March 25, 2011


By Cyrus D. Mehta

This week, while we have all been stunned at the way Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) sent a four year old US citizen child packing out of the country to Guatemala,, even though her parents lived in the US, we can take some comfort that the State Department scrupulously adheres to birthright citizenship enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Contrary to the common notion -that parents come to the US to give birth to children so that they may become US citizens - some non-US citizen parents do not desire that their minor children remain US citizens, notwithstanding their birth in the US. Their main motivation is that if they choose not to live in the US permanently, they would rather that the child enjoys the citizenship of their nationality so that he or she does not suffer any potential impediments later on in that country, such as the inability to vote, attend educational institutions or stand for elected office. Often times, the country of the parent’s nationality and the United States lay claims on the child’s citizenship, and this may often create conflicts between the citizenship laws of the two countries, particularly if the child will return to its parents’ country and live there.

For instance, a child born to Indian citizen parents in the US can still claim to be an Indian citizen by descent, even though India does not otherwise permit dual nationality, provided that the parents declare that the child does not hold the passport of another country, This may not be possible if the child is born in the US, and thus a US citizen and potentially an Indian citizen, since the State Department’s regulation provides that “[i[t is unlawful for a citizen of the United States, unless excepted under 22 CFR 53.2, to enter or depart, or attempt to enter or depart, the United States, without a valid passport.” See 22 CFR §53.1. Therefore, if the child obtains an Indian passport while in the US, it will still need to depart the US with a US passport, and this may conflict with the Indian requirement of submitting a declaration that the child does not hold the passport of another country.

Moreover, even after the child has left the US, unless the child can effectively renounce US citizenship at a US Consulate (and that too could be problematic as a child cannot make a knowing renunciation), the child will most likely have to return to the US on the US passport. Regarding the renunciation of US citizenship by a minor, the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual at 7 FAM 1292 clearly states that parents or guardians cannot renounce or relinquish the citizenship of a child who acquired US citizenship at birth. The relevant extract from 7 FAM 1292 is worth noting:

  1. occasionally, CA/OCS or a post abroad will receive an inquiry from the parent of a child born in the United States who acquired US citizenship at birth protesting the “involuntary” acquisition of US citizenship.

  1. Jus soli (the law of the soil) is the rule of common law under which the place of a person’s birth determines citizenship. In addition to common law, this principle is embodied in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the various U.S. citizenship and nationality statutes. The 14th Amendment states, in part, that: All persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

  1. In U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the U.S. Supreme Court examined at length the theories and legal precedents on which U.S. citizenship laws are based and, in particular, the types of persons who are subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

  1. Children born in the United States to diplomats accredited to the United States are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction and do not acquire U.S. citizenship under the 14th Amendment or the laws derived from it [citation omitted].

  1. Parents or guardians cannot renounce or relinquish the U.S. citizenship of a child who acquired U.S. citizenship at birth.

While the FAM leaves open the possibility for a minor to renounce citizenship, there must be a determination by the consul whether the minor had the requisite maturity and knowing intent, free from parental influence. According to 7 FAM 1292(i)(3), “Minors who seek to renounce citizenship often do so at the behest of or under pressure from one or more parent. If such pressure is so overwhelming as to negate the free will of the minor, it cannot be said that the statutory act of expatriation was committed voluntarily. The younger the minor is at the time of renunciation, the more influence the parent is assumed to have.” 7 FAM 1292(i)(2) further states, “Children under 16 are presumed not to have the requisite maturity and knowing intent.” It should be noted, though, that even if a child successfully renounces US citizenship, upon reaching 18 years, the child has a six-month opportunity to reclaim US nationality. See INA § 351(b).

The deportation of the 4 year old child is one recent example. CBP’s sister agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has also been notorious for detaining and deporting US citizens in recent times, despite an ICE memo admonishing its officers to treat claims by US citizens with care and sensitivity, In a time when a very vocal minority is advocating for the repeal of birthright citizenship, government agencies in charge of enforcing immigration laws ought not to be swayed by the passions of the day, and must scrupulously ensure that a child born in the US, regardless of the parents' status, is treated as a US citizen under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, like the State Department does.

March 18, 2011



Cora-Ann Pestaina

As the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) continues to pump out decision after decision, it can be difficult to find time to review each case. But I am constantly being reminded that reviewing that one BALCA decision could truly mean the difference between approval and denial. I recently came across the BALCA decision in CCG Metamedia, Inc., 2010-PER-00236 (Mar. 2, 2011) and it raised some red flags with regard to previous recruitment practices that have not faced objection from the DOL. As a background, an employer has to conduct a good faith recruitment of the labor market in order to obtain labor certification for a foreign national employee. Obtaining labor certification is often the first step when an employer wishes to sponsor a foreign national employee for permanent residence.

In CCG Metamedia, the employer filed an Application for Permanent Employment Certification (ETA Form 9089) for the position of “Technical Design Director” indicating that the job opportunity required 2 years of experience. In response to an Audit Notification, the employer submitted evidence of recruitment, which indicated that the employer had placed advertisements in a newspaper of general circulation, a local newspaper and on the employer’s website stating that the job opportunity requires “2-4 years of experience.” The Certifying Officer (CO) denied certification on grounds, which included that these advertisements contained experience requirements in excess of those listed on the employer’s PERM application.

The employer filed a Request for Reconsideration arguing that the “Technical Design Director” position indeed requires “2-4 years of experience” but that the ETA Form 9089 requires the employer to list a whole number and does not provide space to list a range of experience, thus forcing the employer to indicate only 2 years of experience. The employer also relied on Federal Insurance Co., 2008-PER-00037 (Feb. 20, 2009). In Federal Insurance, the fact that certain mandatory language pertaining to an alternative requirement under Matter of Francis Kellogg, 1994-INA-465 (Feb. 2, 1998) (en banc), did not appear on the ETA Form 9089 was not fatal as there is no space on the Form for such language. BALCA held that a denial in that instance would offend fundamental fairness and due process. The employer in CCG Metamedia argued similarly that because the ETA Form 9089 does not accommodate its ability to express the requirement of 2-4 years minimum experience, it would “offend fundamental due process to deny the PERM application for failure to write the attestation on the ETA Form 9089.”

In forwarding the case to BALCA, the CO asserted, in a letter of reconsideration included in the Appeal File, that the employer’s advertisements did not represent the actual minimum requirements as required under 20 C.F.R. §656.17(i)(1). The CO argued that the employer’s requirement of “2-4 years of experience” communicated to the job applicant “a preference” that he or she possess more than 2 years of experience in order to qualify for the position and thus may have discouraged applications from US workers who met the minimum requirements (i.e. 2 years of experience). The CO further argued, citing The Frenchway Inc., 2005-INA-451, slip op. at 4 (Dec. 8, 1997), that BALCA has held that “employer preferences are actually job requirements.” The CO dismissed the employer’s arguments with regard to the ETA Form 9089 simply stating that the case was not about the shortcomings in the ETA Form 9089.

BALCA affirmed the CO’s denial of the case and held that “stating a range of experience in the recruiting materials that goes above the minimum experience requirements stated in the application inflates the job requirements in the job advertisements and does not accurately reflect the employer’s attestations on the ETA Form 9089.” BALCA cited the regulations at 20 C.F.R. §656.17(f)(6), which require that a newspaper advertisement “[n]ot contain any job requirements or duties which exceed the job requirements or duties listed on the ETA Form 9089” and held that the employer was in violation of the regulations. BALCA agreed with the CO that this case was not about the shortcomings in the ETA Form 9089 but instead, was about the fact that the employer did not conduct an adequate test of the labor market because minimally qualified US applicants were discouraged from applying for the position. BALCA distinguished this case from Federal Insurance where the employer did not know how to comply with the requirement that Kellogg language be included on the ETA Form 9089 and stated that unlike Federal Insurance, in CCG Metamedia, the Form specifically requested the number of months of experience required for the job opportunity and this must be a discrete number, and not a range, because of the fact that the employer must state its actual minimum requirements.

After reading CCG Metamedia, one wonders whether this was correctly decided. The employer argued that its requirement for the job opportunity was indeed “2-4 years of experience” and that it was simply forced to indicate 2 years on the ETA Form 9089. But isn’t it implicit in a requirement of “2-4 years of experience” that the employer’s minimum requirement is 2 years of experience thus making the requirement listed on the recruitment and the ETA 9089 entirely consistent? The employer will clearly accept, at a minimum, 2 years of experience and a person with any level of experience upwards of 2 years (i.e. 2.5, 3 or 4 years) in the relevant area could potentially qualify for the position. The CO and BALCA claim that US workers could have been discouraged from applying for the position because the requirements indicated a “preference” that the job applicants have more than 2 years of experience. But how is this “preference” indicated? How can “[from] 2 [to] 4” be interpreted to mean “more than 2” such that a US worker would be discouraged from applying for the position? The CO and BALCA cited The Frenchway, Inc.’s for its holding that employer “preferences” are indeed requirements. But I would argue that the facts of CCG Metamedia are entirely distinguishable from those of The Frenchway, Inc. where the employer listed its preferences for a foreign language and European contacts. Clearly, a US worker with no foreign language skills and no European contacts could have been discouraged from applying for the position. On the contrary, based on the facts in CCG Metamedia, a US worker with 2 years of experience ought to have considered himself qualified based on the requirement of “2-4 years of experience.”

CCG Metamedia likely seems to imply that employers can no longer advertise seeking “2+” or “5+” years of experience as requiring applicants to have the minimum experience or more would also be perceived as a “preference, ” which will discourage applicants possessing the minimum experience from applying for the position. This would be absurd, but in labor certification land, an employer should now advertise asking for the exact years of experience for the position after CCG Metamedia. Two other recruitment scenarios immediately come to mind.

Take the case of a big corporation, recruiting for professional positions, which places an omnibus advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation indicating that it is “seeking individuals with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees and relevant experience for the following positions” and lists all the positions, e.g. Software Engineer, Lead Technical Consultant, etc. including a brief description of the job duties for each position. All other requirements under 20 C.F.R. §656.17(f) are met. All additional professional recruitment contains the job requirements specific to each job opportunity, such as “Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or a related field and 5 years of experience in the offered position or in a position performing similar duties.” In addition, the ETA Form 9089 filed for each particular position indicates the specific job requirements for that position. In light of the holding in CCG Metamedia, will the DOL now deny these PERMs on the basis that the newspaper advertisements violated 20 C.F.R. §656.17(f)(6) and indicated an impermissible range (Bachelors or Master’s degree) which discouraged US workers from applying for the job opportunities?

I would argue that the ‘either/or’ requirement indicated in “a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree and relevant experience” is not a “range.” Thus, the potential applicant cannot reasonably be confused into thinking that a position requires a Master’s degree when in actuality the employer requires only a Bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, because the ad only states “and relevant experience” it cannot be argued that US workers were discouraged from applying for any of the positions due to a perceived lack of sufficient experience. A US worker with either a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree and even less than one year of experience should feel encouraged to apply based on the requirements listed in the newspaper advertisement. Since the employer is essentially casting a wider net, it ought to be difficult for the DOL to assert that an adequate test of the labor market was not conducted.

In another scenario, an employer is conducting recruitment for a professional position that requires a Master’s degree in Chemistry and no experience and wants to recruit using a university’s campus placement office as one of the three additional recruitment steps for professional occupations required under 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(e)(1)(ii). The university’s website allows the employer to place its advertisement but requires that certain fields be filled, e.g. job location, job status (full-time or part-time), writing sample required (yes or no), etc. One of the fields asks “experience required?” and forces the employer to pick from a list of choices limited to “0-2 years”, “3-5 years” or “over 5 years.” Based on the holding in CCG Metamedia, if the employer chooses “0-2 years” for this advertisement and then indicates on the ETA Form 9089 that the position requires no experience, the employer will have listed job requirements in excess of the requirements listed on the ETA Form 9089 in violation of 20 C.F.R. §656.17(f)(6). (Recall that in Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, 2010-PER-00103 (BALCA Oct. 19, 2010) BALCA held that the advertising requirements listed in 20 C.F.R. §656.17(f) for advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals also apply to website advertisements.) But what if it is not feasible for the employer to conduct a different type of recruitment or to choose a different university’s campus placement office? The employer may be able to protect itself against a CCG Metamedia type denial by indicating in the job description that the job opportunity requires a “Master’s degree in Chemistry and NO EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED.” It would be difficult for the DOL to argue that US workers with no experience were discouraged from applying for this position.

I was recently confronted with a scenario similar to scenario No. 2 above and based on CCG Metamedia I suggested that new recruitment be conducted. I am reminded that regardless of previous success utilizing a particular method or type of recruitment, we cannot afford to become comfortable with the ever-changing PERM process and that these BALCA decisions provide invaluable insight into continuing to avoid the pitfalls of PERM. For a detailed overview of recent BALCA decisions that provide practice pointers, see Cyrus D. Mehta’s article, ANALYSIS OF SELECTED RECENT BALCA DECISIONS AS PRACTICE POINTERS TO AVOID PERM DENIALS

March 11, 2011


By Cyrus D. Mehta

It is not uncommon for a permanent resident to receive a plum posting for an American corporation overseas or for its subsidiary. This is a frequent occurrence these days in a globalized world, and especially when jobs have become more scarce in the US since the economic downturn. While such an assignment may provide a great boost to the permanent resident’s career, he or she may still wish to preserve the ability to naturalize, but the overseas posting presents a challenge since it may be difficult to maintain continuous residence. One of the key requirements for applying for US citizenship under INA § 316(a) is the need to be physically present for half the time in the US during the qualifying period, which may either be five or three years (if one is married to a US citizen) and to have also resided continuously during this period. The challenges of maintaining residence while on an overseas assignment were addressed in a prior blog, Naturalizing In A Flat World,

This blog specifically examines the inadequacy of the exception in INA 316(b), which was designed to avoid the need to maintain continuous residence for purposes of naturalizing if a permanent resident is employed by an American firm overseas, or its subsidiary, that engages in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the United States. INA § 316(b) further provides for exemptions when one works overseas for the US government, an American research institution or a public international organization. The USCIS requires the applicant to file Form N-470,, to seek this exemption.

So far so good. Unfortunately, very few can avail of this exception since INA § 316(b) also requires that the individual be physically present and residing in the US, after being admitted as a permanent resident, for an uninterrupted period for at least one year. One would think that a brief trip to Canada, even for a few hours, would still qualify as an uninterrupted period of at least one year. Wrong, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. In order to qualify, the permanent resident must demonstrate that he or she never left the US for even a single day (or less if it was to a neighboring country like Mexico or Canada) during that 365 day period. Even a single departure precludes the permanent resident from qualifying for this exception.

We can surely advocate for a re-interpretation of what constitutes an uninterrupted period of one year. Why should an “uninterrupted period of one year” require the individual to stay put in the US for an entire 365 day stretch? Let’s dig a little deeper. In Phinpathya v. INS, 464 US 183 (1984), the Supreme Court interpreted another unrelated statute, INA § 244(a)(1), with similar but not identical language, which granted suspension of deportation to a non-citizen who inter alia “has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than seven years immediately preceding the date of such application..”

The Supreme Court in Phinpathya reasoned that the ordinary meaning of these words does not admit any exception, and that the individual who qualifies for suspension of deportation must have been physically present without having departed during the 7 year period. Following the Supreme Court decision, the Commissioner of the then Immigration and Naturalization Service adopted a strict interpretation of the physical presence requirement under INA § 319(b) in Matter of Copeland, 19 I&N Dec. 788 (Comm’r 1988) and Matter of Graves, 19 I&N Dec. 337 (Comm’r 1985).

The author gives credit to David Isaacson for pointing out that the INA § 316(b) language and the INA § 244 language at issue in Phinpathya are a little bit different. § 316(b) refers to “the case of a person who has been physically present and residing in the United States, after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence for an uninterrupted period of at least one year, and who thereafter is” in one of the protected classes. The § 244(a)(1) language at issue in Phinpathya referred to an applicant who “has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than seven years immediately preceding the date of such application,” which is not quite the same thing. § 316(b) does say “physically present,” but it uses the word “uninterrupted” rather than the word “continuous”. Much of Phinpathya, according to Isaacson, goes on and on about the meaning of “continuous”. Although “uninterrupted” sounds similar, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be interpreted in exactly the same way—especially because much of § 316 uses the word “continuous”, so the distinction between “continuous” and “uninterrupted” presumably means something.

Incidentally, INA §244(a)(1) no longer exists. The current version of suspension of deportation, now known as cancellation of removal, allows the individual to have been out of the US for a period of not longer than 90 days on any trip and for an aggravated period of not more than 180 days to still qualify for this relief. See INA § 240(d)(2). Even long before cancellation of removal replaced suspension of deportation, Congress restored the “brief, casual and innocent” departure exception to suspension applicants, as set forth in Rosenberg v. Fleuti, 374 U.S. 183 (1963) in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The rationale for the Service to cling on to the rigid interpretation is that Congress never amended 319(b), while it explicitly provided an exception for applicants seeking relief from deportation Prior to Phinpathya, the interpretation of 316(b) was more in line with the "brief, casual and innocent" test, and the old pre-Phinpathya interpretation ironically still remains. See USCIS Interpretation 316.1(c), One can only assume that the USCIS has inadvertently failed to withdraw these interpretations and has not left them there purposefully.

Ideally, it would be simple for Congress to fix it. We are not asking for Comprehensive Immigration Reform here ! But we know that Congress may never act. On the other hand, there is no reason for lawyers not to advance a more generous interpretation of the uninterrupted physical presence requirement under INA § 319(b) to allow brief trips outside the US in an age when frequent overseas travel has become the norm. It is impossible for a high level executive to remain land locked within the US for 365 days. Apart from the two decisions of the INS Commissioner in Graves and Copeland, no federal court has interpreted this provision. In addition to the distinction of the terms “continuous” and “uninterrupted,” from a policy perspective, it makes no sense to analogize 316(b), which furthers our commercial and trade interests overseas, with a defunct provision that allowed undocumented non-citizens to seek a waiver from deportation. Moreover, the term “uninterrupted” appears nowhere else in the statute, except in § 316(b) and in a parallel naturalization provision, INA § 317, for religious workers who work overseas. Why cannot “uninterrupted” allow for short trips that do not meaningfully interruptive of physical presence? Such an interpretation, while consistent with the "brief, casual and innocent" test set forth by the Supreme Court in Rosenberg v. Fleuti to the defunct “entry” doctrine, can also further the trade and commerce of the United States, one of the goals of INA § 316(b), by permitting the executive to take up an overseas assignment for an American firm without fearing the loss of the coveted naturalization benefit at the end of the assignment.

As a practical matter, though, until Congress provides a fix, or there is a sensible reinterpretation of the INA § 319(b) exception to continuous residence, one should only file Form N-470 upon meeting the uninterrupted 365 day requirement.