Articles Posted in H1B Visas

For years you have 8276375308_d5f2721898_zput your trust in our office for all of your immigration needs and for that we thank you. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to serve you and your families. Throughout the years, we have helped thousands of immigrants from all over the world attain their American dream. Learning about their lives and their struggles has

always been an important part of our practice. Although many challenges lie ahead for immigration, we are confident that important changes will come about in the new year. Do not despair and know that our office will be with you every step of the way. We wish you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons.

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A recent working paper published by Harvard economist, William R. Kerr, and Wellesley economist, Sari Pekkala Kerr, is making waves on the subject of immigrant entrepreneurship. The study asks: just how important are foreign-born entrepreneurs to our economy? Are their contributions truly significant?

The study’s abstract reads as follows:

We examine immigrant entrepreneurship and the survival and growth of immigrant-founded businesses over time relative to native-founded companies. Our work quantifies immigrant contributions to new firm creation in a wide variety of fields and using multiple definitions. While significant research effort has gone into understanding the economic impact of immigration into the United States, comprehensive data for quantifying immigrant entrepreneurship are difficult to assemble. We combine several restricted-access U.S. Census Bureau data sets to create a unique longitudinal data platform that covers 1992-2008 and many states. We describe differences in the types of businesses initially formed by immigrants and their medium-term growth patterns. We also consider the relationship of these outcomes to the immigrants’ age at arrival to the United States.

The study is important because it forces members of Congress to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, in order to determine whether or not it is beneficial for the United States to create more opportunities for highly-skilled entrepreneurs and professionals. Regrettably, the immigration debate has largely centered around illegal immigration to the United States, ignoring calls to create more flexibility for highly-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs. As it stands today, immigrant entrepreneurs can only obtain a green card via sponsorship from a United States employer. The majority of entrepreneurs are forced to remain in the United States on a temporary ‘dual intent’ nonimmigrant visa, until a U.S. employer agrees to sponsor their green card. Visa options are very limited for highly-skilled immigrants. Even for the most brilliant of entrepreneurs, this process requires time and patience. Our current immigration laws are doing us a disservice since they are keeping out some of the most talented entrepreneurs in the world. Immigrant entrepreneurs are increasingly important because the number of businesses and American jobs they create is on the rise.

Here are some of the study’s findings:

  • As of 2008, at least one in four entrepreneurs among start-up companies are foreign-born. Similarly, at least one in four employees among new firms are foreign-born
  • 37% of new firms had at least one immigrant entrepreneur working for the company
  • At least 1 in 3 start-up firms were founded by an immigrant entrepreneur, with an increasing rate from 1995-2008
  • The share of immigrants among all employees working for start-up companies is on the rise
  • Immigrant employees in low-tech positions comprise about 22.2% of start-up companies, while 21.2% of immigrants work in high-tech positions in start-up companies
  • Among new start-ups backed by venture capitalists, 60% had at least one immigrant entrepreneur
  • Immigrant employees working for a start-up company backed by venture capitalists have higher mean average quarterly earnings

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Before filing your green card application, it is important for you to carefully consider several important factors that may limit your ability to obtain employment in the United States and restrict your international travel. If you will be filing your green card application in the near future, you need to be prepared to remain in the United States for a period of at least 90 days, from the date of filing of your green card application. Applicants must also be aware that they will not receive authorization to work in the United States until this 90-day period has passed. Limited exceptions exist which may allow an applicant to expedite the adjudication process of the employment and travel authorization applications which we will discuss below.

Why the 90-day restriction period?

As part of the green card application, the applicant may file the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and the I-131 Application for Travel Document at no additional cost. The I-765 and I-131 applications result in the issuance of a one-year temporary employment and international travel authorization card (EAD), while the green card application is being adjudicated by USCIS. It takes on average 90 days for the EAD card to be issued, from the date of filing of the green card application. This ultimately means that once you apply for permanent residence, you will not be able to seek employment or travel outside of the country until the EAD card is issued to you within 90 days. Once the green card application has been filed with USCIS, the applicant is restricted from any international travel. If the applicant travels without authorization, USCIS will consider the applicant’s green card application ‘abandoned.’ An applicant may only travel internationally if they have received a re-entry permit issued by USCIS known as an ‘advance parole’ document. The ‘advance parole’ notice will appear on the front of the EAD card itself signifying that the applicant is authorized to travel internationally using the card.  The ability to re-enter the United States after returning from temporary foreign travel is ‘discretionary.’ This means that even if you have been issued an EAD card that allows you to travel, it will ultimately be up to the customs official to admit you into the United States.

Consider the alternatives

Before applying for your green card you should carefully consider whether these travel and employment restrictions will have a significant impact on your lifestyle. If the travel restrictions are concerning to you, it may be a more beneficial option for you to apply for an immigrant visa from a U.S. Consulate abroad. There are no travel restrictions for applicants who apply for immigration benefits from abroad. Likewise, if you are concerned that you will not receive employment authorization immediately, it may be worth considering applying for a dual intent work visa first to cover any gaps in employment. There are limited work visa categories that allow for dual intent, or the intent to have a temporary visa status at the same time as having the intent to remain permanently in the United States. If this is the case, you should consult with an attorney to discuss your options.

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Last week our very own managing attorney Jacob Sapochnick, Esq., and associate attorney Yingfei Zhou, Esq. had the pleasure of attending the 2016 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference on Immigration Law in Las Vegas, Nevada. Together, they bring you the most up to date information on the new N-400 online filing system and new N-400 form, the new customer service tool EMMA—a computer-generated virtual assistant, information regarding delays in adjudication of H-1B extension/transfer applications and Employment Authorization applications, filing tips for H-1B extensions, updates on EB-1C Multinational Executive/Manager green cards, Employment Authorization eligibility for spouses of E-2 and L-1 visa holders, and updates on Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) Decisions.

New Naturalization Form and N-400 Online Filing System

  1. USCIS recently published a new N-400 form on 04/13/2016. Applicants may use the previous 09/13/2013 version until 08/09/2016. Any naturalization applications received on or after 08/10/2016 containing the old form with revision date 09/13/2013 will be rejected and returned to the sender.
  1. USCIS is currently testing a new N-400 online filing system. This system will be available to applicants without legal representation and will eventually become available to applicants represented by an immigration attorney.

New Customer Service Tools EMMA

  1. USCIS is introducing a new customer service tool called EMMA – a computer-generated virtual assistant who can answer your questions and even take you to the right spot on the USCIS website. EMMA is USCIS’ version of ‘Siri’ and is designed to help you navigate the USCIS website. EMMA is available in the Spanish language. So far, EMMA has managed to answer 80% of questions asked.

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On May 04, 2016 the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule in the Federal Register, announcing that filing fees for many USCIS petitions and applications are expected to increase for U.S. employers and foreign nationals. The proposed regulation stipulates that filing fees may be adjusted for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests by USCIS. The increase in filing fees was considered after USCIS conducted a comprehensive review of its fees and found that the current fees do not cover the cost of services provided by USCIS. According to USCIS, in an effort to fully recover costs and maintain adequate services, “an adjustment to the fee schedule will be necessary”. According to the regulation, fees for most employment-based petitions and applications would be raised by an average of 21%, though other types of petitions may experience a higher increase in filing fees.

According to DHS, the higher fees will more accurately reflect the current cost of processing immigration applications and petition. A portion of the increased fees would provide additional funding for refugee and citizenship programs as well as system support for interagency immigration status verification databases.  The increase in filing fees will not take effect until the federal government approves the regulation, which is expected to take several months following the close of the 60-day comment period on July 5, 2016.

According to the new fee schedule under consideration, employment-based petitions would be the most impacted by the increase in filing fees. The filing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, would increase by 42% to a fee of $460, from the current rate of $325.  Similarly, the filing fee for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, would increase by 21% to a fee of $700, from the current rate of $580. The complete fee schedule under consideration has been provided below for your reference.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program is expected to be the most heavily affected by the new fee schedule. The filing fee for Form I-924, Application for Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, would increase by a rate of 186% requiring Regional Centers seeking designation under the program to pay a filing fee of $17,795 instead of the current rate of $6,230. In addition, Regional Centers would be required to pay a $3,035 annual fee to certify their continued eligibility for the designation. Currently, there is no fee in place for annual certification. The filing fee for the I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, an application associated with the EB-5 visa program, would also increase to a rate of $3,675, a 145% increase up from the current rate of $1,500. The filing fee for an investor’s petition to remove conditions on residence would remain unchanged under these new regulations.

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Today May 2, 2016 USCIS announced that data entry for all selected H-1B cap-subject petitions has been completed for fiscal year 2017. Our office expects to receive the final receipt notices of selection for H-1B cap-subject petitions within the next 1-2 weeks. We do not believe that USCIS will be mailing out any more receipt notices for H-1B cap-subject petitions after May 13, 2016. USCIS will begin the process of returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the random lottery conducted on April 9, 2016. In past years, unselected H-1B petitions have typically been received by our office in the month of June. USCIS recommends that petitioners wait until they have received either a receipt notice or unselected petition in the mail, before contacting USCIS to inquire about the status of a petition. USCIS will issue an additional announcement once all unselected petitions have been returned.

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9152815014_f344695012_zU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions (Bachelor’s cap and Master’s cap) will begin on May 12, 2016. USCIS had previously announced that premium processing would begin no later than May 16, 2016. During fiscal year 2016, USCIS began premium processing on April 27th. This year there will be a slight delay in premium processing due to the large volume of cap-subject H-1B petitions received for fiscal year 2017. Approximately 3,000 more petitions were received this year, when compared to the previous year. USCIS guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time for certain employment-based petitions as part of the premium processing service. If you did not submit Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service with your initial H-1B petition, and you receive notification that your petition has been accepted, you can upgrade your petition to premium processing at any time by filing Form I-907 with the filing fee.

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As previously reported, the Department of Homeland Security published a new final rule that will allow certain F-1 students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, also known as (STEM) fields, to apply for a 24-month extension of their optical practical training (OPT) program. This new 24-month OPT extension will replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension that had been previously in place since 2008. Eligible students can begin to apply for the new 24-month extension starting May 10, 2016. If you mistakenly apply for a 24-month extension before May 10, 2016 you will receive a 17-month extension.

Applicants should note that the cap gap extension has not changed. Individuals who have filed an H-1B change of status application that is currently pending with USCIS, must keep in mind that their status will only be extended until September 30. It is recommended that selected H-1B participants upgrade their petition to premium processing, so that foreign workers in F-1 status do not experience significant gaps in employment. USCIS will adjudicate STEM OPT applications under the 2008 rules until May 9, 2016. STEM OPT extension applications filed and approved before May 10, 2016 will receive a 17-month extension. If you have a pending application requesting a 17-month STEM OPT extension on May 10, 2016 you will receive a request for evidence asking for additional documentation to satisfy the new rule for the new 24-month extension. We have learned that the SEVIS system will be updated so that I-20’s will reflect 24-month extensions.

Students currently on 17-month STEM OPT

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This week USCIS announced that over 236,000 H-1B petitions were received by the agency for fiscal year 2017 (including petitions for the general cap and advanced degree exemption), compared to last year’s 233,000. Following the close of the filing period, USCIS conducted a random computer-generated lottery on April 9, 2016 beginning the selection process for the 20,000 available visas for advanced degrees first. Unselected advanced degree petitions were then placed in the lottery to fill the 65,000 general cap. Foreign workers holding an advanced degree from the United States were thus given two chances at selection. Any petitions that were not selected by USCIS will be returned along with official rejection notices, and original filing fees. This year, our office filed 15 advanced degree petitions and 40 bachelor’s cap petitions for a total of 55 H-1B petitions. Of these petitions, 46 were filed with regular processing, and 15 were filed with premium processing. The majority of these petitions were filed with the California Service Center.

As of this afternoon, we have only received 4 selection emails from the California Service Center (CSC) for advanced degree petitions filed with premium processing, and only 1 selection email for a bachelor’s cap petition filed with premium processing. We do not expect to receive any ‘receipt notices’ for petitions filed with regular processing until late April through the month of May. At this point, it does not appear that USCIS has begun cashing filing fees for selected petitions. If the filing fees for your H-1B petition have not been cashed, this does not mean that your H-1B petition was not selected. It is too early to make this conclusion. Employers should monitor their bank accounts closely within the next 2-4 weeks.

This year, USCIS received approximately 3,000 more petitions compared to last year. As in previous years, the H-1B cap was reached within the first five business days of the H-1B filing period. This year the chances of selection ran at roughly 65% for foreign workers holding a U.S. advanced degree, and roughly 35% for foreign workers holding a bachelor’s degree. Last year, the chances of being selected was about 60% for advanced degree holders, and 30% for bachelor’s degree holders.

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Today April 7, 2016 the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-1B general bachelor’s cap has been reached for fiscal year 2017. In addition, USCIS received more than 20,000 petitions for the advanced degree exemption. Some time within the next week, USCIS will conduct a random computer-generated process, known as a ‘lottery,’ to select the petitions needed to fill the 65,000 bachelor’s cap. USCIS will first randomly select the petitions that will count toward the advanced degree exemption. Unselected advanced degree petitions will then be entered into the random lottery that will be conducted to fill the 65,000 bachelor’s cap. All unselected cap-subject petitions will be rejected and in turn CIS will return the H-1B packages containing filing fees and rejection notices. CIS has not yet provided any details concerning the date the lottery will be conducted. We suspect it will occur within the next week. In the meantime, cap exempt H-1B petitions will continue to be processed including H-1B worker extensions, petitions requesting a change to the terms of an H-1B workers’ employment, and petitions requesting concurrent work for an H-1B worker.

So, what’s next?

Petitions filed with premium processing