The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend USCIS Regulations relating to cap-subject H-1B petitions filed under both the regular cap and advanced degree exemption. Comments from the public may be submitted to the agency within the next 30 days.  This does not affect cap-exempt H-1B petitions.

 While the proposed changes are subject to possible modification, be aware that the upcoming H-1B cap season will likely be dramatically different from past years.  Highlights of the proposed changes include:

Pre-Registration

Electronic Registration/Pre-Registration
There is a proposed requirement that all cap-subject H-1B employers first register each intended petition electronically with USCIS during a designated period rather than directly filing complete H-1B petition packets with USCIS.  Basic information relating to the petitioner and beneficiary would be required in order to register. An employer would be limited to one registration per beneficiary within the same fiscal year.  USCIS does not plan to impose a registration fee at this time.  Only those employers whose registrations are selected (selected registrants) would be eligible to file cap-subject H-1B petitions during the particular filing period. 

Initial Registration/Random Selection 
An initial, time-limited registration period would be created with a start date at least 14 days prior to April 1st, which is the first date when cap-subject petitions may be filed each year. During the initial registration period USCIS would determine whether sufficient employer registrations were received to reach the regular cap for the new fiscal year.

  • If not, USCIS would notify all registrants that they may file their H-1B cap-subject petitions on behalf of the named beneficiaries and registration would remain open to employers.

    • On a rolling basis, USCIS would continue accepting and selecting electronic registrations until the regular H-1B cap is met, checking registration numbers at the end of each day to determine when there are enough to meet the cap.
    • A random selection may or may not be conducted as determined by USCIS.
  • If so, USCIS would close the registration period and randomly select enough registrants to meet the regular cap.
  • USCIS would notify the selected registrants of the applicable H-1B petition filing period and where to file their H-1B cap-subject petitions.
  • After the selection process is completed for the regular cap, USCIS would determine whether there are enough remaining eligible registrants to meet the 20,000 advanced degree exemption.
    • If not, USCIS would notify all registrants that they may file their H-1B cap-subject petitions on behalf of the named beneficiaries and registration would remain open to employers.
    • USCIS would continue accepting and selecting electronic registrations until the advanced degree exemption is met. A random selection may or may not be conducted as determined by USCIS.
  • If so, USCIS would close the registration period and use a computer-generated random selection process to meet the advanced degree exemption.

Petition Filing for Selected Registrants Only
USCIS would notify the selected registrants when and where they may file their H-1B petitions on behalf of the named beneficiaries.  Only the selected registrants would be permitted to file cap-subject H-1B petitions.

  • An employer that registers to file multiple petitions (each on behalf of a different beneficiary) may be selected to file some of its petitions and not selected for others.

Unselected Registrations
Unselected registrations would remain on reserve for the fiscal year so that if USCIS determined that it must increase the number of registrations to meet the regular cap or advanced degree exemption (presumably in case some of the selected registrants fail to file or their H-1B petitions are denied), then USCIS would select from among the reserve registrants and if needed re-open the registration until the regular and advance degree exemptions are met. 

  • If the registration period is re-opened, USCIS would announce the re-opened registration period start date on its website and accept additional registrations sufficient to meet the new projected amount of registrations needed to meet the regular cap and/or advanced degree exemption. 

 Selection Process

Regular Cap Exhausted First
With the goal of maximizing approvals for the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries, the proposed regulations would change the sequence for considering petitions filed for beneficiaries counted against the regular cap or beneficiaries counted under the advanced degree exemption.

  • USCIS would select registrants toward the regular cap first until that cap is reached.  This would include all registrants (that is, those seeking to employ beneficiaries with only bachelor degrees or equivalent as well as those with advanced degrees from US education institutions).
  • Only when the projected number of registrations needed to meet the regular cap is reached would USCIS select registrants who are eligible for the advanced degree exemption.

The proposed rule states that by changing the selection order, USCIS believes that the total number of petitions selected under the regular cap for H-1B beneficiaries possessing a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education will increase overall each fiscal year.


If you wish to discuss your plans for the upcoming H-1B cap season or the proposed rule, please contact your Fox Rothschild attorney or any of the firm’s Immigration Practice Group co-chairs.

USCIS announced yesterday that it has returned all FY2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions that were not selected in the “lottery”.

 You may recall that between April 2-6, USCIS received 190,098 FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions.  In May, USCIS completed its computer-generated random selection process for 20,000 US advanced degree petitions as well as the 65,000 remaining FY2019 spots. Many of these petitions were subject to requests for more evidence (RFEs).  Simple division indicates that for FY 2019, ~45% of the H-1B petitions were selected for processing, leaving ~55% (or 105,098 petitions) to be returned.

 After August 13, 2018, petitioners who timely filed their FY2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions but did not receive an I-797 Notice of Action acknowledging receipt nor their returned petition (with unused filing fees), may contact USCIS.

 To discuss this, or how to be prepared for the FY2020 cap season, please feel free to email or call Ms. Wadhwani or your Fox Rothschild contact.


Catherine Wadhwani is a partner and co-chair of the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP. She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

Last week the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California issued its ruling in United States of America v. State of California.  Fox Rothschild’s Jeffrey D. Polsky, L&E Department Co-Chair offers an insightful summary of the decision, which has implications for both immigration law and California employment law.  To view Jeff’s post on our California Employment Law blog, click here https://californiaemploymentlaw.foxrothschild.com/2018/07/articles/advice-counseling/court-addresses-conflict-between-state-and-federal-immigration-requirements/.

 

On March 6, 2018, the US Department of State announced a change in the location of certain greencard interviews in India.

In summary, for interviews scheduled on or after April 1, 2018:

  • The US Embassy in New Delhi will no longer conduct interviews for US Permanent Residence for the spouse (IR1/CR1) and the unmarried minor child(ren) (IR2/CR2) of a US citizen
  • The US Consulate General in Mumbai will begin conducting interviews for US Permanent Residence for the spouse and the unmarried minor child(ren) of a US citizen.

The change includes cases already in process and going forward. The National Visa Center will notify applicants of the specific location of their interview, along with details relating to visa interview preparation.

This change is for the purpose of consolidating visa processing of this type in Mumbai.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced today, September 18, 2017, that it will again expand its resumption of premium processing for additional types of H-1B petitions.

Effective immediately, H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2018 cap are eligible for premium processing.  This includes petitions under the 65,000 cap and the 20,000 additional petitions for beneficiaries with a US master’s or higher degree.  Readers may recall that the FY 2018 cap was reached in April 2017.  Those pending filings that were selected in the H-1B lottery, which generally have October 1, 2017 start dates, are the ones that are included under this expanded resumption of premium processing.  This is indeed welcome news for both the petitioning employers and beneficiaries who may now achieve decisions that could allow the H-1B employment to begin on or shortly after the anticipated start date.

Today’s expansion of premium processing is in addition to two prior resumptions of premium processing which included:

  • H-1B petitioners who are exempt from the H-1B cap as:
    • An institution of higher education,
    • A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education, or
    • A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.
  • H-1B  petitions that are exempt because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity.
  • H-1B petitions for physicians under the Conrad 30 or an IGA (interested government agency) waiver program, and

For now, USCIS continues its temporary suspension of premium processing for all other H-1B petitions including but not limited to extensions of stay.

The Agency stated that it will continue to expand eligibility for premium processing for other types of H‑1B petitions as workloads permit.  You may recall that when USCIS announced in March 2017 that is was suspending premium processing for H-1B petitions, the agency said that it expected to resume premium processing of H-1B petitions in general by early October 2017.  This may yet be achieved.

In its announcement USCIS included a reminder that H-1B petitioners may request expedited processing based on specific criteria such as humanitarian need.

Until then, USCIS will continue to reject any Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing filed with non-eligible H-1B petitions.

________________

Catherine Wadhwani is a partner in the immigration practice at Fox Rothschild LLP.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced today, July 24, 2017, that it will again expand its resumption of premium processing for certain types of H-1B petitions.

Effective immediately, H-1B petitioners who are (or have a sound argument that they are) exempt from the H-1B cap, are eligible to request premium processing.  This includes petitioners that are:

  • An institution of higher education,
  • A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education, or
  • A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

In addition, USCIS stated that it will resume premium processing for petitions that may be exempt “if the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity.”

This welcome news comes about a month after USCIS resumed premium processing of H-1B petitions for physicians under Interested Government Agency (IGA) J-1 waiver programs such as the Conrad 30 waiver program for shortage area physicians.  Employer’s petitioning for H-1B status for IGA-Waivered physicians became eligible for premium processing on Monday, June 26, 2017.

You may recall that when USCIS announced in March 2017 that is was suspending premium processing for H-1B petitions, the agency said that it expected to resume premium processing of H-1B petitions in general by early October 2017.  In today’s announcement, USCIS indicated that it will further “resume premium processing of other H-1B petitions as workloads permit.”  So it appears that USCIS is on its way toward meeting the October time-frame.

Until then, USCIS will continue to reject any Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing filed with non-eligible H-1B petitions.  Petitioners who aren’t eligible for premium processing, may of course, seek expedited processing based on such things as humanitarian reasons.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced yesterday that beginning on May 31, 2017, it will email reminders to Visa Waiver Program travelers notifying them of their “last possible departure date from the US”.  In addition, CBP added a feature to its website https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home so that travelers may check their last possible departure date online.

 For now, only those admitted to the US under the Visa Waiver Program can benefit from the new features, but CBP indicated that it will incorporate additional nonimmigrant travelers with future updates. 

 To check their last possible date of departure, Visa Waiver Program travelers can enter the www.cbp.gov.  Then, click on Get Most Recent I-94.  From there, click on View Compliance. When I tried the system, sometimes the screen which included the View Compliance option appeared directly without having to click Get Most Recent I-94.  Either way, ultimately the option that is needed is View Compliance.  In the next screen after clicking View Compliance, a traveler may enter his/her name, birthdate, passport number and country of passport issuance to find the number of days remaining in the period of stay and end date of admission.  For Waivered Tourists, the next screen should indicate the number of days remaining before their last date of departure.

 

During this time of increased unpredictability in US immigration law, it was good to see that the US Citizenship and Immigration Service had confirmed that the upcoming FY2018 H-1B random lottery will be conducted in the same manner as in past years.  Kudos to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for publishing the following:

 USCIS confirmed that the process for receiving and receipting H-1B cap cases for Fiscal Year 2018 will be the same as with prior years, including a random lottery. Therefore, a lottery will be conducted if, during the period of April 3-7, 2017, enough petitions are received to reach the 65,000 statutory H-1B cap and the 20,000 cap for petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, often referred to as the master’s cap. As in the past, a random computer selection will be run first for those petitions under the 20,000 master’s cap exemption. Any petitions not selected for the master’s cap will then be included in the random selection process for the 65,000 regular cap.

 

The Trump Administration issued a revised Executive Order on travel with an apparent desire to survive a court challenge by modifying some of the elements that judges found troubling in the January 27 travel ban.

The White House - Washington D.C.
Copyright: pigprox / 123RF Stock Photo

Issued March 6, the new ban, captioned “Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” has an effective date of Thursday, March 16 — allowing a 10-day window for foreign nationals, federal agencies and others to prepare for the changes.

The Executive Order imposes a 90-day “temporary pause” on entry into the United States by nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Notably, Iraq has been removed from the list, but “additional scrutiny” measures in the new ban will apply to those from Iraq.

Subject to certain “categorical exceptions and case-by-case waivers,” the new travel ban is narrower than the previous broad-sweeping measure and applies only to those from the listed countries who:

  • are outside the United States on the effective date, Thursday March 16
  • did not have a valid visa by 5 p.m. (U.S. EST) on Jan. 27, 2017
  • do not have a valid visa on Thursday, March 16.

Exceptions Recognized

In contrast to the prior Executive Order on travel (Executive Order 13769, Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States), which this new Order revokes as of March 16, the revised ban also recognizes six categories of individuals from the listed countries:

  • Lawful permanent U.S. residents
  • Any foreign national admitted to or paroled into the U.S. on or after the effective date, Thursday, March 16
  • Any foreign national who has a document (other than a visa) that is valid on or issued on any date after the effective date, that permits the holder to travel to, and seek entry or admission to, the US such as an advance parole travel document
  • Any dual national of one of the six countries when travelling on a passport issued by a non-designated country
  • Any foreign national travelling on a diplomatic-type visa, NATO visa, C-2 for UN travel, or G-1 – G-4 visa
  • Any foreign national who has been granted asylum, any refugee already admitted to the United States, or any individual who has been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.

Presumably, these exceptions will reduce concern by the larger group of travelers, including nationals of countries not listed in the Executive Order. Yet, the new Executive Order leaves open the possibility that restrictions may be imposed on nationals of additional countries at some point in the future.

Additional highlights of the Order include:

  • A call for enhanced vetting procedures during the adjudications process
  • 120-day suspension of the US Refugee Admissions Program for FY 2017, subject to waivers, and with a call for enhanced vetting
  • Expedited completion of the biometric entry-exit tracking system
  • Suspension of the “visa interview waiver program”
  • A review of visa reciprocity agreements
  • Making certain data available to the public
  • Clarifications regarding visa revocations, and more

A unanimous three-judge panel has rejected the Trump Administration’s bid to revive a travel ban that would have blocked most travel into the United States by natives of seven Middle Eastern and African countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

For businesses, universities, individuals and others potentially affected by Trump’s executive order, the situation remains far from certain because the government has vowed to take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its Feb. 9 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by a federal judge in the state of Washington. As a result, the lower court’s TRO – which restrains implementation of Trump’s executive order – continues in effect for now.

But the TRO is, by definition, only temporary, so travel abroad by noncitizens from these countries is still potentially dangerous, even for those who have dual citizenship.

The legal battle over the ban is far from over. The Trump Administration could pursue an immediate appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or could opt instead to ask for a rehearing at the Ninth Circuit before a much larger panel of judges. However the courts rule at this stage, the case could ultimately find its way back to the trial judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington for more in-depth hearings.