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Update: USCIS Final Guidance on When to File an Amended or New H-1B Petition after Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC

Today USCIS issued its long awaited USCIS final guidance on how to implement the AAO precedent decision Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC on when an amended or new H-1B petition must be filed.  By way of background, after years of allowing ‘LCA Amendments’ in H-1B cases involving solely a change in job sites, on April 9, 2015, the AAO’s sudden adoption of Matter of Simeio Solutions as precedent now requires a full H-1B amendment to be filed in most such cases: for many H-1B employers the AAO holding essentially mandates increased risk, complexity, cost, delay and uncertainty  Interestingly, it is probable that the need for a Matter of Simeio Solutions  came about, at least in part, to combat the widespread adoption of LCA amendments which became more popular after the USCIS issued the January 2010 Neufeld Memo, (about which I was interviewed by BBC Hindi), another suddenly imposed mandate that also increased risk, complexity, cost, delay and uncertainty for H-1B businesses (and from which USCIS somewhat backed away on later that same year).  In any case, after August 19, 2015 USCIS will require that a full H-1B amendment be filed together with a $325 fee.  Judging by recent H-1B regular processing times, USCIS may adjudicate these cases 3-6+ months after they are filed (faster if the Employer also pays USCIS a $1225 premium processing government fee).

USCIS guidance on Matter of Simeio Solutions provides an H-1B petitioner (employer) three different deadlines depending on when its employee changed location:

a) If, on or before April 9, 2015, a petitioner’s H-1B employee moved to a new place of employment (not covered by an existing, approved H-1B petition): an H-1B requirement may be filed, but is not required to be filed.USCIS indicates that in such cases, it “will generally not pursue new revocations or denials based upon failure to file an amended or new petition. However, notices of intent to revoke, revocations, requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny, or denials issued prior to July 21, 2015 (date of this final guidance) remain in effect and the petitioner must comply with them

b) If, after April 9, 2015 but prior to August 19, 2015, a petitioner’s H-1B employee moved to a new place of employment (not covered by an existing, approved H-1B petition): “The petitioner must file an amended or new petition by January 15, 2016. USCIS will consider filings prior to the deadline for this safe harbor period to be timely for purposes of the regulation. However, if the petitioner does not file the amended or new petition within the time permitted, the petitioner will be out of compliance with DHS regulations. The petitioner’s current Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, H-1B petition approval will be subject to a notice of intent to revoke and the employee may be found to not be maintaining his or her H-1B status.”

c) If, on or after August 19, 2015, a petitioner’s H-1B employee moved to a new place of employment (not covered by an existing, approved H-1B petition): “The petitioner must file an amended or new petition before an H-1B employee starts working at a new place of employment not covered by an existing, approved H-1B petition.”

While acknowledging favorably USCIS’ grant of additional time for compliance with Matter of Simeio Solutions, one of the primary issues faced by an H-1B employer presently is that while it may place its H-1B employee at a new job site and initiate work there at roughly the same time as in LCA amendment situations, in reality it may be immeasurably difficult to expect all affected parties to wait for a final USCIS adjudication (for which a longer wait than usual is likely based on the number of applications expected to be filed).  Second: such adjudications are often preceded by the issuance of and response to (usually) lengthy Requests for Evidence that frequently require both the employer and the employee to essentially ‘reinvent the wheel’, in other words, reestablish many elements of the case over again, including, amazingly, specialty occupation and beneficiary’s qualifications.  These adjudications can be expensive, time consuming and can ultimately result in denials of previously approved H-1B petitions, at an especially inopportune moment for the Employer/Employee (new assignment, new project etc).  This is both because unlike Matter of Simeio Solutions, the vast majority of AAO are non-precedent/ not binding on USCIS, and because USCIS is simply not required to grant discretion in extensions or amendments of H-1B employment involving the same employee and same employer,

“CIS has the authority to question prior determinations. Adjudicators are not bound to approve subsequent petitions or applications seeking immigration benefits where eligibility has not been demonstrated, merely because of a prior approval which may have been erroneous. Matter of Church Scientology International, 19 I&N Dec. 593, 597 (Comm. 1988). Each matter must be decided according to the evidence of record on a case-by-case basis. See 8 CFR § 103.8(d).”

Yates Memo of April 23, 2004 “The Significance of a Prior CIS Approval of a Nonimmigrant Petition in the Context of a Subsequent Determination Regarding Eligibility for Extension of Petition Validity.”

In short: minor location changes alone will now expose an H-1B employer to additional delay, expense and to the Totality of USCIS Scrutiny. Matter of Simeio Solutions and today’s policy guidance are certain to have a widespread impact on a variety U.S. business sectors, and like the January 2010 Neufeld Memo, both maintain the appearance of being engineered specifically to target the U.S.’ Information Technology Consulting sector, and by extension, Indian Nationals, who also received 70% of all H-1B petitions approved in FY2014.

There is a sharp dichotomy between our Nation’s Business and Family Immigration Policies: the former is lucky to receive an iota of the political attention and importance that the latter enjoys fairly consistently. By ratifying Matter of Simeio Solutions, USCIS has taken a firm step towards joining the Department of StateConsulates in steering the H-1B program down the same Road to Redundancy most recently traveled by the once-useful-but-no-longer-viable-for-US-business L-1B and ‘B-2 in Lieu of H-1B‘ programs (The F-1 OPT is next – and already targeted by anti-H-1B groups).  However, for U.S. businesses to grow, particularly those within STEM fields, our policymakers and stakeholders must acknowledge the critical import of Business Immigration programs such as the H-1B, and the significant contribution that H-1B professionals make towards our Nation’s future.  Aid must be provided in identifying and removing unreasonable obstacles from these programs in favor of sustainable solutions which must be effected through a lengthier rule-making process incorporating greater input from stakeholders to establish expeditious, cost-effective and workable solution(s) that to satisfy both USCIS and U.S. Business’ requirements.

It is abundantly clear that the U.S. maintains a critical and demonstrated need for H-1B professionals, and certainly for the continued viability of the H-1B program itself.  This fact is demonstrated most recently in April 2015 by the 233,000 H-1B applications filed by professionals for one of the approximately 85,000 spots in our (insufficient) yearly quota.  Our rejection of hundreds of thousands of professional workers over the years is untenable: it negatively impacts our ability to conduct business and attract the world’s Best and Brightest.  Further, while other nations eagerly recruit STEM workers (sometimes from within our own borders) each year we see more restrictions and obstacles ‘added-on’ to Business Immigration Programs, most particularly the H-1B.

Links:

USCIS POLICY GUIDANCE OF JULY 21, 2015 – Final Guidance on When to File an Amended or New H-1B Petition After Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC

SIMEIO SOLUTIONS, LLC, 26 I&N Dec. 542 (AAO 2015) (PDF)

NEUFELD MEMO – January 2010 Neufeld Memo

USCIS Announces Immigration Relief Measures for Nepali Nationals

Immigration Relief Measures for Nepali Nationals

USCIS has several immigration relief measures that may be available to Nepali nationals who are affected by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015.

Measures that may be available to eligible Nepali nationals upon request include:

  • Change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
  • A grant of re-parole;
  • 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 adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate;
  • Consideration for waivers of fees associated with USCIS benefit applications, based on an inability to pay; and
  • Assistance replacing lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as Permanent Resident Cards (green cards).

To learn how to request relief or more about how USCIS assists customers affected by unforeseen circumstances in their home country, visit uscis.gov/humanitarian/special-situations or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 (TDD for the hearing impaired: 1-800-767-1833).

H-1B Update: On May 4, 2015 USCIS Completed Data Entry of FY 2016 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions and will begin Returning Rejected Cases

USCIS announced May 4, 2015, that it has completed data entry of all fiscal year 2016 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in our computer-generated random process. USCIS will now begin returning all H-1B cap subject petitions that were not selected. Due to the high volume of filings, the time frame for returning these petitions is uncertain. USCIS asks petitioners to not inquire about the status of submitted cap-subject petitions until they receive a receipt notice or an unselected petition is returned. USCIS will issue an announcement once all the petitions have been returned.

DHS, USCIS Office of Inspector General, Information Technology Management Report entitled “Progress and Challenges” covers IT recommendations for USCIS

via www.oig.dhs.gov/

DHS, USCIS Office of Inspector General, Information Technology Management Report entitled “Progress and Challenges”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Information Technology Management Progress and Challenges (PDF, 36 pages – 1.34 MB)

Spotlight (PDF, 1 page – 125 KB)

USCIS Reaches FY 2015 H-1B Cap – Via USCS.gov

VIA USCIS.gov

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

USCIS will remain operational during the Federal Government Shutdown thanks to the healthy funding it derives from USCIS filing fees

English: replaces :Image:H1b demographics indi...

H1B demographics india.jpg Category:Immigration to the United States charts and graphs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • 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.

USCIS now considers Same-Sex Marriages valid: Green Card Applications OK

VIA DHS.GOV

Implementation of the Supreme Court Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act

Statement from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano:

English: Official portrait of United States Se...

English: Official portrait of United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano Español: Retrato oficial de Secretaria de Seguridad Interna de los Estados Unidos Janet Napolitano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly. To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Read More…

USCIS Anticipates Meeting FY 2014 H-1B Cap in First Few Days – First Time since 2008

By nation in 2005

By nation in 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Ashwin Sharma, Esq.

 

The latest H-1B numerical cap (FY 2014) opens on April 1, 2013. USCIS has indicated that it expects to receive more than 65,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions and more than 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher between April 1, 2013, and April 5, 2013.  USCIS will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public of the date on which the numerical limit of the H-1B cap has been met. This date is known as the final receipt date.  If USCIS receives more petitions than it can accept, USCIS will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit. USCIS will reject petitions that are subject to the cap and are not selected, as well as petitions received after it has the necessary number of petitions needed to meet the cap.

This could be the first time since April 2008 that the H-1B cap will require a lottery.  USCIS has also indicated that premium processing for H-1B petitions filed for the Cap will note begin until April 15, 2013, quite understandable considering they are expecting an avalanche of H-1B cases.

That we are at 2008 application levels and preparing for another H-1B lottery is testament to two major factors:

1. Information Technology consulting, and the large variety of industries supported by it, have largely rebounded since the 2008 economic crash.

2. There are not enough H-1B visas to meet demand.  Increasing H-1B numbers was obviously not at the top of the priority list during the economic collapse, however, it must be addressed directly by any Comprehensive Immigration Reform program.  Increasing the H-1B quota, along with the addition of a special category for IT workers, is a no-brainer – one of the simplest fixes Congress can make in both strengthening this country’s economy and status as a tech superpower.

http://www.ashwinsharma.com

Information on the New Provisional (Stateside) Unlawful Presence Waiver Process

VIA USCIS.gov

Beginning March 4, certain immigrant visa applicants who are the spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens (immediate relatives), and have been unlawfully present in the United States, can start applying for provisional unlawful presence waivers through a new process. Read More…

USCIS Releases Latest Data on (DACA) Cases Received Through 12/13/2012 – 70% of Total Cases Cite Mexico as Country of Origin

DREAMer Information Summit

DREAMer Information Summit (Photo credit: Neighborhood Centers)

USCIS’ Latest Data on DACA Cases indicates that as of December 13, 2012, USCIS has accepted a total of 355,889 DACA cases, of which 102,965 have been approved, and 157,151 are pending.  Just over 70% of all cases received by USCIS cite Mexico as the applicants’ country of origin.  The top State of applicants’ residence is California.

USCIS announces Workload Transfer from Service Centers to Field Operations

Via USCIS.gov

USCIS wants to notify customers and stakeholders that some work that USCIS performs at the four USCIS service centers (Vermont, Nebraska, Texas and California) will be transferred to a Field Office or the National Benefits Center (NBC) in order to balance the overall workload with processing capacity. The chart below summarizes these changes.

Read More…

USCIS’s Latest Numbers on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Applications

Via the USCIS’ Office of Performance and Quality (OPQ) 
DACA Stage Cumulative to date (August 15 – September 13, 2012)

1. Intake Number of requests accepted for processing – 82,361
2. Biometrics Number of biometric appointments scheduled* – 63,717
3. Adjudication Number of requests ready for review** – 1,660
4. Completed Number of requests completed – 29

Systems: Lockbox Intake System, Biometrics Capture Systems, CIS Consolidated Operational Repository (CISCOR)

*The number of biometrics appointments may exceed the total number of cases due to rescheduling by the requestor
**Includes all requests having biometrics captured and before decision

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