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The Proposed “RAISE Act” would Giveth little but Taketh a lot.

The Washington Post’s David Nakamura provides details on Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.)’s new bill entitled “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment [RAISE] Act”.

In a nutshell, the new bill: a) Focuses on “Merit Based” Green Cards through a Canadian style points system b) Does away with the 50K Diversity Lottery green cards, c) Caps Refugee cases to 50K a year, d) Limits or does away with Family Based Immigration for “Extended Relatives” including adult children and siblings of US Citizens (termed “Chain Migration”), and d) Reduces the total number of Green Card issued annually by about half.

USCIS Resumes H-1B Premium Processing for Certain Cap-Exempt Petitions

Via USCIS.gov

USCIS indicates that it will resume premium processing for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions effective immediately.

Premium processing will resume for petitions that may be exempt from the cap if the H-1B petitioner is:

* An institution of higher education;

* A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or

* A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Premium processing will also resume for petitions that may also be exempt if the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity. 

AIC’s New Fact Sheet Indicates that 20-25% of all STEM Workers are Foreign Born

The American Immigration Council just released a fact sheet entitled “Foreign-born STEM Workers in the United States” and noted the importance of said workers to America,

“STEM workers are essential to the U.S. economy in terms of productivity and innovation. As of 2015, the foreign-born comprised one-fifth to one-quarter of the STEM workforce, depending on what occupations are included within the definition of STEM. Notably, the total number of foreign-born STEM workers in the U.S. workforce has increased dramatically since 1990, both in absolute numbers and as a share of the total workforce. This is true at the national and state levels. Additionally, foreign-born workers make up an increasing share of STEM workers in all occupational categories.”

To view the fact sheet in its entirety, see:

USCIS Completes Data Entry for FY2018 H-1B Cap Subject Petitions

USCIS announced that it has completed data entry of all FY2018 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in the computer-generated random process. USCIS will now begin returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected.

What’s in the new “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order?

  • On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed a new Executive Order, “Buy American and Hire American.” In the “Hire American” portion of the order, Trump announced he was directing DOL, DOJ, DHS, and DOS to review the current laws governing the H-1B program and suggest changes to prioritize the most skilled and highest paid positions. The President also indicated he was directing federal agencies to review all visa programs and take prompt action to crack down on fraud and abuse in order to protect U.S. workers.

Read More…

AILA: Impact of “Hire American” Provisions in New Executive Order Remains to Be Seen

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Trump signed his latest Executive Order “Buy American and Hire American.” The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) observed that while today’s announcement reflects the administration’s desire to move toward reforms to the H-1B program, there will be no immediate changes or impacts on H-1Bs. Simply put, it appears that the agencies are asked to review policies related to all visa programs and recommend changes to root out “fraud and abuse,” and to propose additional reforms so that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid applicants.

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Update on H-1B Cap Subject Petitions for FY2018: 199,000 Petitions Filed

  • On April 7, 2017, USCIS announced that it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 H-1B visas and 20,000 advanced degree visas for FY2018.
  • On April 17, 2017, USCIS announced that it had received 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 3. This represents a 15.7 percent decrease from the 236,000 petitions that USCIS received during last year’s filing period.

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It’s That Time of Year: the H-1B Fiscal Year Quota and the H-1B Haters

The Fiscal Year Quota for H-1B visas is, as usual, just opened on April 1 which elicits a bit more public interest about the H-1B program in particular and Business Immigration in general.  Unfortunately, Business Immigration is the orphaned step-brother of Family Based Immigration and the H-1B is not as publicly controversial a subject as most other immigration issues in the news though, so this public interest is invariably fleeting.

This is also about the time of year when anti-H-1B propagandists crawl out into the sunlight like xenophobic groundhogs to regurgitate their timeworn arguments against the visa program. They allege that the H-1B program as a whole fails to deliver the “best and the brightest” to America, that Americans are being displaced by foreigners earning “low wages“, that there are sufficient numbers of qualified American workers to fill the proffered jobs. Some of the slicker ones even feign an interest in the welfare of H-1B workers by claiming widespread abuse by H-1B employers (despite the fact that H-1B workers may transfer to another employer in 8 days whenever they’d like, and that they are protected by the DOL W&H and other agencies to a degree that would make a U.S. Citizen green with envy).

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Major Policy Shift: USCIS Rescinds Guidance on H-1B Computer Related Positions without Notice or Due Process on the Eve of the H-1B Fiscal Year Cap with 200,000+ I-129 applications enroute to USCIS for delivery by April 7, 2017 – the Eligibility of an H-1B Petition for IT Workers will now Increasingly be based on its LCA Wage Level (read: LCA Level 1 Wages=Problem)

On March 31, 2017 USCIS issued a policy memorandum that superseded and rescinded a 12/22/00 memorandum with guidance on H-1B computer related positions issued by the NSC.  This abrupt change coincidentally uproots established H-1B guidance and processes without notice or due process on the eve of the H-1B Fiscal Year Cap with 200,000+ I-129 applications enroute to USCIS for delivery by April 7, 2017.

The practical impact of this memo will be to increase Requests for Evidence and Denials on the thousands of H-1B petitions filed on behalf of IT professionals, and those with a Level 1 wage marked on their LCA/I-129 petitions are at heightened risk.  The memo is in line with USCIS’ desire to place a greater emphasis on requiring IT Petitioners to list a greater than Level 1 wage on the LCA.  The same concept seems to have been behind the holdings in several recent Administrative Appeals Office decisions denying IT positions on the basis of LCA Level 1 wages.  AAO Decision Examples 1, 2 and 3 (PDFs).

Though Petitioners are not prohibited from paying an H-1B employee more than what is listed on the corresponding LCA, and frequently do, their H-1B petitions may now be denied because the USCIS appeared to have suddenly recalled that “Prevailing Wage Determination Policy Guidance” issued by the DOL (which provides a description of the wage levels) indicates that a Level 1 wage rate is generally appropriate for positions for which the Petitioner expects the Beneficiary to have a basic understanding of the occupation. A Level 1 wage rate indicates:
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Fake News claiming President Trump Authorized Visa-Free Travel for Various Countries (including Afghanistan)

I was recently asked whether it was true that President Trump had authorized Afghanistan for Visa Free travel to the United States for visits of up to 90 days at a time.

It seemed a bit inconsistent with the tone of the Administration’s recent actions, and because all of the 38 countries and territories selected by the U.S. government for the Visa Waiver Program program are high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index.  As well, a Forbes article from 7 days ago noted that Afghanistan has the second highest B (visitor) visa refusal rate of 73.8% while a country must have had a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate of less than 3% for the previous year to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. Visa Waiver Program. Alison Siskin. January 15, 2013, (PDF)

I wanted to give a definitive answer to the original question, so I, like anyone verifying an incredible “news story” these days, reviewed the source (in this case a suspicious website entitled “USA Television” that aped, perhaps not coincidentally, the same Old London font as “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times“.  I then turned to the ever reliable Snopes.com which had a direct reference to the Visa Free Travel article and to “USA Television” itself:

“The web site USA Television capitalized on that controversy by pumping out a series of nearly identical fake news articles, each holding that President Trump had “signed a visa-free travel policy” for residents of a given country, ostensibly to “strengthen trade” with that country.  For example, one such article claimed such a policy had been implemented for Pakistani nationals…But USA Television also ran an article that said the very same thing about Ghana. And Botswana. And Belarus.

In fact, in separate articles USA Television claimed President Trump had also implemented visa-free travel policies for citizens of Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Jamaica, Malawi, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the entire Caribbean…If USA Television and their ilk were to be believed, virtually anyone from anywhere in the world could now enter the U.S. for up to six months at a time without the need for obtaining a visa first.”

Thus, I can state that President Trump has not authorized Afghanistan (among many other countries) for Visa Free travel to the United States.  But the lesson we can learn here is that it is everyone’s responsibility to engage in some critical thinking and make an effort to vet a “news” story, else you breathe life to a lie.

Reuters Exclusive: US Gov’t orders Embassies to identify Certain Population Groups for Extreme Vetting including Mandatory Social Media checks

Reuters recently reported on an exclusive story regarding four diplomatic cables (links below) transmitted by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the last two weeks that call for heightened screening and vetting of visa applicants, including asking applicants detailed questions about their backgrounds and making social media checks mandatory for those who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State.

 Read the Diplomatic Cables (Via Reuters)

1) CABLE 23338 – Guidance to Visa-Issuing Posts; March 10, 2017

2) CABLE 24324 – Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Visa Applications; March 15, 2017

3) CABLE 24800 – Halt Implementation; March 16, 2017

4) CABLE 25814 – Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Visa Applications; March 17, 2017

Delay in NSC Processing of H-4/EAD Applications Filed with Premium Processing H-1Bs

Via AILA.org

The Nebraska Service Center (NSC) has advised that, due to the high volume of incoming premium processing requests, H-4 I-539 and H-4 I-765 EAD applications that are concurrently filed with premium H-1B petitions before the April 3, 2017, premium processing suspension may not be adjudicated concurrently with the I-129 and within the prescribed 15 days. Due to the rapid influx of premium requests, I-129 adjudicators are focusing first on the I-129 so that it can be processed in accordance with the premium requirements. When a decision is made on the I-129, any H-4 and EAD applications are sent to another team, which should adjudicate them within a week or two. Once the surge is over NSC expects to resume fully working all applications submitted concurrently with the I-129.

NSC has advised that if no notice has been received on a riding I-539 or I-765 by the end of April, applicants or their attorneys can contact the National Customer Service Center to place a Service Request.