More than Forms: Immigration Trends on Families and Businesses By Margaret W. Wong As a founder and a managing partner of my own immigration law firm, I would like to discuss future trends on family-based immigration and business-related immigration law for my fellow women business owners. Family and business immigration is about compromises – finding a middle ground for all parties – and as a result, immigration law is moving away from a straightforward application of forms to a more complex practice. On family immigration, legislation through the years have been enacted to balance the conflicting needs of family members hundreds of miles away to be together and the possibilities of marriage fraud. The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments (IMFA) of 1986 gave only a 2-year conditional resident status to aliens married to U.S. Citizens. They must apply after at least one year and nine months to remain a permanent resident or they have to reapply for a new green card. The Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT90) had the “battered spouse waiver” in which a “battered spouse” who obtained conditional permanent residency could waive the requirement to remove the condition, and eventually become a legal permanent resident. In December 1997, Section 245(i) allowed undocumented aliens and aliens who entered illegally to apply for a green card in the United States if a family-based petition or labor certification was filed prior to January 14, 1998. The Latino Immigrant Fairness Equity Act (LIFE) extended the January 1998 245(i) deadline to April 30, 2001. In 2002, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) was also enacted to provide relief for children who “age out” as a result of petition delays, locking in the age of the child at an earlier date and preserving the status of a child for many individuals who otherwise would age out. As evidenced by these laws, bringing in family members together does not only require form-filling. Complex legal discussions on CSPA to bring children from abroad or expedite their petitions and 245i explanations to prove eligibility of certain family members to adjust are necessary when filing family-based petitions with the Immigration Service. With business immigration, the conflict is between the good faith need to hire scientists, doctors, computer personnel, engineers, nurses, and other professionals from abroad, and the need of our government to protect U.S. workers. The H-1B Visa is an important aspect of immigration law that provides employment to foreigners in “specialty occupations” for a temporary period of three to six years. These specialty occupations are integral to most of our businesses, and in order to hire foreign workers to fill them, this visa enables business owners to hire them. The issue lately has been the small 65,000 annual H-1B quota, or 85,000 if we include aliens with a master’s degree or its equivalent. 2 months ago, the quota closed on the first day that H-1B petitions could be filed, almost doubling the quota, forcing businesses who complied to wait another year if they’re not picked in the lottery system. This lottery system was implemented by the Immigration Service in response to the application surplus. Yet despite this issue, we recently had priority dates for Employment-based immigration petitions moved forward, thereby making thousands of foreign employees working for US businesses eligible to apply for their green card. We also have the very efficient PERM labor certification process which makes the eventual petition of a foreign worker more efficient. As we have seen, it is hard to decipher what government is doing with immigration. On some fronts, it seems to be more stringent yet on other angles, there are pockets of benefits that can be taken advantage of by families and businesses. Though the trend in immigration law seems to go towards a more complex and interdisciplinary direction regarding both family immigration and business immigration, as long as family members and business owners choose the proper procedure and heed the proper legal advice, there is always a right immigration road map that brings families together and helps businesses hire much needed foreign workers.
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