Visa Issuance Problems at all Posts

The Department of State reports that it is experiencing technical problems with its global passport and visa system. This problem is delaying the issuance of visas at this time. The embassies and consulates are still scheduling and conducting visa interviews; however, visa issuance will be delayed until the problem is resolved. This is a worldwide issue, and not specific to any one location. Those planning to travel abroad to obtain new visas must take this problem into consideration before departing the United States, as their return may be delayed. We will provide an update once the problem has been resolved.

USCIS Announces Count for Fiscal Year 2015 H-1B Petitions

As widely anticipated, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced yesterday that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet both the regular cap (65,000) and the advanced degree cap (20,000) for Fiscal Year 2015.  USCIS received a total of 172,500 petitions during the FY2015 filing window, which ran through the first five business days of April.

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USCIS Announces that H-1B Cap Has Been Reached for Fiscal Year 2015, Lottery Planned

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received sufficient H-1B petitions (regular and master’s cases) to reach the statutory cap for Fiscal Year 2015 (10/1/2014 through 9/30/2015). Because the cap was met during the first five business days that employers could file Fiscal year 2014 petitions, a lottery will be held in the coming weeks to determine which cases will be accepted for processing, and which will be rejected.  Those chosen in the lottery will be issued receipt notices; those rejected will receive the original filings back from USCIS. 

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DHS Extends TPS for Haiti

DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Haiti who already hold TPS.  TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve.  The new extension allows qualifying individuals from Haiti to reapply for TPS until May 2, 2014.  Haitian TPS work authorization documents valid until July 22, 2014, are automatically extended until  January 22, 2015.  The DHS press release can be found here.

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DHS Extends TPS for Somalia

DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Somalia who already hold TPS.  TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve.  The new extension allows qualifying individuals from Somalia to reapply for TPS until December 31, 2013.  There is no automatic extension of previously-issued work authorization because there is sufficient time for applicants to apply for and receive new work authorization documents.  The new work authorization documents will be valid until September 17, 2015.  The DHS press release can be found here.

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USCIS Provides E-Verify Guidance Following Government Shutdown

Employers enrolled in the E-Verify program were unable to access the E-Verify system during the recent government shutdown.  While employers were still required to complete paper I-9s for new hires, they were not able to enter the data into the E-Verify system within the required three days.  USCIS has issued guidance for E-Verify participants, which can be found HERE.  The guidance addresses handling tentative non-confirmations received between September 17, 2013, and September 30, 2013; SSA final non-confirmations; and how to comply with the three-day rule (which must be completed by November 5, 2013).

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Limited SSA Services during Government Shutdown

The Social Security Administration (SSA) updated its web page to provide information about how the government shutdown affects SSA’s services.  While local SSA offices will provide some limited services, the offices will not be able to issue new or replacement Social Security cards.  This may adversely affect new visa holders arriving in the United States to begin their temporary employment with US employers.  A list of the limited services SSA will provide can be found HERE

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E-Verify Unavailable During the Government Shutdown

While the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) remains operating during the government shutdown, E-Verify services are not available.  This means that companies cannot enroll in E-Verify, and those already enrolled cannot verify employment eligibility, make changes to an account, or run reports.  The USCIS has provided limited guidance on their site, which you can read here

Employers enrolled in E-Verify must continue to complete Form I-9 for new hires during the shutdown, even though the three-day rule for verifying employment eligibility online is suspended.  When the shutdown is over, employers will be able to verify the employment eligibility of those hired during the shutdown.

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Government Shutdown and the Immigration Process

As Congress failed to reach an agreement to avert the unthinkable, the US Government shut down at midnight.  This will affect some immigration-related government agencies:

  • US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),which processes immigrant and nonimmigrant visa petitions, will continue operating.  Petitions already on file will continue to be processed, and new petitions will continue to be accepted.  eVerify will not be operating during the shutdown.
  • US Customs and Border Protection, which conducts inspections of those arriving by land, air, and sea, and enforces immigration laws, will continue operating.
  • Department of Labor, which processes Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) for H-1B petitions and E-3 applications, prevailing wage determinations for H-2B and PERM labor certification cases, and H-2B and PERM labor certification applications, will not continue operating during the shutdown.  The review of applications already on file will be suspended, and new applications will not be accepted until the shutdown is over.  This will delay the filing of H-1B, H-2B, prevailing wage requests, and PERM applications.  The USCIS has not yet addressed whether employers will be able to file H-1B petitions without LCAs at this time.   It is unlikely that E-3 applicants at US embassies and consulates will be able to obtain E-3 visas at this time without certified LCAs.
  • Department of State, which oversees US embassies and consulates, will continue to operate.  Embassies and consulates will continue to accept and process visa applications.  However, as the shutdown continues, it is possible for some of the visa processing services to cease if the fees collected will not support operations.  In addition, while US passport agencies will still accept and process applications, those offices located in Federal Buildings forced to close may not be operational.

State Department Issues Post-DOMA Guidelines

The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has now issued FAQs for handling of same-sex spouses in both the immigrant (green card) and nonimmigrant (temporary visa) categories, following the Supreme Court’s finding, in Windsor v. United States, that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.  Effective immediately, DOS will treat same-sex spouses and their children identically to opposite-sex spouses and their children.  This means that same-sex spouses whose marriages, whether foreign or domestic, are legally recognized where they occurred are now eligible for immigrant visas, K-1 fiance visas, nonimmigrant dependent visas, and all other visa benefits (including spousal employment authorization, where applicable) that opposite-sex spouses currently enjoy.  It also means that the children of same-sex spouses will now be treated as “stepchildren,” with corresponding visa benefits.