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Historically, H-1B visas have been the U.S. employment visa of choice due to their flexibility for professionals to work in “specialty occupations.” Lately, however, for those employers and prospective employees who are subject to the annual numerical “cap” on H-1Bs, the demand far outstrips the quota. Petitions must be filed in the first week of April in order to be included in a lottery from which a limited number will be selected for employment beginning the following October 1. In addition, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has increased its requests for additional evidence for selected petitions, which require special attention to the subject position’s qualification as an H-1B “specialty occupation.”

This alert is a reminder of the April 2, 2018 opening date for filing cap-subject H-1B visa petitions for Fiscal Year 2019. Petitions for the new fiscal year, which will be effective starting on or after October 1, 2018, will be accepted by the Government beginning April 2, 2018, and will likely continue through April 6. USCIS will continue to accept cap-subject H-1B petitions after April 6, but only if and until USCIS determines that a sufficient number has been received. Accepted petitions are then entered into random lotteries in which limited numbers of petitions are selected for processing.

Continue Reading It’s Time to Prepare H-1B Visa Petitions for Fiscal Year 2019

As of 4 pm on Friday, January 19, 2018, the US Senate had not reached an agreement on the terms of a continuing resolution to keep the US government running. The US House passed a 30-day resolution on Thursday, but this must also pass the Senate and President Trump must sign it before midnight, January 19, 2018 to avoid a shutdown.

 

If this shutdown does happen and if it mirrors what happened with shutdowns in previous years, the immigration processes most impacted with be those involving the Department of Labor (DOL). Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) and PERM Labor Certification Applications cannot be filed during the shutdown as their funding is dependent on congressional appropriations. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), however, is a fee-based immigration benefit provider and it is not dependent on appropriations. As with prior shutdowns, we expect USCIS to continue operations and adjudicating cases.

The US State Department may also see a slowdown or even cessation of visa processing until funding legislation can be passed.

Our ML Strategies group is also monitoring congressional action and updates can be reviewed here. Stay tuned for further alerts as this situation continues to unfold.

Effective immediately, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume premium processing for select cap-exempt H-1B petitions. Cap-exempt petitioners who are eligible for premium processing can file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, along with the filing fee of $1,225.  

Such petitioners include: 

  • An institution of higher education;
  • A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; and
  • A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Premium processing will also resume for petitions where the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity. 

USCIS will make future additional announcements regarding resuming the premium processing for additional H-1B petitions. Please contact your Mintz Levin immigration attorney with any questions.

On July 17, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published another revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. It will be mandatory for employers to use this new version of the form commencing September 18, 2017. Until September 18, employers may use either the new version I-9 with a revision date of 07/17/17 or the prior edition, which has a revision date of 11/14/16.

Although there are no revisions to the fillable portions of the form, there are changes to the Instructions to Form I-9 and the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9, specifically:

  • The I-9 Instructions reflect the name change of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices to its new name, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.
  • The new form removes “the end of” from the phrase “the end of the first day of employment” in the instructions part for completion of Section 1.
  • The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) was added as a List C acceptable document. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Sections 2 and 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.
  • In addition, the List of Acceptable Documents combines all of the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350, and Form FS-240) into selection C #2 in List C (instead of being listed separately as #2 for Form FS-545 and #3 for Form DS-1350 on the prior version of the list).
  • Due to the above changes, please note that items were renumbered. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C changed from List C #8 to List C #7. The SSN card remained the same number as it continues to be the first item on List C.

Moreover, all of these changes were also made in the revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274). Thus, a new edition of the Handbook is available and it promises to be easier for users to navigate.

To see USCIS’s news release regarding its Form I-9 update, please visit its website. Mintz Levin’s attorneys stand ready to assist our clients with any questions regarding the new Form I-9

On June 26, 2017, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced a redesigned version of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form is used in the final stage of the permanent residence, or “green card,” process for most applicants physically present in the United States.

There is a 60-day grace period during which USCIS will accept either the new version or the older version of the form, which bears an edition date of 01/17/17. Beginning August 25, 2017, however, only the new form, bearing an edition date of 06/26/2017, will be accepted.

To read our full alert, click here.

USCIS announced on April 7, 2017, that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year (FY) 2018. USCIS also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.

Stay tuned for additional updates regarding the FY18 cap lottery selection.

Please contact an attorney with Mintz Levin’s Immigration Practice to discuss any questions you may have about H-1B sponsorship or alternatives to the H-1B visa.

Late this spring, two lawsuits were filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeking information about and challenging the administration of the H-1B visa lottery process.

The first lawsuit was filed by two immigration organizations – American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (AIC) – who “teamed up” to file a lawsuit requesting information about the lottery process.

The second lawsuit is a class action filed on behalf of two companies and their employees. This lawsuit claims that the H-1B lottery process is illegal because the language of the statute does not allow for a lottery. Continue Reading Lawsuits Question Procedure and Substance of H-1B Lottery

As a result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, higher immigration fines and penalties will go into effect on August 1, 2016.   The fines and penalties cover Form I-9 paperwork violations, the unlawful employment of immigrant workers, certain temporary work visa programs, and immigration-related discrimination in hiring and employment. While these fines come into effect on August 1, they will be used for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, the day the bill was signed into law.

Continue Reading Higher Immigration Penalties for I-9 and Other Violations Going Into Effect August 1, 2016

From proposals to overhaul OPT to decreasing the number of H-1Bs, 2016 is already proving to be an interesting year for business immigration. In a series of posts, the Mintz Levin team will provide an overview of the cases, legislation, and regulations to look out for in the new year. In our fifth post we will discuss executive action on the Department of State’s visa bulletin and the related controversy and lawsuit. 

Visa Bulletin Changes: USCIS Gets Involved

In October 2015, the Department of State (DOS) unveiled a significant change to its visa bulletin. The monthly bulletin outlining immigrant visa availability issued by the State Department has two charts: one showing cutoff dates that govern when visas can be issued, and a new chart containing cutoff dates for when applications can be filed. In addition, USCIS now provides information on its website regarding the eligibility of applicants to file applications for adjustment of status US permanent residency, and it cross-references the DOS charts. Continue Reading A Preview of Business Immigration in 2016: Visa Bulletin Controversy Continues (Part 5/6)