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Boulder Colorado Immigration And Naturalization Legal Blog

USCIS proposes changes to H1-B visa lottery rules

The H1-B visa program allows employers in California and around the country to hire foreign workers to fill positions that require specific skills or scientific knowledge when suitably qualified Americans cannot be found. However, the number of H1-B applications received each year far exceeds the 65,000 visa cap established by the Immigration and Nationality Act. To prevent American companies in emerging sectors from falling behind their international competitors, Congress approved a provision that allows a further 20,000 H1-B visas to be offered each year to foreign individuals who have earned a master's degree or higher from an accredited U.S. university.

The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services recently announced that it plans change when these master's cap visas are awarded from before the general H1-B visa lottery to afterward. This would mean that master's degree holders would have a better chance of obtaining one of the sought-after employment visas. However, immigrant advocates say the proposed change would put individuals who have earned master's degrees or doctorates from prestigious foreign universities like Oxford and Cambridge at a disadvantage.

Which visa do you need?

Planning to travel to Colorado from abroad can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Whether you will be arriving by yourself or with other family members, you can expect to encounter numerous challenges as you learn your way around your new community and adapt to a new culture.

If it will be your first time ever entering the U.S., you might be feeling a bit anxious about the whole thing; that's why it's important to build a strong support network ahead of time, so that you have people to turn to for guidance and encouragement along the way. One of the first basic steps to take when preparing to leave your country of origin is to determine which type of visa you need.

Changes in U visa program leave many at risk

You may feel as if you will always be in danger. If you came to Colorado to find safety and security, you may have felt your dreams shatter when you became the victim of a crime. Whether you were an object of human trafficking or the victim of domestic abuse, the violence may have left you wondering if you would ever trust anyone again. The fact that you are in the U.S. without documentation makes it even more difficult for you.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offer several options, including the U visa program for those who are in the country unlawfully but who are also victims of crimes. The government approves a limited number of U visas each year, and if you applied for the program, you may now worry that you have once again placed yourself in danger.

Changes could be ahead for asylum-seekers

Some asylum seekers who hope to cross into California or another U.S. state from Mexico may be stopped at the border. Thousands of Central Americans are waiting in Mexico to come into the United States and seek asylum, but it may be weeks or months before some are allowed to cross. In the meantime, they are vulnerable to dangers on the other side of the border.

Some of the ports of entry are controlled by cartels. People are also in danger from traffickers and kidnappers in the area. One woman described being kidnapped off the bus she was on a few hours from the Mexican border. The woman's family in Guatemala had to raise $3,000 to free her. The woman had fled a violent gang in Guatemala with her two children and eventually crossed the U.S. border illegally to seek asylum.

Americans name immigration as top concern in Gallup poll

California readers may be interested to learn that Americans say immigration is the most important concern facing the nation, according to a new Gallup poll. The survey, which was conducted between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11, includes responses collected both before and after the midterm elections.

Gallup reports that 21 percent of survey respondents said that illegal immigration was currently the top problem in the U.S. In October, only 13 percent of respondents said immigration was the country's biggest concern. However, in July, 22 percent of respondents named immigration as their top concern, which was an all-time high. The issue's return to the top of the poll is likely connected to the Trump administration's focus on the caravan of Central American immigrants that were making their way to the U.S. border in the weeks leading up the midterms. President Trump called the caravan a "national emergency" and ordered 5,000 troops to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal crossings.

Federal judge temporarily stops new rule against asylum seekers

A federal judge in San Francisco placed a temporary restraining order on the new rules from the Trump administration that refuse asylum to immigrants entering the country illegally. As a migrant caravan started to arrive at the border of Mexico and California, the Center for Constitutional Rights and American Civil Liberties Union convinced the judge to recognize existing law that granted immigrants the right to apply for asylum between ports of entry.

A lawyer speaking for the ACLU said that Congress had specifically allowed for asylum applications from people crossing the border illegally. Fear prompts some people to enter the country between ports of entry. They might feel threatened by forces in their homelands or within Mexico.

Do you qualify for an immigration interview waiver?

Preparing for an immigration interview in Colorado or elsewhere can be quite stressful, especially if you have extenuating circumstances that may negatively affect your interview results. Depending on exactly what your circumstances are, however, you may be able to avoid the interview process altogether. That's because there are numerous reasons immigration officials may deem it unnecessary to interview you. 

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services officials have the power to waive your requirement to appear at an immigration interview. Unless and until they claim you as exempt, however, you are legally obligated to appear when notified to do so and not showing up for a required interview puts you at risk for immediate deportation.  

DOJ and DHS announce new asylum rules

New outlets in California and around the country have devoted a significant amount of coverage in recent weeks to a caravan of migrants that is currently making its way to the United States from Honduras. Members of the caravan have told reporters that they hope to escape desperate poverty and pervasive violence in their home country by claiming asylum once they reach America, but those plans may need to be put on hold in light of new immigration rules announced on Nov. 8 and put into place by a White House proclamation issued by President Trump on Nov. 9.

The new rules will no longer allow immigrants who cross the Mexican border illegally to petition for asylum. In a press statement released jointly by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said that the new rules were needed to take pressure off immigration officials and judges who are struggling to cope with thousands of allegedly meritless asylum claims.

Are you struggling to adapt to a new Colorado lifestyle?

It is likely you'd agree that nothing or no one could have fully prepared you for life as an immigrant in Colorado. You may have researched the customs and laws of the state, as well as those associated with life in general in the United States before you arrived; however, there are, no doubt, numerous issues that presented challenges for you as you began your new lifestyle here.  

Such transitions are often stressful but can be less so if you have a strong support system in place. Whether your biggest problems at the moment pertain to personal issues, such as language barriers or confusion about certain U.S. customs, or you are facing a more serious issue, perhaps having to do with your legal status, if you know where to seek support, you may be able to find a solution to your problem. 

Trump threatens partial asylum shutdown

Many California residents are troubled by the pronouncements about immigration policies made by President Trump, including reports that he plans to at least partially shut down the asylum process in response to the migrant caravan traveling through Mexico. The administration has openly said that it is using the immigration issue as a means of encouraging voter turnout for Republicans in the midterm elections, so it is unclear to what extent the administration will work to act on these statements following Nov. 6. If the Trump administration attempts to stop the asylum process, it will be likely be challenged in federal court.

Asylum, a process established in the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention to which the U.S. is a party, provides protection to foreigners who have a legitimate fear of persecution in their home country. The criteria include race, religion, nationality, political opinion or targeted social group, such as an ethnicity or caste. Asylum rights were also established in the 1990 Immigration and Nationality Act. On average, more than 26,000 people received asylum in the United States annually between 2000 and 2016.

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