Verify and H-1B portability compels us to mention it if only in passing. In late October 2010, the Verification & Documentation Liaison Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) received confirmation from E-Verify that it would no longer verify work authorization for an employee who is working for an employer under H-1B portability where the employee previously held H-1B status but has since held an intervening status. See AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10102268 (posted Oct. 22, 2010). This came as a stunning development. In the past, many AILA members had relied upon the text of Section 105(a) of the American Competiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC 21), now codified at INA § 214(n), to advise that such employees were work authorized based on the clear language of the statute. However, in an unannounced change of policy, AILA recently received reports that E-Verify had been issuing final nonconfirmations for employees working pursuant to H-1B portability who currently hold another status, such as H-4 or F-1. The Committee requested clarification from E-Verify, citing the language in the statute which permits a beneficiary to work if he or she "was previously issued" an H-1B visa or status and meets the other requirements for portability. INA §214(n).
In response to the Committee's inquiry, E-Verify provided the following response:
The Office of Chief Counsel at USCIS has advised us that similarly situated individuals are not employment authorized. … The H-1B Portability Rule does not apply to a nonimmigrant who was in H-1B status at one time, but who is currently in another valid status and for whom a non-frivolous I-129 Petition to obtain H-1B status has been filed. … USCIS has interpreted Section 105 of AC21 (INA section 214(n)) as allowing those who are currently in H-1B status, or who are in a "period of authorized stay" as a result of a pending H-1B extension petition(s), to begin new employment upon the filing by the prospective employer of a new (H-1B) petition on the alien's behalf. USCIS guidance dated December 27, 2005, states that "porting under INA §214 does not require that the alien currently be in H-1B status as long as he or she is in a 'period of stay authorized by the Attorney General.'" That statement serves to clarify the earlier section specifically referring to an "H-1B alien" and should be read in the context of the particular example given: an alien who was in H-1B status and is now in an authorized period of stay based on a timely filed extension of H-1B status petition on the alien's behalf, and who then seeks to start working for a different H-1B employer upon that employer's filing of a petition. This interpretation is consistent with USCIS guidance to the public on its website (Nonimmigrant Services, H-1B FAQs, page 61) which states:
Changing employers - An H-1B worker can change employers, but first the new employer must file a labor condition application and then file a new H-1B petition. If the worker is already an H-1B, he or she can then begin the employment as described in the petition without waiting for USCIS to approve the petition. This is called a "portability provision," and it only applies to someone already in valid H-1B status. Based on this guidance, E-Verify queries will continue to result in nonconfirmations in similar cases."
The authors strongly believe that the USCIS interpretation underlying the E-Verify protocol is inconsistent with the clear language of AC 21.

January 14, 2011


By Cyrus D. Mehta

When I first glanced at he Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011, H.R. 140, introduced by Representative Stephen King (R-IA) on January 5, 2011, http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h140/show, I figured that it was not worth my time to even write about it. I read it once more, and it dawned upon me that I could have some fun commenting on it and highlighting its absurdity.

The granting of automatic citizenship to a child born in the US is rooted in the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the States wherein they reside.” A list of resources can be found on Bender’s Immigration Bulletin at http://bit.ly/f5pX7U. And here is a good policy policy piece from AILA, http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=34106 and a great blog with more resources, http://ijjblog.org/blog-mt/dan/2010/11/birthright_citizenship_under_t_1.html.

Nobody is attempting the extremely arduous task to amend the hallowed Fourteenth Amendment, although opponents of birthright citizenship are proposing a reinterpretation of the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” by denying the children of illegal immigrants and temporary residents from claiming US citizenship. Well over a century ago in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the Supreme Court held in no uncertain terms:

The Fourteenth Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens, with the exceptions or qualifications (as old as the rule itself) of children of foreign sovereigns or their ministers, or born on foreign public ships, or of enemies within and during a hostile occupation of part of our territory, and with the single additional exception of children of members of the Indian tribes owning direct allegiance to their several tribes. The Amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciles here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

H.R. 140 seeks to amend section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which replicates the 14th amendment, by not just depriving the children of illegal immigrants from automatically becoming citizens, but by narrowly limiting birthright citizenship to a person born in the US to parents, one of whom is –

1) a citizen or national of the United States;
2) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States whose residence is in the United States; or
3) an alien performing active service in the armed forces (as defined in section 101 of title 10, United States Code).

This bill, if enacted into law, would even deprive the child of a nonimmigrant parent from automatically becoming a US citizen who is lawfully in the US in H-1B status, and approved for permanent residence but for the fact that she is stuck in the employment-based preference backlogs for many years. What would be the status of such a child? H.R. 140 is silent. Would this poor child be rendered deportable the minute it is born by virtue of being an alien present in the US without being admitted or paroled under INA section 212(a)(6)(A)(i)? Or would the child be given a dependent H-4 status? What if the parents of the child have two different statuses – one on an H-1B visa and the other on a B-1 business visa? Will the child get the more solid H-4 status or the more transient B-2 status as a visitor for pleasure?

It is true that a diplomat, in accordance with Wong Kim Ark, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the US as a diplomat enjoys immunity from US law, but a child of such a diplomat born in the US is at least deemed to be a permanent resident. See Matter of Huang, Interim Decision #1472 (BIA May 27, 1965). On the other hand, it is not so apparent that conferring some kind of legal status short of citizenship is the intent of H.R. 140, which seeks to keep children in the same illegal status as their parents if born in the US.

The only historic exceptions to those subject to the jurisdiction of the US are diplomats and enemies during the hostile occupation of a part of US territory. Congress even passed legislation to ensure that children of all Native Americans are US citizens. See INA section 301(b). An illegal immigrant is undoubtedly subject to the jurisdiction of the US. If he commits a crime, he will surely be prosecuted. He can sue and be sued in US courts, and Uncle Sam gleefully collects his taxes and his contributions to social security (even if he is unable to claim it later on). You cannot liken an immigrant who has entered the US without inspection with the objective of finding work to a member of a hostile force occupying a part of the US. When a hostile force occupies any part of the US, the laws of the US are no longer applicable in the occupied territory. Even a terrorist who enters the US in a nonimmigrant status, such as on an F-1 student visa with an ulterior motive to commit an act of terrorism, unlike a member of a hostile occupying force, is subject to the jurisdiction of the US as she can be convicted or treated as an enemy noncombatant, and if she gives birth to child here, the child ought to be a US citizen under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Moreover, often times being legal or illegal is part of the same continuum. A thoroughly undocumented person, when placed in removal proceedings, can seek cancellation of removal under stringent criteria and become a permanent resident. Such a person whose visa has long since expired could get wrapped up in a romantic encounter with a US citizen, marry, and dramatically convert from illegal to permanent resident within a few months. At times, Congress bestows such permanent residency through section 245(i) or the LIFE Act, or a person can obtain Temporary Protected Status if a calamity were to befall her country. The following extract from the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe, 457 US 202 (1982), which held that undocumented children could not be deprived of a public education:

To be sure, like all persons who have entered the United States unlawfully, these children are subject to deportation. But there is no assurance that a child subject to deportation will ever be deported. An illegal entrant might be granted federal permission to continue to reside in the country, or even become a citizen.

Under H.R. 140, one who is so unlucky to have been born a day before his parent adjusted to permanent resident status would be in some kind of immigration purgatory. The Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011, along with similar proposals from states to issue two types of birth certificates, is not just unconstitutional but is also shockingly absurd!

January 9, 2011


By Cyrus D. Mehta

It has been one year since the issuance of the memo by Donald Neufeld of the USCIS, http://tiny.cc/z3ZU8 which sought to define the employer-employee relationship, especially when an employer places an H-1B worker at a third party client site. The Neufeld Memo is like a wild beast that can never be tamed, but can be kept content in captivity so long as it is well fed. Employers, especially in the IT consulting business, have been forced to change their business practices to ensure that they can establish control over the H-1B employee who is placed at a client site, and immigration attorneys have also learned to address and satisfy on the criteria in order to establish the employer-employee relationship. But there are instances where the wild beast can still try to escape and go on a rampage, and this has been demonstrated by Myriam Jaidi in her article on www.cyrusmehta.com regarding the recent problems faced by H-1B applicants when they apply for an H-1B visa stamp at a US Consulate during their vacation, http://bit.ly/hW7KwO. She writes, “it is not much of a surprise that the scrutiny for such companies has increased at consular posts as well. Consulates request tax returns, notarized employee lists, State Unemployment wage reports, etc., to verify that the employer exists and has the right to control the beneficiary’s work.”

In January 2009, a few days after the issuance of the Neufeld Memo, it appears that even the CBP got the virus and began questioning H-1B visa entrants arriving in the US, especially at Newark airport, http://bit.ly/iefgsy, and even subjected some of them to expedited removal. Even here, we have not heard of the same kind of summary removals after the incidents in January 2009 and this problems seems to have been contained. We are also pleased to report that CBP in Newark did indeed rescind an expedited removal order, and this individual recently returned back to the US in H-1B status from the same airport that issued the expedited removal just under a year ago. We thank Newark for doing the right thing, and hope that it will exercise its discretion wisely in other cases too, http://bit.ly/fFZ0al