USCIS Unveils New Technology Approach to Enable Expansion of Online Filing

To assist in transitioning to a digital business model, USCIS has announced a strategy known as eProcessing. This process allows for digitally filing of a benefit, communicating with USCIS online, as well as being notified of a decision on a case. Initially, this new process allows certain visitors for business and pleasure and vocational students to apply online to extend their stay in the U.S. Applicant eligibility requirements currently available for eProcessing can be found online at uscis.gov/i539online. Agency technology has been integrated to improve decision timeliness, increase transparency during the application process, and accelerate the availability of online filing of benefits. USCIS is seeking to modernize processes toward the goal of creating a paperless solution. eProcessing will create official digital immigration records to allow faster access to applicant data and provide a more responsive experience. Additional immigration classifications will be available for eProcessing and announced in the future. If you are interested in immigrating to the United States, be sure to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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Breaking News: Certain Ports of Entry No Longer Allowing L-1 Renewal Applications for Canadian Citizens

Berardi Immigration Law has recently learned that certain ports of entry along the Canadian border are now refusing to process petitions for renewal L-1 applications that are presented by Canadians pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This new policy affects both individual and blanket L petitions.  Initial reports indicated that this was a problem only at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) locations near Calgary. However, it has since expanded throughout several ports of entry and preclearance locations including Toronto Pearson International Airport (preclearance), Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary, Montréal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (preclearance), Edmonton, Seattle, Pembina, Warroad, Pt. Roberts, Sumas, and more. Over the weekend, we have been informed that the Peace Bridge located in Buffalo, New York is now also enforcing this policy. This impacts all ports of entry under the Buffalo jurisdiction, including the Rainbow Bridge, Queenston/Lewiston Bridge, and Thousand Islands Bridge and all ports of entry on the northern New York/Canadian border. All L-1 renewal petitions for Canadians must now be submitted directly to USCIS for adjudication. The ports of entry that are refusing to process these petitions are relying on a section of the regulations (8 CFR §214.2(l)(15)(i)), which state that petition extensions […]
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USCIS Announces Fiscal Year 2020 H-1B Cap Season Start Date, Updates, and Changes

This afternoon, USCIS announced the start of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap season, start dates for premium processing of cap-subject H-1B petitions, and the launch of its new H-1B data hub. USCIS is also reminding petitioners of its new H-1B cap selection process. These new efforts are all part of President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American executive order designed to protect U.S. workers. Start of FY 2020 Cap Season USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2020 cap on April 1, 2019 and will reject any FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before this date. Petitioners are reminded to follow all statutory and regulatory requirements as they prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence. Premium Processing for FY 2020 Cap-Subject Petitions During the FY 2020 cap season, USCIS will offer premium processing in a two-phased approach. This way, USCIS can best manage the premium processing requests without fully suspending it as has been the case in previous years. The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions. Beginning April 1, FY […]
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Proposed H-4 EAD Rescission

One advantage of the H-1B visa is that immediate family members of the H-1B visa holder may apply for an H-4 visa, which will allow them to lawfully stay in the United States. What is more, the holder of an H-4 visa, who is seeking employment based on lawful permanent resident status, is eligible to acquire an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and work in the United States. H-4 visa holders have been eligible to work in the United States since 2015. Recently, however, things have begun to change for H-4 visa holders. In October of 2018, the Department of Homeland Security released its Fall 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions and Regulatory Plan, which provides the public with an overview of possible regulations that are in the works. The regulations featured in the Unified Agenda are only aspirational, but they nonetheless communicate a sense of what direction future regulations may be headed. One DHS proposed regulation that appears in the Fall 2018 Unified Agenda is titled “Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization.” This proposed regulation is intended to amend the 2015 rule. The rule would bar H-4 visa holders from eligibility […]
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DHS Posts Final Rule Announcing Important Changes to the H-1B Visa Program

Today, the Department of Homeland Security posted a final rule amending regulations governing H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. As a reminder, cap-subject petitions are filed on April 1 of each year for individuals who are applying for H-1B status for the first time. To read more about the general H-1B visa process, click here. Beginning April 1, 2019, USCIS is changing the way that it typically reviews H-1B cap petitions. Some important background information first: The government typically issues 65,000 H-1B visa numbers for all first-time applicants, plus an additional 20,000 visa numbers for individuals who obtain a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution. Traditionally, USCIS has selected the 20,000 master’s cap applicants first, and whoever wasn’t chosen in the first selection was then added to the pool for the 65,000 remaining visa numbers to be chosen. In 2017, President Trump issued the “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order, which specifically mentioned the H-1B program and directed the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” To learn more about this executive order, click here. […]
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Breaking News: Premium Processing Now Available for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Cases

After months of suspension, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume premium processing for fiscal year 2019 H-1B petitions as of January 28, 2019. This includes the advanced degree exemption cases, often referred to as the “master’s cap.” In 2018, USCIS announced that H-1B premium processing would be suspended until February 2019 to reduce delays in processing and to address the backlog present in this highly sought-after category. While fiscal year 2019 cap cases and master’s cap cases will be eligible for premium processing going forward, USCIS noted that this service will remain suspended for all other H-1B petitions that were impacted by the original memo outlining the parameters of the suspension. Currently, premium processing is only available for pending fiscal year 2019 H-1B petitions, as the cap has already been met. USCIS plans to resume premium processing for all remaining H-1B petitions as the agency’s workload permits.  The H-1B category provides work authorization for specialty occupations and receives many petitions every year. Premium processing creates a fast track allowing applicants to receive an answer on a petition within 15 calendar days, giving applicants peace of mind.  If you are interested in applying for an H-1B visa or would […]
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Government Shutdown’s Continued Impact on Immigration

The government shutdown that began in December 2018 has become the longest U.S. government shutdown in history and is having some major impacts on immigration processing. Customs and Border Protection officers are considered essential staff due to the important role they play in national security at the U.S. border and ports of entry. This ultimately means that processing at ports of entry is occurring as usual. TNs and L-1 visas continue to be processed at ports of entry despite the shutdown, as officers are still adjudicating them. It is important to remember that while CBP officers are still working, they are not being compensated for their work at the present. Fortunately, they will be reimbursed once the shutdown ends, but it is still important to keep in mind when crossing the border and interacting with officers.  Unfortunately, other immigration-related areas are being impacted; specifically, the Admissibility Review Office. The Admissibility Review Office (ARO) is a subset of CBP that processes waiver applications. This office is not considered essential for government shutdown purposes and is not active until a federal budget is passed. This means that, at present, no Applications for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant for Canadians at the […]
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