Articles Posted in Highly Skilled Workers

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On January 5, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released updated policy guidance describing how the agency analyzes an employer’s ability to pay the offered wage to prospective employees with employment-based immigrant petitions requiring a job offer, filed with USCIS under the first, second, and third preference categories, also known as EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3.

Specifically, the policy guidance clarifies how an employer’s ability to pay will be demonstrated where a beneficiary of a pending Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, decides to change to a new employer under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC-21).

As a general matter, employers must be able to demonstrate their continuing ability to pay the offered wage to employees with petitions filed under the employment first, second, and third preference categories (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3) starting from the priority date of the underlying I-140 petition, until the beneficiary receives lawful permanent resident status (a green card).

Under the updated guidance, when an employee moves to a new employer under AC-21 while the underlying I-140 petition is still pending, USCIS will determine whether the petitioner meets its ability to pay requirement by only reviewing the facts in existence at the time of filing. This means that, USCIS will only consider initial evidence submitted with the petition (and any responses to Requests for Evidence) to determine if the petitioner has established its ability to pay from the priority date to the date of filing the I-140 petition.

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The past year saw big victories for worldwide visa operations.

The Department of State recently provided statistics summarizing its visa processing capacity in the year 2023. The recent data shows tremendous advancement in visa processing capacity at Consular posts globally and provides a strong outlook for visa processing in the year 2024.

In the year 2023, the Department of State issued more nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies worldwide than at any other time since 2015.

This included issuing a record of 10.4 million nonimmigrant visas globally, with more than 1 million nonimmigrant visas issued in a single month during March of 2023.

Some of the State Department’s accomplishments include:

  • The reunification of families, with the issuance of 563,000 immigrant visas (IVs) in FY 2023, with 30 of its missions issuing their largest number of immigrant visas ever.  Consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall immigrant visa interview scheduling backlog by nearly half, from nearly 532,000 in July 2021, to just over 275,500.
  • Prioritizing student and academic exchange visitor visa interviews to facilitate study at U.S. universities and colleges. Consular sections issued 830,000 student and exchange visitor visas in FY 2023, more than in any year since FY 2016.  More than 600,000 of those were for students pursuing an education in the United States, many of them from countries sending record numbers of students. Of these numbers, nearly 40,000 visas were issued to African students which set an all-time record.
  • Record numbers of visas were issued for seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural workers to facilitate the legal and orderly flow of labor. A record-breaking 442,000 visas were issued to H-2A and H-2B temporary workers in 2023, with nearly 90 percent of visas issued to workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 
  • A record number of 365,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crewmembers (C1/D) which are essential to maintaining international transportation and supply chains that support the U.S. and global economies.

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As the new year approaches, we have some unfortunate news to report for certain employment-based applicants who may wish to file their petitions with premium processing service in 2024, including those filing:

  • Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, as well as
  • Certain applicants filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and
  • I-539 Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS.

On December 28, 2023, USCIS published a final rule in the Federal Register that will increase the filing fee for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to adjust for inflation.

The final rule states that starting February 26, 2024, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will increase the premium processing fees USCIS charges for all eligible forms and categories to reflect the amount of inflation from June 2021 through June 2023 according to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.

Please note that not all petitions are eligible to request premium processing service. Applicants may only request premium processing if USCIS has specifically designated your classification as one that is eligible for premium processing service. To determine whether premium processing is available for your benefit request please review the USCIS webpage.

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The rumors are true. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Department of State (DOS) will process domestic visa renewals for certain H-1B visa applicants without requiring them to leave the United States.

This is all part of a new pilot program starting January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, that will allow 20,000 qualified H-1B nonimmigrant workers the opportunity to renew their visas domestically.

The Department of State hopes the pilot program will reduce heavy backlogs at more than 200 consular sections worldwide by making available an increased number of interview appointments for other visa categories, especially first-time travelers applying for business and tourism visas who require in-person interviews.

At the same time, DOS seeks to alleviate the burden on U.S. companies that employ H-1B workers by streamlining the visa renewal process.

The Department will accept applications for the pilot program starting January 29, 2024 on its webpage.

After the initial application period which ends on April 1st the Department will expand the scope of the program.


What are the Requirements to Participate?


Participation in this pilot will be limited to applicants who(se):

  1. Are seeking to renew an H–1B visa; during the pilot phase, the Department will not process any other visa classifications;
  2. Prior H–1B visa that is being renewed was issued by Mission Canada with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or by Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021;
  3. Are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (Note: this is commonly referred to as a “reciprocity fee”);
  4. Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;
  5. Have submitted ten fingerprints to the Department in connection with a previous visa application;
  6. Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
  7. Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance;
  8. Have an approved and unexpired H–1B petition;
  9. Were most recently admitted to the United States in H–1B status;
  10. Are currently maintaining H–1B status in the United States;
  11. Period of authorized admission in H–1B status has not expired; and
  12. Intend to reenter the United States in H–1B status after a temporary period abroad.

Applicants that fall outside of this scope are not eligible to apply for a visa domestically.

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Yesterday, Wednesday December 13, 2023, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will be transitioning the filing location for Form I-907 Requests for Premium Processing Service, when filed for a pending Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, to appropriate USCIS lockboxes starting Friday December 15, 2023.

This is being done to increase efficiency and reduce the workload of service centers. USCIS has also said that this change will allow it to centralize digitization of these forms for electronic adjudication.

Please note that this change in filing location does not apply to those filing Form I-140 concurrently with an associated application (such as Form I-485, I-765, or Form I-131). USCIS will soon announce a filing location change for these forms. For the time being such forms should be filed with the appropriate service center, as listed on the USCIS webpage Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

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The January 2024 Visa Bulletin is finally here, and with it some big advancements for the employment-based preference categories in the New Year, specifically for India and China, and some promising forward movement in the Final Action Dates for EB-2 Worldwide and EB-3 Professional/Skilled Workers Worldwide.

For family-sponsored categories, the New Year brings big advancements in the Final Action Dates for F2A Mexico, F2 Worldwide, F2B Mexico, F3 Mexico, F3 Worldwide, and modest advancements for F4. The Dates for Filing remain the same as December.

Whether you are applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate overseas or applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the United States, you won’t want to miss these new updates.


Highlights of the January 2024 Visa Bulletin


Employment-based categories

  • EB-1 India: The EB-1 India Final Action Date will advance by three years and eight months, to September 1, 2020, and the Date for Filing will advance by a year and a half, to January 1, 2021.
  • EB-1 China: The EB-1 China Final Action Date will advance by four and a half months, to July 1, 2022, and the Date for Filing will advance five months, to January 1, 2023.
  • EB-2: The EB-2 Final Action Date for India will advance by two months, to March 1, 2012, and the EB-2 China Final Action Date will advance by approximately nine weeks, to January 1, 2020. Final Action Dates for the remaining countries in EB-2 will advance by three and a half months, to November 1, 2022.
  • EB-3 Professional/Skilled Workers: The EB-3 Professional/Skilled Worker Final Action Dates will advance by over 7 months for China, to September 1, 2020, and by one month for India, to June 1, 2012. Final Action Dates for the remaining countries in the category will advance by eight months, to August 1, 2022.

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It’s a brand-new week full of important updates from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This time for employment authorization documents (EADs).

Recently, USCIS announced that certain applicants who have filed to renew their employment authorization cards (EADs) on Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, may qualify for an automatic extension of their expiring employment authorization and/or employment authorization documents (EADs) while their renewal applications are pending with USCIS.

Beginning October 27, 2023, those who are eligible will receive 180-day automatic extensions of their EADs, including those who have applied for or have received Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or asylum.

Previously, USCIS had passed a regulation that increased the automatic extension period for certain EAD applicants from 180 days to 540 days. This announcement will not impact EADs that were already issued for up to the 540-day period. Those extensions will remain in place. For such individuals, the increased automatic extension will end when they receive a final decision on their renewal application or when the “up to 540-day period” expires (counted from the expiration date of the employment authorization and/or their EAD), whichever comes earlier.

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The news we have all been waiting for is finally here. Today, July 31, 2023, the U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they have conducted a second lottery to select from previously submitted electronic registrations to reach the FY 2024 numerical cap.

At this time, USCIS has notified all prospective petitioners with selected registrations from this round of selection (the second lottery) that they are eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary named in the applicable selected registration.

Only petitioners with selected registrations are eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2024, and only for the beneficiary named in the applicable selected registration notice.

Please see the information below for a reminder about what you can expect now that the second lottery has been completed.


How will I know if I was selected in the second lottery?


Petitioners with selected registrations will have their myUSCIS online accounts updated to include a selection notice, which includes details of when and where to file. If you submitted your electronic registration with the assistance of an attorney, you must contact your legal representative/case manager to determine whether you were selected in the second randomized lottery.

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Did you participate in the H-1B electronic registration for Fiscal Year 2024? If so, we have some exciting news for you.

On Thursday, July 27, 2023, USCIS issued a news alert informing the public that they will conduct a second H-1B lottery to select additional H-1B registrations to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2024 H-1B numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption.

As our readers may recall, USCIS conducted its initial lottery in March of 2023, selecting a total of 110,791 registrations to meet the annual H-1B numerical cap for fiscal year 2024. Registrants had about a 14.6% chance of being selected in the initial lottery.


When will the second lottery take place?


In its announcement, USCIS has said that it they will soon select from previously submitted electronic registrations to reach the FY 2024 numerical allocations through a randomized selection process, aka “the second lottery.” However, a date has not been disclosed.

This means that in the coming weeks, petitioners or their authorized representatives should keep an eye out on their myUSCIS online accounts to know if they were selected in the second lottery.

Once the second lottery has taken place, USCIS will make an official announcement on its webpage indicating the lottery’s completion. At that point, USCIS will notify all prospective petitioners with selected registrations that they are eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary named in the applicable selected registration.

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We are happy to report that the August Visa Bulletin has been released!

As we do every month, we share what you can expect to see in the upcoming month’s visa bulletin for family-sponsored and employment-based preference categories to help you prepare for your immigrant visa filing at a U.S. Consulate overseas, or your green card filing for those residing in the United States.


Highlights of the August 2023 Visa Bulletin


Employment Based Categories


Final Action cutoff dates – Retrogressions in August:

  • EB-1 India will retrogress by more than 10 years to January 1, 2012, in August 2023. The State Department indicates that depending on usage in the category and on the FY 2024 annual numerical limit, it is likely that in October 2023 the cutoff date will return to at least February 1, 2022
  • EB-1 Worldwide, China: The State Department has imposed a final action cutoff date for EB-1A Worldwide for all countries except China, at August 1, 2023. The EB-1 China Final Action Date will remain at February 1, 2022.
  • EB-2 Worldwide, China:  EB-2 China will advance by one month, to July 8, 2019. The Final Action Date for EB-2 India will remain at January 1, 2011. The EB-2 Worldwide Final Action Date will advance by six weeks, to April 1, 2022 for all other countries.
  • EB-3: The Final Action Date for EB-3 China Professional/Skilled Worker will advance by two months, to June 1, 2019. EB-3 India Professional/Skilled Worker will remain at January 1, 2009. For all other countries, the EB-3 Professional/Skilled Worker Final Action Date will retrogress by almost two years, to May 1, 2020.

Family-sponsored categories


Dates for Filing cutoff dates – Advancements in August:

  • F-1 Mexico will advance by 2 years and 3 months to April 1, 2005 from January 1, 2003
  • F2A will remain current for all categories
  • F2B Mexico will advance by 2 years and 4 months to August 1, 2004 from April 1, 2002

What is the Visa Bulletin?


The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month in the employment and family preference categories.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart August 2023


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published guidance indicating that USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment of status applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Final Action Dates listed in the State Department’s August 2023 Visa Bulletin.

For family-sponsored filings, USCIS will accept adjustment of status applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the State Department’s August 2023 Visa Bulletin.

You may also find the Adjustment of Status USCIS Filing Charts here:


August 2023 Visa Bulletin Dates for Filing Cutoff Dates


 Employment-Based Categories


FINAL ACTION DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES


According to the Department of State’s August 2023 Visa Bulletin, the following Final Action cutoff dates will apply for employment-based categories, which will determine whether an adjustment of status application can be filed with USCIS in the month of August:

  • EB-1: China remains unchanged at February 1, 2022. India will retrogress by 10 years and 1 month, to January 1, 2012. All other countries will receive a final action cutoff date of August 1, 2023.
  • EB-2: India will remain at January 1, 2011. China will remain by 1 month to July 8, 2019. All other countries will advance by 6 weeks to April 1, 2022
  • EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers: India will remain at January 1, 2009. China will advance by 2 months to June 1, 2019. All other countries will retrogress by 1 year and 9 months to May 1, 2020.
  • EB-3 Other Workers: India will remain at January 1, 2009, China will remain at September 1, 2015. All other countries will remain at January 1, 2020.
  • EB-4: All countries will remain at September 1, 2018.
  • EB-5: For the EB-5 Unreserved categories (C5, T5, I5, and R5), India will remain at April 1, 2017, and China will remain at September 8, 2015. All other countries will remain current. The EB-5 “Set-Aside” categories (Rural, High Unemployment, and Infrastructure) will remain current.

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