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USCIS Publishes Final Rule For Certain Employment-Based Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visa Programs

Via USCIS.gov

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:
  1. They are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140 petition,
  2. An immigrant visa is not authorized for issuance for their priority date, and
  3. 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.

F-1 OPT I-765 RFE Issue: How a DSO can change students’ 17 month OPT extensions to 24 months

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:

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Is Hillary Clinton anti-H-1B?

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.

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USCIS has Reached the Congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2017

Via USCIS.gov

Release Date: April 07, 2016

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.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Facebook (/uscis), Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and the USCIS blog The Beacon.

Great News for Affected Firms: Public Law 111-230 H-1B, L-1 Additional Fees Expired October 1, 2015

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.

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
1st C C C C C
2nd C 01JAN12 01MAY05 C C
3rd 15AUG15 15OCT11 08MAR04 15AUG15 01JAN07
Other Workers 15AUG15 01JAN06 08MAR04 15AUG15 01JAN07
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious Workers U U U U U
5th
Targeted
Employment
Areas/

Regional Centers
C 08OCT13 C C C
5th
Pilot
Programs
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
VISA APPLICATIONS

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.

Employment-
Based
All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
CHINA-
mainland
born
INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st C C C C C
2nd C 01MAY14 01JUL11 C C
3rd 01SEP15 01OCT13 01JUL05 01SEP15 01JAN15
Other Workers 01SEP15 01JAN07 01JUL05 01SEP15 01JAN15
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious
Workers
C C C C C
5th Targeted
Employment Areas/
Regional Centers
and Pilot Programs
C 01MAY15 C C C

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 & Raj Sharma – Punjabi Radio Interview on U.S. and Canadian Immigration

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.

Link to Audio

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

H-1B APPS FOR FY2015 UPDATE: SOME COURIER DELIVERY ISSUES REPORTED BY FEDEX

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.

H-1B Opponents continue onslaught against Immigration of the Educated

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.

Read Bill Snyder’s Article

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

FOIA_L-1B_RESULTS

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.

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