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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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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H-1B Notice Requirement Compliance by Electronic Posting

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) regulations require all H-1B employers to maintain a list of records regarding the H-1B workers that they employ. These records are referred to as the public access file, or PAF. The PAF includes documentation of such information as the rate of pay for the H-1B workers and a summary of the benefits offered to H-1B workers, among others. One important record that must be included in the PAF is documentation that certain notice requirements were satisfied. The DOL regulations demand that notice be given to U.S. workers on or within 30 days before the employer files the Labor Condition Application or LCA with the Department of Labor. The LCA is a form employers must file with the DOL Employment and Training Administration (ETA) on behalf of employees applying for a non-immigrant H-1B work visa. The DOL provides specific guidance as to what information the notice must include. For instance, the notice must include the number of H-1B non-immigrants the employer is seeking to employ, the wages offered, the period of employment, the locations at which the H-1B nonimmigrants will be employed, as well as other information. While the H-1B employer has no control […]
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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 Changes to H-1B Rule Could Spell Major Changes to Lottery System

In an effort to make the H-1B visa program more effective and efficient, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new notice of proposed rulemaking. This proposed rule is also prompted by the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, which specifically suggested reforms to the H-1B program to ensure that these visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid beneficiaries.  This proposed rule would require H-1B cap-subject petitioners to electronically register with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period. Additionally, this proposed rule would place more emphasis on merit-based aspects of a petitioner. USCIS would reverse the order by which it selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption. This move is projected to increase the number of beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education selected for an H-1B cap number, should this proposed rule take effect.  The current H-1B program allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in specialized occupations who posses a body of specialized knowledge and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree on a temporary basis. USCIS generally receives more petitions than required by congressional mandate. In order to reconcile […]
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Proposed H-1B Rule Could Overhaul Selection Process

A proposed rule could result in major changes in the H-1B visa category. This rule would change the H-1B visa lottery process and could also alter the educational composition of visa holders. Currently, USCIS offers 65,000 standard H-1B visas for skilled workers. Additionally, USCIS offers another 20,000 visas for workers with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. Any leftover visas from the second category are sent to the general pool.  The proposed rule would change the way this process works. Under this rule, USCIS would place all applicants in the general 65,000 pool. If the general cap was reached, any additional U.S. advanced degree holders would then be redirected to the 20,000 pool, or what is commonly known as the “master’s cap.” According to a regulatory plan, the Trump administration plans to publish the proposal within the month. The administration is projecting that this change could mean a fifteen percent increase in H-1B visa holders with U.S. advanced degrees. However, this could make it increasingly difficult for companies to hire workers under the H-1B program.  If you are interested in learning more about the H-1B category, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!
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