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Articles Posted in Labor Certification

The Waitress
This morning, USCIS made the announcement that it has met the H-2B Cap for temporary nonagricultural workers, beginning employment during the first half of fiscal year 2016. A congressionally mandated cap, limits the number of H-2B visas that can be issued per fiscal year to 66,000. The first half of these visas are issued to workers who will begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (from October 1 to March 31) and the other half are issued to workers who will begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (from April 1 to September 30). The deadline to file an H-2B worker petition, with an employment start date beginning prior to April 1, 2016, was March 15, 2016. New H-2B petitions received by USCIS after the deadline, requesting an employment start date before April 1, 2016 will be rejected by USCIS. USCIS will continue to accept and process applications for temporary nonagricultural workers who are considered cap-exempt.

The following H-2B petitions are considered cap-exempt:

  • Petitions filed for “returning workers” that have already been counted towards a previous H-2B cap in fiscal years 2013, 2014, or 2015;

7468447528_3aaed1a0bd_bH-1B season is now in full swing. H-1B petitions will begin to be accepted by USCIS on April 1, 2016 for the 2017 fiscal year. Each year, foreign workers in specialty occupations compete for one of 65,000 H-1B visas allocated each fiscal year. Foreign workers with a U.S. Master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 congressionally mandated visa cap, however only the first 20,000 petitions received by USCIS may qualify for this cap exemption. Any petitions received after the 20,000 cap-exempt petitions have been allocated will count toward the regular cap. USCIS expects to receive more than 65,000 petitions during the first five business days of the application period. Once the H-1B cap has been reached, USCIS will notify the public, and begin selecting the H-1B petitions necessary to meet the cap through a randomized computer-generated lottery system. H-1B petitions that are not selected through this system will be rejected, along with any petitions received once the visa cap has closed. Duplicate H-1B petitions that are filed on behalf of a foreign worker by the same employer in the same fiscal year will also be rejected. 8 CFR § 214.2(h)(2)(i)(G) explicitly states that “an employer may not file, in the same fiscal year, more than one H1B petition on behalf of the same alien if the alien is subject to the numerical limitations of section 214(g)(1)(A). Filing more than one H-1B petition on behalf of the same alien in the same fiscal year will result in the denial or revocation of all such petitions.” Multiple H-1B petitions filed on behalf of the same alien by different employers during the same fiscal year is permitted although approval of such petitions is discretionary. According to USCIS, petitioners may be asked to demonstrate that a ‘legitimate business need’ exists in filing more than than one H-1B petition for the same alien. In such circumstances a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or notice of intent to revoke may result. This is true of both cap-subject and cap-exempt petitions filed by different employers for the same alien.

H-1B petitioners (employers) may request premium processing at the same time that the H-1B petition is filed by signing and completing Form I-907 and including the corresponding fee. Alternatively, petitioners may request premium processing once CIS notifies the petitioner whether the petition has been accepted or rejected. USCIS will not begin premium processing for H-1B cap petitions until May 16, 2016. If you are an American employer who is interested in filing an H-1B petition for a foreign worker, you must act quickly. Filing an H-1B petition is a very complicated and long process. For one if you have never sponsored a foreign worker, you will be required to register your FEIN with the Department of Labor before filing the H-1B petition. Secondly, if the foreign worker you wish to hire received their foreign degree abroad, they must obtain an academic evaluation from an accredited evaluation service. If the foreign worker you wish to hire does not have formal education, but has extensive experience in the specialty occupation, they will need to obtain work experience letters from individuals who can attest to their experience. Thirdly, once an employer has registered their FEIN with the Department of Labor, they will be required to file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor and include the certified LCA with the H-1B petition. Certification of the LCA takes time. The LCA is an attestation made by the employer that they will pay the foreign worker at least the actual or prevailing wage for the occupation, whichever is higher, based on the physical location where the foreign worker will be employed. Once properly submitted to the DOL, the LCA alone takes approximately 2 weeks to be certified by the LCA. This means that in order to meet the April 1st priority date of filing, employers have a very limited period of time to decide whether they will file an H-1B petition for a foreign worker for the upcoming fiscal year. When in doubt it is best not to rush the process.

Last year, our office filed approximately seventy-six H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2016. Approximately 75% of these petitions were filed for the regular Bachelor’s cap, while only 18% of these petitions were filed for individuals holding U.S. Master’s degrees or higher. Approximately 82% of these petitions were filed with the California Service Center, while only 17% of these petitions were filed with the Vermont Service Center. The top H-1B specialty occupations, filed for fiscal year 2016 included: software engineer, technical writer, general manager, market research analyst, business specialist, budget analyst, and graphic designer.

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Presently, the Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is experiencing significant delays in processing employer H-2B certification applications.  These delays are owed to various factors. The most important includes a mandatory 17-day certification pause that took place at the Chicago National Processing Center, for the purpose of implementing revisions of the H-2B prevailing wage and other standards required by law. Additionally, the OFLC announced that the amount of H-2B certification applications received has doubled in comparison to the previous year. Lastly, the electronic filing system iCERT, experienced significant technical problems, slowing the certification process down significantly for employers of H-2B workers. Unfortunately, these delays have diminished an employer’s ability to hire foreign workers during a time of need, and have had an adverse affect on small businesses who depend on these temporary and seasonal workers to perform work that cannot be readily filled by American workers.

To alleviate the certification backlogs, the Chicago National Processing Center has announced that employers may file an emergency request for expeditious handling of their applications under 20 CFR 655.17.

Expeditious Requests for Emergency Procedures under 20 CFR 655.17:

  • Based on the factors causing the backlogs, the OFLC has determined that employers are entitled to request expeditious emergency procedures for their currently pending applications for certification, under 20 CFR 655.17, on the basis of good and substantial cause. Emergency requests are warranted given that the backlogs caused by the delays in the application process are considered outside of the employers’ control, that employers have suffered unforeseen changes in market conditions because of the delays, amid a climate of uncertainty.

Employers with pending H-2B applications for certification must submit their expedite requests for emergency procedure, by email to the Chicago NPC at ER.H2B.Chicago@dol.gov beginning Monday February 22, 2016 (12:01 AM) through Friday April 1, 2016 (at 12:00 midnight). Requests may also be made by fax (312) 886-1688 or by US mail to:

ATTN: H-2B Request for Emergency Handling

U.S. Department of Labor ETA OFLC

Chicago NPC

11 West Quincy Court

Chicago, IL 60604-2105

The NPC may extend this emergency request period beyond April 1, however at this time no such extension has been announced.  Filing a new H-2B application is not necessary for an expedite request.

Employers filing for emergency treatment under 20 CFR 655.17 must request that the pending application for certification and proposed job order be “incorporated by reference” into the request made under 20 CFR 655.17, and state the withdrawal of the prior application. The procedure for submitting an expedite requested will be listed below.

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