Articles Posted in STEM

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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some interesting revelations. On April 28, 2022, President Biden issued a letter proposing a new immigration measure that, if passed, could offer highly educated Russian nationals a pathway to permanent residency.

What is it all about?


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has left scientists and engineers seeking stable ground, with many young STEM talent looking to its European neighbors for employment opportunities.

In a letter to the House of Representatives, the Biden administration called for a measure to be approved as part of requested legislation for emergency supplemental funding to Ukraine.

Biden’s proposals seek amendment of Section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(2)) effectively welcoming Russian STEM talent to the United States.


What does the measure propose?


By amending Section 203(b)(2), the U.S. government would essentially eliminate the need for Russian nationals, with a master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field, to obtain an employment sponsor (job offer from a U.S. employer) and eliminate placement in the green card backlogs.

Under Biden’s proposal, adjudication of visas for such individuals would occur within just 90 days if possible, taking into account the need for security assessments. The proposed measure would end after four years (unless extended by Congress).

The measure has been proposed to ensure retention of talented Russian scientists and engineers. Interestingly, the letter highlights that the prospects of obtaining H-1B visa status for this group are lowered considering the numerical limits, and record H-1B registrations that far outweigh the number of available visas. In fiscal year 2023, USCIS announced that it received 483,927 H-1B registrations, a 57% increase over the last year. Only 127,600 registrations were selected to meet the H-1B quota (or 26% of total registrations).


Legislative Text


The legislative text of the provision reads as follows:

“IN GENERAL.— Section 203(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(2)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

“(D) Notwithstanding subparagraph (B), the requirements of subparagraph (A) that an alien’s services in the sciences, arts, professions, or business be sought by an employer in the United States shall not apply to aliens (and the parents, spouses, and children of such aliens if accompanying or following to join) who—

“(i) are citizens of Russia;

(ii) have earned a masters or doctoral degree in the United States or an equivalent foreign degree in a field involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, including but not limited to degrees relevant to the following fields: Advanced Computing, Advanced Engineering Materials, Advanced Gas Turbine Engine Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced and Networked Sensing and Signature Management, Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies, Advanced Particle Detector Instrumentation Technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems and Robotics, Biotechnologies, Communication and Networking Technologies, Cybersecurity, Directed Energy, Financial Technologies, Human-Machine Interfaces, Hypersonics, Advanced Missile Propulsion Technologies, Networked Sensors and Sensing, Quantum Information Technologies, Renewable Energy Generation and Storage, Semiconductors and Microelectronics, Space Technologies and Systems; and “(iii) are seeking admission to engage in work in the United States in an endeavor related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.”

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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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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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In today’s blog post, we share some interesting Question and Answer responses recently provided by the Department of State’s Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs (L/CA), in a meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The responses below provide some important insight into current immigration policies and procedures taking place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we summarize the most interesting questions covered during the January 20 meeting:


Department of State/AILA Liaison Committee Meeting


January 20, 2022 Q & A Highlights


Q: What role do Consular sections assume when determining whether an individual is exempt from the CDC COVID-19 vaccine requirement to gain entry to the U.S.?

A: Consular sections’ role in the process is to ensure that an individual’s request for a [vaccine] exception is filled out in full, and to transmit those requests to the CDC.


Q: If consular posts are involved in transmitting information in support of a humanitarian exception to CDC, what is the process, if any, for making such a request of a consular post outside the context of a visa interview?

A: Travelers should contact the consular section of the nearest embassy or consulate using the information provided on that embassies or consulate’s website


Q: What is the Department of State doing to alleviate the substantial backlogs created by the slowdown of operations at Consular posts and Embassies worldwide?

A: The Department is planning to hire foreign service officers above attrition in FY 2022. The majority will be assigned to a consular position after initial training. Additionally, the Department continues to recruit Limited Non-career Appointment (LNA) Consular Professionals. With very limited LNA hiring in FY 2020 and a pause on LNA hiring in FY 2021 due to CA’s budgetary constraints, Consular Affairs plans to hire more than 60 LNAs in FY 2022

Consular Affairs is working with State’s office of Global Talent Management to ramp up hiring in FY 2022, but many posts will not see these new officers until the second half of FY 2022 or FY 2023, particularly for officers assigned to positions requiring language training. Increased hiring will not have an immediate effect on reducing current visa wait times. Because local pandemic restrictions continue to impact a significant number of our overseas posts, extra staff alone is not sufficient to combat wait times for interviews.


Q: Can Consular Affairs please advise regarding efforts to resume routine consular services?

A: Consular sections abroad must exercise prudence given COVID’s continuing unpredictability. The emergence of the Omicron variant has prompted countries to reevaluate plans to relax travel bans, thereby leading consular sections abroad to recalibrate plans to resume services. Some posts have already fully resumed routine services. Others, in an abundance of caution and out of concern for the health of both consular staff and clientele, are slowly reintroducing some routine services.

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More immigration news is coming your way. This week important updates have been released for F-1 students seeking post-completion Optional Practical Training in certain STEM-related fields of study.


DHS Issues Advance Copy of STEM Designated Degree Program List for post-completion Optional Practical Training


If you are an international student studying in F-1 visa status in the United States, this update may be of interest to you. Today, January 20, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security released an advance copy of the Federal Notice, “Update to the Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Program List,” which is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, Friday, January 21, 2022.

With this notice, DHS has indicated that the agency will be adding 22 qualifying fields of study to the STEM Designated Degree Program List. This change is significant because DHS relies on the STEM Degree Program List to determine whether an F-1 international student has obtained a degree in a program of study that qualifies as a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree, to seek employment in the United States following graduation.


What is post-completion OPT?


F-1 students that have earned a degree in a qualifying STEM field, are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing their studies. Those authorized for post-completion OPT can work part time (20 hours or less per week) or full time.

For those who participated in pre-completion OPT, USCIS reduces the amount of time that an individual is eligible to participate in post-completion OPT by deducting from the authorization period. For example, students you participated in 10 months of pre-completion OPT, would only be eligible for up to 2 months of post-completion OPT.


Who is impacted by this notice?


This notice impacts qualifying F-1 nonimmigrant students who seek a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT who have earned a degree in a STEM field of study as designated by the STEM list.


What are the 22 qualifying fields of study being added to the STEM list?


  • Bioenergy (03.0210). A program of study that focuses on the environmental and economic impact of using plants and microbes for the production of bio-based fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Includes instruction in biochemical engineering, bioprocessing, bioseparations, conversion, feedstock, economics, environmental sustainability, hydrology, and natural resource management.

  • Forestry, General (03.0501). A program that generally prepares individuals to manage and develop forest areas for economic, recreational, and ecological purposes. Includes instruction in forest related sciences, mapping, statistics, harvesting and production technology, natural resources management and economics, wildlife sciences, administration, and public relations

  • Forest Resources Production and Management (03.0510). A program that focuses on the application of forestry principles to the production, harvesting, and processing of forest resources and that prepares individuals to perform associated technical and managerial functions. Includes instruction in forest production and utilization, industrial forestry, agroforestry, transplantation, timber harvesting, selection and identification of trees, processing technologies and systems, equipment operations and maintenance, and related management skills.

  • Human-Centered Technology Design (11.0105). A program that focuses on incorporating a human perspective into designing, researching, and creating technological interfaces. Includes instruction in design, human-computer interaction, learning, neuroscience, perception, product design, user centered design, and usability.

  • Cloud Computing (11.0902). A program that prepares individuals to design and implement enterprise software systems that rely on distributed computing and service-oriented architecture, including databases, web services, cloud computing, and mobile apps. Includes instruction in data management, distributed and cloud computing, enterprise software architecture, enterprise and cloud security, mobile systems and applications, server administration, and web development.

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In today’s blog post, we are happy to bring our readers some very exciting news.

On April 26, 2021, the Department of State formally announced a new National Interest Determination for certain categories of nonimmigrant visa applicants currently unable to enter the United States due to COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations issued earlier this year. This new determination will allow certain travelers to obtain their visas and enter the United States, despite the issuance of COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations, known as Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 10143.

These Proclamations were issued early last year to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 to the United States, specifically from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Such Proclamations had the effect of restricting and suspending the entry into the United States, of both immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Few categories of individuals were exempted from these Presidential Proclamations, including lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders), spouses of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents, and others who were similarly exempted.

Individuals who have not been specifically exempted from the Regional Proclamations and have remained physically present in the impacted regions, have been unable to proceed with visa processing. Consulates worldwide have refused to grant visas to these individuals due to the enforcement of the Proclamations.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important immigration updates.


USCIS Expands Premium Processing Service to E-3 Petitioners


We are happy to report that beginning February 24, 2021, petitioners filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, who are requesting a change or extension of status to E-3 classification, will be able to take advantage of premium processing service to expedite processing of their petition. The filing fee for premium processing service for E-3 petitions is $2,500.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing provides expedited processing for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. The main benefit of this service is a guaranteed 15-calendar day processing time for all those who take advantage of it.

When does the 15-calendar period begin?

The 15-calendar day period begins when USCIS properly receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.

Once the I-907 is received, USCIS either issues an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence within the 15-calendar day period.

Is premium processing available for other petitions?

At the moment premium processing service is only available for I-129 and I-140 petitions. However, H.R. 8337 proposed expanding premium processing service to other types of applications in the future including applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status, applications for employment authorization, and other types of benefit requests.


USCIS Introduces Flexibilities for Certain Students Filing Form I-765 for OPT


We are happy to report that on February 26, 2021, USCIS announced new flexibility policies for certain foreign students who have not received receipt notices for Form I-765 petitions for OPT as a result of USCIS delays.

USCIS has stated that the agency has been experiencing delays at certain lockboxes and has not been able to issue receipt notices for certain Form I-765 applications for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students in a timely manner.

As a result, USCIS will provide the following flexibilities to assist certain applicants for OPT who have been impacted by the delays.

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The nation awoke with a new President of the United States, and although President Joe Biden has been in office for less than one day, his administration is already planning sweeping immigration reforms and policy changes that will unfold throughout the coming months.

This is just the start of President Biden’s plan to reverse the numerous damaging policies and executive orders passed by the Trump administration during the past four years.

This morning, the White House issued a press release outlining President Biden’s commitment to modernize the U.S. immigration system by way of a legislative bill that will be introduced before Congress in a matter of days.

The new bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, proposes to overhaul the current immigration system to more effectively manage and secure our country’s border.

According to the Biden administration, the purpose of the bill is to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system….” providing “hardworking people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived here for years, in some cases for decades, an opportunity to earn citizenship.”

The bill will prioritize family reunification, address root causes of mass migration from Central America, and among other things ensure that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution.

Most importantly is the bill’s commitment to create a path to citizenship for eligible undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers and essential workers who have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In today’s post, we discuss a newly released final rule announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on January 7, 2021.

The new rule entitled “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions,” will modify the H-1B cap selection process, amend current lottery procedures, and prioritize wages to ensure H-1B visas are awarded only to the most highly skilled foreign workers according to a new wage level selection process.

According to USCIS this new rule will only affect H-1B cap-subject petitions. It will be enforced against both the H-1B regular cap and the H-1B advanced degree exemption beginning March 9, 2021 (its effective date).

The final rule is scheduled to be published on January 8, 2021, however an advance copy has already been posted in the Federal Register for review.

Click here to view the advance copy.


When does the final rule become effective?


The final rule will become effective 60 days after its date of publication in the Federal Register (falling on March 9, 2021).


What are some of the highlights of this new rule?


The USCIS final rule creates a wage-based selection process for H-1B registrations, instead of a randomized computer generated process which is currently in place.


Ranking by Wage Level


DHS will amend regulations governing the process by which USCIS selects H-1B registrations for the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions by generally first selecting registrations based on the highest Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) prevailing wage level indicated on the petition, where the proffered wage equals or exceeds the relevant Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and area(s) of intended employment, beginning with OES wage level IV and proceeding in descending order with OES wage levels III, II, and I.

The proffered wage is the wage that the employer intends to pay the beneficiary.

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nesa-by-makers-IgUR1iX0mqM-unsplash-scaledWe are very happy to announce that yesterday July 14, 2020, the Trump administration backed down and agreed to cancel a new set of federal guidelines that would have required international students to attend classes in-person during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester.

As you may be aware, on Monday July 6th U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release with new modifications that would have applied to international students in the United States, and those awaiting their visas abroad. The announcement prohibited international students from taking courses entirely online during the upcoming semester. It stated that students enrolled in schools with only online instruction would not be issued visas, and CBP would not permit these students to enter the United States. In addition, students already in the United States, who had enrolled in an online program, were given two options, transfer to another school with a hybrid or in person curriculum or depart the United States.

Shortly after these measures were announced, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of all international students affected by the new guidelines. The universities requested an emergency hearing to block the government from enforcing these measures. That hearing was scheduled to take place yesterday morning, but in a surprising turn of events, just before the hearing was getting started, the judge announced that the government had agreed to rescind its policy and would no longer require students to attend in-person classes in order to remain in the country.