USCIS Introduces Online Appointment Request Form:
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has introduced a convenient online appointment request form for in-person appointments at local field offices. While it's not a self-scheduling tool, it aims to enhance the user experience by gathering required details upfront. The USCIS Contact Center will review these submissions based on the availability of slots, and individuals might be contacted for further details. This initiative reflects USCIS's ongoing efforts to improve its services and increase user trust.
Important Changes to Form I-9 and the Introduction of Remote Verification:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveiled significant updates to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 25, 2023. This form is vital for employers to validate an employee's identity and work eligibility in the U.S. Any discrepancies or failures in completing the Form I-9 can lead to hefty penalties or, in severe cases, criminal consequences. The essence of these updates revolves around ensuring employers hire only those legally permitted to work in the U.S.
What's New with Form I-9?
- Release of a New Version: DHS has issued a fresh edition of Form I-9, which took effect on August 1, 2023. However, employers can continue to use the previous version (10/21/2019) until October 31, 2023.
- Alternative Document Review Option: The most groundbreaking change is the permission granted by DHS for remote verification under specific circumstances, moving away from the traditional need for physical document checks. This new rule started on August 1, 2023, and targets only “qualified employers.”
Remote Verification – The Details
- Who are Qualified Employers? These are employers in good standing with E-Verify, meaning they have enrolled in the program for all U.S. hiring sites using the alternative process, comply with E-Verify's requirements, and maintain their good standing throughout the usage of this alternative method.
The Remote Verification Process:
- The employer (or an authorized representative) sends the employee Form I-9, related instructions, and essential posters.
- The employee completes Section 1 of Form I-9 on or before their first workday.
- By the end of the first day, the employee must electronically send the filled Section 1 and copies of relevant documents to prove identity and work eligibility.
- Before the third day of employment, a live video interaction is conducted between the employer and the employee, during which the documents are presented and verified.
- During this video call, the employer finalizes Sections 2 or 3 of the Form I-9.
Using this remote verification method is optional, and employers can still opt for physical document checks. However, consistency is crucial. If they choose the remote method for a specific group of employees, they must apply it uniformly to avoid potential discriminatory implications.
These updates aim to modernize and streamline the employment verification process. For employers, it's essential to understand these changes, their implications, and ensure compliance to avoid potential pitfalls.
Updates on Physician National Interest Waivers:
USCIS has issued fresh policy guidance for physicians seeking national interest waivers based on work in underserved areas or at Veterans Affairs facilities. Key updates:
- Contracts and public health letters need to be dated within 6 months before the petition filing date for work that hasn't begun.
- The 6-month requirement does not apply to already initiated or completed work.
These guidelines, found in Volume 6 of the Policy Manual, override any previous guidance on this subject.
Clarification on “Sought to Acquire” Requirement under Child Status Protection Act (CSPA):
USCIS is providing clarity on the “sought to acquire” stipulation of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) after a policy shift on February 14, 2023. Major takeaways:
The February 14 change is now considered an “extraordinary circumstance”, potentially excusing delays in application due to CSPA age calculation changes.
Adjustments apply to applications processed by USCIS post-August 24, 2023, and nullify previous related guidance.
This decision underscores USCIS's commitment to maintaining fairness and clarity in its immigration policies.
EB-5 Visa Tax Hike Postponement: A Breath of Fresh Air for Indian Investors:
India, with its burgeoning middle class and growing affluence, has made its mark in the EB-5 investor landscape. The EB-5 visa stands as a beacon for many Indians, offering a direct path to U.S. Permanent Residency. The country's rise to the second-largest EB-5 investor market worldwide underscores this fact.
Postponement of the Tax Hike
In a recent move that has garnered a collective sigh of relief from potential Indian EB-5 investors, the anticipated Tax Collected at Source (TCS) increase has been deferred. The original proposal, which would have seen the TCS surge from 5% to a staggering 20% on July 1, 2023, has now been postponed to October 1, 2023. This tax hike would have incrementally added approximately $120,000 to the initial EB-5 investment amount.
The good news? This deferment grants Indian investors an extra 90 days. This period offers a valuable buffer to make investments and side-step the looming tax augmentation.
The standard provision allows Indians to remit up to $250,000 annually, catering to a myriad of needs - from business trips, medical exigencies, and academic pursuits to gifts, donations, and emigration. Every foreign remittance coming under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) will now face the TCS imposition.
The Ministry of Finance, in its recent announcement, declared the TCS rate hike's enforcement will commence from October 1, 2023. This extension is pivotal for Indian investors, offering them an extended window to facilitate their outbound money transfers, with the perk of reclaiming the transfer tax on their subsequent tax returns.
Maximizing the Opportunity and Call us to file your EB-5 Green Card:
This postponement represents more than just a delay. It's a crucial window of opportunity for Indian EB-5 investors. To truly leverage this period, investors must remain proactive. The definitive approach to sidestep this 15% tax spike on your EB-5 investment lies in meticulous planning.
Ensure your EB-5 funds are transferred ahead of the October 2023 cut-off. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of immediate engagement with an EB-5 regional center. Familiarize yourself with the projects on offer, prime your investment capital, and craft a strategic plan to maximize your investment gains.
Stay Informed, Stay Ahead
Our office stays abreast of all such developments to ensure our clients receive the most accurate and timely counsel. As always, we're here to guide and support you through your immigration journey. Reach out to our team if you have queries or need assistance related to these updates.
Keshab Raj Seadie
Law Offices of Keshab Raj Seadie, P.C.
Disclaimer: This newsletter is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always consult an attorney for personalized advice.