Articles Posted in Prevailing Wage

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As the days lead up to April 3, 2017, (the first day that USCIS will begin to accept H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2018) our office will be very busy putting the final touches on all cap-subject H-1B petitions. In this post, we will discuss what you should be doing now to tie up any loose ends and increase your chances of selection this H-1B season. In addition, this post will outline what you can expect to receive from USCIS after filing.

First, create a preliminary checklist to ensure that you have met all the requirements to properly file your H-1B cap-subject petition:

Note: Premium processing is suspended for all petitions filed for H-1B fiscal year 2018 for both the H-1B regular cap and master’s cap. Do not file a Form I-907 request for premium processing because the form will be rejected. If you include the I-907 fee in combination with any other filing fees associated with the H-1B visa, USCIS will reject the entire H-1B petition.

Checklist:

  1. Did you include the correct version of all forms with revision date on/after Oct. 23, 2014? See uscis.gov/forms to download current form versions.
  2. Did you properly sign and complete Form I-129 including the correct H Classification Supplement?
  3. Did you properly sign and complete the I-129 and H Supplement?
  4. Did you properly sign and complete the I-129 Data Collection Supplement and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement?
  5. Did you include a properly signed and certified Form ETA-9035 Labor Condition Attestation (LCA) from the Department of Labor for the position for which the beneficiary is applying for?
  6. Did you ensure all forms have an original signature in black or blue ink?
  7. Did you include separate signed checks or money orders for each filing fee with the correct fee amounts?

REMEMBER that USCIS recently changed its fee schedule for certain petitions effective December 23, 2016. See https://www.uscis.gov/fees for a complete list of current fees.

  1. Did you include all required documentation and evidence in support of your petition? See below for a running list.
  2. Did you ensure that you have included only one H-1B position for the beneficiary of each H-1B petition you have prepared?
  3. Do you know the service center where you must file the petition? If not, ensure that you submit your petition to the correct USCIS service center. The service center where your petition must be filed depends on the work location of the H-1B beneficiary as you have specified in the petition. To determine the correct service center see https://www.uscis.gov/i-129-addresses. Failure to submit your petition to the correct service center will result in a rejection of your H-1B petition.

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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

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The Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA)’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) will be hosting a public webinar on April 7, 2016 which will provide filing tips, discuss common errors associated with H-2B wage surveys, and provide assistance to employers interested in submission of H-2B wage surveys. The webinar will teach employers how to determine the prevailing wage (PWD) for positions to be occupied by H-2B non-agricultural workers. The OFLC hopes that the webinar will help employers, attorneys, and surveyors avoid common errors that typically appear on prevailing wage determination applications for the H-2B foreign worker visa program.

The webinar will:

  • Address common errors with documenting and displaying survey results and their solutions;

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Every year USCIS receives and adjudicates approximately 6 million applications from foreign nationals seeking to immigrate to the United States, and U.S. companies seeking to employ foreign workers temporarily.  According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, “an estimated 13.1 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs) were living in the United States on January 1, 2013.” Of these permanent residents, more than half–8.8 million–were eligible to apply for naturalization. Additionally, the United States issues approximately 700,000 temporary non-immigrant work visas for a variety of temporary workers including: highly skilled foreign workers employed in specialty occupations in the STEM fields, fashion models, internationally acclaimed athletes and entertainers, aliens of extraordinary ability, religious workers, intra-company transferees, treaty traders/investors, foreign media workers, and agricultural and seasonal workers.

The reason the issuance of temporary worker visas is so low, when compared to the issuance of permanent resident cards, is because most of the temporary foreign worker visa programs are subject to a congressional cap, that limits the amount of non-immigrants that can be admitted per fiscal year. Additionally, certain temporary nonimmigrant worker visa classifications are granted for a specified period of time, although in most cases at least one extension may be granted. The cap applies primarily to the H nonimmigrant worker classifications, and non-minister religious workers. The H visa category accounts for approximately 54% of all visas issued for temporary workers. That is why the H visas are the most talked about visas among politicians when discussing immigration reform. The cap does not apply to treaty traders/investors, aliens of extraordinary ability, intra-company transferees, NAFTA professionals (Canada and Mexico), and foreign media workers. In comparison to developed countries, the United States admits a relatively low number of temporary foreign workers. Foreign workers are typically admitted either to fill labor shortages in the American job market, or because of their exceptional, or highly technical skills, as is the case for the H-1B visa classification.  Only highly skilled foreign nationals, aliens of extraordinary ability, aliens holding advanced degrees, high capital investors, nurses and physical therapists, doctors in undeserved area, and recipients of national interest waivers, have the unique opportunity to obtain permanent residence based on employment.

The mammoth task of meaningful immigration reform will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. The presidential nominees have failed to outline a clear strategy to overhaul our immigration system. None of the presidential candidates have addressed the most contentious areas of immigration policy that must be revised, in order to repair our broken immigration system.

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For this blog we are answering 5 questions we have recently received through our social media platforms and our website. Please remember that every case is different and every immigration journey is unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. If you have any further questions, please call our office for a free legal consultation. We serve international clients and domestic clients in all 50 states. We thank you for your continued trust and interest in our law office.

Change of Status B-2 to F-1

Q: I need advice regarding my change of status. I am currently in the United States on a B-2 tourist visa. I have filed a change of status application to change my status to F-1 student. My B-2 duration of stay will expire today and my change of status application to F-1 student is still pending with USCIS. I informed my school that I will be postponing my classes and was notified that I need to file a new I-20 and provide some missing information. I have time to make adjustments to my application but I would like to know the steps to correct any missing information. I also wanted to know if I need to leave the United States immediately since my F-1 application is still pending. Please assist.

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Last week, the Senate held a hearing scrutinizing the temporary H-1B skilled worker program, the second hearing of its kind within just one year. At issue was the protection of American jobs and dissatisfaction with the program among conservatives in the Senate, who believe the program has caused job displacement at the expense of thousands of Americans. Beyond their own political convictions, Republican Senators eyeing the White House, have also scrutinized the H-1B visa program, in order to appease voters who, maintain a hard line stance on immigration.

During the hearing, the Senate Judiciary panel considered testimony questioning the integrity of the H-1B visa program. Many witnesses accused their employers of violating the conditions of the program, alleging that their employers sought to replace American workers with foreign workers by utilizing the H-1B visa program to pay those workers lower wages. This accusation is troublesome for various reasons. Firstly, it is well known that the H-1B visa program requires an employer to hire a foreign worker in a specialty occupation only when the employer cannot obtain the necessary skills and abilities to perform the specialty occupation within the American workforce. H-1B workers must possess distinguished merit and ability, and demonstrate their qualifications through the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, in the intended field of employment. Secondly, the H-1B visa program contains provisions which are specifically designed to protect similarly employed American workers from any adverse affects suffered from the employment of temporary foreign workers. Consequently, there are also provisions which aim to protect H-1B nonimmigrant workers from H-1B violations. One of those provisions includes the requirement that American employers pay temporary H-1B workers at least the ‘prevailing wage,’ the average wage paid to similarly employed workers (experience and qualifications) in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment. This would mean that any employer seeking to use the H-1B visa program for the purposes of obtaining ‘cheap foreign labor’ or to replace American workers would be violating the conditions of the H-1B visa program altogether.

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