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.
The Department of State has issued an alert announcing that as of June 26, 2015 all visa issuing US embassies and consulates are now able to continue visa processing. Staff at US consulates and embassies were able to work over the weekend and resolve backlogs which are expected to be eliminated this week.
As you may recall between the time period of June 9, 2015 to June 19, 2014, 335,000 visas were unable to be printed due to clearance and technological issues. Of those 335,000 visas, approximately 300,000 have now been printed.
Consulates and embassies worldwide are now scheduling visa interviews and issuing non-immigrant and immigrant visas.
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
Today, April 28, 2015 the U.S. Department of Labor and Homeland Security announced two new rules governing the H-2B Visa Program. The first is a new interim final rule established for the purpose of reinstating and improving the H2B program and second, a final rule to establish the program’s prevailing wage methodology. These rules are designed to protect US workers allowing them to fairly apply to the same jobs being offered to H-2B workers. The rules are also designed so that employers can easily access temporary foreign workers at a time when American workers would be unavailable. The Department of Homeland Security will provide guidance for interim transition procedures that must be followed by US employers. Together, these rules will continue to support American businesses and the country’s economy as a whole bringing continuity and stability to the H-2B program by protecting workers via an improvement in prevailing wage methodology, working conditions, and benefits that must be offered to H-2B and US workers covered by these regulations.
These rules will include numerous provisions designed to expand recruitment of U.S. workers, include “real-time recruitment efforts,” require employers to recruit former US employees first before offering jobs to temporary foreign workers, and will establish a national electronic job registry.
For further information please continue to refer to our blog.
On March 4, 2015, the federal district court in the Northern District of Florida ruled in Perez v. Perez that the Department of Labor (DOL) lacks authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to issue regulations in the H-2B program. This decision vacated and permanently enjoined DOL from enforcing the 2008 H-2B regulations. DOL was forced to immediately discontinue processing applications for temporary labor certification and can no longer accept or process requests for prevailing wage determinations or applications for labor certification.
On March 5, 2015, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is also temporarily suspending their adjudication of Form I-129 H-2B Petitions for Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers as these petitions require temporary labor certifications as issued by DOL. The government is considering the options to continue processing these petitions following the March 4 court decision. USCIS will continue to adjudicate H-2B petitions on Guam if those petitions are accompanied by temporary labor certifications issued by the Guam Department of Labor.
On March 6, 2015, USCIS suspended premium processing on all H-2B petitions until further notice. USCIS will issue a refund on all petitions filed using the premium processing service that were not acted upon by the agency within the 15 calendar day period.