Articles Posted in Specialty Occupations

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It is that time of the week again! In this post, we bring you the latest immigration news from USCIS.

Texas Service Center Will Begin Processing Certain Cap-Exempt H-1B Petitions

On May 20, 2019, USCIS announced that the Texas Service Center will begin processing certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions filed on Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.

What types of petitions may be processed by the TSC?

Cap-exempt petitions requesting:

  • A change in previously approved employment;
  • A change of employer;
  • Concurrent employment;
  • Amendments;
  • A continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer;
  • A change of status to H-1B; or Notification to a U.S. Consulate or inspection facility (port of entry or pre-flight inspection).

Applicants must continue to refer to the direct filing address chart to determine where the I-129 Form should be filed. The workload for cap-exempt petitions will be distributed between the Texas Service Center, California Service Center, Vermont Service Center, and Nebraska Service Center to increase efficiency and prevent processing delays.

If your case is transferred, you will receive a transfer notice in the mail.

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USCIS announced today May 17, 2019, that the agency has completed data entry for all H-1B petitions selected for fiscal year 2020, including petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.

USCIS will now begin the long process of returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the random computer-generated lottery that took place on April 10, 2019. USCIS will provide an announcement once it has completed the return of unselected H-1B petitions.

Petitioners who have not had the H-1B filing fees cashed, can expect to receive the return of their H-1B petition.

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Great news! Our office has begun to receive our first I-797 receipt notices in the mail for petitions that were filed with premium processing in the lottery. So far, our office has received four such receipt notices for individuals who filed under the advanced degree exemption. All four of these notices came from the California Service Center.

Over the next few weeks we expect to continue to receive receipt notices for individuals who filed under the regular bachelor’s cap. If you have not yet received a receipt notice, do not be discouraged, because it is still too early to tell if you have been selected in the lottery.

As we previously suggested, Petitioners should continue to monitor their bank accounts closely. If the filing fees are charged to the account, then that petition has been selected in the lottery.

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Exciting news H-1B FY 2020 Filers!

Yesterday USCIS announced that on April 10, 2019, the computer-generated lottery was conducted to select enough petitions to meet the H-1B regular cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption for fiscal year 2020.

In accordance with the new H-1B regulation, USCIS first conducted the selection process for H-1B cap-subject petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may have been eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS then selected a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption from the remaining eligible petitions.

In total, USCIS has announced that the agency received 201,011 H-1B petitions during the filing period that began on April 1st, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption.

On April 5th, USCIS announced that the agency had received enough petitions to reach the regular cap of 65,000 visas.

What happens next?

Our office will begin to receive the receipt notices for petitions that were selected in the lottery within the coming weeks. Petitioners should keep a close eye on their bank accounts to see whether USCIS has charged the filing fees to the account. If the fees were charged, then your petition was selected in the lottery.

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On April 5, 2019, USCIS announced that it received a sufficient number of petitions needed to reach the congressionally mandated 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020.

As expected, the Regular cap (Bachelor’s cap) was reached within the first five business days of the FY 2020 application cycle.

USCIS still has not announced whether it has received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa cap for the U.S. advanced degree exemption (Master’s cap).

USCIS has also not yet announced whether the H-1B lottery has been conducted. Last year, USCIS made the announcement on April 12th.

During the next few weeks Petitioners should keep a close eye on their bank accounts to see whether the H-1B filing fees have been charged to their accounts.

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Today, USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2020 cap. Any FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before April 1st will be rejected.

Beginning today, 65,000 H-1B visas will be available for the regular cap, and 20,000 H-1B visas for advanced degree holders.

Selection

Important changes will be implemented for the H-1B cap selection process.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule amending regulations governing cap-subject H-1B petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption.

The final rule reverses the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, which will be in effect for the FY 2020 cap season.

USCIS will first select H-1B petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will then select from the remaining eligible petitions, a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption.

Premium Processing Available for COS Cap Subject H-1B Petitions Only

Starting April 1, FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

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It is an exciting and busy time at the Sapochnick Law Firm! Our Firm is gearing up for the long awaited H-1B season to kick off on Monday, April 1, 2019.

To help you put your best foot forward, we are sharing the ultimate running checklist for H-1B- cap-subject petitions. Please remember that employers cannot file an H-1B petition for an employee more than 6 months before the employee’s intended start date of employment. If selected in the lottery, H-1B visa workers can begin employment on October 1st.

How long is the H-1B visa good for?

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The start of the FY 2020 H-1B cap season begins on April 1, 2019. This year, USCIS will offer premium processing services in a two-phased approach to avoid temporary suspension of the service.

Change of Status H-1B Cap Petitions

Starting April 1, FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

However, to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions immediately.

USCIS will begin premium processing for these petitions no later than May 20, 2019 and will notify the public before premium processing begins for these petitions.

If a petitioner does not file Form I-907 concurrently with an FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status, the petitioner must wait until premium processing begins to submit Form I-907.

All Other FY 2020 Cap-Subject Petitions

Premium processing services for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not begin until at least June 19, 2019. Cap-subject petitioners who are not requesting a change of status may not submit their premium processing request concurrently with their H-1B petition. These petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing once premium processing begins for this group. USCIS will notify the public with a confirmed date for premium processing for cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status. Continue reading

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Today February 15, 2019, USCIS announced that the agency will resume premium processing services on Tuesday February 19, 2019, for all H-1B petitions filed on or before December 21, 2018.

Premium processing service remains suspended for H-1B petitions filed on or after December 22, 2018. USCIS will make an announcement at a later date when USCIS plans to resume premium processing for the remaining categories of H-1B petitions as agency workloads permit the agency to resume these services.

USCIS has provided the following guidance for petitioners who received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, who are interested in upgrading their petition to premium processing:

If you received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, and you are requesting premium processing service, you must submit the premium processing request to the service center now handling the petition.

You should also include a copy of the transfer notice with your premium processing request to avoid possible delays associated with the receipt of your premium processing request.

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Now is the time to begin preparing for the upcoming H-1B visa lottery. USCIS will begin to accept H-1B cap-subject petitions for fiscal year 2020 beginning Monday, April 1, 2019. Please note: employers cannot file an H-1B petition for an employee more than 6 months before the employee’s intended start date. If accepted, H-1B visa workers can begin employment by October 1st. The H-1B visa is issued for up to three years but may be extended for another three years.

By law, a congressionally mandated cap exists which limits the issuance of H-1B visas to 65,000 per year. That is why the H-1B visa is commonly referred to as a ‘lottery’ visa.

Individuals (such as F-1 students) who hold advanced degrees (U.S. master’s or higher) are exempted from the 65,000 visa cap. Such applicant’s must demonstrate that they have obtained an American master’s degree or higher to be exempted from the cap, however only the first 20,000 petitions received by USCIS will benefit from this cap exemption.

In order to qualify for an H-1B visa:

  • a foreign worker must possess both a theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge;
  • an employer-employee relationship must exist. Only a U.S. employer can petition the entry of a foreign employee by filing USCIS Form I-129 Petition for Non-immigrant Worker. An employer-employee relationship exists if the U.S. employer has the right to hire, pay, fire, supervise or control the work of the employee;
  • the foreign worker must possess a bachelor’s degree, its foreign equivalent, or relevant work experience. If the foreign worker does not have formal education, but has at least 12 years of relevant work experience related to the specialty occupation, they may still qualify for an H-1B visa;
  • the foreign worker must be employed in a specialty occupation related to their field of study. A specialty occupation is an occupation that requires a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent;
  • the foreign worker must be paid at least the prevailing wage for the specialty occupation in the area of intended employment;

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