Velie Law Firm Finalist for ABA Award in Best Company Category

stevie

VELIE LAW FIRM NAMED AS FINALIST IN

2014 AMERICAN BUSINESS AWARDSSM

12th Annual Stevie® Awards will be presented on June 13 in Chicago

 

NORMAN, OK – May 9, 2014 – VELIE LAW FIRM was named a Finalist today in the Best Company category in the 2014 American Business Awards, and will ultimately be a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Stevie® Award winner in the program. Velie Law Firm has disrupted the legal industry with its unique business model providing a free strategy brief, flat fee prices and visa approval guarantees for individuals and companies seeking immigration legal services for themselves or employees.

 

The American Business Awards are the nation’s premier business awards program with more than 3,300 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry in a wide range of categories. Velie Law Firm is nominated in the Best Company category for Legal and Accounting professional services.  

 

Jon Velie, president of the firm, said, “This is an honor to our entire team who tirelessly work to deliver the American Dream for our clients. To be considered among the leaders of American industry is humbling and a testament to the culture of professional care and pursuit of excellence we strive for every day. We believe the legal industry can be better; it should solve problems while providing value and finding unique solutions that meet the goals of our clients.”

 

Stevie Award Finalists were chosen by more than 150 business professionals nationwide during preliminary judging in April and May. The American Business Awards will be presented on Friday, June 13 in Chicago. Details about The American Business Awards and the list of Finalists in all categories are available at www.StevieAwards.com/ABA.

 

While US Immigration has dropped its approval rate of visas by 20% in the last year, Velie Law Firm has embraced the challenge with its flat fee prices  and guarantee of visa approval or they will refile for free. The firm has developed a proprietary briefing method that tells a story and personifies the applicant, instead of the traditional cover letter, with expert witness to support its positions. The Oklahoma firm has attained world-class clientele including athletes in the MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA; movie stars; musicians; Fortune 500 corporations; international companies; as well as investors and individuals seeking to work and live in the US. Velie Law Firm has also represented clients in some important legal battles including the Cherokee Freedmen litigation stemming from the Cherokee Nations expulsion of the descendants of former slaves.

 

About the Stevie Awards
Stevie Awards are conferred in five programs: The American Business Awards, The International Business Awards, the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about the Stevie Awards at www.StevieAwards.com.

Day Two of Senate Immigration Bill Negotiations to Handle the New Flow of Workers into US Economy

Pic of Congress while Senate debates Immigration ReformAmerican Immigration Counsel press release discusses the debate on the Senate Immigration Reform bill as follows:

Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee continues “mark-up” of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The Committee will take up amendments related to Title Four, which addresses the majority of non-immigrant, temporary visas including those for high and less skilled immigrant workers, entrepreneurship and innovation programs, and a range of miscellaneous visitor visas. Title Four became one of the most intensely negotiated portions of the Gang of 8 bill, in part because issues regarding the future flow of immigrant workers strike at the heart of broad differences in opinion about how we supplement the American workforce through immigration.

Inherent in this debate are deeply nuanced questions about the best way to create a competitive business climate that does not undermine worker rights and protections, as well as the need to promote and encourage innovation and growth through immigration.  The Gang of 8 should be applauded for tackling this enormous challenge and crafting solutions that attempt to address these concerns.  This makes the bill significantly different from what was adopted in 1986—when a legalization program went forward without tackling the question of how to regulate the future demand for workers.

In this section of the bill, perhaps more than anywhere else, there will be disagreement about the best way to achieve a balance in S. 744 as it is readied for debate before the full Senate. In order to develop a smart and fair future flow program, Senators should keep in mind the following principles:

•             The United States needs a workable, efficient, and flexible immigration system that responds to the rapidly changing demands of a 21st century economy, technologies, and migration patterns. People live and work and innovate in ways that are different than they were twenty years ago, and yet our immigration system continues to operate on a series of static quotas and rigid requirements that ignore advances in every sector of our economy and the way we live today.

•             We can and should protect the wages and working conditions of all workers without creating a system that assumes that any businesses that employs foreign workers will exploit them.  Punitive measures and more intensive government oversight should be reserved for those who have broken the rules.

•             Employers can and should be required to show that they have made a legitimate and good faith effort to hire U.S. workers, but they should not be required to submit to rigid, bureaucratic rules that bear no relationship to business reality.

•             Immigration levels should rise and fall based on the ebb and flow of our economy and the changing dynamics of our labor force.  To achieve this, the system cannot be rigidly tied to broad, national employment levels or economic indicators that do not accurately reflect economic reality at the local level or within specific industries.

J-1 Waiver: Forego the Two-Year Requirement

Are you in the United States on a J-1 visa and wanting to become a permanent resident? Are you considering applying for a J-1 waiver, but do not know when you should apply? The law is unclear to the specific time frame to file a J-1 visa waiver.

J-1 visitors may remain in the United States until the end of their exchange program, as specified on form DS-2019. Once a J-1 visitor’s program ends, he or she may remain in the United States for an additional 30 days, often referred to as a “grace period,” in order to prepare for departure from the country. Upon their departure from the United States, many J-1 visa holders are required to complete a mandatory two-year home-country physical presence prior to re-entry into the United States under dual intent visas, such as H1-B.

If you are unable to return to your home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, you must obtain a J-1 waiver approved by the Department of Homeland Security prior to changing status in the U.S. or being issued a visa in certain categories for travel to the U.S.. The 30 grace period does not extend the deadline for obtaining a waiver, it strictly permits the J-1 visitor to pack his/her things up and prepare for departure. You must obtain the waiver prior to the expiration of your J1 visa.

A J1 visa holder can apply for a waiver based on any one of the five statutory bases: 1) “No objection” statement from visitor’s home country; 2) request from an Interested U.S. Government Agency; 3) claim of persecution in home country if visitor returns; 4) claim of exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child if visitor returns to home country; and 5) request from a designated State health agency. A waiver can take anywhere from three months to a year or more depending on the category you fall in, and the caseload of the different agencies involved. If you are unsure whether you are subject to the two-year home country physical requirement then you can seek an Advisory Opinion.

It would be wise to begin the waiver process with a year left on your J-1 visa. There is no penalty for filing a waiver early, but filing for a waiver more than a year out may affect satisfying one of the five categories. For example, a J-1 visiting researcher program may last up to three (3) years. In this example, the IGA Waiver should be initiated at the end of year two. First, the basis for your IGA is the claim that you are an important part of the research program and your anticipated absence, due to the limited duration of the J-1 program, will jeopardize the research project. If there is more than one year remaining in your J-1 program, this point is hard to argue because the research project may be completed within the year. Second, some time is necessary for you to publish articles which are necessary supporting evidence for your application. Third, you may need time to become acquainted with your project colleagues who will be writing recommendation letters on your behalf.

In order to obtain a J-1 waiver, you must first obtain a case number from the Department of State. Upon receiving your case number, the applicant must submit several documents to support his/her claim. The length of the No-objection process depends on your particular home country. Some countries process the letter quickly and provide you with a response in a few months, other require up to six (6) months for a No-Objection determination. According to the State Department’s website, the processing time for a no objection waiver is 6-8 weeks, once ALL documents have been submitted to the State Department. However, some countries have their own policies regarding when to intiate the No-Objection Process, in which case it may take up to a year to obtain a waiver.

The Velie Law Firm has been successful in obtaining J-1 visa waivers for their clients. If you have any questions or concerns to the timing of filing for a J-1 waiver, or to the eligibility for a J-1 waiver please feel free to contact our office at 405-310-4333, my direct email at nicholas@velielaw.com or visit our website OnlineVisas and we would be happy to discuss your situation.

IS YOUR COMPANY THE TARGET OF AN ICE I-9 INSPECTION? STRATEGIES THAT CAN GET YOU THROUGH IT

Have you received a letter from Immigration Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) that your company must produce its I-9 forms for inspection? If so, you are not alone. The Government initiated a new round of immigration investigations on June 14, 2011 targeting 1,000 companies across the country.

The companies will be facing government audits of I-9 forms and documents filed by employees indicating legal working status in the United States.

“The inspections will touch on employers of all sizes and in every state in the nation, with an emphasis on businesses related to critical infrastructure and key resources,” ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a statement.

The names of the companies were not released, however, ICE stated they include large and small businesses in 17 sectors, including agriculture and food, financial services, commercial nuclear reactors, drinking water and water treatment, postal and shipping, health care and transportation.

“Ultimately, our focus on businesses related to critical infrastructure and key resources aligns with our priority as an agency to first and foremost minimize threats to national security and public safety,” Christensen said.

The Obama administration has made workplace investigations a key part of its efforts to enforce immigration laws, unlike the Bush administration, which relied more on high-profile raids and worker arrests.

In all, ICE has initiated more than 2,300 employer audits since the start of the federal fiscal year in October. It conducted 2,196 audits during the 2010 fiscal year, leading to the criminal arrests of 196 employers and 119 convictions.

Questions employers face when audited are:

Are the I-9’s filled out correctly? Typical errors in filling out I-9 forms include:

Leaving fields blank. If there is no answer, such as no middle name or maiden name for a man, fill in with N/A.

Listing more that either the List A documents, ie US passport, permanent residency card or work authorization or List B and C documents, ie Drivers license and Social Security card. An employer should not request all the documents. It is a violation of the employees rights.

Executing the signatures of the employer and employee on different dates. While the documents can be signed up to 3 days apart, the issue is whether the employer viewed the documents when the employee signed the form.

2. Are we maintaining our I-9’s correctly? I-9’s should not be kept in the personnel files of the employee but in separate binders. One binder for current employees and a second binder for employees terminated within three years of their hire date or one year after termination, whichever is longer. Employers should not keep I-9s after the period allocated. Employers should develop a regular purging process. However, it is probably not a good idea to destroy any documents after receiving an ICE inspection notice.

If an employer is being audited, one of the best things it can do, is hire an outside group to audit the forms and related documents immediately. We spent last week auditing forms and documents, training employees, interviewing employees for a company who received one of the thousand letters. We discovered technical errors with virtually all of them.

However, we reached out to ICE and informed them we were conducting an audit. We requested some additional time and corrected all the technical errors. We included audit notes and met with the Inspector to identify our issues. It was very well received. Our client would have surely received a lengthy report from ICE indicating non-compliance with virtually all employees. We discovered in our interview process a discrepancy that resulted in termination of an employee. We divulged the issue and solution to ICE at the initiation of the process.

The company officials decided to join IMAGE, an initiative that requires an ICE audit and outside audits going forward. But for my client they were being audited anyway and we were performing the outside audit. Additional requirements are joining E-verify among others. Taking these actions are good faith or mitigating steps that may save the Company massive fines, potential criminal prosecution or shutting down operations.

The passage of IMMACT unwillingly deputized US employers to take reasonable steps to determine whether employees are lawfully permitted to work. The consequences can be civil fines ranging from $110 to $1,100 per violation or criminal liability.

The Government has shifted a wholly civil fine philosophy to include criminal liability today. ICE may refer cases of numerous crimes such as knowingly employing an illegal alien, harboring an illegal alien, RICO violations, money laundering and numerous others to a US attorney. The number of crimes have been initiated against US employers have sky rocket in recent years.

ICE is a very well funded agency, and crimes prosecuting illegal aliens is now the top body of crime in the country surpassing drug crimes and terrorism. Hispanically Speaking, reported on June 21, 2011, that the top two crimes in the United States are immigration crimes. One, illegally re-entry will comprise approximately 50% of all crimes prosecuted in the United States in 2011. The current administration will prosecute approximately 37,000 individuals on illegal re-entry. This is a massive upswing from George Bush II’s administration that prosecuted approximately 20,000 in 2008. Bill Clinton’s highest total was in 2000, with approximately 7,500. While, George Bush I only prosecuted approximately 1,000 in both 1991 and 1992.

We are seeing an upswing in deportation as well. In FY 2009 ICE deported more than 135,000 “criminal aliens,”—a 19% increase over FY 2008.

The heightened prosecutions and deportations are indicative of the Government’s hard line policy against illegal immigration and focus on enforcement. The ICE inspection initiative is the largest ever of its kind and clearly shows that the Government will hold US employers responsible if they hire illegal workers. I-9 compliance is a requirement for all employers in the US, it is imperative that you understand whether you are compliant before ICE knocks on your door on gives you a letter with only a few days to comply. But if they do, call an Immigration Attorney with experience in compliance immediately.

My contact information is 405-310-4333, office 405-821-5959, mobile, e-mail me at jon@velielaw.com or visit our website at www.onlinevisas.com.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa: An excellent tool to rebuild America’s economy

It is simply a great idea. Invest lawfully earned money into US businesses, create significant jobs and you can live permanently in the United States. With the downturn of the US economy, many companies have failed, unemployment has been in double digits,  US banks are more constrained in making loans or providing lines of credit and US investors are unable to or more timid about investing.  As a result,  many US Companies are having trouble funding operations sufficiently and a the economic climate has a chilling effect on establishing new companies or expanding existing ones. While the United States government has been borrowing money from foreign countries, this has simply expanded the massive government debt. A better solution is obtaining international investment from individuals who want to live in the United States.

It is a great time to invest in the United States, commercial real estate is more affordable. Many properties can be purchased at auction. I represented an investor from India who purchased a hotel at auction and converted it into an assisted living facility. It was soon at 100% occupancy and serving the increasing aging population with a secure Alzheimer’s and dementia center. Within a few years it increased in value by 150% and created a healthy cash flow. It also created more than 30 jobs for US workers. The investor then leveraged his investment and purchased three more hotels and saved over 30 more jobs for Americans.

My client utilized the EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa to petition for Permanent Residence for herself and her immediate family.  The EB-5 visa was created for investors to obtain permanent residency (green card) by investing capital into a US company that creates ten jobs for Americans or legal permanent residents. Generally, the amount of investment is $1 Million unless the company is in a target employment area. Target employment areas have an unemployment rate of at least 150% of the national average. This means if the US unemployment rate is 10%, the target area must be 15%. Target employment areas can also be rural areas, cities or towns with a population of less than 20,000.  Investment into target areas requires $500,000.

Investment of capital must be into a new company. However, that does not mean the investor must establish the company. A new company is defined as one established after Nov. 29, 1990. The investment can also be made into a troubled business, which has lost 20% of its net worth in one of the last two years. Investments into troubled business must retain current number of employees at time of investment. The investment can also be used to expand a business if it results in at least forty percent in the net worth of the business or in the number of employees of the business.

The investment can consist of cash, equipment, inventory, other tangible property, cash equivalents and indebtedness secured by assets of the investor , provided the investor is personally and primarily liable for the indebtedness and that the new company does not secure the debt. The EB-5 regulations also permit pooling of the investment with other EB-5 seekers. The regulations also permit investing along with others who are not seeking the visa.

The investor must prove the source of funds and the regulations require that the capital was acquired legally. This must be proven through submission of tax returns, payroll records, business registration records and other documents indicating the source of money.

The investor must have a managerial role. This can take the shape of a management or executive position, a position as a corporate officer or member of the board of directors or a limited partner, as long as the investor has the same rights, powers and duties normally granted limited partners under the Uniform Limited Partnership Act.

The employment must be created within two years and must consist of full-time jobs. The workers must be employees and cannot be contractors. The jobs cannot temporary jobs such as construction workers. However, some permanent construction jobs are permissible. If the EB-5 application is utilizing the lesser amount under the target employment area, the jobs must be created in that area.

The EB-5 visa also contains a Pilot Program which permits investment into a Regional Center, an economic unit which is involved with the promotion of economic growth as approved by USCIS. An investor may obtain EB-5  status by investing into a regional center project. One distinction between a regional center case is that jobs can be directly or indirectly created by the investment. Indirect job creation is determined by an economic analysis utilizing formulas recognized by USCIS. An example of indirect job creation is investment into building an apartment complex or housing development may create indirect jobs through grocery stores, restaurants or retail establishments built to serve the residents.

In general the process for obtaining an EB-5 is to file the initial petition with evidence that the investor has invested or is in the process of investing capital into the new commercial enterprise with a comprehensive business plan detailing how the jobs will be created.  If the petition complies with the applicable regulations, the immigrant investor will receive a conditional green card. After a year and a half and before two years, the investor must file a petition to remove the conditions. The petition must establish that the business plan was followed, the requisite sums of money were invested and that the jobs were created. The regulation for when the jobs are to be created is unclear, as they require the investor created or can be expected to create within a reasonable period of time ten full-time jobs for qualifying employees. Documentation of proof may include payroll records, tax documents and I-9 forms.

America is still the land of opportunity and a wonderful place to live, our companies need access to capital and our people need jobs. The EB-5 visa is an excellent way to partner with investors from around the world and provide a win-win solution.

The Chinese Economic Enlightenment and an Immigration attorney’s adventures on the Baijiu Circuit.

Jing Zhou and Jenny Bai are personifications of the future. Jing is what they call in China, a seagull, a Chinese person who leaves works or studies abroad and moves back and forth between China and the West.  Jenny is a classic example of the Chinese diaspora, well educated and industrious. She was lured back to China by economic prosperity and opportunities.

Jing is an O-1 visa holder based upon her extraordinary ability in journalism. She came to the US four years ago to write for Business Week in Chicago and New York. Today she moves between the US and China operating technology and service companies in both nations.

Jenny left China when she was four years old; she is now an American citizen, who works seamlessly between the West and China. She assisted an Irish company create a presence in China and helped a Chinese magazine to better serve the English speaking population in Beijing.

Jenny and Jing have developed a service, the I Circuit, that takes US industry leaders, such as Silicon Valley venture guru Dave McClure of PayPal and Facebook fame( now with 500 startups) and Larry Namer, founder of E! Entertainment on a circuit to speak and meet with Chinese government and business leaders.  I was honored to join this powerhouse group on this amazing speaking circuit.

Jing and Jenny produced an impressive conference in November, the Girl 2.0 Expo in Shanghai at the amazing Himalayas Center. The Himalayas Center is an incredible hotel and conference facility that is slated to open later this year. It will host the Shanghai International Film Festival and it is truly beautiful. The Center utilized Cao Shi Chao, the premier Chinese Cultural strategist, to infuse the most authentic Chinese influence into the design and architecture of the Himalayas Center. The result is sublime. The lower exterior of the building design incorporates a metal façade that looks like Chinese language characters.  Inside, a massive piece from the Ming Dynasty sits beneath the largest LED screen in Shanghai that rotates incredible pictures of Chinese landscapes. The room is encircled with an ancient Chinese philosophical tale containing each Chinese character painted in the style of China’s first calligrapher.  The hotel only uses native Chinese materials and possesses a real sense of serenity, encompassing the truest sense of the word feng shui. It is an interesting endeavor because this hotel is the first built in Shanghai to serve Chinese patrons instead of westerners. It has exquisite amenities usually found in casinos, but with Shanghai’s 37 Million population base, it can operate successfully without relying on gaming revenues. This is a real indicator of China’s new individual wealth.

The Conference was first rate, with incredible speakers and a great number of attendees. I was honored to speak on US immigration laws and how Chinese companies can establish US entities or how Chinese investors can utilize immigration laws to create cash flow and jobs in the US. But I also realized our lessons from the technology boom, bust and survival were useful to China during its current boom and foray into technology. On our amazing 10 day circuit, I met with a number of government and business leaders interested in learning about these lessons.

The circuit which took us from Shanghai to Nanjing, Beijing and Ningbo was an amazing look at a country in a time of massive change and economic prosperity. Jing and Jenny were amazing hosts and we met some incredible people.

We had a great time in Nanjing, an amazing city that was the capital of China for seven dynasties, until Chiang Kai-Shek left for Taiwan. Today it is a hub for higher education and boasts a staggering 31 universities.

Many Chinese take American first names. One of my favorite people from Nanjing is Xu Hao. He took the American name Hulk after the movie character. Hulk had not met a lot of westerners and was really happy that we understood his name. We introduced Hulk, and maybe China, to the pound as a cool way to greet friends.

Xu Hoa is typical of the new Chinese business leader, young at 34, he was a banker who now operates nine companies with an interest in an additional 15. These include investment companies, an animation studio, a car dealership and an insurance company.  We discussed taking his company international and establishing a US operation under the L-1 visa or investing in a job creation company under the EB-5 immigrant investor visa.

China loves to mix business and social gatherings together. A moment that I will never forget was sitting in the hot springs in Nanjing while little fish nibbled on my ankles discussing the teaming of US knowledge and Chinese investment into Chinese and American technologies companies with Dave McClure, Jing Zhou and Hulk.

In Beijing we met Jia “Jeff” Feng, owner of the Beijing Timber Company. Jeff was one of the only fluent English speakers we met and he was both impressive and humble. He desires to establish a US presence to develop an herbal product that he believes if successful in the United States will provide more credibility when marketing in China. He has already assembled a team of top experts in the United States to develop the product. Like many Chinese, Jeff is interested in having his daughter attend an American university. He could use the F-1 visa for his child or obtain an L-1 visa and ultimately an EB-1 Green card as a multinational executive. The latter would permit his child to obtain permanent residency as well, making admission into a US university easier, less expensive and set her up to be able to start a career in America upon graduation if desired.

In Ningbo, we toured the China Fur Market, owned by Hong Boen. Mr. Hong is anincredible success story. A tailor with a storefront shop five years ago, now his operation makes a Billion US dollars a year and produces elegant products for the finest furriers in the world. Many world-wide companies have outlets at his complex, which has retail stores on the bottom floor and production upstairs.

Mr. Hong desires to establish a presence in the US under the L-1 and transfer executives and managers to the US to operate it.  We have teamed with Jing and

Jenny’s group to and assist Mr. Hong in establishing his US subsidiary, creating a business plan with market analysis and feasibility study, acquiring a facility, staffing it and obtaining visas for Chinese management level employees. In short, provide the knowledge of how to do business in the United States.

The constant during the circuit were the dinner and lunch meetings. Great circular tables comprised of interesting food and surrounded by government and business leaders.  These dinners were the highlight of the day, an incredible custom and great way to do business. But the test is whether you can handle your baijiu, the alcohol they call Chinese tequila or white lighting.

One of the great ways to break the ice or communicate when you don’t know the language is to share a drink through a toast. I learned the word ganbei, which means down your drink. Thanks to a long rugby career that included many socials, and armed with my rugby mate and Business Development Director, Jeff Le Crone we took to baijiu like fish to water.  Jeff who is the life of most parties, is a big fella, and one night in Nanjing, a wave of Chinese celebrants toasted him 15 times, they even sent the ladies at him. He handled it so well he brought the house down with an incredible rendition of the “African Love Song,” which culminates with a top of the lungs verse that was repeated by about 30 Chinese dinner guests. A star was born.

We learned the baijiu game and had a glorious moment on our last dinner in Ningbo celebrating a great meeting with Mr. Hong. The party included Ningbo’s top officials to sort of give our endeavor its blessing. The mayor sat to my right at the head of the table. Two seats over was the Inspector. He started coming at us with baijiu and we defended by counter attacking Jeff then me, then Jenny until he gave up and drank tea. We ended up in a Karaoke bar where the Inspector fell asleep on a couch. In a gesture of international hospitality and good sportsmanship, we picked him up and carried him to a taxi. We got back to the hotel with about enough time to pack and head back for the long flight home.

Thank you Jing and Jenny for a trip over the bridge of the cross border ecosystem and a cruise down the fast lane of the Baijiu Circuit. It was definitely wonderful to experience China in the midst of its economic enlightenment.

The H-1b cap is coming, thoughts on what to do

The H-1B VISA DEADLINE IS APPROACHING!  If you are or may be involved in visa application process for a foreign national professional, you are nearing critical H-1b visa decision points that can result in the inability to make the hire for more than 8 months.  It would be wise to seriously consider your visa strategy now.  Projections show H-1b visa cap levels will be reached within two months, which will have a lasting impact throughout 2011.  In the longer term, overall employment is heating up, which means caps could be hit much faster in the next couple of years.   Proper strategy, which involves both taking advantage of all visas options as well as planning ahead, can help you avoid problems.  Now is the time to take a look at your situation given what’s ahead.

Steps that you can take to obtain your visa before the cap hits this year.

One of the longest delays in obtaining H-1b visas, this year, has been the 4-6 week period it takes to obtain a prevailing wage determination (“PWD”) from the National Prevailing Wage Center (“NPC”). While it is a good idea to obtain the PWD from the NPC. Getting one gives your case “Safe Harbor” meaning  the Department of Labor (“DOL”) will deem the PWD correct as to the amount of the wage. However, it is not mandatory and with the looming cap, you may consider utilizing DOL regulations that state if the employer is unable to wait…for the prevailing wage… or for the CO and/or BALCA to issue a decsion …the employer may rely on other legitimate sources.

Doing your own calculations for the prevailing wage is not without risk of challenge or denial, but waiting for the PWD from NPC may mean missing out on the visa altogether or until October of 2012. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more about how to do a PWD on your own.

But the cap may come earlier next year as the economy is showing trends of improvement for 2011 and 2012 – There are many signs the hiring market is heating up.  Surveys of US employers point to increase employment stability, and predictions for Q1 of 2011 are expected to rise 9% over same quarter last year, and 5% in Q4 of 2010. 

Tax extension expected to increase hiring as well – Further, the December 17, 2010 extension of tax cuts was done with the intent to spur economic growth.  Opinions vary on the level of the impact, but almost everyone agrees it create growth in at least 2011 and 2012.  Of course, certain sectors may be impacted differently, but the news seems to be good.

Higher employment impact visa applications – Visa applications levels experience more volatility than overall employment – as employment goes down, visa applications decrease significantly.  The reverse is also true – as employment increases in 2011, visa applications are expected to increase more dramatically.   Are you prepared?

Visa caps projections for next few months -  As of December 10, the USCIS reported 52,400 or 81% of 65,000 cap on H1-b’s was taken.  Last year the cap was reached in late January, and is a little behind the pace this year.  What does that mean?

Visa cap projections for 2011… PLAN AHEAD!   Any H1-b applications can work now until the cap is reached.  But, after that, your application will apply to the April 1, 2011.  Keep in mind this is for October 2011 employment.  Assuming the cap is again reached in late January, any employees submitted February through September can’t begin until October 1st, 2011!

There may be some other options such as the L-1A for multinational executives or managers or L-1B for specialized skilled employees from international companies, the E-1 for traders from countries with treaties with US, E-2 for investors from countries with treaties with the US or E-3 for Australian professionals, the TN for Canadian or Mexican professionals, H-3 for trainees, J-1 for interns and certain trainees, O-1 for extraordinary ability foreign nationals. But, these visas do not fit everyone or every job.

Are you ready?

Are you considering a hire now and wan’t to get a visa prior to the cap?
Do you have strategies to speed the prevailing wage determination process?
Are you prepared if the cap is to hit earlier next year or the following?
Once the cap hits, do you know when other visa options may be an option?

THE BOTTOMLINE… H-1b visa caps will hit much earlier in 2011 and 2012.   You may recall two years and three years ago when there was such a backlog that more visas were filed on the first date available, April 1, then visas available for the entire year.   It may not reach that level next year, but what if it caps after 3-4 months?   In that situation, being aware of cap limits is not nearly enough!  Caps put a premium on knowledge of the full range of visa strategy options.

2010 Reflections from an Immigration Attorney

Because of the recessed economy for most immigration practitioners it has been a tough year. We felt it too, but that which does not kill us will make us stronger. Besides launching Immigration Magazine I have personally really enjoyed 2010 in my Immigration law practice.

At the Velie Law Firm we had a ball this year, with some great new clients including two Wimbledon winners, Yaroslave Shvedova (P-1 visa)and Katarina Srebotnik (O-1 visa) along with WTA star Liga Dekemeijere, (EB-1 Greencard) the Edmonton Oilers and Oklahoma City Barons hockey teams, the LA Sparks WNBA team, for Sports visas. HID Global, M&E Group and Telluride Ski and Golf with business immigration visas as part of our Immgration Outsource Program and some really amazing individuals.

Probably based upon the ecomomy obtaining visa approvals has gotten more difficult. But, when life gets tougher, the victories are sweeter. One was obtaining an EB-1 extraordinary ability approval for Graeme Morris. Graeme is a ski pro with Aspen Snowmass. He is also one of the founding fathers of disabled skiing in Australia and has dedicated over 30 years to teachin those with disabilities to ski. He was Australia’s Paralympic Ski Coach and led the team to Australia’s first Gold Medal in either the Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games in 1992, he authored a number of manuals on how to teach disabled people how to ski and has won life time awards by a number of organizations.

Another was obtaining 30 E-2 visas for British tank mechanics working at at a US miltary base tasked with keeping US tanks in good repair and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan safe. The case was very complex and initially denied but we were able to reopen it and persuade the  Service Center to reconsider and grant the visas.

Another amazing moment was travelling to China to speak about US Immigration and how to create businesses in America. Our hosts Jing Zhou and Jenny Bai, were amazing and the people we met were wonderful. Jing and Jenny who we met through LinkedIn asked me to speak at the Girl 2.0 Expo in Shanghai and sat on a panel with American business leaders Dave McClure of PayPal and Facebook fame, and now with 500 Startups in Silicon Valley as well as Larry Namer E! Entertainment founder. We met a number of the new business leaders of China and look forward to helping them create companies in the US and jobs for Americans under the O-1 and L-1 temporary visas as well as EB-1 adn EB-5 Permanent visas.

China is not in a recession, it is booming. Watching China go through this transformation, especially in the growth of international business and the role Chinese women are taking, I quickly realized I was in a place and time of significance. In my speech I quoted Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, stating, Somethings happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear. . . but we are definately in the midst of China’s Enlightenment.

Other great speaking engagements I was honored to present included the US Open as a guest of the WTA Tour, at the Sports Law Association Annual Conference, Telluride and to the students at my alma matter the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

We also were able to work with some of the top experts to assist us in petitioning for visas this year, including actor Johnny Knoxville, tennis legends Venus Williams and Andy Murray as well as America’s most decorated skier Phil Mahre.

My favorite thing about 2010 was the new people that joined our team and the growth we have had. Opening an office in Dallas with Laurie Hawkins, former Immigration specialist for Verizon and Nokia was a major plus and landing our first client FreeFlight Systems was a big moment. We have also developed alliances in Vermont, San Francisco, England, Ireland and China.

At our home base, Stephenie Simpson and Tona Harder have joined us and become invaluable, Jeff LeCrone and Kirk Garton have developed our practice globally into China and Mexico and nationally into higher education and corporate America. Peter Zhmutski has developed Russia, Khazakstan and other former Soviet States. But biggest kudos goes to our MVP Case Manager Amelia Copeland.

When looking back, it is hard to say that 2010 has not been a great year and a lot of fun for us.

On behalf of ImmigrationMagazine, Velie Law Firm and my amazing wife Laura and our kids, Gabbey, John, Chloe and Samantha, thank you for following us and I hope you had a wonderful 2010 also and an even better 2011.

Death of the American DREAM Act

On December 18th the Senate voted down the DREAM Act — which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. The bill was established to provide a pathway to legal status for children brought into the country illegally when they were 15 or younger. It would have let them obtain citizenship if they attended two years of college or served for two years in the military. To qualify, they also would have had to live in the US for five years and graduate from high school.

Supporters argued it was unfair to punish children who had been brought into the country when they had no control over their situation. It is estimated 65,000 undocumented, international citizens graduate from US high schools every year. Many, are then unable to attend college even though they have the grades to get in.

The bill would have made it possible for them to attend college or join the military providing knowledge and skills to make them productive members of society.

I have come in contact with a sad story that would have been righted by this bill.  A girl, who will remain unnamed, was brought into the country illegally when she was only a year old. She found tennis and became a star and is one of the highest ranked players in the country, she has been offered a scholarship by a major university after a heavy recruitment process and was on her way to what appeared to be a bright tennis career. The girl is now in removal proceedings. Her dream may have died along with the DREAM Act.

As we enter the Holiday Season and end 2010, it is a time for reflection. Look in the mirror America, do you like what you see? Do we really share this collective ideology? Are we the people that turn away kids who want and are capable of obtaining college degrees and have the ability to succeed in the US along with those who will fight for our nation as their nation?

The L-1 visa: Moving executives, managers, specialized knowledge and investors internationally

The L-1 visa: Moving executives, managers, specialized knowledge and investors internationally.

Hello World, let’s talk about moving talent globally.

Part of the mission of Immigration Magazine is to bring to you an understanding of immigration visas in plain language, not just regulations, but how visas can be used.

The L-1 is one of my favorites because it permits a great pathway for moving talent worldwide through or by creating international companies.

The L -1 visa is designed for the transfer of an international employees from a foreign company to its U.S. branch. For example if Hilton Hotels wants to transfer an executive, managerial or specialized employee from Paris to New York, the L-1 is the visa to use.

The L-1 is an excellent tool for international companies to exchange ideas with other high level employees of the company and to rotate key personnel relatively smoothly through its international locations to improve and ensure competitiveness, at the global level.

But it can also be used for start-ups, smaller companies or for a foreign company to create a branch office of the parent company in the United States. This permits owners, executives or managers to transfer to the U.S. branch as long as the international company continues to operate viably. This option provides an excellent pathway for an international entrepreneur to conduct business in America. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing entrepreneurs bring their vision, talent and work ethic to the United States. America’s economic system provides extraordinary opportunity for anyone to create a company and to succeed. Watching the creation and growth of these companies has been quite enjoyable for me.

An American company can also merge or acquire a foreign company, then transfer key employees from the international office to the U.S. headquarters, while keeping the international branch open to serve the international market. It is very exciting to see a U.S. company become an international entity and provide its American perspective, knowledge and skill to world-wide markets.

A criterion of the L-1 is that the companies must have a nexus of ownership as either subsidiaries, where one company has an equity interest in the other, or affiliates, where the companies have the same shareholders.

The key to the L-1 is that the employee must have been employed for one of the last three years in the international location to be eligible to transfer to the U.S. office.

An advantage of the L-1 visa is that it can be adjusted to permanent residency. The L-1A is for the executive or managerial level employee. These positions can petition for permanent residency “greencards” as multi-national executives or managers under the Eb-1 category.

The EB-1 as a first preference greencard does not have to utilize the labor certification process and has current priority dates. Therefore it is a much faster path to permanent residency than other options. In many instances the approval of an EB-1 can be years quicker than an EB-3 labor certification based greencard.

The L-1B is for specialized employees. Specialized employees must possess a proprietary knowledge about a company’s products or services and can transfer to teach skills to the new US employees.

Blanket L-1s can be used to expedite the process for companies with large number of L-1 workers.

Other interesting points for L-1 visas is that spouses can obtain employment authorization cards and that L-1s can travel during the pendency of permanent residency petitions without obtaining travel documents.

If you want more information on the L-1A, L-1B or EB-1 permanent residency visa, feel free to comment below, ask an immigration question or drop me an e-mail directly at jon@velielaw.com. Also be on the lookout for our upcoming webinar series to begin shortly.

Keep moving the world,
Jon