In today’s increasingly mobile world, companies and workers are in constant motion (including, very recently, our firm which moved from the Meatpacking District to Chelsea at the beginning of this month). It is very common for companies and foreign nationals to move across international borders, either temporarily or permanently, and also for companies and foreign nationals to move within countries from city to city. Such moves impact pending immigration cases as well as existing visas. Here are our top five immigration-related tips for foreign nationals and companies to consider when making any permanent move in location.
1. Tell the lawyer about the move before it takes place
We frequently learn that a company or foreign national client has moved after they’ve already done it, and sometimes by then it is very late in the process. By giving notice before moving, lawyers will be able to properly advise about how the move will affect a worker’s visa status or a company’s ability to continue as the petitioner of the visa from the new location.
2. Inform US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) of the change of address by filing an AR-11
Although the LCA and amended petition requirements (discussed below in point #4) are generally reserved for employment-based petitions, particularly H-1Bs, companies with petitions pending or valid with USCIS should still inform USCIS of the change of address by filing an AR-11 change of address form. All non-US citizens are required by law to inform USCIS of any change of home address within ten days of the move, and failure to do so is technically a misdemeanor criminal offense. Also, if a change of address is not filed, and USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE) on a pending case, or a Notice of Intent to Revoke an approved petition, and these notices are not received and responded to, the petition could be denied or revoked as abandoned. This could have a negative effect on future applications and petitions of both the company and the foreign national.
3. Update company’s corporate registration for USCIS’s “VIBE” check
This one is also absolutely essential. Companies must update their corporate registration documents when they move so the “VIBE” check is correct. VIBE stands for Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises, and is a tool designed to assist in US Citizenship & Immigration Service’s (USCIS) adjudications of certain employment-based immigration petitions. As USCIS explains, VIBE “uses commercially available data from an independent information provider (IIP) to validate basic information about companies or organizations petitioning to employ certain alien workers.” At this time, Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) is the independent information provider USCIS uses for the VIBE program.
If the VIBE check shows a discrepancy in their corporate information on file and with information filed in the petition, USCIS may request further evidence, which request can delay the processing of a case.
4. File an amended petition and new Labor Condition Application (LCA), if necessary.
In some circumstances, a company that moves may need to file an amended petition for affected workers on H-1B visas. If the work location of the foreign national H-1B worker is not changing despite the change in the company’s address, an amended petition may not be necessary. Even if the foreign national’s work location changes, it may not be necessary to file a new petition unless the worker will be moving outside of the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which is the geographical area set by the federal government that is used to determine the prevailing wage for a worker in a particular occupation.
Even if no amended petition is required, however, an employer whose foreign national H-1B worker will be moving work locations within the same MSA as the originally filed petition must post a new LCA with the new work location in the principle place of business or new work location.
5. Foreign nationals in removal proceedings must inform the Immigration Court and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Foreign nationals facing removal (deportation) from the US have special obligations to inform the authorities of their changes in home address. If a foreign national moves without informing the Court, they may miss important court notices and decisions that will impact their case. Most importantly, if the Immigration Court or ICE send a Notice to Appear or a Hearing Notice to the last address on file, and the foreign national never updated that address, never receives the notice, and does not attend the court hearing, they will most likely be ordered removed in absentia (in their absence). Unless foreign nationals can show exceptional circumstances for their failure to appear in court, it will be very difficult or impossible to get the case reopened based on the fact that they never received the notice. Given the incredible draconian consequence of deportation, this in absentia rule is incredibly harsh; however, it underscores the importance of keeping the immigration authorities apprised of any change of address.
Moving locations is often necessary for many businesses and also, of course, for individuals. Any move—whether for a company or foreign national—can be stressful and a busy time, but it’s essential that immigration considerations should not be overlooked.