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USCIS Resumed Premium Processing H-1B Cap Petitions Subject to the Fiscal Year year (FY) 2018 Cap on September 18, 2017

VIA USCIS.GOV

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed premium processing today for all H-1B visa petitions subject to the Fiscal Year year (FY) 2018 cap. The FY 2018 cap has been set at 65,000 visas. Premium processing has also resumed for the annual 20,000 additional petitions that are set aside to hire workers with a U.S. master’s degree or higher educational degree.

H-1B visas provide skilled workers for a wide range of specialty occupations, including information technology, academic research, and accounting. When a petitioner requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-day processing time. If the 15- calendar day processing time is not met, the agency will refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing of the application. This service is only available for pending petitions, not new submissions, since USCIS received enough petitions in April to meet the FY 2018 cap.

In addition to today’s resumption of premium processing for H-1B visa petitions subject to the FY 2018 cap, USCIS previously resumed premium processing H-1B petitions filed on behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 waiver program, as well as interested government agency waivers and for certain H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap. Premium processing remains temporarily suspended for all other H-1B petitions, such as extensions of stay.

USCIS plans to resume premium processing for all other remaining H‑1B petitions not subject to the FY 2018 cap, as agency workloads permit. However, remaining petitioners may submit a request to expedite their application if they meet the specific agency criteria. USCIS reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis, and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership.

USCIS will release future announcements when we begin accepting premium processing for other H-1B petitions, not subject to the FY 2018 cap.

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. 

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.

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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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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USCIS Fact Sheet: Automatic Extensions of EADs Provided by Final Rule

USCIS has issued a fact sheet on the automatic extensions of EADs provided by the “Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers” final rule, which went into effect on January 17, 2017.  The fact sheet provides additional information to employers and EAD applicants including information regarding I-9 completion.

Link to PDF

 

Transcript of Media Availability on Executive Order with Secretary Kelly & DHS Leadership

Via DHS.gov

Release Date:

January 31, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Today Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly participated in a media availability alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan, and DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) Acting Undersecretary David Glawe to discuss the operational implementation of the president’s executive orders. Following is a transcript of their remarks:

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48 Hours Later, Where Things Stand on the January 27 Executive Order

Via AILA

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” People all over the United States are rallying in opposition to this EO and showing their support for all of those individuals affected by President Trump’s EOs. AILA lawyers across the country are showing up en masse to provide legal support to those detained, as well as to families and friends waiting for their loved ones to be released.

Last night, lawyers filed actions across the country to halt the January 27 EO. A federal judge in the Eastern District of New York issued the first order, granting a nationwide stay of removal preventing deportation for individuals with valid visas and approved refugee applications affected by the EO. The next decision came out of a federal court in Massachusetts – it went a bit further and barred federal officials from detaining or removing individuals subject to the EO. Two other courts also issued rulings. In a case filed in Virginia, the court ordered federal officials to provide lawyers access to “all legal permanent residents being detained at Dulles International Airport” and barred officials from deporting covered individuals for the next seven days. In the case out of Washington State, the federal judge barred the federal government from deporting two unnamed individuals from the United States.

Lawyers in the New York case are seeking clarification from the court.

The Department of Homeland Security put out a statement early today stating only that the agency “will comply with judicial orders.”

More clarity was provided by Secretary Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security, who released a press statement this evening clarifying how the EO applies to LPRs: “I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest.”

What to Do If a Legal Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder) is Asked to Relinquish his/her Green Card and Sign a Form I-407, Abandonment of LPR Status by Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

In a word: Don’t.

Upon returning to the U.S., Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) should not automatically surrender their green cards if asked to do so. An individual does not lose LPR status as a result of time abroad. They remain an LPR until a final order of removal is issued and the government must prove abandonment by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence which a higher evidentiary standard than clear and convincing. See Matter of Huang, 19 I&N Dec. 749 (BIA 1988). Form I-407 must be signed voluntarily and there are no potential negative ramifications for refusing to sign. Neither failure to sign nor abandonment is grounds for detention. Rather, an LPR who refuses to sign Form I-407 must be issued a Notice to Appear (NTA) so that an immigration judge can determine whether they have lost their LPR status.

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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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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.

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.

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