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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Recent Changes to the LCA for H-1B Cases

Employers should take note of several changes the Department of Labor (DOL) has made to the labor condition application (LCA) that is currently in effect. Recent changes primarily effect employers who place H-1B dependent foreign national employees at offsite locations.   Employers are mandated to have an approved LCA from the Department of Labor if they wish to file an H-1B petition. H-1B visa holders generally work in a specialty occupation. While LCAs are also required for other visa categories, the changes to the requirements apply specifically for the H-1B category. The LCA is crucial to the application process since it includes vital information about the proposed employment, such as the nature of the job, wage information and the location. The employer must also attest to the non-displacement of workers, that wage levels are set at or above the prevailing wage, and to comply with notice requirements.  The updated LCA form requires an H-1B dependent employer to submit education documents to verify the qualifying degree if the foreign national is considered exempt based on a master’s degree. Determining whether an employer is H-1B dependent varies based on the individual employer. Only certain documents are acceptable to fulfill this exemption requirement. […]
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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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Foreign Affairs Manual Update Could Mean Major Implications for H-1B Adjudication

The Department of State (DOS) recently updated the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). This update is intended to provide additional guidance to U.S. consular officers in terms of what role they should play regarding confirming the validity of a petition being used to apply for a visa. The update encourages officers to take a more active role in verifying the information provided in a petition. Special emphasis appears to be placed on H-1B visas. The FAM is a crucial document that provides U.S. consular officers with official guidance. The FAM already contains instructions explaining that it is the responsibility of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate petitions, rather than consular officers. The manual explains that for I-129 based petitions, such as H-1Bs and L-1s, officers should not request additional evidence or send the approval back to USCIS for reconsideration unless relevant information is found during the visa interview process that was not available to USCIS. The FAM works under the assumption that a majority of approved H petitions are valid and that “disagreement with USCIS interpretation of the law or the facts … is not sufficient reason to ask USCIS to reconsider its approval of the petition.”  Despite […]
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