Articles Posted in Specialty Occupations

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas break with your families.

In this blog post, we share a new update from the State Department regarding the continuation of its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa types.

In a new announcement, the Secretary of State has revealed that it is extending its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa types until December 31, 2023, allowing Consular officers to continue to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain classes of immigrants.


What is the extension all about?


As you might recall back in December of last year, the State Department first announced its interview waiver policy for temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas in their country of nationality or residence, following USCIS approval of their petitions.

The State Department has now confirmed it will continue its interview waiver policy until at least the end of 2023.


Who qualifies?


Interview Waiver Policy for H, L, O, P, Q visas


Pursuant to the interview waiver policy, Consular officers have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided that they have no ineligibility issues and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

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In this blog post, we bring you some unfortunate news. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it will no longer recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency.

Sadly, this means that certain F-1 student visa applicants will be impacted by this change, including those undertaking an English language study program. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has said that such programs are required to be accredited under the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act.

Additionally, this change will impact F-1 students applying for a 24-month science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension, because government regulations now require use of a degree from an accredited, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school to receive a STEM OPT extension.

The regulations make clear that the school must be accredited at the time of the application (the date of the designated school official’s (DSO) recommendation on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).


What happens next?


Students who have been impacted by this change will receive notification letters from SEVP informing them that their schools’ certification has been withdrawn.

USCIS has said that students who are enrolled at an ACICS-accredited school should contact their DSOs immediately to understand how this loss of accreditation will impact their status and/or immigration benefits.

To make matters worse, schools accredited by ACICS will not be able to issue program extensions, and students will only be allowed to finish their current session if the ACICS-accredited school chooses to voluntarily withdraw its certification or if is withdrawn by SEVP.

If a student’s ACICS-accredited school can provide evidence of a Department of Education recognized accrediting agency or evidence in lieu of accreditation within the allotted timeframe, the student may remain at the school to complete their program of study.


Requests for Evidence Imminent for I-539 Extend/Change of Status


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be issuing requests for evidence (RFEs) to individuals who filed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on or after August 19, 2022, requesting a change of status or reinstatement to attend an ACICS-accredited English language study program.

Once the individual receives the RFE, they will be given the opportunity to provide evidence in response, such as documentation showing that the English language study program they are seeking to enroll in meets the accreditation requirements.

If the student does not submit a new Form I-20 from a school accredited by an entity recognized by the Department of Education, USCIS will deny a change of status or reinstatement request.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we bring you the latest H-1B lottery news.

Today, August 23, 2022, USCIS announced that the computer-generated H-1B lottery has been fully completed to select enough petitions to meet the H-1B regular cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption for fiscal year 2023.

With this announcement, USCIS brings the 2023 fiscal year H-1B lottery to a close. Those wishing to participate in the program must wait until March 2023 to submit new applications for the fiscal year 2024 H-1B visa lottery.

For fiscal year 2023, USCIS previously announced that the agency received 483,927 H-1B registrations and initially selected 127,600 registrations as needed to reach the fiscal year 2023 numerical allocations. No second lottery was conducted. Those with selected registrations received notification of selection through their myUSCIS accounts including a selection notice, with details about when and where to file.

In comparison to fiscal year 2022, USCIS received 308,613 H-1B registrations and initially selected 87,500 registrations to meet the fiscal year 2022 numerical allocations. A second lottery took place which selected an additional 27,717 registrations, and a third lottery selected an additional 16,753 registrations, for a total of 131,970 selected registrations in fiscal year 2022.

What happens next?

At this point, USCIS has completed its selection process and sent out non-selection notifications via the myUSCIS online accounts to those petitioners and their attorneys who were not selected for FY 2023.

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We kickoff the start of a brand new week with some new developments in the world of immigration.


USCIS Transfers Certain H-1B Petitions to the California Service Center


On June 16, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that certain H-1B petitions, including fiscal year (FY 2023) cap subject H-1B petitions, going through the intake process at the Vermont Service Center (VSC) will be transferred to the California Service Center (CSC) where they will go through data intake and adjudication.

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with the latest in the world of immigration. This week we are excited to announce new H-1B FY 2023 cap season updates — the lottery is now complete!


H-1B Fiscal Year 2023 Season Updates


As our readers will know, the mandatory electronic registration period for the H-1B fiscal year 2023 season kicked off on March 1, 2022, and ended on March 18, 2022.

We had expected USCIS to notify all H-1B petitioners of selection by April 1st (the earliest date when H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2023 can be filed). However, news of selection came much quicker.

On March 29, 2022, USCIS announced that the H-1B FY 2023 cap was reached, and that enough registrations were also received for the advanced degree exemption (U.S. master’s cap). From these registrations, USCIS selected petitioners at random to be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary named in the applicable selected registration.

Petitioners will need to login to their USCIS online accounts to check the status of their registration.

If you were not selected in the FY 2023 cap the following status will be shown in your online account:

  • Not Selected: Not selected – not eligible to file an H-1B cap petition based on this registration.

If you were one of the lucky winners of the FY 2023 cap the following status will be shown:

  • Selected: Selected to file an H-1B cap petition.

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In the blog post we share some exciting H-1B news! While the FY 2023 H-1B season is about to get underway, today February 28, 2022, USCIS announced that it has received enough petitions to reach the fiscal year 2022 cap that began last March, including the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS has sent non-selection notifications to registrants’ USCIS online accounts. If you were not selected in the FY 2022 cap the following status will be shown in your online account:

  • Not Selected: Not selected – not eligible to file an H-1B cap petition based on this registration.

The agency will continue to accept and process cap-exempt petitions including petitions filed to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in additional H-1B positions.

If you were not selected in the H-1B fiscal year 2022, there is still good news. The H-1B fiscal year 2023 season is just about to begin, and you may have a shot at being selected.

Those who wish to apply for the H-1B FY 2023 cap must submit an electronic registration on the USCIS website.

The H-1B initial registration period for the FY 2023 cap is scheduled to open tomorrow at noon ET, March 1, 2022 and the registration period will remain open until noon ET on March 18, 2022.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog. In this blog post, we share with you some important updates in the world of immigration. But first, we hope you are having a wonderful holiday spent with friends and loved ones.


What’s New?


USCIS Updates its Guidelines to Increase Validity Period of Employment Authorization Documents for Certain Applicants


Last week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced new updates to its policy changing the maximum validity period granted to certain individuals applying for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), also known as work permits.

Effective February 7, 2021, USCIS has announced that it will generally grant new and renewed EADs valid for a 2-year validity period to applicants in the following categories:

  • Admitted as a refugee (a)(3);
  • Granted asylum (a)(5);
  • Granted withholding of deportation or removal (a)(10); and
  • VAWA self-petitioner (c)(31).

USCIS will also be granting new and renewed EADs up to the end of the parole or deferred action period to applicants in the following categories:

  • Paroled into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit (c)(11); and
  • Granted deferred action (non-DACA) (c)(14).

This benefit will apply to those in the impacted categories seeking new and renewed EADs issued on or after February 7, 2022. EADs issued on or after this period will reflect the updated 2-year validity period. EADs issued prior to February 7, 2022, will not benefit from the change.


Why the change?


USCIS has said that this validity period extension will help ease processing backlogs because these applicants will no longer need to apply to renew their EADs every year. It will also help prevent interrupts in employment authorization.

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Did you participate in the H-1B electronic registration for Fiscal Year 2022? If so, we have some exciting news for you.

In this post we share with you some exciting news for individuals who submitted H-1B registrations for the fiscal year 2022 H-1B cap. On Friday, November 19, 2021, USCIS issued a news alert informing the public that they have selected additional H-1B registrations to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption to reach the mandated cap for the H-1B program.

As our readers may recall, USCIS conducted a second lottery on July 28, 2021, making this the third lottery conducted to meet the Congressionally mandated FY 2022 cap.

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Did you participate in the H-1B electronic registration for Fiscal Year 2022? If so, we have some exciting news for you.

This morning, July 29, 2021, USCIS announced via its official website that the agency has conducted a second randomized lottery to select additional registrations to reach the Congressionally mandated Fiscal Year 2022 numerical allocations for the H-1B visa program.


When did the second lottery take place?


On July 28, 2021, USCIS selected from previously submitted electronic FY 2022 registrations, using a randomized process, to meet the necessary visa quota numbers.


How will you know if you were selected?


Petitioners with selected registrations will have their myUSCIS 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 July 28 lottery.


If I was selected in the second lottery, when can I submit my paper application by mail?


Only petitioners who were selected in the second lottery will be able to file a paper application with USCIS on behalf of the alien worker, beginning August 2, 2021, through November 3, 2021. Petitioner’s must include a printed copy of the applicable registration selection notice with the FY 2022 H-1B cap-subject petition. No online filing system is currently available. Petitioners should ensure that they send their paper application to the correct service center within the filing period indicated on the registration selection notice.

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We are extremely excited to report that USCIS has received enough electronic registrations during the H-1B initial registration period to reach the mandated numerical cap for fiscal year 2022, including for the advanced degree exemption (also known as the master’s cap), and has now selected all registrations eligible to participate in the H-1B visa program.

The H-1B initial electronic registration period came to an end on March 25, 2021, at which time USCIS began the process of randomly selecting from eligible registrations to fill the H-1B cap, including for the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS has now selected those registrations that will move forward and file a paper application with USCIS.

All those who were selected have received a notification of their selection in their myUSCIS online account. Selections in the myUSCIS portal will indicate that the petitioner is eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary that was named in the applicable selected registration.

On behalf of our law office, we extend our congratulations to all those who were selected to move forward with the filing of their petitions.


What happens next?


Now that you have overcome this obstacle, you may be asking yourself, what’s next? Sadly, getting selected in the H-1B visa lottery is just the first step in obtaining an H-1B visa. The second step requires the petitioner to demonstrate the beneficiary’s eligibility for the H-1B visa by filing Form I-129 with USCIS and obtaining approval.

USCIS has announced that all petitioners who have been properly selected in the visa lottery for fiscal year 2022, may file an H-1B cap-subject petition with USCIS, including petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, starting today April 1, 2021. Only filings that are based on a valid, selected registration will be accepted by USCIS for FY 2022, and only for beneficiaries named in the selected registration notice.

Those who were not selected must wait to apply again next year.

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