Immigration News

NEW RELIEF FOR PEOPLE AFFECTED BY NATURAL DISASTERS IN ECUADOR, JAPAN AND BURMA

Date: 04/28/2016

USCIS offers immigration relief measures for people affected by natural disasters, such as the severe earthquakes that recently occurred in Ecuador, Japan and Burma.

These measures may be available upon request:

* Change or extension of nonimmigrant status if you are currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after your authorized period of admission has expired;

* Re-parole, if you were previously granted parole by USCIS;

* Expedited processing of requests for advance parole documents;

* Expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;

* Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate;

* Consideration of fee waivers due to an inability to pay;

* Assistance if you received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to appear for an interview, submit evidence or respond in a timely manner because of the natural disaster; and

* Replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).

PROCESSING DELAYS

Date: 04/28/2016

 

USCIS addresses concerns about processing delays, stating that it is working to address the staffing shortages and workload issues that are causing the delays. USCIS recently transferred cases between all of its service centers in an effort to reduce backlogs and ensure consistent processing times.

From: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [mailto:uscis@public.govdelivery.com]

Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2016 10:52 AM
To:
Subject:
USCIS Message: Processing Times

Dear Stakeholder:

We are writing to address recent customer concerns about processing delays. We recognize that some cases
are taking longer to complete than usual and apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused.
Current personnel resources do not align with the present caseload, but we are working to address the
staffing shortages and workload issues that are causing the delays.

We continually review our workload capacity at each service center and, based on our findings, redistribute
the work among the service centers. This type of planning allows us to maximize our resources and
minimize any delays when work is transfered. We have recently transferred cases between all of our service
centers, including our newest center, the Potomac Service Center. This work includes all recently filed
Forms I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, submitted by F-1 and M-1 students for Optional
Practical Training. For more details, you can visit our new
workload transfer updates page.

While this may not reduce wait times immediately, we hope you will see improvement over the next few
months. Transferring cases will assist with backlog reduction, ensure processing times are consistent across
service centers, and provide our customers and stakeholders with faster responses.

Here is what you need to know if your case is transferred to another center for action:

  • Your case will be worked based on the processing times of the receiving center
  • All notices and requests will come from the new center
  • Please notify USCIS any time you change your address
  • If you receive notice that your Green Card has been approved, please wait 120 days to receive it in

    the mail
    Customers can access current processing times on the USCIS website at

    https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplayInit.do.

    We encourage you to sign up for an account with Case Status Online to get an email or text notification
    when there is an update to your status, including when your Green Card is mailed. We also encourage you to
    keep your address up to date to ensure that your card is delivered to your most current physical address. You
    can update your mailing address online at
    www.uscis.gov/changeaddress.

    Kind Regards,
    USCIS 

 

H-1B CAP PREMIUM PROCESSING TO BEGIN MAY 12

Date: 04/24/2016

On May 12, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting premium processing, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. USCIS first announced in a news release that it would temporarily adjust its premium processing practice due to the historic premium processing receipt levels, combined with the possibility that the H-1B cap will be met in the first 5 business days of the filing season.  

USCIS provides premium processing service for certain employment-based petitions and guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time. 

For H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap and for any other visa classification, the 15-day processing period for premium processing service begins on the date that USCIS receives the request. However, for cap-subject H-1B petitions, including advanced degree exemption petitions, the 15-day processing period set by 8 CFR 103.7(e)(2) will begin on May 12, 2016, regardless of the date on the Form I-797 receipt notice, which indicates the date that the premium processing fee is received. 

 

DAPA & Extended DACA News

Date: 04/18/2016

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Texas. The highest court will now decide whether the President’s deferred action initiatives announced in November 2014, known as expanded DACA and DAPA, move forward. “The lawyers arguing for the deferred action initiatives made a convincing case that the law and the Constitution are on our side. As expected, the Justices asked probing questions to both sides, demonstrating they understand the high stakes involved this case,” said Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.

H-1B RANDOM SELECTION PROCESS HAS BEEN COMPLETED!

Date: 04/13/2016

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 7, 2016, that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 9, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing.

The agency conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.

As announced on March 16, 2016, USCIS will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than May 16, 2016.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will also not be counted towards the congressionally mandated FY 2017 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position. U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering, and computer programming.

H-1B Quota has been Filled!

Date: 04/11/2016

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 7 that the H-1B cap for fiscal year 2017 was reached—meaning that in five business days, U.S. employers filed more petitions for an H-1B visa to hire a skilled foreign worker than the entire year’s allocation of visas available under current law. This means that USCIS will conduct a lottery to determine which employers will get the visas they need.

Every year, U.S. employers seeking highly-skilled foreign professionals submit their applications for the pool of H-1B visas beginning on April 1 each year. U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming.

Congress has set a limit of 65,000 visas for new hires, and 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. university. Current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap are not counted toward the cap. In recent years, demand for H-1B visas has outstripped the supply and the cap has been quickly reached. In FY 2015, more than 230,000 petitions were received. This leaves some employers with no ability to access the workers they have determined they need. This year is no exception. USCIS also noted that it received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.

The H-1B lottery will randomly select 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree category from among the petitions submitted.  Employers who are not selected in the lottery will have to wait until the next fiscal year to submit new petitions. The uncertainty employers face because they don’t know whether or not they will be able to hire the workers they want can be difficult.

USCIS also noted they will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap including:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

Once again, the exhaustion of the yearly H-1B cap in a matter of days shows that our immigration laws and policies are out of touch with business and economic demands. Policymakers must recognize that the H-1B and other temporary nonimmigrant visa programs play an important role in growing and innovating the U.S. economy, and enabling U.S. businesses to compete for global talent.

New OPT STEM Extension Rule Delivers Much Awaited Relief to H-1B Applicants

Date: 03/24/2016

The new rule will permit employers to retain the talented international students who rely upon the F-1 nonimmigrant student visa for a longer period. USCIS will begin accepting applications under this provision on May 10th, 2016. Prior to that date, USCIS will continue to accept applications under the existing 17-month STEM OPT procedure. This new and long-awaited STEM regulation includes the following major provisions: • It increases the STEM OPT extension period from 17 months to 24 months (for a total STEM OPT period of 36 months); • It automatically extends work authorization if students properly file a STEM OPT extension; • It permits students currently approved for a 17-month extension of work authorization to apply for the balance of the new 24-month extension if they meet certain requirements pertaining to timing of their applications; • It allows students enrolled in a subsequent STEM degree program at a higher level to become eligible for an additional 24-month STEM OPT extension upon completion of the subsequent, higher level program; • It permits eligibility for the 24-month STEM OPT extension under the new rule to be based on a previously obtained STEM degree (with certain limitations); • It provides new and clearer definitions of STEM fields of study within the Department of Education categories; • It requires students and employers to submit a formal training plan (i.e., learning objectives for the student) and certain employer attestations to protect the U.S. workforce-both of which the student and employer must submit on Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students (to be promulgated by USCIS); • It adds new reporting requirements for students and their employers, including confirmation of the student’s physical residence and employment status every six months, regular evaluations regarding the student’s progress with the training plan, and immediate notification regarding termination of the student’s employment; and

• It provides for DHS site visits to employer locations in which STEM OPT students are employed. The DHS will generally give advance notice of such visits but may also conduct an unannounced visit if triggered by a complaint or other evidence of violation of the regulations.

In addition, the updated rule retains other original provisions from the 2008 interim rule, such as:

• E-Verify and reporting requirements for STEM OPT employers; and

• a cap-gap extension for F-1 nonimmigrants with timely filed H-1B cap-subject petitions requesting change of status.

New Rule Requires Employers to be Vigilant and To Establish Mentoring and Training Programs for OPT Participants.

One of the most notable changes in the new rule is the requirement for employer implementation of formal mentoring and training programs for OPT participants. Employers will be required to create a mentoring and training plan, which is signed and certified by the employer (and the student) as a prerequisite to obtaining the STEM extension period; this plan is to be submitted on USCIS' new Form I-983 (the "Plan"). The Plan must describe the field in which the employee will receive training; list the name, title, and contact information of a designated supervisor within the company; and describe in detail the following:

• how the proposed work assignment is directly related to the student’s degree;

• a list of the goals and objectives of the program, including a detailed explanation on how the goals will be achieved;

• a list of the supervisor’s qualifications to provide training and how often the supervisor will interact with the student to further training;

• a list of other employees who will supervise or train the student and their respective qualifications; and

• the methodology for measuring the student’s acquisition of the required skills and knowledge for the position.

Another important aspect of the new rule is that it expands the amount of time a foreign student may be unemployed while in OPT status. Students may not be unemployed for an aggregate of more than ninety (90) days during the initial OPT period. Under the new rule, students granted a 24-month OPT extension may not be unemployed for an aggregate of more than one hundred and fifty (150) days (which, prior to the new rule, was 120 days) during the total OPT period (i.e., students may not be unemployed for more than 150 days for the twelve (12) months of initial OPT plus the 24-month STEM extension period).

Administrative Appeals Office Approves National Interest Waiver for Specialty Care Physician

Date: 02/17/2016

Immigration Solutions LLC applauds the Administrative Appeals Office’s (AAO) decision to withdraw the Texas Service Center Director’s (TSC) restrictive interpretation in Matter of H-V-P-, a case involving a national interest waiver. The TSC decision would have prevented a specialty care physician (hematology-oncology) from providing medical care in a community that has a government-designated shortage of health care professionals. 

To obtain an employment-based visa in most categories, a noncitizen usually needs a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, in Matter of H-V-P-, the AAO recognized that the law requires USCIS to waive the job offer requirement for both primary and specialty care physicians who work full-time in an area with a shortage of health care professionals (and meet other requirements not at issue here). The AAO also concluded that TSC’s narrow interpretation of an implementing regulation as requiring a specific specialty care shortage certification was inconsistent with past USCIS practice and would “frustrate the statutory scheme Congress enacted to improve access to medical care in underserved areas.” 

In reaching this conclusion, the AAO adopted many of the arguments in an amicus brief submitted by the Council, AILA and the International Medical Group Taskforce. 

TSC’s denial is another example of a culture of “no,” that takes the most restrictive interpretation of a law without regard to the law’s purpose or to the detrimental impact of its decision on individuals and businesses in the United States. The AAO’s resounding rejection of TSC’s attempt to change a longstanding agency interpretation with a single decision is a most welcome development.

TPS for SUDAN has been EXTENDED

Date: 02/11/2016

Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson has extended Sudan’s designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an additional 18 months due to the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Sudan that prevent its nationals from safely returning. The extended designation is effective May 3, 2016, through November 2, 2017.

Current TPS Sudan beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during a 60-day period that runs from January 25, 2016 through March 25, 2016. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible.

The 18-month extension also allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible Sudan TPS beneficiaries who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of November 2, 2017. USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current work permits expire. Therefore, USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Sudan EADs bearing a May 2, 2016 expiration date for an additional six months. These existing EADs are now valid through November 2, 2016.

Supreme Court will decide the fate of DAPA

Date: 01/26/2016

Many foreign nationals and immigration attorneys have welcomed the news that the Supreme Court will review the injunction that has been placed on President Obama’s executive actions. If the Supreme Court removes the injunction, foreign nationals will be able to apply for expanded DACA (deferred actions for children up to 16 years old who entered the US and have lived in the US since January 1, 2010) and DAPA (deferred action for parents of USC who were born prior to November 20, 2014.

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