H-4 Employment Authorization

Good news.  The Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that starting today, July 13, 2015, it will again accept premium processing requests (Form I-907 Requests for Premium Processing Service) for H-1B extension of stay petitions.

This is ahead of schedule because USCIS had estimated that H-1B extension of stay premium processing would be temporarily suspended until July 27, 2015, due to the need to devote resources to the processing of applications for H-4 work authorization (EADs for certain H-4 Dependent Spouses).

Beginning today, a newly filed H-1B extension of stay petition may again include a premium processing request, and a pending H-1B extension of stay petition may be “upgraded” with the filing of an appropriate I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service.

_________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP and may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has updated its May 19, 2015 alert announcing temporary suspension of premium processing for certain H-1B petitions.  http://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-temporarily-suspends-premium-processing-extension-stay-h-1b-petitions

Here are the highlights:

  • May 26, 2015 – July 27, 2015*:  Premium processing is suspended for all H-1B extension of stay petitions with extremely limited exceptions for cases meeting the narrow expedite criteria.  See USCIS Expedite Criteria webpage.
  • During this suspension period, premium processing will still be honored for:
    • H-1B extension of stay petitions requesting premium processing prior to May 26, 2015 (but be aware that the announcement states:  “USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:  A petitioner filed H-1B petitions prior to May 26, 2015, using the premium processing service, and USCIS did not act on the case within the 15-calendar-day period.”)
    • Change of status H-1B petitions
    • Consular notification H-1B petitions
    • Consular notification H-1B petitions for those who have H-1B status
    • H-1B amendment petitions that do not also request an extension of stay
    • H-1B1 petitions (under the US-Chile and US-Singapore Free-Trade Agreements).

The temporary suspension is intended to enable USCIS to timely implement the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule, which became effective on May 26, 2015, and is anticipated to result in “an extremely high volume of Form I-765 applications”.

*USCIS has indicated that it will monitor workloads and if feasible, resume premium processing for H-1B extension petitions prior to July 27, 2015.

_____________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

Reminder:  Effective today, May 26, 2015, the Immigration Service will accept applications for employment authorization from “certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants”. (Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses Web page).

An H-4 spouse may only apply for an EAD (employment authorization document) if the H-4’s H-1B spouse is pursuing US permanent residence.  More specifically, the H-4 spouse may not file an EAD application unless the H-1B spouse:

  • Is the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, OR
  • Has H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (as amended by AC21).

Of course, H-4 status isn’t the only status that an H-1B spouse may hold.  USCIS had previously announced that where a non-H-4 spouse applies for H-4 status, it will first change the status of the qualifying spouse to H-4 and then adjudicate the application for employment authorization. This will add another step to the process and take more time.

Please see my prior post on this topic, “H-4 EAD Applications Accepted Beginning May 26, 2015: Are you that “certain spouse”?” for more information.

_____________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

Today USCIS announced that starting May 26, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B Extension of Stay petitions until July 27, 2015. During this time frame, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting an extension of the stay for an H-1B nonimmigrant. USCIS will continue to premium process H-1B Extension of Stay petitions filed with Form I-907 premium requests prior to May 26, 2015.

USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:

  • A petitioner filed H-1B petitions prior to May 26, 2015, using the premium processing service, and
  • USCIS did not act on the case within the 15-calendar-day period.

This temporary suspension will allow USCIS to implement the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule in a timely manner and adjudicate applications for employment authorization filed by H-4 nonimmigrants under the new regulations.

Premium processing remains available for all other Form I-129 H-1B petitions, including petitions subject to the H-1B cap that are requesting a change of nonimmigrant status or consular notification.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

Are you that “certain someone”?  That “certain spouse” of an H-1B worker who will be eligible for H-4 work authorization?  Not sure?  Here’s the scoop.

At long last, on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Federal Register Notice captioned, “Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses; Final Rule”.   Per the much-awaited Notice, on May 26, 2015 (NOT earlier), USCIS will begin accepting applications from eligible applicants in H-4 status, but H-4 work authorization will not be available to all who hold H-4 status.  The chosen few, those “certain spouses” who will be eligible for H-4 work authorization include:

  • An H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker with an approved I-140, or
  • An H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker who has been granted a 7+ year extension of H-1B time pursuant to AC21 Sections 106(a) and (b).  (Note that an H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker granted a 7+ year extension under AC21 Section 104(c) would be covered under the first bullet point.)

So, not all H-4 dependent spouses will qualify to apply for an H-4 EAD (employment authorization document).  H-4 children are also ineligible.

An H-1B worker who is running out of H-1B time may want to consider whether it makes sense to change to H-4 status and seek work authorization—that is, if married to an H-1B worker who would enable the work authorization criteria to be met. Fortunately, there is a provision for concurrent filing of the H-4 application and the EAD application.

Typically, it takes about 90 days from the date of USCIS receipt of an EAD application for the EAD card to be issued.  It’s not clear whether it will take longer given that there is likely to be a very large number of filings seeking H-4 work authorization.

Careful consideration and strategizing must be undertaken to determine eligibility, the best course of action, and timing.  Please feel free to contact us if you need assistance.

____________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a Partner in the Immigration Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

Today, February 24, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced that, as of May 26, 2015, certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status will be eligible for employment authorization. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States.

According to Rodríguez, finalizing the H-4 employment eligibility was an important element of the immigration executive actions President Obama announced in November 2014. Extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants is one of several initiatives underway to modernize, improve and clarify visa programs to grow the U.S. economy and create jobs.

“Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodríguez said. “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.”

Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:

  • Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.

DHS reports that it expects this change will reduce the economic burdens and personal stresses H-1B nonimmigrants and their families may experience during the transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status, and facilitate their integration into American society. It is anticipated that this change will reduce certain disincentives that currently lead H-1B nonimmigrants to abandon efforts to remain in the United States while seeking lawful permanent residence, which will minimize disruptions to U.S. businesses employing them and, further, also support the U.S. economy because the contributions H-1B nonimmigrants make to entrepreneurship and science help promote economic growth and job creation. The rule also will bring U.S. immigration policies more in line with those laws of other countries that compete to attract similar highly skilled workers.

Under the rule, eligible H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required $380 fee in order to obtain employment authorization and receive a Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD). USCIS will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2015. Once USCIS approves the Form I-765 and the H-4 dependent spouse receives an EAD, he or she may begin working in the United States.

USCIS estimates the number of individuals eligible to apply for employment authorization under this rule could be as high as 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years. USCIS reminds those potentially eligible that this rule is not considered effective until May 26, 2015. Individuals should not submit an application to USCIS before the effective date, and should avoid anyone who offers to assist in submitting an application to USCIS before the effective date.

For more information, see USCIS’ news release here.

___________________________

Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

Much has been reported regarding President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action (IAEA). And, of course, there is still uncertainty regarding when and exactly what measures will be implemented by the Immigration Service.

With so much speculation on the topic, and an abundance of DACA and DAPA information, it’s not particularly easy to understand what the Immigration Executive Action contains relating to the country’s legal immigration system. Below is a quick summary of USCIS’s January 29, 2015, notice [http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction].

In the notice, USCIS indicated that it will work toward to goals of:

• Using all available immigrant (i.e., greencard) visa numbers when there is sufficient demand.

• Simplifying the Visa Bulletin system with regard to determinations of visa number availability.

• Clarifying I-485 portability (i.e., adjustment portability) to remove uncertainty relating to job mobility/career progression of the individual worker.

• Clarifying the National Interest Waiver I-140 (NIW I-140) greencard standard for foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up companies.

• Providing parole eligibility to certain inventors, researchers and founders of start-up companies who are not eligible for the NIW I-140, but who:

o Have been awarded substantial financing from US investors, OR

o Demonstrate promise of innovation and job creation through new technology development OR through the pursuit of “cutting-edge research”.

• Finalizing H-4 work authorization for the spouse of an H-1B worker whose greencard paperwork is in progress.

• Expanding and extending Optional Practical Training (OPT) for certain foreign students.

• Consolidating and clarifying L-1B Specialized Knowledge employee guidance to improve consistency in adjudications. Using these as a basis, there is great potential for an improved immigration system.

For now, we eagerly await additional details from USCIS regarding the provisions.

______________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP. She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

H-1B cap season is upon us, but will the H-1B cap be increased?  You may have heard of the “I-Squared Act of 2015” (aka the “Immigration Innovation Act of 2015” or S. 153), introduced in the Senate in mid-January.  Like the President’s Immigration Executive Action, the I-Squared Act contains a variety of proposals meant to improve the country’s immigration system.  Not all of the provisions relate to H-1B workers, but that’s what I’ll address here.

The Bill begins with a section captioned, “Market-Based H-1B Visa Limits”.   This Section describes a system which would provide for increased H-1B numbers depending on demand.  The H-1B cap would increase from the current 65,000 (+20,000) to 115,000 (but not more than 195,000).  Demand would be assessed on a rolling basis beginning 46 days after the first date when H-1B filings are permitted, then again on the 61st day and so on.  That should certainly alleviate the distress of cap-subject employers…if the Bill were to ultimately become law.

Further, the Bill proposes a 60-day grace period for the H-1B worker when the employment relationship ends (whether voluntarily or involuntarily before the ending validity date of the H-1B petition approval).

Of note, the Bill also calls for work authorization for the spouse of an H-1B worker.  This raises another question:  When will we hear more regarding the H-4 work authorization that is already under consideration?

Will the Senate Bill become law?  That seems highly unlikely, and particularly not in time for this year’s H-1B cap season.  So for now, cap-subject employers intending to petition for H-1B status for cap-subject foreign workers should be prepared as usual.

__________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Pittsburgh office of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com

If you’re anxiously awaiting news regarding work authorization for certain H-4 nonimmigrants, here’s the latest:

  • The period for submitting comments regarding the proposed rule closed on July 11, 2014.
  • In an open call held on August 14, 2014, USCIS Director León Rodríguez stated that the Service is in the process of considering the comments received.  He acknowledged the importance of the proposed rule to families and stakeholders and said that the Service was working as quickly as possible to conduct its review of the comments.

That’s all we know for now.  Hopefully there will be more news soon, but no time-frame was provided at this point.

For background on this topic, please refer to my May 16, 2014, Immigration View Blog Post captioned, “H-4 Work Authorization?  Not for everyone.”  You may also want to view the Federal Register Proposed Rule that was published on May 12, 2014.

_______________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Group of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She can be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

On May 12, 2014, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Proposed Rule that would amend provisions of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS’s) Regulations regarding work authorization for certain H-4 nonimmigrants.

An H-4 nonimmigrant is the spouse or child of an H-1B worker.  H-4 status does not currently provide eligibility for work authorization.

In a bold and seemingly well-considered move, DHS is proposing to change this.  Employment eligibility would not, however, be open to all who are in H-4 status.  Instead, if the proposed measure stands as it is, it would enable an H-4 spouse to apply for employment authorization if:

  • The H-1B spouse is either the beneficiary of an approved I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or
  • The H-1B spouse has been granted an extension of his/her authorized period of admission under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21), as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. (Generally summarized, this is the provision which permits an H-1B petition to be extended beyond 6 years if the H-1B worker is the beneficiary of either a PERM application or I-140 petition pending for at least 365 days prior to reaching the 6th year of H-1B time.)

The stated goal in permitting certain H-4 nonimmigrants to apply for work authorization is the country’s interest in “attracting and retaining high-skilled foreign workers” for the benefit of the US economy, US employers, and alleviating possible economic burdens on the families of H-1B workers.  The benefit is also meant to encourage foreign workers who are stuck in what seems like an endless delay toward becoming US permanent residents, to remain in the US until the greencard process can be finished (i.e., a visa number becomes available and the case can be processed to conclusion).  In summary, if due to a priority-date backlog, an H-4 spouse can’t file an I-485 application to be eligible for employment-authorization, the Proposed Rule is the “fix” to permit the filing of the employment card application.

This proactive measure may also inadvertently help alleviate problems for US employers resulting from the limit on H-1B numbers.  Presumably, at least some of H-4 spouses were the beneficiaries of H-1B petitions that were selected in the H-1B cap lottery (and took a highly prized H-1B number) or were not selected (leaving a US employer without its prospective employee).

On another note, an interest of the country is also family unity.  Although this isn’t an economic interest, it would seem to me that consideration should be given to opening up eligibility for employment authorization to any spouse of a foreign worker who is maintaining lawful status and is the beneficiary of a Family-Based petition in a severely
retrogressed category.  Perhaps not many people would benefit, but…it’s a thought.

____________________________

Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Group of Fox Rothschild LLP.  She can be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.