Beginning February 19, 2016 certain nonimmigrant Caribbean residents seeking admission to the United States as H-2A agricultural workers, will be required to obtain a valid passport and valid H-2B visa in order to be admitted. Spouses and children traveling with an H-2A agricultural worker will also be required to present a valid passport and H-2A visa. The H-2A nonimmigrant visa exception for Caribbean residents was first introduced during World War II in an effort to address labor shortages in the American workforce. The change, comes as part of the revised 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which eliminates the nonimmigrant visa exception for these individuals, along with other provisions that impact the H-2B nonagricultural visa program. The new rule will apply to nationals of the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and nationals of Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, who either maintain a residence in a territory governed by England, France, or the Netherlands located in the adjacent islands of the Caribbean, or maintain a residence in Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, or Trinidad and Tobago. The change was validated in yesterday’s Federal Register by the Department of State and Homeland Security respectively. Removal of this visa exemption will allow the Department of State to properly screen individuals prior to their arrival in the United States, and further protect agricultural workers from employment violations and work related abuse. To learn more about the H-2A visa program click here.
What is the H-1B Visa? The H-1B visa is a work visa that is awarded on a lottery basis. The H-1B visa program allows American companies and/or qualifying organizations to employ foreign workers to fill specialty occupations temporarily. The foreign worker must posses a combination of education, specialized training, and/or experience that is equivalent to training acquired by the attainment of a U.S. bachelor’s or higher. The H-1B program was first enacted by Congress with the intention of helping American employers seek out distinguished foreign workers, possessing the skills and abilities necessary to perform the duties of the specialty occupation. The H-1B program has remained popular because it has allowed American employers to remain competitive and provides highly skilled foreign workers a path to permanent residence.
The provisions of the H-1B visa program allow qualified foreign workers to attain temporary employment having met specific requirements. H-1B visa recipients typically work in the STEM fields as scientists, engineers, computer programmers, software developers, business analysts, etc. although fashion models are also classified under the H-1B category.
USCIS will begin to accept H-1B cap-subject petitions for fiscal year 2017 beginning April 1, 2016. April 7, 2016 is the absolute deadline to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. Please note: employers cannot file an H-1B petition for an employee more than 6 months before the employee’s intended start date. If accepted, H-1B visa workers can begin employment by October 1st. The H-1B visa is issued for up to three years but may be extended for another three years.
It is our pleasure to provide our readers with newly released statistics published by the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification concerning the processing status of the PERM program and Prevailing Wage Determinations. The PERM graphic provides a breakdown for the review of applications certified during FY 2015 by the top 5 occupations, site states, industries, visa classifications, countries of citizenship, and minimum educational requirements. The graphic concerning the National Prevailing Wage Center outlines the determinations requests received for the H-1B program H-2B program, and PERM program FY 2015, breaks down prevailing wage actions, and issuance of prevailing wage determinations for PERM top 5 employers and occupations, H-1B top 5 employers and occupations, and H-2B top 5 employers and occupations.
National Visa Center Blunders
On July 30th the National Visa Center sent out a notification confirming reports that applicants had been receiving letters or emails from the NVC on July 29, 2015. These letters and/or emails stated that applications would be terminated or that their applications were in the process of being terminated under INA 203(g) for failure to contact the NVC within a year of receiving a notification of the availability of a visa, even if the individual or their legal representative had been in contact with the NVC during the one-year period.
The NVC is taking action to resolve these issued and will send all affected applications a follow up email confirming that their applications are still in process.
Upcoming Congressional Topics on Immigration
On August 4, 2015 the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will be discussing challenges facing the federal prison system
On August 6, 2015 the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold an Executive Business meeting on the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act and Transnational Drug Trafficking
DOL Power Outage
The Department of Labor Website will be experiencing a power outage from Friday 7/31/15 to Sunday 8/2/15 with service returning on 8/2/15.
Presently, attorneys Jacob Sapochnick, Esq., Ekaterina Powell, Esq., and Yingfei Zhou, Esq. from our office are in attendance at the 2015 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference on Immigration Law taking place in Washington, DC. Together, they have had the privilege of being present for an open forum where officials from the Department of State and the National Visa Center provided valuable information in regards to modernization of PERM, improvements in visa processing at the National Visa Center, technical issues experienced at U.S. Consulates abroad, H-1B fee announcements, and more!
Technical issues experienced at U.S. Consulates worldwide
1. In regards to technical issues causing delays in visa issuance at U.S. Consulates worldwide, visa issuance is currently frozen. No visas are currently being issued at any U.S. Consulates worldwide. U.S. Consulates are rescheduling appointments for visas that were affected by the technical issues. The DOS is working to repair the hardware, however it will not be until next week when all issues will be resolved. Due to this, there will be a backlog for visa issuance and it will take longer to schedule a consular appointment for a visa.
2. If a visa applicant was affected by the technical issues at a U.S. Consulate abroad and they need to retrieve their passport urgently, they will be able to retrieve their passport, however, in doing so, applicants will forfeit the visa fees they have paid, and will be issued a 221(g) visa denial letter. If applicants are still interested in receiving a visa, they must re-apply and re-pay any visa fees. Applicants who are re-applying must note on future applications that their visa was denied due to a technical glitch. Applicants from visa waiver countries who are concerned that the visa denial will automatically result in an ESTA denial can rest assured. ESTA submissions will not be denied based on the technical glitch. DOS has responded that the technical issues will not affect future visa applications. Continue reading