The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has reported receiving 190,098 cap subject H-1B petitions during the first five business days of April 2018, more than twice the number mandated by Congress’ cap of 65,000 under the regular H-1B cap and 20,000 under the advanced degree cap for each fiscal year.

On April 11, USCIS completed a computer generated and random lottery to select the 20,000 advanced degree cap petitions it will process for the 2019 fiscal year. Those not selected in this lottery, were included in a second lottery conducted to select the 65,000 regular H-1B cap petitions that USCIS will process.

We expect to start receiving H-1B receipt notices for petitions selected in the lottery within the next two weeks and that they will continue to trickle in through the month of June, as in previous years.

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the May Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China: EB-1 remains backlogged to January 1, 2012, EB-2 creeps forward one month to September 1, 2014, and EB-3 freezes at June 1, 2015
  • India: EB-1 remains backlogged to January 1, 2012, EB-2 remains at December 22, 2008, and EB-3 advances three months to May 1, 2008
  • Philippines: EB-2 remains current, while EB-3 stalls at January 1,2017
  • All Other Countries: All EB categories are current

NOTE: USCIS has not yet announced if it will accept I-485 applications in May based on the Department of State’s Dates for Filing chart. However, the trend over the last several months has been to NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart, and instead only accept I-485 applications based on the Final Action Dates as listed above.

The US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has just announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing service for H-1B Cap petitions for Fiscal Year 2019.  The suspension is expected to remain in effect until September 10, 2018.  Once the suspension is lifted, pending H-1B Cap petitions can be upgraded to premium processing service, if desired.  Other H-1B petition types, including petitions to amend or extend H-1B status, or to change employers, are not impacted at this time.  The official announcement can be seen here. We will continue to monitor these developments and will post updates as new information becomes available.

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the March Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China: EB-1 retrogresses to January 1, 2012, EB-2 advances eight months to August 1, 2014, and EB-3 leaps ahead six months to June 1, 2015
  • India: EB-1 reverts to January 1, 2012, EB-2 creeps forward another week to December 22, 2008, and EB-3 jumps forward more than a year to February 1, 2008
  • Philippines: EB-2 remains current and EB-3 advances seven months to January 1,2017
  • All Other Countries: All EB categories are current

NOTE: USCIS has not yet announced if it will accept I-485 applications in April based on the Department of State’s Dates for Filing chart. However, the trend over the last several months has been to NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart, and instead only accept I-485 applications based on the Final Action Dates as listed above.

In a February 28, 2018, status update filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the matter of Save Jobs USA v. United States Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) stated its inability to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”)  on the rescission of H-4 EADs by its initial intended timeframe of February 2018.  DHS now expects to issue the NPRM in time for publication in June 2018.

DHS explained that after review of the draft proposal by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a determination was made that significant revisions were required, including requiring a new economic analysis, which could take several weeks to complete. In this status update, DHS reiterated that its intention to publish an H-4 EAD NPRM remains unchanged.

How the rule will immediately affect employers who employ H-4 EAD workers still remains unclear.  DHS may either cancel valid H-4 EADs, render H-4 EADs invalid on a certain date, or prohibit the renewal of H-4  EADs.  Therefore, employers should seek immigration counsel as soon as possible to mitigate any risks from the expected removal of H-4 individuals, who are currently employment eligible, from the class of employment-authorized nonimmigrants.

In a letter dated February 23, 2018, the US Embassy in Paris notified “Golden Arrow” participants that the program to expedite E-2 visa issuance for critical employees of large French corporations is coming to an end. The Golden Arrow program allows employees of select pre-approved French companies to quickly schedule and obtain E-2 visas for employment in the United States in executive, managerial and essential skills positions. Golden Arrow employers are large, established French-owned companies with significant operations in the United States and France. Golden Arrow enables participants’ employees to skip the Embassy’s normal lengthy review process to determine if the company qualifies as an E-2 treaty investor. This allows the US Embassy in Paris to focus on the individual applicant’s qualifications and background, rather than the company’s.

Effective March 12, 2018, all E-2 visa applicants in Paris will follow the same application procedures. According to the Embassy’s letter, Golden Arrow “did not significantly decrease processing times for applicants.” Since processing times for participants were generally less than 3 business days, it is unclear how the Embassy expects processing times to speed up once the program is eliminated. Starting on March 12th,  all applicants, including employees of current Golden Arrow companies, will need to submit (and US Embassy officials will need to review) extensive documentation regarding the ownership, income and overall operations of companies that clearly qualify as E-2 Treaty Investors. As of this writing, the Embassy’s website has not yet been updated to reflect the new application process. However, it is difficult to see how this change will not result in visa issuance delays for critical employees of large, established French corporations.

The letter issued by the Embassy in Paris hints at a wider policy change within the US Department of State. Many consular posts around the world allow large, established companies to pre-register in order to avoid duplicate efforts with each E-2 visa application. These programs are critical for large corporations that rely on the ability to quickly move critical employees to the United States for temporary assignments. E-2 visas are based on long-standing treaties between the United States and dozens of countries, most of which are close allies and trading partners. Because these same treaties are relied upon by US companies to transfer US citizens to foreign assignments, further restrictions on E-2 visas will almost certainly lead to reciprocal curtailing of visa availability for US companies and their US citizen employees. It remains to be seen whether other US embassies around the world will follow suit and end similar E-2 registration programs. We will post further updates when they become available.

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the March Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China: EB-1 remains current, EB-2 jumps ahead another two months to December 8, 2013, and EB-3 advances two months to November 15, 2014
  • India: EB-1 remains current, EB-2 creeps forward one week to December 15, 2008, and EB-3 moves forward one month to January 1, 2007
  • Philippines: EB-2 remains current and EB-3 advances two months to May 1, 2016
  • All Other Countries: All EB categories are current

NOTE: USCIS has not yet announced if it will accept I-485 applications in March based on the Department of State’s Dates for Filing chart. However, the trend over the last several months has been to NOT honor the Dates for Filing chart, and instead only accept I-485 applications based on the Final Action Dates as listed above.

The Visa Bulletin is released monthly by the Department of State and is used to determine when a sponsored foreign national can submit the final step of the green card process. The complete visa bulletin can be found here.

Below is a summary of the February Visa Bulletin, including Final Action Dates and changes from the previous month:

  • China: EB-1 remains current, EB-2 advances nearly two months to October 1, 2013, and EB-3 jumps forward five months to September 15, 2014
  • India: EB-1 remains current, EB-2 continues a slow forward crawl –advancing 16 days to December 8, 2008, and EB-3 leaps forward an entire month to December 1, 2006
  • Philippines: EB-2 remains current and EB-3 advances two weeks to March 1, 2016
  • All Other Countries: All EB categories are current

Continue Reading February 2018 Visa Bulletin – Slow Advancement in Every Category and Projections for Future Movement

Hunton & Williams LLP’s immigration practice will introduce a new and improved immigration management system to its clients on January 16, 2018. For fifteen years, our group has used Immigration Tracker as a critical tool to manage our practice and serve our clients. The latest version of Tracker will offer a host of significant improvements that allows our practice group to work more efficiently through increased collaboration with clients and sponsored employees. Some of the key improvements are:

  • More powerful and easier to use management tools for Human Resources personnel to manage active sponsorships, including automatic delivery of custom reports, more detailed and transparent case status information, and viewing documents
  • Sponsored employees enjoy simplified yet more effective questionnaires that auto populate information previously provided, the ability to scan and upload documents directly from any mobile device, and more detailed case status information at their fingertips – including milestones completed for each process
  • Hunton team members will have more powerful tools available to prepare forms more quickly and accurately, manage active cases and expirations, and share critical information and documents with clients and sponsored employees
  • Improved security and accessibility through the latest in cloud-based database technology

Continue Reading Hunton & Williams LLP Introduces New and Improved Cloud-Based Immigration Management System for Clients

If 2017 is any indication, the new year will bring a fresh cascade of changes – both announced and unannounced, anticipated and unanticipated – in the business immigration landscape.  Few, if any, of these changes are expected to be good news for U.S. businesses and the foreign workers they employ.

In 2017, while much of the news media focused on the Trump Administration’s draconian changes to practices and policies that affected the undocumented – including ending the DACA Dreamer program, shutting down Temporary Protected Status for citizens of countries ravished by war and natural disaster, and aggressively enforcing at the southern border and in “sensitive” locations such as churches, courthouses, and homeless shelters – relatively less attention has been paid to the steady, incremental erosion of rights and options for legal immigrants, particularly those who are sponsored for work by U.S. employers, under the Administration’s April 2017 “Buy American / Hire American” executive order.  There is no doubt that such restrictions to the legal immigration system will continue to cause business uncertainty and disruption in 2018.  Here’s what to expect:

Continue Reading Buckle Your Seatbelts: 2018 Will Be a Watershed Year in Business Immigration