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

Although no official statement has been issued, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced during a call with the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Service Center Operations Liaison Committee that it expects to resume premium processing for all H-1B cases on or before October 3, 2017.   We will update this post as soon as USCIS makes an official announcement.

March 2017 brought us a surprising suspension of the Premium Processing option for all H-1B petitions received by the USCIS on or after Monday, April 3, 2017, which led to an overwhelming number of H-1B extension filings in a short period of time.  The USCIS was unable to process most of the cases within the 15-day period, leading to the return/refund the $1,225 filing fees.  April 2017 brought us the H-1B cap petition lottery that, once again, demonstrated a high demand for H-1B visas by US companies.  In addition, while these events were taking place, the President and members of his administration continued to spread negative messages about the H-1B program and its future.  In light of these events, we report the following:

  • H-1B petitions not selected in the lottery in April have started to arrive in the mail.  While the USCIS should return the rejected petitions to the attorneys of record, some clients have reported receiving the rejected filings directly from the USCIS.  Those filings should be forwarded to the attorneys so that the filing fee checks can be properly credited, and so that support documents can be maintained and reused next year.
  • Attorneys are reporting an increase in requests for evidence (RFEs) for some H-1B positions relying on Level 1 prevailing wages, especially in the computer industry.
  • Due to the large number of H-1B cap cases, extension petitions, and amended petitions, the USCIS has been moving H-1B filings to other USCIS Service Centers for adjudication assistance.  This should help decrease processing times.
  • Hot off the Presses:  During the USCIS Ombudsman’s Teleconference on H-1B Petition Processing on 6/20/2017, representatives from that office indicated that Premium Processing would be reinstated “on an incremental basis”, but have not explained how this will work or when it will begin.  They are being cautious given the rush of Premium Processing cases it received in March that exceeded processing capacity.

We will continue to provide updates on these and any other issues affecting the H-1B visa program, including any proposed legislation or policy changes.

The Trump Administration’s April Executive Order, “Buy American, Hire American,” puts the H-1B visa program under increased scrutiny, but is not likely to have significant, if any, impact on the program for the foreseeable future.
Continue Reading “Hire American, Buy American” Executive Order Not Likely to Change H-1B Landscape Significantly

Not surprisingly, the USCIS announced today that the FY2018 H-1B cap has been met.  The USCIS will hold a lottery for the H-1B visas as early as next week.  Those selected will receive receipt notices in the mail; those rejected will have their filings returned, along with the filing fee checks.   We expect that the receipt notices for those selected will begin to trickle in later this month through most of May; the rejected petitions will take longer to return.  The USCIS has not yet released the number of petitions it received.  Please check back for updates.

Due to the upcoming temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions on April 3, 2017, USCIS has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of premium processing cases it has received.  The Nebraska Service Center, which processes all H-1B extension petitions for non-cap exempt employers containing no changes to the beneficiary’s terms of employment, has announced that it will focus its resources on processing H-1B petitions in accordance with premium processing requirements.

Continue Reading USCIS’s Nebraska Service Center Announces Delays In Adjudication of H-4 and H-4 EAD Applications Concurrently Filed with Premium H-1B Petitions

On Friday, March 3, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that premium processing service will be suspended for all H-1B petitions received on or after April 3, 2017. This suspension may remain in place for up to 6 months.
Continue Reading USCIS To Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions

The provision automatically extending some Employment Authorization Documents (“EADs”) of the much-anticipated “Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimigrant Workers” regulation goes into effect today.  The regulation provides for the automatic extension of certain EADs for a period not to exceed 180 days, provided that a renewal application is:

  1. Properly filed with USCIS before the expiration date shown on the face of the expiring EAD,
  2. Based on the same employment category shown on the face of the expiring EAD, and
  3. Based on a class of aliens whose employment eligibility to apply for employment authorization continues notwithstanding expiration of the EAD and is based on an employment authorization category that does not require adjudication of an underlying application or petition before the adjudication of the renewal application.

Continue Reading New EAD Automatic Extension Regulation Effective Today, But Who Does It Benefit?

On December 27, 2016, the Administrative Appeals Office of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a far-reaching decision, Matter of Dhanasar, that sets a new legal framework for approval of National Interest Waiver (NIW) petitions and is likely to greatly increase the value of this green card category.  The newly designated precedent decision also vacates Matter of New York State Department of Transportation, a 1998 case that has severely limited the usability of the NIW petition for almost 20 years.

Continue Reading USCIS Issues Precedent Decision Revising Legal Standard for National Interest Waiver Petitions