Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Submitted Before December 21, 2018 Resumes

In March of 2018, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended premium processing for all H-1B petitions subject to the 2019 cap. The reason for the suspension was to provide an opportunity for the agency to work through a backlog of petitions and thereby reduce overall H-1B processing times. Many H-1Bs had gone unprocessed due to the high volume of petitions USCIS was receiving, especially premium processing requests. In August of 2018, USCIS extended its suspension of premium processing of cap-subject H-1B petitions even further. And, beginning September 11, 2018, USCIS expanded its temporary suspension to include certain additional H-1B petitions. Things changed, however, on February 19, 2019: USCIS resumed premium processing for all H-1B petitions filed on or before December 21, 2018. The temporary suspension of premium processing remains in effect for H-1B petitions that were filed on or after December 22, 2018. Now that the suspension has been lifted, USCIS warns that petitioners seeking premium processing service may receive a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition. In that case, the petitioner must submit the premium processing request, along with a copy of your transfer notice, to the service center now handling the petition. When an H-1B […]
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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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Understanding the Visa Bulletin

The government has placed statutory limits on how many people can immigrate to the United States each year, so once you submit your application, you may have to wait until there is a visa available in the category you applied for. Each month, the Department of State (DOS) issues a visa bulletin, which indicates when visas are available based on your priority date and country of birth. Your priority date is the date that your petition was approved by USCIS. If a labor certification was required with your petition, the priority date is the date when the certification was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor.  What chart do I use? The visa bulletin contains two charts for each visa category with different dates: final action dates, and dates for filing applications. If filing via Adjustment of Status, USCIS will determine which chart controls in a given month. If filing via Immigrant Processing, the National Visa Center will reach out once you can begin these steps. In general, the green card cannot be issued until the final action date is current. Visit the USCIS website here to determine what chart you should use.  What do I do when my […]
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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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Schedule A Nurses and Physical Therapists: A Fast Track to an Employment-based Green Card

Foreign nationals looking to obtain a green card to immigrate to the U.S. who work as either nurses or physical therapists may qualify for a special form of expedited processing. As a result of significant shortages of U.S. workers, the Department of Labor (DOL) established nurses and physical therapists as Schedule A shortage occupations. Schedule A is a list of pre-certified occupations that the DOL has determined that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available. This allows foreign nationals to skip the lengthy labor certification process which tests the job market and start working in the U.S. sooner. In order to take advantage of the Schedule A classification, workers in these occupations must have a full-time job offer from an employer. Both nurses and physical therapists must provide proof of licensing or certification qualifications. Employers are responsible for completing the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker as well as a completed, but uncertified Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) labor certification petition. Furthermore, parties must comply to DOL rules throughout the process.  Process Overview Step One: Prevailing Wage Determination and Notice of Filing A Prevailing Wage Determination must be prepared and filed with the DOL. The […]
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E-Verify Expiration: What Employers and Employees Using the System Should Know

Many employers are familiar with the E-Verify system, which allows employers to check the employment eligibility for all of their employees. This system compares information completed on an employee’s Form I-9 with records from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify is administered by DHS, which is one of the agencies that remains without government funding. The E-Verify program has expired as a result of a lapse in funding due to the partial government shutdown in the U.S. The program will be unavailable until necessary funding is received.  There are major implications to the expiration of E-Verify. While the government is shut down, employers will be unable to access the services E-Verify provides. This includes enrolling in the program; accessing E-Verify accounts; creating new cases; viewing or taking action on a case; adding, deleting or editing accounts; changing passwords; editing company information; terminating accounts; or running reports. Importantly, employees will not be able to correct any E-Verify Tentative Non-confirmations (TNCs) while the program is expired.  A TNC occurs when employee information does not match with DHS or SSA records. Nonetheless, employers are still required to complete the steps on their end to verify work […]
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