Photo of William Coffman

Bill Coffman is Of Counsel and is based in the firm’s Boston office. His practice focuses on immigration matters such as nationality law and outbound emigration and related international law. Bill regularly represents clients in immigration matters before the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Labor, as well as before US and other consulates. He has been recommended by The Legal 500 United States for Labor & Employment: Immigration and recognized by Best Lawyers in America for Immigration Law. He is also listed in the International Who’s Who of Corporate Immigration Lawyers and was named a Top Author with readers in the semiconductor industry by JD Supra.

The Trump Administration is evaluating potential reductions to U.S. cultural exchange programs that allow young people from across the world the opportunity to work temporarily in the US. The potential cuts would impact five programs that are part of the J-1 visa exchange visitor program.

The review of these cultural exchange programs is part of the President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order issued in April. This order seeks to protect American workers by prioritizing their abilities in the U.S. labor market while directing the appropriate government agencies to review current U.S. immigration policies and procedures. The impacted J-1 programs include the Summer Work Travel Program, the au pair program, as well as programs geared towards camp counselors and interns.  Other J-1 visa programs are not under scrutiny such as those focused on educational exchange for college students.

This summer, bipartisan members of both the House and the Senate wrote to President Trump explaining the importance of the summer work travel program for both students and the small businesses that utilize these workers. Small businesses such as amusement parks, resorts, and restaurants across the country rely on the Summer Work Travel Program participants to adequately staff their seasonal job openings. Without the Summer Work Travel Program, these businesses would not have the necessary labor force to satisfy their consumer demand during the busy summer months. These businesses may be forced to shorten their hours or offer fewer services causing economic ramifications for many seasonal businesses.

While no decisions have been made on the future of these visa programs, some of the options include eliminating the programs or imposing new regulations on companies seeking to employ program participants.  Regarding the potential cuts, a White House official stated that “presently, we continue to implement the J-1 visa programs at the same levels we have for the past few years, and we appreciate the support that American businesses have shown for the program and its value to their local communities.”

Cuts to these programs could have economic implications and would eliminate a major facilitator of cross-culture exchange between U.S. citizens and those participating in the programs—the overriding policy goal of the J-1 program.  As we’ve seen with recent diplomatic issues between the U.S. and Russia, cuts in the eligibility of foreigners to enter the U.S. on this program could result in reciprocal cuts from other countries in the eligibility of U.S. citizens to participate in their counterpart programs.

In a continuation of the diplomatic tit-for-tat with Russia, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced on Monday, August 21, 2017, that it would suspend issuance of nonimmigrant visas for eight days starting August 23rd. Nonimmigrant visa issuance will resume at the Embassy on September 1st, but will be suspended indefinitely at other posts in Russia.

The Embassy’s statement cites the Russian government’s cap on personnel at the U.S. mission there as the reason for this decision. Nonimmigrant visa appointments already scheduled for this time are being cancelled and notifications sent to applicants. Applicants with cancelled appointments will have to reschedule at the Embassy in Moscow for a future date regardless of their location in Russia. For incoming university students, the Embassy plans to release a block of appointments to apply for F-1 and J-1 visas in early September.

This suspension of nonimmigrant visa issuance does not directly impact immigrant visa processing, but staffing issues may dictate the need to reschedule some of these appointments. Impacted immigrant visa applicants will be notified of any changes to their scheduled appointment times.

Effective immediately, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume premium processing for select cap-exempt H-1B petitions. Cap-exempt petitioners who are eligible for premium processing can file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, along with the filing fee of $1,225.  

Such petitioners include: 

  • An institution of higher education;
  • A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; and
  • A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Premium processing will also resume for petitions where the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity. 

USCIS will make future additional announcements regarding resuming the premium processing for additional H-1B petitions. Please contact your Mintz Levin immigration attorney with any questions.

All individuals entering the U.S. at international ports of entry are inspected by US Customs & Border Protection (CBP).  This occurs at either the arrival airport in the U.S., Pre-Flight Inspection if flying from most Canadian airports, or border crossings into the U.S. from either Canada or Mexico.  This is an inspection to determine the individual’s eligibility to legally enter the U.S., as well as to confirm any necessary customs declarations or possession of contraband.

Because of the unique nature of the border or port of entry inspection and the concern over national security, U.S. law gives CBP officers wide latitude in how to conduct the inspection, including verbal questioning, inspection of luggage, and, lately, even inspection and retention of electronic devices. Usually, the inspection process is quick and painless. However, since the administration’s recent attempts to ban certain individuals from entering the country in the name of national security, CBP officers have reportedly been reaching beyond the normal procedures to search people’s phones and compel individuals to unlock their smartphone as a part of the search. Not only are border agents doing cursory searches, as in thumbing through an individual’s phone, but in some instances, they will dig deeper and download the contents of the device onto their own computer system and run forensic search algorithms to reveal all the data, including deleted files that have not yet been overwritten and metadata that the owner did not know was there. Case law for this kind of search is undeveloped, so an individual’s rights against this invasion of privacy are not clear until challenged in court.

Below are some FAQs to help you through this process if you face additional scrutiny.  These questions and responses have been formulated with the best information available, but you should know that in any given situation, CBP officers may expand the inspection process subjecting you or your possessions to additional scrutiny.

Continue Reading FAQs for Entering the U.S.—Entry Inspection and Electronic Devices

Update –  NEW BOSTON EVENT DATE: Due to safety concerns surrounding the recent snow storm, Mintz Levin rescheduled the Boston Immigration Seminar to Thursday, March 2. To register, please click here or see below. We hope you can join us!

On February 9th (Boston) and February 16th (New York), our very own Kevin McNamaraSusan Cohen, and Bill Coffman will lead a live seminar designed for in-house counsel, immigration specialists, HR professionals, talent managers, and other internal stakeholders to review changes affecting the hiring and continued employment of foreign nationals. Topics will include:

  • Worksite visit preparation
  • Record-keeping requirements
  • The new Form I-9 and the importance of E-Verify compliance
  • How to prepare for increased scrutiny at a US port of entry
  • New high-skilled worker regulations
  • Strategies and alternatives for H-1B visa cap and prospects for FY 2018

Don’t miss this important event.  For additional details and registration, please contact Cassie Bent at CMBent@mintz.com!

The UK Home Office has announced plans to offer an optional premium service for requests made through the Sponsor Management System (SMS). This service will allow Sponsors to pay a fee of £200 for expedited processing of certain types of requests including Certificate of Sponsorship allocation and Level 1 user appointment.

This service is being offered in an attempt to address the long processing times that many Sponsors have experienced when making routine requests through the SMS. In some instances, the Home Office has estimated as long as 18 weeks for the processing of requests. Such long wait times can be extremely burdensome on Sponsors who hope to hire recruits from outside of the UK to meet immediate staffing needs.

The law creating this new premium service will go into effect next month. From there, the Home Office will work toward implementation, but a specific timeline for when the service will be available to SMS users has not yet been announced.  We will provide additional information when it becomes available.

Should you have any questions, please contact GlobalVisas@mintz.com.

The diversity visa green card lottery has been an important part of U.S. immigration law for the last 20 years.  It allows 55,000 foreign nationals to immigrate each year and was implemented to fulfill the worthy goal of increasing the diversity of immigrants in the U.S.  This policy is implemented each year after government analysis of the countries of origin of immigrants in other green card categories and then allocating the 55,000 green cards allowed by law amongst those underrepresented countries of origin.

There is another immigration lottery that occurs around this time of year for one of the most essential visa categories to U.S. business—the H-1B. You may have read my post on this subject last year, and unfortunately this year’s post looks quite similar, because almost nothing has changed.  Continue Reading Immigration Policy By Lottery? Another Year, Nothing Changes.

On December 30, 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must notify either the beneficiary of an approved I-140 or successor employer, of any intent to revoke the petition prior to revocation (Mantena v. Johnson, Docket No. 14-2476-cv, (2nd Cir., Dec. 30, 2015)).  Continue Reading 2nd Circuit Court Requires I-140 Revocation Notice: Analysis

It’s September 25th, not April 1st! Like a cruel April Fool’s joke, the October Visa Bulletin has just been revised and the new India & China EB-2 filing dates have retrogressed. The instructions in bold type in the new bulletin indicate that this revised bulletin is to be used to determine who is eligible to file on October 1st.

Something similar to this happened in 2007 when the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security got in what may be best described as a spat over advancing visa bulletin numbers. In 2007, the government gave in and ended up allowing filings based on the previous bulletin.

These government agencies will be harshly criticized for releasing a revised visa bulletin only days before the October 1st planned filing date under the initial bulletin issued on September 9th. We are waiting to see if anything changes early next week.