Immigration News

USCIS IS SUED FOR H1B LOTTERY PRACTICES

Date: 05/23/2016

The American Immigration Council (Council) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have teamed up on a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeking information about the government’s administration of the H-1B lottery. The lawsuit, filed last Friday, was brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. is co-counsel with attorneys from the Council.

Every year, U.S. employers seeking highly skilled foreign professionals submit petitions to USCIS on the first business day of April for the limited pool of H-1B nonimmigrant visa numbers that are available for the coming fiscal year. With an annual limit of 65,000 visas for new hires—and 20,000 additional visas for professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree from a U.S. university—employer demand for H-1B visas has exceeded the statutory cap for more than ten years. 

If USCIS determines at any time during the first five business days of the filing period that it has received more than enough petitions to meet the numerical limits, the agency uses a computer-generated random selection process (or “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to satisfy the limits, taking into account a percentage of the petitions selected which will be denied, withdrawn, or otherwise rejected. Petitions not selected are returned to the petitioning employers. U.S. employers, foreign nationals seeking H-1Bs, and immigration lawyers are keenly interested in how USCIS administers the lottery process.

USCIS has never been forthcoming in describing the selection process. “When petitions are submitted to USCIS in April, it’s as if they disappear into a ‘black box,’” said Melissa Crow, Legal Director of the American Immigration Council. “This suit is intended to pry open that box and let the American public and those most directly affected see how the lottery system works from start to finish, and to learn whether the system is operating fairly and all the numbers are being used as the law provides.”

“Despite the Obama Administration’s public commitment to the values of transparency and accountability, frankly, our attempts to see into this process have been resisted,” said AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson. He continued, “Instead of responding to our requests for information about how the lottery is conducted, how cap-subject petitions are processed, and how the numbers are estimated and tracked, USCIS  has kept the process entirely opaque. This litigation is intended to shine a necessary light on an important process in America’s business immigration system.”

TPS has been Extended for Beneficiaries of HONDURAS

Date: 05/17/2016

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Honduras (and those without nationality who last habitually resided in Honduras) for an additional 18 months, effective July 6, 2016, through Jan. 5, 2018.

Current TPS Honduras beneficiaries who want to extend their TPS must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from May 16, 2016 through July 15, 2016. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible once the 60-day re-registration period begins.

Employment Authorization:

The 18-month extension allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Those who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of Jan. 5, 2018.

USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EAD until after their current work permits expire. Therefore, we are automatically extending current TPS Honduras EADs with a July 5, 2016 expiration date for six months. These existing EADs are now valid through Jan. 5, 2017.

TPS has been Extended for Beneficiaries of NICARAGUA

Date: 05/17/2016

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Nicaragua (and those without nationality who last habitually resided in Nicaragua) for an additional 18 months, effective July 6, 2016, through Jan. 5, 2018.

Current TPS Nicaragua beneficiaries who want to extend their TPS must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from May 16, 2016 through July 15, 2016. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible once the 60-day re-registration period begins.

Employment Authorization:

The 18-month extension allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Those who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of Jan. 5, 2018. USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EAD until after their current work permits expire. Therefore, we are automatically extending current TPS Nicaragua EADs with a July 5, 2016 expiration date for six months. These existing EADs are now valid through Jan. 5, 2017. 

 

 

H-1B APPLICATION MIGHT BE COMING BACK TO YOU

Date: 05/02/2016

USCIS announced on May 2, 2016, that it has completed data entry of all fiscal year 2017 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in our computer-generated random process. USCIS will now begin returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected. Due to the high volume of filings, USCIS is unable to provide a definite time frame for returning these petitions. USCIS asks petitioners not to inquire about the status of submitted cap-subject petitions until they receive a receipt notice or an unselected petition is returned. USCIS will issue an announcement once all the unselected petitions have been returned.

Additionally, USCIS is transferring some Form I-129 H-1B cap subject petitions from the Vermont Service Center to the California Service Center to balance the distribution of cap cases. If your case is transferred, you will receive notification in the mail. After receiving the notification, please send all future correspondence to the center processing your petition. If you are filing a Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, to upgrade your Form I-129 H-1B petition to premium processing, send the completed Form I-907 with the appropriate fee to the center processing your petition.

 

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.

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