• Trade – NAFTA (TN) professional workers from Canada or Mexico are now eligible for a 3-year initial period of admission into the U.S., up from a previous maximum of one year. TN extensions also can be granted in increments of up to three years. This is a big change which should assist U.S. employers in managing their recruitment and staffing needs. If you are interested in hiring a Canadian or Mexican citizen who has at least a Bachelor’s degree or other appropriate professional credentials, discuss the TN option with your immigration counsel. 
  • Demand in E-3 professional work visas available to nationals of Australia is gradually increasing. Importantly, U.S. employers and their E-3 employees should remember that (1) careful review of the workers’ I-94 Arrival/Departure Record Cards (“I-94 Cards”) is necessary as the admission process of E-3 workers is ridden with errors (e.g., I-94 Cards issued with a validity period exceeding the validity period of the underlying Labor Condition Application); (2) E-3 workers do not receive automatic work authorization extension while their extension of stay proceedings are pending; (3) as Premium Processing is unavailable for E-3 petition extensions, extensions of stay should be filed 6 months prior to the status expiration date; and (4) in most cases, E-3 workers wishing to change U.S. employers will have to leave the U.S. and apply for and obtain a new visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.
  • Effective Oct. 1, 2008, the USCIS has started implementing a new naturalization exam. Naturalization applicants whose Form N-400 filings were received by the USCIS on or before September 30, 2008 remain eligible to choose whether to take the old or the new exam. Applications filed on or after October 1, 2008 require testing under the new examination standards. 
  • The President has just signed a bill to extend the special immigrant religious worker program. The program has been extended through March 6, 2009, allowing nonminister religious workers to obtain U.S. permanent resident status prior to that date. The program was originally scheduled to “sunset” on September 30, 2008.