Photo of Rob Cohen

Rob’s primary area of practice is immigration and nationality law. He has extensive experience in all aspects of business and family immigration procedures.

President Trump issued three Executive Orders during the first week of his administration to fulfill his campaign promises. During the campaign, President Trump promised to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico and to impose a ban on the admission of Muslims until the new Administration could impose “extreme vetting” of all non-citizens admitted to the United States. A third Executive Order seeks to withdraw federal funding for sanctuary cities. The implementation of these Orders has been uneven, instilling fear and uncertainty among travelers, their employers and families, leading to numerous demonstrations in cities and at airports throughout the country.

While the three orders addressed different aspects of immigration, the most impactful order was the third one signed and immediately implemented on the late afternoon of Jan. 27, 2017. This order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” suspended immediately the admission of all refugees for 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and it prohibited the admission of all citizens from seven designated countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) with both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for 60 days. Certain diplomatic visa holders were exempted from the Executive Order. While the Order provided for individual exemptions on a case by case basis, in the national interest, the standards and the procedures to apply for this exemption were not identified in the Order.
Continue Reading President Trump’s immigration Executive Orders

Special thanks to summer associate Sara Schiavone for her work on this blog post.

Human resource professionals who are managing the immigration processing for Indian nonimmigrant employees should be aware of the increased processing times for the visa application at consulates in India. The extraordinary increase in routine processing for nonimmigrant visas requires significantly more planning to avoid long periods of non-productivity while employees are stranded abroad waiting for a visa appointment.

It was not that long ago that one week was seen as a standard timeframe to receive an interview appointment. However, applicants now experience wait times as long as four months. As of July 2016, current wait times for nonimmigrant visa (NIV) interview appointments other than B (visitor), F (student) and J (exchange visitor) at the following consular posts are:
Continue Reading Long wait times for Indian nonimmigrant visas merit human resources planning

In November 2014, President Obama spoke on prime time television to explain his promise to issue executive orders and fix as much of the dysfunctional immigration system as could be done without Congressional action. The press and Republicans in Congress criticized the program to grant “deferred action” to a significant percentage of the undocumented population (and litigation has put that element on hold), but largely overlooked the several initiatives to reform the employment-based immigration system.  While the reforms outlined in November 2014 were little more than duct tape and chewing gum designed to provide modest improvement to a fully dysfunctional system, they nevertheless promised some relief to many of the long suffering applicants for permanent resident status. The State Department has finally offered its version of reform through the “modernization” of the monthly Visa Bulletin. While this duct tape may hold the process together a little while longer, eventually Congress must get serious about immigration reform. Until then, this change is a welcome effort to make the process just a little bit easier for some of the individuals subject to the long delays.
Continue Reading State Department revises Visa Bulletin cutoff dates

Last night President Obama addressed the nation and outlined his long awaited Executive Order to begin the process of immigration reform. His speech emphasized the policy imperative to improve the system, and encourage economic growth consistent with our values respecting and protecting individual rights. The President, anticipating the Republican response, reiterated that it is the

This past weekend President Obama, while in China, announced changes in the reciprocity agreement for visas for Chinese citizens. The reciprocity agreement, which becomes effective on November 12, 2014, governs the period of validity for different kinds of visas which permit Chinese citizens to travel to the United States for different purposes. The agreement provides

This morning, the USCIS announced that the H-1B cap was reached during the initial filing period. More than 65,000 petitions were received for the regular cap, and more than 20,000 petitions were received for the advanced degree exemption. This announcement was expected, and it will take another couple of weeks for the USCIS to enter

The Government shut-down resulting from Congress’ inability to pass an appropriation measure or continuing resolution will have varied impacts on employers and individuals who require visa applications, and immigration processing at the several agencies with responsibility for the administration of the immigration laws. Several agencies have issued statements as to which operations will continue as

It has been two weeks since a bipartisan Senate Committee of eight senators released their statement of principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, followed two days later by President Obama during a speech in Las Vegas. The President told the nation that the political stars have aligned and "now is the time" for serious consideration of immigration reform. Together, these statements set the stage for the debate to come.

These two statements provide a hopeful sign that the intractable problems have been reconsidered in light of the new political reality and good old-fashioned compromises have been defined. There are still many difficult decisions ahead. The devil, as they say, is in the details, and it is those details beyond the basic positional statements that will be necessary to define.

When it comes to immigration reform, the critical decisions boil down to numbers. The problem with the last comprehensive reform legislation in 1986 was that the law made no attempt to adjust the limits to changing economic conditions – immigration limits haven’t changed since they were arbitrarily set in 1990.

Immigration policy must be based upon both family reunification and the labor demands and employment opportunities, both core national values. But the law was not built to index or adjust to changing economic conditions. In fact, the Immigration Act of 1990, still in place today, permits the annual admission of 226,000 family-based immigrants, based on various family relationships; and 140,000 immigrants conditioned on the needs of U.S. employers, based on different skill sets.


Continue Reading “Now is the Time” to Move on Immigration, But the Devil is in the Details

The State Department released the January 2013 Visa Bulletin last week. Among the items of interest was the disappointing news that the visa cut-off date for the EB-2 category for India remains September 1, 2004, for the fourth straight month since the new fiscal year began in October. This means that cases with a priority date on or before the cut-off date can be processed, all other applications must wait for an available visa. The visa cut-off date for the EB-3 category for India again showed a slight movement of one week to November 8, 2002, from the previous month’s cut-off date of November 1, 2002. Since the beginning of the fiscal year, that’s a movement of a whole month for Indian born applicants in the EB-3 category.

(For those still confused about the visa cut-off dates: the foreign employee’s priority date must be prior to the visa cut-off date published in the monthly Visa Bulletin for the employee to be able to file an application to adjust status, the final step in the process for permanent residence. If the application to adjust status has already been filed, it cannot be approved until the posted cut-off date reaches the individual’s priority date. The priority date is set by the filing date of the PERM application or the immigrant visa petition, whichever comes first.)

The problem for Indian born applicants is the per country limitation. The law limits each country to 7% of the total applicants if a classification is oversubscribed, meaning that there are more applicants in line than the law allows in any one year. Congress set the limit for employment-based visas at 140,000 in 1990, and has not updated the law since then. Because this limit includes not only the employees being sponsored, but each of their family members, the sponsored immigrant requires an average of 2.3 visas, further reducing the availability of visas. The allocation for the EB-2 and EB-3 categories are 40,040 each, and because both have been oversubscribed, the per country limitation has been effective since April 2000. This means that there are 2,803 (7% of 40,040) visas available for Indian born applicants in each of the two employment categories.


Continue Reading Will EB-3 Catch Up to EB-2 for India?