Articles Posted in Employment Based Petitions

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On February 22, 2019, USCIS announced it has received enough petitions to meet the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for temporary nonagricultural workers, for the second half of FY2019. February 19, 2019 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before October 1, 2019.

On Feb. 21, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select from H-2B petitions received on Feb. 19. As a result, USCIS assigned all petitions selected in the lottery the receipt date of Feb. 22. Premium processing service for petitions selected in the lottery began on Feb.22.

USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for:

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The Trump administration is making another bold move, this time the target is H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers seeking permanent residence.

The Department of Homeland Security has published a notice of proposing rule-making (NRPM) to rescind an Obama era rule extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B workers seeking permanent residence.

We are awaiting publication of the proposed rule in the federal register. At this time, the regulation has preliminarily appeared on the government website reginfo.gov.

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Today February 15, 2019, USCIS announced that the agency will resume premium processing services on Tuesday February 19, 2019, for all H-1B petitions filed on or before December 21, 2018.

Premium processing service remains suspended for H-1B petitions filed on or after December 22, 2018. USCIS will make an announcement at a later date when USCIS plans to resume premium processing for the remaining categories of H-1B petitions as agency workloads permit the agency to resume these services.

USCIS has provided the following guidance for petitioners who received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, who are interested in upgrading their petition to premium processing:

If you received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, and you are requesting premium processing service, you must submit the premium processing request to the service center now handling the petition.

You should also include a copy of the transfer notice with your premium processing request to avoid possible delays associated with the receipt of your premium processing request.

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A new policy brief published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) analyzing USCIS processing times reveals that the agency has reached “crisis” level delays in processing immigrant and non-immigrant petitions. These delays have worsened during the Trump administration.

According to the report the most vulnerable populations include immigrant families, domestic abuse survivors and their children, traumatized and threatened persons seeking humanitarian aid, and U.S. businesses.

Specifically, the report finds that USCIS data released for fiscal years 2014 through 2018 reveals that USCIS is failing to adjudicate cases in a reasonable and timely manner:

  • The overall average case processing time surged by 46 percent over the past two fiscal years and 91 percent since FY 2014.
  • USCIS processed 94 percent of its form types—from green cards for family members to visas for human trafficking victims to petitions for immigrant workers—more slowly in FY 2018 than in FY 2014.
  • Case processing times increased substantially in FY 2018 even as case receipt volume appeared to markedly decrease
  • Data revealed a “net backlog” exceeding 2.3 million delayed cases at the end of FY 2017
  • DHS identified a net backlog of 2,330,143 USCIS cases as of the end of FY 2017.7
  • DHS observed that USCIS’s “net backlog has been as high as 1.7 million in FY 2004 and 1.5 million in FY 2008”—suggesting that USCIS’s net backlog at the conclusion of FY 2017 was its highest on record
  • the FY 2017 net backlog more than doubled from 1,047,751 cases at the conclusion of FY 2016—despite only a four percent increase in case receipts during that one-year period

What is to blame?

According to the report the following decisions made under the Trump administration have exacerbated delays and slowed the level of immigration to the United States:

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The Department of Homeland Security has published an advanced copy of the final rule that will amend the way the H-1B visa program will be run in the future. The official version of the final rule is set to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow January 31, 2019, and become effective April 1, 2019, the beginning of the H-1B cap visa season for fiscal year 2020.

Beginning with the upcoming FY 2020 H-1B cap season, which kicks off on April 1, 2019, USCIS will reverse the order by which it selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS will first select H-1B petitions (or registrations, once the registration requirement is implemented) submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will then select from the remaining eligible petitions, a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption.

According to USCIS, “Changing the order in which USCIS counts these allocations will likely increase the number of petitions for beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected under the H-1B numerical allocations.”

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USCIS recently announced that beginning January 28th premium processing services for all fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap petitions will resume, including petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption (also known as the “master’s cap”).

This means that any petitioner with a pending FY 2019 cap-subject petition may now upgrade the H-1B petition to premium processing service.

Petitioners who have received a request for evidence for a pending FY 2019 cap-subject petition may also upgrade the petition to premium processing service by including a Form I-907 with the response to the request for evidence.

What is premium processing service?

Premium processing is a service provided by USCIS for certain employment-based immigration benefit requests. The service gives petitioners the benefit of receiving 15-day processing of their petition.  Premium processing is typically used in connection with Form I-129 Petitions for Nonimmigrant workers and I-130 Immigrant Petitions for Alien Workers.

At the moment, premium processing service has only resumed for pending petitions subject to the FY 2019 cap.

Premium processing services remain temporarily suspended for all other categories of H-1B petitions (except those outlined below).

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You’ve filed your petition with USCIS and have received your receipt notice in the mail, now what?

A receipt notice also known as a “Notice of Action” is sent by USCIS to an applicant/petitioner of an immigrant or non-immigrant benefit, to communicate information relating to receipt of the benefit requested, or to notify the applicant of a rejection, extension, transfer, re-opening, or of an appointment (for biometrics or interview).

Why is this notice important?

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Have you ever wondered what visa options are available to social media influencers?

Social media influencers have quickly become of the biggest assets for brands seeking to reach millennial audiences by way of influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing refers to a business collaboration with an influential person on social media to promote a product, service, or a campaign. Social media influencers are those who have amassed a large following on social media and have established credibility among their followers within their specific industry.

An influencer can come to the United States and work with brands to promote their goods or services by applying for the O-1B visa for aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the social media influencer must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim via social media, and seek to come to the United States to work with companies using their social media platform.

What is extraordinary ability?

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction.  Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in their field.

For social media influencers this means a large following within their field of business such as fashion, gaming, travel, lifestyle, etc.

Evidentiary Criteria:

There are 6 evidentiary criteria that must be met to obtain the O-1B visa:

Evidence that the applicant has received, or been nominated for, significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, or evidence of at least (3) three of the following:

  • Performed and will perform services as a lead or starring participant in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts or endorsements
  • Achieved national or international recognition for achievements, as shown by critical reviews or other published materials by or about the beneficiary in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines, or other publications
  • Performed and will perform in a lead, starring, or critical role for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
  • A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as shown by such indicators as title, rating or standing in the field, box office receipts, motion picture or television ratings and other occupational achievements reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications
  • Received significant recognition for achievements from organizations, critics, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the beneficiary is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the beneficiary’s achievements
  • A high salary or other substantial remuneration for services in relation to others in the field, as shown by contracts or other reliable evidence

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The House Proposes to Extend the E-3 Program to Irish Nationals

On November 20, 2018, the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 7164, a bill proposing to add Ireland to the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program. Currently, the E-3 visa program is available to American employers seeking to hire Australian nationals to perform services in a specialty occupation for a temporary period of time.

The E-3 visa program functions much like the H-1B program. The program is governed by the same labor certification standards that apply to the H-1B visa program, and much of the same evidence is required. The E-3 visa classification is numerically limited, with a maximum of 10,500 visas available annually for Australian nationals.

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The E-2 treaty investor visa allows foreign nationals to make an investment in an existing or new business venture in the United States.

Advantages

There are no numerical limitations on the number of E-2 visas that can be issued, and there is no set minimum level of investment required, however the level of investment that should be made in the business venture should be sufficient to justify the presence of the foreign national in the United States. Although the E-2 visa is granted for an initial two-year period, the investor may qualify to extend their stay in two-year increments, with no outer limit on the total period of the foreign national’s stay.

Disadvantages

Not all foreign nationals are eligible to apply for the E-2 treaty investor visa. To qualify, you must be a foreign national from a treaty country that participates in a treaty of friendship, commerce, navigation or similar agreement with the United States. See below for qualifying countries:

Albania Czech Republic Kosovo Romania
Argentina Denmark Kyrgyzstan Serbia
Armenia Ecuador Latvia Senegal
Australia Egypt Liberia Singapore
Austria Estonia Lithuania Slovak Republic
Azerbaijan Ethiopia Luxembourg Slovenia
Bahrain Finland Macedonia Spain
Bangladesh France Mexico Sri Lanka
Belgium Georgia Moldova Suriname
Bolivia Germany Mongolia Sweden
Bosnia and Herzegovina Grenada Montenegro Switzerland
Bulgaria Honduras Morocco Thailand
Cameroon Iran The Netherlands Togo
Canada Ireland Norway Trinidad and Tobago
Chile Italy Oman Tunisia
China (Taiwan) Jamaica Pakistan Turkey
Colombia Japan Panama Ukraine
Congo (Brazzaville and Kinshasa) Jordan Paraguay United Kingdom
Costa Rica Kazakhstan Philippines Yugoslavia
Croatia South Korea Poland

Another disadvantage is that the E-2 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa type. This means that the E-2 visa does not create a pathway to permanent residency. In addition, making an investment in a small business venture is risky. Most small businesses fail. Investors seeking to establish a new business in the United States must be prepared to face challenges, obstacles, and potential losses. If the investment will be made by a company, at least 50% of owners in the qualifying country must maintain the nationality of a treaty trader country if they are not lawful permanent residents.

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