USCIS has published a final rule to modernize and improve several aspects of certain employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visa programs. USCIS has also amended regulations to better enable U.S. employers to hire and retain certain foreign workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents. This rule goes into effect on Jan. 17, 2017.
Among other things, DHS is amending its regulations to:
- Clarify and improve longstanding DHS policies and practices implementing sections of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act related to certain foreign workers, which will enhance USCIS’ consistency in adjudication.
- Better enable U.S. employers to employ and retain high-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions (Form I-140 petitions) while also providing stability and job flexibility to these workers. The rule increases the ability of these workers to further their careers by accepting promotions, changing positions with current employers, changing employers and pursuing other employment opportunities.
- Improve job portability for certain beneficiaries of approved Form I-140 petitions by maintaining a petition’s validity under certain circumstances despite an employer’s withdrawal of the approved petition or the termination of the employer’s business.
- Clarify and expand when individuals may keep their priority date when applying for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence.
- Allow certain high-skilled individuals in the United States with E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1 or O-1 nonimmigrant status, including any applicable grace period, to apply for employment authorization for a limited period if:
- They are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140 petition,
- An immigrant visa is not authorized for issuance for their priority date, and
- They can demonstrate compelling circumstances exist that justify DHS issuing an employment authorization document in its discretion.
Such employment authorization may only be renewed in limited circumstances and only in one year increments.
- Clarify various policies and procedures related to the adjudication of H-1B petitions, including, among other things, providing H-1B status beyond the six year authorized period of admission, determining cap exemptions and counting workers under the H-1B cap, H-1B portability, licensure requirements and protections for whistleblowers.
- Establish two grace periods of up to 10 days for individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, and TN nonimmigrant classifications to provide a reasonable amount of time for these individuals to prepare to begin employment in the country and to depart the United States or take other actions to extend, change, or otherwise maintain lawful status.
- Establish a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each authorized validity period for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers when their employment ends before the end of their authorized validity period, so they may more readily pursue new employment and an extension of their nonimmigrant status.
- Automatically extend the employment authorization and validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs or Form I-766s) for certain individuals who apply on time to renew their EADs.
- Eliminate the regulatory provision that requires USCIS to adjudicate the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, within 90 days of filing and that authorizes interim EADs in cases where such adjudications are not conducted within the 90-day timeframe.
The Department of Homeland Security’s website notes that subsequent to USCIS changes to STEM optional practical training (OPT) regulations, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Release 6.26 was deployed which, while not providing a fix addressing all of USCIS’ changes, will help solve some issues presented by the new regulations, including document generation for F-1 OPT students who have applied for an EAD/I-765 so they may respond to USCIS’ requests for evidence. The update also:
Vox news reports the disappointing news that Hillary Clinton “just put a stake” through the idea of “expanding visas to allow more high-skilled workers to come to the United States” in favor of “unauthorized immigrants and their families (millions of whom, of course, are US citizens and voters)“. However, it should be noted that Clinton did not address any proposed changes to the H-1B or L-1 programs with specificity, which does leave room for hope for the U.S. technology sector.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.
USCIS will use a computer-generated process, also known as the lottery, to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption.
USCIS will first randomly select petitions for the advanced degree exemption. All unselected advanced degree petitions will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general cap. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.
Before running the lottery, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period, which ended April 7. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process.
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, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the congressionally mandated FY 2017 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.
We encourage H-1B applicants to subscribe to the H-1B Cap Season email updates located on the H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Cap Season Web page.
According to USCIS, H-1B and L-1 petitions filed on or after Oct. 1, 2015, should not include the additional fee that was previously required by Section 402 of Public Law 111-230, as amended by Public Law 111-347, for certain H-1B and L-1 petitions. The additional fee required by Public Law 111-230, as amended, expired on Sept. 30, 2015.
All other H-1B and L-1 fees, including the Base fee, Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, and American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) Fee when applicable, are still required. Petitions with incorrect fees may be rejected. Petitioners are reminded that USCIS prefers separate checks for each filing fee.
Public Law 111-230, enacted on Aug. 13, 2010, required an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions postmarked on or after Aug. 14, 2010. Public Law 111-347, enacted on Jan. 2, 2011, extended the fees through Sept. 30, 2015.
American Immigration Lawyers Association asks Secretary of State John Kerry and other Officials to restore the dates in the September 9, 2015 Visa Bulletin
Earlier today, the American Immigration Lawyers Association indicated that it had sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz expressing great disappointment in the September 25, 2015, changes to the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, and asking that the dates published in the September 9, 2015, Visa Bulletin be restored. The revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin rolls back the “Dates for Filing” for several visa categories, and will force many individuals and families to continue to face lengthy wait times before they can submit their applications for permanent residence.
Sudden EB-2 Priority Date Retrogression: Did Donald Trump just get installed as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?
Many Employment Based 2nd Preference (EB-2) Indian applicants were expecting to file their Adjustment of Status (Green Card) applications in five (5) short days. These applicants include Doctors, Veterinarians, Scientists, Information Systems Managers, Senior Software Developers, Lawyers and many other advanced degree professionals, all readying their application in October of 2015 based on next month’s visa bulletin (issued September 9th 2015) which declared that EB-2 India dates were current as of July 2011. While the actual issuance of a green card would still have taken several more years, these applicants would have attained significant benefits while continuing their patient multi-year wait in line. This news was greatly welcomed by EB applicants who felt that this was our Administration’s first real “immigration reform” initiative intended specifically to benefit America’s highly educated immigrants.
However USCIS has taken an about-turn on this point by announcing, in a highly confusing manner, the retrogression of those July 2011 dates, back to July 2009. By way of background, a second visa bulletin announcement in one month is highly unusual, as is for the second announcement to be issued on a Friday, on the 25th of a month, at 4 pm, less than a week from the date the immigrant filings were set to begin. As a direct result, thousands advanced degree professionals, mostly born in India, who have been waiting to file their green cards for 4+ years, will have to keep waiting. This despite the applicants’ reasonable reliance on the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin of September 9th, or the thousands of dollars they each have likely spent in preparing their green card application(s) based on the same.
In this case, USCIS broke a promise to advanced degree immigrants who comprise a large percentage of our best and brightest. USCIS’ actions in this regard are simply unintelligible and amount to exactly what Mahatma Gandhi spoke of when he noted that “a breach of promise is a base surrender of truth“. USCIS’ action also moves us backward to the quota systems which the current immigration law, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, was created to counter.
This is a highly suspect and unwelcome development which brings to mind July 2007, when USCIS attempted something similar. At that time, a lawsuit stopped USCIS from closing the filing window and in fact kept said window remained open for about two months (longer than if USCIS didn’t attempt to shut down filings).
I’m hopeful that history will repeat itself.
Significant Change to Employment Based Green Card Cases – As of today, two separate categories for EB Visa Bulletins, for the filing (Acceptance) of Adjustment of Status cases and one for final Approval of cases
The Obama Administration’s attempts to “streamline” the U.S. employment based green card process appeared to have paid off when the U.S. Department of State recently acknowledged that it was reworking its visa availability system. Today, however, we received a wonderful surprise: as per the U.S. Dept. of State’s Visa Bulletin for October 2015, a significant change in the EB process is apparent: the Visa Bulletin includes two separate employment based categories, each with a different cut off date (see below).
The first category represents the “Approval” category which notes the priority date as to when an Applicant’s Adjustment of Status or IV case would be ultimately approved. The second category represents the “Acceptance” category which control when an Applicant could file for Adjustment of Status, assuming an Applicant’s Priority Date is current at that time.
This is a remarkable and welcome update that conveys significant benefits to EB preference applicants, particularly for Indian and Chinese nationals who were most prejudiced by the long delays arising from retrogressed priority dates.
USCIS should prepare for an avalanche of AOS applications.
A. APPLICATION FINAL ACTION DATES FOR
EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES
On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed (see paragraph 1); “C” means current, i.e., numbers are authorized for issuance to all qualified applicants; and “U” means unauthorized, i.e., numbers are not authorized for issuance. (NOTE: Numbers are authorized for issuance only for applicants whose priority date isearlier than the cut-off date listed below.)
|Employment- Based||All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed||CHINA – mainland born||INDIA||MEXICO||PHILIPPINES|
|Certain Religious Workers||U||U||U||U||U|
*Employment Third Preference Other Workers Category: Section 203(e) of the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) passed by Congress in November 1997, as amended by Section 1(e) of Pub. L. 105-139, provides that once the Employment Third Preference Other Worker (EW) cut-off date has reached the priority date of the latest EW petition approved prior to November 19, 1997, the 10,000 EW numbers available for a fiscal year are to be reduced by up to 5,000 annually beginning in the following fiscal year. This reduction is to be made for as long as necessary to offset adjustments under the NACARA program. Since the EW cut-off date reached November 19, 1997 during Fiscal Year 2001, the reduction in the EW annual limit to 5,000 began in Fiscal Year 2002.
B. DATES FOR FILING OF EMPLOYMENT-BASED
The chart below reflects dates for filing visa applications within a timeframe justifying immediate action in the application process. Applicants for immigrant visas who have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date in the chart may assemble and submit required documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, following receipt of notification from the National Visa Center containing detailed instructions. The cut-off date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who cannot submit documentation to the National Visa Center for an immigrant visa. If a category is designated “current,” all applicants in the relevant category may file, regardless of priority date.
The “C” listing indicates that the category is current, and that applications may be filed regardless of the applicant’s priority date. The listing of a date for any category indicates that only applicants with a priority date which isearlier than the listed date may file their application.
USCIS has determined that this chart may be used (in lieu of the chart in paragraph 5.A.) this month for filing applications for adjustment of status with USCIS. Applicants for adjustment of status may visitwww.USCIS.gov/visabulletininfo for additional information.
and Pilot Programs
6. The Department of State has a recorded message with the cut-off date information for Final Application Action which can be heard at: (202) 485-7699. This recording is updated on or about the tenth of each month with information on cut-off dates for the following month.
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.
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 State/ Consulates 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.
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
NEUFELD MEMO – January 2010 Neufeld Memo
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.
Insight into anticipated EB-2 (India) Visa Priority Date Movements from AILA/U.S. Department of State
On January 9, 2015, the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Department of State Liaison Committee asked Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State for his thoughts on current and future trends/projections with regards to immigrant visa preference categories. The Committee hopes that this action may help provide additional insight, beyond the basic visa availability updates that are provided in the monthly Visa Bulletin.