A Few Suggestions To Defend Oneself Against A Misrepresentation Finding Under The 90-Day Rule

By Cyrus D. Mehta and Sophia Genovese-Halvorson

The State Department has abruptly amended the Foreign Affairs Manual to provide broader grounds to find that foreign nationals misrepresented their intentions when they came to the United States on nonimmigrant visas. A finding of fraud or misrepresentation under INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(i) can result in a permanent ground of inadmissibility.

The updated FAM provision at 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(g)(2) covers instances of conduct that may be inconsistent with representations that visa applicants made to consular officers when applying for nonimmigrant visas or to DHS officers at US ports of entry at the time of admission. The inconsistent conduct must have occurred within 90 days of entry, and the FAM instructs consular officers to presume that the applicant’s representations about engaging in status compliant activity were willful misrepresentations of his or her intention to seek a visa or entry into the United States. If the foreign national engaged in conduct inconsistent with his or her nonimmigrant status more than 90 days after entry, no presumption of willful misrepresentation arises, although consular officers may still find facts that provide a reasonable belief that the foreign national misrepresented his or her purpose of travel at the time of applying for a visa or admission into the US.

The FAM cites the following examples of inconsistent conduct that can result in a presumption of willful misrepresentation:

    1. Engaging in unauthorized employment;
    2. Enrolling in a course of academic study, if such study is not authorized for that nonimmigrant classification (e.g. B status);
    3. A nonimmigrant in B or F status, or any other status prohibiting immigrant intent, marrying a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident and taking up residence in the United States; or
    4. Undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or an adjustment of status would be requied, without the benefit of such a change or adjustment.

This amendment replaces the former 30/60 day rule, which still exists in the USCIS policy manual, but is likely to be replaced. Under the 30/60 day rule, if a foreign national filed an adjustment or change of status application within 30 days of entry, it created a rebuttable presumption that the person misrepresented his or her intentions. If the conduct happened more than 30 days but less than 60 days after entry, no presumption of misrepresentation arose, although the government could infer from the facts that there was an intent to misrepresent. If the conduct occurred more than 60 days after entry, there was no basis for a misrepresentation finding.

The new 90-day rule that replaces the 30/60 rule is clearly harsher as the presumption that the person misrepresented his or her intentions is for a 90-day period as opposed to a 30-day period. Still, like under the old guidance, the key issue is what the intention of the person was at the time of issuance of the visa or at the time of admission into the United States. If they were inconsistent at those points in time under the applicable visa, then it does not make a difference whether there is a 30-day or a 90-day rule. The applicant must also be given an opportunity to rebut the presumption of willful misrepresentation by presentation of evidence to overcome it. The new 90-day rule will admittedly greatly affect people entering under the Visa Waiver Program that admits visitors for a 90-day period. If such a person is admitted into the United States and gets married to a US citizen, that conduct in itself should not be inconsistent with one’s admission into the United States as a visitor. But if this person files an application for adjustment of status within the 90-day period, it could be presumed that this person misrepresented his or her intentions at the time of admission into the United States. The same reasoning would apply to someone who is admitted on a B-2 visa for six months, and if within 90 days, this person contacts a school, gains admission and files a change of status from B-2 to F-1.

Even if there was allegedly inconsistent conduct within the 90 days, there are ways to rebut the presumption. Both practitioners and applicants should not reflexively take extreme actions such as withdrawing an already filed adjustment application and switch to consular processing, or refrain from filing such an application within 90 days. Rather, they should deploy the following analysis to determine whether there could be defense to a potential allegation of misrepresentation. While it is not clear whether the 90-day rule will be applied retroactively, applicants can take a deep breath and use the same analysis even if it is applied retroactively.

The FAM guidance at 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(h) insists that “there must be evidence that, at the time of the visa application, admission into the United States or in a filing for an immigration benefit (e.g., an application to change or extend stay in nonimmigrant status), the alien stated orally or in writing to a consular or immigration officer that the purpose of the visit or the immigration benefit was inconsistent with intended nonimmigrant visa classification.” If the government is unable to establish that there is evidence of an admission to a consular or immigration officer that was made orally or in writing, then that would be grounds to argue that there was no misrepresentation.

The FAM guidance also explicitly instructs the consular officer that “[y]ou must give the alien the opportunity to rebut the presumption of willful misrepresentation by presentation of evidence to overcome it.” Thus, if the applicant can demonstrate that it was not her intention to apply for adjustment of status at the time of her admission to the United States, but she changed her mind after her entry, that could be a basis to rebut the presumption. A good example is an elderly parent of a US citizen who genuinely comes to the United States to visit, but then has a medical emergency that impedes her ability to travel, which renders adjustment of status more convenient than consular processing. Another example is someone who is dating a US citizen, and visits the United States to pursue that romantic interest. There is no intention of getting married at the time of her entry in the United States. After several weeks, they decide to get married and apply for adjustment of status. Even though this conduct occurred within 90 days from the entry, it can be demonstrated that there was never an intent at the time of admission to apply for adjustment of status in the US.

Also, a misrepresentation must be both willful and material. INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(i). A misrepresentation is material under INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(i) when it tends to shut off a line of inquiry that is relevant to the alien’s inadmissibility and that would predictably have disclosed other facts relevant to his or her eligibility for a visa or other benefit. See Matter of D-R, 27 I&N Dec. 105 (BIA 2017). If the applicant can establish that the misrepresentation was not material, then that too would be a defense against a misrepresentation finding. Such an instance may include an Applicant who works for ABC Company in their home country but misrepresents that he works for XYZ Company, because ABC Company is not willing to issue him a letter, and so he obtains a false letter from XYZ. Such a misrepresentation is not material as the Applicant was in any event working in the home country and can show ties. Moreover, if the misrepresentation is not willful, but an innocent misrepresentation, it should not result in a finding of inadmissibility under INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(i). Cf.  In re Guang Li FU, 23 I&N Dec. 985 (BIA 2006).

The 90-day rule will clearly not apply to people who enter the United States under visas that allow for dual intent. Therefore, one who enters the United States in H-1B or L classification would not be implicated if he files an application for adjustment of status within 90 days as there is a clear carve out for H and L visa applicants in INA § 214(b). Dual intent is also recognized by regulation for the O, P and E visa categories. See 9 FAM 402.13-10(B) citing to 9 FAM 402.13-5(C) (“‘dual intent’ is permissible for O-1 visa holders”); 9 FAM 402.14-10(C) (“the approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of an immigrant visa petition for an alien shall not be a basis for denying a P petition”); and 9 FAM 402.9-4(C) (“an [E visa] applicant might be a beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition filed on his or her behalf.”) However, in the O, P, and E visa categories, while there is no requirement that they maintain a foreign residence, the intent to file an adjustment of status application at the time of entry may still not be contemplated.

Notwithstanding the codification of dual intent in statute and regulation, there is a recognition of inherent dual intent in all nonimmigrant visa categories. In Matter of Hosseinpour, 15 I&N Dec. 191 (BIA 1975), the Board of Immigration Appeals following earlier precedents held that “a desire to remain in this country permanently in accordance with the law, should the opportunity to do so present itself, is not necessarily inconsistent with lawful nonimmigrant status.” Thus, conflating a desire to remain in the United States is not inconsistent with any nonimmigrant visa classification at the time of applying for the visa or admission. See e.g. Garavito v. INS, 901 F.2d 173 (1st Cir. 1990) (the filing of an immigrant visa petition on behalf of a foreign national does not negate nonimmigrant intent). Even to the most recent change in the F-1 nonimmigrant standard implicitly allows dual intent, specifically stating that “the hypothetical possibility that the applicant may apply to change or adjust status in the United States in the future is not a basis to refuse a visa application.” 9 FAM 402.505(E)(1).

Finally, with respect to preconceived intent being a discretionary ground for granting or denying adjustment of status, the BIA has held that an application for adjustment of status as an immediate relative should generally be granted in the exercise of discretion notwithstanding the fact that the applicant entered the United States as a nonimmigrant with a preconceived intent to remain. Matter of Ibrahim, 18 I&N Dec. 59 (BIA 1981); Matter of Cavazos, 17 I&N Dec. 215 (1980).

The FAM does not have the force of a statute or a regulation. It is sub-regulatory guidance and is not binding. An inadmissibility finding based on an arbitrary 90-day rule in the FAM, or if adopted by the USCIS in its policy manual, will not be binding upon an immigration judge and will not receive Chevron deference in federal court, but the lower deference under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944). Under Skidmore, the weight given to the new 90-day rule in the FAM “will depend upon the thoroughness evident in its consideration, the validity of its reasoning, its consistency with earlier and later pronouncements, and all those factors which give it power to persuade, if lacking power to control.” An abrupt and arbitrary change from 30 to 90 days, without regard to other countervailing factors that militate against misrepresentation, may not even get Skidmore deference in federal court.  While it is always advisable to be cautious and avoid risks that would result in an inadmissibility finding based on misrepresentation, it is incumbent upon the immigration practitioner and applicants to analyze whether such an inadmissibility finding could be imposed if there was a change in intention after the fact or if no oral or written representation was made to a governmental official. This analysis is more crucial than buckling to an arbitrary 90-day presumption of misrepresentation period.

(This blog is for informational purposes only, and must not be considered as a substitute for legal advice)

State Department Toughens Standard For Assessing A Foreign Student’s Ties With Home Country

By Cyrus D. Mehta and Sophia Genovese-Halvorson

Similar to many other nonimmigrant admission requirements, under INA § 101(a)(15)(F), a foreign national must show that they have a foreign residence which they do not intend on abandoning in order to be admitted in F-1 nonimmigrant student status. As explained below, this requirement has been applied to students in various ways over the years, from strictly applying the requirement in the 1990s to a loosening of the standards under the 2005 State Department Cable.

In August 2017, the State Department yet again changed the ways in which F-1 visas are adjudicated by amending 9 FAM 402.505(E)(1) “Residence Abroad Required”, to now include the following provision:

b. Examining Residence Abroad:  General rules for examining residence abroad are outlined in 9 FAM 401.1-3(F)(2). If you are not satisfied that the applicant’s present intent is to depart the United States at the conclusion of his or her study or OPT, you must refuse the visa under INA 214(b).  To evaluate this, you should assess the applicant’s current plans following completion of his or her study or OPT.  The hypothetical possibility that the applicant may apply to change or adjust status in the United States in the future is not a basis to refuse a visa application if you are satisfied that the applicant’s present intent is to depart at the conclusion of his or her study or OPT.

The previous language provided, in relevant part,

b.  The context of the residence abroad requirement for student visas inherently differs from the context for B visitor visas or other short-term visas. The statute clearly presupposes that the natural circumstances and conditions of being a student do not disqualify that applicant from obtaining a student visa. It is natural that the student does not possess ties of property, employment, family obligation, and continuity of life typical of B visa applicants. These ties are typically weakly held by student applicants, as the student is often single, unemployed, without property, and is at the stage in life of deciding and developing his or her future plans. Student visa adjudication is made more complex by the fact that students typically stay in the United States longer than do many other nonimmigrant visitors.

c.  The residence abroad requirement for a student should therefore not be exclusively connected to ties. You must focus on the student applicant’s immediate intent. Another aspect to consider: students’ typical youth often means they do not necessarily have a long-range plan, and hence are relatively less likely to have formed an intent to abandon their homes. Nonetheless, you must be satisfied at the time of application for a visa that the visa applicant possesses the present intent to depart the United States at the conclusion of his or her approved activities. That this intention is subject to change or even likely to change is not a sufficient reason to deny a visa.

It has yet to be seen how this update will affect future adjudications of the F-1 student visa. Given that the previous relaxed language provided above came out of the 2005 State Department Cable, it is likely that the corresponding guidance in the Cable is void. Still, the fact that 9 FAM 402.505(E)(1) retains language that  the “hypothetical possibility that the applicant may apply to change or adjust status in the United States in the future is not a basis to refuse a visa application”  gives some room to argue for a favorable adjudication despite the elimination of the prior language. At the same time, students seeking to study in the United States should be prepared to yet again overcome stringent foreign residence requirements.

Background

The number of foreign students travelling to the United States to study has grown dramatically over the past thirty years. With the FY 2016 coming to an end, over 471,000 F-1 visas thus far have been granted; whereas in FY 1987, only 139,241 were granted. Asia by far sends the largest number of students, sending in a total 335,934 students (Chinese students constitute the vast majority of these visa holders, totaling to over 150,000 students, followed by Indian students who account for 62,537 of the visas). This large influx of foreign students has been shown to positively benefit the US education system and US economy, where foreign students add value and diversity to the classroom and also offer diverse skills that keep the US economy competitive.

Before 1952, a foreign student had to prove that the “sole purpose in coming to the United States is for study; and that he intends to leave the United States and can enter some foreign country when his studies are completed.” 22 C.F.R. § 42.228 (1949). After the enactment of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, nonimmigrants are now “presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for a visa, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status under section 101(a)(15).” INA § 214(b). As explained, under § 101(a)(15), a foreign national must show that they have a foreign residence which they do not intend on abandoning.

Not surprisingly, young students seeking to study in the United States could not meet this strict standard because, as young students still at the beginning of their adult lives, many lacked financial assets and strong family ties to definitively prove that they would return upon completion of their studies. For example, in FY 2001, approximately 293,000 F-1 visas were granted, and nearly 112,000 were denied. Over two-thirds of the visa refusals were denied under INA § 214(b). Many foreign students seeking to study in the United Stated simply could not meet the onerous burdens set forth under INA § 214(b) and 101(a)(15).

In 2005, in response to these § 214(b) denials that became increasingly frequent especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the foreign residence requirement was relaxed for students. Under the Department of State cable (No.2005State274068), consular officers were directed to “evaluate the applicant’s requirement to maintain a residence abroad in the context of the student’s present circumstances… [and to consider] the residence requirement for a student… in a broader light, focusing on the student applicants’ immediate intent.” The cable effectively relaxed the foreign residence requirement for students, noting that students are typically “young, without employment, without family dependents, and without substantial personal assets.” The cable rationalizes that due to their relative youthfulness, students do not necessarily have long-term plans and are therefore “less likely to have formed an intent to abandon their homes.” The presumption, according to the Cable, was that students lacked a present immigrant intent because they were young and likely incapable of creating long-term plans, and therefore could be admitted as nonimmigrant students. The Cable was authored by the late Stephen Fischel, then a high-level State Department official in the Visa Office, who was respected for his fairness and integrity and who sought to ameliorate some of the hardships faced by foreign students after September 11, 2001.

August 2017 Update to 9 FAM 402.505(E)(1)

The State Department’s recent amendment to 9 FAM 402.505(E)(1) eliminates this favorable presumption thus reversing Fischel’s beneficial guidance, and instead directs consular officers to look at 9 FAM 401.1-3(F)(2) to evaluate the foreign student’s intent. Specifically, 9 FAM 401.1-3(F)(2) provides:

a.     The term “residence” is defined in INA 101(a)(33)as the place of general abode; the place of general abode of    a person means his principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent.  This does not mean that an alien must maintain an independent household in order to qualify as an alien who has a residence in a foreign country and has no intention of abandoning.  If the alien customarily resides in the household of another, that household is the residence in fact…

b.     The applicant must demonstrate permanent employment, meaningful business or financial connections, close family ties, or social or cultural associations, which will indicate a strong inducement to return to the country of origin.

c.     The residence in a foreign country need not be the alien’s former residence. For example, an alien who has been living in Germany may meet the residence abroad requirement by showing a clear intention to establish a residence in Canada after a temporary visit in the United States.

d.     `Suspicion that an alien, after admission, may be swayed to remain in the United States because of more favorable living conditions is not a sufficient ground to refuse a visa as long as the alien’s current intent is to return to a foreign residence.

9 FAM 402.505(E)(1) continues that the consular officer must assess the applicant’s “current plans following completion of his or her study or OPT,” and that the mere “hypothetical possibility that the applicant may apply to change or adjust status in the United States in the future is not a basis to refuse a visa application” if the present intent is to depart after study. The more generous language in the 2005 cable, and the prior FAM note, that gives the benefit of the doubt to the student has been eliminated. It remains to be seen whether portions of the Cable that were not incorporated in the FAM that got repealed in 2017 could still be applicable. The DOS Cable noted that even if the student was intending to undertake a course of study for which there was little opportunity in the home country, that in itself was not a basis for denying a visa. Conversely, a student visa applicant could not be denied a visa even if the country of residence can provide the equivalent quality courses in the subject matter. “The student has the right to choose where she/he will obtain an education if accepted by the school,” noted the Cable. Moreover, many students in the US dread to visit their home countries during vacations as they believe that they may encounter difficulties while applying for a new student visa stamp at the US Consulate. The Cable reassured that consular posts should facilitate the reissuance of the student visa so that students can travel freely back and forth between the US and their home countries. Such a policy makes sense since it encourages students to continue to keep ties with their home countries if they can freely go there on a regular basis.

The effects of this amendment will likely be of less concern to traditional students (i.e. students who attend college or a graduate degree program straight after high school or their undergraduate degree) who have resided with their parents or guardian throughout their studies and whose parents still reside abroad at the time of the F-1 visa application. Specifically, under 9 FAM 401.1-3(F)(2)(a), the State Department notes that one does not need to maintain an actual household to meet the foreign residence requirement. If the foreign national primarily resides in another’s dwelling, then that residence will suffice as the foreign national’s residence. Clearly these students can satisfy this requirement if they have been living with their parents or guardians, and their parents or guardians remain at the residence at the time of the F-1 application. These same students would likely also easily meet the “close family ties” provision under 401.1-3(F)(2)(b), as their close family members are still abroad at the time of the application.

Non-traditional students, or students who have been living independently and have few or no family ties abroad, may not appear to satisfy this amendment with as much ease. The 2005 Cable guidance was intended to address these very students who are “young, without employment, without family dependents, and without substantial personal assets.” The new language under 9 FAM 402.505(E)(1) provides no contemplation or acknowledgement of these youthful traits when adjudicating F-1 student visas, and instead subjects students to the general foreign residence rules under 9 FAM 401.1-3(F)(2). This revision requires the Consular Officer to “assess the applicant’s current plans following completion of his or her study or OPT.” As rationalized in the 2005 Cable, students have yet to make any formalized long-term plans, and “hence are relatively less likely to have formed an intent to abandon their homes.” This presumption appears to no longer matter in the revised F-1 adjudication process. However, the revision does state that the mere “hypothetical possibility that the applicant may apply to change or adjust status in the United States in the future is not a basis to refuse a visa application if you are satisfied that the applicant’s present intent is to depart at the conclusion of his or her study or OPT,” thus preserving the future opportunity of such a change.

These students will need to make the strongest case possible that they presently possess no intent to remain in the US after the completion of their studies or OPT, and seek to provide as much evidence as possible of their ties abroad. Such evidence, in the absence of any family ties or business connections, can include evidence of the distinct possibility of future employment in the home country, their participation in social groups or organizations, romantic relationships, or cultural, religious or ethnic affiliations, as evidence of ties abroad. The most important element to emphasize is the applicant’s intent to depart the US at the end of their studies or OPT.

There is no doubt that this Administration is seeking to curtail any and all legal immigration to the United States. This most recent revision to F-1 student visa adjudication is part of this trend. More recently, the State Department has also made it easier to deny foreign nationals immigration benefits based on fraud or misrepresentation if they undertook activities inconsistent with their visa within 90 days of their admission. Practitioners and those seeking to be admitted to the US in F-1 nonimmigrant status should therefore proceed with an abundance of caution when applying for this visa. As stated above, traditional students with guardians and parents abroad will likely be less affected by this amendment. However, non-traditional students with few ties abroad will have a more onerous presumption to overcome when applying for an F-1 visa.

(This blog is for informational purposes only, and must not be considered as a substitute for legal advice)

Immigration and Nationality Act Trumps America First

President Trump’s America First policy has influenced how the United States views trade, immigration, the environment and global alliances. It is a radical departure from how the United States viewed itself before Trump took office. While previously the United States took the lead in forging the Paris climate accord, Trump withdrew from it. While the United States has promoted free trade as a basis for growing prosperity between nations, Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership, which took years to negotiate under American leadership, and has signaled his intention to withdraw from NAFTA and the free trade agreement with a crucial ally South Korea. Although the title is deceptive, Trump’s America First doctrine, unfortunately, abdicates America’s leadership role in the world.

It is worth noting that the term America First also has an ignoble history, and has been associated with anti-Semitism.  The America First Committee (AFC) was founded in 1940 and opposed the involvement of the United States in World War II. AFC’s most notable spokesman Charles Lindbergh, the aviator, expressed not only sympathy for the persecution of Jews in  Nazi Germany, but further suggested that Jews were advocating that the United States enter a war that was not in the national interest. The AFC met a sudden death a few months later by disbanding when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, which naturally propelled America’s involvement in World War II.

Trump has now again championed America First, which has already had a pernicious impact on immigration policy. Pursuant to America First that withdraws this nation’s outreach to the world be welcoming immigrants, Trump issued travel bans, increased immigration enforcement regardless of priorities, intends to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and has provided full throated support for legislation that curbs legal immigration.   On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order No. 13788. The EO aims to create higher wages and employment rates for U.S. workers, and directs the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security, as well as the Attorney General, to issue new rules and guidance to protect the interests of U.S. workers in the administration of the immigration system. The EO highlights the H-1B visa program and directs the agencies to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled and highest-paid beneficiaries.

Although the administration has yet to influence any legislation in Congress or change rules, the impact of the EO is already being seen in the increased number of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) challenging the paying of Level 1 wages, even though employers have legitimately offered positions to entry-level workers under the H-1B visa program. The administration has also indicated that entry level Computer Programmers may not qualify for the H-1B visa. The State Department has made the following changes to the Foreign Affairs Manual with respect to providing guidance to consular officers regarding the issuance of nonimmigrant H, L, O, P and E visas:

9 FAM 402.10-2 Overview of H Visas

  1. On April 18, 2017, the President signed the Executive Order on Buy American Hire American (E.O. 13788), intended to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.”  The goal of E.O. 13788 is to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse, and it is with this spirit in mind that cases under INA 101(a)(15)(H) must be adjudicated.

https://fam.state.gov/FAM/09FAM/09FAM040210.html

9 FAM 402.12-2  Overview of L visas

  1. On April 18, 2017, the President signed the Executive Order on Buy American Hire American (E.O. 13788), intended to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.”  The goal of E.O. 13788 is to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse, and it is with this spirit in mind that cases under INA 101(a)(15)(L) must be adjudicated.

https://fam.state.gov/FAM/09FAM/09FAM040212.html

9 FAM 402.13-2 Overview of O visas

  1. On April 18, 2017, the President signed the Executive Order on Buy American Hire American (E.O. 13788), intended to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.”  The goal of E.O. 13788 is to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse, and it is with this spirit in mind that cases under INA 101(a)(15)(O) must be adjudicated.

https://fam.state.gov/FAM/09FAM/09FAM040213.html

9 FAM 402.14-2  Overview of P visas

  1. On April 18, 2017, the President signed the Executive Order on Buy American Hire American (E.O. 13788), intended to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.”  The goal of E.O. 13788 is to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse, and it is with this spirit in mind that cases under INA 101(a)(15)(P) must be adjudicated.

https://fam.state.gov/FAM/09FAM/09FAM040214.html

9 FAM 402.9-2  Overview of E visas

  1. On April 18, 2017, the President signed the Executive Order on Buy American Hire American (E.O. 13788), intended to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.”  The goal of E.O. 13788 is to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse.  You must also remember that the basis of this classification lies in treaties which were entered into, at least in part, to enhance or facilitate economic and commercial interaction between the United States and the treaty country.  It is with this spirit in mind that cases under INA 101(a)(15)(E) should be adjudicated.

https://fam.state.gov/FAM/09FAM/09FAM040209.html

What is interesting that even though the Buy American Hire American Executive Order singles out H-1B visas, the FAM has been amended to incorporate America First principles into other temporary visa programs that do not require payment of US source wages. For example, the remuneration of an intracompany transferee on an L-1 visa can emanate from a US or a foreign source. See Matter of Pozzoli, 14 I&N Dec. 569 (RC 1974). The L visa also does not mandate a certain wage or a test of the U.S. labor market.  An E visa treaty trader or investor does not need to be paid wages. Still, under the new EO, this may be viewed as suspect if it does not create higher wages and employment rates for US workers. The Buy American Hire American EO was not in existence when Congress created the L, E or O visa provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act. According to the legislative history for the 1970 Act, the L-1 visa was intended to “help eliminate problems now faced by American companies having offices abroad in transferring key personnel freely within the organization.” H.R. Rep. No. 91-851 (1970), reprinted in 1970 U.S.C.C.A.N. 2750, 2754, 1970 WL 5815 (Leg. Hist.).  There is also no indication in the plain text of INA 101(a)(15)(L) that the purpose of the L visa  was to “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests.” If Congress desired that objective in the L visa program, it would have stated so more explicitly. Indeed, Congress did speak about protecting US workers in INA 101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(b) requiring an H-2B worker to perform temporary services or labor only “if unemployed persons capable of performing such service or labor cannot be found in this country.” Therefore, if Congress desired the same purpose for the L or the O visa, as it did for the H-2B visa, it would have said so.

If government agencies seek to reinterpret INA provisions in light of the Buy American Hire American EO resulting in denials of visa petitions, those decisions ought to be challenged as they are contrary to the plain meaning of the statute as well as Congressional intent. A presidential executive order cannot supersede a law previously passed by Congress. A case in point is Chamber of Commerce v. Reich,  74 F.3d 1322 (1996) which held that a 1995 executive order of President Clinton violated a provision of the National Labor Relations Act. President Clinton’s EO No. 12, 954 declared federal agencies shall not contract with employers that permanently replace lawfully striking employees. The lower district court held that the president’s interpretation of a statute was entitled to deference under Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837 (1984).  The DC Court of Appeals, however, overruled the district court, without explicitly stating whether the president’s interpretation was entitled to Chevron deference or not. Based on the holding in Chamber of Commerce v. Reich, if visa petitions and applications are denied under President Trump’s interpretation of INA provisions pursuant to the Buy American Hire American EO, they too ought to be challenged as being violative of the INA and it ought to be further argued that the president’s interpretation of a statutory provision, unlike a government agency, is not entitled to Chevron deference.

What the Trump administration cannot change through Congress, it is trying to do so through executive orders. The Buy American Hire American EO further tries to jolt the immigration system that has been carefully crafted by Congress over the years. Quite apart from pleasing Trump’s political base it is unclear whether the EO will create more jobs. Most economists credibly argue that more immigrants create more jobs, and that restricting immigrants will not necessarily create more jobs for American workers. America’s most successful companies have been founded by immigrants and most of its recent Nobel prize winners were not born in the United States.   The plain meaning of statutory provisions in the INA should prevail over ideologically motivated executive orders under Trump’s America First doctrine.  Thankfully, the courts will provide a forum to allow those adversely impacted by new interpretations to demonstrate that the INA trumps America First.

On this Labor Day, it is worth reflecting whether a more welcoming immigration policy will benefit America more than Trump’s America First. Immigrants do not come to America because it is great; in fact, to the contrary, they come to America and make it great! America First will make the nation less great.