Ashwin and Raj Sharma interviewed regarding U.S. and Canadian Immigration on Punjabi radio by Mr. Rishi Nagra of RedFM Calgary, Canada. U.S. Immigration topics include Indian Immigration, H-1B, L-1B, EB-5 and Family Based Immigration.
Release Date: April 07, 2014
WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year (FY) 2015. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U. S. advanced degree exemption.
Before running a random selection process, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period which ended today. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date on which it will conduct the random selection process.
A computer-generated process will randomly select the number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return filing fees for all cap-subject petitions that are not selected, unless found to be a duplicate filing.
The agency will conduct the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All advanced degree petitions not selected will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.
USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will not be counted towards the congressionally mandated FY 2015 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:
- Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
- Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
- Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
- Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.
- U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming.
For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit http://www.uscis.gov or follow us on Facebook (/uscis), Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and the USCIS blog The Beacon.
Last Reviewed/Updated: 04/07/2014
Update (6:45 PM): AILA Liaison has been informed that due to the reported courier delivery problems with FY2015 H-1B petitions, USCIS will accept a second H-1B petition in certain limited circumstances. Specifically, for cap-subject petitions that were timely filed, if, upon inquiry, the carrier indicates that there may be a delivery delay or the package has been damaged, the petitioner may file a second H-1B petition with:
- A new fee;
- An explanation as to why the second petition is being filed, with supporting evidence (such as the notice from the carrier); and
- A request to withdraw the first H-1B cap petition.
USCIS will return the withdrawn petitions with the fee, even if they have already been receipted.
Petitions that do not include the above-referenced items will be treated as duplicate petitions and will be denied or revoked, and USCIS will not refund the filing fees. Please also note that if the FY2015 cap is met within the first five business days of April, USCIS will reject all petitions received after April 7, 2014, including duplicate H-1B petitions filed in accordance with these instructions.
Update (5:03 PM): A member has been informed by FedEx that approximately 200 packages have been delivered to the Vermont Service Center but were not scanned as delivered. Members can call FedEx directly (1-800-463-3339), provide the tracking number, and the representative should be able to confirm delivery telephonically.
AILA has received several reports from members who, upon inquiring about the status of their FedEx delivery, have been informed of delivery problems. AILA has reported the specific problems to USCIS headquarters. USCIS officials are investigating the situation and will report back to AILA as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you have been unable to confirm that your package has been delivered to the CSC or VSC, you might consider preparing a duplicate petition as a precaution. However, do not file a duplicate petition until you have confirmed that the original petition has been destroyed, misdirected, or lost. Under 8 CFR 214.2(h)(2)(i)(G), USCIS will deny or revoke duplicate filings by the same employer for the same beneficiary, and fees will not be refunded.
AILA will continue to provide updates as it learns more information from USCIS.
This week, Bill Snyder, a blogger for the anti-H-1B propaganda site Infoworld posted an article attacking Immigration of the Educated. What is especially interesting about Mr. Snyder’s position is the fact that it signals the resumption of the 2008 attack on the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). OPT being a temporary work authorized status granted to eligible F-1 students who may thus gain professional work experience post graduation, and perhaps a portion back of 20+ billion dollars in tuition they pay into our coffers each year.
Unjustified ire towards OPT is peaking only because the program may be utilized by eligible F-1 Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) graduates. Apparently, for Mr. Snyder, it is only then that the program transforms into what he terms “a sleazy end run around the law”. Mr. Snyder claims that these new STEM graduates, supported by their “tech company” employers, enter the U.S. workforce en masse to undercut IT wages. Said wages, which he admits in the first sentence, are already “climbing to more than $87,000 a year”.
The fact that Mr. Snyder’s argument against OPT flies in the face of the concept of American Exceptionalism and two basic economic principles, or that it is entirely bereft of any unbiased and relevant data is moot. The most significant takeaway from his article is that STEM OPT is nothing more than a scapegoat: this attack is actually and truly directed against the H-1B program itself. Mr. Snyder and other IT protectionists seek justification to undermine the OPT program not because of any alleged misuse, but because OPT allows a post graduate STEM worker precious time to find a good employer who may agree to pay government fees of up to $5,550.00 (plus attorney fees) to file an H-1B petition on their behalf. (There are no guarantees of approval, nor is the worker forced to even ultimately take up employment with the H-1B petitioner. As well, in the future, the H-1B worker, for any reason, may transfer to a new H-1B employer in as little as one week.)
Our immigration policy is increasingly hobbled by protectionists who, for short term gain (or perhaps unknowingly), damage our nation’s international lead in the STEM fields. Our insufficient H-1B cap that does the same: tens of thousands of highly qualified, valuable STEM professionals were rejected in last year’s random selection process (H-1B lottery), and sadly the scene is set be repeated again this year in April.
Our repeated rejection of STEM professionals is untenable and is certain to diminish our ability to attract the worlds best and brightest, unless we make drastic changes. Already, other nations are eagerly recruiting STEM workers (sometimes from within our own borders). The bottom line: the yearly H-1B cap must be increased to an amount commensurate to demand, or at the very least, to a level that isn’t exhausted in one week.
Data Reveals USCIS Increasing Number of Requests for Evidence on L-1B Cases, California Service Center Continues to Lead Vermont Service Center in RFEs and Case Denials
Responding to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The American Immigration Lawyers Association Liaison, USCIS revealed interesting data on L-1B nonimmigrant petitions receipted, approved, denied, and those subjected to a Request for Evidence (“RFE”) for FY2012 and FY2013. The data, when compared with USCIS statistics and a National Foundation for American Policy report, both released in 2012, reveals that the L-1B denial rate increased from 27% in FY2011 to 30% in FY2012 and 34% in FY2013.
USCIS Reminds Filipino Nationals Impacted by Typhoon Haiyan of Available Immigration Relief Measures
In light of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (named “Yolanda” by Philippine authorities), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would like to remind Filipino nationals that they may be eligible for certain immigration relief measures if requested.
USCIS understands that a natural disaster can affect an individual’s ability to establish or maintain lawful immigration status in the United States. Therefore, Filipino nationals impacted by Typhoon Haiyan may be eligible to benefit from the following immigration relief measures:
- Change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even when the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
- Extension of certain grants of parole made by USCIS;
- Extension of certain grants of advance parole, and expedited processing of advance parole requests;
- Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
- Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs);
- Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate; and
- Assistance to LPRs stranded overseas without immigration or travel documents, such as Permanent Resident Cards (Green Cards). USCIS and the Department of State will coordinate on these matters when the LPR is stranded in a place that has no local USCIS office.
For more information on USCIS humanitarian programs, visit http://www.uscis.gov or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
Infosys Fined an Unprecedented $35,000,000.00 by the U.S. Government for Employing B-1 Visas in Lieu of H-1Bs
The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Government will fine Infosys, an Indian Technology/Consulting giant, almost $35,000,000.00 for employing B-1 visa workers in lieu of H-1B visa workers.
By way of background, last year, Judge Thompson of the Federal Court for the Middle District of Alabama rejected all claims brought by Jack Palmer against his employer, Infosys. Palmer claimed to have been harassed and retaliated against after making allegations that Infosys’ massive B-1 visa program was used fraudulently in place of more appropriate visas. Palmer’s rejected claims were subsequently resurrected by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, which continued its investigation into whether Infosys wrongly filed B-1 visas for workers performing work that actually required H-1B visas.
In a 2011 blog post I wrote about how Infosys may have been engaging in a perfectly legal action; per 9 FAM 41.31 N11, “ALIENS NORMALLY CLASSIFIABLE H-1 OR H-3″:
“There are cases in which aliens who qualify for H-1 or H-3 visas may more appropriately be classified as B-1 visa applicants in certain circumstances; e.g., a qualified H-1 or H-3 visa applicant coming to the United States to perform H-1 services or to participate in a training program. In such a case, the applicant must not receive any salary or other remuneration from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to the alien’s temporary stay. For purposes of this Note, it is essential that the remuneration or source of income for services performed in the United States continue to be provided by the business entity located abroad, and that the alien meets the following criteria:
(1) With regard to foreign-sourced remuneration for services performed by aliens admitted under the provisions of INA 101(a)(15)(B), the Department has maintained that where a U.S. business enterprise or entity has a separate business enterprise abroad, the salary paid by such foreign entity shall not be considered as coming from a “U.S. source;”
(2) In order for an employer to be considered a “foreign firm” the entity must have an office abroad and its payroll must be disbursed abroad. To qualify for a B-1 visa, the employee must customarily be employed by the foreign firm, the employing entity must pay the employee’s salary, and the source of the employee’s salary must be
However, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), apparently motivated by Palmer’s Testimony, addressed a strongly worded but poorly researched memo to Secretary Hillary Clinton in which he demanded a complete review of the B-1 visa. His request was inexplicably granted, and the resultant changes substantially injured the economic interests of U.S. organizations engaged in international trade, countermanded congressional intent on the subject, and escalated denials for B-1 applicants at U.S. Consulates, especially those in the ‘B-1 in lieu of H-1B’ category.
Moving back to present: Infosys’ fine is unprecedented in the history of Immigration law. It will have a major impact on both our nation’s technology/consulting sector and on our Immigration policy. In light of the fact that other nations are eagerly recruiting the world’s best and brightest (sometimes from within our borders), it can only be hoped that the Infosys fine will reinvigorate the push for the creation of a new U.S. visa category specifically designed for short term consulting projects, and/or to increase the U.S.’s yearly quota for H-1B professional workers to a level that isn’t exhausted in one week.
AILA’s recommendations on filing H-1B, PERM and other applications while DOL’s iCERT and PERM Websites are Shutdown
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has indicated that they are trying to obtain guidance from USCIS and US Department of Labor (DOL) about how attorneys should move forward in filing applications like the H-1B and PERM/Labor Certifications which have been affected by the DOL’s shutdown (resulting from the Federal Government’s Shutdown).
AILA does not have official guidance from the USCIS and DOL yet and indicates that there are “conflicting reports” regarding DOL’s ability to even accept mail. For now, however, AILA recommends the following:
USCIS will remain operational during the Federal Government Shutdown thanks to the healthy funding it derives from USCIS filing fees
- Good news: USCIS’ operations though the Federal Government Shutdown are expected to continue because it is funded by sources other than appropriated funds (read: H-1B and other USCIS filing fees). In fact, this funding is so substantial that USCIS expects to send home only 353 of 12,558 employees during the temporary shutdown.
- Consulates remain operational at this point.
- Unfortunately, the DOL ETA will not process any employment based labor certifications during the shut down. The PERM PLC website is also down, as is iCert.
Update: the iCERT system is currently unavailable due to Federal Government Shutdown. It Appears that No LCA’s or Prevailing Wages Can be filed.
By Ashwin Sharma, Esq.
Update: our law office tried to file an ETA 9035/LCA a few moments ago and received the following message:
The iCERT system is currently unavailable
This Web application is currently unavailable due to the suspension of Federal government services. It will be available again when the Federal government resumes operations.
- Federal government shuts down (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Republicans Must Aggressively Seek Credit For The Federal Government Shutdown (forbes.com)
Department of Labor: The Administration is working very hard to avoid a government shutdown and believes there is sufficient time to avoid such an occurrence; however, prudent management requires the Department to plan for the possibility that it may need to suspend operations should Congress be unable to pass a funding bill by midnight on Monday, September 30, 2013.
OFLC functions are not “excepted” from a shutdown and its employees would be placed in furlough status should a lapse in appropriated funds occur. Consequently, in the event of a government shutdown, OFLC will neither accept nor process any applications or related materials (such as audit responses), it receives, including Labor Condition Applications, Applications for Prevailing Wage Determination, Applications for Temporary Employment Certification, or Applications for Permanent Employment Certification. OFLC’s web site, including the iCERT Visa Portal System, would become static and unable to process any requests or allow authorized users to access their online accounts.
Further updates will be posted to the Department’s website.
Department of State: The Department will continue as many normal operations as possible; operating status and available funding will need to be monitored continuously and closely, and planning for a lapse in appropriations must be continued.
EOIR: EOIR has indicated that its response to a potential shutdown is the same as it was in 2011. EOIR has been advised to “put its shutdown plans in place.” As with other agencies, personnel who are not considered “essential” will be furloughed. EOIR has indicated that the detained docket would likely be considered an essential function and would therefore be able to continue in operation.
Update from EOIR on October 1, 2013: Court functions that support the detained caseload will continue, but other functions are suspended. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is processing emergency stay requests as well as cases where the alien is detained, including case appeals, motions, federal court remands, and bonds.
ICE: From ICE Community Outreach – ICE detention and enforcement operations shall continue. ICE chief counsel trail attorneys will still work on the detained docket only during a shutdown. Please coordinate with your local Chief Counsel Office on more specifics. The ICE Community and Detainee Helpline will remain operational.
USCIS: E-Verify is currently unavailable due to a government shutdown.
Washington Post Round Up of Various Agency Responses on Impact of a Government Shutdown
- Immigrants Can Still Be Deported, Arrested During Government Shutdown (thinkprogress.org)
- Your Government Shutdown Survival Guide (on.aol.com)
- Every government shutdown ever, in one chart (washingtonpost.com)