Online Filing Options Through New FLAG System

The new Foreign Labor Application Gateway, “FLAG”, has been adding new filing capabilities in the past few months.  Next on the to-do list is moving H-1B filing over to FLAG, along with filings for H-1B1 and E-3 programs.  The shift is scheduled for later this year. The U.S. Department of Labor unrolled the new Foreign Labor Application Gateway, “FLAG”, earlier this year to “serve as the new application filing and case management solution for all foreign labor certification programs.”  The new system is set to replace the current iCert System, and as each process filing shifts to FLAG, applicants are no longer able to file using the iCert System.  FLAG allows users who had a Prevailing Wage Determination to link it now to an application in FLAG.   While it started with simply the option to create accounts, users can now file CW-1, H-2B, and Prevailing Wage.  Upon an application’s submission, users will be assigned a permanent FLAG case number within about 15 minutes.  There is also the opportunity to use client profiles to pre-fill sections of application, create a network with other members of your team, withdraw cases, receive automated case alerts, and view past submissions.   The most […]
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I-539’s No Longer Eligible for “Courtesy” Premium Processing

On March 1, 2019, USCIS reported that I-539 applications filed concurrently with a qualifying I-129 petition will no longer be eligible for premium processing.  USCIS announced the change was necessary to accommodate wait time on the biometrics appointments necessary for the Form I-539 adjudication. As the result of a new Form I-539, released also in March 2019, each I-539 applicant is required to attend a biometrics appointment for the purpose of verifying applicants’ identities and combatting humanitarian concerns.  The standard applies regardless of age.    It takes approximately three weeks for the biometrics to be completed, meaning I-539 applications can no longer be completed in the 15-day premium processing time frame.  Due to the two different processing time standards, the I-129 and the I-539 applications will no longer be processed together, with the I-539 pending for what may be substantially longer.  The gap between the two processing times proves an issue for some joint I-129, I-539 cases. To avoid the issue of the biometrics appointment, some derivative applicants are opting instead for a nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. consulate abroad, filed after the primary I-129 petition is approved. If you have concerns on how the new I-539 processing times may impact your case or […]
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Understanding OPT Cap-Gap

The H-1B visa allows employers to temporarily employ a foreign national, who possesses at least a bachelor’s degree, in a specialty occupation. The H-1B employment period generally begins on October 1, the start of the federal government’s fiscal year.  There are special rules that act to automatically extend the US employment eligibility of qualified F-1 foreign student visa holders beyond the period initially authorized. The rule that relates to F-1 visa holders seeking to change to H-1B work visa status is referred to as “cap-gap.” This is because it is intended to fill the gap between the date the optional practical training (OPT) period would otherwise expire and the date that the new H-1B employment authorization starts. The 60-day grace period may not be enough to cover the “cap-gap” period until H-1B status begins. However, USCIS offers an OPT cap-gap extension if three conditions are met: An employer timely files a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS requesting a change of the student’s status to H-1B. (Exception: Petitions requesting consular processing which do not qualify);  The H-1B petition asks for an October 1 start date; and  The student’s status, including any applicable grace period, ends between April and September 30. Situations […]
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Not Selected in the H-1B Lottery? Explore Your Other Global Options

With H-1B cap season winding down, employers will soon begin to receive returned petitions that were not selected in the lottery. Employees who have other valid status, such as F-1 OPT or L-1, can remain in the United States and keep working so that their employer may try again for the lottery next year. However, for other employees whose only option was the H-1B lottery, their employers may need to make other plans. One of the following global options may be a good fit:  Return home & work remotely: The employee could return to their home country and work from home remotely. This may have labor law, digital security, and tax implications for U.S. employers, but an employee who is living in their country of citizenship can work for any employer, anywhere in the world.  While using the employee’s services remotely might be not be ideal, it can be a good temporary solution while trying to figure out other ways of bringing this employee to join the company in the U.S.  Work in other countries: The employee may be eligible to work in other countries such as Canada, the UK or Mexico. A US company with a Canadian branch can use Intra-Company […]
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USCIS Reaches the H-1B Cap for 2020

The H-1B program provides an avenue for businesses in the United States to bring foreign nationals into the country to work. But, not just any foreign national will qualify for an H-1B visa. H-1B visas apply only to foreign workers with at least a bachelor’s degree and to occupations that require “highly specialized knowledge.” For example, H-1B visa holders often work in the fields of science, engineering, information technology, teaching and accounting. Making H-1B visas even more selective, the United States Congress has mandated a cap for the number of H-1B visas that will be offered every year. The cap is currently 65,000. There is, however, an exemption from the cap for an additional 20,000 foreign nationals who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher. Of course, the number of applications from businesses in the United States for H-1B visas greatly exceeds the cap. The open filing period for H-1Bs began on April 1, and by April 5, USCIS announced that they had received enough applications to meet the cap of 65,000. In total, USCIS received 201,011 H-1B petitions during the filing period. Due to the large number of applications, the applicants that will receive H-1B visas are chosen […]
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USCIS Launches H-1B Employer Data Hub

On April 1, 2019, USCIS launched the H-1B Employer Data Hub, a search tool/information base that provides information to the public. Some employers in the United States use the H-1B program to temporarily employ foreign workers in certain occupations. The Data Hub helps the public to view which employers petition for H-1B workers and calculate approval and denial rates. A petitioner can be searched by fiscal year, NAICS code, employer name, city, state or ZIP code. Data for individual fiscal years is available to download on the H-1B Employer Data Hub Files page. USCIS has also created the Understanding Our H-1B Employer Data Hub page to help the public use the data hub and understand the terminology used within.  USCIS will provide quarterly updates and annual releases of the data and anticipates updating the data hub on a quarterly basis. For example, data for the first quarter of a fiscal year (October through December), will be provided in April of that fiscal year.  If you have questions on the H-1B category or are interested in applying for an H-1B visa, be sure to contact Berardi Immigration Law today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys!
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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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